Thursday, January 31, 2008

Another cover

Getting a new cover is always a buzz.

Sometimes it's also a surprise.

Here is my rugged no-nonsense intelligent swordswoman heroine Blaze Halfbreed from The Aware, Book 1 of The Isles of Glory, now called CLAIRVOYANTE, as seen by the artist for Jai Lu, the French edition trade paperback. Have no idea of the artist's name as yet, as I haven't seen the book and I pinched this photo from the French Amazon page.

But hey, look, my name's bigger than the title...

Yeah, I know. I'm shallow. I love things like that.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Weird stuff: reward or punish for doing well in sports?

This country that I dearly love is skilled at sending mixed signals.
The government has just said it will dole out substantial amounts of money to athletes, and their coaches, who bring home medals from the Beijing Olympics.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Two government schools have punished their sports-minded kids, either disqualifying them or withholding their prizes. Why? For dressing appropriately when competing in cross-country runs. In other words they were sensible enough to wear shorts. For this good sense, they were punished.

At one school, of the 10 students coming in first on a 5 km cross country run, only two (not the winners) were give prizes. Worse, according to parents of the others, as quoted in The Star newspaper, they were initially given false excuses (e.g. "The number pinned on your shirt is torn") - presumably because the teachers involved didn't have enough guts to give the real reason!!

It sounds as if - and I could be wrong here - that teachers of one religious persuasion didn't have the courage to tell the parents of students (possibly mostly of other religious persuasions) that they wanted to impose their religious values on everyone under their jurisdiction. They did tell lies though, and considered that ok?

It reminds me of my daughter when attending the local primary school down the road. She and her fellow students worked out that the teacher for art marked down every painting of a beach scene (the topic given that day) - no matter how brilliant - if it portrayed a female in a swimsuit. Marking art on the basis of your religious values? You betcha! Not having the guts to tell the kids what you were doing? Yep, that too!

My daughter was tickled pink because she got top marks. She was lousy at doing figures, so all her people were up to their necks in the ocean...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sipadan Island, Sabah

Been a while since I posted any Malaysian nature shots - so here is some we took on Sipadan Island. This is an oceanic island off the coast of Sabah, Borneo, infamous because it was raided by some rather nasty Filipino pirates and some tourists and staff were kidnapped.

As a consequence the tourist hotels were relocated to Mabul Island and the accommodation on Sipadan was left to the military and Sabah Parks staff. That was where we stayed.

The island is small enough to walk around in 20 minutes.

First photo: fig tree and pandanus
Second photo: Dive boats from Mabul dropping off divers. We snorkelled inside the floats, and the undersea photos were taken by my husband.

That's also him taking a shot of the Green Turtle from the beach. These guys were everywhere - mating, egg laying and just swimming around.

If you look at the second last photo, you will see the deep blue of the drop - 900 metres to the sea floor. Snorkelling over that was as eerie as looking into deep space - and just wondering...

Monday, January 28, 2008

My Dad, the Rock Photographer!

That was the title of the email my LA musician daughter sent, along with some photos taken by her dad. He's on his way to a conference, and dropped in en route to see her.

The band is Bedtime for Toys and this was Nashii's first public appearance as a band member. And I think her Dad's first time in the audience.

The other photo is Dad at one of his favourite places - a bookshop.

Wish I were there with them.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Aurealis Awards 2007

The Awards for 2007 have been announced and can be seen here. Alas, I have to remain as only a shortlisted author yet again. (How many times is one a bridesmaid before they say you'll never be a bride? I think I have already surpassed the number!!)

Joking aside, many thanks once again to the Aurealis team - and they were mighty quick this year with getting the results posted, which I appreciate. They have even put up the judges' comments. (If there were any comments for last year's results, I never saw them anywhere.)

Here's what they said about Song of the Shiver Barrens:

"Both the second and third books in this series were nominated this year, and the judges rated both highly. However, this one made the shortlist as it was a much stronger book, perhaps because it finalised the trilogy, but also because of the nature of the relationship between the characters. The plot was powerful and the fantasy stylish,and the writing was highly polished and engaging."

Nice, eh? I am delighted. And I had good company. Here's the overall comment on the fantasy novels:

"The quality of work nominated in 2007 was generally of a very high standard. The major publishing houses are producing quality novels in the fantasy genre. However this standard was not consistently maintained by smaller publishers, self publishers and the vanity publisher books."............"We could easily have had ten books on the shortlist and a further six or seven honourable mentions, and of course the debate for the winner was fierce as so many books had standout qualities."

Once again, my thanks to all those involved in the Awards, to Orbit Books for their support of the Awards, and my congratulations to all those winners in all categories.

Australia's spec fic is alive and well!!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

My name up in lights??

I love my Russian publisher. They pay up no problems, and each book I sell, they pay more than the time before. And looking forward to what they put on the cover is part of my enjoyment of being a writer.

Now I know I have put up the cover of the Russian translation of "Gilfeather" before, but that was when I pinched it off a Russian online booksellers website and it was a poor res pix.

Yesterday I received a copy of the book, and I just can't resist putting it up again in all its glory.

First let me point out that the printing at the top is actually in glittery glossy red, and the two gentlemen are equally shiny glitz - they look as if they have been stuck on. Unfortunately the shine didn't scan very well.

And that top text is my name. Yep, that's right, I have my name in BIG SHINY print. The bottom little print is the name of the book which translates - I believe - as Smell Evil .

Let me tell you about Gilfeather. The hero is a simple country doctor who spends most of the book chasing assorted villains through the countryside and across seas for rather complex reasons, and generally having a harrowing time. He does briefly land up in the ruling house of a island (hardly more than a rock stack covered in nesting birds and sheep) where the ruler is a woman, and I guess there are a few uniformed guards scattered about. They certainly aren't dressed like space opera dudes, or 19th century military regimes, and there's no guy sitting on a throne, it's a gal.

I guess I should be glad that I didn't get a pole dancer, like Jenny Fallon did on one of her Russian titles...

Friday, January 25, 2008

More weird stuff...

Kelantan is one of Peninsular Malaysia's northern states. It has a government run by a political party based on religion. In theory, one assumes this means no corruption among the politicians, honest government and fair dealing. Perhaps it works that way in practice too - I have little knowledge of the matter.

One thing for sure, in practice it also means more weird stuff.

All supermarkets in the state have to have 3 checkout counters. One for men, one for women and one for families. This was decreed some time ago, but now they are getting strict about enforcement - otherwise the supermarket will be fines for each offence, $1000RM or about US$100.

Why? Because some women have been harrassed by men at common checkout counters.

Boy, do I have news for them - we women get harrassed everywhere, and it doesn't matter which country or how we are dressed. For a woman, it is part of life and we learn to deal with it. To stop it, though, I have a better suggestion. Why don't we lock all men up in the house and not let them out?

Really, it makes more sense than separate supermarket queues...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Curious Way Things Happen

The Deputy Prime Minister has my first trilogy. Dunno that he will read it, mind you, but he has it. How do I know? Well it's like this...

Husband happened to mention at his university, when the subject of Lake Chini in Pahang state came up, that it had been the inspiration for the setting of one of my books, Gilfeather, and was the basis for the Australian cover. [For those of you who have read it, the floating islands of the Mere can be found at Chini.]

The people he was talking to were looking for a gift for the Dep. P.M, on the occasion of the opening of a university project at the lake last weekend, and so....

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Weird stuff

Unfortunately, the Malaysian education system has - through the years - done an excellent job in teaching Malaysians to accept what they are told, rather than develop their critical faculties.

The MCA* Public Services and Complaints Department often has its hands full trying to persuade Malaysians not to fall prey to con artists and scams - from whom it then has to try and extricate the victims.

Now the MCA has come out with a book containing guidelines on how to recognise a true medium, which includes 20 pointers on how to to distinguish a crook from a real medium.

A real medium. Right.

I have fairies at the bottom of my garden. I'll show you for 500 RM. Of course, if you fail to see them, it's not my fault. It's because you just don't have faith...

* Malaysian Chinese Association - a political party which is part of the ruling government.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Baggage a Reader Brings

Over the years, I have occasionally been surprised by a comment of a reviewer of one of my books, when something I have written has obviously pushed a button in that reader...sometimes with a good result, sometimes not.

The truth is that all readers bring their own history to the time they spend in the author's world, and a writer cannot predict what the result will be.

I now have an example of the reverse happening: I am bringing my own baggage to the table, and it is affecting deeply the way I regard an author and his story.

The book is non-fiction, a winner of the US National Book Award back in the 1970s: The Snow Leopard, by Peter Matthiessen. It remains a classic - the quintessential story of a physical journey matching a spiritual one - a man "in search of himself" or looking for meaning in life, in this case looking to Eastern philosophy and trekking through some of the most remote mountains of Nepal to a Buddhist shrine on the Crystal Mountain. [Hmmm - sounds almost like a fantasy cliche setting...]

The writing is often lyrical and moving; the story fascinating - yet I had a problem with it right from the beginning. Why? Because the author - having lost his wife to cancer - elects to go on this journey soon afterwards. He has children, including an eight year old son he leaves with friends.

And this is where my mother instincts kick in big time. He goes off to make what is a personal and therefore inherently selfish trip, from which - given the dangers and remoteness of the region - he might possibly never come back. Certainly he is out of contact with anyone back home for a number of months. And he does this to a boy of eight who has just lost his mother.

So when the cover blurb babbles on about spiritual adventure... soul striving ... radiant and deeply moving, etc etc, the mother part of me is asking: yes, but how could you do this to your young son at this devastating time in his life? At whose expense was your spiritual journey?

I guess mothers tend to have a different perspective towards what constitutes an appropriate time for personal development.

I know my baggage is ruining the book for me.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Embarrassing moments I have known

That list somewhere below of "things I have done which you probably haven't" has got me thinking back to days gone by.

And for some reason, embarrassing "moments I'd rather forget" seem to head the list of memories. Why on earth do we tend to remember the awful bits with such crystal clarity and not the good ones?? Anyway, here's one I remembered.

My husband often used to invite his overseas work-related visitors to dinner at our house, together with some of his colleagues. On this particular occasion, everything conspired to ruin the event...

Firstly, we had a new live-in maid. (Yeah, yeah, I know...) She was fairly young and very shy, straight out of a Javanese-speaking village down in Johor. At the time my two girls were three and a baby of a couple of a couple months. I cooked most of the dinner, but was running late. My husband had to leave to pick up the visitors from their hotel. The locals were coming by themselves, of course.

And just to complete the scenario: our lounge room had concertina doors, which were pushed completely open to the side that night, but also a wrought iron grille - which was locked. So anyone arriving at the door could see in, and of course, hear everything. The main bedroom gave off the lounge room.

I left the baby with the maid, and dashed into the shower with about 15 minutes to spare (this is the tropics, remember - having been slaving away in the kitchen, I wasn't about to appear before the guests dripping in sweat.) I came out of the shower, and was still quite naked, when my three-year-old comes running into the bedroom, saying "They're here! They're here!" - meaning the contingent of (early) local guests.

"Close the door!" I hiss at her, not wanted to be on display to the guests in my state of undress.

A number of things then happen more or less simultaneously. I reach out to grab up the roll-on deodorant from the dressing table, and the whole roll-on top comes flying off, dousing me in sticky deodorant from hair all the way to feet. And three-year-old slams the door on her hand and sets off a bawl that could have been heard in the next suburb.

So there I am, with visitors at the front door for a fancy dinner party, a daughter screaming blue murder, her sticky, naked mother panicking wondering whether her child's broken her fingers, husband not back, and a maid to shy too come out of her room and let the visitors in.

Moments like that, there really ain't much you can do.

I comfort daughter, check out all the fingers, run water into the basin and get her to soak her hand (she's still yelling), ignore the doorbell and puzzled snatches of conversation ("Well, someone's home, I can hear a child screaming" and "Are you sure we have the right house?").

I then get back under the shower and wash off the goo and shampoo my hair. I try to persuade daughter - whose sobs have faded by this time - to go and let the guests in while I get dressed. She's not budging.

And so it was my husband arrives back to find the house grille locked and puzzled guests milling around the front driveway...

Friday, January 18, 2008

On being 4 metres tall...

So, my daughter once had her 7' face on the back of a bus; now my husband has had a similar sized photo up in public. Thank goodness no one has ever contemplated doing that to me.

The other shot is from his lecture.

And just to show what a versatile man he is: this public lecture was in his capacity as Adjunct Professor attached to the university's Faculty of Science, and was about the biodiversity of Sabah.

He is giving another public lecture in about 3 months' time, in his capacity as a visiting professor to SERI at the Faculty of Engineering (Institute of Sustainable Energy), and will be about Malaysia going for nuclear power.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Malaysia boleh...but do our security folk understand satire?

This via Malaysia's wonderful literary blog: Bibliobibuli
...Uncyclopedia, a parody of online encyclopedia Wikipedia, has been labeled by the Malaysian government as dangerous. The Internal Security Department of Malaysia issued the warning today, saying that the site has "messages and information insulting Malaysia". (From Wikinews)
Says Bibliobibuli: And just how is Malaysia depicted? Here's a snippet:
Essentially the penis of Asia which is located to the north of their cousins who live on an even smaller island Singapore, Malaysia (also known as Bolehland) is a young nation of diverse cultures and races such as F1 Formula-1 and Nascar. The timezone of Malaysia is unique because it follows the system of +1/+2 PMT (Predetermined Meeting Time) which is 1 or 2 hours later than PMT. Most foreigners have difficulty adjusting to this new timezone as they tend to show up 1 or 2 hours earlier than the local counterparts. The nation is moving forward with a vision towards becoming a developed nation by the year 2020, 3030, 4040 or whatever catchy number. ... Another common state that Malaysians have is denial (no lah, where got?)...
The Internal Security Department urges folks not to circulate the content of the site. (And as Biblibibuli says: "Ooops!")

And in response to the warning, the Uncyclopedia Internal Security Department has issued one of its own ... and asked all Malaysians not to use the country today.

and from me: Just when will we learn to laugh at ourselves?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Ten Things I've Done You Probably Haven't

This is a meme of sorts, started by John Scalzi over at Whatever.

So, 10 things I've done that you (probably) have not, if you had any sense...
  1. Administered a correspondence course for GP doctors when I know nothing whatsoever about medicine.
  2. Worn a T-shirt that was (while I was wearing it) admired by Queen Noor of Jordan.
  3. Walked 20 - 30 kms up the Headhunter's Trail in Sarawak wearing a shoe which had the sole held on only by elastic bands.
  4. Killed a cobra with a broomstick.
  5. Survived 30-40 wasp stings (all at the same time, in the middle of a mangrove swamp).
  6. Slept in a thoroughly decadent baroque bedroom with chandeliers and a mirrored ceiling overhead, quite unconscious of the fact that a revolution had just started in the country I was in...
  7. Took my daughter's in-laws to a Balinese brothel in the middle of the night thinking it was a karaoke bar
  8. Got (thoroughly) beaten to the top of a 13,455' (4101m) high mountain by the youngest person to have ever climbed it independently (my daughter, aged 8 at the time) .
  9. Swum with wild penguins (and no wet suit either).
  10. Had a Vice-President of Iran to dinner in my house, for which I did the cooking...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Need help with writing your novel?

I had an email from someone I didn't know the other day, saying he was up to chater (sic) 8 in his novel and, if I wanted to help him with any aspects of it, to plase (sic) let him know.

Short answer: No.
Why not?
Basically, because I prefer to help my friends than strangers and there's only so much time in the day that I can spare away from writing to comment on MSS free of charge.
And because there are other ways novice writers can get help. Like these:

Step One:
Read. Read books of the kind you are writing, and books about how to write that kind of book.
Step Two:
Join a crit group dealing with your kind of book, either online or in the real world, where you crit their writing and they crit yours.
Possible Step Three:
Pay a professional.

Which brings me to one of my (unpaid) beta readers. I did a very small favour for him, and in return he beta read "Rogue Rainlord". I can't recommend this guy enough - he was spot on so many times with everything from plot holes, to how characterisation could be improved, to typos. His forte is continuity problems.

Rogue Rainlord will be a better book because he took the trouble to comment. I can't thank him enough.

If you want your sff book (or part of it) professionally read by someone who is very good at this sort of thing and who will give you real value for money, try this guy (and no, I'm not getting a cut!)

His name is Phill Berrie, and you can find him here:

Monday, January 14, 2008

There was a time...

...when I hated shoes. (This post is apropos of nothing, so don't look for deep meaning here.)

It was just that I was bought up on a farm, and whenever I could, I went barefoot. The soles of my feet were as thick and as good as leather. Even in winter, I often ran about without shoes until my feet turned blue with cold.

I dutifully went off to school wearing shoes - leather sandals (without socks) in summer, and proper shoes in winter - but usually took them off to play on the unsurfaced playground at school. [Things changed at highschool - these are my primary school days I am talking about.]

I was a good sprinter and often represented my school at interschool meets - and always ran barefoot. School ovals were always grassed back then, none of these cinder tracks.

As a result, my feet never welcomed being crammed into shoes. They were broad and the toes spread, so it was hard to find shoes that fit. One of the aids we had to buying shoes back then was an x-ray machine (I kid you not) in all the major shoe stores. The shop assistant would turn it on and you put your foot inside the machine where you could see your foot skeleton and how well it fitted into the fuzzy outline of the shoe... Try on half a dozen pairs, and you could do it half a dozen times in a row. For both feet. If ever I get cancer of the foot, I'll know why, won't I?

A British immigrant family came to live in the area and the wife remarked at how shocked she was to realise how poor the community was. When asked what made her think that, she remarked, "Well they can't even afford to buy the children shoes..."

Believe me, parents all tried to put us kids into shoes, but we just whipped them off first opportunity we got. A glance around the classroom would reveal that at least half of us - especially in summer - were sitting there with our feet bare, our soles black from the combination of residue from the oiled jarrah wood floors and the dust of the playground.

I guess this could be why I have never been enamoured of wobbling along on high heels or platform soles. I still wonder why we women do it. Sure, high heels make for a sexy walk and taut long-looking legs - but at what price? Twisted ankles and broken bones, back problems, bunions, pain - the list is endless.

I do have one pair of heels and wear them on occasion. They even make me feel elegant. And I wonder why we emancipated women do it. I marvel why, at my age, I still feel compelled to wear heels - and I wonder even more why I feel good doing it.

I want to be back in the Kelmscott School playground, under those huge Norfolk Pines, in the heat of a summer day, drawing patterns in the dust with a bare toe and not feeling the least bit self-conscious about it...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Public Lecture: Prof. Noramly - Wednesday

All welcome. Free.

Place: Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Bandar Baru Bangi.

Senate Room, Floor 5, Chancellory Building.

Date: Wednesday 16th Jan

Time: 2.00 p.m.

I'll be there...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Pull the other leg: Malaysian Palm Oil Council

It's wonderful what people will do to avoid the truth. The Malaysian Palm Oil Council has produced a promo video which is simply untruthful and rather ridiculous.
You can see it here.

It starts with someone jogging through a rather lovely patch of rainforest, while the voice over waffles about the wonders of nature. Then it comes up with catch phrases like: "Palm oil: a gift from nature; a gift for life" and "it's trees give life and help the planet breathe".

While this is going on, it shows oil palm and a lot of wildlife and plants - most of which are not found in Malaysia (an iguana, hummingbirds, salvinia water plant - I'm not even sure that the particular leaf-cutting ant pictured is one found in Malaysia, although I could be wrong about that.)

As quoted in today's The Star newspaper, the MPOC chief executive officer, Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron, said that the advertisements were not misleading in any way. He even has the gall to say that the plantations shown in the adverts are real...

Perhaps he meant real(ly) spruced up with hummingbirds. And that shot of crown-shyness comes from the Forestry Research Institute here in Kuala Lumpur, not the forest edge next to any oil palm plantation.

Right. Please, please show me Central or South American hummingbirds flying around oil palm plantations, Tan Sri! I'd love to write that up in a scientific paper.

And the video concludes with the words: "Malaysia Palm Oil, sustainably produced since 1917. "

Ok, so once you've cut down the rainforest and killed its biodiversity pretty much down to the last ant, and planted your palms, from THEN on it is sustainable, well, mostly, I'll agree.

But why not have a little honesty and just admit that - once we've killed our sustainable goose (our rainforest) that could have laid golden timber and forest products ad infinitum - we need palm oil for our own prosperity? Why not admit that we are too selfish to limit out family size or use less "stuff" in order to look after our planet? Why must we pretend that oil palm is good for anything except to put money in our pockets, soap in our bathrooms and food on our tables? It's not even natural to this country!

The American prairie was once full of wildlife; now it grows corn. The forests of Europe once had wolves and bears; now there are only a couple of pocket-sized natural forests left on the whole of the continent.

Palm oil plantations are no different. No worse, no better. But please don't try and kid us. We aren't that stupid...are we? And we all should take our share of the blame anyway. Just as our critics overseas should admit they haven't a leg to stand on - they've "been there, done that."

Photos: oil palm plantation in Johor. The smoke is from a oil palm processing plant. Waste is poured out into the air and the rivers.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Denvention: worldcon Denver 2008

I have bought a membership of Denvention, the World Science Fiction convention of 2008. My first worldcon was in Glasgow, three years back, which I went to because my daughter was then living in Glasgow.

She is now living in L.A., and Denver is somewhere between L.A. and my other daughter in Virginia, and the con is at the right time of the year [just before I take on my August-September babysitting-grandson-duties], so it seemed fated I must go...

And not long now to Easter and the Australian Natcon where I am a guest.

They will be my only two cons this year.

See you there?
And some memories from Scotland: With author extraordinaire Trudi Canavan, and Donna Hanson (who will be my room mate again in 2008).

With Paul Ewins, self, Donna, Nashii (my daughter),
Trudi, in the Orkneys.

Me giving a reading.

Photos by Trudi and Paul.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Where you should live if you don't want to die unnecessarily...

...of treatable conditions.

Answer: France, Japan or Australia.

Well, they only looked at statistics for 19 nations - but I doubt if Malaysia does as well as the last country, number 19 - which was the USA. But then, you never know. Not so long ago we did better on infant mortality than the USA did.

I reckon, though, superstition on the part of a large segment of our population would bring our statistics down. You only have to see all those good folk
from all over Malaysia, lining up a couple of times a week, to have their flagons of water blessed at the shaman's place down the road from me, in the hope of curing their ills and getting rid of their bad luck - when they should be going to the doctor instead.

According to this report, if the U.S. health care system performed as well as the three countries named above, there would be 101,000 fewer deaths in the United States per year. [The researchers wondered if the fact that 47 million Americans lack health insurance might have something to do with that...]

France had 64.8 deaths deemed preventable by timely and effective health care per 100,000 people in the study period of 2002 and 2003. The US had 109.7 such deaths.

After Australia (71.3) came Spain, Italy, Canada, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, Greece, Austria, Germany, Finland, New Zealand, Denmark, Britain, Ireland and Portugal. And the United States last.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A crab that eats coconuts

They grow things big in the tropics sometimes.

Like this crab.

This pix shows what looks like a hermit crab, using a sea shell for a portable house, in the forest on the dive island of Sipadan. Small enough to cup in your hand.

But this is a baby coconut crab, and he outgrows childish things like protective sea shells...

See that little bit if grey peeking out from behind the shell on the left hand top? That is the end of a 14 cm (5.5") marker pen lying on the sand.

This fellow is almost a metre across...

And he snacks on coconuts.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

So, what brought you here? Or: More Weird Stuff.

Yep, this is another one of those posts where I have a look at what people have googled that has made my blog URL pop up in answer... (courtesy of sitemeter)

Honest, this is all true, every bit. I couldn't make up this stuff if I tried...
  • Does the Aurealis Award help sales?
Nice topical question this one - 2007 awards are announced in another 3 weeks. My answer: I've never won one, so I don't know. I doubt it. If I win, I'll tell you.

  • Beating your stomach while pregnant.
My advice: Don't! Really. Are you crazy? Pregnancy is uncomfortable enough without self-flagellation. And if someone else is doing the beating, lady, do you need out of that relationship. Now. Are you crazy?

  • No complaints book.
Huh? I doubt whether I have written any of those, honest.

  • Is it ok to drink Perrier water every day?
No, it is not. Lord, have you any idea of how much that is costing you? Not to mention the amount of the world's precious, finite resources you are squandering, all for a brand name. If you are worried about the quality of your tap water, buy a good water filter. Believe me, at the other end of your own personal disposal system, no one can tell the difference between Perrier and reverse osmosis...

  • 16-man family camping tent.
Listen, mate, if your immediate family numbers 16, then you are overpopulating the world. And even if you are talking about 16 unrelated people, I wouldn't advise that you try living in one tent for more than an hour or two. Truly. Especially on a rainy day.

  • How men can tell their wives are pregnant.
My advice: try asking her.

  • Palm Civet pest control.
When you find out about this one, tell me. I still have a whole darn family living in the study ceiling, and they keep on scenting around my front door. And you know what - I have never liked the smell of pandan.
  • Up temper music.
Yep, that's what they wrote.

  • What is temper?
Probably this was the same person, after they had googled "up temper music" and were surprised by the answers they got.

  • Bird birthing tooth.
Now I do know what this is, or what they meant. It's real name is an egg-tooth, but I am darned if I can remember ever blogging about it. And for those who don't know, many bird species have a little horn-like appendage on their beak that helps them to break out of the egg, which later drops off.

  • The Australian back of the bus song.
There is such a thing??
I think I know how this one arrived at my blog - my musician daughter was once on the back of a Glasgow bus, and I posted her blog about it, see here.

  • Nail clippers
I know how this one arrived at my blog too- I talked about having my nail clippers taken away before boarding a plane. What I really want to know is why - oh, why - would someone google the words "nail clippers"? Why??

  • I've never seen a bird.
Huh? Words fail me.

  • Washing machine fantasy.
Wow. People have fantasies about their washing machines and want to share? Meet other washing machine fetish folk? Just what kind of fantasy would one have about a washing machine?

No, don't answer that. I don't want to know.

Come to think of it, I do have a washing machine fantasy: that one day someone will invent a washing machine that automatically finds every tissue and disposes of it before it shreds into tiny barbed particles all over my black sweaters, and dark blue shirts...

Another thought: the google search was probably initiated by someone looking for Cory Doctorow's book, "Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town".

Friday, January 04, 2008

More about stuff

On the same subject as yesterday: there is an excellent video that everyone should see - no matter where you live or how you live.

It ought to revolutionize the world. Probably won't, but it ought to.

Check it out here:

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Thoughts on weddings and stuff.

When I first came to Malaysia, we went to lots of village weddings - my husband's generation, friends, cousins etc.

Village people helped supply the food, menfolk did the cooking at the home of the bride or groom, the village youth did the waiting on tables, village women decorated and cleaned and prepared.

One of the things villagers did was to take whatever eggs they could spare to the wedding house (knowing others would do the same for them when members of their own family married). The eggs were hardboiled and then one or more was given to each of the guests. Each egg was wrapped in half a paper napkin or a twist of cellophane or something similar - nothing too fancy.

They said two things, those eggs: firstly, "Thanks for coming and here's a token of our appreciation"; and secondly, "Hey, eggs are a symbol of fertility, and here's hoping this young couple has a family and secures the future." You took the egg home and ate it.

Nowadays, few people give eggs anymore. They substitute a slice of cake, or chocolates, or a tiny bag of potpourri. And the containers have become more and more elaborate, often made of china or pottery, and then placed in lovely paper bags with the name of bride and bridegroom on the outside.

My problem is - we go to a lot of weddings. Hardly a week goes by that we don't receive an invitation, and although we turn most of them down, we still end up with dozens of things like those I have pictured - in twos, because husband and wife each get one.

I'm an environmentalist and I like things that can be recycled or used...and believe me, there's only so many pin containers one can have in a house. So what should I do with these? As much as I appreciate the thought, and the enormous amount of trouble that the family have gone to, I want a return to something wrapped in a twist of cheap recycled paper.

That would be enough to say thanks - and it would go a little way towards saving the world's resources. Am I wrong? And what do other people do with these things???

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A Writer's Place

Remember this "before" pix, to the left? That was my new table that we didn't know how to turn up the right way!

Well here are the "after" pix. As I have said elsewhere, I can write just about anywhere. But it is great to have one's own room with all the appurtenances. Doesn't make you a better writer, but it sure makes you a more comfortable one.
First "after" pix is the daytime view from the doorway.

Second is the view from my computer workspace.

Third is the view from the doorway at night.

Last pix is my computer work area.

I now have no excuse not to finish "Rogue Rainlord" have I?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Wild about New Year's Day

When I got up this morning, there was a Spotted Gecko in my kitchen. He visits sometimes and today I finally found out how he manages to get inside - squeezing through the closed sliding kitchen windows. A veritable saurian Houdini.

Then I came into the study to switch on the computer and collect my stack of emails enticing me to buy watches, support scam con-artists, and increase the size of my penis (flogging miracles are they?). A little later, when I was vacuuming, I found a plastic glue bottle had been dragged behind the bookshelf and consumed. Most of the plastic container included. I have a glue-sniffing rat in the house who got a trifle carried away with its NewYear's Eve partying?

I am now looking for a dead rat with glued up insides. Now that's constipation.

I can hear the resident Crested Serpent-eagle over the house as I type. And the local cuckoos - known as the Koel after their repetitive, ringing call rather like a frenetic car alarm - are gearing up to the mating season at this time of year too. In spite of their noise, I favour their presence in our jungle-garden because they parasitize the introduced House Crow.

There was also a monkey on the roof this morning.

We are used to the urbanised and aggressive Long-tailed Macaques coming around occasionally to steal the fruit from the trees and the scraps from the rubbish bin if they can get to it, but this fellow announced himself with the explosive chek-chek-chek-chek of the Banded Leaf-Monkey, a much more elegant chap.

However, to have him crashing across our roof from back to front, thrashing through the trees in the front garden and then back again across the roof and down the other side of the house, scrambling across the bamboos to the mango trees before finally exiting up the hill to the golf course - that upset me.

Leaf monkeys are gregarious forest dwellers, and this one was highly upset and lonely. I suspect the troupe may have been broken up by the final clearing of a forest patch where a new housing development is going up nearby.

I wish people would think about what they do to the world when they have 6 kids. Trebling the world's population has consequences.