Gegenschein 57 February 1990

Glorious Pages from the Past

Three issues a year isn't too few! Well, perhaps it is, when they turn out to only contain 8 pages each. Despite this, 1988 was a far better year for me, for writing, than 1987, or 1989. Unfortunately for my fannish acquaintances, not everything was actually intended for fans. Actually, considering how boring this is turning out, perhaps that is fortunate. Despite some apa activity (like dropping out of FAPA for lacktivity), this is my first fanzine since 1988. Eighteen months since I last did a fanzine, surely the longest gap yet in my never very active fannish career!

The 1987 Xmas break

The break gave me time to do Gegenschein 53, which condemned the bicentennial, praised the laser printer at work, pushed Terry Dowling for DUFF, talked of buying a PC AT computer, and of wanting to sell the Atari ST.

Xmas mailing list

I. M. Dreeminov
A. White
Chris Mazz
Chas Lyke
D. Wonsi
Hugh Sterno
Wendy Tretops
G. Lissen
Anna Chilled
Gwen Lissen
Two-Ears Le Belle
Cindy Snow
Ima Dreemin
Gough A. White
Chris Maswith
Avery Kris
Ms. Carr
Di Wright
Mayor Daysby
Mary-Ann Bright
Anna-May Allyorkriss
Mrs. B. Whyte

Plagarised (badly) from The Making Of The Great Goodies Disaster Movie by Stuart McCormack. (Well, I thought it was funny!)

March 1988 events

L Ron Hubbard and the (effective) bookselling efforts of Bridge and New Era were the lead in Gegenschein 54, following our attendance at a breakfast promotion organised by Bridge Publications' seemingly indefatigable publicist Julie Jones. I raved about spending a fortune on easy chairs (the highlight of my athletic endeavours for the year), and put a 3.5 inch disk drive in Jean's PC AT. I still wanted to sell the Atari ST ... have I mentioned that before? I should do something about it.

May 1988 events

Gegenschein 55 tried to promote a little controversy, by suggesting the abolition of driver's licences. Few commented on the underlying context, that cheap computer systems make it possible for even small organisations to accumulate and manipulate vast amount of (mis)information about individuals.

For example, a CD-ROM is available containing fine detail Census data about Australians, while another contains every business address and phone number in Australia, plus all Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra addresses and phone numbers. At present there is no effective protection against the use (or misuse) of such information by anyone.

On a more fannish note, I reported on Kinkon 3, the Easter convention at Melbourne. I also complained about the tendency for dinner groups to grow so large that I couldn't understand what anyone was saying, due to the poor signal to noise ratio. Not being particularly brave, I didn't comment on the signal to noise ratio in smaller groups ... but I do notice that I hardly ever go out to dinner with fans these days.

One of these days I'm really going to sell off the Atari ST. No delays, no mucking round, Real Soon Now.

June 1988 events

A short span indeed, to Gegenschein 56. I have to suspect the influence of an enthusiastic Jean here. Obviously Jean had done a fanzine, and I was playing catch up. The results were poor. This issue contained a long summary of equipment installations at work, administrative stuff-ups, and office politics. My attempts at putting together a PC AT clone without buying everything new were also mentioned.

And thanks to the several people who sent me Peter Edick's address (... now, where did I file it?) I hope I didn't file it on the Atari ST I'm still trying to sell. I mean, that will be gone Real Soon Now.

APA hacking

Still a regular, albeit low key, pastime. I'm in ANZAPA, probably the only Australian apa, and in sad decline with only about 20 members. I managed to be slack enough not to get anything in last month, despite photocopying material for others.

FAPA still seems active enough, with a full roster of almost 70, but the waiting list is short, and I certainly feel old and tired when I contribute. Thanks to a mail snufu delaying my last contribution, I may be out of that for lacktivity by now. I'm not at all sure I'd make unusual efforts to rejoin, since it seems unfair to the active members.

FLAP remains healthy, but it is invitational, and most of the members already know each other very well. I missed mailing for that last month also, but will recover by sending this.

Past Tense: 1988 events

One easy way to ensure something appears in a fanzine is to write what you did during your holidays, or at the most recent convention. If life has been particularly dull, you sometimes have to extend this to covering the entire year ... I sometimes think I need to review the decade, but I'll probably save that up until later in 1990! All this assumes I complete this issue before it becomes later in 1990, which isn't likely to be the case!

New Year 1988 parties

Rod Kearin had his usual party, swimming pool and all. Dropped Blair and Balrog off at about 2 a.m. and had a late dinner at Denny's in Penrith with Dave Stirrup. I think Jean was in Canberra at the time; she is too sensible to stay up late, or to eat dinner at 3 a.m.

Leigh Edmonds and Valma Brown

Alas, where are they now? Leigh and Valma stayed here for six months of so, as mentioned in previous issues. Their move to Perth went well, and some time later we had a CoA. From the lack of fanzines, I gather Leigh is busy digging into his historical studies. Pity he isn't into ancient history; I could joke about a career in ruins.

We were rather hoping to see them at a convention in Perth during the year, since the Perth conventions were always fun, but the air fares are rather discouraging. I really don't see how I managed to afford that trip by car when I was unemployed, yet can't afford it now! Of course Dave (Technical Snufu) Stirrup encouraged me heavily about the Perth trip, when I went with him and Rod Kearin.

Down and Out at Impact

Impact Laser Printers, where Jean was working, went into receivership in April 1988. Like many Australian companies doing interesting hi-tech work, they couldn't handle expansion. It was eventually sold to that fine fannish institution, Gestetner. Impact had been having trouble controlling their growth, and knew they had technical problems. Gestetner probably have the same problems, but are also probably under the delusion they are actually in control.

Jean took the opportunity to go freelance, rather than take another full time job, and did hi-tech editing, desk top publishing (using Ventura) and technical writing for a living. It is truly amazing how many people get sold Ventura, and then can't possibly handle it. If you know of anyone who needs fast accurate work in these areas, contact Jean. On the down side, at times she has so much work, she ends up totally exhausted trying to get through it all, despite being a fast worker.

Incidentally, I probably won't be able to persuade her to comment on this zine, except in general terms, like "that's horrible"... so don't blame her for what my stuff looks like, despite my acknowledgement for her help!

Lock Tight

My insurance company obviously grew tired of my long list of computers to be insured (13 isn't too many), although I feel it is their own fault for insisting on details of the machines. They declared that I had to have locks on all windows, and deadlocks on all exterior doors.

Country area almost here. I thought that a few alarms, and scratching identification details on everything would have been enough, but apparently not.

The local locksmith managed the windows (some rather awkwardly, due to the fly screens), but the doors are a distinct problem. On the downstairs, the door frames are too narrow for the deadlocks, so only the three upstairs doors could be done. The back door took a deadbolt lock, keyed the same, after some brick chipping.

However the front door has a glass panel alongside it, and there is just no way a deadlock could be fitted. The locksmith retreated in confusion, telling me I'd have to find a carpenter. I also can't find a way to deadbolt the garage doors. That whole project cost me about $700, which didn't exactly please me.

The insurance company tell me I still have to do more locks. I'm going to find a new insurance company. This whole thing about locks has been a right pain; I recall a time, not too long ago, when I really wouldn't have had to worry about whether I had a lock at all! Besides, it is so inconvenient to find the damn keys, that half the time things don't get locked anyway.

Of course, now I need locks, to protect the damned Atari ST I'm still trying to sell.

I wonder what the law says about installing forceful burglar alarms? I wonder how forceful I could make a phaser sound generator? Visions of two hundred watts into arrays of piezo transducers dance before my eyes. Perhaps a touch of ultrasonics, or maybe some infrasound? Xenon tubes at a couple of hertz might be rather effective discouragement also.

I wonder just when an alarm becomes a weapon, and what the law would make of all that? Probably something typically asinine, since most legal ruling seem to follow that trend now. Certainly most of the law is of no earthly use to anyone honest, nor anyone who isn't rich.

Top of Page

The Year 1989 in Arrears

When I started this section (which I have to admit was actually a long time ago), life was sedate, slow, unchanged. Now, I seem to be living in Chinese curse "interesting times".

This is mostly a consequence of things Jean is doing, so I blame Jean for it all. Even if it isn't entirely her fault, someone is surely to blame, and she is closest! Take editing, for instance, please. I wouldn't have been so taken by explanations of the way editors clarify documents, had Jean not been doing that sort of work. A fine example of such clarification, from the net, is below. Jean will probably deny that she ever goes that far.

A Guide To Effective Scientific Communication

I C a BeM, or
The Empire Strikes Bach

In mid-year, Jean got a contract through an agency for a year of editing work, with IBM. IBM are located in a massive, almost hidden, high tech building, in an incredibly inconvenient suburb of Sydney, equidistant (with the emphasis on distant) from all convenient, or even inconvenient, public transport.

The only alternative to driving vast distances each day was to temporarily find a place to live closer to the job, which Jean did, with indecent haste. Jean manages to scout out three suburbs, and find a granny flat to rent, between agreeing to take a job, and her first day on the job. I can take that long to wander up the road to Sheridans to collect some interesting components! However, it became obvious that Jean's inner city Potts Point flat wasn't viable, so that went up for sale.

I continued using Jean's flat for my usual three evenings a week, expecting it to sell in a month or two. The flat took a lot, lot longer to sell than either of us expected, in a time of declining home prices, and didn't go through until December, so I was able to stay in the by then mostly unfurnished flat ... well, it contained a bed, a chair, and a computer. All the necessities of life.

It wasn't too bad, especially considering the alternative was the crash space in Dave Stirrup's flat, while he was overseas. Dave's flat was simply too overcrowded with components, gadgets, and debris, despite his pre-travel clean up, even for me!

Real Estate

I was going to say something about Jean's house hunting, and contacts with real estate agents, but it seemed to me that the only appropriate comment about real estate had already been made, and the infamous Fred Dagg (aka comedian John Clarke) had made it. So, just imagine a laconic narrator with a strong Strine accent intoning the following:


"Now the Fred Dagg Careers Advice Bureau has already done more than enough to secure its place in the social history of this once great nation, but I think this report is probably amongst its more lasting achievements.

"In essence it outlines how to go about the business of being a real estate agent, and as things stand at the moment if you're not a real estate agent, then you're probably being a fool to yourself and a burden to others.

"Like so many other jobs in this wonderful society of ours, the basic function of the real estate agent is to increase the price of the article without actually producing anything, and as a result it has a lot to do with communication, terminology, and calling a spade a delightfully bucolic colonial winner facing north and offering a unique opportunity to the handyman.

"If you're going to enter the real estate field you'll need to acquire a certain physical appearance which I won't bore you with here, but if you've got gold teeth and laugh-lines around your pockets, then you're through to the semis without dropping a set.

"But the main thing to master, of course, is the vernacular, and basically this works as follows:

"There are three types of houses;

* Glorious commanding split-level ultra-modern dream homes, which are built on cliff faces;

* Private bush-clad inglenooks, which are built down holes;

* and very affordable solid family houses in much sought after streets, which are old gun-emplacements with awnings.

"A cottage is a caravan with the wheels taken off.

"A panoramic, breathtaking, or magnificent view is an indication that the house has windows, and if the view is unique, there's probably only one window.

"I have here the perfect advertisement for a house, so we'll go through it and I'll point out some of the more interesting features, so here we go, mind the step.

'Owner transferred reluctantly instructs us to sell' means the house is for sale.

'Genuine reason for selling' means the house is for sale.

'Rarely can we offer' means the house is for sale.

'Superbly presented delightful charmer' doesn't mean anything really, but it's probably still for sale.

'Most attractive immaculate home of character in prime dress-circle position' means that the thing that's for sale is a house.

'Unusual design with interesting and solidly built stairs' means that the stairs are in the wrong place.

'Huge spacious generous lounge commands this well serviced executive residence' means the rest of the house is a rabbit-warren with rooms like cupboards.

'Magnificent well-proportioned large convenient block with exquisite garden' means there's no view, but one of the trees had a flower on it the day we were up there.

'Privacy, taste, charm, space, freedom, quiet, away from it all location in much sought-after cul-de-sac situation' means that it's not only built down a hole, it's built at the very far end of the hole.

'A must for all you artists, sculptors and potters' means that only a lunatic would consider living in it.

'2/3 bedrooms with possible in-law accommodation' means it's got two bedrooms and a tool shed.

'Great buy, ring early for this one, inspection a must, priced to sell, new listing, see this one now, all offers considered, good value, be quick, inspection by appointment, view today, this one can't last, sole agents, today's best buy' means the house is for sale, and if ever you see 'investment opportunity' turn away very quickly and have a go at the crossword.

Reprinted without permission from "The Fred Dagg Scripts" John Clarke, published by Nelson 1981 (has anyone a copy for sale?)

Top of Page

A New Home

In December, Jean finally found an ancient Federation style house she liked in Ryde, not too impossibly far by car from IBM. It is built on a sandstone foundation, with double brick walls, a slate tile roof, and was constructed round 1915 or so.

So far we have learnt a lot about rising damp, peeling wallpaper, repairing slate roofs, breaking faulty concrete, replacing inadequate wiring, demolishing sheds, and enduring strange plumbing; I expect we will learn a hell of a lot more eventually. Jean will doubtless say more about it in one of her fanzines, assuming she ever stops the repairs, renovations and demolition long enough to do one.

It could possibly be considered significant that three of the Xmas presents I got Jean contained detailed accounts of how to cure rising damp! Sufficient to say that each brick in the base of the house now contains more silicon than Dolly Parton. Since the cement render was jackhammered off at base level to provide access, and each brick contains two large drill holes, the house looks decidedly strange. I suggested marking it cut along dotted line, a suggestion Jean totally ignored (but she is used to ignoring me). Terry Frost suggested sticking fuses out of each hole, with equally inappropriate messages.

I was impressed by how easy it is to get to work; three shorts blocks takes me to the Top Ryde shopping centre, where the 501 bus departs, to stop 35 minutes later, traffic willing, almost directly outside the University. It takes a little longer than the Kings Cross train trip, but not much.

Not so comfortable is feeling nauseous during the trip, possible due to the way the bus lurches and staggers through the morning traffic. Jean suggested eating breakfast before I left, something I'm loath to do, but so far I've compromised with some Alka Seltzer.

Leaving just before seven, I'm usually logged into the computer by 7:30 in the morning, which means I actually get some work done before anyone else arrives. Unless I spend the entire morning goofing off, as when doing fanzines or apazines.

The nearby Ryde shopping centre itself is a strange mixture of old and modern. Ryde is rather small, for a major inner city suburb, with almost a country air to the now bypassed Church Street, formerly the social hub, and now populated by churches, Christian Scientists, real estate agents, and other social misfits and malcontents.

Of more use is the hardware store, and some suspiciously named pizza restaurants. There are some convenient milk bars that close late, and, for emergencies only due to excessive prices, a 24 hour Food Plus service station and Mini-Mart food shop, similar to the 7-11 style.

Ducking down one arcade of a side street, you emerge into an large shopping mall on several levels. The stores here are mostly mid and low market; lots of cheap eateries, and standard off-the-peg clothes shops, such as Lowes and Venture. Probably no trendy places for yuppies to flash their status symbols, although I probably wouldn't notice even if there were.

I was pleased to find three stores selling computers, but apart from the Tandy, haven't visited them. There are bookshops; not great, but ever a discount bookstore is a somewhat encouraging cultural sign.

The library at the nearby Civic Centre isn't extensive, but does run long hours; if I can ever persuade them to provide a borrowers ticket, I'll report further on the quality of their collection.

With essentially all nearby land already built on, the neighbours appear mostly middle class settled couples, with relatively few renting. I assume the prices keep most young families out; I'm not unduly disturbed by the prospect of there being few children roaming the streets.

Many of the neighbours introduced themselves to Jean when she moved in, and I met some of them when Jean had her housewarming party on New Years Day. They seem a genuinely friendly and helpful lot, which should help reduce the chance of burglaries and the like.

Hard Wired

One very obvious feature of older homes is a certain scarcity of power points and lighting. This becomes particularly obvious when you turn on the lights, and discover you can't see someone on the other side of the room. Well, ok, I exaggerate slightly, but a single 40 watt bulb per room, and that bulb in a dusty, dirty, dark glass shade, doesn't encourage easy reading. Moving shades helped somewhat, but Jean is still looking for a high tech lighting source that will retain the character of the old rooms.

Power points are also scarce. One per room ... if you were lucky. Some rooms had instead a connection to the lighting wiring, and highly suspicious connections at that.

Jean just got through buying a dozen or so double power points, a hundred metres of heavy duty power cable, and similar items, so there is a suspicion that this lack may eventually be overcome.

So far, this has involved exploratory voyages through the crawl (and I do mean crawl) spaces under the house. Some areas were so tight that I was reminded of youthful speleology trips, but then I wasn't trying to drag power cables through the place, nor tack them to recalcitrant floor beams. One familiar factor; the ground under the house was just as damp as any cave I've ever crawled through.

Top of Page

University Follies

I'm still employed by the School of Mathematical Science, at the University of Technology, Sydney. I still think it is a pity that hardly any technology gets used at the University (especially by the administration), but I guess you can't have everything, especially on a low budget.

Funding relative to the aspirations and rhetoric of educational spokespersons for the government is lousy. We are down another 1.6% in funding this year, so there goes the equipment budget yet again.

Dawkins, the Federal Minister for (amongst other things) Education, is keen on rationalising academic practices. This includes making all colleges into universities, and directing the attention of Universities into more desirable areas of endeavour, like vocational training, and possibly basket weaving. This proposal has not met with great approval from the victims. Some comments were both savage and funny.

If Dawkins danced to a different tune...

The following is borrowed without permission from the higher education supplement of The Australian, 21 Sept 1988.

"The Federal Minister for Education, Mr Flawkins, has released the long-awaited White Paper on the rationalisation of orchestras, brass bands and chamber music groups throughout Australia.

"Symphony orchestras are currently administered by the ABC and are funded more generously than brass bands and chamber ensembles. This artificial distinction will now be abolished, and all orchestras and bands financed on the same basis.

"The ABC will be disbanded, and the funding of the national orchestras will be controlled directly by the Department of Finance.

"Mr Flawkins said the present system was badly in need of an overhaul: "For example, the Commonwealth is funding violinists in all orchestras and many smaller ensembles. This is a serious burden on the taxpayer, and the quality of violin playing is uneven across orchestras."

"In future, the minister said, only high quality orchestras will be funded for violinists. As quality can best be measured by size, the new policy will be based on three categories:

* ENSEMBLES of fewer than 20 members will not be funded for violinists, and they must restrict themselves to brass and percussion.

* ORCHESTRAS with 50 members may have some violinists, but only for a few hours a week.

* ORCHESTRAS of more than 80 members may employ violinists most of the time.

"Mr Flawkins also announced that the repertoires of all government funded orchestras must now reflect the Government's objectives. Since the Government has no immediate plans to increase trade with Italy or Germany, the playing of Vivaldi, Beethoven and Bach will be discouraged.

"Mr Flawkins was quick to add that the Government greatly respected that type of music, but orchestras which played it would receive less financial support than those playing Vanuatuan or New Guinean music.

"The White Paper makes clear that the extent to which orchestras attract government funding will now depend not on the number of musicians employed, but on performance and output.

"Accordingly, the Department of Finance will develop performance indicators, including the number of concerts an orchestra stages each week, the number of notes played and the volume. Department of Finance officers will discuss these criteria with each orchestra and thus determine the size of its grant.

"Mr Flawkins conceded that these officers did not have the expertise in music that the ABC had.

"Quality based on accountability will be our approach," he said.

"The White Paper supports the amalgamation of orchestras: "Already there are encouraging developments.

"The Sydney Symphony Orchestra is holding discussions with Midnight Oil, and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra has announced its intention to absorb the Little River Band."

"The minister was particularly enthusiastic about a proposed merger of the Australian Opera with the Brisbane Salvation Army Band: "They both have brass sections, so there is scope for rationalisation and cost savings," he said.

"Overall, the White Paper concludes there is some quality in the orchestras in Australia, but management practices need improvement.

Top of Page

Marking up

The School of Mathematical Sciences does a fairly heavy dual major in mathematics and computing as one of its popular offerings. The majority of academic mathematicians probably wish that computer courses would go away (except possibly there might be one or two things their particular topic can use that runs on computers). Unfortunately, very few students want to make mathematics their career, since there is little money in it, so the School attracts students by means of the dual major ... "get a well paid job in computing". However there are only a half dozen lecturers taking computer classes, and not much chance of getting a real lot more, since people earn more actually working with computers rather than teaching about them.

Computing courses are themselves somewhat of a problem. The School is part of the Faculty of Mathematical and Computing Sciences. The other, larger, part of that is the School of Computer Science. And if there is a School of Computer Science, then exactly why is Mathematical Sciences running heavy computer courses? The answer is much the same as why Electrical Engineering run similar courses; you get students that way. Of course, such an answer can't be given in polite company, because politics will raise its ugly head, and some school might get said head cut right off.

In truth, the computing courses in the School are very heavily oriented to mathematics, with the programs given students for assignments being generally right out of line for commercial computing. The School still sticks heavily with Fortran, for instance, whereas Computer Science no longer teach this mathematical and technical oriented language.

There is a strong contingent of mathematicians doing work, and teaching courses, using APL, another language much beloved by mathematicians (and a right pain in the butt for me, because it doesn't run well on any equipment we can readily afford).

The School also has to teach COBOL, because it was a requirement to get Australian Computer Society accreditation, despite being almost impossible to find anyone willing to teach it (at least at lecturer's salaries). This greatly disgusts both Martin and me, and also probably whoever pays the paper bills.

This would all be fine, if the students we had were all enthusiastic budding mathematicians. Some of our lecturers give talks to high schools, in an attempt to attract potential mathematicians. Some students are primarily interested in mathematics, of course, but many (perhaps even most, in a bad year) of our students are probably here because they couldn't manage to get into one of the more commercial computing courses.

University entrance in this state is dependent upon the marks a student gets in an statewide external exam in their last year of high school. In brief, since it is a controversial topic, the students marks are scaled according to the difficulty of the subjects they take, to give a result out of a nominal 500 marks, which I think is scaled so 250 marks is the average.

Each university department estimates how many students they can handle (or sometimes, since their funding depends somewhat upon the number of students, how many they need to maintain themselves, whether they can handle these numbers or not). Based upon past experience with the number of applicants for places, and the known distribution of marks, each department then sets an entry level for their courses. The higher the mark, the higher the prestige, but the fewer potential students.

Really trendy, high prestige courses (that lead to high paid jobs), like medicine and law, have cut off marks round about 450. Less trendy courses, but still producing high paid jobs, like business and accounting, tend to have cut off marks round 400. Then there are some wimpy courses, usually in arts and humanities, that have high cut off marks, like 350 or so, because they are very popular with people who want to have the University experience, without actually applying themselves very hard.

Difficult courses, say in engineering, science or mathematics, tend to have low cut off marks, because there is little prestige in doing them, you don't get paid all that well afterwards, and everyone knows they are tough. They get a certain percentage of dedicated, interested students, and a certain number who really wanted to do something (anything) else, but didn't have good enough marks to do it. These students usually hope they can manage to get a transfer to their preferred course next year.

Prestige within such Schools then depends upon community perception of how good your students are upon graduation, usually determined by surveying their starting salaries; if you are seen as good, you can raise your entry mark next year, thus being more attractive to students who want to work in your field. Conversely, you will be less attractive to students who just wanted an easy university course. Our school had an entry level of 312 this year, up slightly from last year, and the highest amongst any of the mathematics schools in the state. Some, such as University of Western Sydney, are really low, at 230 marks. This makes us look good!

The down side of all this, of course, is whether you can actually graduate your students. Some of our first year classes have failure rates of over 50%; since funding in future is dependent upon your student throughput, this produces pressure to weaken courses, and thus graduate more students.

This pressure to lower standards leads to several awkward questions about quality. "What do you call the person who graduated last in medical school?" "You call him Doctor". I'm pretty sure I'd be unhappy about having engineers who couldn't handle maths designing buildings, but this apparently doesn't bother the people who fund universities. Perhaps political mistakes are less fatal. Or perhaps the Peter Principle is really widespread.

Top of Page

Life at work

If the University were really good at technology, MIT type folks, they probably wouldn't need to hire people like me to act as high tech handymen, and play with whatever bargain basement gadgets do turn up. On one hand, the pay is probably $10k to $15k less than I'd get in industry ... come to think of it, I saw a $45k job the other day that sounded exactly the sort of thing I'm presently doing. But the people you meet at the university tend to be far more interesting, and usually less pushy, than those in most commercial enterprises.

The job has evolved somewhat over the years; initially it was one day a week to repair some flaky hardware, like the ancient, out of production 16 user Micromation CP/M system used by first year students doing Turbo Pascal.

The School was chosen a couple of years ago as the test case for Management Centre Funding. That meant we got a bulk sum of money assigned to us, and had to arrange that it cover our own salaries and other purchases. By not replacing resigned staff immediately, we managed to accumulate enough money to buy a mini computer. This bit of unexpected initiative was not precisely totally approved by the powers that be, but to their credit, they didn't stop us.

I did the installation of the Hewlett-Packard 9000/550 mini computer, setting up a bunch of terminals for it. We needed an air conditioned space for it near our 15th floor offices. Computer Services would provide space on the 9th floor, but we would have to pay for the services of an operator. We sought room in Electrical Engineerings Vax room on the 22nd floor. Our bribe to them was half the cost of a new disk drive. Much more satisfactory.

I'm sure glad we didn't have to use my fallback plan, which was to put the monster in the store room, install blowers and heat exchangers, and dump the cooling water down the sink without telling anyone ... mind you, it would have only been a few hundred litres an hour, so I reckon we would have gotten away with it for years.

About the only thing I did that we didn't talk about much was put a bunch of telephone cables between the 22nd floor and the 15th floor, for the terminals. I mean, what's 50 phone cables between friends?

To run this gear, we hired a final year student as a full time programmer. Martin, the best hacker the university had seen in many years (he would claim, possibly justifiably, the best ever).

He never did get caught by the official Computer Services Division, despite numerous reputed transgressions as a student. Certainly there is no evidence in the accounting files that he ever hacked their system ... on the other hand, how far can you trust any file, especially on a Unix system that students use. I mean, the accounting files especially seem to occasionally get accidently corrupted ... especially late at night.

Next was full time work for me, despite my protests that I didn't want to work full time. We compromised; I only go in there four days a week. I insisted on that, because I knew very well the sort of hours I was likely to prefer working, and they aren't 9 to 5.

Next year the major Unix acquisition was a MIPS M800, the first such system to be installed in Australia. IBM persuaded us to buy that. They proposed an RT system, and brought bench-marks showing us how good it was. The bench-marks were done by MIPS, and showed the MIPS doing twice as well. The IBM salesmen told us not to worry about it, because you couldn't get them in Australia. The next vendor we saw had just become Australian distributor for MIPS! "You've probably never heard of MIPS", they said. "Oh but we have, and we are very interested", we replied.

Lots of misgivings about selecting this system; had we chosen correctly? Would it be a dud? We did a bunch of intensive bench-marks, with our own code. There was a certain degree of disapproval from the University Computer Advisory Committee regarding this risky purchase ... and a couple of years later, the Computer Services Division also bought a MIPS, and tell us how good it is.

Alas, I had to rearrange a laboratory of terminals for the MIPS also. That meant yet another 50 telephone cables from the 22nd floor down to the 15th floor. No worries; everyone will think they are official, right?

The first instalment of a laboratory of IBM PC clones came at round the same time, plus various staff members getting them in their offices. We wanted to use them as terminals also. By then I was buying 25 pair telephone cable in half kilometre drums, so a bit more certainly wouldn't be noticed when I installed it.

I wasn't exactly overjoyed at the official University PC clone supplier, and set about finding alternatives. Next order, we ignored the official tender supplier, and over considerable opposition, bought cheaper from our own preferred supplier. A couple of months later the official supplier went bankrupt; lots of other Schools changed to our supplier.

Strangely, opposition to our choice of equipment dropped off dramatically round this time, and we started getting invited to help with various computer related committees. We were on the Australian Unix User Group conference and exhibition organising committee, chaired by Greg Webb from Computer Services, the year it finally went outright commercial. We had a lot of fun organising an overflow room, with full audio and video feeds from the main conference room showing on a large projection TV. It is amazing how many little tips from fannish conventions made their way into that particular conference.

For our Xmas present in 1988 we spent our accumulated nest egg on a neat looking Silicon Graphics Personal Iris workstation, which our programmer Martin immediately latched onto, and wouldn't let go. I padlocked it to his desk, in our shared room, within a half hour of it arriving (... purely as a precaution against theft, you understand). It plays a great flight simulator, and has even more power than any of our other systems. It is for classes in graphics, and we have spent a lot of time experimenting with certain types of graphics on it (except my graphic keeps crashing when I try to land it).

Real Soon Now we should take delivery of yet another Silicon Graphics machine, and a Sun Sparcstation, a gadget we have never played with before. That should be fun, assuming we get time to do anything with them. Mind you, at present I have no idea where we can put them, except I have the comforting thought that all this gear is getting smaller, and thus we should be able to find a corner somewhere.

Meanwhile, I have been stuck with the hideous prospect of installing a local area network. The people who tried to sell us their particular solution made used car salesmen look honest by comparison. I gave up on them eventually, bought a bunch of Western Digital Ethernet cards, a stack of RG58 cable, and installed the whole thing myself using public domain programs like the NSCA TCP/IP. We tried doing it all using Unix machines, but this didn't match all that well with classroom IBM PC clones.

The programs worked fine for staff use, but students would either have problems with them, or, much more likely, subvert them to destroy the network. Luckily, we were able to obtain a free copy of Novell Netware, the biggest selling PC network, direct from the folks at Novell.

Persuading that to work with our Western Digital Ethernet cards was mildly interesting (not well documented), but I had a lot of trouble with a failure in one of the Novell link steps. I went round for a week grinding my teeth and threatening death to a certain lot of software. Having a whole manual full of error messages doesn't help much, if your error message doesn't appear in it.

I can understand why the people who specialise in installing Novell get good pay, because it does seem to have some tricky items, not assisted by some very strange manuals. I hoped my fourth installation of it would solve the remaining problems, but it still wouldn't support our printers. We needed to use the serial port for printing, because the printers were distant from the server computer (no way was I leaving the server where the students could get at it!) However I couldn't persuade Novell to recognise the serial ports.

Not only that, but I also belatedly discovered that the Western Digital Ethernet cards we own interfere with our normal computer serial ports, despite not using the same interupts, and so on. The result is I can't use the normal computers as terminals to the minicomputers. It is, of course, absolutely critical that the computers be available as terminals. And to cap things off, the recently delivered boot roms, which are supposed to let us start the computers without disks, instantly kill any computer you put them in. Grr ... Can't say Novell is my favourite, as it is far too complex for our needs. I think the Peter Principle just bit me.

Top of Page

Data Processing Manager's Guide to Personal Survival.

Found this one circulating on the net, and decided I enjoyed it more than that fake Desiderata that got so much press play in the hippy years.

Go placidly amid the politics and decision making, and remember what peace there may be in the silence of your own office.

(Remember, too, that if all else fails, there is always an educational course going on somewhere, set in salubrious surroundings - a course you may justifiably attend and for which the organization will pay.)

As far as possible, do not believe in miracles, but learn to rely on them. Speak convincingly when in doubt, and when in trouble, delegate.

Listen to others, for the dull and ignorant, sometimes even your own staff, have the inside information.

Keep interested in your own career, and take note of other people's mistakes, however mighty or humble, for they can be a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your affairs, for the organization is full of trickery. Remember that there is virtue in only giving verbal orders, never committing to storage accessible by others any writings that could ever conceivably be held against you.

Be yourself. Do not be cynical about profits, for in the face of all trends and economic indicators, governments, revenue authorities, financial controllers, accountants and auditors, you know that with careful programming, they can be as perennial as grass.

Nurture the strength of spirit to shield yourself from divisional cut-backs, but do not distress yourself with imaginings. Even if you are, as you know, only moderately able, you should have allowed for them in your carefully inflated forecasts. What else are spread sheets for?

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering your naivety.

Many fears are born of overwork and exclusion from seemingly important meetings. Should this be troublesome to you, you can always join the local computing society and become its president: after all everyone else has. This will impress those set in authority, and will ensure that you will never have the agony of having to go through a solitary decision solitary again.

Beyond a wholesome salary indexed to at least the rate of inflation and guaranteed in your contract, an also inflation-proofed pension, and control of a reasonable expense account - where you define what is reasonable - be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the organization, no less that the directors, your fellow executives, the union representatives and your staff.

You have a right to be here, and whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the structure is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with your superiors - whoever you conceive them to be, and whatever your actual (as distinct from theoretical) labours and aspirations. In the noisy confusion of the organization's life, keep peace also with your co-workers and those set under you.

Do not forget that with all its shame, drudgery, and broken dreams, the organization can still be a never-ending source of increased real income.

Be seen with enough of the right fellow senior executives in enough of the right meetings and important places: this indicates you are pulling your weight.

Strive to look modest but important, for however old the rule may be, it still has the mark about it of truth enshrined: an ounce of image is worth a pound of performance.

Well, I liked it. From andrew at cit5 oz

A New Beginning

As a consequence of renewed enthusiasm for playing with gadgets, I started a new 'fanzine', for a very select group of computer enthusiasts. uPeripheral has been moderately regular since August 1988, and I did six issues before the end of the 1988. Since they averaged 14 pages each, that would have made up a pretty substantial fanzine, especially as the first five issues ran a print run of 200. I rather think it is fair to blame that for my lack of fanzines during the latter half of 1988.

I was slightly less productive at this during 1989, managing to do only issues #6 to #10, but again, they make a fine excuse for not get round to doing fanzines.

Manual Labours

I'll have (a lot) more to say about *Peripheral, the Applix Do It Yourself 68000 based computer, and user group, elsewhere. One other time consuming event relating to this occurred because I decided I wanted more extensive manuals than those available from the designer. Since Applix wanted a laser printed version, they gave me their original text, and I expanded it somewhat.

The manuals I've redone so far include Users, Utilities, Programmers, Technical Reference, Hardware and Construction Manual, Disk Co-processor, SCSI Hard Drive, three Shareware manuals, the Forth manual, printed up a C Tutorial, plus the MGR Windows manual, and the User Quick Reference. Between them, these occupy some 1000 laser printed pages. In some cases my expansion of the material has been considerable. For example, the Disk Co-processor Manual was about 70k when I got it, is now 180k, and will end up about 250k! Some manuals, like the Shareware, SCSI Hard Drive, Quick Reference, and the Utilities, I wrote from scratch, since there wasn't anything available. PDF versions of all Applix manuals

At present I'm still doing the revision and expansion of the SCSI Hard Disk manual, and revising the Assembler Manual, plus I'm doing three new manuals, for the recently ported Minix Operating System, the new Document Editor, and a C Tutorial.

Top of Page

Electronic fanzines

I must admit to feeling that the days of fannish apas are numbered. I see all around a decreased interest in writing and literature, and much noise (and little light, but it was ever thus) about films and video. This is not surprising; group sports, like cricket and football, always attract more noise than individual sports. Films and video are inherently a group endeavour, while writing is essentially solitary. I shouldn't be surprised, but I remain disappointed.

The other side of this coin is heavily populated electronic communication links wherein messages about science fiction (again, mostly media) are a considerable fraction. At work, the ACSNet includes groups for Australian SF, Dr Who, cyberpunk, and of course, the electronic version of Other Realms. All of these must have readerships in the multi thousands.

The Australian readers of these groups have banded together to arrange dinners in a number of cities, including Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. Next thing you know they will be arranging conventions ... or perhaps that is superfluous, when contact with each person is only as far away as your desk at work, and can often even look like work.

I'm told there are a number of bulletin boards wherein science fiction is a popular item, but my very few experiences on bulletin boards convinced me that the noise to signal ratio was such that it wasn't worth logging in to any of them! This is simple prejudice on my part; I've never tried a sf bulletin board.

Every now and then I get tempted to establish a bulletin board, to suit my own peculiar interests. However I'm dissuaded by the effort required to run it, by the need to dedicate a computer to it, and by the probability that an extra phone line would be required. Of course, I suppose if I restricted my topics, running it may not be as great an effort as expected. The phone at Faulconbridge is hardly used in any case, so perhaps no extra line would be needed ... against which, it is a trunk call from almost everywhere (which would tend to limit the time callers spent on it).

As for the computer, I have a Televideo TS802H, an ancient CP/M system, not otherwise used. If I could find some RCP/M bulletin board software for that, it would put the system to good use ... Of course, I could probably put a BBS on the Atari ST I'm still trying to sell ... except that I finally did sell it!

I think I'd like to see a science fiction bulletin board run by fans. Marc Ortlieb once made some noises about being willing to run one, and I think he would do an excellent job. There is the problem of location, in that truck phone calls are expensive, but perhaps this sort of thing could eventually be expanded to having one bulletin board per state, and pass material among them. Certainly something needs to be done to attract new blood to fandom; perhaps this is one of the methods that could actually work.

Speaking of new blood, I just discovered that the Humanities department at the University have a new staff member who appears to be a SF reader. He is giving a 'Literature and Society' course that actually appears to be Sci-Fi 101. If I get time to investigate that, I'll report on it next issue.

Top of Page

Boxed in

I'm not sure of the exact reasons (there were a number of factors), but we got a post office box. That is, the post office gave us a box. Gave us several keys. Well, actually, they charged us for them. About the only thing they didn't give us was much mail. After a while, Jean became suspicious. Turned out they hadn't taken the box away from the previous owners, who were getting in first, and returning our mail unclaimed. Nice trick, folks.

Naturally, we had just sent off large numbers of CoA notices ... at least, I had. The only time in months I actually got round to doing anything on time.

The post office gave us another box number. Jean used various fancy desktop publishing packages to do an incredibly fancy, full page, change of address. It was a thing of beauty, a work of art, a ... well, okay, I exaggerate, but only a little. And we sent that one out.

And now, we have moved, again. I hope all our fannish acquaintances mark their little black address books in pencil. Sigh.

Under a Spell

The spelling checker I use has several omissions, and strange ideas. It doesn't know about anymore, aplenty, schoolbooks, or taxpayer (must be under the influence of the IRS). It rejected bookstore, but not bookshop (my dictionary allowed only bookstall). It didn't know multi, and wanted to substitute fullback for fallback (too much sports in dictionaries). It didn't know mall, which is plain silly, since it derives from pall-mall. It didn't know hacker, a perfectly good word that is in my 1953 dictionary! It wouldn't accept benchmark, wanted to make it bench-mark, whereas my dictionary wanted it as two words. Didn't agree with statewide, which my dictionary wanted as state-wide. Only found one mistake: it wanted to spell guaranteed as guarantied, which I wouldn't allow.

Top of Page

SF Books

There are far too many books sitting round cluttering up the shelves, so the reviews this time will be brief indeed. Considering that the bean counters who have taken over (and wrecked) publishing manage to ensure that no scifi book stays in print for more than a few months, you probably can't get hold of any of the books I mention in any case. Thus we all bow to the Great God Money.

benfordIn Alien Flesh, Greg Benford

Tor, Jan 1988, 280 pages, US$3.95

A short story collection, dating from 1975 to 1986. Excellent as either hard sf, or as literate sf. If anything, his short stories are even stronger than his novels.

Super-tanks, edited by Joe Haldeman

Ace, April 1987, 262 pages, US$3.50

Another excellent collection of ten stories, many classics, with the common theme of armoured war and its vehicles. Includes Laumer's Field Test, Zelazny's Damnation Alley, Wolfe's The HORARS of War. Action aplenty, but thankfully, it isn't simply a collection of gung ho heroics.

Hard Wired, Walter Jon Williams

Tor, April 1987, 343 pages, US$3.50

Non stop action, excellent story line, in a cyberpunk near future that feels realistic. The mudboys are under the thumb of the rich orbital platform dwellers, but there is still room for larceny, and outright defiance, loyalty and the pain of loss. I keep telling everyone that Williams does cyberpunk more readably, more realistically, and more enjoyably than anyone else, and I'm sticking to that (although I must admit that Gibson's Mona Lisa Overdrive was a vast improvement on Gibson's earlier novels).

Voice of the Whirlwind, Walter Jon Williams

Tor, March 1988, 278 pages, US$3.95

You wake up after being murdered, your memories 15 years out of date, because your alpha version didn't keep you updated. You survived a war you don't remember, two divorces, and you want to know why you died. While others think you may be a tool, if you are still good enough to get through security systems, the way you were taught in the past, you may find out what happened. Non-stop action, and William's usual tight plotting, in a high tech near future.

Minds, Machines and Evolution, James P Hogan

Bantam, June 1988, 323 pages, US$4.50

Seventeen short stories and essays, including the classic Silver Shoes for a Princess. There are so few people writing hard sf that I try to buy everything Hogan writes (trouble is, some books are real hard to find!) Mind you, style is not a high point to his book, but I like his optimistic futures, and near future high tech speculation. Pity Hogan is going for style and character now, because that is not his great strength, nor why I bought his books.

The Proteus Operation, James P Hogan

Bantam, Oct 1986, 407 pages, US$4.50

An alternate universe story, where in 1974, North America is rapidly losing the war to Hitler's Third Reich. The only possible salvation, to go back to 1939, and change the history of the universe. But experimental physics may mean that time is immutable, or perhaps there can be multiple universes.

The story feels historically realistic, has a lot of cerebral action, but I found it hard to feel involved. I guess I don't have any traumatic feelings about WWII (considering I wasn't born then, I'm not surprised).

Footfall, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Sphere, 1986, 700 pages

Obviously intended for the disaster movie trade, this is a classic nasty, brutal invaders novel, with a cast of thousands. Relatively unfathomable aliens do a messy invasion, in a giant ship, and with (slightly) more advanced technology than humanity.

It is also a classic propaganda piece for the merits of a smart rock type space offence weapon. If you believe that crap, you'll believe Star Wars could work. Despite all this, I thoroughly enjoyed it, even if the resolution was less than convincing.

Psyclone by Greg Bear

Tor, 1979, July 1988, 312 pages, US$3.95

This is a very weak horror story, with some slight sf trappings. Unrealistic, trite, a waste of my money, etc. I made the mistake of thinking it was a recent Greg Bear story. His recent stories are far more to my taste.

Less Than Human, Charles Platt

Grafton, 1986, 238 pages, $8.95

Funny, tragic tale of a machine who fell to Earth, according to the blurb. Lots of amusing situations and incidents, and some sarcastic comments, but overall a rather thin entertainment (in the context of this comment, you should remember that I also dislike Ron Goulart's novels).

Platt seems to be unwilling to try a serious novel, like many other writers. Perhaps he is afraid of being judged on a serious work, and thus remains content with send ups. It is probably easier to do fanzines and throw stones. After all, who can be really serious when they are only competing for beer money?

Getting Home, F M Busby

Ace, August 1987, 195 pages, US$2.95, A$6.50

Twenty short stories, many of them far more memorable than the heroic sf novels Busby mostly writes. Pity a person can't make a living from short stories, I'd sure like to see more short fiction from Busby. I got tired of Risa long ago.

The Unplift War, David Brin

Bantam, July 1987, 638 pages, US$4.50

Need I say that, like many other hard sf fans, I long awaited another story in the Startide Rising universe. This one was the expected delight, establishing more of the parameters of Brin's universe. Granted, the aliens typically are a bit stereotyped, and the heroic humans a little brighter than some of my acquaintances, but who is going to let that get in the way of a grand, sweeping space opera? I loved it.

Orphan of Creation, Roger MacBride Allen

Baen Books, Feb 1988, 345 pages, US$3.50

I've been getting all of Allen's books because he writes good space opera. Good space opera (as distinct from bad space opera) is rare.

This novel was unexpected, because it showed a much more thoughtful side of Allen's writing (or perhaps he simply couldn't sell it until the space opera made his name with publishers).

It raises, and answers, the question of what we would do if we unearthed a living fossil, an ancestor of our own species. First, the relatively recent bones of a missing link, and then the possibility that such creatures might yet live in an isolated backwater. The sort of story one reads sf to find.

Artifact, Greg Benford

Tor Suspense, June 1985, 533 pages, US$3.95

An impossible artifact is found in a 3,500 year old tomb. The story follows the espionage and intrigue that follow its discovery. Realistic characters, but I've grown to prefer sf with ideas, to suspense and mysteries, and this was mostly a suspense story, despite the nature of the artifact.

Tatja Grimm's World, Vernor Vinge

Baen, July 1987, 277 pages, US$3.50

What do you do when you have a best selling author on hand? You take pieces of a much older novel (Grimm's World), and a couple of later, related stories, and force them into a novel.

Tatja is an impossibly bright person, growing up on a relatively primitive world. The first story is of her entry from barbarism, via Rey Guille's Fantasie. This is a legendary 700 year old magazine, published from a barge plying Grimm's shallow seas. The first part is a delight, as you attempt to set real names and events to the characters (which one is JWC, etc.)

The bright aliens, who may make it possible for Tatja to try to think her way to the stars, are less believable, but the tale is exciting enough, and entertaining enough. I don't regret getting the updated version.

Liege-Killer, Christopher Hinz

St Martins, 1987, 458 pages, US$4.95, A$8.95

The Paratwa were genetically manipulated unstoppable warriors, a single mind controlling two bodies. They were supposed to have died out two hundred years before, during a nuclear holocaust. Now the fiercest of them all appears to have been revived from stasis, and is loose in the orbital colonies.

The only solution, revive a team of Paratwa killers, who may be almost as much of a threat as the genetic killer. And just who, or what, is behind the revival? Fast paced sf adventure. Don't think it would stand up to a second reading however.

Tool of the Trade, Joe Haldeman

Morrow, 1987, 261 pages, US$15.95

A deep cover KGB agent in the USA, living for the past 20 years as a college professor, discovers a method of controlling his destiny, and that of others. What are the effects of this.

Foley is a humane, but deadly, foe, who engages the reader's sympathy against all odds, through a fast paced suspense novel. However the gimmick struck me as rather slight, and far too obvious, for such a long work.

A Lion on Tharthee, Grant Callin

Baen, Oct 1987, 342 pages, US$3.50

Ever since Saturnalia I've been waiting for another novel with Dr Kurious Whitedimple, the only archaelogist in space, and recoverer of the Hexie artifacts in orbit round Saturn. Joining him again is Junior Badille, 19 year old, prematurely aged gnome on Lagrange genius.

The artifacts have been decoded, and direct the discoverers to a ship at the far limits of the solar system. The robot interstellar ship is equipped to be connected to a human ship, interface specifications all given. The Hexies appear to want company, but only on their own terms. Another delightful novel, but watch out for bad puns.

The Fall of the Republic, Crawford Kilian

Ballantine, Sept 1987, 293 pages, US$3.50

Colonel Jerry Pierce runs a military emergency district occupying most of Idaho and eastern Oregon in the 1990's. His ruthless efficiency in keeping chaos at bay is due to special training that accelerated his learning rate to extraordinary levels. Trainables like him are gradually taking over the running of the country, mainly by being better at it than anyone else, but even they don't imagine that breakdown can be avoided forever. And not everyone is happy about Trainables and their help.

Meanwhile, in New York, another Trainable doing statistical research for the CIA spots Jerry Pierce's unorthodox methods, and decides to recruit him, against the time the government will fall (or be pushed). Unfortunately for all their plans, the Earth isn't alone. I enjoyed it, since there were some elements of a mystery story about the novel, and look forward to other stories of the Chronoplane Wars.

Fire Pattern, Bob Shaw

DAW, Nov 1986, 189 pages, US$2.95

Spontaneous human combustion is examined, in 1996, by a reporter intent on showing it a hoax and delusion. Shaw's human characters are all too realistic, as he builds a case for totally unexplained events, and then twists it to a sf story. I had the feeling this was a much older novel than the cover date reveals.

Top of Page


Buck Coulson

2677W - 500N, Hartford City, IN 47348 USA July 11, 1988

I agree with Eric's point about not differentiating between groups of native-born Australians. For one thing, while the aboriginals reached the continent first, they did not originate there, anymore than whites did. (In fact, the only peoples who have a right to their continent from the beginning may be the Africans, and even there, all the peoples in South Africa moved there in historic times.) One thing I'd like to know is when the term 'aboriginal' replaced 'blackfellow', which was the term in my schoolbooks, back in the 1930s and 1940s. (The reason for the change in term is an attempt to gain status for an underprivileged group, of course, but when did it happen?)

An additional advantage of the `Driver's Non-License' is that it would seem to be harder to remove one's name from a list of banned drivers than it would to obtain a fraudulent driver's license. (In this country, if your driver's license is taken away in Indiana, you go to Michigan or Ohio or Illinois or Kentucky, depending on where in Indiana you live, and get a license there.)

Alexis Gilliland

4030 8th Street South, Arlington, VA 22204 USA July 10, 1988

In Gegenschein 55, Eric remarks about the tendency of fans to eat together in large, unwieldy clots of people. Perhaps the solution is a long trough of hot chilli. Ah well.

Harry Andruschak

PO Box 5309, Torrance CA 90510-5309 USA 25 June 1988

[Re] job satisfaction. I do have a problem here. After 13 years at JPL, could any job offer me any kind of satisfaction? Probably not. I find that, unlike at JPL, most of my work-time thoughts are about what I will do tonight when I get off, or how to use my 2 days off (Tuesday and Wednesday instead of Saturday and Sunday), or planning a vacation. Mind you, the job is probably as interesting as anything else I can get. But a certain amount of boredom has already set in, after only 6 months.

But let us face it. I am over the age of 40, and not likely to find any kind of better job. I am more or less `locked in' to my present job, and I shall have to make the best of it until retirement. I was 1 year unemployed, and that is enough.

And no, Eric, I still do not have a home computer system, or a word processor, or any kind of high tech gear. One of my boy friends has been nagging me about this, so maybe someday I will break down, and join in the ranks of fandom with a word processor, or at least a spelling checker. Yes, I do need a spelling checker. Also a better portable electric typewriter than the one I am using.

Julie Vaux

12 July 1988

I'd like to comment on the origin of the term `koorie'. I have seen several variants of this recently, and it seems to be a loan word from one, or several, of the original languages of Victoria and NSW. Speaking in terms of socioliguistics, as a lexicon item its usage beyond Aboriginal English is something new. Only in the last decade has this word been used in the general media or recorded although it was very common amongst aboriginals as an alternative to Black. I suspect it has become more common because it forms such a neat antonym to `gubba', a term of derision to describe whites.

A Fanzine for my acquaintances in the SF world

Edited and published by Eric Lindsay

Gegenschein is published whenever the Editor has enough material and time to fill an issue. Comments are encouraged, and should be sent to: Eric Lindsay, 6 Hillcrest Avenue, Faulconbridge, NSW 2776 Australia. (obsolete)

Telephone: BH, Mon-Thu (02) 2189651 (Uni Technology, Sydney), AH, Mon-Wed (02) 809 4610 AH, Thu and all day Fri, Sat, Sun, (047) 51 2258

Electronic Mail: ACSNET, eric at nswitgould.oz and eric at utscsd.oz

Ask Jean about trades, since she keeps the mailing lists.

Copyright * 1990. All rights returned to the contributors upon publication.

Andy Porter's Hugo winning Science Fiction Chronicle is a monthly newsmagazine, essential reading for those interested in the USA and UK SF and fantasy fields.