Gegenschein 102

Conflux Canberra

The Australian National Science Fiction Convention, held on 23-26 April 2004, at Rydges Lakeside hotel. It has been a long time since the last SF convention in Canberra, but they made a great comeback.

Thursday 22 April 2004

We had to set out before dawn for the 150k drive to Mackay. Naturally as happens when leaving Airlie, the day looked wonderful. Couldn't take the time to get breakfast in Bloomsbury, as we hadn't allowed for crossing Mackay before reaching the airport.

In the airport parking lot we gave away one of our old computers to some adult students, by a fortuitous prearrangement. Jean had looked on the internet for one of the places that organise refurbished computers for the needy. However our distance from Brisbane precluded any arrangement. About five minutes after they had concluded it wouldn't work, they called Jean up to say they had just heard from someone in Mackay looking for a computer. I felt like someone arranging a drug deal in a parking lot.

Then it was one crowded flight after another, to Brisbane, then Sydney, with hardly a pause between these two. At Sydney I actually had time to check the News Link store. There I once again (at ruinous expense) found a recent issue of a British Mac Format magazine. Given I've seen these magazines only in Sydney airport I bought it despite the expense. Since then I've managed to organise copies by special arrangement via my local news agent.

Finally on to Canberra, arriving at the hotel around 3:30. We walked over to the Civic shopping area in search of a bar where Jean had a Friday meeting. It was as well we checked, as it wasn't close to where we first looked.

Back at the room, I inspected the computer connections in the room, which were impressive in range and price. We settled for a 95 cent local call (Telstra's normal charge 22 cents) as the cheapest. Also Jean hadn't brought her Ethernet card, and so couldn't easily try the hotel network connection.

We were able to visit with our old friends Bob and Margaret Riep that evening, when they came over by car. We seemed to only catch up with them at conventions, the previous time being when they lived in Hobart. They had a nice place nearby which we were able to visit later in the evening, hence the photos.

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Friday 23 April 2004

When I looked out the hotel window at seven a number of hot air balloons were floating across the landscape. They looked ever so peaceful, albeit not particularly well aimed, or so it seemed. The distance was excessive for clear photos, but it seemed like some type of balloon event was on.

After Jean collected her email we organised to have breakfast in the hotel with Susan and Graeme Batho, and Susan's mother. A full breakfast at the buffet was included in the room price, and it was a decent size breakfast at that. Got my cholesterol dose for the month at each daily sitting. We caught up with how Susan was doing at the university with her studies. I've been most impressed at the number of fans going back to educational sellers to get first degrees or higher degrees. I would be totally hopeless at obtaining any sort of academic qualification.

I put in a few hour stuffing the last of the handouts (the very nice and comprehensive useful guide to the area) into the convention bags. The convention was already shaping up to be well organised, and the numbers seemed to indicate it has been well publicised. I was most impressed. Helping at the con ensures that you see who is arriving early in the morning. Authors Sean McMullen and Jack Dann were some of the authors from Melbourne.

I was very surprised at just how many people attended Conflux. Must have been over 300 attendees, mostly from NSW. I noticed Ted Scrivner and Edwina Harvey. Given Sydney cons tend not to get these numbers of late, this implies much better publicity from Conflux.

There were a number of people from Melbourne, with Julian Warner and Bill Wright both arriving before midday.

Tasmania was represented by Robin Johnson, but Robin turns up so many places it never surprises me to see him. Tasmania is also the site of Thylacon, the 2005 National Science Fiction Convention, in April at the Wrest Point Casino site outside Hobart.

The huckster's room was extensive, and had a goodly proportion of book dealers, both new and second hand. Justin Ackroyd from Melbourne was visible. As my past collection was extensive, I didn't spot much I hadn't seen in the second hand, but did eventually buy a mere two second hand books in the last hours of the con. I was very disappointed with the new books. It seems fantasy is taking most of the shelf space. Jean found a couple of new books, but I didn't find any at the con. Afterwards in Manly I bought a couple of marginal interest new SF books at Dymocks, because I absolutely refuse to go home without any science fiction at all.

The art show at the back of the huckster's room was of astonishing quality. Naturally it was helped by having some Nick Stathopoulous covers. I liked the way he put a copy of the final book cover print next to the painting, so we could compare the painting with the printed version. I was very impressed by the many works by Greg Bridges. Unfortunately I didn't take my reading glasses with me, and thus don't have names for most of the exhibitors. There were also some fun exhibits, like the framed items made from old computer pieces.

The ever eccentric Garry Dalrymple from Sydney contrived to obtain no less than three convention badges, all more or less in his own name. He also handed out hundred dollar bills, or at least an exceedingly bad imitation thereof in the form of playing cards. In my email to ANZAPA members I attempted to list all the ANZAPA members at Conflux, but unfortunately neglected to include Garry, although he was the first such member I saw at the con.

It seemed to me that I encountered large numbers of interstate visitors, and a lot of authors.

There was a cocktail party that evening, good for catching up with people, although the noise level made further discourse a problem.

Nick Stathopoulos kindly introduced me to his partner that afternoon before doing a fine and funny (as usual) MC speech about the future (present) as an introduction to the Conflux guests.

I seem to recall we attended the bar during the later stages of the evening.

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Saturday 24 April 2004

Unfortunately my note and the splendid convention program guides are home in Airlie, while I am presently travelling across outback Australia. I guess further convention notes will probably not happen. It was an excellent convention however.

Mark Loney reported the Ditmar awards had 77 valid votes, 63 by email, 14 by mail, with a total of 6 invalid votes, 5 of them late. I no longer encounter enough Australian SF (or fan activities for that matter) to feel capable of informed voting.

Publicity at Conflux

We pushed for a GUFF (Get Up and over Fan Fund) candidate to stand forth, however no-one did so at the convention. Luckily this had changed prior to the deadline, and we have four sets of candidates.

Agog! Smashing Stories, speculative fiction, edited by Cat Sparks, was launched on Saturday around lunch time. Lots of Australian writers involved.

Australian Science Fiction Foundation as usual put out one of their information sheets about their sponsorship and encouragement of events, the Chandler Award, and the Wright collection of fanzines.

Clarion South Writers Workshop Two was being advertised. This is for six weeks, in Brisbane starting in January 2005. Looks like lots of stuff happening in Brisbane.

Continuum 2004 had a theme of gods of myth and silicon, whatever that means. 11-14 June at Cato Centre, Melbourne. Looks interesting, although I've never heard of the guests (Eddie Campbell and Trudi Canavan - Aurealis). Danny Oz - nee Heap) generally does good stuff. We can't make it to the con however.

Swancon XXX, Easter, 24-28 March 2005, at the Emerald Hotel, Perth. Charles de Lint is GoH.

Conjure, the successful Brisbane NatCon in 2006 bid, held a relaxed bid party at 5 on the Saturday of the convention. The hotel did a good job of the catering. We bought early memberships, as the at-the-door memberships is a hefty $250. This is at the Mercure hotel.

Infinitas Bookshop at 5/1 Horwood Place, Parramatta had a book flyer at Conflux. Unfortunately for me it listed mostly reprints or fantasy.

Loranda Publishers in Victoria were pushing fantasy author Kaaren Sutcliffe's Kered's Cry, second in the trilogy.

Manifest, the Melbourne Anime festival in Melbourne in August 2004, had postcards promoting their manga and anime con.

MirrorDanse, Parramatta publishers of science fiction and dark fantasy, offered their titles at discount at the con.

Ronin Films of ACT had a video of The What If man, about Peter Nicholls' devotion to and encyclopedic knowledge of science fiction.

Trevor Stafford is looking for book reviewers for an SF Blurb web site under development. Contact tstafford at

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Shopping in Sydney

Even before Conflux closed, around 4 p.m. on Monday 26 April, the last day of Conflux, Jean and I headed for Sydney on Qantas. Jean's conference was on Online Documentation, with workshops starting 9 a.m. on Tuesday. This was at the Manly Pacific Hotel. Transport to Manly being inconvenient when lumbered with large bags, we did the easy thing, and got an expensive taxi from Sydney airport. Jean collapsed soon after we got to the hotel, as did I after collecting some milk and orange juice nearby for breakfast.

Tuesday morning I got put to work doing the laundry, while Jean went conferencing. I basically didn't see Jean until the end of each day, however she often then enthused at length about new CSS and XML techniques various speakers demonstrated. Despite a renewed interest in moving my fanzine production to XML, the continued low visibility of suitable tools has me stalled. Writing HTML with a text editor is fine, but I'm not attempting XML that way.

The weather was poor, so I just wandered around The Corso in Manly during the first two days. I soon discovered Humphrey's newsagency and bookshop. I also soon realised their well stocked magazine section was going to cost me at least $150 in the following days for magazines I'd never before seen. Hmm, let's see. $42.75, $52.30, $51.10. They sure had a lot of expensive air freighted magazines our local newsagent has never stocked.

My shopping in Sydney was fairly successful, although I was disappointed that the products proudly listed by many companies didn't actually exist at their stores. It also didn't help that some had staff who couldn't tell the difference between RS232 and parallel ports, to take only one sad example.

I was looking for peripherals to make my computing arrangements a little less uncomfortable. This effort was complicated by the lack of compatibility (USB and IEEE1344) of new computers with old peripheral (RS232 serial, IrDA infrared, parallel) devices. At Jaycar I found a miniature Teleadapt USB optical mouse, which I find a little easier to use than a laptop touch pad. CX Computers had no-name USB to twin PS2 converters, so I could also attempt to use my old external wireless keyboard and mouse. Their prices were around a fifth what an Apple store wanted for a similar brand name product. The Apple store also told me most USB converters didn't work. I also found a cheap USB to parallel printer converter. Most worked reasonably, to my considerable surprise. No, make that utter astonishment. I grant it had been about six years since I last tried to use USB devices. I generally regard any attempt to make USB work properly as akin to polishing a turd.

Making the visit more pleasant was the wonderful weather on the last few days. The cruise across Sydney Harbour from Manly to Circular Quay on the Manly ferry was a delighful way to start the day.

I bought a compact computer guide book from GleeBooks. I should frame the receipt, because the trendy chardonnay set appear to patronise GleeBooks, and they stock all manner of New Age and similar material. Something practical on computers was the last item I expected them to sell.

My last set of shops in Sydney were an attempt to find a video camera, a device that appears to often be called a camcorder. I thought it too soon to look at solid state models, but figured some well engineered ones should exist using mini video tape. I imagine the makers will try to come up with some replacement over the next few years, but the replacement would probably cost much more. So testing the level of my continuing interest using a now cheaper old technology seemed reasonable. One salesman at Georges tried to tell me a digital camera with a video mode would work fine. No, this is bullshit. The salesman appealed to one of his fellow salesmen, who basically told him it was bullshit. Paxton's moved their price down by $150 as I asked questions. Another store had a price difference of $150 for the same camera between their upstairs and downstairs sections. I decided to wait until someone local had a sale on.

Jean's paper was scheduled for before lunch Friday, the last day. She reports it all went reasonably well.

I was amused to note that the remaining conference attendees held a sort of Dead Dog party, at the Steyne Pub. Food at the pub seemed scarce, so Jean sent me off to get her something. Grilled Atlantic salmon from SeaKing. I mention this mainly because it is next door to the King Frog restaurant, which also has a bar. This bar naturally enough is called the BarKing Frog! Boom, boom.

To my eternal regret, at Brisbane airport on the way home on Saturday, I failed to buy a set of rubber stamps for Jean. One said This is bullshit. The other said This material is crap.

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Various Diary Notes

We found a Balcony Mate at the local markets. This is a small (1200mm long) clip on slatted wooden table surface that hangs onto your balcony rail. The idea is great, when you need temporary table space outside, the execution less so. The first pack had no holes in one of the aluminium supports. The replacement support had bolt holes that didn't align correctly with the table. A little effort with an electric drill got it together, but living in an apartment often means you lack a tool kit. The company really needed to use a jig for doing the drill holes, and needed better attention to whether the supports were drilled in the first place. It is still a great idea.

After many months of travel, and sharing Jean's ISP account, I finally got my own ISP dialup connection again, now that we are not rushing away overseas. It was with Telstra BigPond, for lack of any great price advantage from anything else with a local presence.

I visited our local ISP, Internet Whitsunday, as I do every few months when at home. Instead of a room full of modems, as when they first opened, or the later room with a Sun Unix box, a satellite feed, and lots of phone connections, now they had a bare room. All the connections were now virtual, all done exclusively at the Telstra phone exchange. They were about to move, to a location that didn't itself have any sort of high speed internet connection. From an independent business with its own equipment, they were (like almost all ISPs) now just a front for reselling a Telstra phone exchange connection. This makes me less and less inclined to use any such a reseller service, unless they have some real additional value to add (if they are just reselling cheap, I'd think the odds are they would go broke fairly quickly).

Since my last account with them, Telstra BigPond moved their dialup connections to 10 hour sessions and unlimited downloads. In this area, I mostly get my full ten hours of connection without any dropouts (so don't expect to get a voice connection to me on the phone). In my first month I managed 221.09 hours of connection time and 1073.60 megabytes of downloads. I thought that wasn't bad for dialup. I feel sure I'll manage more in the second month, when I'm more organised about downloads.

In other local notes, the hillsides around the corner have been turned into potato fields, when the ecologically sound development being done there brought in bulldozers without notice. Outrigger hotel plans shown, protests increase about this grab for public land along the foreshore.

Jean had another trip to Canberra, for another conference.

On Wednesday 27 Oct 2004 an excavator nearly sinks in Muddy Bay, where they plan to make the new marina. I watched with considerable fascination as it tried to claw its way out. Got lots of photos too. A few days later it was back at higher tide, this time floating on a small barge. Didn't have much more luck digging up the mud that way either.

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Shut off that TV!

Mitch Altman was annoyed about the intrusive noise of a TV in a restaurant, so he came up with an idea. TV-B-Gone, a keyring sized US$15 TV remote that runs through 200 codes that turn around 1000 TV sets off. It went on sale from Cornfield Electronics. Eager buyers swamped the company in orders. It sure beats having your customers considering heaving a brick through the TV. Now if someone can come up with a way to shut up sound systems in restaurants, juke boxes, ghetto blasters and live bands ...

Pay for View

Consumers paying for entertainment closer to their demands now exceeds advertising income for media companies. I came across this in a report by media merchant bank Veronis Suhler Stevenson (VSS). They seemed surprised that consumers were attempting to avoid advertising. Consumer spending on media last year was US$178.4 billion or 27.5% of media revenue, while advertising was US$175.8 billion. Consumer use of advertising supported media has been flat, while revenue from cable and satellite services, video games, and DVDs and internet has risen by 7.9% a year since 1998. US consumers appear to have increased their consumption rather than switching between media. Media consumption has risen to 2.25% of disposable income, double the percentage for 25 years ago. VSS predict US consumer media consumption of US$1000 a year, occupying 4000 hours, some of it multitasking.

Internet advertising increased in Australia in the 2004FY, according to the Audit Bureau. General online advertising up 70% to A$104.7M, search and directory up 61% to A$92.6M, classified up 45% to A$102.6M, total revenue up 58% to A$300M. This now makes internet advertising bigger than outdoor signs (A$296.6M) or cinema (A$65.8M). Magazine advertising was A$599.8M. On the other hand, internet advertising is on the increase, being stronger in the second half of the year. Online up 79%, search and directory 79%, while classified were 43%.

Zero Power

I've been using a notebook computer most of 2004, so I haven't noticed momentary power outages.

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Book Reviews

I took a few science fiction books with me while we travelled.

Isaac Asimov's Utopia by Roger MacBride Allen

Orion, 1997, 320pp, ISBN 0752809865 ISBN 0752809865 Amazon link

The Spacers have a stagnant society where everything is done by robots. However on Inferno, they need the terraformering Settlers from Earth, now surging out and settling many planets without robots. However they also need their robot workforce. Many Spacers want to return the robots to their role as personal servants to a hedonistic lifestyle. The Governor has a dangerous plan to quickly improve the chances of establishing a viable ecology on Inferno. However it may also destroy the feared New Law robot's hidden city, and the New Law robots may indeed be as dangerous as some believe. Cute reworking of Asimov's robots, third in a series, following Caliban and Inferno.

Hopscotch by Kevin J Anderson

Bantam, May 2003, 469pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0553576402 ISBN 0553576402 Amazon link

Novel version of some shorter stories from Analog. Inequalities and dangers when the mind can be separated from the body, and people can easily swap into whatever body they can arrange to trade for. The rich end up with the better bodies. Businessmen have gofers to exercise their bodies, even to take toilet breaks when they can't leave a meeting. What a surprise. The story follows a small group of orphans as they try to cope with this corrupt society.

Brother Termite by Patricia Anthony

Ace, 1993, 261pp, US$5.99 ISBN 044100187 044100187 Amazon link

The WhiteHouse Chief of Staff plays political games, but he is an alien, in this parody of the modern political thriller.

Prisoner of Ironsea Tower by Sarah Ash

Bantam (Random House), July 2004, 470pp, TPB A$32.95 ISBN 0593049845 ISBN 0593049845 Amazon link

Book Two in The Tears of Artamon fantasy series.

Skinner by Neal Asher

Tor, 2003, 583pp, UK6.99 A$18.95 ISBN 0330484346 ISBN 0330484346 Amazon link

Spatterjay planet opera, where all are invulnerable, and death merely delays revenge.

The Sky So Big and Black by John Barnes

Tor, Oct 2003, 315pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0765342227 ISBN 0765342227 Amazon link

Edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Another try at a Podkayne of Mars Heinlein novel, and a very well done one at that. A young miner faces an emergency situation in which her actions may save the lives of her remaining companions. Complications are not just nature, but the assault on the Martian inhabitants by One True, the meme that has taken over most of the people of Earth.

Dark Futures by Russell Blackford

ibooks, August 2002, 331pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0743445112 ISBN 0743445112 Amazon link

First in a trilogy of books called The New John Connor Chronicles, set in the world of the popular Terminator 2 film from James Cameron and William Wisher. I wanted to see how Russell Blackford handled the movie. I thought it went pretty well, with a decent amount of attention given to the ways the future might be changed. Sarah and John Conner get help from an alternate future. Plenty of action for the action fans.

Driving Blind by Ray Bradbury

Earthlight, 1998, 257pp, ISBN 0671022075 ISBN 0671022075 Amazon link

22 short fantasy and whimsy stories. Most of these have never been published previously. There are some fine turns of phrase here, but as stories, most seem to me to fail badly. Almost all the stories feel very badly dated in content and in attitide. Don't waste your time.

Kiln People by David Brin

Tor, Dec 2002, 568pp, US$7.99 ISBN 0765342618 ISBN 0765342618 Amazon link

Takes the old idea of a golem and really runs with it. Way too many clay jokes. I was very impressed by how well Brin did this detective tale with a difference.

Thigmoo by Eugene Byrne

Earthlight, 1999, 345pp, ISBN 0671028626 ISBN 0671028626 Amazon link

The 200 and more erans in the Museum of the Mind realise that the university plans to shut down this project of created fictional personalities devised for interactive contact with humans. By now borderline AI, the erans attempt escape. The author is obviously smart, and does all sorts of authorial misdirection in this first novel. Too self referential to be a pleasure to read, although it has some clever lines.

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Black Mist edited by Orson Scott Card and Keith Ferrell

DAW 1075, 1997, 314pp, US$5.99 ISBN 0886777674 ISBN 0886777674 Amazon link

And Other Japanese Futures. Five stories by non-Japanese authors where Japanese are the main characters.

They Fly at Ciron by Samuel R Delany

Voyager Harper Collins, 1998, 222pp, ISBN 0006499392 ISBN 0006499392 Amazon link

An outright fantasy, told from the viewpoints of a few of the protagonists. A small military force is taking over various towns, and at the orders of its prince, committing repeated attrocities. A military man has a conscience. A strong man learns to fight in a society where that has never been permitted. A clever man brings allies to an attack to the military.

The Wreck of The River of Stars by Michael Flynn

Tor, May 2004, 534pppp, US$7.99 ISBN 076534033X 076534033X Amazon link

Editor David Hartwell. Solar sailing ships are displaced by fusion drive, and the once palatial liner The River of Stars is now a freight tramp with unused sails and spars. The engineer is certain he can repair the failed fusion drive, but some of the crew see the ship arriving at its destination one last time under solar sail. Thoughtful hard science fiction about people.

The Tower of Ravens by Kate Forsyth

Random House, 1 June 2004, 565pp, A$32.95, ISBN 1740511719 ISBN 1740511719 Amazon link

Book 1 of Rhiannon's Ride. Satiricorn mixed breed girl fails the horn test, escapes on flying horses and becomes a legend, twenty years after the Witches of Eileanan. Kate Forsyth web site is

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson

Berkley, 2003, 356pp, ISBN 0425192938 ISBN 0425192938 Amazon link

Now that the imagined future has morphed into the internet enabled present, it seems almost appropriate that a writer best known for describing a cybertech future (despite not owning a computer) now describes a cybertech present, as seen from an antique past. Unfortunately it is a past that I recall all too well when Gibson talks of a Vauxhall Wyveryn (my first car), or describes the grenade like Curta hand calculators (we had some at UTS Mathematical Sciences).

Harm's Way by Colin Greenland

Harper Collins, 1993, 378pp, ISBN 0586214909 ISBN 0586214909 Amazon link

Britania's fine 19th Century sailing ships rule not only the seas, but sail into space, in this Dickensian tale of a poor maid seeking her true parents. Very different piece of science fiction.

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Misspent Youth by Peter F Hamilton

MacMillan, 2002, 439pp, ISBN 0330480227 ISBN 0330480227 Amazon link

Forty years from now the strangling mass of the European bureaucracy want to show how advanced welfare can become. A prominent elderly scientist who invented the datasphere (which replaced both internet and computers) is rejuvenated, right back to a 20 year old. So as well as catching up on semi-conductor physics, he does what any 20 year old male does, and rushes off seeking sex with anyone who doesn't dodge. His trophy wife abandoned, he takes up with his teenage son's barely former girlfriend. It takes for an interesting novel, half way between an author's wet dreams of nubile groupies, and Flowers for Algernon for the gerontology set. A lot more believable than some of his fast paced series novels.

Travel Arrangements by M.John Harrison

Gollancz, 2000, 262pp, UK9.99 ISBN 0575068329 0575068329 Amazon link

Original short stories that I found unreadable.

Year's Best SF 8 edited by David G Hartwell

EOS, June 2003, 493pp, US$7.99 ISBN 006106453X ISBN 006106453X Amazon link

I consider these the best (most suited to my tastes) of the best anthologies of the year.

Dune: The Machine Crusade by Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson

NEL, 2003, 660pp, A$19.95 ISBN 0340823356 ISBN 0340823356 Amazon link

Second in legends of Dune sequence. Convoluted novel of politics, betrayal, and the struggle to destroy the dangerous thinking machines who have enslaved many human planets for a thousand years. Serena Butler leads a jihad against the machines, but even her second in command has his own dangerous and brutal secret plans. Meanwhile, the cemeks, human brains in mechanical bodies, plot to escape the domination of the thinking machines, however their plans for the humans are no less brutal. Might be more meaningful to someone who enjoyed the Dune novels.

Probability Space by Nancy Kress

Tor, Jan 2004, 367pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0765345145 0765345145 Amazon link

Final in the Probability series. Can an unproven theory save humanity from the superior Fallers? Can a small group evade the might of Earth's military dictatorship, communicate with the Fallers. Will the tunnel alien's weapon that both Faller and humans have actually destroy the Universe if used?

Crossfire by Nancy Kress

Tor, April 2004, 364pp, US$6.99 A$18.95 ISBN 0765343894 0765343894 Amazon link

Distant colony encounters humanoids not native to the planet. Which side do they take?

The Alien Factor by Stan Lee with Stan Timmons

ibooks, 2001, 283pp, ISBN 0743452623 ISBN 0743452623 Amazon link

Stan Lee always wanted to have a novel about WWII and aliens, so here are Logan's Losers meets ET. I don't think he should have bothered.

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Angel of Destruction by Susan Matthews

Roc, Oct 2001, 342pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0451458494 0451458494 Amazon link

The Langsariks turned to piracy in desperation until a peace gave them a chance at a life within the community. Now it seems that they are once again pirates. The Judiciary will destroy them, as a politically safer solution than finding the real pirates.

Less Than Human by Maxine McArthur

Aspect, Oct 2004, 387pp, US$6.99 A$18.95 ISBN 0446613428 0446613428 Amazon link

Robot killer in Japan. Some interesting background on Japan, but I found the robotic material less convincing.

Acorna's Triumph by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Corgi (Random House), Dec 2004, 382pp, A$19.95 ISBN 0552152757 0552152757 Amazon link

Long running series, so enthusiasts will have a good idea what to expect. I couldn't get into this latest in the Unicorn Girl series at all.

Eyes of the Calculor by Sean McMullen

Tor, Dec 2003, 589pp, US$7.99 A$16.95 ISBN 0765345129 ISBN 0765345129 Amazon link

Edited by Jack Dann. Third in this fine series featuring human powered computers, and many other imaginative elements that make up a very different but very human scale future. If anything, the twisted plotting on this one is even more convoluted than ever before. There are a lot of very neat scenes, some of which show just how much research Sean McMullen did on aspects of how his characters live. Highly recommended.

Voyage of the Shadowmoon by Sean McMullen

Tor, Feb 2004, 565pp, US$7.99 ISBN 076534713X 076534713X Amazon link

Book One of the Moonworlds Saga. Interesting departure into fantasy.

Archform: Beauty by L.E. Modesitt Jr

Orbit, 2003, 434pp, ISBN 1841492515 1841492515 Amazon link

Trends show a strange background to crimes in a world where few crimes remain unsolved. Something is going very wrong in utopia.

This is the Way the World Ends by James Morrow

Legend, 1989, 319pp, ISBN 0099630702 ISBN 0099630702 Amazon link

Bitter satirical novel of nuclear apocalypse. Probably seems very relevant and daring when published, but now seems old, tired and dated. As usual, blames the USA for everything, with only passing note taken that they were not the sole player at the MAD game.

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Limit of Vision by Linda Nagata

Tor, July 2002, 347pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0765342111 0765342111 Amazon link

The start of nanotech, with limit of vision sized creations out of control.

Rainbow Mars by Larry Niven

Orbit, 1999, 322pp, ISBN 1857239482 ISBN 1857239482 Amazon link

Fantasy of time and space, with a Mars that has all the worlds of the old Martian fantasy works, Burroughs and Bradbury, updated with orbital towers of living tree. It was pretty fast paced, lots of stuff happening, but as usual with fantasy, I ended up not caring what was to come next.

Night Watch by Terry Pratchett

Doubleday (Random House), 2002, 364pp, ISBN 1857239482 ISBN 1857239482 Amazon link

Sam Vimes is comfortable running the Ankh-Morprok City Watch. However now he is chasing a murderer in his own distant past. Death is always a risk in the brutal past. Plus he most urgently needs to teach his own past self how to grow into being the Vimes the city will need. But what of his own future, with no wife, no child and no hope?

Night Watch by Terry Pratchett

Corgi (Random House), Oct 2003, pp474, A$19.95, ISBN 0552148997 ISBN 0552148997 Amazon link

The paperback version arrives.

Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett

Doubleday (Random House), 352pp, Oct 2003, A$49.95, ISBN 0385603401 ISBN 0385603401 Amazon link

Polly Perks went to war to seek her lost brother. The others, troll, vampire or human, had their own motives. But the mad god that ruled their war torn country forbade almost everything, even rocks, including women or girls doing anything important. A wonderful political cartoon illustrates one scene, and despite the humour, and the adventure story, this is as overt a political work as any I can recall from Terry Pratchett. His novels are often firmly placed in the real world, and all the better for that satirical approach. The misreporting ... but it makes a great story, by William de Worde. The coalition trying to do the right thing. The embattled country, ours right or wrong. Most of all, the women and girls who enlisted, made a farce of the several armies, and who did the work. I can only hope real life for women in the Middle East imitates the happy conclusion.

Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett

Corgi, Oct 2004, 494pp, A$19.95 ISBN 0552149411 0552149411 Amazon link

Paperback arrives. See previous.

The Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett

May 2004, A$39.95, ISBN 0385607369 ISBN 0385607369 Amazon link

Wonderful tale aimed at a younger audience.

Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

Doubleday, Oct 2004, 352pp, A$49.95 ISBN 0385603428 0385603428 Amazon link

A conman finds himself unwillingly in charge of the declining Ankh-Morprok postal service, and must make it work (having a golem watching over you will do that). His rival the semaphore company is also undergoing business changes, and is in need of better corporate governance. I still don't know how Terry Pratchett manages to write serious tales that are so funny.

The Space Machine + A Dream of Wessex by Christopher Priest

Earthlight, 1999 (1976), 363pp 199pp, ISBN 0671033891 ISBN 0671033891 Amazon link

Old reprints of a careful writer.

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A Hunger in the Soul by Mike Resnick

Tor hardcover, 1998, 221pp, US$21.95 ISBN 0312854382 ISBN 0312854382 Amazon link

A sociopath reporter as Stanley in search of Livingston on a primitive planet. The natives are tools, not people, and are treated and discarded as such. The staff of his safari are also tools, kept in line by pay and the threat of bad press. The result is a triumph of journalism over truth. I've rarely seen a didactic essay on Imperialism and its faults delivered as such a compelling adventure tale, and all done without one identifiable lecture. Resnick is a very capable writer indeed.

Vinland the Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson

Harper Collins, 2002, 410pp, ISBN 0007134045 ISBN 0007134045 Amazon link

Fourteen interesting short stories by a fine writer with many axes to grind. I got it cheap, and as a cheap book it was fine. Don't know I would have paid full price.

Humans by Robert J Sawyer

Tor, Feb 2003, 331pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0765346753 ISBN 0765346753 Amazon link

Edited by David Hartwell. Second volume in the Neanderthal parallax series. Ponder the Neanderthal returns to our Earth as do others from his parallel universe. We see more of their society and how it deals with the problems we have. Lots of interesting ideas in this series, including some wonderful attacks on both religion and science. It does have weaknesses as a story, but generally enough happens that it isn't real noticeable except in retrospect.

Glimpses edited by Stephen Thompson

Vision, Oct 2003, 226pp, ISBN 0975144804 ISBN 0975144804 Amazon link

An anthology of 25 stories by Vision Queensland writers. Given the resurgence of Australian SF writing, I suspect if some of them persist, we will see much more of them. A good start.

The Orion Protocol by Gary Tigerman

Avon, Dec 2004, 369pp, US$7.50 ISBN 0380799200 0380799200 Amazon link

A whistle blower sends pictures of the face on Mars to a science journalist. However the pictures come from a Mars mission that failed. Meanwhile, a missile defence system is way more advanced than anyone has been told, and that includes the President. Political thriller, with alien motives.

Down There In Darkness by Goerge Turner

Tor, May 1999, 352pp, US$24.95 ISBN 0312868294 0312868294 Amazon link

Last of the novels Turner did, ending his future history on a melancholy note. David Hartwell was the editor, so if if you haven't encountered Turner's work previously, you know it is a well written novel.

Red Thunder by John Varley

Ace, May 2004, 411pp, US$7.99 ISBN 0441011624 0441011624 Amazon link

Seven misfits and an ex astronaut build a cut price spaceship to Mars. Heinlein couldn't have done it better.

30th Anniversary DAW edited by Elizabeth R Wollheim and Sheila E Gilbert

DAW 1221, May 2003, 539pp, US$6.99 A$14.99 ISBN 0756401372 ISBN 0756401372 Amazon link

Mostly the equivalent of extracts from novels by well known DAW authors, this was still an entertaining read for me (I don't see as many DAW books now as I once did). It received mention in Hartwell's Best SF as one of the better anthologies of the year, and I have to agree. Nineteen stories, many with short introductions by the authors, and a short potted history of the founding and fortunes of DAW.

Doctor Who The Legend by Justin Richards

BBC Books (Random House), Nov 2004, 400pp, 49.95 ISBN 0563486309 0563486309 Amazon link

Four decades of Time Travel. The history of the BBC TV series in a coffee table sized paperback with copious photographs. Obviously told by an enthusiast. Vast numbers of episodes are covered, and information about the doctor summarised. It was fun.

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Fiction reviews

I didn't find enough science fiction, so I turned to other fiction.

Shall We Tell the President? by Jeffrey Archer

Harper Collins, 1997 (1977), 248pp, ISBN 0006478670 ISBN 0006478670 Amazon link

Follows Kane and Abel, and The Prodigal Daughter, but is independent of them. A tipoff by a witness leads a young FBI agent to a plot by gun manufacturers and a senator to kill the president to stall anti-gun legislation. The plotters are dangerous and very professional. The witness, the senior FBI agent and the head of section are all killed before they can confirm the plot. Can the FBI agent convince anyone about the plot before the conspiracy finds and kills him? Nicely plotted and paced. Good professional job of writing.

Honour Among Thieves by Jeffrey Archer

Harper Collins, 1997, 479pp, ISBN 0006476066 ISBN 0006476066 Amazon link

Saddam hatches a plot, and employs a thief to do the stealing. However there is no honour among thieves. Nicely plotted, fast paced and generally a reasonable read.

The Coming Global Superstorm by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber

Pocket Star, Jan 2001, 295pp, US%6.99 ISBN 0671041916 ISBN 0671041916 Amazon link

Florid account of global warming promoting a superstorm. Claimed to be a prediction rather than fiction.

Air Battle Force by Dale Brown

Harper Collins, 2004, 564pp, ISBN 0007142463 ISBN 0007142463 Amazon link

Aerial combat novel, with an out of control US general using high tech weapons, showing why there were warnings about the power of the military industrial complex from a former US general and president nearly 50 years ago. Ike was right.

Deception Point by Dan Brown

Corgi, 2002, 385pp, A$14.95 rrp A$19.95 ISBN 0552151769 ISBN 0552151769 Amazon link

Fast paced thriller by a best selling author I'm not going to bother reading again.

Saucer by Stephen Coonts

Orion, 2003, 329pp, ISBN 075284895X ISBN 075284895XAmazon link

If you found a 120,000 year old flying saucer that was built to last, wouldn't you want to take it for a fly? Wouldn't you want to keep it? The heavy in this case is an Australian multi-billionaire, but the US air force isn't above trying to shoot the saucer down. Several countries want it, or want to destroy it is they can't have it. Not real convincing, but pretty fast paced.

Sharpe's Prey by Bernard Cornwell

Harper Collins, 2002, 338pp, ISBN 0006513107 ISBN 0006513107 Amazon link

In 1807 vengeful and deadly soldier Lieutenant Richard Sharpe is sent to Copenhagen to protect an envoy carrying a large bribe in gold in an attempt by the British to take over the Danish fleet before the French can get it. However the envoy is a French spy, the mission impossible, and Richard is in at the Sharpe end of it all. In history the British invaded Denmark, and bombarded Copenhagen, just as described. Only Sharpe's exploits are fiction. Nicely done novel, one of a series by this author.

Prey by Michael Crichton

Harper Collins, 2004, 369pp, free ISBN 0732281202 ISBN 0732281202 Amazon link

Free book from the Sunday Mail. Build a better nanotech predator and the human race becomes prey. Nice tie in with some AI methods being used these days, extended somewhat further than I expect is likely. fast paced however.

Slide by Michael Day

Pan, 2003, 666pp, ISBN 0330492241 ISBN 0330492241 Amazon link

Journalist recruited into spy network to prevent an environmental war between the USA and Indonesia. Couple of items rather too close to the possible for comfort. Maybe someone has tried this stuff already.

XPD by Len Deighton

Grafton, 1994 (1982), 450pp, A$14.99 ISBN 0007651899 0007651899 Amazon link

Where is Winston Churchill on 11 June 1940. Those who know are marked for XPD expedient demise.

Last Man to Die + The Final Cut by Michael Dobbs

Encore, 1991 + 1995, 282pp + 378pp, ISBN 000760811X ISBN 000760811X Amazon link

A German tries to escape from Britain in the last days of the Third Reich. However is anything what it seems to be? Plus the last election of Francis Urquhart, as everyone has secrets. The trilogy was made into a BBC TV series. Very nicely done.

Betrayed by Brendan DuBois

TimeWarner, 2003, 498pp, ISBN 0751534188 ISBN 0751534188 Amazon link

Newspaper editor Jason Harper's older brother rings his doorbell one night, yet Roy had been posted Missing in Action in Vietnam 30 years ago. Then two men attempt to kill Jason's family, while he tries to understand how and why Roy could have been held prisoner for so long. Properly cynical about political expediency. Nicely plotted story.

Mandrake by Paul Eddy

Headline, 2002, 563pp, ISBN 0747264287 ISBN 0747264287 Amazon link

Undercover money laudering cop Grace Flint targets the biggest money organisation, however her own organisation has long been penetrated, and the trap fails badly. A convoluted, fast paced spy vs spy adventure, with everyone breaking all the rules. Good reade.

Sabre by James Follett

Arrow, 1998, 348pp, ISBN 0749322586 ISBN 0749322586 Amazon link

Sabotage of a new orbital passenger plane on its first commercial flight. Fast paced.

The Firm + The Pelican Brief by John Grisham

Arrow, 1999, 490+371pp, E#7.99 ISBN 0091870070 0091870070 Amazon link

The Firm launders money for the mob, and no-one leaves its employment. The nature of the Supreme Court is changed when two Justices are killed.

Arms and the Women by Reginald Hill

Harper Collins, 2000, 486pp, ISBN 0006512879 0006512879 Amazon link

Dalziel and Pascoe novel. Thoughtful detective tale.

Exit Wounds by Shaun Hutson

Pan, 2000, 508pp, ISBN 0330370049 ISBN 0330370049 Amazon link

One last robbery, this time of an armoured car, by the older but not much wiser small time criminals in Britain. However they didn't check who the money belonged to. So the big time criminal doesn't want to risk his men when a a new and crazy gang arrives from Jamaica and starts wiping out rivals. The small time crims can do the job, or die trying, or they can die right now. Meanwhile the police just want peace on the streets, and don't much mind which criminals are involved. British crime fiction.

The Paris Option by Robert Ludlum and Gayle Lynds

Harper Collins, 2003, 425pp, ISBN 0007101732 ISBN 0007101732 Amazon link

Third in the Covert One series. Molecular computer is stolen in Paris, does all sorts of miraculous nasty things to military systems (thus pointing out why your warships shouldn't run Windows), while the trail runs through various terrorist groups, each a front for yet another group. Good plotting, terrible technology, actions full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

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Deception by Ken McClure

Pocket, 2001, 369pp, ISBN 0743415744 ISBN 0743415744 Amazon link

Rat attacks outside Edinburgh, while a science investigator attempts to discover what connection there is to genetically modified food crops being trailed in the area. This one is really nicely done, both as a mystery, and as a scientific thriller. The science risk isn't the obvious fright reflex GM stuff, but a very real menace, buried by a government more intent on looking right than acting responsibly. Alas, the risk spinning also actually happened, in the aftermath of mad cow disease. Apropos of which, William Gibson has a nice line in Pattern Recognition, "silver haired Billy Prion, the former lead singer of a band called BSE."

Blackout by John J Nance

Pan, 2000, 659pp, ISBN 0330481916 ISBN 0330481916 Amazon link

A 747-400 takes off from Hong Kong carrying a passenger with a deadly secret. Then the pilot is killed and the co-pilot blinded by a weapon carried by an unknown plane. FBI agent Kat Bronsky hunts the business jet that seems to be involved in the new terrorist tactic, while a blind pilot tries to make a safe landing. Lots of thrills.

Ramage and the Freebooters by Dudley Pope

Grafton, 1999 (1967)350pp, ISBN 0261673572 ISBN 0261673572 Amazon link

Lt Ramage is given command of the brig Triton and sealed dispatches for the Caribbean. However the Fleet at Portsmouth has mutinied. First Ramage has to persuade a sullen crew to set sail, knowing his failure will make him a scapegoat.

Governor Ramage RN by Dudley Pope

Redwood, 2003 (2001), 463pp, ISBN 1741211263 ISBN 1741211263 Amazon link

While part of the escort of a convoy in the Caribbean, Lt Ramage is again the target of a legal attack on his competency by the admiral. Although Ramage detects an attempt on an important cargo by a privateer, the witnesses to his actions may be lost when the convoy encounters a hurricane that sinks many ships.

Ramage's Diamond by Dudley Pope

Grafton, 1999 (1976), 286pp, ISBN 0261673556 ISBN 0261673556 Amazon link

Sailing for the first time as captain, Ramage's frigate is ordered to blockade the French in Fort Royal, Martinique. However a single frigate can not stop a blockade breaking convey with a strong escort. Ramage finds a way to makes the odds more favourable, by an unauthadox action. This story is a fictional account of the 1804 action of Commodore Samuel Hood, who did precisely this task. Hood's logs didn't reveal details of how he accomplished getting his guns onto Diamond Rock, however it was by the same method. His garrison held Diamond Rock for 17 months, and some of the cannon recovered from the sea below the rock.

Barracuda 945 by Patrick Robinson

Arrow, 2004, 598pp, A$21.95 ISBN 0099439859 0099439859 Amazon link

A British SAS officer goes over to the terrorist side, organising a raid on US oil supplies using Russian submarines. Fast paced thriller.

Greed by Chris Ryan

Arrow, 2004, 393pp, A$14.95 rrp A$19.95 ISBN 0099432226 ISBN 0099432226 Amazon link

Fast paced and forgettable, which is why this review is empty.

The Empress File by John Sandford

Pocket, 1991 (2002), 356pp, ISBN 0743415590 ISBN 0743415590 Amazon link

Computer hacker Kidd gets involved in organising a sting to take out and defraud the corrupt politicians running a country town. This is after a young negro hacker gets killed by a police error. And no, justice is not done, but don't you just love the idea of busting some party political machine, and making off with their loot?

Polar Star + Rose by Martin Cruise Smith

Pan, 2002, 470pp + 488pp, ISBN 0330418246 ISBN 0330418246 Amazon link

Arkady Renko (Gorky Park) exiled on the slime line on Polar Star in a joint fishing venture with a US commercial concern. A lonely and mysterious death occurs, and Renko is given a chance to be rehabilitated by investigating what happened.

A mysterious disappearance of a parson in the coal town of Wigan in Victorian England, investigated by an almost equally mysterious American who wants to return to Africa. Great characterisation and excellent albeit slow plotting in each book.

Rat Trap by Craig Thomas

Warner, 1976, 318pp, ISBN 0751512923 ISBN 0751512923 Amazon link

Hijackers take over a 707 as it lands at Heathrow. They demand a terrorist be turned over to them, however the terrorist escapes. The attempt to get the passengers out of the trap while the death toll rises.

The Unbidden Truth by Kate Wilhelm

Mira, 2004, 366pp, ISBN 0778320812 0778320812 Amazon link

A Barbara Holloway thriller, very well written, as usual with Wilhelm. More a legal mystery novel than otherwise.

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Computer Book Reviews

I read a certain number of general computing books for background. Moving from Windows to Apple added a bunch of Macintosh books.

The Nudist on the Late Shift by Po Bronson

Seeker and Warburg, 1999, 248pp, ISBN 0436204770 Amazon link

Freelancer for Wired and various newspapers with a series of tales of Silicon Valley. Nice view of the eccentrics and the strangeness and the things that are accepted in the race for the next tech fortune.

Running Mac OS X Panther by James Duncan Davidson

O'Reilly, Dec 2003, 306pp, US$39.95 ISBN 0596005008 ISBN 0596005008 Amazon link

Inside Mac OS X's core. This is a curious book. Obviously written in a rush, and it does show at times, such as in a few apparent errors in the examples of crontab contents. At times the rush to the next topic seems to leap over history, as in where the Mac project is attributed to Steve Jobs (Jef Raskin would probably like some revision here - the rest of you can look it up on the web). The contents vary between what seems blindingly obvious to the most obscure byways. It certainly isn't the place for beginners to start, but would be good for someone wanting to get further under the pretty skin of the Mac interface.

The book is divided into three parts. Getting Started, Essentials, and Advanced Topics.

Getting Started has chapters on Mac history, the file system and library, the terminal and Unix shell.

Essentials covers system startup and login in depth, users and groups, files and permissions, system activity monitoring, scheduling tasks (I didn't realise that at and batch had been removed by Apple), preferences and defaults plus property lists, and finally disks and file systems, including Raid 0 and 1.

Advanced topics provides considerable material on open directory and how it relates to LDAP and Microsoft's Active Directory services. Chapters also cover printing facilities, and printing from the command line. Networking includes material on IP addresses, DNS, routing, use of the Locations facility when you change your network location repeatedly. Network Services covers file sharing, web sharing, remote login, ftp, sharing printers and using SMTP mail serving.

The appendices cover installing from scratch, a list of the (many) boot command key combinations, and a list of other sources of information.

Mac OS X Hacks by Rael Dornfest and Kevin Hemenway

O'Reilly, March 2003, 406pp, US$24.95 ISBN 0596004605 ISBN 0596004605 Amazon link

100 Industrial-strength Tips and Tools. Like similar O'Reilly Hacks books, basically a list of tips and tricks, some of them pretty extensive and detailed. It is a lot like reading a long collection of computer magazine articles. Understandably enough if most Mac users are coming from a Mac Classic background, many of the tips seem to relate to using Unix. However given there are many Mac specific variations in the way Unix applies on a Mac, this is perhaps no disadvantage even to experienced Unix users.

The Chapters cover Files, Startup, Multimedia and iApps, the User interface, Unix and the Terminal application, Networking, Email, the Web, and a final few hints on SQL databases.

If what you need to do happens to be covered by one of the 100 tips, you could cover the cost of the book in time saved on that alone. What is more likely to happen is that you will find better, faster ways to do many things. You should also find yourself extending your use of the system, into areas that you didn't at first think about.

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Mac OS X Panther Hacks by Rael Dornfest and James Duncann Davidson

O'Reilly, 2004, 566pp, US$29.95 ISBN 0596007183 ISBN 0596007183 Amazon link

Like the other O'Reilly hacks books. A bunch of handy tips and hints, some of them detailed and complex, for getting things done. It would take considerable effort to write some of the code, for example. If you find just one or two tips that you can make use of repeatedly (and I always do) then these books are worthwhile.

Hardware Hacking edited by Joe Grand

Syngress, 2004, 537pp, US$39.95 ISBN 1932266836 ISBN 1932266836 Amazon link

Subtitled Have fun while voiding your warranty, this is edited by Joe Grand (Stealing the Network) and Ryan Russell (Hack Proofing Your Network), and has Kevin D Mitnick if I had this book 10 years ago, the FBI would never have found me! as technical reviewer. Despite all this emphasis on cracking and security, it is mostly reprints of existing web material presenting neat (or silly) tricks with hardware, some of it rather dated. If you happen to need one or another of these hacks, it saves you the trouble of finding the equivalent on the net, and printing it out.

There are three parts to the book, and two of these parts are background material. The first two chapters by Joe Grand cover tools in eight pages and simple electrical engineering, like binary, ASCII, schematic symbols, AC and DC, Ohms law, resistors, capacitors, diodes, transistors and basic device theory. There is quick coverage of soldering and surface mount, and some US references. The last two chapters by Deborah Kaplan are a technical reference on operating system overviews, and programming. Operating systems runs very superficially through physical and virtual memory, file systems, caches, system calls, device drivers, block and character devices. Coding 101 is way below a real 101 level coding course, however it does mention programming concepts, assignment, control structures, looping, branching, arrays, linked lists, code readability, and then does an introduction to C and assembler. These two sections are really pretty basic, however they do have references to much better books on their topics.

The main meat of the book are the 11 individually contributed chapters on doing weird things to hardware.

Chapter 3 by Joe Grand is Declawing your CueCat. This is Digital Convergence's cute bar code scanner which in 1999 was seeded all over the USA in an attempt to do push media. The company failed, but around 10 million CueCats were circulated. I saw heaps in Silicon Valley at Halted selling around US$12 in 2004 (and I really wish I'd bought one now I've seen this hack). The CueCat did custom conditioning to its bar code outputs, making it useless as a standard bar code reader. The hack consists of modifying the circuit board to bypass the custom conditioning (on a serial EEPROM) and turn the CueCat into a standard bar code reader. The modification is simple, however the chapter also includes an extensive discussion of just what and how the original design was intended to do to make the result proprietary. The CueCat comes in either a PS/2 or a USB model, and I've really got to find myself one of these gadgets to play with.

Chapter 4 by Bobby Kinstle is about modifying a SCSI case to contain a terabyte of IDE hard drives with Firewire to IDE bridges, as a RAID 0 box. The original site was Slashdotted with 3.5 million hits in September 2003, so this is a popular idea. The modifications cover selecting the fans and power supplies, mounting the bridgeboards, plus a description of how it all works. The restriction of Raid 0 to performance (but not data integrity) are mentioned, as is the notion that striped arrays can outpace Firewire 400 in any case. The case mods include cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL), now widely available in multiple colours. I gather the required high voltage lamp inverters can now be bought over the counter (I had to build my own inverter when I used my first CCFL). Other mods were fancier LEDs, and a transparent case window to display the results with its neat wiring.

Personally these days I'd rather have the drives tucked away out of sight in a cupboard where the fan noise wouldn't disturb me. If I were after remote storage rather than speed, I'd also consider going with one of the cheap new network addressable storage gadgets that allow you to simply connect a couple of cheap USB hard drives via Ethernet.

Chapter 5 is co-authored by Bobby Kinstle and Tom Owad and is on Macintosh Hacks. One was an old Mac SE, broken into parts, then reassembled as clip together multicolour building blocks like the 1980's Jonathan idea by Apple's John Fitch. If you are into Lego, this is for you!

The next idea the very simple one of adding an LED to a USB mouse. To be honest, if I were going to bother doing this, instead of using a blue LED, I'd use one of the new multicolour LEDs that have the built in colour change chip. You see these (mis)used in LED Xmas trees, but you can buy the LEDs at electronics shops.

Adding a colour skin to the Mac Cube is the final idea in this chapter.

Chapter 6 by Ryan Russell on Home Theatre PCs covers the basics so you have a good idea of what is involved in planning such a project. Gives some good references, and also points out that for minimal specification HTPC, consumer examples already exist (such as the Xbox games console). Seems like a good introduction to several potential approaches to a converged entertainment computer. If you don't want to build your own, and struggle with Windows or Linux as suggested, you might also consider an Airport Express connected speaker system, and a large display Macintosh, as that will do most of the media job as delivered, and already includes media software in the iLife package.

Chapters 7 on Atari 2600 and 7800, and chapter 8 on Atari 5200 and 8 bit Atari are by Albert Yarusso. The author points out these systems are over 20 years old. If you are an Atari enthusiast these chapters could be of use.

Chapter 9 by Marcus R Brown on hacking the PlayStation 2 with modchips to enable region-free DVD playback, disable the intrusive and unwelcome Macrovision copy protection, and use either PAL or NTSC games. There is some nice hardware in the Sony PlayStation2, and the mod authors (and Linux port folks) are to be complimented on their efforts to open the product to more interesting uses. My own political attitude to heavily protected and proprietary products like the Sony is to refuse to buy anything from the company, on the basis that getting any money from the consumer only encourages them.

Chapter 10 by Lee Barken on Wireless 802.11 network hacks cover three main areas. Adding an external antenna to a D-Link DWL650 PCCard get addditional range. Using Linux OpenAP on Eumitcom WL11000SA-N chipset based wireless access point, such as the USR 2450 and Netcomm NP2000AP, by programming an old style SRAM PCMCIA card. The last hack is Telnet access to the vLinux system in the Dell 1184 access point.

Chapter 11 by Albert Yarusso is on hacking the iPod and covers replacing the battery in some models.

Chapter 12 by Job de Haas on Nokia 6210 cell phone modifications, although the phone is now several years old.

Chapter 13 by Joe Grand on Upgrading Palm memory, again for rather old 1000 and 5000 models of the Palm PDA

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Mac OS X Web Server Handbook by David L Hart

Prentice Hall PTR, 2001, 395pp, ISBN 0130327158 ISBN 0130327158 Amazon link

Using a Mac as a server, earlier version of the operating system. Also covers user side of the internet services provided. A bit dated now.

Mac OS X Panther for Unix Geeks by Brian Jepson and Ernest E Rothman

OReilly, Feb 2004 (2nd ed), 363pp, US$24.95 ISBN 0596006071 ISBN 0596006071 Amazon link

Differences between the Mac and other Unix systems. Covers CUPS, perl, MySQL, server operation, porting unix programs, using GCC 3, Open Directory, NetInfo. Looks like a great starting point for the user coming from another Unix system.

Random Excess by Ross Laver

Viking, 1998, 339pp, ISBN 067087972X ISBN 067087972X Amazon link

Subtitled The Wild Ride of Michael Cowpland and Corel, this is a detailed account of the rise and excesses of the founder and driving force behind the Canadian Corel corporation, once the second largest PC software company in the world.

Mac OS X Bible by Samuel A Litt

Wiley, 2004, 892pp, US$29.95 A$46.95 ISBN 0764543997 ISBN 0764543997 Amazon link

Comprehensive and up to date manual for OS X 10.3. Excellent coverage of network setup. Also briefly covers some of the applications included with the system.

Mac OS X Panther Edition The Missing Manual by David Pogue

Pogue Press O'Reilly, Dec 2003, 763pp, US$29.95 ISBN 0596006152 ISBN 0596006152 Amazon link

The Missing Manual series promote themselves as The book that should have been in the box. I can hardly deny that these days new users more than ever need something more than onscreen help. Written by the weekly computer columnist for the New York Times, this title makes a fast paced and easy reading entry when no manual is there to help. This is by no means the first such Missing Manual that David Pogue has written. Not only did he create the series, he also wrote ten of the books, plus six in the well known "For Dummies" series. This wide experience shows. I'll also admit that I'm prejudiced in favour of any author who makes an "ironclad promise never to use an apostrophy in the possessive word its".

OK, accept that the book is well written. Does it tell you what you need to know? As a reader with no recent Macintosh experience, but a five to fifteen year old favourable exposure to Unix, plus lots of Windows, I thought it was great for beginners to intermediate users. Sure there were lots of subjects in which more depth would have been welcome, however both the fundamentals and the essentials seemed to be there on most of the topics I'd been wondering about. Details can wait, when what you need is a good solid overview so you can get started on a new system. I gather some of the earlier Missing Manual series looked at OS X more from the viewpoint of an experienced Mac user changing to the new system. While there were touches of this, it wasn't enough to be distracting for those of us with no Mac experience.

The three chapters of Part One covers the Mac OS X desktop. Folders, windows, views, logging out, organising folders, the dock, and the toolbar.

The next four chapters, in Part Two, cover applications in general. Launching, types of programs, installing, using old Mac OS 9 programs, moving data between computers of various kinds, plus a chapter on automating actions via Applescript.

Part Three is called the Components. The first of its chapters covers setting system preferences for what seems pretty much everything. Next is a chapter including mini manuals on some of the many free programs included. The last chapter in this section concentrates on CDs, DVD, and iTunes.

The seven chapters of Part Four cover technologies. Security and accounts, something few desktop users have had to attend to until fairly recently. Networking, including connecting to Windows PCs, gets its own chapter. Printing, fonts and graphics gets covered, including the underrated ColorSync facility. Sound, movies, speech and (unexpected to me) handwriting are covered next. Unix next gets a brief introduction, in the chapter on using Terminal. This is followed by Fun with Unix (I doubt traditional Mac users would agree, but it all looked pretty straightforward). The last chapter in this section was hacking OS X, by which is meant customising using TinkerToy and other tools.

Part Five, on going Online, contains the last four chapters of the book. There is a good coverage of internet setup, a bit on the firewall, and .Mac services. Mail and the address book are covered in their own chapter. The Panther internet suite gets its own chapter, with coverage of Sherlock (a search tool probably of more use to USA users than an international audience), iChatAV (AOL instant messenger compatible), iCal (vCal compatible calendar), iSync (SyncML compatible tool), and the Safari web browser. The final chapter introduces ssh, ftp, web sharing using Apache, and briefly looks at virtual private networks for corporate access.

There are comprehensive appendices on various methods of installing Mac OS X, on troubleshooting, plus "where did it go" sections for both Mac OS 9 and Windows users, and a final two on where to get more information, plus all the Mac keystroke meanings.

The Missing Manual web site contains pretty much all the tools and utilities mentioned in the book.

Garage Band by David Pogue

Pogue Press O'Reilly, June 2004, 254pp, US$19.95 ISBN 0596006950 ISBN 0596006950 Amazon link

Just what you need for getting started making your own music with Garage Band. Pogue was a musician before he became a computer writer, and this shows. Garage Band is part of the Apple iLife package that comes with a new Macintosh. It lets you make music by pulling together, overlaying and changing loops of instruments. Or you can do your own from scratch by pluging in a Midi keyboard.

iMovie and iDVD by David Pogue

Pogue Press O'Reilly, August 2004, 484pp, US$24.95 ISBN 0596006934 ISBN 0596006934 Amazon link

iMovie and iDVD are part of the iLife package that comes with a new Macintosh computer. iDVD turns your movies into a DVD, with a lot of the support that you see on a commercial DVD. iMovie imports your movies from a camcorder via Firewire. It provides a range of editing facilities. While these are not at the same level as Apple's professional film programs, they are pretty extensive for tools built into the computer.

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Upgrading and Troubleshooting your Mac by Gene Steinberg

Osborne, 2001, 612pp, US$29.99 ISBN 007219359X ISBN 007219359X Amazon link

Mac OS X edition, for 10.1. Upgrading various Mac models, software and hardware. A bit dated, but handy enough about older OS X hardware. Might be more suited to users of older equipment.

PDF Hacks by Sid Steward

O'Reilly, August 2004, 278pp, US$24.95 ISBN 0596006551 ISBN 0596006551 Amazon link

Like all the O'Reilly hacks books, you only need to find a few hacks that work for you to make these books worthwhile. You will find plenty of things you can do with pdf files in this collection.

Islands in the Clickstream by Richard Thieme

Syngress, 2004, 336p, US$29.95 ISBN 1931836221 ISBN 1931836221 Amazon link

Reprints of columns by a commentator on computers and technology, subtitled reflections on life in a virtual world. The author attends black hat conferences, and various computer conferences. There are ten chapters, which after the introduction are collections of columns grouped broadly by subject. The number of fuzzy chapter titles are matched by equally fuzzy column subjects, however there are some very neat sentences scattered through the columns.

Chapter titles are Computer-Mediated Living: The Digital Filter. Doing Business Digitally. Hacking and the Passion for Knowledge. Digital Spirituality (the author was a priest). Mostly True Predictions. The Psychology of Digital Life; Identity and Destiny. Political Implications. The Dark Side of the Moon and Beyond (the author believes in UFOs). The final chapter is Technology Gets Personal.

Some comments from the book: Intellectual property, as we have known it, is over. Black market in education, via on the job training and over the internet. McDonalds teach politeness and civility because the traditional home, family, church and school no longer do the job. Change your waist size and your insurance company knows, and adjusts your premiums.

Mac OS X Panther Pocket Guide by Chuck Toporek

OReilly, Nov 2003, 158pp, US$9.95 A$19.95 ISBN 0596006160 ISBN 0596006160 Amazon link

Subtitled A User's Guide to Mac OS X. Fundamentals and tips, much of them from the Unix side, in a compact form.

Mac OS X Panther in a Nutshell by Chuck Toporek, Chris Stone and Jason McIntosh

O'Reilly, June 2004 (2nd edition), 1025pp, US$39.95 ISBN 0596006063 ISBN 0596006063 Amazon link

A desktop quick reference, provided you think 1025 pages of anything are quick. Might be the most comprehensive guide I have to OS X.

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Non Fiction Books

Managing Martians by Donna Shirley

Broadway, 1998, 275pp, US$25 ISBN 0767902408 0767902408 Amazon link

Martian engineer. No, really. Donna Shirley was head of the wonderful team of engineers who made Soujourner, the Mars dune buggy. Great biography. I saw her at a Seattle sf convention, talking of her new job at the SF Museum in Seattle. Out of this world. I think it was mean of David Brin to kill her off in an Analog story, but that is what happens when you know sf writers.

Asleep at the Wheel by John Nieuwenhuizen

ABC, 1997, 188pp, A$16.95 ISBN 0733305504 0733305504 Amazon link

The internet superhighway, and where Australia missed out. Very dated ABC material, but interesting.

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Motor Vehicles

The motor vehicles dump, because I'd like to dump motor vehicles.

Train Safety

Train disasters in Australia

Vehicle Fatalities

per 100,000 population, Korea 21.8, USA 15.2, Australia and Canada 9.5, UK 6. Annual road toll in Australia dropped from 3798 (seven times the deaths in the Vietnam war) in 1970 to 1732 in 2002, despite a larger population, more cars and more roads. 1010 casualties were on roads ouside capital cities. 1/3rd of rural fatalities are single car accidents. The cost of vehicle collisions and casualties is around $15 billion a year. When speed limits in Victoria were dropped from 110 kph to 100 kph there was a 20% drop in fatalities. When increased again the toll followed. 15% of roads account for 75% of fatalities. 2 out of 3 fatalities on rural roads live outside metropolitan areas. If planned measures work, the toll will be 40% fewer by 2010.


With nearly a third of all road deaths in Queensland involving drunk drivers, Queensland is finally looking at charging drunk drivers involved in accidents with dangerous driving causing injury or death, rather than charging them with driving under the influence. Around 40% of all such accidents involve young people, between 17 and 24.

Growth of Car Industry

China will increase to a 68 million vehicle market over the next two decades, and India to 14 million. Current world vehicle population is around 830 million. Over the next twenty years, car makers expect to build 1.8 billion vehicles, which would be more than produced since the invention of the car in 1886 until now. If you think you had parking and pollution problems in the past, you have no idea how bad they will be in the future.

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Books about Motor Vehicles

These are some of the ones I came across and re-read during my clearing out of my bookshelves. It will probably come as no surprise to readers of my motor home trip reports that I don't like motor vehicles. I do however very much like the idea of an energy based society. Given that the US and its allies such as Australia have just fought a war for oil (sorry, I mean WMD), I thought it appropriate to review books about one of the major uses of oil, and the use least able to survive without oil.

Juggernaut by W R Warden

Reed, 1968, 160pp

Subtitled Slaughter on the Australian roads, and that is what it protests about. Looking back, it seems almost amazing that in the early 60's seat belts were not only not required, they were also almost unknown, with none of the absorbing crumple zones present cars have. Safety features were limited. Crash protection likewise limited. Random breath tests didn't exist, and although it was clear that alcohol was involved in many road deaths, drunk driving was common, and provoked perhaps less social disapproval. Even little things were missing. Outside rear vision mirrors were new, as were sidelights, recessed door handles, etc. Certainly it wasn't thought likely that drivers who caused accidents might be banned from the road. The results show in the statistics. Another point, that you can't keep building new roads (where will you put them), still seems less than accepted.

Unsafe At Any Speed by Ralph Nader

Pocket Books, 1965, 277pp

The built in dangers of the American automobile. This pointed out that the Chevrolat Corvair from 1959 to 1964 was unsafe. The heaviest rear-engined car available, it had 60% to 63% of its weight on its rear wheels. It was the first mass produced US automobile to have pronounced oversteer characteristics, and absolutely required a large differential tyre pressure (15 psi front, 26 psi rear) to reduce oversteer, and the tyre pressure differential did not allow for heavier than usual loads (it was a six passengert vehicle). Only the shock absorber (which is not designed for this function) limited downwards tyre movement, so the cheap swing axel suspension used encouraged tuck-under when cornering. The positive camber of about 4 degrees abruptly changes to 10 degrees or so, leading to skids and overturning.

Nader also criticised a number of other automotive failures, such as shift patterns that did not include a neutral between forward and reverse, and dashboards that reduced visibility by reflecting in the windshield. In other chapters, he publicised pollution patterns from automobiles, and the excuses the manufacturers came up with for doing nothing about it without being forced by law.

Towns Against Traffic by Stephen Plowden

Deutsch, 1972, 183pp

Covers the traditional approach of making more roads, and the post war UK separation of roads into local and expressways. It notes the discovery that better roads seem to generate increased traffic flows, and that poor roads decrease traffic, as marginally willing drivers avoid trips. It gives an interesting history of the changes in the ideas of traffic planners. It considers the situation in Oxford and in London, with special emphasis on Central London where there simply wasn't any place to put more roads. It discusses traffic lights, parking spaces, one way streets, no through roads, priority lanes and differential pricing by time or vehicle as measures to control traffic flows.

Instead of Cars by Terence Bendixson

Temple Smith, 1974, 256pp

Cars are part of our way of life. There seems to be no choice. Yet giant highways are incompatible with decent living conditions, because of the noise, the pollution, the casualties, and the way they sunder communities. Everyone knows that trains and buses are cheaper and safer. Experience shows such alternatives to cars are also noisier, dirtier, slower, less comfortable, and to offer less freedom of action.

Fuel efficiency varies widely, from the exceedingly efficient bicycle, and canoe, through grossly inefficient vehicles like hovercraft, helicopters, ocean liners and speedboats. Jumbo jets are, per passenger, slightly more efficient than cars. However so much depends on passenger numbers. If you can fill them, minibuses are very efficient.

Land in cities is scarce, yet in a typical US city, a quarter of it goes into road surface, and another hunk in parking spaces. In the central areas of Los Angeles, Dallas, Detroit and others, almost half the land area is devoted to these two purposes. If you insist on quarter acre housing blocks (and there are good reasons for people wanting space around themselves), with no other land use restrictions, then you almost have to use a car for transport in the resulting spread out suburbs. Alternative village style planning, with mixed industry and retail areas, can provide the same population density, without leaving the car as the only viable means of transport. Many transport plans seemed to be made only on the basis of who had cars, rather than who did not have cars. This oversight often leaves children, the aged, and the remaining members of single vehicle households without transport during the day. Perhaps if transport planning were proportional to who didn't have a car, the plans would not leave a large minority (or even a majority) transport poor.

City regions by implication satisfy the ambitions of those living within them. Yet megalopolis sized regions like Boston to Washington are not a single commuting environment. Their commonality is not the highway, but the information flows and the flows of goods and money within that region. Increasingly, some treat with a world city, in which friends and workmates may live anywhere. We perceive our surroundings in terms of those we know, and our social groups, not in terms of our buildings.

New technologies that are the equivalent of a horizontal elevator are perhaps the eventual future. No driver, very high safety factor.

"Cars are a marvellous way of getting about, providing that you have one and the rest of the world does not."

A Miracle on 4 Wheels by Reinhard Seiffert

Macdonald, 1965, 218pp.

This is a detailed but general account of the technical infrastructure of the automobile.

The Automotive Nightmare by Alisdair Aird

Arrow, 1972, 346pp.

The record beater, more pollution, higher noise levels, high running costs, soon rendered obsolete. Repair costs are very high. Insure is a fraud, roads are inadequate. Asbestos in the brakes. However that was 30 years ago. Cars are now far more reliable, less likely to break down. Accidental deaths and injury is way down. Roads are still inadequate (and always will be). The running costs still eat into family incomes.

Theory of Ground Vehicles by J Y Wong

Wiley Interscience, 1978, 330pp.

Technical cover of the mathematics of ground vehicles. Special emphasis on tyre dynamics. Also covers air cushion vehicles.

Man and Motor Cars by Stephen Black

Secker and Warburg, 1966, 373pp.

An ergonomic study of how humans are misfits in the typical car of 40 years ago. I'm not at all convinced things are all that much better today.

The Insolent Chariots by John Keats

Crest, 1958, 176pp.

Caustic report on the US love affair with the automobile. Chapters like The Year of our Ford, The Ad and the Id. Some very funny lines, albeit rather dated.

Wonderful Car Inventions

Refigerated glovebox (great for chocolates) in a Saab 9-5 VS Estate. Headlights that adjust to conditions, so you never turn them off in a Mercedes ML320. Sensors to tell you of things you might hit, in a BMW 735 Li. Special mounts of iPods. I really do like the idea of the refrigerated glovebox.

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Ever since I moved to electronic publication, LoCs have been limited in number. By hovering around unread, physical fanzines are better at reminding us we haven't yet done a LoC. Against this, printing and postage costs seem ever increasing. The Post Office in particular have priced themselves out of the market for sending anything weighty. So, another hobby heading for the dustbin of history.

E B Frohvet

January 12, 2004

I think part of the problem with government is that someone comes up with an idea. Maybe it's even a good idea. And people look at it and, and most people go, "Uh, yeah, that's probably a good idea." But then it gets in the hands of the lawyers and the bureaucrats and it becomes policy. And then there are people building arbitrary standards on how the policy is going to be enforced, and doing studies on how well the policy is being carried out ... and the original idea gets lost along the way. Consider this hysterical panic-mongering doing business as "aircraft security". The original idea was to keep terrorists from carrying guns and knives on commercial aircraft. I guess most of us would probably accept this as a good idea. But it's been translated into a ranting obsession to keep any metallic object from being taken on an aircraft. Someone try this exercise: Next time you're going to fly somewhere, go to the music store and buy a steel tuning fork. I've got $5 that says when you get to the airport: (1) it will set off an alarm; (2) the "security" staff will not recognise it; (3) they will not understand even when you explain what it is; (40 they will confiscate it anyway, on the off chance that it might be a "security risk".

Graham Stone

22 March 2004

205/24 Victoria Street, Burwood NSW 2134

Note new address. I am not renewing the (PO) box I have used since 1954.

The concept of a Cultural Elite in Australia is really a little bizarre to begin with and I certainly view such an entity with caution. But museums (musea?), galleries and the like I approve. We need them whatever their adequacy and I like them getting the taxpayers' support. If your taxpayer doesn't visit them, the more fool he. Considering the National Museum, what if Canberra doesn't have more visitors? There are enough, and will be more as time wears on. You may be right in saying it is under-used. I have seen it only once, on a Sunday, and there were enough people there to fill seats and places for the active presentations, but maybe on a week day there would be fewer. Empty gallery space is all right, it wasn't excessive and new stuff will fill it soon enough. I thought what was there was well worth the visit, the displays for children were good and the overall look was fresh and unusual.

Tom Feller

14 October 2004

Thanks for sending the zine [98 and 99] through FAPA.

We have a substance abuse policy at my company, which includes testing. In fact, I co-wrote it. We do pre-employment, post-accident, scheduled tests for managers and drivers, and for reasonable suspicion. In other words, everything but random testing.

I can't speak for other companies, but I've never known any of our executives to have a liquid lunch, and we prohibit drinking during normal work duties. We do allow alcohol to be served at company sponsored social functions.

{{Perhaps there are (or were) cultural differences at work here. EL }}

In the United States, the two biggest areas of workplace deaths involve travel by car or truck or in the construction industry. We are not covered under the Department of Transportation rules and our policy is not as strict as those companies that are. They are required to do random testing, for instance.

I would say that the accuracy of the tests is questionable, but probably not in the same way you do. The drug levels that will produce a positive result are set high enough that false negative are more likely than false positives. In other words, the casual user has a good chance of passing the test if they can just refrain for 30 days prior to applying for job or before a scheduled test and afterward avoid tests if they do their work without appearing to be under the influence or avoid an accident.

Living in Nashville, the business section of our local newspaper devotes considerable space to the music recording business. All the major country music labels are struggling, and they get criticized from country music fans and critics for producing only safe, middle of the road CDs. The recording studios are not used as frequently as they were ten years ago either.

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Lloyd Penney

1706-24 Eva Rd. Etobicoke, ON CANADA M9C 2B2

December 6, 2004

Out of sight, out of mind, I guess I received a copy of R-Laurraine Tutihasi's FAPAzine Feline Mewsings, and also Jim Caughran's A Propos de Rien 268, and I saw some unfamiliar numbers of Gegenschein. So, I hied myself off to your website, and found some issues I hadn't seen or known about. I downloaded what I could, so here are locs on issues 99, 101 and 102. (I tried downloading geg100.htm, and I couldn't do it. Perhaps later when it's available, or pdfed.)

99 The index (and the copy in the zine) says Alan Dead Foster? Just started, and already, it's the typo of the issue! Are New Zealanders fed up with Lord of the Rings, or are they basking in the extra tourism income those wonderful movies have brought to them? I gather movies based on C.S. Lewis' Narnia series will be shot there, and here comes more money for all.

What goes in a Dargaville pie? Mystery meat? Strange combinations?

I'd like nothing better than to visit with Lyn McConchie at her farm, help out a little, read a little and see a lot of the land there. This planet is just too big sometimes. I must check the exchange rate for Nez Zealand dollars. I don't think they're worth much in comparison to US dollars, but most currencies have gained value against it.

When you say classic music, do you mean classical? I have a few classical recordings, but they are on vinyl. I gather that should classical survive, it may stick with vinyl, which will justify the cost of the recording to both record company and consumer.

Fast food we've got far too many of them here, but some American chains just don't work here. Fuddruckers has been to Canada and is gone, as is Sizzler, Olive Garden and ChiChi's. There aren't many Denny's left in Canada, but there are a few. Some chains that are trying to gain a foot hold here are Appleby's, Perkins and Carl Jr., but I don't think they'll stay long. Arby's, Wendy's, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut, Subway are all here. Quizno's opened a location in a residential area just north of me, and they are doing quite well. There are successful Canadian chains like Swiss Chalet, Mr. Sub, Tim Horton's and Second Cup that are not only all over the place here, but are taking on the American market, and are succeeding. (These restaurants serve chicken, submarines, donuts and coffee respectively.)

My loc, two of them yeah, I know about getting in touch with Coke machines connected to the Web. Still got the Samsung N370, and it does everything I need it to do, and none of the things I don't, like take pictures or videos. I am still job hunting I have had some work here and there, but had nothing really permanent in all of 2004. Let's hope for better for 2005.

100 I hope I can download this at another time, and make some comments on it.

101 Travelling within the country for a change, hm? I keep hearing about fans who are forced to, or have decided to, rid themselves of their book and/or fanzine collections. Maybe it's getting more expensive to be a packrat. Yvonne and I have sworn off Worldcons because they are now too expensive for us, and we are slowly selling off our SF stuff at a table at our local convention.

Last time we moved, we had about 250 boxes of stuff. We spend some extra money and had both apartments for a month so we could move some stuff each night. We did that, and still has a ton of stuff to haul on moving day. Next time, I plan to hire movers.

I think it's great when some people best known for being authors are your good friends, and everyday people, and think nothing of helping you move. Robert Sawyer comes to the fannish pub nights regularly, and I think he's revisiting his own fannish past.

The Sims are great folks, and we only see them at Worldcons. Seeing we do not plan to go to any more of them, we may never see them again, and I regret that. The Haldemans have been in Toronto a few times, and they are good folks, too.

It looks like a future CorFlu might be in Toronto think you might get to that one? Nothing is guaranteed for us, so we hope to be there. Yvonne seems to be getting more out of space conferences these days.

102 it sounds like the Ditmars get more people voting than do the Auroras. I used to think there was one group in Toronto that was stuffing the ballot box I now know better. They're the only ones participating; most other fans couldn't be bothered. I plan to try and fix that.

Time to go again, once I can find a way to download Geg 100, I'll make a few comments and fire them off to you. We hope you and Jean will have a wonderful Christmas this year, and see you in 2005.

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Erika Lacey

8 March 2005

It's odd how it's only at the most inconvenient of times that you want to read fanzines -- for me when I have no physical address nor the near-constant access to the net; when I've the most time I find that's when I want to do it all! Although, I must say, there's a challenge in reading fanzines now that wasn't present before: even downloading the PDF kind from is not precisely easy, for transferring megabytes of files to diskettes so that I can read them at leisure on the laptop on the catamaran is not easy. Nor is printing them!

Sometimes I wonder what I would do with all of my free time if I did not read -- and hotel rooms would be as dull as anything, although I bet that they tend to have a better TV reception than you do get as you're sailing. Not that anything worthwhile tends to be on. Even the news doesn't inform of much of worth.

It's fascinating what things have handy gadget like GPS locators in them. I'm on the market for a GPS at the moment, although more of a window shopping exercise at the moment. Since my father's paying for the thing he'll have a say beyond my own. I'll have to learn not to be overly reliant on any kind of GPS -- my own brother is a perfect example of what happens if one becomes that way inclined! He nearly set us upon breaking waters atop a shoal because he was too busy staring at a machine and the information it gave rather than what was before his eyes! (Massive rollers. Not a nice thing to have ahead of you, nor at the stern as you're going over the bleeding bar.)

Just recently some American sailors were having a chat with myself and my brother about New Zealand.

"I was vegan until we went there," she said. "And then I just couldn't resist all the cream and the cheese."

Just as well that neither tend to absorb me in lust for either -- but you seem to have been enjoying yourself with the New Zealand cuisine! Little cafes are lovely places to sit around in and enjoy a pot of beverage; there's one here in Bundaberg just outside the nearest internet cafe, and myself and my brother can just sit there for hours. It's perfectly situated and the lady in the place has as yet not told either of us to make a move on when we find ourselves gravitating there.

What does the kauri wood look like? Was it light in colour or light in heft? The name sounds nice. I'm learning all about what kinds of timber are good in boatbuilding (beyond the white beech and teak everyone rhapsodises over -- teak because it's so oily that it resists rot and white beech is a nice deck timber because it's furry beneath the feet. And then there's huon pine ... and camphor, with its lovely luminous glow when varnished. Now camphor's a lovely wood.) There's a craft place just close, a cooperage, and they've a craft store in it. There's one particular artist whose name escapes me at this moment, but whose little chests of drawers are sculptures and so lovely. Even their expensive price has me a little hesistant, but somehow I think I'll sail away from Bundaberg with one in my ownership.

While in that craft store my brother and I had a discussion with a woman who was spinning. Apparently New Zealand creates the best and the most revolutionary items in spinning wheels; her own came from there, one with two pedals and folded in half. I was all agoggle! Prior to that day I'd never seen a real spinning wheel (nor a spinning hook), nor even known that they were made all from timber. The things you learn when you chat to people.

Somehow I think the lowering in the 16-39 year old demographic of people watching TV is not entirely due to crap being on telly, but because those very people are probably working their arses off and when they come home are more inclined to throw a video in rather than suffer through ads. Those I know who are going to uni are more apt to download their shows -- illegally -- and watch those, too ... or go to the cinemas. I don't even bother with telly myself, although for some strange reason my father is persisting in believing that I will need one upon living on a yacht by myself. Maybe the sight of my reading in a corner rather than watch their videos is not exemplary enough.

Cable TV, TV, and all their ilk is too troublesome to bother with -- shows that interest me will be on at times which is too inconvenient (late at night, during the day, or when I don't feel like watching telly). Videos and DVDS are a hell of a lot better, all the more so when anime and the like is too far from the mainstream for general interest channels to bother with. And those advertisements. They annoy so.

Digital music is the way to go, and I wouldn't mind paying a small fee for each song I wanted to hear and keep -- not this $3 nonsense per song, you understand, but a dollar wouldn't be amiss. It's funny how people in the digital area (books, songs), keep pricing things about how much they would for something physical when they've not got the outlay of physical storage or shipping or anything like that -- just bandwidth and terabytes. And none of that, surely, would cost nearly as much as keeping things on shelf and being sent all around the world.

Sizzlers, by the way, has a store here in Bundaberg as well. I've not been, since I'm not too inclined to buffet eateries, but I know where it is and ride past often enough. I'm rather surprised that fast food places are not doing well. It seems that almost everyone I know is into that type of food! Although, I must admit, people don't often want to go to chains. Barring my brother, that is, who is overly fond of Subway. Going to smaller places, the privately owned, tends to be more ... well, fun. Even if they don't tend to have air-conditioning.

See you in Airlie at some point! (Real soon now, I hope! A yacht in Tin Can Bay which appears to be the yacht for me, although these things always look better on paper than in reality.) Time to leave Bundaberg -- been here since middle of December, and it's middle of April that we'll be going for absolutely certain ... I hope.

Ken Ozanne

18 March 2005

I just read Geg 101 (or thereabouts) - only a year out of date. A few things caught my eye:

Try Acoma Sky City or even Taos for slightly older US towns. As I recall, Acoma has been continuously inhabited for 800 years or so. I was reminded of it by one of the villages I visited in the Indian Himalaya last year - Trilakinath. It's above the Chelab (or Chandrabargha) river at about 8500 feet. The construction methods seemed very similar. Trilakinath is fairly close to the Udaipur in Himarchal Pradesh, a long way from the more famous Udaipur in Rajasthan. The temple there is one of the few combined Hindu-Buddhist ones in the world. While my driver (Sharma) made his devotions, I got to twirl about 150 prayer wheels and thus offer up more prayers in half an hour than in the rest of my life combined. Probably by a very large factor.T would also be my choice for starting place if I ever decided to go trekking in the Indian Himalaya. I saw far too many trekkers slogging along roads at high altitudes - not my idea of fun!

So what political office does my fiancee adorn? I haven't seen her in ages, didn't know she was in SF.

We did catch up with Rusty in Dayton last year. We had breakfast together. I was on my way to or from Cuyahoga National Park. Every time I close in on seeing all the US National Parks they sneak a few new ones in. I was down to five at one point last year, but it is now up to seven again. With luck it will be down to the four least accessible ones in Alaska by the end of this year. (We got to the other four Alaskan ones the year before last.)

Our life in retirement continues pretty good. Marea is doing very well for someone her age with myotonic dystrophy. (Just being alive would be way above average, but she manages to enjoy life.) It may come as a surprise to you that we both love to travel, but we actually spend more time travelling than we do at home. This year we will have a couple of months in the US and Canada (we plan to rent a house and boat on Georgian Bay) then fly to England and come home by cruise boat from Southampton. That will take exactly 8 weeks at sea and we will round the horn among other delights. Cruise boats suit us pretty well these days - I wind up fairly fit from pushing the wheelchair over miles of carpets and so can manage the large and frequent meals. Marea finds the boats suit her speed - she doesn't have to do anything or go anywhere unless she feels like it. We have 22 ports on the way but she will probably get off at only half of them - the only ones I'd bet money on are Rio and Bora Bora. I'd bet money on Moorea as well except that we have been there fairly often and fairly recently.

I have a couple of side trips in the US that might appeal to you - I shall spend one day taking a helicopter to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, rafting along for a few miles then helicopter back out. I almost did that last year but Marea couldn't come close to handling it and we were able to rent a boat on Lake Powell instead. That was a pretty good day as well. She needs frequent rest days so it will be no hardship for her to stay in, probably at Page, while I do my Grand Canyon trip.

I'm also planning to spend a couple of weeks at the genealogical library in Salt Lake. I find that a couple of hours of intense work at a time is enough and we use a motel half a block from the library. So I get there about opening time, having had breakfast on the way (the restaurant does add about 50 yards to the walk). Two hours there, back to the motel to wake Marea for lunch, another two hours research, another visit back to the ranch for tea/coffee, and a final two hours in the library before dinner. After dinner I usually have two or three hours of work to sort out my results and plan for the morrow and then the mixture as before with Sundays off and half days Mondays.

I enjoyed reading about a good many people that I know in your trip report. Also the update on UTS. I havenb't been back there since early in 2000, though I ran into Graeme Cohen a couple of weeks ago on the Gold Coast. We were both there for a bridge congress so it wasn't too surprising.

I don't know when we will get up your way again. Maybe you won't be out. For a wonder, Jan Finder wasn't when we went by Albany last year - we have been missing each other in both countries for some years. Jan gave me a highly useful lesson on using cruise control that improved my driving comfort for the rest of my time in the US and also in WA when we were there last August. I don't intend to have another car without it.

Sorry to have missed you in Sydney, several times. But I now really need to stay overnight if I am going to do anything much. Those nights seem mostly to be the night before we fly to somewhere and I change hotels every time - haven't found one I actually like.

Erika Lacey

21 March 2005

I just saw that you had another ish of Gegenschein up [101], and so I couldn't resist a read. Being on a computer while on the catamaran makes me look productive! (Ha, good way to fool my family.)

If you manage to find bathing suits anywhere for relatively inexpensive prices which fit you, then you're doing a hell of a lot better than I -- a one-piece doesn't do anything for me for it won't fit my upper half, and then when you go to cheap two-pieces the bastard things come in a set. The bottom half fits. The top half does not. And the next bunch up from that are from sodding fashion stores where they'll set you the whole suit for $70 -- two scraps of cloth! Bloody hell! You'd think you were purchasing gold.

Upon moving to the yacht late last year it felt most odd to be dressed to the nines, as I was wont to do on land. Trousers and long-sleeved shirt, anyway; I started wearing a sarong or long scarf as such all around the place instead. I'm growing used to sea-faring again, and gone back to covering up, which has people all around us agoggle. Nobody can understand trousers and sleeves, not when it's all hot out, but it's much preferable to burning! Plus now I feel naked if I wear any less. Which may come as odd from me. Hot weather, cold weather -- all it makes different for me is in layers, and I am still amused by random passersby and their comments upon how hot I must feel while they are in little bits of clothing and resembling nothing more than a lobster.

So you send postcards back to Airlie Beach ... to yourself? Somewhere I read about touring cyclists sending themselves back postcards as a kind of visual journal of where they'd been -- instead of carting around something to write in they'd buy postcards, write up what'd been happening there, and collated them upon returning. Seemed like a pricey way of journalling to me, but it would sure be a pretty one.

You've been to Bundaberg, I take it? One of the more interesting places I've been -- in the manner of alcohol -- has been the Tropical Wines store, where they sell wines made from things other than grapes. I found most of them, including mango and strawberry, to be quite horrible, but the jaboticaba and the pineapple wines were most palatable. They were sweet, and my taste leans that way; perhaps the others would more suit those who like dry whites.

In addition to that place we also headed over to the Rum Distillery, for of course you have to visit there if you are. Interesting to see how rum is made -- including finding out that the bottled stuff is watered down and coloured to make it look like rum. They leave it curing for 2 years, and in that time the 70% alcohol becomes piss-coloured from the oak vats. Raw alcohol smells much like the medicinal sort, must say. I wonder if people drink rubbing alcohol, now that I think about it.

Rum is not my type of drink, and so the complimentary drinks included in the entry price were not nearly as enjoyed as someone with more a taste for it. It was damned funny to see my brother gulp down their Triple Distilled, lulled into thinking it would be "smooth" and not burn like the very devil as most rums, as they kept going on about its smoothness. Yes, there are not too many sights funnier.

I'd no idea that chocolate factories gave tours. I may just have to see if this is in Australia, too. The cacao percentage in chocolates I'd cottoned onto a while ago; the cheap milk chocolates my mother used to purchase were the most disgusting thing ever, although now that I have migrated to dark chocolates the stuff tends to have a higher percentage of cacao. Not all, however; just recently I purchased Whittaker's Dark Bittersweet Chocolate and was struck by how fatty it was, for I am more used to Lindt's 70% or 85% dark chocolate, which is ever so much nicer. Gets me hyper as all hell, too, and a vast mood improver (needed when I am living with my mother. It's either that or hard drugs).

Somehow I get the strange feeling that you and Jean both have a weakness for chocolate products. I recall that you told me to keep you away from the chocolate stores in Brisbane. I wonder if you managed to keep yourself away!

I'd no idea that bread contained rice, either. It's kind of like how just about every food out there has animal products out there -- it takes careful reading of the packaging to figure out what things are in there ... and even then sometimes I'll eat something and have the feel that only milk products can give me -- mucus at the back of my nose and a persistent feeling of being mildly ill. I don't know if that's an allergy or just being unused to animal products these days, but it's sure annoying when it's not labelled on packaging. People do seem to be very allergic, though; most of the time if I'm going to offer people food I ask if they've got special dietary requirements, since you can't assume anything.

Cameras always seem to either run out of film or are forgotten at the most inopportune of times. My brother and I went climbing a mountain just recently, and as we were going up the mountain my brother realised that we'd forgotten the camera. Off I went for it, and we happily snapped a couple of shots halfway up the mountain when we realised there was no more film ... and we hadn't even gotten to the top! The view from the top of Mount Walsh was splendid, photo-worthy. We did have a near thing by losing the way back down the rock face when we'd decided to go back down and were both somewhat weakened by hunger, but luckily some blind thrashing around got us finding the helpful arrows again. Sometimes I think my brother and I should pay more attention to signs when they say that only experienced bushwalkers should go on any marked path.

You have so many Mikes that you met in the US that I am confused about which is which, but the one from LA is lucky to be shielded from so much town light. My brother and I were camped out in a national park recently in the middle of whoop whoop and still we could see the glow from some sodding town! Nothing quite nearly compared to the sight of a moonless night when I was first upon the catamaran and sailing along well back in December. It made me remember all over again why I grew a love for science fiction as a youngster.

That one night I pulled out star maps and a torch and showed my father stars gaily, pointing out the brightness of particular ones. I even lay on the deck and stared up with the aid of binoculars, which although aren't quite up to the standard of telescopes it does make some stars more visible. Incredible how just that little makes so much of a difference! Not long ago I purchased a copy of SPACE & SKY (or one of those astronomy magazines) and all the telescopes in there made me want to get one. Perhaps ... when I get some money together. A hell of a lot more things take precedence, though.

At any rate, sounds like you had a great time in the US. Meeting lots of people! One of my favourite things, all the more so if I were jacked up on chocolate, like you seemed to be! At any rate, you're in Australia now, relaxing from that long high.

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Xmas Cards 2004

The first to arrive was 13 December, thus thoroughly showing up how behind I was on doing mail (well, actually, if it involves an envelope and stamp I basically don't do it, not even for paying bills).

A little reminder to only use our PO Box 640 address. You absolutely can not rely on any other address you think you know. Mail to our apartment address will never be delivered, as the Post Office do not delivery (that is one reason we don't list it). Using the street address in the phone book is even worse, as Telstra list a street number and a building that does NOT exist (it may have some internal meaning to their phone repair crews). We happened to recover Robin and Alicia's card. An unidentified international parcel did not reach us (although we eventually found the Post Office had attempted to send advice cards - to the wrong place - for three weeks). The visitor (and resident) turnover in this town is so great that Post Office staff (who also change frequently) do not get to know residents the way they did when I lived in Faulconbridge (where Eric, 2776, Australia would work as an address).

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Due sometime in 2006 (should have been 2004, and is now about a year late)

A science fiction fanzine from Eric Lindsay whose address has changed to fijagh2006 because of spammers - I want to bring back the custom of duelling so I can shoot spammers. Cheryl Morgan asks what is wrong with assassination.