Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Last Night's Sunset

I'd love to say this is just a great sunset, but I suspect it has a lot to do with atmospheric pollution. The photos were taken from my house, and the colour is genuine, really did look like that.
It was cloudy and spitting rain.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

More kites...and some birds too

I'm back from Terengganu.
And a very long drive it was too - we took over 8 hours to return.
So here are some more pics from the beach below our hotel in Kuala Terengganu.

The states of Kelantan particularly, but Terengganu as well, have a long tradition of building and flying kites.
So, where are all these kites from?
-- China.
Below: I particularly loved these bird kites in flight. They were so real, fluttering the primary "feathers" while flying!
Below: decisions, decisions....
Below: And here's two kites battling it out in flight. And note that bat kite on the stand at the lower left. In flight, that fellow looks totally wicked, with bright flaming orange eyes...scary.

Birds...well, I didn't actually go birdwatching, but I had my binoculars. There were ten or so Little Terns around the harbour, a dark morph Reef Egret, a kite of the living kind - a Brahminy, and a pair of adult White-bellied Sea-eagles with a nest and this fully fledged youngster below, high in the casuarinas. Nice to know these magnificent eagles can nest in the trees right above the kite sellers and parked cars, next to a large hotel, and still bring a young to the edge of independence. You can see the nest in the second photo below, with the young waiting, hoping to be fed.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Light on the sea

These photos are actually in reverse order.
Above: Mid-morning light from the hotel window...
Kuala Terengganu as seen across the harbour, early morning. Our hotel is the building to the left.
Above: Fishing boats leave the harbour just after dawn
Above: Dawn as see from the hotel swimming pool
Dawn's early light...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Dawn over the South China Sea...

And below - the reason for coming to the east coast: to attend a village wedding in Terengganu, one of my husband's invaluable students/assistants.

Kites on beach

Above: View from my window at the moment

Yeah, you guessed right. I'm not at home.
That's the South China Sea on a grey day...


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Australia has a new Prime Minister

  • Gillard is unmarried but has a partner.
  • Gillard has no children.
  • Gillard is a migrant.
  • Gillard is a feminist.
  • Gillard is an atheist.
  • Gilliard is Australia's first woman Prime Minister.
I can think of a lot of countries in this world of ours, including the United States and Malaysia, where one or more of the above points would rule her out as that country's leader. I am thankful that my country is not one of them.

Yay for a woman who knows her own mind, and uses it.
Yay for a country that truly allows for freedom of the mind and freedom for rational decisions.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

An offer for translation rights in...

Just received an offer for translation rights for a specific language of The Stormlord trilogy. I shan't say any more than that for the time being as I haven't signed on the dotted line yet, and things could go wrong on the way to a formal contract, but I am chuffed that one offer is in even before the whole thing is published in English.

And I heard a whisper that book 3 Stormlord's Exile is not as bad as I imagine it to be in my nightmare today was one happy day. Oh, and it looks as if Australia might have a woman P.M. tomorrow morning?? Wow.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Grandson... at day camp over the summer, including drama camp.

And he is obviously enjoying himself hugely.

He's also just lost a front tooth.

I think we have another creative type in the family. It's in the mother was both artist and musician, and so far her descendants include a large proportion of artists (granddaughter and great granddaughter); stage actor and performer (great grandson); Musician (granddaughter); writer (me) and very possibly another on the way in a great ganddaughter; and now another great grandson seems to have fallen in love with theatre - although at the age of six he says he thinks he likes the idea of writing the script as much as performing.

Although maybe he has to actually learn to write first?!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fun with the menu...

Ok, so do you like the new look of the blog?


And here's tonight's bit of comedy, true story:

Husband and I went out for dinner (father's day and all that), to a chicken restaurant in the neighbourhood.

The menu was in both English and Malay.

Husband (to waiter, in English): I'll have the pepper roast chicken

Waiter (mixing his languages): Steak or nasi (rice)?

Husband (puzzled): Not steak, chicken.

Waiter: Yes, with steak or nasi?

Husband: Yes, nasi. But not steak --I want chicken.

This part of the conversation was repeated with varying degrees of incomprehension on both sides. So I look back at the menu. It was divided into two, with Malaysian on one side and English on the other.
  • Ayam Panggang (Lada hitam atau madu) / nasi ayam. Roast Chicken (Black Pepper or honey) with rice
  • Stik Ayam panggang Roast Chicken Steak
That was when I cottoned on. Stik = stick. Roast chicken on a stick (served without rice). But the English translation on the menu was Stik = Steak.

Now the really, really funny thing about this is that Stik is not a Malay word. It is, well, literally "stick" given a local spelling!

I pointed to "steak" and said in Malay to the waiter. "Steak is red meat (daging), not chicken."

But by this time the poor fellow was totally confused...

We waited until he had disappeared into the kitchen before we started to laugh...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Phlegmatic Toad

Well, actually real name is the Asiatic Toad. But that's not a very impressive name, and this fellow didn't bat an eyelid while I took photographs.

I disturbed him when I was cleaning the front verandah. That black line around the eye is the paratoid gland - toads have poison glands, frogs don't.

And toads walk, did you know that?

Because they have much shorter, less powerful back legs.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I love it when one of my characters resonates with a reader.

Read what Melissa says here about Terelle, her favorite character in The Last Stormlord.

(I have to say that my favourite in the book was actually Ryka. I especially loved the proposal scene where Kaneth makes a total muck of things and Ryka just gets madder and madder...)

I do so love strong women, especially those who aren't warriors. (Although I have done those too - Blaze from the Isles of Glory was most definitely a warrior who could match most men when it came to swordplay.)

The pix is Nashii, and while I didn't have her looks in mind when I described what I thought Terelle would look like, this particular photo somehow catches an expression that is wholly Terelle at her most sceptical.

So who was your favourite character??

Monday, June 14, 2010

Back to work...

Have just spent a day at work, at a meeting for the planning of a project. Yep, back on the environmental stuff - I have 4 months work spread over the next year. That is, in theory it's 4 months work, but in practice it could be more (although the pay won't increase!). However, working for an environmental NGO is like that. You do what is necessary to do a good job -- because it's worthwhile and ... well ... don't tell my boss, but it's fun. If you want a 9 to 5 job, forget it. If you want challenge and a chance to see the most exciting rainforest on earth, then there's nothing to beat it.

And in between, I squeeze in the writing. So I guess there will be more blogs from exotic places and pix of me doing copy edits on top of a rainforest tree with an orang utan or something else equally bizarre. Ok, so that's a slight exaggeration.

One of the best things about this kind of work is my fieldwork mates. Interesting, long-term friends who share a passion, glimpses of the best places in the world -- what more can anyone ask??

Watch this space.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Why did you become a reader?

Here's a post for you, the people who read my blog. I assume most of you come here because you read books. (If you don't read books, well you can tell us why too).

So what I want to know is this: what started you on that road? At what age did you become a reader for life? Were there times when you didn't read? Were you the odd one out in the family?

My mother read to me all the time before I could read for myself. I expect I also nagged my sister into reading to me too, although I don't actually remember that.

I was a dedicated reader from the moment I learned how to read for myself, which was about five. I read passionately in spite of a lack of reading material (compared to what is available to kids nowadays) and have never stopped. If I had nothing to read as a child, I re-read and re-read. I read adult books as soon as I have the vocabulary for them, or even before I had the vocabulary for them. I borrowed books. I read my sister's books from the university library when I was still in primary school.

At five years old I missed the school bus stop (on a public bus) because I was reading Millie Mollie Mandy and the headmaster had to come hunting for me (he was the only teacher with a car).

At primary school the library was a single bookcase in each classroom and we were permitted to borrow one book a week. I nagged my friends into letting me read their borrowed books so I could get my hands on more than one book a week.

Why? Because there were only two forms of entertainment on the farm: books and one's imagination. Oh, and kindergarten of the air on ABC radio. My siblings were at school long before I was even a twinkle in my dad's eye. Neighbours were a long way off and play groups were unheard of.

The default for me was books.

So what about you?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

A day with redtape

This morning and part of the afternoon was spent at the Immigration Department today. I have no complaints about the department, especially when I remember what it was like all of forty-one years ago, in the old British colonial buildings with long ceiling fans moving the air about as much as a passing bumble bee.

Now it's airconditioned and the staff are efficient and pleasant and helpful, the business is all done with in a day.

However, once a year my husband and I have to make this trek. Sixty kms there and 60 kms back and a whole morning plus. A payment as well, to get a stamp in my passport saying I am granted another year to stay in Malaysia with my husband of 44 years. Inevitably, one of the immigration dept staff will look thoroughly puzzled and ask why I haven't got permanent residence. They - and who can blame them - really don't want to be bothered with this couple turning up every year wasting their time and effort

It's not their choice. It's the wisdom of the registration department who decided I am some sort of undesirable. You see, I committed the "sin" of giving up my PR when my husband was seconded (by the government, mind you!!) to the UN. We were away almost 9 years. When I came back, I did all the right things and was finally, after a certain number of years, permitted to re-apply for PR. The application was turned down without explanation - and a "no correspondence will be entered into". In other words, we aren't going to tell you why. Maybe they just couldn't think of a reason?

And so, we make our annual pilgrimage. Husband has to take time off from his (government) job and come with me because he has things to sign and has to do it in person.

But this cannot go on indefinitely. If my husband were to die before me, I'd be persona non grata and have to leave, possibly at very short notice.

And so one day, we will go elsewhere. My husband - a respected senior government officer with numerous government awards - will take his numerous skills and knowledge, and I will take my income (money which comes in on a regular basis from overseas - doing its little bit for the local economy!) and we will both go somewhere where I am welcomed, no matter what the future holds.

Neither of us understand why this has to be so.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Aboard Netanyahu's "Ship of hate"

There's some very interesting first-hand reports coming in from the 12 Malaysians who were on two different ships bound for Gaza. Those of you who only read the Western press may be interested in the Malaysian accounts - from those who were there.

They include medical doctors, local TV reporters, politicians, Muslims and non-Muslims. The two doctors treated the two Israeli soldiers who were hurt and who might have possibly bled to death otherwise. (Netanyahu called the vessel afterwards "the ship of hate". I wonder if those 2 injured Israeli commandos agree?) One of the TV reporters tells the harrowing story of interviewing two Turkish activists on either side of him--when they were both shot.

Of course, if you don't want the truth to be known, you don't let the TV men come home with their film, do you??

You can read about what the Malaysian delegation has to say here:
and here:
And here:
the Staronline

Particularly interesting is the allegation by the head of the Malaysian mission that he has in his possession a hitlist - with names and pictures - taken from an Israeli soldier after he was searched and his gun thrown overboard. The leader of the delegation is reported as saying that all the men on that hitlist are now dead, whereas members of the Malaysian delegation - none of whom were on the list - were hit only by rubber bullets.


Saturday, June 05, 2010

WEATHER is not the same thing as CLIMATE

I love the comedian/commentator Bill Maher.

Great article here in the Huffington Post today.

Here's a few extracts, but do read the whole thing.

... now English people don't believe in global warming either. I thought the English were smarter than that. The home of Newton and Darwin. I can't believe we let these people build our exploding oil platforms.

...Even scarier is why people have stopped thinking global warming is real. One major reason pollsters say is we had a very cold, snowy winter. Which is like saying the sun might not be real because last night it got dark. And my car's not real because I can't find my keys.

...We shouldn't decide everything by polling the masses. Just because most people believe something doesn't make it true. This is the fallacy called argumentum ad numeram: the idea that something is true because great numbers believe it. As in: Eat shit, 20 trillion flies can't be wrong.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Building a home for the family...the foundations

I'm still reading aloud.

For your edification: pix 1 shows the view from my front door. Note the bamboo in the pot.

Pix 2 shows what's happening in the pot.

This is two days work from - I suspect - a pair of Yellow-vented Bulbuls. Will keep you posted as to the progress of the building work.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

When you need a break from writing... can always rely on the tropics for a diversion.

I am at the moment reading my book aloud. That's right, aloud. To myself. From a printout, which I correct as I find all the mistakes I never saw when reading silently. A ton of them, in fact. And when I get hoarse, I take the corrections and put them in the digital copy on my computer. (Have you any idea how long it is going to take me to read aloud 600 pages? No, I thought not. This is day 3 and I have done a mere 28,500 words.)

Anyway, here it is 11pm and along came a diversion, to sit on the edge of the laptop lid, and then on my dictionary cover, finally on my arm... while my husband and I scrambled to take pictures.


Anyway, here I have no idea what it is, but it stood tiptoe on its pointy little feet, long-legged, two antennae thrust forward like horns, beady eyes, wings disproportionally long like a glider, body squat like a flea.

I think I'll go to bed.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

What were they thinking...?

One of the scary things about being a grown up is realising that you sometimes know more than people who are supposed to know more than you do. Like Prime Ministers or Presidents, and politicians in general. I mean, we elect them to be wise on our behalf, right? (Ok, I know that half of you are now rolling round the floor cackling with cynical laughter. But I'll say this anyway.)

I don't mean knowing more with hindsight, either. I mean when you are sitting there watching a train wreck in progress and you're saying to yourself, "What were they thinking? Are they daft?"

And that's what I was asking myself looking at the spectacle of Israel going after a flotilla of tubs and yachts loaded down with activists on their way with aid to break the siege of Gaza, aka Gaza blockade.

Firstly, when you use helicopters and warships and commandos to board vessels loaded down with unarmed civilians in international waters, that's either piracy or a declaration of war. It makes all owners of ships...i.e. just about every country in the world ... nervous.

Secondly, it's especially silly when the main ship you board is Turkish, and Turkey is your only Muslim sort of friend. Got news for you, Israel. They aren't your pal any longer.

Thirdly, yeah, afterwards you can say, but they attacked us first!! But it kinda makes you look silly, y'know? There ain't no footage of that pleasure yacht breaking out the torpedoes. All you've got is some pictures of a ship being boarded by armed masked commandos with guns, and being attacked by a few guys on board who got mad and retaliated. The death toll tells you who had the guns.

Fourthly, the 6 or so boats in the flotilla were loaded with hundreds of activists as well as 10,000 tons of supplies for a battered, imprisoned land. The thing about activists is that they want to draw attention to themselves and their cause. Do you know, I had no idea this flotilla existed - until you attacked them and killed some of them. Now I know. So does the whole world. And guess whose side we're all on?

Fifthly, doesn't anyone in Israel remember Exodus 1947? Didn't any of them think it might stir up a deja vu in which they end up looking like the bad guys this time? Are they insane??

Sixthly, latest reports say that over 600 people on board the boats are now detained indefinitely in jail in Israel, with no access to anyone. That's right. Sounds like piracy asnd kidnapping doesn't it? Remind you of Somalia anyone?

Yep, lovely bit of "Let's get the whole world to hate us." Great job, Israel.

I'd like to think this bit of idiocy - for which a number of people lost their lives - will lead to some sense re Gaza. Instead I see such brainlessness that I doubt the present Israeli Government has a brain in their collective heads.

Now, if I were a Palestinian, I would act like an angel for next few months and make the most of the priceless publicity I had just been granted.

But I wonder, are they going to have the brains that Israel lacked?