Sunday, 27 December 2015

Leaking Pavlovas

This year for Christmas my darling and I decided not to exchange presents. We also didn’t have any decorations around the house (except for a handmade Xmas tree ornament made by my darling’s nephew which has been hanging from the nose of our Happy Bunny™ since we received it as a present last year which doesn’t count because it’s always there.)

There was a vague idea going around early on that we might wander down the street when it was dark and have a look at the Christmas lights in the one house in our neighbourhood that bothers. This was shot down through a combination of lack of interest and needing to stay up after our bedtime for it to get dark.

So my big Christmas moment was making the Pavlovas for our Christmas Eve dessert.

I read up on the Internet and saw legions of people complaining about how their Pavlovas leaked or fell or otherwise didn’t make the grade. I scoffed at these people, safe in my “I haven’t tried yet so I don’t know how hard it’ll be” state of innocence. I whipped up some eggs and gradually added sugar. I kept at those peaks until they were smooth and glossy and I couldn’t feel any grains of sugar when I smooshed a bit between my fingers.

I added cornflour and vanilla and white vinegar (???) even though it didn’t seem like an ingredient that should be added. I stirred in some JUST BOILED WATER which must have been integral because it was called attention to in capitals.

I separated my one pavlova into two pavlovas so that there weren’t any fights later on, then put them into the 100 C oven to cook for an hour and a half while I tidied the kitchen.

Half an hour later I peered into the oven to see a disaster forming.

A small puddle was leaking from one side of one pavlova. I refused to look for the remaining time in case it was my special vision powers that made the disaster happen. It wasn’t. Or, if it was, I inflicted the same powers again when I took the tray out of the oven.

Never mind. I’ve baked before. I know the score. I bought double ingredients at the supermarket because I know these things happen.

I double checked all the reasons this disaster could’ve happened. They were many and varied.

Beating the egg whites too much. Not beating them enough. Adding too much sugar. Adding damp sugar. Not integrating the sugar into the mixture effectively. Humidity. The oven was too hot. The oven was not too hot.

Having narrowed it down a bit, I tried an entirely different recipe that nevertheless used the same ingredients. Except for the water. The second one not only didn’t think the water should be just boiled but didn’t see the necessity for water at all. They looked remarkably similar when I put them into the oven. Unfortunately, they looked remarkably similar when I pulled them from the oven also.

Oh well. I’m used to disasters in the kitchen and you know what I always say? There’s nothing that can’t be fixed with lashings of whipped cream and chocolate chips.

I can also reliably report that meringue tastes like meringue whether it leaks in the oven or not.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Insomnia

I may not make a lot of sense today (just today you say?) because I've been struggling with insomnia for the past three weeks.

And when I say struggling, I mean it's pounded me into the ground and is calling me its b****.

When it first started, it wasn't too bad. I had early waking insomnia which is the best kind. I woke up early most mornings and I could get work done that I'd only dreamed of in the past. I'd crash around lunchtime but who needs a coherent answer after midday?

Now it's switched to the worse kind. I lie in bed at night staring at the inside of my eyelids and getting worked up over a variety of incidents which I'm confident never happened.

Utterly useless wakefulness. Too tired to get up and do some work; too sleepless to... well, to sleep. In the morning when I drag myself into semi-consciousness I'm also too tired to get up and do some work.

I'm sure by now you can spot the problem there.

This isn't helped by the fact I'm line editing at the moment which means both that I need to have my brain fully engaged in trying to think of the best ways to phrase things while also being bored senseless by looking at the same sentences over and over and over.

I'd complain bitterly and at length (oh really, that wasn't at length?) but I'm terrified to do so because in the shadows lurks a meaner beast. I speak (or rather I don't because I've seen Candyman and I know how saying words aloud works out for female characters) of the third and worst type of insomnia.

The I-can't-fall-asleep-or-stay-asleep-and-I-also-wake-up-early insomnia. Also known as brain death.

One night many years ago when I couldn't sleep (a familiar scenario apparently) I looked up insomnia on Wikipedia to see if you could die from it because it sure felt as though I could.

The ever-delightful Internet provided the answer that I could if I suffered from Fatal Familial Insomnia. I'd have found it an easier read if I'd picked up the first time around that this was a rare genetic disease.

FFI has insomnia down cold. By the time you die from this horrendous disease, you may have gone six or more months with NO SLEEP WHATSOEVER. The patients go completely mental. With reason.

In an attempt to treat it, a hospital once tried to make a patient sleep by using drugs to put him into an induced coma. The induced coma drugs failed to induce sleep. Can you imagine?

Unfortunately, when I looked this stuff up on the Internet at night after days of insufficient sleep, I could imagine.

In brighter news, my contest to brutally murder a member of your family in celebration of Christmas is running into its last hours. If you haven't entered yet, then follow the link HERE to avail yourself of this one and only chance.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Christmas Conundrums

Christmas is once again upon us, and so the season of overeating has begun. In some parts of the world, this coincides with Winter which means you can cover up your excesses with layers of woolly jumpers.

Even when the button on your jeans mysteriously changes place so it can no longer be done up without extending it with the magical application of a safety pin, the damage can be covered up by a long top.

Down here in the southern hemisphere, however, things aren’t so easy. It’s summer. Not only that, it looks like we’re in for a hot summer. Already, Canterbury is in the middle of a drought. There’ve been entire weeks now where my weekday apparel consists of a cardigan only in the morning. In the afternoons, even my cold-blood runs warm and fluid.

My clothing layers now consist of a sleeveless top with a wrap. This apparel doesn’t hide much. Certainly not with the culinary sins I’m about to inflict.

One idea I’ve had is the idea of putting an Atkins spin on the whole holiday season. Ham, beautiful. Just fail to follow up with the Pavlova** and I should be okay.

A great idea which fails to take into account that summer is also the season where all of my berries ripen to perfection and are dropping from the vines, stalks and tendrils. The poor wee things can’t help it that they’re laden with carbohydrates. All they know is that they’re useless for the best part of a year, but right now is their time to shine.

Oh, well. Time to put thought into another method for getting past Christmas without gaining a spare tire. I’ve still got a week or two before the full onslaught hits.

**Pavlova, for those of you who haven’t come across it, is a meringue-type dessert invented by New Zealanders and named in honour of the ballerina. If an Australian tells you they invented it, they’re lying or deluded and either should lead you to avoid their company. And as for Wikipedia? You get what you pay for.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

My and that inflation

Filled with dynamic energy earlier this week, I decided to film a video of myself to pop onto my website. I don't have any camera equipment, but everyone else seems perfectly fine using their webcam so I was certain I could too.

After a fight with VLC media player which I still don't entirely understand, I managed to put together a short clip begging asking for potential beta readers for my books in return for early copies and finished copies.

So far, so good.

I had tried at one stage to directly upload into YouTube by pressing record on the site, but for a strange reason it converted my ninety-second video into a sixteen minute punishment. I mean, I know that New Zealanders speak quickly, but that was too much counteraction for my taste.

I uploaded my video, checking three times that I'd switched from Public to Private, and waited for it to process onto the site. All so I could download it again and embed it onto my website.

While waiting, I investigated the site to see if I could remember off the top of my head which of the buttons I was meant to press to obtain the upload link.

I couldn't, but I did find a previously unknown to me source of entertainment known as a transcript.

Poor YouTube has embedded this functionality presumably in an attempt to ensure hearing defective consumers could obtain as much use from their site as anyone else.

I'm not sure they hit their intended target. Witness below what YouTube has decided in its wisdom is a transcript for my short video:

"my and that inflation and I wanted to hear about a way you can receive all of my upcoming box before a the offer is to become a better rate of my books based off this means that you'll receive an advance copy of my book to raid before anybody else had the chance to your loss I get a chance to take anything you don't like about my book so then I can have the opportunity to fix it up before it goes on style examples if a bank might be phrases you don't like character interactions that take too long or go too fast a character whose name you can pronounce all the point at which she threw the book across the room because she just couldn't take anymore but provided feedback form when I find out each book and be stable at you do provide feedback both enjoy a completed copy of the book paperback or ebook your choice so that you can see how your feedback directly interacts with the final product owners you discovered no figures you can always unsubscribe at any time than good get started today by clicking on the subscribe link below."

It did manage to hit the key point of "clicking on the subscribe link below" but what the hell does "my and that inflation" mean?

Even I couldn't work it out and I'd recorded the words just minutes earlier.

Now, I know that not many people in the world have my particular accent and it can be hard to decipher the meaning of some words due to our pronunciation of most vowels as "eh" but still...

"Hi, my name's Katherine Hayton" in no way resembles "My and that inflation."

If you want to observe this video in action yourself then please click the link HERE.

On seconds thoughts please don't. It appears I have some work to do. I might try to record it again and sound more like... what's the word? Those funny things that live in houses. Oh, yeah. Humans. I'll try to sound more human.

Hope you all have a good book to raid...

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Tonor and Book Covers

In further 'rise of the machines' news, I've had a spot of bother with my printer this week. My laptop is now fine again, thanks for asking, but the printer *shakes head*

My first chore on Friday morning was to print out a postage label and a bookshop order reference, then package up a copy of Breathe and Release to send off to a library.

This is not mind-boggling as far as chores go. The half hour walk to and from the Mall to post the package (that's half hour total, not two lots of half hour which would be close to actual exercise and therefore discouraged) I judged to be the hardest part.

Needless to say, I was wrong. Or, at least, I think I was wrong. If I'd ever gotten to the bit where I walked to the Mall chances are that I could've found it a terrible ordeal and ended up injured in some horrible, unimaginable way, but I didn't so I don't know.

I didn't get to that part because of Magenta.

Magenta is fondly remembered from my childhood of attempting to program a basic computer colour palette into producing basic coloured graphics and as a character in the much-loved 'Rocky Horror Picture Show.'

These are now over-shadowed by a blinking red light and hours of 'But Why?' shouted in a loud voice before a flow of copious tears made speech impossible.

The printer was fine the last time my darling used it. Or so he says now. When I pressed the button to turn it on I wasn't even looking at the printer lights. I was down on my hands and knees telling my laptop what I wanted to be printed out. I have to kneel when dealing with the printer because, despite wifi capability being listed on the box, there’s no sign of that being a practical application of the machine itself.

At one point, I dedicated many hours to finding out how to program the printer onto a permanent IP address. That way our network would always know where to find it (or something, even that is hazy now) but it fell apart with the introduction of our new super-fast fibre connection and I couldn't be bothered working it all out again.

Therefore, we had to plug the USB into the side of the laptop whenever we wanted to print, and that meant getting down on hands and knees.

Technology is incredible.

When it was obvious there was no corresponding paper being printed in response to my explicit instructions to my laptop, I stood up to see if the printer needed more paper or a jiggling of the document tray.

Apparently, there was something else awry. Something to do with an LED light which looked gray but must have faded in the sun because after investigating on the internet I discovered it was meant to be coloured Magenta.

Foul, foul, Magenta.

When have I ever wanted to print out anything coloured purple?

I tried to explain patiently to the printer that actually I just wanted it to print in black and white (or greyscale as it insists on calling it). The answer was two blinking red lights.

I pulled out the magenta cartridge, getting some magenta ink on my person because the toner cartridge is almost brand new and full of ink powder, and shook it in front of the printer so it could see that there was a magenta toner cartridge available, then shoved it back in. The response was two blinking red lights.

Eventually, I gave up and bought a new printer.

That's not because of my frivolous capitalist nature, either. That's because to purchase a magenta cartridge to test out whether it was something wrong with the cartridge rather than the printer, cost twice as much as it would to buy a new printer. Given it was a 50/50 of there being something wrong with the cartridge that was a lot of good money potentially thrown after bad.

I don't understand it. I did economics in High School, but the world has moved on since then.

In better and brighter news, I've been designing book covers for my latest work-in-progress over the last couple of weeks. I have narrowed it down to the cover which I prefer and the cover which my darling prefers.

Naturally, I listen to my readers and my darling is a reader (comes with proximity) so I have to take his opinions into consideration.

To try to slip my preferences through, however, I have attached two pictures to this blog post. One is my favourite, the other is my darling's. Please feel free to comment and express your opinions freely so that I can listen to readers other than my darling.

About votes: the top cover is called 1 and the bottom cover is called 2. I have my fingers crossed.

Also, if you'd like to read the first three chapters in the coming weeks, please sign up to my newsletter here. Yes, I do call subscribers My Groupies. No, it isn't offensive. Is too, a term of endearment.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

The latest fad

Eight years ago when I experienced my first bout of Vertigo there were very few people around me with whom I could compare symptoms. I had the weird fortune of having a disease which nobody else seemed to have had.

This meant a few things. First, I could make stuff up about how awful it was because who was there to contradict me? Second, I could offer up my own recuperation period for exactly the same reason.

I greatly enjoyed the week I had at home to recover. Especially the three days after all my symptoms disappeared.

Also, because this happened in the distant past, people weren't in the habit of looking everything up on the Internet in the same way they do now. Doctor Google and his cancerous tumour answer for everything was still a thing of the future.

Nowadays, I'd be hard pressed to get away with the same level of deception.

Which is a pity because I've had the unluck to fall ill with vertigo twice in the past year. Each bout worse than the last. It does make it easy on my doctor to prescribe medication because it's already sitting on her computer screen. My disease recurred with such haste it didn't even drop to the second page.

Last week my darling's mother became poorly. Well, she became poorly twice earlier, but they were things which could be addressed at the doctor's office at her inconvenience the way treatment should be administered.

In fact, just hours before calling for an ambulance, she'd been sitting in the after-hours clinic having a hair pulled out of her eye. If she'd just stayed put for a few hours there wouldn't have been half the drama.

But that's in crystal clear hindsight.

After becoming dizzy for a while during the day, she laid down to have a rest which made her feel far worse rather than far better. You know you're ill when lying in bed doesn't cure you.

After the ambulance was called and the patient sent to hospital they discovered her blood pressure was out of control and my darling settled in for a long wait.

The cause of this illness? Vertigo.

Been there, done that. Without the blood pressure bigness. Unless it got really high and I just didn't notice because I didn't ever think to take a reading.

In the days that followed it turned out that most of her village had experienced vertigo. Many of them within the past few months as well (if their memories can be trusted).

After that, a woman on the radio started blathering on about how she'd been feeling sick for the past week or so and what did she have? Yes, that's right. Give the man a cigar.

Common illnesses aren't any fun at all. You can't exaggerate a symptom that everyone else is experiencing. The recovery time can't be stretched out into a nice comfortable allowance.

It's like getting a cold in the middle of winter. Right when everybody else in the office has one. You sneeze and cough and feel as bad as anyone has ever felt - even yourself when experiencing colds in the past because no way have they ever been this bad, right? - but nobody cares because they're all wrapped up in their own disease and every time you complain of something they have exactly the same thing. Even when you exaggerate for sympathetic effect they have it. And they're NOT lying.

So, no more vertigo for me for the time being. Until it goes back to being a disease of comforting rarity I will expect my immune system to get on board and go find something a bit more exotic. Go fetch!

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Laptop troubles

I'm not entirely certain of what's happening but it appears my laptop is trying to kill me.

It may be slow, taking its time, gradually dialling up the blood pressure and the pulse rate to wear out my tiny, overworked heart, but it's still doing it. Stealthy, like all malfunctioning machines. You can't trust 'em even when you think you're friends.

It used to be that all my laptop asked for was a power supply and an occasional complete battery discharge when it was feeling frisky. Soon after purchase it became my favourite laptop; unexpected due to the lack of a touch screen which was all the rage at the time I brought it (Windows 8 had just come out) but with the addition of a dual graphics card which allowed me to play PC games with only a slight lag.

Back in the day I was amazed at the speed with which it started up. After Windows 7, where the computer loved telling you messages about how long it still had to go before it opened but reassuring you that it was going to get there eventually, Windows 8 was a dream. You pushed a button, waited for two seconds, entered your password and you were at the desktop. Or whatever they call that screen it ends up on.

Never an appreciator of the apps screen, I eschewed it in favour of clicking on Desktop and using things the way I'd always done. Our beautiful, untroubled relationship continued for a year until I installed Goat Simulator (mainly due to the spoof trailer) and instead of having a new game I had a blue screen with a big sad face on it.

It was our first big break up. I attempted to rekindle interest by taking its back off and poking about inside it, but I didn't really know where all the bits special to it were, or how to touch them, so we remained estranged.

Thinking it was over I started up a relationship with a younger model. It was properly flashy with a screen that released from the keyboard to turn from a laptop into a tablet.

So cool.

It also had the touchscreen that I'd pretended I didn't need but secretly longed for. When I touched my new laptop it was fully responsive. It was exciting. It was new.

It was also a piece of junk. The lag was appalling and it was no use trying to play a PC game on it. I'd had more responsive gameplay from our old Spectrum than my shiny new toy could offer.

Ah, shiny, shiny thing. You were so pretty and so slow. My rebound bimbo.

With renewed passion, and having expended any chance of buying a proper replacement laptop by purchasing my weak hybrid, I poured my time and energy into getting to know the insides of my old laptop with true intimacy. With time and patience I finally worked out what made it tick, and ended with the grand result of a laptop restored to its full glory. Not to mention upgraded to Windows 8.1 (still don't know what the difference is, but I'm not complaining)

So that was out first falling out. We both recovered and moved on; a bit older, a bit wiser.

Lately, there's been a bit of a sea change in our lifestyles. We're both getting on in years. I now struggle to bend my knee in the morning and my laptop struggles to turn on immediately. Not Windows 7 (or God forgive Windows Vista) slow but not like it's spring chicken self.

There's also been a few changes in our relationships. I try not to hang around with any people and my laptop has stopped communicating with some of the programs that used to be its favourites. I try to understand but whereas the people I've stopped seeing don't matter to my laptop, the software it's had a falling out with do matter to me.

Take Outlook (or as the old joke goes take Outlook, please). We've always maintained a working relationship. Now my laptop is trying to cut off ties between us just because it's having a bit of trouble. The same with Word. And Excel.

Personally, I think it's because the programs have been spruced up with a facelift and some new nonsense that is very exciting to read about but which I'll never use. Yes. Microsoft Office 2016 has arrived.

My laptop doesn't understand this younger generation. The quicker they want to do things and the more they want to do, the more my laptop digs in its heels and goes slow. Sometimes it'll just stop responding altogether. Apart, that is, from the sign at the top of the screen saying "Not Responding." Some of those times are when it should be doing things that are vitally important to me, such as saving all those words that I've been sweating to type out.

Yelling doesn't do any good. Once, in the long distant past, I encountered a similar situation with a laptop. I can also attest as a result of that experience that slamming it shut and repeatedly hitting it don't do anything either. Those signs are right. Abuse. IT'S NEVER OKAY. Have you tried to get a laptop screen replaced at Christmas? We had to drive to a house with an actual person in it. They talked to me AND EXPECTED ME TO TALK BACK TO THEM.

So yesterday I did the only thing I could think of. I dug deeply into my internal resources of patience and forbearance and attempted to give my laptop a makeover. Or a tuneup, if you prefer.

Over long hours I responded to messages and waited for long periods of time as little bots crawled over my laptop and exclaimed their findings on screen along with their recommendations. Some ridiculous (delete duplicate items found on my hard drive and my cloud drive - do you not understand backup copies?), some perfectly acceptable.

As a last treat I put aside my own concerns, such as the need to constantly refresh my Amazon KDP Reports page in case I'd missed a sale, and set up for a full disk drive refurbishment.

It may not cost money (I have none to spend) but it does require an investment of some solid time.

I gritted my teeth, made sure that my mobile phone battery was fully charged, and committed myself to this course of action. I closed down everything, said my goodbyes, and rebooted. My laptop reopened in a full disk repair and I sat back to play Scrubby Dubby. Yes, it's a game for adults, what are you implying?

An hour passed and I congratulated myself on for my patience. Another passed, I calculated that at 11% complete I would be leaving the laptop on all night and got a bit freaked. When a third hour had passed and the screen was still showing 11% I began to feel afraid. For me. For my laptop. Was it all coming to an end?

At the four hour mark I conceded that this was ridiculous and I began to search online for guidance, cursing at the teeny, tiny screen of my mobile phone. I received instructions, followed them, and the wait was over but so too was the repair. The slowness will just have to be accommodated because there is no solution coming. After coming that close to losing my laptop forever, it's a sacrifice I'm prepared to make.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

5,000 words per day

This is my word goal. Since I've only taken a career break for six months I have to make that time count, so I have hard and fast rules about my productivity.

One of those hard and fast rules is that if I'm concentrating on marketing, I have permission to take that day off.

Another is that the weekends are mine. Sometimes that means mine to spend all of my time concentrating on other writing projects, or to finish up the marketing I didn't get around to (ie put off for as long as possible) but for-sure there is no word count on my current WIP.

If I have to go to the doctor's that counts as a sick day. I don't have to meet any word goals on those days.

If I'm actually sick, I also take a sick day, because otherwise I feel completely cheated and then sulk because my boss is a hard-arse.

But other than that, I produce 5,000 words a day on my current manuscript.

Oh, there's also an exemption for creating other media. This was meant to be so I could create audiobook versions of my work (the first of which can be found here and listened to as part of a FREE trial), but turned out to be also used for creating a video explaining exactly why I hate that Twitter changed from a star to "favourite" tweets to a heart to "like" them. Blurgh. Try using that to boost a tweet about how many people ISIS have executed this year.

Honestly, I go onto Twitter because I like sarcasm. Hearting everything may be ironic but it's not the same thing. I'm finding that I have to amp up the sarcasm just to break even and then it all starts to edge into the realm of mean, which isn't attractive. Unless you're a serial killer (of real folks, not characters).

But that's all. Other than that I'm hard at work every day getting those words done. A lot of them suck, true, but at least they're there.

Which is good because as my brain likes to remind me when I'm trying to fall blissfully asleep, at the end of this month I'll be halfway through said career break, and doesn't the second half of anything go more quickly?

Oh, the breathing gets a bit shallow in the wee hours of the morning.

To tell you the truth, I thought one of my battles was going to be getting out of bed in the morning, and the other was going to be the Playstation.

Turns out my sworn enemy is staring into the middle distance doing absolutely nothing. This is what happens when I start to search for a particular word, or need a moment to sort out the next scene. An hour later all that's happened is my eyes have had a nice rest.

Is this meditation? Thinking of nothing, looking at nothing. I could be elevating to a higher plane by accident any day now.

BTW for anybody following my blog last week I have good news about the sparrow fledgling. Turns out he wasn't a special needs sparrow as can be seen in the following picture which features fledgling (bottom) and sibling (top). He just needed a little bit of sibling rivalry to get going.

He's now flown the confines of our backyard but never fear, on Friday we gathered two replacements, Trouble One and Trouble Two.

They flew the coop yesterday, so now we're back to status quo. Until the next time...

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Plastic on Fire

While we were waiting at Cairns airport this morning (without the comforts of a Koru Lounge) I noticed that there was a new Boeing 787 waiting on the tarmac. Not for us, thank goodness.

I've long made my feelings known to my darling about my refusal to travel on these plastic beasts.

This started back when their delivery date was missed the first couple of times, and was reinforced when their test flight program had to be repeatedly abandoned due to unforeseen dangers and errors.

When they finally started shipping out my refusal was cemented forever when they all had to be grounded because their batteries kept catching fire. Something that was not actually fixed by the way. All that was added was the ability to suppress and contain the fires that did start. Yeah, that's gonna sell me on their safety.

Being made of plastic would be okay. Catching fire would be less okay but containment if it does, fine.

Being made of plastic and catching fire; not a chance in hell matey.

You know what happens if you hold a lot match to a supermarket bag? Now imagine that with 290 passengers screaming inside it. Yeah, so can I.

My darling was fascinated with it. He almost pressed his nose to the glass. He had a love affair with planes. He knows their measurements the way you know your girlfriend's, and he'll tell you stories about their production the way you reveal anecdotes from your childhood.

He pointed out the curved sweep of the tail, and how you can still see the slight shape of a shark's tail as it was originally envisioned, before the airlines found out it would cost extra and unanimously turned the shark design down. Spoilsports.

I pointed out that it was probably sitting away from the other planes on the tarmac because they didn't want innocent bystander planes to die when it burst into flames.

He scoffed at my suggestion, and a second later a fire alarm sounded and the terminal had to be evacuated. A fire truck rolled past on its absurdly large wheels and headed straight for the 787.

I won.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Birds

So many birds. After mourning the deaths of at least five nestlings over the last week, I discovered a real live sparrow fledgling in the back yard on Tuesday morning.

This is him:

Isn't he cute?

Last year we had another little fledgling making our back yard his home which you can see here. He was also cute but mysteriously disappeared. Our sparrow fledgling, however, is still with us. Yah!

He's made a bush in the back yard his home and his poor put-upon mother visits regularly to keep him topped up with worm protein. He keeps trying to fly and, much to his personal chagrin, keeps failing badly.

Yesterday, it occurred to me and my darling that he's hung around quite a long time now. Surely there's a time limit on this sort of stuff? I mean he's very handsome and all that so he obviously has good genes, but you can't take that to the bank. Surely there are fledgling development goal posts he should be meeting?

Turns out there are.

Sparrow fledglings should leave the nest before they can fly. Confusing to a non-bird species, but tick.

After 1-2 days on the ground they should be able to fly. ????

Their parents will continue to look after them for 14 days. Tick. Good parents.

Looks like our little fledgling has missed the big one. He's now scared of us, which is good because on the first day he didn't even know that much, but he should've been flying by now. I'm starting to think he's a special needs sparrow.

That's fine now, while he's all cute and stuff, but after a few weeks I'm not sure I'll feel the same.

Oh well. Cat duty (where my darling runs full tilt at any cats who dare to cross the threshold to our property, hissing and waving his arms) will remain in force for another week.

In other bird news we started to suspect there was a nest in our spouting due to the number of nestlings falling to their deaths on our driveway but without the benefit of any trees being nearby.

This was confirmed when a stick poked out from the side of the spouting and even when I poked at it with a broom I couldn't dislodge it. A nest in your spouting may be fine if you live someplace hot and sunny, but in Christchurch we occasionally have rain and the spouting serves an actual purpose.

My darling fetched a ladder and dislodged it.

Now, I have used some artistic license in the above renditions (yes that is too art!) as there weren't actually any eggs in the nest. The nest also wasn't particularly well-formed and couldn't even be added to my bird's nest collection after being forcefully thrown onto the driveway with a broom handle because it broke apart into dried grass. The nestling dilemma remains unsolved.

However, I'm certain there's some manbird out there right now sweet-talking an impregnated loved one into coming back home to his nest to lay her eggs and he's about to get a bad shock. Rather like picking up a pregnant woman by saying you have the perfect home for her to have her baby, then taking her to the public park.

Poor little soldier will just have to start again somewhere else. On the bright side at least he won't have to deal with the potential hassle of taking care of a special needs fledgling.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

There is no 'i' in 'keyboard'

Seriously, there's not. Look at this.

There it should be, snuck between the U and the O but instead it's nowhere to be seen.

I like to think that the world doesn't revolve around me but from the look of my keyboard my favourite letter in the world is quite obviously I.

The E is on its way out as well but that's perfectly understandable being the commonest letter in the English alphabet and all. I know this thanks to reading Misery by Stephen King as a youngster and it having made a great impression upon me.

I also seem to recall that the second most used letter was R and unless Stephen King was deliberately misleading me, something which I cannot for the life of me fathom a reason for, then it should also be on the way out. It's not.

The S is looking a bit shaky and the O looks like a second U tilted to one side, but the rest of the keyboard is feeling just fine and dandy, thank you very much.

Maybe I type words ending in "oise" a lot and that's the source of my trouble.

The reason they're wearing away at all can be firmly laid at the feet of my high school education where I was forced, along with the rest of my third form class, to learn to type for three months. Three months.

We learned with aprons covering our fingers, a large chart showing the location of letters on a keyboard on the wall, and manual typewriters. Only the last of those is relevant to my current complaint.

If you've built up the routine of hitting a key as hard as you can with your finger because if you don't it won't make a mark on the paper and also built up the muscle strength in those said fingers, you don't just lose it because the technology changes.

Three months nearly thirty years ago and I still thump away at keys as though they need to depress a full inch. At least I've lost the habit of using Twink to cover up my mistakes. Messes up the screen, that.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Moist

This word makes my skin crawl and my stomach churn. And not in the good way.

I try to avoid things that are moist, require moistening, have been moistened, or were once moist, but this word still haunts my dreams.

My darling hates my large variety of dwarf fruit trees with a passion. He would prefer that the entire yard was covered in concrete while still somehow having daffodils bloom up each spring. His concession to not concreting it is to cover as much of it as he can in lawn.

Where I used to have a couple of vegetables gardens, there is now grass. Where there was a patch of wildflowers that self-seeded each year, there is now grass. Where I once had a beautiful collection of Jerusalem Artichokes that hardly ever got around to growing their bright flowers, guess what? Lawn.

Every night after making his usual threats about what in the property is going to be cut down as soon as I die, my darling heads outside to MOISTEN his seed.

I am not joking. This is what he says. Every night.

The only benefit is that after saying it he heads out of the house for ten minutes to water the lawnseed. By the time he arrives back inside I've usually managed to choke back my nausea.

Right now, so soon after the latest episode, my only dream is to outlive my darling and plant a new fruit tree in celebration each month thereafter, until there is no more room left.

Instead of lawns, there'll be the patches of ground that have fruit trees on them, have fruit rotting on them, or are being dug up to have fruit trees on them.

Yeah, it'll be so great when I rule the world. Maybe one day I can even talk myself into eating fruit.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Happy Sad

The National is my second favourite band in the world. My first favourite has a dead lead singer and disbanded and rebanded long before I became interested in them, so possibly don't count as being in the world, and I had to find a second favourite because they only recorded two albums.

In the interest of not running out of new music to listen to from my favourite band (of all time, I've decided now, not, in the world) I dole out Joy Division at the rate of two songs maximum per year, and the same song from a different album remixed counts each time.

So, since that's highly inconvenient and it doesn't look like anybody is getting reincarnated soon, I had to find a second. Thanks to a one minute segment of 'Start a War' on the end of an episode of 'The Riches' I found a new band.

Ever since I have highly anticipated all of their albums, even the ones that weren't highly anticipated. I've even listened to their early stuff when it seems they were channeling some country rock vibe (ugh), the weird one-offs which I keep forgetting about because they're not attached to an album, and I listened to whatever the hell that Game of Thrones ditty was.

So on Friday when my darling was listening to the radio and I heard me some familiar baritone, I was ecstatic. A new song from The National. And it's been a while so probably a whole new album.

I excitedly searched all of the Internet (except the Dark Net, that stuff gets real, fast) and came up with... nothing. There was no new National album, and there was no new National song.

But it was on the new song segment.

I had to wait until the end of the song to learn that Matt Berninger (from the National) has joined together with some dude I've never heard of but apparently is popular in Portland? and formed a new band.

This is great! Except it's awful!

What are you meant to feel when something happens which is simultaneously fantastic and possibly the end (or the beginning of the end) of the thing you love second best in the world?

Third best, sorry Darling.

In New Zealand our casual slang has developed a phrase that perfectly encompasses these situations: Yeah, nah.

El Vy? Yeah, nah.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Labour day

I've just discovered that I'm very bad at planning. Here I am, taking a six month break from work, and I've planned it during the time when we have the highest proportion of Public Holidays to work days in the year.

I was reminded of this yesterday when my darling came home and said he was looking forward to Labour Day.

It's a great holiday, cleverly planned for a Monday so we always get a long weekend, and celebrating the joys of only working a forty hour week. I remember those days fondly.

But the greatest thing about Labour Day is that it means that Canterbury Anniversary is on the way. That's even better because it's always on a Friday (long weekend again) and isn't taken on our actual anniversary day which is sometime in December where it's wasted because you're probably on holiday anyway, but instead on Show Day which is usually magically arranged to be on the hottest November day of the year.

I have very fond memories of Show Day when I was a kid and we went to the actual show. The world was full of sheep that you were allowed to pat, ghost trains that were very short, and lucky dips where it didn't matter what you picked because everything was nothing you actually wanted.

All that and the blazing sun above, no shelter, and the main foodgroup available was toffee apples.

I haven't been to a show for a very long time so it's likely those memories will never be overwritten.

Of course once you get past the excitement of Show Day we're heading straight into Christmas (two days) New Years (two days) and then ending the holiday season with Waitangi Day in February.

Nice.

Until I'm sitting at home every day, in which case Public Holidays just seem like a party that everyone else gets to have. Still, I suppose I can put aside my word count for the day and pretend it applies to me equally.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Old

I was happily listening to the radio this afternoon when my equanimity was completely disrupted by the announcement on the radio that Pulp Fiction is twenty one years old.

Twenty one years old is something that I used to be. Coincidentally it was something that I used to be when me and my darling first went along to the picture theatre to see Pulp Fiction.

Lets see, that makes me... thirty?

That was our first or second date. We bought icecreams with chocolate coating and popcorn because we could afford to add a few pounds back then, and we purchased tickets to Pulp Fiction because we'd both heard good things about it, and I vaguely thought it was a comedy starring Bruce Willis.

Ahhhh, good memories. I hope that's one I still get to keep in another twenty one years.

I love you, Pumpkin.

I love you, Honey Bunny

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Stranger, danger.

Since I'm now at home all the time (apart from dangerous excursions to the supermarket) my darling has finally clicked that he can take advantage of this in more ways than just me opening the garage door for him before he gets home.

First of all, he demanded this week that I bake him a bacon and egg pie. Demanded! There we were, going around the supermarket for our weekly shop, and he suggested that we buy some bacon, and maybe some eggs, and then I said, maybe I could make you a pie, and he said yes, and we bought the stuff to make the pie.

The level of manipulation was terrible. So terrible that I completely forgot to actually make the damn thing on Saturday or Sunday and I didn't want to do it Monday because that's when he has his "healthy meal" even though we actually had pizza, so I had to make it today.

This was made slightly harder as I use a recipe by Jo Seagar and found out today that part of her business going belly-up a few months ago is that nobody is paying her hosting fees any longer and instead of the recipe I had an offer to "buy this domain name." Because it's been so successful so far, right?

Luckily I found a cached version of it hidden away, and took the time to write out the information this time, because chances are it won't be there when I need it next. I know people say that once you've put something up on the Internet it's out there forever, but I've searched for the first website that the first company I worked for once had, and it ain't true folks. Only public embarrassment never fades.

So I was halfway between feeling used and feeling pleased with myself, when the phone rang and my darling announced that he'd called the plumber.

As if I didn't have enough stuff to be dealing with, I now had to supervise a man while he disabled and enabled our toilet.

My darling went on to say that he'd told them it wasn't urgent so they'd probably come close to the end of the week, and that they'd give me a call before they came around to make sure someone was home, so that was alright then.

Um. No. It wasn't.

When I've mentioned in the past that I no longer like leaving the house because outside is where they store people, it wasn't a blanket invitation to turn around and invite people into my home. I have to live here too, okay?

It would be a different story (well no it wouldn't but lets pretend for a minute) if the toilet was actually in dire need of repair, but all that happens is the overflow pipe tends to overflow more often than it should.

So what? It's probably making the overflow pipe feel really special that it has a whole lot of work to do when all the other houses overflow pipes are lazing around, sleeping away their days. Our overflow pipe keeps itself nicely moistened, while all the other overflow pipes are bone dry.

What plumber wants to come into a home where the lady of the manor hallucinates the imaginary life of her overflow pipe? It's a no win situation.

The only good thing I can say is that the plumber unexpectedly called this afternoon, and after a brief game of her asking for the wrong person and me trying to hang up saying you've got the wrong number, the mobile plumbing man was dispatched.

I survived. The toilet now has a new something rude beginning with B and something rude beginning with C which should keep things running nicely for the next few years. The plumber even replaced a part that he insisted would mean that next time we could repair it more easily ourselves.

Hah! It's obvious he's never met us before. And hopefully never again. The next time something is arranged that entails a home visit I may just stop answering the phone, and the doorbell.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Sick Leave

One of the best things about being sick and in pain is that you get to take the day off work and stay home.

Binge-watching Netflix is the most obvious way to heal thyself, but a good book and a lie in don't hurt. The main thing is that you're away from the workplace and can relax.

Last week I started to get a stabbing pain in my side. It felt like a stitch, but rest assured I had done no exercise.

As it continued it grew larger and also more focused. The pain was worst when I took deep breaths, it felt like I was being stabbed with a butcher's knife, but it wasn't much better when I breathed normally, a boning knife maybe.

Pleurisy.

Since my first bout back in 2010 it has dropped by intermittently to remind me of how lovely it is to breath without a blade in your ribcage. Although the first time I rushed to the hospital sure that I was about to die, since then it's become a bit more hum-ho.

It hurts though, and it makes me tired. A side-effect from not wanting to take deep breaths and therefore not really getting enough oxygen until I drop unconscious at night.

So, I get a day off work.

Except now I'm working from home, so I don't.

Thursday and Friday were my least fun sick days ever. I woke up in the office, I coughed myself into a pain spasm in the office, I half-heartedly worked on my current manuscript in the office. And then it was finally the end of the day, so I went to bed in the office.

I wonder if I could have my genuine sick days added onto the end of my career break so I can consider them the painful holidays they usually are.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Bras

I was doing some research on the weekend. It was about the type of clothing worn by people in the 1850s so that I could accurately represent it in a story I'm working on.

Naturally, this led me straight into the world of bras.

Yes, I'm well aware that these tortuous garments weren't all the rage back in the day, but I still managed to find myself reading about them.

There were the well-known facts, such as the most comfortable moment of a woman's day is when she hurls this dreaded contraption across the room, and lesser known facts such as the optimum wash to wear ratio is 1:3.

What?

I don't know about anybody else, but I've always considered my bra to be underwear. Possibly because when I shop for new bras they're kept in a section commonly known as underwear, or less commonly as lingerie.

A lot of the personal hygiene knowledge that my parents instilled in me over the years may have left in the wake of disinterest and non-retentive brain conditions, but there's one thing I know.

You wash your underwear every day.

But now Google was telling me otherwise, and I trust Google to feed me correct information. Kind of. Not really.

Luckily my darling volunteered enthusiastically and immediately started to harangue the women around his workplace as to their habits in regards to brassieres. Rather to my surprise some of them even volunteered information.

The evidence thus gathered, and the original Googling done, seem to confirm the position that as a garment of underwear bras are in fact some sort of second tier that don't require the same level of cleanliness that the first tier underwear demands.

Hmmmm. Very hard to overturn habits that have been fine-tuned over thirty years, but...

Less washing, and apparently the bras last longer and stay in better shape while they last. So it works out well for everybody.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Going out

Some people, who have far too much influence in my life with no reason, will be happy to know that I went outside the house today. I even walked through a mall. *gasp*

What a palaver.

Previously, when I've wanted to walk to a shop during my lunchbreak at work (that's work as a physical place rather than the work I'm doing at home) I just used to walk out of the building and make my way there at a nice amble.

Today I had to change my clothing because I dress for the conditions, and the conditions at home are very, very slack. I had to put decent people clothing on, and I may even have overdone it. Certainly there were 'those looks' from all the people who'd gone out this morning in only jeans and a T-shirt, but that may also have been something to do with paranoia from slowly growing agoraphobia.

After changing outfits, I then had to go through my bag and make sure that my keys and my wallet were in there. Since I haven't touched it for weeks, I couldn't rely on my memory to assure me they'd have remained intact.

Then (gosh I'm tired just thinking about it) I had to fit the bag for grocery shopping into my handbag in such a way that the contents of my handbag wouldn't spill onto the floor of the supermarket when I pulled one from the other.

Last of all, I had to put my mobile phone into my handbag. When I'm at my physical workplace my mobile phone lives in my handbag. It only comes out for recharging or secretive usage. At home it sits, wherever.

I must say I feel a sense of accomplishment that I managed to do all of that. Half an hour of solid work just so I could leave the house and walk to the supermarket. Go me.

Once I'd left the house and was walking I did discover that I'd left my earphones at home so I couldn't even listen to a podcast while I walked to and from, but that's now made it onto the to-do list of pre-planning for outings.

Or, I could log-in to the Countdown website and order my shopping to be delivered. Now, why didn't I think of that before?

Monday, 5 October 2015

Not going out

The other day my darling observed that since beginning my career break, I have seldom left the house.

The use of the word seldom is generous.

I would like to take this chance to defend myself. After all, if my own blog isn't a place to do that, where is?

If I were still doing my normal job, I wouldn't leave work during the day. I stayed glued to my desk from when I arrived at 6.30am in the morning, until I left at 3.30pm at night. Obviously that's a lie because I'd have lunch in the breakout area - I wasn't completely antisocial - but otherwise, glued.

Therefore, when I'm working from home I don't leave work either.

The failure of outside folks to realise that working from home doesn't mean I'll drop everything just to head out to do a spot of shopping, should not be visited on me by trying to make me feel guilty and inadequate.

Fools should also realise that shopping doesn't need to be done outside anymore, that's why there's the Internet.

And yes, my social interaction has greatly reduced since becoming homebound, but is there really anything wrong with that? I have to ask myself these rhetorical questions because there's no one else around to talk to.

The one day I did go out last week it was to find that the neighbourhood was under enemy control, so you can see my dilemma. Inside my house all the portals are under friendly control.

Nevertheless, bowing to the whims and demands of a group of people that I don't know and have forgotten if I've ever met, I shall go out of the house tomorrow.

I'll go for a nice long walk, and indulge in a bit of grocery shopping - my favourite type - before heading home, locking the door behind me, taking time to recover, and finding refuge in the virtual relationships that I fail to nurture on the Internet.

My virtual relationships mimic my real ones, you see.

Friday, 2 October 2015

The sound of my own voice

I think that there must be a strange creature that lives in my voicebox which crawls out when it sees a recording device. It briefly distorts my hearing so that everything I say sounds the way it usually does, right up until the moment when the recording is played back, then its weirdly pitched, oddly intonated voice comes out of the speakers.

It's the only explanation.

My latest grand venture into the world of self-publishing is an audiobook. In the worldview of Amazon I live out the arse-back of beyond, and so I can't go through the normal channels that other self-publishers go. My country name doesn't begin with the word United and therefore doesn't count.

Therefore, instead of being able to hook up with a narrator who would work with me to produce an audiobook and split commissions 50/50 I either have the option of paying (coughs to disguise the enormous sum of money) for an unknown narrator, or I can produce the book myself.

I'm not cheating the listening public by going it alone. According to a training review the only good thing I possessed as a trainer was a lovely speaking voice. Thanks to the mistaken belief of my mother that speech class would somehow cure shyness, I have also had the art of speaking aloud drilled into my head.

Not to mention the year of pursuing a career as an actress. An ambition that was alive and well in First Form and had died a sad death by Second Form, leaving me with nothing except the ability to recite the lines for the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz verbatim.

When I recorded the first chapter I did have to go back and record a few other takes however, because as an introvert I firmly believe that expression is something best left to those crazy people who like to interact with human beings. Having spent the best part of three weeks at home by myself talking to no one, I'd forgotten how to work that into sound.

One of the rules of recording your own narration, apart from having a decent dual-diaphragm condenser microphone and a microphone preamp able to supply phantom power, is to get used to the sound of your own voice.

Yes, I've had to come to terms with the sound that the strange creature living in my voicebox produces when I think I'm speaking.

In only nine more chapters, and a lot of mixing and producing, you'll be able to hear it too.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Spies like us

There I was, walking innocently through Bishopdale Park, minding my own business, when a group of youths opened fire on me.

At least, I think it was the youths. It could have been the Mum with the stroller, carefully hiding a mobile phone on top of her baby, or the old couple sitting on the bench looking like butter wouldn't melt.

It's hard to be sure these days. I've chosen the minority team on Ingress, so the enemy spies are all about me. Opening fire just because I'm trying to hack their portal. Opening fire just because I opened fire on them first.

The only one I think I'm sure of is the young man who was walking toward me as I gave up and walked away. At least, I think I'm sure. He had a mobile phone in his hand and a blank expression on his face so it seems most likely. On second thoughts that could describe half of the teenagers hanging around the mall on their school holidays so that could be a bit harsh.

OMG. If I described half of the teenagers hanging around Bishopdale Mall maybe they're all at it. Maybe I escaped only through sheer good luck and a canny ability to not notice people on account of pets, plants, and rocks are far more interesting.

This was my first time playing Ingress. I didn't do very well. All of my hacks were unsuccessful, and although I picked up a lot of objects my inventory description assures me that they're all very common.

Still, at least it got me out of the house.

Not that I'm making that mistake again. Out of the house is how they get you. I'm staying indoors, and maybe applying for a portal on my clothes line out back so I can play happily by myself as all the best children adults do.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Spam

After waiting this afternoon for three hours for an email confirmation to turn up in my inbox to no avail, I remembered that I have a spam folder on gmail which I rarely visit.

I quickly located my lost email, and the second one that had been sent when I clicked on the 'If an email hasn't turned up press this button to send it again,' button, and the third and fourth which had been sent similarly before I became distracted by a 'dogs getting themselves into situations they immediately regret' montage.

It having been a while, I had quite a good nosy around my spam folder. I must say, at the end of my investigation I think I like it rather better than my inbox.

My inbox regularly receives invoices and bills to be paid. My spam folder, on the other hand, seems to cultivate a class of sender who is determined to send me money. There was an offer from a lovely man who works at a bank in China, and another from a Russian who I presume wants the same but I can't translate well enough to be entirely sure.

My inbox regularly receives notifications that the opportunities I've applied for have been graciously turned down. Even the ones when I offer to pay large sums of money.

To the contrary, in my spam folder the opportunities are flooding in. All that's required is for me to confirm that my email address is still valid and the opportunities will be tremendous and nett me a sweet profit for no effort at all.

Someone called me a dear friend, and wanted to know if I wanted to become fashion. Another person told me I'd won a Euro lottery which I hadn't even entered simply by virtue of owning an email address.

Somebody was even soliciting for a representative for their lumber company based in Vinh Niem and thought I might like the job. I don't even work with lumber. It's too sweet really.

My life would be so different if my spam folder was everything I received in the way of email. I'd grow close to random Nigerian princes as I fleeced their government of billions of dollars. I would rule the lumber industry, and I would win so many lotteries that I wouldn't even bother to claim them if they were worth less than 10 million.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Sunday Sadness

A few weeks into my experiment with career breaking, and I've started to notice a strange thing.

On Sunday evening, previously, I would start to feel a little bit sad. The working week meant I had to get up early in the morning which I don't enjoy, and although I enjoyed my job, working is just a hard thing to do.

So there'd be the sadness that it was coming along again, and there'd also be the sadness that I hadn't done enough with my weekend, or I'd done too much so hadn't really relaxed the way I wanted to.

But then last Sunday I noticed, nothing.

I wasn't exactly looking forward to the working week, but I wasn't sad about it either. I didn't find it took another hour to fall asleep, and I didn't add a new worry onto my thought list a moment before I was about to drop off.

So another week has passed. I have continued to force myself to work during work hours, and take advantage of the 'no commute required' to surf the internet before I do so.

I have safely managed to accomplish things that I needed to, wanted to, and even things I thought I wouldn't get around to for a while yet.

Then I had a weekend off, doing barely anything, because how else would I delineate my week if not for that?

Tonight is Sunday night again. Once again I'm pleased to announce that I don't have that Sunday feeling.

I also have maintained that I enjoyed my job out in the real world, but I'm starting to wonder if that enjoyment was perhaps a smokescreen for not really enjoying it but having to do it anyway.

If seeing no mood changes on a Sunday night is a true predictor of enjoying a job, then I think I've finally managed it.

Now, if only there was some way I could make this one pay...

Check out Breathe and Release only $3.99 for a 'roller coaster ride; up and down, up and down and just when you think you are coming to the end, nice and slow and smooth, there is a sharp right turn and back up we go!' - Gayle Boyce It's a Mystery blog

Friday, 25 September 2015

Enforced Weight Loss

I think it's fair to say that our society is not one that encourages weight gain, or handles the appearance of the larger section of the community well.

I understand that some people may be aghast at the fact that I've gained a fair bit of weight over the last year. I could explain in great detail how the drugs that I take so that my brain can feel emotions again, happen to act on receptors that are located in my stomach thereby initiating a powerful hunger and act in a dual way by making my body move slower thereby ensuring that I take in more calories and burn off less calories, and altogether this results in weight gain.

Or, I could just say it's not my fault. It's the drugs.

I weighed (huh, weighed - get it?) up the situation before I went back on my SSRI drugs again, and decided that yes I would like to not commit suicide more than I want to stay a size twelve.

It's a hard choice, and one that you have to make for yourself.

Notice, I said FOR YOURSELF.

I don't know what you were thinking, Pizza Hut, when you decided that the monthly treat that my darling and I allow ourselves should be amended.

Yeah, okay, I'm overweight. I still paid $3.50 for my cookies and cream mousse, and I expected it to be in the bag when it arrived home.

I see that you've teamed up with Domino's Pizza in ensuring that I never receive a full dessert order with my pizza ever again. Well, guess what?

Nothing.

I can't boycott you. You're the only pizza left that I like.

But I'm very upset. Take that.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Giant Pandas

Okay, hands up who has spent more time in the past month watching the Giant Panda cub at the Smithsonian, than pondering the plight of Syrian refugees.

Yeah, I thought it couldn't just be me. Little cub is so cute.

And not too little anymore as it clocked in at 2.95 lbs at the last weigh-in.

This has been especially interesting as debate is renewed by Wellington Zoo seeking a couple of Giant Pandas for its fabulous zoo. It's even considering swapping a couple of Kiwis to sweeten the deal. The birds that is, not some random New Zealanders who don't know what they're getting into.

Who would've thought that a vegetarian single-food-source animal from a foreign land (unless you're Chinese) would have proved to be so popular worldwide?

Apparently, the expected cost for such an addition would run to about $100 million. And then they have to pay for the bamboo on top of that!

Still, having a look at the Giant Panda cam does make it seem worth it. I'm sure a lot more people would want Pandas than a new flag.

Just an idea, but maybe if they had Syrian Refugee cam, and trained it on the littlest and cutest, we'd pay more attention.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Flagging Interest

Up until today, I thought when I filled out my voting form for the New Zealand flag change, I was going to strike through the whole paper and write 'Red Peak' out to the side.

Like many New Zealanders, I was quite upset when the four finalists were selected and the laser kiwi didn't top the list. What sort of flag referenda can you possibly run without a kiwi shooting green lasers from its eyes?

The laser eye trope has a long history, if you're into comic books and scifi television. Surely, there's no better way to demonstrate the sometimes churlish kiwi attitude but to represent it with burning lasers.

Alas, it was not to be.

Then, out of the disgruntled wilderness, there was a rallying cry 'What about Red Peak?'

I didn't know what about Red Peak as it didn't contain lasers therefore had escaped my attention during the whole process. I looked at Red Peak, and it seemed nice enough.

It was simple, it had a peak, and some colours. It looked very similar to a company's trademark so it had obvious commercial appeal.

Now, however, it looks like it may make it through to the ballot paper and I've gone off it again.

It's one thing to strike through the options on a voting paper and writing down a choice clearly not allowed. That's civil disobedience and should be encouraged even though it's been a long time since I was a teenager.

It's another to select a popular option from a presented choice. Yuck. Not really the point, people.

So, I now have the option of striking through the five new presented options and writing 'Laser Kiwi' next to it (thus invalidating my vote and making a mockery of Kate Shepherd's fight and being part of a civil disobedience unit of one) or just voting to retain the flag we've already got.

Just in case you wanted to fully understand my conundrum I have sourced the flag options available:

The first four choices:

The latest addition:

Our current flag:

And the flag of my dreams:

In other exciting news my latest short story, 'The Breaking Wave', has gone live for pre-order on Amazon. You can find it right HERE - BUY BUY BUY BUY BUY

And, of course, you can still access any other of my books on Amazon HERE - BUY BUY BUY BUY BUY

Phew, marketing obligations for the day met.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Lost pages

My first novel, 'Found, Near Water' was last updated through Kindle Direct Publishing in October last year. Due to an upcoming sale, I decided it was time I gave it a revamp to update it with my later works and also formulate the ebook a bit better with the things I've learned in the last eleven months.

So far, so good. The updated file looked amazing compared to the original. The pages linked up properly (instead of having half the dedication on the copyright page, etc, etc) and I had a nice shiny new end-piece to show I wasn't a one-hit wonder.

I uploaded the lovely new file into Amazon, and waited for the bookshelf to update.

Less than twelve hours later I was told my book had been published, and the shiny new version was now available for download to any new purchasers.

Excellent news.

Except today I went into my Bookshelf and discovered that forty-five pages of my book have disappeared.

Not for the readers, they still get the whole thing, but for my KENPC or Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count.

Where, previously, they'd clocked in at 366 pages, they'd now dropped down to 321.

Where did they go?

With a horrible feeling of doom, I checked that the entire book had actually made it across to the publishing platform. Uploading a copy into Calibre, I made sure that each and every page was exactly where it should be. It was.

So what had changed? Should better formatting result in a lower royalty?

The answer is IDK and NO!

At least, looking about on the Kindle boards, it appears that other people have encountered this problem. Some people changed a few words and reloaded to find a hundred pages gone, and others did the same to gain an extra forty.

I'd never worried about the secret formula that Amazon used to calculate the KENPC. For my books, until today, the results had been in line with the word count, and then the rest was just unknowable made-up stuff. Like all your best business partners should have.

Looking through the vast array of commentary, it appears that the worse your formatting, the higher the page count.

If I load up a file already in .mobi format, then my page count would be expected to tumble. If I loaded up a file in .docx then I could expect a wee boon from the page fairies.

The problem being, that if I've created a mobi file, it's going to look a hell of a lot better than if I chuck a word document in there and let the programming elves convert it.

Somebody pointed out that if I took an ePub file and converted it to a mobi file then I might gain my extra pages back. I don't know whether I would or not; I couldn't in good conscience upload the result because the conversion decided that what the reading public is hankering for are extra Tables of Content.

The one at the front was mine, and looked okay, but I'm not sure about the ones that got affixed to the back. Kind of irrelevant by the time you make it that far.

But what does this goobledegook all mean at the end of the day?

I think I'll be about 22c worse off every time somebody reads by first novel through the Kindle Unlimited program. Amazon, I think the least you owe me is a cup of coffee.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Wherefore art thou, Typo?

Ah, the humble typo. Proof indeed that the proofing I've invested so much money in, hasn't worked again.

One of the reasons that I wait with baited breath for the first reviews to come in on my novels, is not to find out how the world is going to react to them (although, you know, that too) but to find out if this time around I've invested my editing money wisely in a competent proofreader.

My standards aren't that high. Just find every single mistake so that I don't have to. Or, even worse, my readers don't have to. This is why I outlay the princely sum of [insert current spend here $50.00, $350.00, $599.00 but with a $50.00 return customer voucher] before I go to publish my latest work of ridiculously excellent prose.

Sometimes, I can easily find out early enough that the outlay wasn't worth it. I've had manuscripts back accompanied by emails in which the proofreader mangles the English language, and then find on the first page the words circled for correction are fine, but there are three other obvious mistakes that have made it through.

Other times, it all looks okay to me. I read through the paperback proof copy labouriously, not finding anything that needs correction. Then, within a week of publishing, have feedback saying I may want to check that again.

It would be nice if proofreaders came with some sort of money back guarantee. For every typo spotted by a reader, I get a refund of $5.00 off the proofreading fee, for instance. If anyone finds this deal out there, feel free to drop me a comment with a link.

I expect it will be as widely available as a doctor who you only pay when you're cured.

Some may think that this is the scourge of the self-publishing industry, but it's not so. I notice errors in every book I read, and take great delight and comfort from them. If they're self-published I even do the courtesy of letting them know.

My all-time favourite isn't really a typo. In Stephen King's Apt Pupil there's a line near the beginning which explains how Todd's parents met:
His mom was a housewife and a secretarial school graduate (she had met Todd's father one day when he needed a secretary from the pool)

And then later:
He looked at her for a moment, frowning, then shook his head a little. Je ne comprends pas, cherie.' His limping French was a joke between them; he had met her in college when he was flunking his language requirement.

I look that up every time I need a reminder that these things happen to the best of us. Apt Pupil was turned into a movie and it still hasn't been corrected.

Apparently typos are also due to my brain's function. Well, not just mine, yours too. When my brain is on higher minded things like conveying meaning through the use of language, it just doesn't have time to get bogged down by the lower mind functions of things such as spelling and word choice. No. It's operating on higher level functions, baby.

Unfortunately, when extracting said meaning from those words as a reader, spelling and word choice becomes far more important. Damn.

Maybe readers would be less annoyed if I offered a reward. Find five typos and send them in to me, and I'll reward you with the money that I used to foolishly pay to proofreaders!

Would probably go very well, except for the day when five hundred readers find the same five typos at the same time.

Further suggestions welcome.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Outside world

It's only been three days that I've been away from work (apart from my holiday which I didn't count because I would've had that anyway) and already the strain is starting to show.

Previously, when I walked through the door at the end of a hard day at work, or even a lazy day at work, I didn't particularly want to engage in conversation. A riled-up complaint sometimes, but really just what had already been repeating through my head for half the day.

Now, when my darling arrives home, I suddenly recover the art of conversation. I can talk about all the things that have happened all day long, and even though not a lot happens I can spin it out for a while. I can even follow him into the bedroom while he's changing in order to continue my very-much-one-sided conversation.

For some reason, he hasn't changed to be receptive.

The same expression that used to flitter across my features when he started to moan on about a bunch of people I'd met about as often as I could remember their names, now flitters across his.

When I was contemplating taking six months off from the real world to pursue my dreams, I occasionally joked that it was similar to other women taking maternity leave.

I didn't realise then that I too would be craving adult company after a day dealing with babbling children.

(ps Babbling children being my new nickname for myself)

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Until Dawn

Having hit my word count for the day, and needing to keep my exercise promises to myself, I fired up the PS4 yesterday and jumped on the treadmill.

Well, not jumped really. Just cautiously put my feet down when it started off at 1km per hour and then acclimatised myself gradually.

You'll be please to know that I no longer cling onto the arms of the treadmill while I'm using the machine. I have graduated to walking and balancing on my own two feet. Yes siree, I'm as accomplished as a toddler.

Unfortunately, I discovered an unpleasant feature of my newest game, Until Dawn, is a tendency to crash part-way through the game. I followed the instructions and deleted it off my hard-drive, and then redownloaded and reinstalled it - a mere three hour wait - but it wasn't having any of it.

It's very hard to find out online if this is a common feature as well. The premise of Until Dawn is a teen slasher thriller, and the game changes depending on the choices you make throughout in a butterfly effect fashion which is labouriously explained in a sequence that I found you can't skip.

Due to this, when people are trying to pinpoint the common point of where the game crashes, it becomes a bit hard. Apparently there are a few folks who find it crashes when teen A, B & C meet in the mines. Sounds great. Unfortunately, in the sequence a few cut-scenes back, I chose to let teen B die, so he's not there, and teen D who I miraculously saved hasn't made it out of the lodge yet.

Not to mention that I think they may have missed a trick, because when teen E met her maker, she also took teen A with her in my version, so I would have only teen C wandering around in the mine, not finding any help whatsoever.

So at the point where my version crashes, I have teen F and teen D wandering around the lodge, and lord knows what happened to teen G who barely seems to be participating at this point ever since teen H was dispatched.

It gets very confusing writing this down, but I don't want to have any spoilers in there in case people make exactly the same pattern of choices as me and end up in my version of the game.

Which is a pity, because if I did trail spoilers through here at least I would know if they crashed in the same place. Not that they'd be looking up Until Dawn Crashing in order to find this blog if they didn't.

Anyhow, I have managed to start the game again successfully because it's difficult to stay committed to the treadmill when all you have by way of entertainment is the blue screen of Playstation death, or the downloading symbol gradually advancing from 3% to 16%

I'm deliberately trying to change my decisions so that I don't end up at the same point, and therefore won't have to worry about it crashing in the same scene (and I accidentally killed the wrong teen at one point because I thought you pointed to the picture of the person you wanted to kill, not the person you wanted to save) but that's probably about four hours of gameplay and treadmill from the start.

As a minor distraction I tried to play a few rounds of the Binding of Isaac, but every time I got to a boss fight to get to the next level I'd wander off the side of the treadmill, so I had to give that up.

And they wonder why it's so hard to get people to exercise regularly.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Craftless

The other day I was idly looking through a selection of photos wondering which of them was worth splashing out the princely sum of $1.00 for in order to put it on my next cover, when I made a decision which I will no doubt regret.

I was looking for a photo of old letters, maybe with a red seal on them, maybe typewritten but more probably handwritten. Lots of sepia tones and with the feel of a quill about them.

I knew exactly what I was after. And that was when the fatal idea appeared in my head.

Why don't I just take the photo myself?

First of all, it would save me one dollar. Second of all, I could take it from a lot of different angles and end up with something that looks exactly like the picture inside my head rather than just the closest I could get.

Brilliant.

Of course it's not brilliant. Now I have to do a whole lot of work that I didn't scope out before committing to the project. And don't think that I can just turn around and change my mind back. That would make me a failure.

So I gathered up a variety of materials that I thought would work. My partner has an old seal with a supply of red wax (no I don't know why he just does, okay) and I found an envelope that was already sepia toned. A wonderful start.

Then I just needed to get some sepia toned paper and get my handwriting skills on.

Every young child reads at some stage about how to make paper look old-timey. You just get a nice selection of tea and you spill a few drops on the page, and then sweep it about a bit and dry.

I set to work. I already had some strong tea, leftovers from the morning, so I was one-up there. I also had paper, shiny-white and pulled from the gleaming brightness of a newly opened ream.

So white.

Never mind. That was all about to change. I dribbled a few drops of cold tea on the page and wah-lah! I had a bright white sheet with a few wrinkling tea coloured drops on it.

Okay, not to worry. I'd just wipe them about a bit with my hand, and then they'd start to look like old paper. Yip. Nothing to it. Or, since that wasn't working, I'd just add a few grains, or a pinch, or a quarter-teaspoon, of instant coffee and that would give the right... okay. That just doesn't really work at all.

Crafts though. You can't fail. You just find yourself making things you weren't anticipating. I'm sure they'll look fine when they dry up.

Oh! Tea leaves. That's my mistake. I'm meant to use tea leaves, not tea.

Except they kind of adhere to the paper, don't they? Just a moment. No. Definitely tea. Not leaves. Just tea. And coffee.

Well, that's all just put to the side anyway because I need to practice my good old handwriting. Just like I learned in intermediate school for one term because we had an old teacher who refused to let go.

First off, I obviously need a fountain pen. A sharpie just isn't going to cut it.

Who would've thought it. I don't actually have a fountain pen. But, really, do I need one? The photo isn't going to be in all that close focus - certainly not now anyway, the tea leaves would be a bit too offputting - so I could probably get away with a ballpoint.

Well, not a ballpoint, so actually I will try that Sharpie.

And wah-lah!

Only a $1.00 for one of those pre-prepared photos you say? What a bargain.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Banned Books

Back at the beginning of January I wrote a blog post on censorship.

I don't like it. The thought that someone else gets to tell me what I can and can't read, play, or watch, drives me absolutely crazy. It makes me feel like I'm a little kid again, and my parents are in total control.

So it wasn't much of a surprise that I didn't greet the ban of "Into the River" by Ted Dawe with a lot of gratitude this week. I also don't thank anyone pointing out that it's not a "ban" it's subject to an interim restriction order pending a decision by the Film and Literature Board of Review is much help.

Can I buy it? No. Or, at least not in New Zealand, and if I order it from overseas Customs could seize it upon entry to our country.

Can I take it out of the library? No. Unless I go overseas and a library there has a copy.

Can I borrow it from a friend? No.

So, what's the practical difference between an interim restriction order and a total ban?

Ummmmh.

Of course, the only reason I want to read the book is because I can't. That's probably going to be very good for Ted Dawe's if the interim order is replaced by something showing insight and forethought, because I'm pretty sure it's a lot more popular this week than it was last week.

Family First also have taken pains to point out that when they did their Christian Lobbying thing they were only trying to restrict the sale to young people, not ban it entirely.

Well that's good to know.

So, what's so appalling about the content of this book that a young man or woman wouldn't be trusted with making up their own mind as to whether or not they wish to read it?

It has the C-word. Ohhhhh. It also has the S-word and the F-word. Ahhhhh. There's also a bit of sexual activity and some of it isn't in a consensual type way. Yuck. Sex. What teenager wants to read about that? What are the chances of a teenager encountering coercion as part of sexual activity?

No wonder the book got unrestricted, restricted, unrestricted, banned. What other type of book written for young adults contains that level of filth?

Funny you should ask that question. Mine does. Mine also comes with a warning label that I voluntarily put on the book suggesting that it wouldn't necessarily be suitable under the age of 17. I was rather hoping that teenagers would read that and want to buy it more.

So, if anyone wants to read a book that's just as horrifying but isn't subject to an interim restriction order a ban you can click on this link and purchase away.

Unlike Into the River, it won't come up with a polite sign saying "This title is not currently available for purchase."

Monday, 7 September 2015

If you Thync it...

As a reward for the harrowing trip home yesterday, I had arranged for the delivery of a present to lighten my load.

It may have been the result of excellent planning. It may have been a coincidental dispatch delay from Amazon, and the extra days incurred in having a parcel valid for US delivery only delivered to New Zealand instead.

Whatever, it was a nice happenstance anyhow.

Being me, the present I'd decided to order was a new gadget. But not just any old gadget, no.

This isn't a bog-standard gadget for wasting my time pleasantly, or keeping me connected, or even keeping me entertained. This was a new Thync and its purpose is to perform mind control experiments on myself.

*Hand claps with excitement*

The unboxing ceremony was exquisite. There was the outer packaging box, then the paper, then the actual outer box of the item, then two soft packets containing vibe strips, then a note thanking me for purchasing, then a short user guide, then an inner box with the Thync module and another two user guides, then under the inner box where there was a carry pouch and another two soft pouches of vibe strips, and then the bottom of the box.

It was quite tiring, and after all that unboxing I went to bed.

The purpose of the Thync module is to connect to your head using either an energising or a calming "vibe" strip (which is a sticky thing which snaps onto the module and runs electric pulses to certain points) and then use an app to control the strength of the pulses. This is meant to result in either an energy boost, or a calming effect.

So, seriously. Mind control.

I had been looking forward to the arrival of the gadget for many weeks. A lot of that enthusiasm drained away however, as I attached the sticky patches to my face and neck and then prepared to electrocute myself.

I can't have been the only one to have seen 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.' I made sure there was a water fountain nearby for a quick getaway.

With trepidation I started up the app for the energising vibe. Maybe if it works I could replace my early morning cup of coffee which takes four minutes to prepare and consume from start to finish with a fifteen minute vibe pulse which takes twenty minutes from start to finish.

Well, not unless something radically different happens tomorrow morning when I strap it on. Nothing. Apart from some lovely buzzing around my scalp which felt a bit like someone running an orgasmatron across my head. But far more expensive.

Never mind. Tonight I was less phased out by the weirdness of the whole operation and leaped straight into the calming vibe. It offered a range of modes and I opted for Sleepy which was the strongest one, because why not go whole hog.

Yawn-time. In a good way. I was yawning half-way through, and by the end of the twenty minute session my eyes were at half-mast.

Good going so far, and rather exciting for a good ole insomniac like me. If it continues to provide a sleep time vibe like this I may have found a rather easy replacement for Zopiclone which comes without potential liver damage or an extremely horrid bitter taste that lasts all day long.

Whoop whoop, snooze.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Adding to injury

Sigh. The time has come to pack up and make the long trek home.

It's currently 26 degrees Celsius outside, and back home they're expecting snow to low levels tomorrow. This can't be happening.

At least I've had a lovely long holiday, and managed to gather the world's largest collection of sandfly bites. They, along with my tan (and my peeling flesh from where I overdid it on day one), will no doubt be hidden under long layers of clothing for another couple of months so no one gets to see.

This afternoon I was staring out at the path that runs along the length of the beach, saying goodbye to it all, when a pair of women came along the path dressed to the nines.

I sometimes worry that I overdress when I'm in such sunny climes, but I've never gone so over the top as to wear a full-length royal blue dress made out of what looks like silk. The woman thus clothed would have stood out like a sore thumb, except her companion was wearing a floor-length (or sandy-beach-path-length) black lace dress. They were perfectly, though oddly, matched.

Fifteen minutes later another group of younger, slightly less overdressed whilst still being significantly overdressed, people walked slowly past the door. There was definitely something going on, and I didn't think it was to do with the free palm readings at the vegetarian cafe.

Half an hour passed, and then a group came wandering along explaining everything I'd seen before. Cream silk is an odd choice of fabric to wear when you're going to the beach, but judging from the tiara it was a meticulously planned outfit and quite obviously something that only a bride would wear.

Only a bride, or me on Halloween when accompanying it with an emailed story around the office, a noose, and copious white and black makeup.

If the bride dressed all in (almost) white wasn't enough of a pointer, the little girl dressed in gold and cream almost-matching silk cinched it. She didn't have a basket of petals yet, but I could see where this was heading.

The flower girl stopped briefly outside our rental house to fight with a long stick, then make friends with a long stick, then play with a long stick, but was soon scooped up by a well-dressed father-of-the-bride who promptly turned her upside-down to examine the soles of her feet AS THOUGH WALKING A SANDY PATH WAS SOMETHING A GIRL COULD DO WITHOUT GETTING HER FEET DIRTY!

I can still feel empathetic indignation.

I found the whole parade quite rude. Not only am I leaving paradise tomorrow, but a group of people partaking of an event that I'll sadly never be asked to partake of was just unnecessary.

The bride may have thought that today was all about her, but I know it was all about me. Now it's time to go and say goodbye to the pool.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Sad feelings

The only problem with holidays (and I may be wrong on this as I haven't researched them too extensively, although I'd love the opportunity) is that they come to an end.

While I'm not quite in that boat at the moment, the event horizon is visible and starting to exert some gentle sucking.

Sunday morning, we'll wake up as though it's just another day in paradise, and then have to pack up all our stuff into mysteriously smaller bags than we started with and begin the trek home.

Sometimes that seems impossibly far off. Impossible in the, "I can't believe it's really going to happen so I'll ignore it until it does," type way. Other times, well, sigh.

If our holiday was a pottle of yoghurt, the tip of our teaspoon has just scraped along the bottom. There's still a fair whack of dairy goodness left, but we're on notice for what's coming next.

And the worst thing about these holiday niggles, is that nobody who isn't on holiday at the moment facing the same conundrum doesn't express any sympathy whatsoever. You unfeeling illegitimate children.

I suppose it would also be going to far to ask for empathy as I say that right at the minute I'm feeling uncomfortably hot from all of the unending sunshine, and I can't work up the enthusiasm to get into my swimsuit for another swim. Poor me. #firstworldholidayproblems

I'm certainly far too hot to keep typing. I don't want to accidentally sweat any more symbols off my laptop keyboard.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Beach Art

Today, in Mission Beach, we've held a 'Beach Art' competition on the main beach. The contestants each had to pick a spot, and then roll the sand into little balls which they then formed into intricate works of art, with more or less success.

Here's a shot of the practice area so you can understand the basic concept.

Once the contestants got the hang of the process they staked out areas on the sand to try their hand at creation.

This is from one of our juvenile contestants, and won the prize for 'Best First Attempt'

That officially means that no one could work out what the picture was of, but at least he gave it a go.

The next award was given out for an abstract work, which is entitled, 'Warrior on Back of Fire Breathing Dragon.'

Maybe if you tilt your head to the side and squint a little?

Second Runner Up award went to a good effort, albeit a little plain, 'Two Flowers.'

Why, yes. Yes it is.

Next up is the First Runner Up, or the alternative title of First Loser, with a work called, 'Man with Spiky Hair, Pointing Backward.'

Perhaps next year he'll submit under the Abstract section, and be in with a real chance.

Now we're getting down to it. Now we're into prize territory or, at least, bragging rights. Third place went to a lovely piece under the heading of 'Firework.'

Beautiful detail, thought it's apparent that the artist ran out of time to finish completely.

Tied for second are two pieces. I realise that usually this would have knocked out the third place award, but we had a long of young contestants this year and couldn't be bothered explaining the finer points of placing competitions, so hush now. The first of the second place entries is entitled, 'Jellyfish with Trailing Tentacles'

and the second is entitled, 'Flower Bursting Open with Puff of Pollen.'

Oooooh. Aaaaah. Right, enough of the non-winning entries. Onto the main event.

The winner of the Mission Beach Art Award for the 1st September 2015 goes to... (drum roll) 'Dragonfly.'

A truly stunning entry from a challenging field effort. If we try we may be able to catch a word with the winning artist... Sir?

Sir!

Please, sir. If I could just have a word?

Nope. He's gone. Well, that's the end of the coverage for today. Beach clean-up begins tonight, although the tide should probably have that covered, and we'll start a new competition again tomorrow at mid-tide. See you then.