Gegenschein 86 September 1999

Travel to Sydney

We drove Jean's brand new Ford Laser (a small car, but large by our standards) south to Sydney and back, starting on 6th February 1999. It is a measure of how far out in the country we are that I can report that it was 142 kilometres to the first traffic light, in Mackay, and that after Mackay we covered 476 kilometres from home before the next set of traffic lights. I won't say we were unused to the car, but we did have a moment of panic until we discovered the black button on the black panel that turned on the air conditioner.

We overate salads at Sizzlers whenever possible on the trip, at Rockhampton, Gladstone, Bundaburg, Logan, and yes, we did have to divert to get to Bundaburg. It is fair to say we are very impressed by Sizzlers. We took a fair bit of food and drink from home, to avoid having to resort to snack foods, a legacy of my initial experiences driving here originally, when I couldn't find anything I thought of as food. At Rockhampton, in the shopping mall containing the Sizzlers, we saw Chris and Val, the resort management folks from Whitsunday Terraces where we live. Looks like we are not the only ones who have to go a distance from home for our shopping.

The motels we stayed at in the country areas down the coast were mostly around the $40 to $60 range, since we were way outside the tourist season. We stayed at Gladstone Motel, 595k from home, and toured the town and overlooked the world's largest alumina plant next morning.

Incongruous signs spotted along the way included one stating the Great Eastern Motel in Gympie was owned by Best Western. We next stayed at Pacific Paradise Motel near Mudjimba Beach, where a tropical downpour knocked out the power for two hours, plus shorter outages several times during the night. We were there only because I wanted to stop in at a palmtop computer supplier who works over the Internet from the beach. We stayed at Ballina Travel Lodge for two nights, so we could visit friends near Ballina. That was fun, as we watched people throw themselves off cliffs at the Byron Bay lighthouse ... luckily they had hang gliders attached.

At Forster, relatively close to Sydney, we stayed at the Casita Motel, and dined at the local Foster (sic) Tuncurry Memorial Services club, which ensured a cheap meal.

We stayed at the Pioneer Way Motel at Faulconbridge, and like everything else in Sydney, that was far more expensive than the country motels, at $70 a night. Pretty much everything closer to Sydney would have been over $100. We also managed dinner at our old favourite, The Lazy Frog, and a $60 meal for the two of us was way up on the typical $20 of Sizzlers earlier in the trip. We reached my old place at Faulconbridge after 2375 kilometres, 5 refills of the tank, totalling 210 litres, costing $116 in petrol.

We stayed at my place at Faulconbridge for about two weeks, doing the last of throwing stuff out. Had a few more removal and disposal days for fans there, and it was good to catch up with so many people. I managed to get some extra copies of Gegenschein 84 printed at Office Works, and will try that trick again when visiting major cities. Jean was severely hassled by my tenants' cockatiel. The return trip was 27th February to 2nd March, for a total trip distance of 4400 kilometres and 345 litres of fuel.

An update just prior to departing for Aussiecon Three. We have had an offer for my house at Faulconbridge, and have accepted. If all the paperwork goes through, it should be sold by the end of October.

Motorhome Show, Townsville

It seems almost science fictional to think it possible to live and work in a moving vehicle, however that is exactly what Jean and I have been contemplating for some time now. In our usual fashion, we are approaching it gradually, which doubtless means someday we will suddenly throw ourselves into the mobile lifestyle, and become gray nomads. For the moment however, we are just gathering information.

Over a year ago, back when we were in Sydney, we joined the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia (CMCA) as associate members. We also attended their open day at a rally near Sydney, and inspected a vast range of motorhomes. As a result of this, we were able to establish that we needed a small, large motorhome or maybe campervan or maybe something entirely different.

We are used to very small cars, like 1300cc engine size, because that was what is cheap and practical in Sydney. Indeed, my preference is not to have a car at all. So we needed a small campervan, because we are happy with small vehicles, and they can fit in regular parking spots, and you can easily take them into towns. And we needed to fit two complete offices into it, so we needed a giant motorhome wider than the roads here. And the description of what we needed changed every time we thought about it. We seemed to be describing the Tardis ... and that idea seeemed better and better when we saw a motorhome that had an expansion section out the back and a penthouse that hydraulically raised out the top! Not that anything like that custom built unit was within our price range.

The 1999 CMCA rally was at Townsville this year, in June, some 300 k north of us. We figured an easy drive there, do some shopping at a different supermarket, visit the open day, and then head further north for a few days of exploring.

We set out at 9 a.m. on Friday 4th June with a car full of kipple. First stop was Bowen, 90k north, where we searched the Queens Beach area until we finally managed to find the cinema we had heard existed there. Various friends in the area had suggested it was a mere 45 minute drive to the cinema, but we figure they have low flying aircraft rather than cars. The cinema was the Summergarden Twin Theatre, at 40 Murroona Road, Queens Beach, and they even had a phone number (07 4785 1241) for information. Honour satisfied, we continued, stopping at a roadside vegetable stand (actually running from a rest area picnic table) to get some fresh supplies. Indeed, we were so well supplied we could have dined from the contents of the car for a day or so, had we been trapped by a flood or fire (not that we didn't already have a container of food in the boot ... or trunk, for US fans).

It was warming up, so we switched on the air conditioning. Chattered about how the climate here is such that sometimes you want air conditioning even now it is winter. The air conditioning didn't work! We were not impressed, as we passed through Burdiken and Ayr. Stopped at a rest area near Ayr to lunch on our chicken sandwiches from home and gnash our teeth. There was a tourist stop about 282k from Airlie with all manner of facilities, including showers.

Before we even sought a hotel in Townsville, we booked the car in at the Ford dealer for air conditioning repairs, and were scheduled for attention first thing Monday morning.

We headed for the showground, where the CMCA rally was, and sought accommodation nearby. Jean thought the Mercure was nearby, but perhaps a little more expensive than some. It turned out to the closest, and was almost next to Townsville's Sizzler restaurant. That was enough of a recommendation for us. Unfortunately, the quality of the accommodation at the Mercure was a fair way from what I consider three and a half star, with a small pokey room, blackout curtains that didn't span the window, a noisy airconditioner and a design that didn't alow thru ventilation. Many Ma and Pa country motels do it better. I considered it a $50 to $70 room, not a $90 room ... but it was sure a convenient location for us. We booked in, and since the room wasn't ready, wandered along to the nearby Castletown Shopping Centre for some milk and orange juice to stick in the fridge in the motel room. I was tempted by Linux and Java books, but Jean restrained me. We could not resist buying personalised beer stubby holders labelled "Joe" and "Greg", ready for future guests. There were lots of CMCA member badges evident in the area, so we looked as if we fitted right in.

Spent what remained of the afternoon after unpacking in walking to the showground and wandering around looking at as many motorhomes as we could. Since we had our CMCA badges, we had no problems gaining entry, although the show wasn't until Saturday. After a few hours of this we were totally wrecked, and still hadn't seen all the 800 vehicles. I did notice some discount offers to CMCA members from local merchants.

I managed to locate a very wide band multi element dipole base or portable scanning antenna from Mobile One at Dick Smith Electronics. Their D4432 omni directional antenna covers 25 MHz to 1300 MHz and has a BNC connector, just perfect for the Winradio communications receiver I have inside my computer. I had been muttering about getting something like that for over a year. Check if you are interested.

Naturally we dinned at Sizzlers, which is one of the few places in Australia to sport a decent salad bar. Better yet, we were able to take advantage of the 20% CMCA member discount (which shows up on the bills as a senior citizen discount). Made for a fine and filling economical meal, which we repeated for the three evenings we stayed in Townsville.

The Saturday was again spent looking at every motorhome we could check out. We (which is to say, Jean) decided we needed a large one. Room for not one but two offices. We talked with all sorts of people who were travelling in motorhomes, and with all sorts of people who were living in motorhomes. The ones who actually lived in them tended to have converted buses. The smallest possible space into which two offices would fit was 22 feet, and we didn't find any motorhome set up in a totally satisfactory manner at that length. We ended up deciding that probably what we needed was a bus. Not what we wanted to discover, but at least we are getting a clearer idea of how to make things work (but see our next report, wherein we change our collective minds ... not unfortunately for a better model).

One of the things we spent a little time on was checking all the area phone books for places to get kosher food for our future US visitors. Not a sign of anything that might be relevant, under any heading we could come up with. I was disappointed, but not surprised.

We visited Townsville's Sunday Market in Flinders Street, which had a real range of different crafts and similar. We discovered two Internet cafes. Townzone, a video games place, at 201 Flinders Street, was too noisy to contemplate using, and was $10 a hour. Near MacDonalds, The Internet Den, Shop 5, Alexandra House Arcade, 261 Flinders Mall had 10 computers at $9 an hour, and was open seven days.

We visited Rowes Park, where there were all manner of large ceramic animals set in the ground. The old Quarantine station, where Jean used to work for the Australian Institute of Marine Science, had a fascinating history display. Wildlife viewing at the Townsville Town Common, where there were a variety of bird blinds near the road for us to use. Castle Hill overlooks the entire town, so we drove up there and took heaps of photographs, including some of the showground still full of motorhomes.

I collapsed soon thereafter, having caught the flu. Despite that, we did continue up the coast on Monday after the air conditioning had an O ring replaced. We diverted, taking the windy road to Paluma, a tiny village reached by going via a mountainous road through National Park. It was very pretty, but took us a long while to cover the 30 kilometres each way.

We got only as far as Tully that afternoon, where I collapsed without dinner, and didn't move until Tuesday morning. It rained, of course, Tully being one of the wettest areas in Australia. We drove around the Mission Beach area for a fair while, as I'd wanted to look at that. Took the old road to Innisvail, so we could go by Paranella Park. Built by a Spanish immigrant in the 1930's, this old castle would be a wonderful spot for a horror movie. A recent addition is the suspension bridge over the pond and falls. That was fun.

We stopped at the Coolabah motel on Mulgrave Road at the outskirts of Cairns, just near the Sizzlers, and across from the Stockland Shopping Centre. Jean went shopping for material, which was one of the things on her shopping list. We both utterly failed to get most of the other things we were after. Dined at Sizzlers once again, but I still wasn't well enough to do justice to their salad bar.

Our touring within Cairns was limited to the Central shopping centre, and we even managed to drive through a red light going there. We aren't used to traffic lights anymore. We bought a bunch of computer books each, and not a lot else. Had a snack for morning tea, and set off back home around eleven. Jean thought we would get to Townsville around two, and that sounded about right to me also. It actually took until 3:30. We hadn't realised how much slower the road from Cairns was, being narrow, not as straight, and slightly longer than the Townsville to Airlie section. Lunched rather late at the Townsville Sizzler, and worried about whether we could make the rest of the drive back in a reasonable time. We did eventually reach home before 8, so that section of the road was much faster than the earlier stretch.


Aussiecon Three Guest of Honour Greg Benford and his companion Elisabeth Malartre arrived by bus from Cairns at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday 17th August. They reported having failed to find any way to get any of their rail bookings while outside Australia. The travel agent apparently sent off faxes to the Railways, and they were never answered. I hadn't met Elisabeth before, but it turned out I had read her story Evolution Never Sleeps a short while ago in the July Asimov's SF.

Greg reported he and his brother Jim had been working on a study of microwave sails, for sending instrument packages from orbit into deep space. Much lighter structures than solar sails, in the order of a gram a square metre. The energy you could push at them with microwave beams was at least an order of magnitude better than sunlight, and having a carbon structure, they didn't mind being heated to several thousand degrees by the incoming energy. Well, okay, they do sublimate, but gradually (is sublimate the word I'm seeking - hmm, never have a physicist around when you need one).

We dined at Tequilla Willies, it being very convenient to hand, and no booking required. Also, I wanted to show Greg the only Internet Cafe in town to serve beer, wine and spirits.

Wednesday 18th August

Jean stayed home and continued to work on her book on editing. She also did the cleanup of the scans of the engineering drawings for a collaboration we had been doing. We hadn't been sure we would have any free time, as the last meterial for the collaboration hadn't arrived until Tuesday.

Two weeks previous, out of the blue, Jean was asked to write a repair manual for the electronics portion of a 15kVA generator. The course for the technicians learning about repairing it was due to start Monday 23rd August, so timing was real tight. I did the initial runs through the software engineers notes about the microprocessor and sensors, and read many large sheets of schematics. We looked at some previous (not totally satisfactory) manuals. Then I wrote up how I thought it worked, and how I thought it should be repaired. Jean took on the hard job of turning my techie talk into English, and making the presentation look polished, and suited to the style required by the client. I think it fair to say that this collaboration did have its moments ... and given we have never even seen this 900 kilogram generator, the repair manual may be a little ... theoretical.

Being free, I was able to show Greg and Elisabeth around town, all two blocks, and eight Internet Cafes of it. We tried the Airlie Thai for lunch, and had a range of dishes to sample. Elisabeth wanted to do some shopping, so she wandered off around town. I must record my appreciation to Elisabeth for identifying all manner of creatures great and small that we have around this area. In particular, the large bird that wanders out over Boathaven Bay (known to locals as Muddy Bay). We had seen it flying back some afternoons with a fish in its talons. I had thought it might be some sort of sea eagle, but the colours didn't match the description I had. Elisabeth said an osprey.

Greg wanted to go sailing. We visited the Whitsunday Sailing Club before lunch, and signed up for crew, and took phone numbers of some of the skippers seeking crew. After lunch, and some phone calls we were able to sign Greg up at the last minute as crew on a timber yacht. We rushed back down to the sailing club, and packed him off with a couple of cans of beer to fortify him for the afternoon social race.

Since Greg would (eventually) return to the Sailing Club, I left messages for Elisabeth. Around dusk, Jean and I went down to collect Elisabeth, and found she had already left for the Sailing Club, where we soon located her. Since the Wednesday happy hour is 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. we had a few drinks while we waited, and watched the boats from the balcony. No sign of Greg, although B2 seemed to have returned to its moorings. We checked through binoculars each dinghy that rowed into the saling club. Eventually, around seven, we gave up and ordered dinner.

Naturally Greg turned up almost immediately afterwards, still with one can of beer on hand. He told us the skipper had first landed the two backpackers who had also crewed, as they had to catch a bus out of town. He reported that the beer had flowed freely onboard, and the race was not exactly fiercely competitive. At least he seemed to have enjoyed himself.

Greg wanted to collect his email, and luckily connecting to AOL from the local ISP worked fine, with replies being sent to Aussiecon, and to others. After some minor printing problems, we got to be the first to read a new story Greg had just done, Anomalies. I can see that in the unlikely event I have frequent visits from authors, I'll have to try to find them some software that is more like what they normally use. My usual text editor is not a GUI style, and does take some getting used to (okay, to be truthfull, it has an interface only a programmer would love).

Thursday 19th August

Joe and Gay Haldeman, and Rusty Hevelin were due to arrive, so I drove to collect them from Proserpine airport. They were coming from Cairns, via Townsville so the plane didn't have a chance to become very late. It was really great to see them all. Getting all the not even excessive luggage into Jean's small car was considerable challenge, and a certain quantity had to sit between the rear seats. I was able to show them various bits of the countryside as we drove the 30 kilometres from the airport. I rather fear I was in continuous chatter mode during the drive. Despite the years that had passed since I had last seen them all, it was almost as if no time at all had passed at all.

We settled them in and then with Greg and Elisabeth sought lunch. The Boardwalk and Mama's Boys didn't have too much music going on, so we settled in there under the trees, next to the redevelopment of the Magnum's site. In some ways it is a pity there is not longer a site for toad races and mechanical bull riding, but having the area move further upmarket may also reduce the early morning fights among the drunks. That wouldn't be a total loss, not matter how entertaining the uninvolved spectators find it.

At Pavillion Travel we booked a Three Island Trip on Friday for all of us, as a compromise tour of the area. At the same travel agent, Elisabeth tried to get their trip back on schedule. Greg prefers ground travel, but the overseas travel agents never seemed to get replies to their faxes when they attempted to book rail travel in Australia.

Jean had encouraged Gay to try the Royal Copenhagen ice cream shop. You can get a card they stamp, and for every five stamps, you get a free ice cream. Jean encouraged Gay to get one, and it rapidly gained stamps during this visit.

Jean and I had some celebrating to do. We had just that day received notice that our new business name Avalook had been accepted. We opened the bottle of Moet and Chandon given us for a housewarming present, this being a good reason to celebrate, and good people with whom to celebrate. A considerable quantity of wine appeared, and was consumed. Somehow between wandering around, and sitting around talking, the entire afternoon vanished. We were so merry we had to get a taxi to take Rusty the short distance back down to the main street.

We dined at KCs, with good food, and I believe Joe was the adventurous diner, with crocodile. The music system was too noisy for us to easily converse. At least, I thought it was too loud, until the band arrived before nine, and I learned what loud was really like! I don't particularly mind that places have loud bands later in the evening, as I would never consider attending while the band is there. However I object to it being almost impossible to find a venue in town that doesn't play loud piped music with every single meal. I want to talk with my friends, and hear their conversation, not shout at them.

Greg said they had the same problem with the sound system on the Grayhound bus. The driver played an obnoxious video at high volume, and when that wasn't on, tried to tune in an even more obnoxious talkback radio show, being defeated only when out of range of the station. Greg complained to the driver, and to a clerk at the Townsville bus depot. The driver wanted to know what about the other passengers (none of whom had asked for the video nor the radio). The clerk indicated he couldn't do anything about it. Given the bus was equipped with earphone sockets, and that many people carry radios and cassettes with earphones, I don't see why the speaker system is used for anything except announcements by the driver. Jean absolutely refuses to travel by long distance bus at all these days, mostly due to the sound systems.

Craig Hilton was able to join us for dinner, and afterwards as resident fan doctor brought back his medical kit and checked our GoH's diving injuries.

Friday 20th August

We took the 8:15 bus to Shute Harbour, for the Three Island trip on Seatrek Voyager. As I had more than half expected, the engine was very noisy, but the sailing vessels just don't have the speed you need for one day trips.

Tiny and nearby Daydream Island was overdeveloped long ago, with both ends covered in multiple buildings, and probably 300 rooms, mostly of a fairly reasonable size by island standards. The rainforest walk wouldn't exceed a ten minute stroll, as less than half the forest cover is left on the island.

Daydream is now aiming at the family market, with children. It has tennis courts, a basketball court, kids clubs, and an outdoor cinema on one of the beachs. Daydream encourage locals to attend for a meal and a cinema, and it probably really is the nearest cinema to us. Naturally there are the usual water sports facilities for hire, plus SCUBA diving training and hire. The pool looked fairly pleasant, as did the various bars, but most were closed. The old catamaran Trinity from Airlie Beach has been renamed, refurbished, and now does twilight cruises. Like all the islands, you are a captive audience once there, and the food is overpriced, with $8.50 hamburgers.

Further offshore, South Molle is much larger, and I rather suspect it was one of the first to have a resort on it. I must admit that the rooms appear rather small, and very much the same in appearance from outside as they were decades ago. The island reception seemed pretty organised. There are about 16 kilometres of walking tracks on the island, with fine views of the Whitsundays from the peaks, for those energetic enough to venture up that trail.

The 9 hole golf course seemed very popular, and you have to cross a portion of it to reach the start of the walking tracks. Partway up one of the hills on the walking tracks, we came to a lookout overlooking one of the holes, and it appeared that really dedicted golfers could whack a few balls toward the green even from there.

I wasn't nearly so impressed by the numerous fruit bats hanging out in a large tree near the walking track. Not only are they noisy, even in daytime, but they also stink. Those used to European fruit bats are probably more impressed by the chicken like size of these ones, and their impressive wing spans. These are not little things to flutter around through doorways like a butterfly. We see a few flying around Airlie, but not in these numbers.

We had tickets for the buffet lunch, which had a pretty impressive range of salad ingredients. Although the cafeteria was a little pedestrian for a resort, the food was plentiful and tasty. I sure had no complants, although the surroundings were a little noisy, with many hard, reflective surfaces helping keep the noise levels up.

Our next stop was Hook Island, where Voyager was able to dock at the underwater observatory. This is too small for more than half the visitors to descent at a time. Alas, it is also showing its age, with the portholes somewhat obscured by grime outside, and fairly tired looking coral around. Provided you could climb down and up a rather long and narrow spiral staircase, you could see the coral.

The 700 metre bush path to the resort area was rather rocky for the older visitor, and anyone reliant upon a cane or walking stick would have decided problems. Wheelchair access probably wouldn't be possible.

Hook Island is very low key, mostly promoting a variety of camping sites. They have an attractive bar and food service at the beach, and there is a decent range of shallow fringing coral reefs to view just offshore. They do have a few cabins, but I'd think those who really enjoy their creature comforts might find Hook a little too primitive, despite being probably the cheapest of the resorts.

As Greg Benford has pointed out elsewhere, Star Trek is SF Lite. Seatrek continued their contribution to the genre with their glass bottom punt Mr Spock. We took turns being shuttled from the beach over the best of the corals, getting an excellent view of various sea life.

Jean had taken ill with what appeared to be allergy symptoms soon after we left South Molle, and decided to rest on the beach. We never did discover the cause, but she is so careful about food that we wonder if something truely exotic was in the air. We didn't have to walk the trail back to the underwater observatory. Luckily, Voyager was able to beach itself at the resort, and with all aboard we backed into deeper water, and headed back to Shute Harbour.

Seeking someplace quiet to eat after our experience with KCs, we checked The Courtyard as soon as we returned. Not all that surprisingly, although no customers were there yet, they were booked out. We decided to hell with great cuisine, got takeaway giros at Cafe Mikonos, and more bottles of wine, and headed up to our apartment.

Greg wanted to collect and send email again, and being able to access AOL via a web browser, had no great problems. We also got to see the first version of a short story Anomalies, as Greg wanted to get some printouts. He wasn't impressed by the strange editors I tend to favour.

Things got far more interesting getting Joe's email, as his modem had been fried by an errant power adapter while on the way to Australia. Unlike Microsoft's mail clients, Eudora Lite seems to retain its email files in very close to the usual Unix ASCII format. I had hoped that Eudora on his Macintosh would be able to read these files and use them directly. Alas, that was not to be. I had long ago found the easy way to get Eudora Lite to access additional email addresses, and had one mostly prepared for Joe. We filled in the details I lacked, and collected his mail on an MS-DOS disk. Macs are polite about reading MS-DOS, and Joe got to read his mail on his Mac in Microsoft Word. I took his ASCII replies, faked up the required mail headers with an editor, and sent them out with Eudora. I tried to explain how to do these and other tricks, and gave him a disk that needed only one change when used in an Internet cafe with Eudora, but we decided it was another case of "don't try this at home kids" for some of the tricks.

Saturday 21st August

Joe reported that he had finished the novel he was writing, a sequel to The Forever War. He and Gay wanted to celebrate their 34th wedding anniversary, and completing the novel put their day off to a real good start. I showed them over the local Saturday craft and food market, and enthused about all the good things there. For once I was unencumbered, as Jean came down and collected the food I normally carry up to the apartment.

Greg and Elisabeth were getting their luggage all packed and in the boot of the car, but Greg also wanted to see the market, so we wandered off on a second trip. As usual I seemed to see lots of people with whom to talk.

We had been going to split up and go by car and bus to the Wildlife Park about ten kilometres up the road. Jean didn't feel well enough to go, and with deadlines approaching also wanted to continue with her book. Despite this, Jean's little Ford Laser couldn't fit all of us, so I took the most enthusiastic animal watchers, Gay and Elisabeth, while Rusty had a little more rest. Didn't take long to return for the others, and we quickly located Gay and Elisabeth in the park.

The animals seemed pretty tame, and very used to being handled, so we all got a chance to handle a tree python, and a variety of slow reptiles, look at small furry creatures and see if they would eat something or whether they would fall asleep again. Naturally we fed hoards of ducks and swans, and tried to avoid being mugged by the emus or the casawaries.

Bob Bredl, the Barefood Bushman, did a crocodile show that really was amazing. I was convinced we would soon have to collect the remains, but he seemed to really understand what he was doing with the crocs. I wouldn't sit on a crocodile and bash it on the head with a plastic bucket to get it to turn around. I'd seen parts of the show on TV, but hadn't attended before. I sure would go again, and would recommend the park. At $15 it isn't even particularly expensive, and you do get to see everything close up. In the case of the crocodiles, perhaps a little too close. Some of them are heavy!

The koalas are not very interesting to me, but they are an obligiatory experience for anyone from overseas. I did enjoy the nocturnal house, as it had a range of animals I don't often see. About the only disappointment was no platypus and no echidna. I think Taronga Park zoo in Sydney is a good spot for platypus, as they are shy, and you can spy on them underwater from a darkened tunnel at the zoo.

The cafetaria is a little limited in range, so I used that as an excuse to have a meat pie. Security of entry is handled by stamping the back of your hand with a rubber stamp, so you could go elsewhere for lunch, and return.

All too soon it was time to take Greg and Elisabeth to the airport for their flight to Sydney. They were suitably bemused by the heavy security in regional Australia during weekends. Not only was no-one running the X-ray machine, it wasn't even switched on. When it was time to board, everyone headed out the gate, some via the entrance, some via the exit, and none via the unused boarding lounge.

Returning to the Wildlife Park, I collected Joe and Gay and Rusty. Mindful of yesterday, we went straight to the Courtyard, as Joe and Gay wanted to celebrate their 34th anniversary. This time we were lucky, with a cancellation by a party of six allowing us to make a booking. I couldn't get through to Craig, but Jean was sufficiently recovered to dine with us.

Joe rather liked the Bring Your Own (BYO) wine idea, and the 10% off offer from the bottle shop next door. For the second time during the week we had Moet and Chandon. Also a rather nice bottle of white, and a very nice bottle of red that Greg had left. Joe was again adventurous, with cajun kangaroo. I was pleased to find barramundi, as most of the rich foods and sauces available are things I shouldn't be eating. The meal was excellent, although given the company, perhaps any restaurant would have seemed that way. The music this time was not obtrusive, and as we were the only people there at first, they turned it down even further upon request.

Sunday 22nd August

We finally had a relaxed day, having packed all the luggage in the car boot. Sitting around chatting at our apartment. I think we managed another email collection and reply. Then for lunch to the Hog's Breath Cafe, founding member of what is now a large chain. I find the concentration on meat at Hog's Breath makes it a minor problem to find meals I don't feel guilty about eating. I think Joe was remembering the big sign that Hog's Breath has at the turn from the highway to Airlie Beach. It has four cartoon pigs with knives and forks, and a caption "Four out of four hogs agree, eat more beef!"

We finally had to stop talking and depart for the airport. I did make a tactical error here. I should have packed a cold beer. When we got to the airport, nothing was open, including the main doors. The other end was open, with no-one in sight. Finally a figure appeared from what had appeared top be a deserted counter, and we bantered for a while as we dropped the bags. If security is lax on Saturday, it is out of sight on Sunday, with only two staff in the entire airport. This also means noo canteen open, and no bar. As I said, next time I must remember to bring our own supplies.

As Joe, Gay and Rusty were the only passengers, and no-one was getting off, the 33 seater plane almost did a touch and go. Kept the farside prop running, and only stopped the prop on the terminal side. The lady behind the counter had to go out on the field to signal the plane upon landing, collect packets from the pilot's window, and signal the plane from the tarmac when they could leave. Boarding was therefore a very informal affair.

Thus ended our first wave of visitors. More expected after Aussiecon.

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A copy of the programme book for Unicon Four, The 17th National Australian Convention of Science Fiction held in 1978 is to be auctioned at Aussiecon 3. All proceeds to go to the Fan Funds, and is donated by David L Russell. It has been autographed by the following pros and fans. A. Bertram Chandler, lan Gunn, George Turner, Roger Weddall.

Justin Ackroyd, Brian Aldiss, Kenny Baker, Russell Blackford, Bill Congreve, Keith Curtis, Jack Dann, Niall E. Doran, Karen Joy Fowler, Leanne Frahm, Neil Gaiman, William Gibson (autograph slightly smudged), Lee Harding, Danny John Jules, Jay Kay Klein, Robert Llewellyn, Lyn McConchie, Sean McMullen, Lewis Morley, Kate Orman, Robin Pen, Jose Perez, Terry Pratchett, Marilyn Pride, Dave Prowse, Kim Stanley Robinson, Nick Stathopoulos, Wynne Whiteford, Sean Williams and Roger Zelazny.

James Allen, Jeanette Tipping Allen, Sue Ann Barber, Bruce Barnes, Merv Binns, Bernard Booth, Lyn C, Dennis Callegari, Lisa Cowan, Roy Ferguson, Terry Frost, Bruce Gillespie, Karen Pender Gunn, Carey Handfeld, Danny Heap, Donna Heenan, Mandy Herriot, Craig Hilton, George Ivanoff, Robin Johnson, Dallas Jones, Eric Lindsay, Jan MacNally, Race Matthews, Evan McCarthy, Perry Middlemiss, Shane Morrissey, Janice Murray, Clive Newall, Michael O'Brien, Cath Ortlieb, Marc Ortlieb, Margaret Louise Ruwoldt, Allan Stewart, Pat Sims, Roger Sims, Dick Smith, Leah Zeldes Smith, Sean Paul Smith, Grant Stone, Geoff Tilley, Jane Tisell, Beky Tully, Kerri Valkova, Phil Ware (initials only), Jean Weber, Phil Wlodarczyk and Apollo Zammit.

Computer Stuff

I finally got around to building myself a fairly portable computer desk, with lots of bits that slide out. Howard Silvers Hardware make "Silvers" bottom fix drawer slides with a self adjusting feature. I used the 450mm size, which cost about $7.50 a pair. The bits that slide are really neat; pity there isn't enough room to work at it.

Windows 98 Proven More Reliable

Proof positive that Windows 98 (original version) is more reliable than ... well, than Window 95. There is a timer bug in vtdapi.vxd that causes Windows 98 to hang after 49.7 days without a reboot. Someone must have managed to actually run the thing for that period to have encountered the bug (said to be fixed in Windows 98 Service Pack 1, and in Windows 98 Second Edition). Mind you, I noticed at UTS that Novell Netware 3.11 wouldn't last more than 270 days without a reboot. My Psion 5 lasted nearly 12 months without a reboot (required because a cable to the display came loose, not a software problem). You don't want to know how long some Unix systems can go without a reboot (I rebooted certain SUN Solaris systems once as year, purely as a precaution, not because they seemed to need it).

Remote Phones and Internet

A mere 40 kilometres from home we visited Earlando, a resort that lacks phones (and TV). As with many areas along the highways, and the vast majority of the countryside, there are no phone lines, nor does a mobile phone work. The phone companies boast they cover 95% or more of the population; what they don't say is they cover less than 5% of the land area.

On a recent trip to Cooktown, we were out of phone contact a mere 15 kilometres from home, and only had contact in major towns. This did not include Cooktown, population 6,000, where our phones didn't work at all.

The older analog phone system is being withdrawn at the end of 1999, leaving the digital GSM system used everywhere except the USA and Japan. For country areas, the analog system is far superior in range. In cities, the digital system is superior, as it can handle more phones per cell, and cells can be made smaller.

Optus sell MobileSat, developed by Aussat, and using older, bulky equipment. Antenna can be a car mounted helical, so it is mobile. Only covers Australia, and has about 8,000 customers. Base price for equipment is $3,000 plus tax. One of the plans for remote homesteads costs $50 a month, with call costs of $1.20 a minute peak, 80c a minute offpeak.

Telstra sells Inmarsat services as SatNet, using the suitcase sized Inmarsat-M terminal. New Mini-M laptop computer sized terminals are now out, and these usually need a level surface so you can point the phased-array antenna at the satellite. Terminals sell for about A$4,900 plus tax, and they have voice, fax and data (2.4kbps). Telstra charge $100 to connect, and $50 a month, plus $2 a minute for calls, $4 outside Australia.

Telstra's Big Pond say they will have a satellite internet service in September. Needs a satellite dish, not a TV type one either. Said to access the net at 10Mbps, and at a similar rate to cable connections. A basic $65 a month for 100Mb of downloads and 5 Mb web site, going up to $170 for 500Mb monthly is the cable rate, if you happen to have a Foxtel cable near you. They claim the service does not need a phone line, and you are not charged for on-line connect time. The URL is but that doesn't always work. Try

The Internet Group (New Zealand) trading in Australia as ihug, has a SatNet service via PanAmSat's PAS-2 satellite at 169 degrees E, with PAS-8 at 166 degrees now coming in. You need a 65cm to 90cm receive only dish, and SM2000 MPEG-2 card in your PC. $650 for the dish, $150 for installation, or all up $81 a month for flat rate Internet. You still need a phone line for your back channel, so phone bills will still be high.

Nortel are testing their 1xRTT packetised CDMA base station technology, hoping for mobile data rates of 144Kbps over CDMA. Trials in 2000 in conjunction with Telstra.

Blackouts and Brownouts

Now we have a nice little APC brand uninteruptible power supply (UPS), we get all sorts of beeps and whistles when the power fails. And fail it does up here. Not long failures, only a second or two, just long enough to stuff up a computer without a UPS.



Upmarket techno toys catalog, with some editorial, from Ziff Davis. Good to find out what useless gizmo the marketoids will try to flog to you next. Very little comparative information to assist in value shopping, and absolutely no analysis as to whether the gadgets are needed for any earthly purposes. I'm not willing to buy it, but I enjoy reading it!

Australian Communications

Monthly, on enterprise networking and telecommunications management issues. Not really very techie, in a nuts and volts or bit bashing manner, but does an excellent line on buzz words. If you intend understanding it, you should have a good handle on frame relay, ATM, ISDN, MAC, nwtwork models and that sort of stuff, as it is assumed you will be familiar with their implications, if not their details. Worth getting every now and then to try to find out what telecos and network suppliers are planning to change, and what is flavour of the month in comms.

Electronic Design

Two weekly trade magazine, lots of blurbs about new technologies and especially about new chip designs. Good on brief specifications, and background on new processing methods. Several pages of circuit designs each issue. Good stuff if you are into circuit design, or just want to know what the designers will be working on next.

Technology Review"

MIT's magazine of innovation seems to have moved to a cult of personality PR puff piece, without much technology in it. Bit of a disappointment.

Strange Matters

Equal Treatment

There was a strike at most coal mines in Australia today, in protest at Government inaction about Oakdale miners losing A$6.3 million in leave and other entitlements when the coal mining company went bankrupt. The Government claimed it was worried about setting precedents about government assistance. It didn't care about that back in February, when it gave out A$6 million in handouts to pig farmers, under the Pork Producer Exit Program.

Super Glue

Being lazy, I decided to glue Teflon glides under my recliner chair, so I could move it easily. The double sided sticky tape supplied with the Teflon glides soon came adrift from the chair. I decided to get stuck into Selleys "Fix'n'Go" Supa Glue Gel. This stuff must be the 87 pound weakling of super glues. It was so unsticky that it wouldn't even support the weight of the tiny Teflon glides. You know, when I was a kid, I read in the Reader's Digest about glues so good they were used to stick the wings on planes. If anyone happens to know of a plane with stuck on wings, can you let me know, so I can use the bus instead.

Get Rid of Stuff

Australia's largest person to person internet auction site, seems a good idea. Pity it is so hard to actually use; accessing the home page produces a blank page in some browsers.

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Book Reviews

I can't help but notice that Legends, edited by Robert Silverberg, has been published in full only in hardcover and in trade paperback. The trade paperback is about A$25. The publishers have now printed the same stories as three paperbacks, each containing only three or four stories from the original. The price is A$15.95 each. I think this sales tactic absolutely stinks.

Once again, I include a direct link to Internet bookseller, to assist you in buying these books over the Internet. I get a 5% commission on sales, and will use any commissions received to improve my site. Incidently, I think it is time some enterprising Australian SF bookseller made an "associates" program available.

Traces by Stephen Baxter

Voyager (Harper Collins), June 1999, 359pp, A$14.95, ISBN 0-00-649814-0

Science fiction, and especially the "ideas" story, is often better when presented as shorter length pieces, rather than at novel length. Here are 21 stories from an excellent SF writer, dating from 1988 to 1997, mostly first published in Interzone. Very enjoyable.

Foundation and Chaos by Greg Bear

Harper Prism, May 1999, 401pp, US$6.99, A$15.95

Greg Bear continues the second foundation trilogy started by Greg Benford. Hari Seldon is old, and facing trial for treason for predicting the fall of Trantor. However his past support from Emperor Cleon has let him gather the staff for the Encyclopaedia Galactica project, and the nucleus for the First Foundation. Now R. Daneel Olivaw must try to ensure that the First Foundation moves safely to Terminus, away from the turmoil and risks of Trantor.

Accidental exposure to an intense neutrino flux eliminates the Three Laws from R. Lodovik Trema, who was carrying out Daneel's plans as assistant to Linge Chen, administrative ruler of the Empire. Will Lodovik find a different path to the Zeroth Law, and perhaps join with the remaining robotic followers of the ideas of Susan Calvin? Will ambitious Privy Counseller Farad Sinter, aided by his Mentalist ally, find the hidden Mentalists of the First Foundation, or will he defeat Linge Chan and in so doing destroy the Empire even more quickly than Seldon's predictions? And what will be the effect of the Mentalists on all of the Sheldon Plan?

Don't just wonder about this summary of the events of the first chapter - read the entire book, from a series that to date is notably better plotted and better written than Asimov's beloved original.

Komarr by Lois McMaster Bujold

Baen, April 1999, 366pp, US$6.99 A$15.95

Lord Miles Vorkosigan, now an Imperial Auditor, accompanies another Auditor to Komarr to see how an Auditor carries out his work during an investigation of the destruction of a gigantic terraforming orbital mirror by an out of control spaceship. But why was the ship out of control, and why are there more bodies than should be? Being Miles, he soon runs into complications, plots, and treachery. This time the story is a romance, as he falls for the wife of a character who might be involved in some sort of plot. Done with the skill and style Bujold always displays.

The Engines of Dawn by Paul Cook

ROC, Feb 1999, 286pp, US$5.99, ISBN 0-451-45736-6

Human starships are propelled by engines whose workings are kept secret by the alian Enamorati who tend to the needs of the giant engines. On a university ship, several groups are working on alternative engines, and when their Enamorati engine fails, fights break out amongst the Enamorati, including castes no human has seen before. Students and lectures seek to change the status quo, despite opposition from the university administration and security forces.

There were a lot of nice touches here, but somehow the actions seemed a little academic, and perhaps a little too simplistic.

Broadsword by Bill Crispin

Bantam (Random House), Aug 1999, 438pp, A$15.95 ISBN 0-73380-169-2

How Hector Cameron comes to lead a Scottish clan in lots of battles. Reads very well as a tale of war, but I can't see any connection with science fiction, and only a marginal one with fantasy (there is a witch in a minor role).

The Last T'en, by Cory Daniells

Bantam (Random House), 4 June 1999, 298pp, A$19.95, ISBN 1-86325-144-8

First in a trilogy, fantasy romance, usual rulers plotting against each other, going to war.

Gardens of the Moon, by Steven Erikson

Bantam (Random House), 23 July 1999, 523pp, A$26.95 E#9.99, ISBN 0-593-04470-3

A tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen. War, Empress, soldiers, Gods, magic, assassins. Yawn, more fantasy crap.

The Cursed Towers, by Kate Forsyth

Arrow (Random House), 2 July 1999, 584pp, A$16.95, ISBN 0-09-18353-09

The Witches of Eileanan book three, sequel to Dragonclaw and The Pool of Two Moons. Dragons, battles and faery. Sydney writer.

Sword in the Storm by David Gemmell

Corgi (Random House), July 1999, 478pp, A$16.95 E#5.99, ISBN 0-552-14256-5

Rise of a psychotic bully and mass murderer to become war leader of an island (Britain), driven by his need (or his gods need) to resist potential invasion by the disciplined army of Stone. All descriptions of Stone appear to equate with Rome, and the description of the Stone methods of war seem to me straight out of Ceasar's Commentaries on War (I prefer the Rex Warner translation). Fast paced as a story, but no social merit whatsoever.

Midnight Falcon by David Gemmell

Bantam (Random House), July 1999, 404pp, A$24.95 E#9.99, ISBN 0-593-04306-5

Bastard child of the above leader grows up sociopathic, learns to be a gladiator and a killer. Concludes the story. I read both these novels carefully, and they are skillfully written, but have all the merit of a typical computer game. I don't think they are suitable reading matter for human beings.

Helm by Stephen Gould

Tor, Feb 1999, 468pp, US$6.99, ISBN 0-812-57135-5

In the tradition of Heinlein juveniles. Earth is dead, with 7,000 humans surviving on the moon in a facility designed for 600. One team will attempt to rehabilitate the Earth. Most of the survivors are shipped in suspended animation to a planet 125 years away, where terraforming has been very successful. However they can't be expected to carry all the knowledge of Earth. The knowledge and part of the personalities of humans are impressed into glass helms, so future leaders on that distant planet will retain a knowledge of Earth and its technologies.

Much later, the youngest son of a leader scales the peak on which their helm sits absorbing solar energy. However the helm can bring madness and death to the unprepared mind. Akido plays a large part in the further training of the adventurous youngster.

The Lady of the Flowers by Sophie Masson

Bantam (Random House), Sept 1999, 327pp, A$15.95

An interesting fantasy romance, set in England in the time of Richard the Lionheart, by an Australian writer with masters degrees in French and English literature. Not to my taste, but not just junk fantasy. Sequel to The Knight By The Pool. I thought the ending very weak, and although many of the contained tales were interesting, it did not to my mind hang together as a novel.

Freedom's Challenge by Anne McCaffrey

Corgi (Random House), August 1999, 348pp, A$15.95

Third and final in the Catteni series. Safe behind the bubble surrounding Botany, the colonists discover a poison against the badies, who conveniently all gather in one spot so they can be poisoned. Pretty pathetic.

The Tower and the Hive by Anne McCaffrey

Bantam (Random House), June 1999, 296pp, HC A$36.95, ISBN 0-593-04324-3

A fifth novel wasn't really needed to conclude this series, but here we have another sf romance. I found it unreadably bad and couldn't finish it. I also wonder why, on page 8, a ship needs to make a 360 degree turn to return from whence it came.

The Siege of Eternity by Frederik Pohl

Tor, Oct 1998, 346pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0-812-57766-3

Sequel to The Other End of Time, with a duplicate of agent Dan Dannerman back on Earth, and everyone trying to make sense of what has been happening. Duplicates of many of the humans who went to the SpaceLab are on Earth, but no-one knows what they want. Reminds me of the X Files, and not favourably either.

Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett

Doubleday (Transworld), Dec 1998, 285pp, A$36.95

The vampires are here, here being the small kingdom of Lancre. Casanunda, the dwarf, lover of fun and other men's wives, and part time lowwayman, avoids messing with the vampires when he sees what happened to the other higwayman. The Count de Magpyr is not to be defeated by ordinary means, nor even the usual means of removing vampires. Familiarity made him immume to crosses held aloft, and his suntan was coming along fine. Even the witches were unable to remove him.

Death's Domain by Terry Pratchett and Paul Kidby

Corgi (Random House), August 1999, map, A$19.95

Entertaining chapbook about Death (the character), plus a colour map of his domain. For Diskworld enthusiasts, obviously.

Apocalypso by Robert Rankin

Corgi (Random House), Sept 1999, 364pp, A$15.95 ISBN 0-552-14589-0

Another unreadable semi fantasy, said to be humourous. I can't stand this author's work. I tried to read it, I really did.

The Memory of Whiteness by Kim Stanley Robinson

Voyager (Harper Collins), June 1999, 351pp, A$15.95

A tour of the 33rd Century solar system, as the Ninth Master of the Orchestra takes that elaborate synthesiser on the Grand Tour. Reads like a novel of manners, but I foundd it so slow that I didn't get past page 100. Probably very well written, but didn't engage me at all.

Fire Angels by Jane Routley

Avon (Random House), July 1999, 500pp, US$6.99 A$15.95, ISBN 0-380-79427-6

Romantic fantasy, sequel to Mage Heart, with Dion the mage against demons, and in the midst of civil war. Not to my taste, but well written. The Wanderers seemed to share many of the characteristics ascribed to Australian aboriginals.

Sewer, Gas and Electric by Matt Ruff

Aspect (Warner Books), Sept 1998, 559pp, US$6.99

If you enjoyed Illuminatis then you want this. Eco-pirates, giant skyscrapers, a mutant shark from the New York sewers, and the talking holographic head of Ayn rand in a hurricane lamp. Best criticism of her work I've read of late. You need a copy of this. Great fun.

Legends, edited by Robert Silverberg

Voyager (Harper Colins), Oct 1998, 591pp, TPB $24.95, ISBN 0002256673

Eleven new stories by well known fantasy authors. Except for the forgettable Terry Pratchett, I thought them unreadable.

Star Wars X-Wing - Isard's Revenge by Michael A Stackpole

Bantam (Random House), June 1999, 336pp, US$5.99 A$14.95 ISBN 0553579037

Book 8 in the X Wing series, which follows Rogue Squadron. Basically WW1 style flying and commando adventures, however at least with (mostly) his own characters, the author can develop the characters a little. Nothing much here for science fiction fans, but the SW faithful should enjoy it.

Against the Tide of Years by S M Stirling

ROC, May 1999, 454pp, US$6.99 A$15.95 ISBN 0451457439

Sequel to Island in the Sea of Time, the Nantucket Republic, their entire island stranded over tho thousand years in the past, is attemping an arms race against renegage Coast Guard officer William Walker, who is arming the Greek kinglets with new weapons based on 19th and 20th Century techniques. This means war.

This is a fine, fast paced alternate history action adventure, with some fascinating bits about older technologies. That said, I don't see that it has much to do with science fiction.

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

Bantam, Dec 1998, 493pp, US$6.50

A 19th century novel of manners, or perhaps comedy of errors, in which bufuddled time travelers assist the course of true romance, but get it all wrong, while attempting to either restore Coventry Cathedral or save a cat. It could also be considered a mystery, since what is happening is certainly a mystery to readers and protagonists. Very slow for the first hundred pages. Hugo nominated, I believe.

War in Heaven by David Zindell

Voyager (Harper Collins), May 1999, 791pp, A$15.95, ISBN 0586211918

Sequel to Neverness, which I never could finish. The first hundred pages are talk, followed by many more pages of talk. What you hear of the technology is mythical, the writing tries to be poetic, but kept putting me to sleep. There are all manner of parallels with religious writings (I can't recall whether this was the case with Neverness). This read like a fantasy (that is not a compliment).

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Yvonne Rousseau

PO Box 3086, Rundle Mall 3086
19 June 1998

You say you are resigning from work on 17 July 1998. John has sneaked in first, and is resigning on 9 July! The [work] visits to Malaysia will continue into 1999, but John will no longer be attached to National Centre for Vocational Education Research. Indeed, he has already registered a business name "Foyster Fact and Fiction".

When [John] returned on 9 May, he calculated that he's spent only three weeks of the first three months of the year in Adelaide.

Dave Rowe

8288 W Shelby State Road 44
Franklin IN 46131-9211 USA
27 August 1998

We're really glad to know you're enjoying your new home and location. What are the facilities like at the top of the cliff? Carolyn was worried that when you get old 180 steps might be 170 too many. Which show how she thinks ahead.

I finally got reading spectacles. At the age of 46 my formerly excellent vision was down to 15/20 so really fine type (like 3 point) was getting a little blurry at close range. It seems incongruous to move type away to get it in focus but that's what's happening.

I went parasailing. This was something I'd been wanting to do for years but every time we took a sub-tropical vacation some nuisance factor would crop up to prevent me obtaining those few minutes of escapism.

Para-sailing isn't what it used to be. You now take-off and land from the boat (not from the beach as in days of yore). The only thing that surprised me was that there was no adrenaline rush. You take off so quickly and smoothly that fear doesn't come into it. In fact if you can sit on a swing you can para-sail. You are 200 feet up in the air so it's best not to suffer from vertigo of course.

Bob Smith

37 St John's Road, Bradbury 2560
27 January 1999

I agree, $4 an issue is too much. I certainly appreciate your problems with paper copy, and like many other fans you appear to have painted yourself into an electronic corner. {{ I'd say it is more a case of paper copying just pricing itself out of my market - without the Internet, there would be no other path for me. EL}}

Mae Strelkov

4501 Palma Sola, Jujuy, Argentina
Jan 25, 1999

I was troubled to learn of Eric's illness but I'm afraid all I did was pray for his recovery and I don't recall whether I also wrote.

I think it is simply wonderful that you both have shown so much sense, and decided to settle in Airlie Beach which sounds like a wonderful place, and may happiness be your lot there henceforth and "forever" or as long as life be granted to us all, since mortals we be.

As for email, no telephone line reaches so far into our lovely wilderness and probably never will. It's ironical, for Ned Brooks just wrote that he and another fan (in a time binding project) are considering having a page on the web for my bygone hecto art of which it seems fans have oodles collected from the 1970's, if I were to give permission.

Gonna be 82 by July, "so there" again.

David L Russell

196 Russell St, Denningham 3280
10 May 1999

I can get access to the Internet. Warrnambool has a government funded multimedia place - basically a room full of computers which you can surf the net on. The problem is that it costs ten dollars an hour and on top of that each page you laser print out costs 50 cents. So you see $4 a copy of Geg from my point of view is a bargain.

I've volunteered to help out as a gopher / chair mover at Aussiecon; I don't know if there will be much setting up for the con done on wednesday night, but after a meal I'll be ready to help out if they need any grunt work done.

So there is a Bruce Highway? Does Bruce Gillespie know about this? Did you have Jean take a photo of you posing, noticing the name to send to Bruce?

Favourite typo in Geg #84 is on page 6 in your review of Willim Barton's Acts of Conscience: "Corporate power plays and lucky investments leave him owner of a faster than life spaceship." Shouldn't that be light?

I'm wondering how you're coping with retirement and not being a techie anymore. The constant theme running through all the Gegenscheins I've read is your love for technology. In `getting away from it all' in Geg 82 you seem to be turning your back on all of the things that you spent your life mastering. If you haven't bought any new electronic gizmos to tinker with or volunteered to help out as a tech person in Airlie Beach I will be very surprised. The turning away from what you are best at seems very strange to me Eric.

{{ True, I've done very little techie stuff. Put in remote controls on some lights and power points here. Got back into Postscript, and modified my print formatter so it handles colour printing. I'll be (mostly) dropping Windows and moving everything I can to Linux. Still, once a techie, always a techie. I brought my soldering iron, my oscilloscope and most of my components, so I imagine I'll build some more gadget eventually. EL}}

Harry Cameron Andruschak

PO Box 5309, Torrence CA 90510-5309
30 May 1999

The China trip was blast. Somewhat expensive at $300 a night, but the hotels and restaurants were first rate, us single males got some nice extras, the sightseeing was marvelous, and the sense of history was over-whelming. The down side was the ghastly air and water pollution problems, the 24 hour traffic jams, and the annoying pressure to buy buy buy at all the tourist stops and museums. And after mainland China, Hong Hong just seemed to be an over-priced, over-hyped letdown.

I should mention that everyone wore western style clothing, not a Mao jacket to be seen during the entire trip. Nor did I see a single tank, jeep, soldier, militia, or anything else of a military nature. Walking the streets of any city in China, even as obvious tourists, was a heck of a lot safer than walkig in any American city as far as crime went, although you did have to watch out for pickpockets and petty theft. But the traffic was just awful, and crossing any street was a life and death affair for both Chinese and tourists.

As for the Y2K bug, I do know the United States Postal Service has declared that we are now Y2K "compliant". Gosh wow. I intend to sleep soundly on the night of 31 December 1999.

I still do not have internet access, and I did note Lloyd Penney's comment on page 10 about getting away from an awful lot but going to a more restful lifestyle. Not in my case. All that has happened is that I have found many other interests to occupy my time.

Did you observe the solar eclipse of 16 February, even if only as a partial eclipse? { It was during our cyclone season, and we hd too much cloud cover on the day. EL}

Karen Herkes

7 Ahern Place, Monash ACT 2904
mail ottdk at dynamite com au

Did I tell you that Dietmar and I had a baby girl `Tara'? I've been finding a fair bit of work in Canberra, doing training packages and articles in peer support and critical incident stress management. So the change has been really good, wit the opportunity to work from home in an area of interest.

I'll be able to read Gegenschein on the internet now. I upgraded my computer in September and now have internet access. I've been astounded at the WWW - on the professional side I've been able to correspond with experts around the world, and also have access to the latest research in days (instead of the previous long `wait for the journal article').

Bruce Pelz

Bruce sends Tripe Reportcard 34, a painting of Hans Christian Andersen's house, with the comment "From Aarhus to His House -- these days, Danegelt is what we tourists pay to visit the Hands Christian Anderson home (Killer fees!!) 15 July 1999."

Tripe Reportcard 35, a photo of St Nicholas Cathedral of the Epiphany at St Petersburg. He says "Zdravstvuite, tovarishchi! Izvinite, pozhaluistta, moi russki plokha. Spasibo. (Fool's Russian: were-angels veer -- toot, Red!) 20 July 1999". Jean translates it as "Hello, comrads! Excuse me, please, my Russian is bad! Thank you."

Tripe Reportcard 36, views of Tallinn, capital of Estonia, with the comment "Local folk artists gave us a capital Tallin show -- truly Estonia-shing. 22 July 1999"

Andy Porter's Science Fiction Chronicle is a bimonthly Hugo nominated newsmagazine, essential reading for those interested in the SF field.

A science fiction fanzine from Eric Lindsay, at PO Box 640, Airlie Beach, Qld 4802 Australia. Jean's phone number is (07) 4948 0450, fax (07) 4948 0435. I don't have a home phone, but my Psion palmtop computer is still safe. Commenced July 1999, completed September 1999.