Thursday, October 31, 2013

I Gots A Shiny New Blog

Okay. For future reference, this space will be more and more about what it was originally intended for: personal stuff. A record of thoughts and activities to be available for my kids when they grow up enough to be interested, and a place to bicker cheerfully with various friends.

But I'm a writer too, and now I'm doing books, and these days you can't be a writer without a site of your own. Especially, you can't be a writer in small press with ambitions to increase his audience if you don't have your own site.

So I have my site. Henceforth the writerly stuff will happen at

I could copy it all here, I guess, but I'm not sure how interesting it will be for some of the folks about this space. And more: it will be far less 'me', and much more that guy in the top hat with the cigar. You know.

Just thought I'd let you all know. And in other news: who here knew that Big Bird was transgendered? Is this shit for real?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Who Owns The Sun?

And it's here. The big-business model of energy distribution has realised that rooftop solar PV is fucking with their profits, and just like in the USA and Spain, they're turning the screws.

Australian Utilities Behave, Predictably, Like Fuckwads

The difference here -- so far -- is that in Spain, the government has caved completely, and the USA isn't far behind, with various states (particularly Arizona) passing bylaws and generally shitting all over small solar PV.

Spain's Solar Stupidity

Spain Privatises The Sun

Let's Tax The Sun

Utilities Vs Solar in Arizona

The battle lines are pretty clear. On the one hand, there's us -- the people and the environment, all of whom will greatly benefit if we can decentralise the grid and enhance solar production. On the other hand, there are the big fucking utilities which depend on a captive audience... and there are the big industries, which cannot possibly supply their own needs through solar power, and are therefore dependent on the centralised production model of the big fucking utilities.

It's going to be a very ugly fight. Right now, sitting on my refrigerator there is a note from our local big fucking utility -- Aurora Energy. The note says basically that they have to study our application for solar PV for site suitability, etc. They give absolutely no suggestion of when this 'study' is going to occur, but according to them, we cannot move ahead on our installation without their authority... whether or not that happens in the time frame we've allotted for renovations.

We're renovating in late December, it would seem. If we have to install the solar PV separately, there will be considerable additional cost: men and machinery that would have been here already if we could do the installation at the same time as the renovations.

I figure Aurora is counting on that kind of thing, of course. The more barriers they can throw in front of people, the longer they can preserve their outmoded, nineteenth-century business model.

The question is this: what are we going to do about it? Because it does come down to us -- you, me, anyone and everyone who uses electricity. Are we going to continue being crucified by coal and oil?  Will we go on complacently letting these monopolies dictate how we lead our lives by controlling the electricity we need?

I don't plan to sit still. I'm a little caught up in things at the moment, but sometime very soon, Aurora is going to be catching a hell of a serve from me.

I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, October 19, 2013


Well, I'd better face up to it. I'm going to have to build a proper website, get myself a domain, go through all that shite. I'm going to have to centralise and link together my various web presences once and for all.


Because of this:

That would be the link to my first published novel, as yet only through Kindle on Amazon. (Forgive me... but it works.)

I think I can put a shinier picture here, if I try.

Oh, yep. There it is.

I like the cover. (If you happen to like the cover, by the way, you might wanna talk to this chap: -- he was very co-operative and good to work with.)

Oh, you wanna know about the book?

Uhhh -- first in a series of... several. Looks like urban fantasy/horror/thriller, but there are layers not yet revealed. The most important thing about it is that it is fun. It was fun to write, and with any luck, I've managed to make it fun to read.

That might not seem like much of a goal, but I realised that over the last few years, in the course of trying to refine my craft to the point of impressing publishers, I'd lost sight of the sheer fun of a good story. And I looked at the way the marketplace is changing, and the number of successful and effective ebooks and self-published books, and small-press books, and I thought: I'm doing this wrong.

So, ladies and gentlemen and others of all variety -- here it is. And at this point, things have to change.

I'll keep this blog, but it will be personal, family, political, etc. I'll probably run a link to it from a dedicated Flinthart/Writer website. And I will make the effort to write about writing and being a writer and all that good shit on the dedicated site.

That's the plan, anyhow. In the meantime, I'm hard at work on the next book in the series above. I'm also carving my way through the master's degree, and trying to rustle up a couple of short stories.

Thanks and kudos to Tehani the amazing editor/publisher of Fablecroft, and to Adam for his very fine cover. And thanks to everybody around here who has offered kind and encouraging words over the years. I don't have any copies of this thing to give away yet, but when I do, I'll find a way to make sure I can pass a few over.

(Oh -- and in other news, wearing two pairs of underpants at once has helped a lot. I can walk again, and standing up doesn't even hurt for the first fifteen minutes or so. Most of the colours have faded from my less mentionable bits, but the swelling is still a little alarming. How long does it take a scrotum to come back down to a reasonable size, anyway?)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Progress Report.


Look, the operation itself was nothing much. Couldn't have taken more than half an hour. When they walked me out to the recovery area, there was another bloke in a one of the chairs, having a bit of a laugh at my mushy efforts to talk through the fast-fading sedatives. Maybe twenty minutes later, he was gone -- and they walked another bloke through the door, and it was my turn to giggle at him.

He had it worse than me, mind you. I've been through enough minor surgeries to know what to expect. Oh -- and the fact that the anaesthetist had to try three times before he found a useful vein probably helped me remember the situation, whereas the new bloke wasn't even certain he'd been through the operation yet. I reassured him that yes, they'd done the job and all he had to do was sit and recover.

The anaesthetist was actually a bloke I know - very decent chap - and I don't blame him for having a bit of trouble. My skin is notoriously leathery. This isn't the first time I've confounded the needlestickers. I hate it, because when they have to struggle and the toughness of the skin keeps them from feeling the sensations they're used to, sometimes they slide the needle alongside the vein rather than into it. That really fucking hurts.

Aside from the leathery exterior, there was the fact that I was under strict instructions not to eat or drink for six hours before the procedure. Given that my appointment was for 1115, that mean nothing to drink from 0515... which effectively meant my last dose of water was about 2200 the previous night, and I was somewhat dehydrated. Note for future reference: either get a later appointment, or get up bloody early and have a decent drink.

I can't say I felt particularly good for the rest of the day. Didn't need the prescription painkillers, though: a bit of paracetamol was enough to see me through. A week? No worries!



The discolouration kicked in about a day or so later, and slowly spread. And the swelling, yep. And the discomfort. Not simple pain, but pain associated with movement. Discomfort, you see?

But what the hell. My various mates online were all happily telling me how they were playing touch footy and kicking the ball around just a day or so after the event. Obviously, things were gonna get better, right?

Well, today I called the surgery because the nurse who tried to call me on Monday had a bit of a fail-attack. The conversation went a bit like this:

"Hi. Yeah. It's me. You didn't manage to reach me, so I thought I'd call back. I've got a couple of concerns, really. Mostly about the swelling. I kind of thought it would be going down, five days after the event."

- What size is it?

(Flinthart thinks: jeez. How do I describe this? Happily, the nurse comes to the rescue.)

- An orange? A grapefruit?

(Flinthart thinks: oh, good. Fruit. I can work with fruit.)

"Well, if we were talking an orange it would be a very damned healthy navel orange. In fact, we really are much closer to the grapefruit end of the spectrum. Only you should maybe think more in terms of ripe avocadoes or even eggplant for colour, eh? Not all over, mind you. There are blotches. Big ones. And the specific shade of purple kind of varies. Puts me in mind of dependent lividity, really. And that's a bad state of mind to be in with regard to one's scrotum, I think."

- Is it hot?

(Flinthart is now completely flummoxed. How hot should a scrotum be? Should he account for the obvious inflammation and bruising when discussing the hotness of his 'nads?)

"Ah. Well... you know scrotums, right? It doesn't seem..."

(Flinthart trails off. The nurse offers no help, but that's okay because Flinthart's brain has kicked into gear.)

"Oh! You're worried about infection, aren't you? Oh, well, there's no increase in pain or tenderness, no spreading redness, no obvious focal point, no fevers and no localised warmth that can't be accounted for by the fact that my scrotum looks like I lost a fight with Peter Dinklage. Does that help?"

- Oh, good. Yes, we do worry about infection. Look... if it's just the swelling and discolouration...

"After five days!"

- You can try an ice-pack.

"Yyyyyyeah. Did that. Didn't much like it. Didn't seem to do a lot of good, either." 

- Well, these things can take a while. Look, why don't you call us back in a couple more days if you're still concerned.

"Oh. So... this is within the normal parameters? For post-vasectomy scrotum behaviour?"

- Reasonably.

"Oh. All right. I'll... call back if anything untoward happens, then.


And there the conversation closed. Leaving me - where? Well, the good news is that this apparently is within the normal spectrum of things. The bad news is that my end of the normal spectrum is a hideous shade of purple, with orange and yellow around the edges. And what, exactly, might be considered untoward enough to justify another phone call continues to elude me. I'd recognise infection, sure. But what else is there? As far as I'm concerned, a blotchy purple, highly tender scrote the size of a moderate grapefruit is pretty fuckin' untoward. Since that's obviously not untoward to the scrote-manipulating medical fraternity... I really have no idea what MIGHT be considered alarming.

I've seen those photos of the poor African bastards with elephantiasis, carting their hideously swollen 'nads around in custom-made wheelbarrows. Is that untoward? Or is that just another shade of the normal post-vasectomy scrotal spectrum?


Well... I think I've gotta go and change the ice-pack I've got tucked under my personal aubergine now. I'll get back to you folks if there's any real news. But I gotta tell you: I'm very fucking tired of walking bow-legged, tired of sleeping with a pillow between my knees, tired of ice-packs, tired of jabbing pains every time I bend over, tired of struggling to get into the little car, tired of waking up every time I roll over in my sleep... so any of you bastards who want to tell me what a lark all this is: do drop by sometime. I believe I may be able to help you understand the experience more fully. Just... shut your eyes while I swing the cricket bat, okay?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Just A Little Cut...

I thought long and hard about publishing this one, but I think it needs to be done.

I don't consider myself any kind of leader type, nor a figure to be emulated. But I do think that the women's movement has empowered women and created a system which increasingly is driven by, and supportive of, what are perceived to be values associated with women. And I think likewise that there is a lack of any such thing for men. You may take your "patriarchal society" comments at this point and shelve them: I'm not interested in the discussion.

What does interest me is doing right by other men. Offering support, information and communication. Hence this post: I'm going in today for a vasectomy.

Now, currently my Internet connection is deeply fucked up. But hopefully later I'll have better access. And by that time, all things going according to plan, I should have some useful details to offer on the entire situation.

In the meantime -- wish me luck!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Further Trials And Tribulations Of A Private School Parent

This one is... interesting. I thought long and hard before I wrote this, but in the end, it comes to this: I've discussed this issue with the school. I've taken it just as far as I can reasonably take it. And the school has told me in no uncertain terms that they're not interested, and not concerned -- and so I see no reason why I can't talk about this incident with regard to my kid.

Buckle up. This one's a doozy.

A few weeks back on the way home from school, Jake seemed a little flat. Naturally, I asked him about his day. He explained that he was a bit unhappy about a 'musical number' they were practicing. Now Jake quite likes music, and he likes performing, so I asked for details.

Well, it turns out that it's part of the "School House" system. Anybody not familiar with the British Boarding School system of divide and conquer in the Name of Sportsmanship -- go watch the Harry Potter movies. Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw -- artificially created blocs of students crossing year/cohort boundaries, permitting internal competition in sports and other arenas.

I more or less understand the purpose of the system. It's supposed to provide a ready-made social network for newbies, offer some kind of support, and meanwhile, subtly indoctrinate a set of chosen values by way of peer pressure. I don't much like it, but it works -- and smart kids can see through it effectively enough that the indoctrination doesn't actually work.

In this case, it turns out that Jake's "house" has this tradition of getting the new year sevens to do a 'musical number' - a performance they carry out in front of the entirety of their 'house'.

"So what are you doing?" I asked him.

"We have to sing and dance," he said.

"I don't really see the problem," I said.

"Well," he said, "We were supposed to be able to choose our own song. But the House officers rejected everything we suggested, and now they want us to perform Beyonce's Single Ladies."

(Insert sound of scratching record here as Dirk wrenches his neck trying to look at his kid.)

"Single ladies?" says I. "You guys want to do that?"

"No," says Jake. "But they say we have to. Some of us have to do the dance routine from the video, and the rest of us are like, back-up."

"Oh," says I. "That's a bit ugly. At least you're not doing it in drag," I said, trying to make light of it.

"Well, they wanted us all to do it in costume, actually," said Jake. "But we got really upset, and now it's only two or three of the boys who have to wear leotards."

(Repeat scratched-record sound, only louder.)

For those of you unaware of Beyonce's signal contribution to modern culture, here's an embed which I hope will work:

And if that doesn't work, here's the Youtube link.  Seriously -- watch this so you know why I was freaked out.

Now, a whole bunch of thoughts went through my head at this point:

  • Who thought it was a good idea to coerce a bunch of 13-year-old boys into an embarrassing, highly sexualised performance in front of their peers?
  • Who the hell thought it was a good idea to put underage boys into leotards and make them dance like Beyonce?
  • What did the school plan to do about the inevitable (these kids ALL carry phones) video footage on Facebook, Youtube, etc?
  • Had anybody considered what would happen if a chunk of said footage turned up on Joe Random-Pervert's computer when the cops were investigating him?
I restrained myself, though. I questioned Jake carefully and at length. I established as a certainty that it wasn't the boys' idea. That they really didn't want to be involved. That the whole thing was being choreographed by an older girl. That teachers didn't seem to have any involvement.

At that point, I promised Jake I'd help him out. I told him I could see no reason why he had to publicly humiliate himself, if it wasn't his choice. 

Next thing I did was email someone at the school. I explained the situation, and articulated my concerns. I pointed out that we support involvement with the school's social programme... but as diplomatically as I could, under the circumstances, I suggested that Jake really didn't want to be involved. And I ran the above list at them, plus a few more.

Now, I figured there'd be some kind of result. I mean -- this is a high-end private school. Its greatest asset is its reputation. And it seemed to me that the kind of reputation you get from putting underage boys into leotards and getting them to dance like Beyonce was not at all the kind of reputation that an exclusive private school would want. I figured the whole thing had just kind of slipped through the cracks -- that the school probably had a policy of allowing some autonomy to House Officers (students) to help them develop responsibility, and all that.

Truthfully? I figured the teacher would turn up and have a chat with those House Officers -- talk to them about their responsibilities, point out that setting up these young boys to be laughed at wasn't particularly nice, point out that there might even be legal repercussions. 

Well, my email was forwarded on to somebody supposedly responsible for the situation. And I got a reply.

I won't quote it directly. But I was assured that there was "no coercion". (Apparently, 13-year-old boys just LOVE putting on leotards and dancing to Beyonce in front of all their House peers.) And I was assured that it was an important part of their socialising, and that it was "all a bit of fun". 

Luckily, I also got a written assurance that the boys could withdraw if they wanted.

Did I get an acknowledgement that 13-year-old boys are at a challenging stage of development, and exposing them to sex-role ridicule in front of their peers might not be a great idea? 

No. I didn't.

Did I get an acknowledgment that putting underage boys into leotards and getting them to do the Sexy Beyonce Pelvis Dance might conceivably be misconstrued by enthusiastic law enforcement agencies?

Err... no. That wasn't important either. 

Did I get an acknowledgement that video of the event on Facebook or Youtube could follow these boys for the rest of their lives, and potentially alter their chances of employment, scholarship, etc?

Ahh... I'll let you guess, shall I?

Did I receive any kind of acknowledgement that perhaps the image of underage boys in leotards dancing the Sexy Beyonce Pelvis Dance might possibly not enhance the school's august reputation as a fine educational establishment?

... heh.

In the end, I ran a few role-playing scenarios with Jake. It was clear that if he didn't want to play their game, he'd get no support from the teachers. He'd have to confront his senior House Officers himself, on his own, and withdraw from the project in the face of the pressure and scorn they could apply. I pretended to be a House Officer, and when he said his piece I told him that it was "All just in fun", and he had to think up a reply. Then I told him  that he'd "be letting down his house-mates", and he had to come up with a response.

Finally, I pretended to be another student, and I called him "a pussy", and "weak", and he had to deal with that, too.

He went to school.

And when he came back, he told me that first: two of his friends were overjoyed to discover they could withdraw, and promptly pulled out with him. Secondly, he told me that I'd pretty much quoted his House Officers in my role-playing... and also, quoted a few of his fellow students too. 

In other words, the peer-pressure system of the House tried to do its job, but Jake was well prepped, and he stuck to his guns. He and his two friends are now operating the sound system. They don't have to wear leotards. They don't have to do the Sexy Beyonce Pelvis Performance in front of a bunch of laughing, video-camera equipped kids. They don't have to try and live this down for years.

In one sense, I'm quite grateful to the school. Jake has learned that "authority" and "responsibility" aren't the same thing, though they should be. He learned that the trust he places in his parents is well founded. (Natalie was with me every step of the way.) He learned how to face peer pressure, and how to stand up for his own rights in the face of a system designed to make him think that "team player" means "willing, subservient, unthinking drone." 

I'm really quite proud of him. 

But... I have to admit, I am deeply surprised by the school's response. I've done the best I can, I feel. My responsibility for this kind of thing ends with my children. I can do no more than ensure that the school is aware of the matter -- and if they feel that this sort of thing reflects their values, and the image they want to project, it's no business of mine, is it?

I can only hope this doesn't go badly astray. I have to admit: I have concerns for these young boys. If any one of them harboured uncertainty about his sexual identity, this is precisely the kind of thing that could cause long-lasting harm. 

I guess I've done what I can.