Gegenschein 95 July 2003

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The Third Eye

Jean has three eyes. Although I have always felt she had psychic powers, especially when I'm about to do something that will get me in trouble, I had always believed her when she said I was just predictable. I realised she really had a third eye when we set off for Townsville in mid January for her cataract operation. Although I have a poor memory for events, even I could recall two previous trips to Townsville for cataract operations, hence my conclusion.

However Jean convinced me that the long term problems she had with her eye (seeing multiple images) after the previous operation warranted a replacement lens. With my hopes for transcendental powers dashed, we packed her Laser with essential supplies for a stay in Townsville.

Essential supplies tend to be bulky. Our own neck support pillows. Lots of cushions, because the Banjo Patterson motel uses cane chairs that are not suitable for long term sitting (although the motel has a decent amount of desk surface). A computer each, plus the myriad cables needed to connect to the world. A portable fluorescent light, because one in the middle of the room is too bright after an eye operation. I had lots of books to read, just in case. Clothes for two weeks, so we didn't have to worry about laundry.

We took a portable CD player each, with many CDs. I'd spent some time before we left locating in my junk piles a power supply for each, and a small set of plug in self amplified speakers for Jean. We never used any of it. Not once. We did play a little of some CDs in the car, but Jean didn't like my (bad) taste in classic music. Car sound systems may be a reason many CDs are clipped and have a very restricted dynamic range. On the way back, Jean loaded the car CD stacker with music more to her taste, and this time we forgot to even turn it on. Given that I am attempting to learn about audio, hi-fi, home theatre and that sort of stuff, this is not a good sign for my continued interest in music. Total indifference would probably be a better description.

Jean drove the entire way to Townsville, knowing it might be weeks before she could drive again. Naturally we stopped midmorning at Inkerman for fuel and to indulge in chicken and salad sandwiches, and get mugged in a desultory fashion by the mooching grey cat.

After unloading (about 8 trips) at the motel, we put some reading matter in our bags, and went to Jean's first eye appointment. The operation was scheduled for two days hence. The appointment was followed by a very early salad bar dinner at Sizzler's, and rolling back to the motel hardly able to move. One meal at Sizzler's is healthy, and unlikely to affect your weight, or so we told ourselves.

The following day was the only one on which Jean could drive, so we hastened off to the Subaru dealer in town. By lunch time she had organised a new Subaru Forester all wheel drive vehicle for herself, for delivery when available. I rolled my eyes a lot (as far as I'm concerned the only good vehicle is a ... hire car). The car sales guy eventually figured out that it really was Jean buying the car, and that I really meant it when I said I didn't like or need a car. It took him a while to grasp the concept of a male who hates cars. I claimed Jean only wanted a new car because the tyres on the old Laser had given up (only done 33,000 km in four years).

Not content with that, we spent the rest of the afternoon doing more shopping around the malls.

The operation next day was swift, only about six minutes. Jean was in fine form, compared to previous operations, when I drove her back to the motel. On the previous operation, she had been put in hospital overnight. She was seeing better even before all the swelling was down this time.

I didn't have much luck getting lunches for her, as the BP service station across the road had given up making sandwiches, and had only pre-packaged pre-stale crusts with unidentifiable green fillings ... and that was the meat. I questioned the staff about delicious real sandwiches like they used to make, and they said head office had told them customers preferred the pre-stale variety. They didn't seem any more impressed with the idea than I was. That made the BP garage little use, except for milk. I took to walking way down the road in the heat to a distant Coles, and getting a chicken on following days, or going out and collecting a pizza. We had a room service dinner that first post-op night, and I bought us some bottles of wine to help Jean forget her eye.

Remarkably, Jean was feeling well enough to go shopping again the next day. Although I must admit it was a short trip, a little longer than needed to get a kabob lunch, this was much more than she had felt able to do after previous eye operations. I got the first dozen of what eventually became over fifty discount books at various Target stores.

During the weekend, we mostly hid in the motel and read. Well, I read. Jean could make the fonts larger on her computer, but got tired very fast. Of course, she won't be able to get new glasses for at least a month. Braving shopping crowds at school holidays during the summer is not our favourite pastime, so staying out of the heat seemed reasonable.

Jean's last post-op eye appointment was moved to two days earlier. We went on a shop till you drop spree to fill the time. My book total rapidly increased to over 50. Jean got a scanner that could handle slides, and a Microsoft cordless keyboard and mouse. We each searched diligently for various connecting cables we can't find here. We finally found a bunch of kitchen gadgets that have been on our search list for years - champagne cork puller, a two stage wine cork remover ... you can see where technology fails us. I found a slightly smaller wireless keyboard and mouse, which Jean liked better, so we swapped (although neither were much good really as a design). Also got an under $100 DVD player for a future computer, an SB Live 5.1 sound card, a USB to serial converter (because serial is harder to find on computers now), 100 blank CDs, some DVD movies that I've failed to get around to viewing.

My big item was a new IBM R31 laptop computer to replace the 133 MHz Toshiba laptop I've been using. Doesn't precisely have everything I want, but the price was right, and I have been worried I wouldn't be able to get legacy ports at all in future. I'll report the results of that disastrous purchase in a future issue. However experiencing Windows XP has convinced me the Apple Switch to Macintosh campaign has the right idea (a real pity the Macintosh product is also no use whatsoever to me).

I won't say the Laser was overloaded, but I did accuse Jean of wanting a new car because she wasn't certain our purchases would fit in the old one. I started loading the Laser the night before we left, filled the entire boot, and seemed to have just as much still in the motel room. I'd swear I made at least 16 trips to fill it. Jean of course is not allowed to lift heavy objects until her eye heals. The stitch isn't even to come out until mid February.

We again stopped at Inkerman on the return trip. Mooching gray cat attacks Jean, attempts to wrest muesli cookie from her. Refuses to take no for an answer. Jean finally gives cat a tiny piece, convinced it will turn up its nose in disgust. Cat gulps it down and redoubles efforts to get entire cookie. "Oh, am I standing on your head? Well, just move your hand closer ... No, the one with the cookie ..." The cat has never been that interested in our chicken sandwiches on previous visits (hasn't refused them, you understand).

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Daily Life, with movies

We drove to Proserpine, the county seat, to see a new Australian comedy film Crackerjack, which is sort of about bowling clubs and developers. With us our Swiss friends Kurt and Ingrid, Jean and neighbour Betty all in Jean's new Subaru Forester, so it was mildly crowded. The wine and cheese provided beforehand at the Cultural Centre as a fund raiser by the Proserpine bowling club included wine designed not to impair driving, by being so sweet as to be undrinkable. Kurt and Ingrid won the door prize dinner for two at Proserpine motel. Crackerjack was the sort of situational comedy that is hard to describe, and I'm not at all sure it would work overseas, but I enjoyed it, despite somewhat muddy sound.

Unfortunately, getting an early start on this and other fanzines as I did has not helped me complete this. For one thing, Jean borrowed my printer many months ago, and I've been too slack to reclaim it. Also, my attempt to get it out of the way by setting it up in a closet was less than successful, as it ended up way too far out of the way to actually use (and that lack of access was one of the reasons Jean grabbed it for a long period).

Perhaps I mentioned my desktop computer reacted very badly to the heat and humidity. First the power supply blew up. I had an old spare power supply, which didn't exactly fit correctly in my case. However the desktop system also apparently had a destroyed keyboard chip on the motherboard, and no repair possible. I did have on hand another ancient motherboard, so I transferred the CPU and memory, and tried setting that up. There might be a reason that motherboard had been set aside. Totally unreliable, even after repeated changes to Windows. It was only after several weeks of fighting with it that I became convinced there was still a hardware problem, rather than merely the usual infuriating Windows software crap.

Luckily I had a few days scattered about (mostly when I'd run the air conditioning non-stop for a day or so) when I got several hours of more or less reliable running. That at least let me write a set of updated CDs as backups (at least when it coincided with days the CD was detected at all). I also managed to run a network transfer of application data to my even older Toshiba notebook (on those days that particular drive and network card worked). But it all took time I didn't really want to waste.

Went to way too many parties, now this floor of the Terraces seems to have become party central. Saw a few films. Crackerjack, the latest Bond one, Minority Report. The South Australia opera (subset thereof) was in Proserpine for one evening, so I went to Tosca with neighbours Jim and Betty, followed by supper with the cast. The presentation tried hard to make this most popular opera accessible, by explanations beforehand, and only two sections in Italian.

Monday 17 March 2003

Saw Two Weeks Notice at the morning session at Proserpine with Betty from next door (Jean of course rarely goes to films). I guess the Sandra Bullock vehicles like Miss Congeniality have little real merit, but I find them amusing. This is especially when they cost only $7. Cheaper than a book.

My desktop PC is still dead. So is Jean's, as is the one Betty has. On our floor of the resort, only Jim still has a desktop computer (a Macintosh) that has survived the summer humidity this year.

Wednesday 19 March 2003

The desktop computer plague seemed to extend to many devices, including my infrared modem, which wouldn't work with my old Toshiba laptop computer. I tried a previously unused second hand Psion PCMCIA card modem which worked fine when tested belatedly around 9 p.m. in my Psion Series 7 PDA. Indeed, since I was used to using my mobile phone as a modem (at 9600 bps) I am startled by the splendid performance. Cheer up greatly at prospect of being able to get email cheaply while travelling (I'm not taking a laptop computer).

Then we went travelling again!

That was probably entirely my own fault. Jean was busy with yet another book (on Open Office Writer), but wanted to attend a technical writer conference on the Gold Coast in April. She planned to drive there in her new Subaru Forester, looking at lots of little side tracks on the way there and back, and pick up some Ikea furniture to help organise the last free space we have. We wanted to return before Easter (due to crowds during school vacation).

In March, Jean noticed Virgin Blue's web site had Mackay to Brisbane airfares for $48 each way. She asked me if we should be sensible, so naturally I said no. So a few days later we drove to Mackay, left the car in secure parking, and winged our way to Brisbane.

Brisbane Trip

Thursday 20 March 2003

7 a.m. Drive to Mackay, stopping at Bloomsbury for a packed lunch. Can leave car keys at Virgin Blue desk for secure parking at $8 a day, which is pretty handy. Jean was hungry, so we shared an airport sandwich. Virgin Blue flight 30 minutes late, but did have good looking sandwiches for sale, despite the menu not listing them. Neither of us liked the 737 seats. I found they made my leg ache badly. Long wait at Brisbane airport for bus to Summit Apartment Hotel at Spring Hill, near the city, but we did get to see a fair bit of the city during the drive. Collapse briefly before rushing off to see a realtor.

See Terry Shields, the real estate agent, and inspect various 2 bedroom apartments at different levels at the Summit. They were interesting, being an old building with renovations, but designed as serviced apartments. The place was run by one of the major serviced apartment places in Brisbane, who were selling units to help fund an additional brand new apartment block nearby. The units, both one and two bedroom, were a reasonable size for serviced apartments, but a bit small as homes. The single room units were very small of course. We were interested in that area because of the concentration of hospitals there, and the short distance to central Brisbane.

Walk to Boundary Road seeking a store for some meal supplies, but discover the 24 hour IGA Express is terrible, with absurd prices and pre-stale stuff. It is only later that I realise IGA Express has more in common with the hideous 711 types stores than with normal reasonably priced IGA supermarkets. Get wine instead so we could drown our troubles. Doesn't seem like a good idea when I return. Walk with Jean to a distant Woolworths to get breakfast supplies, and a chicken for dinner. Jean wasn't impressed by the hill, especially when she discovers a less hilly route back up Leichhardt Street.

Can't contact various friends in town for one reason or another (mostly bad phone karma on my part). We both collapse by 9 p.m., and after our phones are switched off, various people phone (of course).

Friday 21 March 2003

Pre-tested (albeit briefly) and perfect working Psion modem doesn't work at all when connected to phones here. I have to use expensive mobile phone to connect to the internet and collect and send email. Not amused. Timing or dial tone difference in phone systems. Must try with tone dial detect turned off.

Long walk down hill, through Brisbane town looking at potential units for sale, then across the river, where we check Seekers venues, go past very strange tower that looks like a rocket, then on to credit union.

I hadn't looked at investment loans for ages, not since I left the Commonwealth Bank several decades ago, but the terminology and rough figures came back to me somewhat. Can get the investment loan we would probably want, up to 80% of valuation, so on 250k loan of 200k, repay PI at $605pf (Hmm, works if you can get tennants and interest stays low and there are capital gains). Try for costs 0.4% on mortgage, 0.03% on business investment, registration $100, transfer $100, stamp duty on transfer $2350 plus $3.25 per $100 over $100K, plus solicitor and searches. Various conditions and costs explained, but finance isn't a problem, which actually was a surprise given our lack of income, if we can find a suitable investment property.

We walk back to city at 11 a.m.

At the Myers Centre out of control alarms drive us out of the food court, while searching for Australian Geographical shop. Walked to Wintergarten mall containing the other Australian Geographical shop. Although smaller, it contained the gift Jean wanted. Lunch at Bread Express wasn't as satisfactory as some other place might have been.

To Anzac Arcade, where we found Ron at lunch near his fine Pulp Fiction bookshop. He told us sad stories of the decline of independent bookselling, although Dymocks and Borders chains also seemed not to be making much headway.

Walk back to Summit and collapsed briefly. The distance walked was considerable. SMS message from computer enthusiast Bob DeVries saying he will be here at 5 p.m. Telstra insist the phone number used does not exist. This is my bad phone karma again (and people wonder why I don't use phones).

See Terry Shields again. Inspect Suite 406 as substitute for 906 (triangular bathroom area, north facing towards city, large thin tower in foreground)

Inspect 703, wardrobe door binding due to glide capsule being out of track. Doesn't anyone check these minor things beforehand?

Bob Devries collects me at 5 p.m. Leslie cooks a simple meatball with veg and rice meal, followed by Sonja's apple crumble. Yum! Bob has lots of neat old computers. OS9, Applix, 68070 based, many I haven't seen in a decade. I think I can supply him with SCSI drives and controllers (yes), 2114 and 6116 memory chips (wonder where they are), maybe roms? Plus Applix C compiler, and C Tutor shareware disks (yes).

Saturday 22 March 2003

I went out early to get newspapers. Found that a 13 floor medical centre is being planed next to the Summit, if plans go through council.

We spent the first few days checking apartment prices at Spring Hill, and finding out how much we could borrow for investment properties. We could get the loan, but were not impressed with the prices, nor with the amount of building going on (even with Queensland expanding by 35,000 inward movements a year). This was much the same situation as at Airlie Beach, with the difference that we knew what the real estate agents were lying about in Airlie Beach.

After breakfast, another walk to inspect properties. A Spring Hill terrace one floor upstairs at Unit 1, 247 Boundary Street in a set of 6 units, with builder living in top unit with roof garden. All room walls in this two bedroom, two bathroom unit with lockup garage are at strange angles, which is good for hi-fi enthusiasts, less good for furniture placement. Long term tenant at $295 a week. Body corporate of $259 a quarter, which is real cheap. Useful kitchen off large living room. Balcony front and rear, but no air conditioning. Taking offers.

2A/119 Leichhardt Street, in a security building. 51 sq metres, on 8 metre front, 6.5 metres deep. Rented at $210 pw, going to auction 17 April. Two way bathroom, washing machine that didn't fit alcove. Plumbing and space for dishwasher. Kitchen design OK.

Lunch, then searched for Mayfair (no showing due to wrong advertisement placed). Large high rise tower at 161/82 Boundary Street, past Woolworths, next to river (north view, but the unit we saw didn't have river view). Two bedroom, fairly small, one bathroom, kitchen OK, small balcony, not much storage in unit, but shared luggage space on same floor, with secured parking. 85 sq m asking $275000, in security building of over 20 floors with many units.

Back to unit and collapse. Watched war non-news. Did manage to get in contact with fans Erika Lacey and Nick Shears.

On Sunday we managed to catch up with fans in Brisbane, despite Jean mostly hiding. I had breakfast near our hotel with Nick and Audrey Shears. I had known Nick from his early South African fan days 30 years ago, when he was perhaps 16 years old, but this was the first time we had actually met. Interesting to hear his history, since we did not remain in great contact during their UK years, and details of his move to computer work was all new to me. Computer work has been very kind to untrained fans over the years. I hadn't realised how fit they would both appear, looking very like long distance runners.

Erika Lacey dropped over for lunch, bare footed as you would expect, and looking even more healthy (youth, you know). She said she had run up a hill that mostly reduced us to close to a crawl. A quarter our combined age, and probably four times as fit. Just when we thought all our training here had suited us to Brisbane's Spring Hill, where when I ran for the lights at the top, I got the sorts of arm and chest pain I associate with overdoing things. Erika talked about bicycling long, long distances sometime when she could next get away and travel. I'm uncertain I would drive the distances Erika mentioned. It rather stunned me to realise she had been in Australia for a decade. Naturally I encouraged her to consider rejoining ANZAPA, if her time and finances permitted it.

Around 8 a.m. on Monday we set out to walk along Gregory Terrace then down Brunswick Street to the mall and Chinatown. We seemed to do a triangular route. We unexpectedly came upon camping and hiking stores, in which I sought a day pack or some similar carry bag. Kathmandu, K2 Base Camp, Paddy Pallins, SilkRoad, Mountain Designs. We didn't emerge until after 11. That was great fun, although I didn't see the sort of stuff I wanted (Jean found sandals). Continued into the city seeking a computer shop, but couldn't find much information about the replacement motherboards they had. Walk home up long steep slope via Mayfield chocolate shop (yum!)

Checked a NextByte Apple shop after lunch, but Apple do not appear to have a computer solution for any of my needs. I'm getting used to modern computers being pretty much useless to me, or even having negative utility ( more trouble than they are worth).

On Monday evening we saw The Seekers, in their final concert. Just plain luck we were in Brisbane at the right time, and that Jean spotted the dates (I'd checked earlier, and knew it was on, but nowhere near us). Nostalgia is going to a concert by someone whose music you enjoyed 30 years ago. (We didn't try to get tickets to the Bruce Springsteen concert the next evening.) Adrien Bohm and 4BC (whoever they are) present The Seekers, at Concert Hall. We were well towards the rear in row W, and sound was perhaps a little muddy, but generally good. Judith Durham went blank on the next line of one of her songs, which I think shows they weren't miming to a record, as I've been told is the practice by some acts. We caught a bus back to the Summit, as we had walked plenty enough that day by then.

A little more wandering around looking at places for sale, without much result. By the time we flew home, we were pretty much tired of cities again.

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ABC's grab for funds

Not content with its A$675 million a year of Commonwealth government funding, and apparently unable to generate its own income, the ABC is begging for another taxpayer handout. It wants squander another $250 million over the next three years. This year it wants $34.4 million for program initiatives (this generally means artistic wanking), $9.3 million for extended transmissions including Triple J (autistic wailing), and $2.8 million for Radio Australia (propaganda overseas, and the only one I agree with). The ABC was able to waste money on a Macquarie Bank survey showing it rated 16th out of 17 countries for government spending per capita on public broadcasting. What in the hell happened to the other 150 or so countries in the world? I bet they were excluded because they were doing something sensible like not funding public broadcasting. Luckily the government didn't give them a cent extra.


We certainly have them as a major peril in Australia. I thought some overseas readers might be interested in some figures. January 1926, 31 dead, 400,000 ha burnt in Victoria. 13 January 1939, 200,000ha, with 71 dead and 1000 homes burnt. 1943, 51 dead and 700 buildings burnt. 1967 near Hobart, 62 dead. December 1968 in the Blue Mountains, a million hectares burnt, 150 buildings. 16 February 1983, 71 dead, 2000 home and 3000 other buildings burnt, at a cost of $400 million. 4 January 1994 800,000ha burnt in the Royal National Park, and 200 houses. 2001 in NSW, 170 houses and 730,000 ha burnt. January 2003 around Canberra, at least 378 homes destroyed, plus Holder High School, Mt Stromlo Observatory and the main sewerage plant.

Cable TV and Internet Advertising

We all know how important the internet is to business. Just how important can be judged by the estimated 2003 advertising budgets in Australia for all manner of media.

TV              2700
Radio            715
Newspapers      3120
Magazines        765
Outdoor          250
Cinema            65
Pay TV            95
Internet          45 

Oh yes, the internet is really important to business ... you might also try a side bet of pay (cable) TV for something else going down the tubes (as it were). About five years ago I was predicting (to a fan in Seattle) that the Australian cable TV experience would be far less impressive than the 70% USA coverage (or the 42% UK cover). In 2002 it is in 23% of homes. Foxtel have 805,000 subscribers, Optus have 250,000, and Austar (rural areas, where broadcast is often poor or even does not exist) has 420,000 and keeps dancing with bankruptcy.

Those following share results may have noticed Optus are not in good health, and keep bleeding red ink by overpaying $600 million to Hollywood for a movie deal back when comms were the in thing. Indeed, Optus would have dropped out of both cable TV and local telephony had it not struck the Foxtel deal with Telstra (don't bother me with what those idiots at ACCC would or wouldn't let them do - they can't stop someone getting out of a business that bleeds red ink, and to his credit, Fels realised that). As for Austar, it is at 17 cents, and no sign of anything happening except more loans from banks.

Apparently the cable stations think they will get advertising revenue, to the tune of 14% of advertising by 2012 (if they survive that long). I don't know what happens in the USA, but if I'm paying for cable (I'm not), then I wouldn't accept advertising. Or if I accept advertising, then I'm not paying for cable. Either way, cable seems a really worthless dead end in Australia. They will never be doing the (government prescribed, and unlikely to survive a free trade agreement) local content the profitable free to air channels here can handle (unlike the USA), because there are too many cable channels chasing too few dollars to afford it here (local content is a government mandated percentage of time, and it can't all be news and cheap quiz or cooking shows).

How much money is actually splashing around out there on non-live entertainment? Well, a large percentage of the Australian advertising budget, plus whatever is spent on access to cable (all running at a loss), plus spending on buying and hiring VCR tapes and DVDs, plus total sales of music CDs. Everyone now knows just how much of a corporate rip off is involved in DVDs and CDs (since you can make your own $30 copy for under $1). It would be real interesting to have some factor figures on all these items.

DVD, TV and Digital TV

I may have mentioned finally buying a DVD player in October 2002, after the price dropped below A$200. Other factors were I found one from an Australian company (although I'm certain the device itself was built in China, just like the rest of them). And, final factor, I found tweaks on the net for changing that model from Zone 4 to whichever zone I wanted, something I considered so essential I would never buy a player that didn't include that facility (luckily many do these days).

While it works exactly as claimed (and acts fine as a replacement for my broken CD player), I'm vastly unimpressed by movies on it. I hired a couple of DVD disks from VideoEzy (where VCR tapes are starting to disappear). The DVD movie format, with its black bands top and bottom of the TV, is absolutely pathetic. You end up viewing about half the screen. Nor is it all that much better when you alter the format to fill the screen. Then it turns out that half the action is taking place off screen.

The entire thing almost feels like an attempt to convince users they need to buy a wide screen TV, with a different aspect ratio, doubtless at high price. I can't help but notice that Brisbane city stores seem to be pushing the idea of home theatre. This appears to consist mainly of a large, expensive TV, and an equally expensive surround sound system. Not content with this, some vendors add home control systems to dim the lights, motorised curtains on the windows, and a popcorn machine that starts automatically (well, OK, I made up the popcorn machine, but it wouldn't surprise me).

Then we have the introduction of digital TV. However instead of letting TV stations decide when (if ever) it is appropriate to introduce this, the government has said it will come in at a particular date. Considering the Australian government has a long history of consistently stuffing up every technology introduction in communications (TV, FM, ISDN, CDMA), I wonder that this bunch of innumerate lawyers have the nerve to do it again, unless they are totally incapable of learning from their numerous past mistakes. Thank goodness most governments didn't notice the internet until it was too late for them to regulate it effectively, or it would have been stuffed up by government regulation as well (instead of being stuffed up by commercial wankers like it is).

Why do we need digital TV? I can't see any point whatsoever in it. The only claims I've heard is that it would provide either better video, or that it would provide more channels.

On the first point, relatively few people appear to be clamouring for better video. Now maybe that would change if it were available. Maybe everyone wants to watch a gardening program, or Australia's worst home videos in high definition. I don't know ... and neither does anyone else. However given the USA has never moved to anything better than their hideous NTSC system, I can't believe higher quality TV images are widely demanded here either.

The idea of more channels seems to me even more utterly stupid as an excuse. Cable can provide more, as shown in the USA and other markets, so we could always have more there. However, last I checked, we had provision in broadcast TV for about 12 VHS channels and about 40 UHF channels. Of these, we use precisely five! (Well, OK, sometimes 6 in a few areas.) If more channels are needed, we can use them without digital TV. The problem as far as I can see is that there isn't sufficient quality material to fill two channels, let alone whatever number are out there, or whatever number we could technically make work (which I grant isn't the full 50 or so, because you would get some interference).


Third-line Forcing: A corporation is prohibited (under section 47 of the Trade Practices Act) from imposing a condition on a customer that it also acquire goods or services from a particular third party. Furthermore, it is also illegal to refuse to supply a customer who refuses to acquire goods or services from a third party.

So how come every PC comes with Microsoft Windows, and that you can't tell IBM or whoever to just supply the bare machine (with the cost of Windows deducted) for you to install your own operating system of choice?

Inland Rail

A 2.3 billion dollar inland rail link between Melbourne, Brisbane and Gladstone received major project facilitation status as part of the inland rail expressway from Melbourne to Darwin proposed by the Australian Transport and Energy Corridor. This first part runs from Melbourne through Albury, Parkes, Morree, Gonondiwindi, Toowoomba and on to Brisbane, and from Toowoomba through Moura to Gladstone. This would let freight from Melbourne bypass the Sydney Newcastle route.

I love the idea of these rail projects, as we will need them when oil for transport starts getting really expensive (or a war to get more oil fails), and it turns out the hydrogen economy just doesn't work all that well.

Obscene Prices

Diesel denim jeans at $440. Hermes leather Kelly bag $10,500, showing the spirit of Ned Kelly is still alive. Hermes playing cards $100. Bose Lifestyle stereo advertisements showing heaps of speakers, none of which are actually connected to a piece of wire! Bose also don't mention their products are crap. HP Compaq Tablet Computer, an example of an entire solution desperately seeking a problem. It lets you scrawl on the screen, just like an old Etch-A-Sketch. You can write on the screen! You have been able to do that on a PDA since the Apple Newton in 1993 or something.


According to Screenrights, the audio visual copyright society, and the Australasian Performing Rights Association, we are all pirates. This bunch demand a 3%-10% levy - another tax - on blank CDs and DVDs, on the basis that all of them are used to steal their products. The High Court chucked out a similar tax on blank cassette tapes. I can only hope precisely the same thing happens with this. It is obvious to everyone who considers the matter that the commercial recording industry is past its use-by date. Laws will not be enough to save these buggy whip manufacturers. Technology and Thomas Edison gave the recording industry a window of opportunity for providing a widely used and appreciated product and making a profit, and now technology has taken it away again.

If you want to make a living performing, then you better think about doing it live, and regard recordings as just a way to encourage listeners to your concerts.


After months and months of beautiful blue skies, pleasing to tourists but not to farmers, we finally got a mere 24mm of rain towards the end of January. Not exactly a break in the worst drought in 100 years. February is normally the peak of our tropical wet season, but we had only 64mm in the second week, and 50mm in the third. Naturally some of this coincided with the visit of Janet and Jim Caughran, a regular FAPA contributor from Canada. However by Friday 28 February we had another 100mm. We planning on visiting Leanne Frahm in Mackay on the weekend (1 March) to help her celebrate her birthday, but the heavens opened, and we had flood reports on several areas of the highway both north and south of town. My gauge showed 130mm for the weekend but overflowed. We actually do need to check our cyclone supplies, which are a bit run down.

The tropical plants around the resort are responding very enthusiastically, with some showing visible growth each day. We have commenced giving away cutting of the pot plants we started earlier in the year to hide the outside air conditioner unit, as they look like they plan to engulf the unit rather than merely hide it.

Sky Marshalls

One of the most stupid ideas I've ever heard of, and one I suspect could only occur in a country where going armed is commonplace. You stick armed people on random planes, to help prevent other armed people from taking them over. Having spent forty years mostly managing to keep firearms mostly out of airports and off planes, we now rush to put them aboard!

Get this thing right, and put decent doors on the flight deck, and establish rules that only scheduled flying crew enter the cockpit. The door stays locked during flight, no matter what happens in the passenger cabin.

Meanwhile, are governments that believe a particular flight is at risk to the extent of putting sky marshalls aboard that specific flight obligated to tell passengers there might be an increased risk? Law cases ahead, I'd say.

Even the current level of security in airports is making flights a pain in the arse due to security test equipment attempting to do things for which it was not designed. The security gadgets at Proserpine airport, which were not even used on weekend flights a few years ago, now flag my shoes as a potential threat. Following a vampire killer attack (wooden stakes taken onboard) on a flight here recently, some government figures here started chattering about body searching all passengers.

The USA appear to be saying they will soon want all non-US passengers entering or leaving the country to have fingerprints taken, or provide some type of biometric identification. They appear to be confusing matching a person with their papers as being the same as identification or security.

Since my travel is optional, I've responded by mostly not travelling. I suspect many others have taken the same decision.

Also, why would a business want to invest in airport retail locations, when the security system is trying to exclude non-passenger from many areas? Expect some losses there in the future. I once thought airport infrastructure investments might be a good idea, but not any longer.


The local real estate newsletter for October 2002 quotes some figures without attribution. World stock market capitalisation fell 47% in the last two years. Luckily the stock market is not the real economy, but certainly many people act as if stock gains and losses were real (they are only real when you cash them in). Australia is still doing well, with balanced Government budgets, and the lowest national debt in the OECD. The best places to live survey ranks us fifth, with an astonishing four cities in the top 30 livable cities of the world. Population is now 19.75 million, growing at 1.25%. 64% of us live in capital cities, 77% in the largest 20 cities. 24% of Australians were born overseas, our average age is 35.5, and 30% of the population is over 50 years. Average household income is A$83,000, and average household wealth is A$438,000.


Mobile phones brought Telstra $3.2B revenue last year, Optus $2.4B, Vodaphone about $1.7B. SMS at 25c a call was about 10%-15% of that. The newer MMS with graphics is 75c a message, and the phone companies would obviously like that to take off. Telstra for instance has a deal with NineMSM and Microsoft for Hotmail email access. European experience is that SMS use peaked at 15% and that was that.

Zero Volts

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SF Book Reviews

The Man Who Turned Into Himself by David Ambrose

Pan, 1993, 248pp, ISBN 0330326740

A perfect life, until one day Rick foresees a dreadful accident happening to his wife. He rushes out of a meeting, to find the crushed family car. When he awakes, he is in his own body in a similar but by no means identical world. Follows the internal confusion, and the hiding to leave "his" body sane. Played for the psychological effects, not the SF ones. Not SF.

Captain Nemo by K J Anderson

Pocket, Dec 2002, 514pp, US$7.99 ISBN 0743444094

The fantastic history of a dark genius. Jules Verne's boyhood companion was Andre Nemo, who went off adventuring, and kept a journal. Verne thought himself a failure, as his fantastic voyages of the mind were all based loosely upon Nemo's true life adventures. This was a wonderful conceit, done in Verne's style, of the true adventures of Nemo.

The Duke of Uranium by John Barnes

Aspect, Sept 2002, 290pp, US$6.99 ISBN 044661081X

A Heinlein style juvenile in which a young man just out of school makes a journey to another planet on a security mission. However almost all he knows about his society turns out to be a lie, and his rescue attempt all plotted out by spymasters. Light and entertaining.

Navohar by Hilari Bell

Roc, June 2000, 330pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0451457889

The colony ships went out, but those still on Earth came to need access to humans whose genetic structure had not been changed. However most colonies had been lost to new diseases. Navohar appeared at first another failed settlement, however colonists do survive and even thrive there, hidden in the deserts. Throw in possibly intelligent locals of various types. Unlikely hacking skills. Although this did a nice enough, well written story, some of the plot items made no sense whatsoever.

Killing Time by Caleb Carr

Warner, 2001, 310pp, UK£6.99 ISBN 0751530751

Criminal psychologist investigates the murder of a video tamperer in 2023. Encounters a small, secret, lone wolf scientific group planting hoaxes because they don't like the information age. They also have an undetectable flying submarine, and railgun weapons. The protagonist doesn't seem to worry about their methods or ruthlessness when he joins them. Author is a Manhattan historian. Story was serialised in Time as a near future thriller. I think it is embarrassingly poorly done, by someone whose knowledge of SF comes from reading Jules Verne's Master of the World, and thinking he is qualified to update it. Waste of time, unless you need to spell out words as you read.

Star by Star by Troy Denning

Arrow (Random House), Oct 2002, 605pp, A$17.95 ISBN 0099410389

Star Wars, The New Jedi Order. The invading Yuuzhan Vong turn some of the Senate against the Jedi, while political power battles continue. Anakin Solo plans a desperate (and stupid) raid against the source of the anti-Jedi weapons the YV have cloned.

Resurrection Day by Brendan DuBois

Warner, 2000, 580pp, ISBN 0751525499

Alternate history, where the Cuban missile crisis became an all out war. A shattered USA exists with UK aid, and is gradually rebuilding. However who pushed the button back then? An ex-veteran works as a reporter in a society where the military have a censor in every newspaper office. Fast paced thriller.

Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson

Bantam (Random House), Nov 2002, 1194pp, A$21.95 ISBN 0553813129

Another in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. Long prophesied uprising from the desert (no, wait, that was last year). Dark uncontrollable magic. Armies clashing. Wanderers. These books are getting long.

House of Chains by Steven Erikson

Bantam (Random House), Jan 2003, 757pp, A$34.95 ISBN 0593046269

Another in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. The Fourth, I guess. Fantasy with war, magic, betrayal, rebels, sister against sister. That sort of stuff.

The Dazzle of Day by Molly Gloss

Tor, 1997, 254pp, US$13.95 ISBN 031286437X

Edited by David Hartwell. Some societies form on L5 colonies, and then attempt the long haul solar sail to another system. This deals with various characters from a Quaker style society approaching a new sun, where they will need to decide upon either a landing and colony, or to accelerate around the sun and try another solar system hundreds of years away. Gives a very detailed description of the feelings of ordinary people living ordinary pastoral lives at a critical time in their existence. Very well done indeed, in a very non-flashy manner.

Guardian by Joe Haldeman

Ace, 2002, 231pp, US$22.95 ISBN 0441009778

Framing device, in 2004, a manuscript left by a grandmother, written in 1952 when she is 94. A story from her diaries, of growing up in the 1860's. Marriage, and child abuse, and flight to the frontier. An eventful life, told in retrospect and flat detail. As with many Haldeman novels, I'll have missed a lot on a first reading.

Probability Moon by Nancy Kress

Tor, Sept 2002, 307pp, US$6.99 ISBN 076534341X

Edited by David Hartwell. The alien StarGates opened space to Earth, and revealed someone had seeded space with humans. However the humans are losing a genocidal war with the Fallers. A newly discovered pre-industrial human civilisation is found, and their solar system contains an alien artifact that may be key to not losing the war. As scientists study the human civilisation, and their strange concepts of what reality is, they don't realise their mission is ultimately a military one.

Whole Wide World by Paul McAuley

Voyager, 2002, 388pp, UK6.99 ISBN 000651331X

Police drama in the near future, with cameras everywhere. So how did a murder get committed, and which of the watches is ensuring that the crime not be solved. Explores questions of privacy, reminding me that there is no longer any privacy (so flood everything with misinformation).

Operation Thunder Child by Nick Pope

Pocket, 2000, 292pp, ISBN 0671018353

Something almost invisible is showing up on radar over Britain. When sought, it proves dangerous to the most advanced military aircraft. Defence experts and politicians try to discover what is happening, while keeping detail from the public. However how much do the Americans know, and how much have they hidden even from their own President? Ex British Government UFO expert does a SF novel set in the near future. More a thriller.

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

Doubleday, May 2003, 318pp, A$39.95 ISBN 0385605331

There is trouble on the Chalk, but Tiffany Aching has the right attitude to be a witch, down to the big boots and frying pan. When her annoying baby brother is stolen by the Queen of the Fairies, she sees it as her duty to get him back, even if she would prefer he were not around. Luckily, the Queen has other enemies, the thieving little Nac Mac Feegle, the fiercest (and smallest, and most Drunk and Disorderly) warriors around. Pratchett can show Rowling a thing or two about writing a great children's book. The publishers claim it is a Discworld book. It isn't* (although the witches put in a late appearance to support that claim).

"*I* claim it is a Discworld book. Are you calling me a liar?" Terry Pratchett

*My opinion when I read it. OK, what can I say. The author always knows best! It is a Discworld book.

The Amazing Maurice by Terry Pratchett

Corgi (Random House), Nov 2002, 270pp, A$14.95 ISBN 0552546933

Actually, The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents. You could call this a retelling of the Pied Piper ... if you are a rat, and educated, and organised, and the piper is a friend of yours. Where Maurice the cat gets into this is a bit less certain, except that any money the piper and the rats are involved in getting probably originated with Maurice. Of course, Maurice does have a bit of a problem with the rats, but he has learnt to ask food whether they can speak before eating them, so the rats get along reasonably well with Maurice. The other rat catchers seem to have been in the con game well before Maurice and his rats hit town. Then there is the problem of the rat king ... This is the first Discworld story for children, and I think it is too good just for children.

The Free Lunch by Spider Robinson

Tor, August 2002, 241pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0812540220

Mike escapes to a perfect life in the Dreamworld theme park, however there is a plot by an enemy of Dreamworld that will change his life. Annie has lived underground in Dreamworld since it opened, and teaches him how to survive there. However, there is a second plot unfolding, and that is a fantastic one. Light Heinlein style juvenile, well done as usual with Robinson.

The Jazz by Melissa Scott

Tor, July 2001, 316pp, US$14.95 ISBN 0312875428

Edited by David Hartwell. Dominated by media organisations determined to protect their property, one executive comes down very heavy on a teenager who steals a program via the net. The real life consequences follow a mystery style, as other net dwellers try to protect the kid on the run. Through it all is why is the studio being so heavy handed this time, and just what does the program do for their bottom line. A very well written story that exists directly as a consequence of weird and unenforceable laws in the USA such as the despised DMCA.

Breakaway by Joel Shepherd

Voyager, 2003, 563pp, A$ ISBN 0732275962

Sequel to Crossover, second Cassandra Kresnov novel, by Adelaide author. A very fast paced military SF thriller, with political overtones. Cassandra is an advanced hunter killer android built by the League, learning what it is to build a life and be a person now that she has escaped to the Federation. Another author to watch in the future.

Broken Time by Maggy Thomas

Roc, May 2000, 339pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0451457854

Siggy wasn't a first class student, so the only job she could find was off her home planet as a janitor at the Institute for the Criminally Insane. Two of the most dangerous inmates find her of interest, as does the director, who tells her (against all normal orders) to get one inmate talking. When the inmates escape to an alien civilisation, Siggy is the key to preventing a war humans would lose. Impressive if a first novel.

Brothers in Arms by Ben Weaver

Eos, Jan 2001, 306pp, US$5.99 ISBN 0061059722

Young colonist with genetic defects can see no way out of poverty except via the army. Basic training, then war between the colonies and Terran Alliance. Has a lot of influence from various military writers, probably noticeably Joe Haldeman. More than a little depressing.

The Excalibur Alternative by David Weber

Baen, Jan 2003, 346pp, US$7.99 ISBN 0743435842

Expanded version of St George and the Dragon from Foreign Legion, a series set in David Drake's Ranks of Bronze universe. Aliens kidnap knights to fight in their technology restricted trade battles on other worlds. Actually it reminds me forcefully of another similar story, many years ago, Poul Anderson's The High Crusade.

Destiny's Way by Walter Jon Williams

Century (Random House), Oct 2002, 448pp, A$39.95 ISBN 0712623582

Star Wars, The New Jedi Order series. Coruscant has fallen to the invading Yuuzhan Vong, and their deadly biological spaceships. However Admiral Ackbar believes he can see weaknesses in the religious fanatics, and as ever, the Jedi strike at them. Also as ever, political trades are being made, and treason plotted. Some seek a biological weapon that will entirely eliminate the Yuuzhan Vong species, and turn the Republic itself over to evil in an attempt to save it.

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Sheryl Birkhead

4 Oct 2002

I saw my first hybrid car - can't even remember when - I was so engrossed in the label that said hybrid.

{{Maybe we should just sell a whole bunch of hybrid labels, to make people feel better? Given no-one cares at all about electric cars these days, hybrid seems as good as it will get. GM gave up on their electric model. But with an army in Iraq, who cares? EL}}

I don't spend much time on the internet. The few zines I have seen there are not zines I've seen in the mailbox. These zines (?) are not attractive at all - nothing like a "real" zine. Now, that being said, perhaps I'm just looking at/in the wrong places. I do agree with you, to some extent, that postage is a big factor. However it is also just so simple or easy to type something online and call it a zine.

{{I seem to waste a lot of time trying to decide when a zine is done, and moving items from issue to further future issue. I doubt the result is any better as an ezine, but I felt I was faster with my first draft on stencil traditional paper zines. EL}}

I have bought, over the "long term" about a dozen items on line. I use it as both a research tool and source of items I simply can't find for "real".

For years Americans have bemoaned our lack of vacation time and pointed at other countries. It's a poor omen when I read that Australia trends towards our lack of time off. Statistics for the past five years or so have shown that Americans have chosen to take one or two days off at a time in lieu of their total two weeks off at once - citing costs and family schedules as major reasons. {{ Well, I'm trying to make sure I live the life of a slob. EL}}

Ned Brooks

Wed, 18 Dec 2002

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you too. Thanks for the zine - "late" is defined by having a schedule, something I have pretty much abandoned (except for apas - I always do apazines at once).

Ray Faraday Nelson on how Berkeley does it right

Right on, Ray. Not everyone lives in Berkeley, but as I grow older and less likely to undertake long drives or lift heavy objects, I might well get an electric car. It would certainly fit my lifestyle, which seldom involves driving more than 50 miles a day. I do wish they would build one on the design of my 1986 Toyota hatchback. I don't think I have seen a bicycle in this distant bedroom suburb of Atlanta. There is nowhere you could go on one, and you would have to be a determined athlete to get up the hills. There's nowhere to walk to either, but I try to walk a mile every day for my health. {{GM have given up on electric cars, having finally paid some attention to them being show to be inferior most of a century ago. I have a nice (obsolete) book on electric vehicles, if anyone is interested. EL}}

Nice con reports. I didn't realize Joe Haldeman had become an artist! Better than I could do, but not the sort of thing I collect!

I agree that politicians and celebrities should not be able to use their pet lawyers to harass people with libel and slander suits. There is little of that here, as US laws are formulated to make it quite difficult for a public figure to prove a case. A judge here recently ruled that the head of a local SPCA was a "temporarily public figure" in his libel suit against an animal activist who had called him "Dr Death" on a website for putting too many dogs to death.

Hard to tell in cold (or glowing) print how serious you are about nuking Arabic capitol cities!

Odd to hear a Fan rant against multiculturalism - the skiffy vision of the future included beings much stranger than illegal Mexicans! {{I'm not worried about strange beings. I'm worried about cultures in collision under circumstances that preclude a totally dominant culture. It leads to violence in almost all cases I can think of. Also, I'm very partial to a technological, capitalist culture winning over any religious or socialist culture. EL}}

I don't attempt to block e-mail at all (though of course I have virus protection). I do get a lot of spam, but some of it is interesting, and it is easily discarded. What drives me nuts are the telepests.

I get too many short outages here, though not as bad as yours. The main annoyance is that they discombobulate a gizmo that turns the front lights on and off. The outside light are on light sensors except the ones by the front door, which have bulbs with small bases - apparently no one makes a light sensor for those. The PC is not bothered since I put in the battery unit, as an outage over 10 minutes is rare.

I guess I might buy a book just because it had "Fandom" in the title - maybe that's what Rankin is counting on. I tried to read one of his earlier books, but it seemed just pointless unfunny silliness to me.

I have upgraded the Netscape browser to 4.8.... Usually works fine, but there was an eBay page where it wouldn't see the bottom half of the page, though there was no error message. I had to switch to IE to see it. {{Netscape 4.x has lots of problems with CSS, so I try to stop it from using the CSS in my pages. If you have problems seeing a page, it would be a worthy action to tell the webmaster which page doesn't work for you, what operating system and browser you are using. I'd also add, validate the page and comment to that effect if it fails to validate. I don't have most of the browsers my readers use, so I'm never sure how my pages will appear. I know some AOL browsers fail on some pages, for example, but don't know how to fix that. EL}}

Ken Ozanne

Thu, 19 Dec 2002

And Merry Xmas to you and Jean. I thot I had read part of Geg 94?

We still haven't completely moved. Had a removalist here a day or two back and he refused to move us until we clear up a bit. After I had already moved 21 1/2 tons of stuff out of the house! Grump.

Ned tells me that he had 25 tons to move a few years back. But somehow he managed to pack it all up for a removalist in only 2 months. Of course his place was always much neater than mine and he had more space. Still pretty good going. You, of course, cheated.

We built a 13 1/2 square shed which is starting to look occupied. Still should keep us from being too cluttered for the foreseeable future. I've bought (so far) 16 bays of steel library shelving 3 foot wide and 7 foot high. Probably at least 8 more bays to come.

Our first air conditioner (2 1/2 HP, split system) will go in on Saturday. The new house is so much better insulated than this place that it may be sufficient. But I will have the window mounted 2 1/2 HP one to use as well if needed. (Not the old one that you and Dave installed for me and that sat perched on a not-very-vertical 3" x 2" for several years.)

Dave came up and helped me move almost a ton of garbage to the tip last weekend. He had previously taken about 3/4 of a ton of his stuff. One more load should clear the first (really the most recent) of my 10 x 10 sheds. Remember when you first saw Bob Riep's 10 x 10 shed and told me how such another would solve all my storage problems?

I'll be very glad when we have finished moving. I reckon I have been working over 40 hours a week effectively as a driver/labourer for the last six months. That wasn't quite the way I intended to spend my retirement.

{{Yes, I did somewhat underestimate your capacity for finding and keeping books and other paper products, didn't I? I'm now rather glad that the path I took was to discard almost all my collection of everything. There are odd times when I'd like to reread some book or other, but mostly I don't have time. It was good to see you, fully moved, when I visited Sydney in May. EL}}

I may have told you that Alex and Angie are buying a house at Kandos. They may be moved in before we are!

Jack Heneghan

Thu, 19 Dec 2002

Happy New Year to you and Jean. I was at your site yesterday trying to open up the Geg link from the home page and it wouldn't work. But I tried again this morning and found Geg93 just fine.

Just thought I would comment on Ray Nelson's claim that "A bicycle goes as far as you like on no fuel at all and produces no pollution at all, and if you want to carry stuff you can hook a little cart onto the back." Not so, you have to fuel the motor regularly, and allow it to rest 8 hours a day, or you will have some difficulty going as far as you want. And I don't even want to get into potential pollution hazards with this fueling.

Sounds like you had a very hectic relaxa.con, sorry we couldn't make it.

Regarding your rant on risk taking, it has long been the law here in Colorado that activities such as skiing and horseback riding are KNOWN dangerous activities and the stable owner or ski resort are not liable for any damage to a participant while partaking in these sports. The stable where Elaine rides has those signs posted in several prominent places.

Regarding your comments on my idea of covering the outback with solar panels, where would we store the power if you only have 6 hours of effective power generation and you don't care for the battery technology? Flywheels. You get those suckers spinning with the initial charge during the day and pick off the power at night. Of course with that many flywheels spinning at one time in one area, we might change the continental drift, or the rotation of the planet, so they would have to be configured in such a way that the gyroscopic effects cancel each other out. Or we could improve solar panel technology to be more efficient and improve battery technology.

{{I note that BP (second largest solar manufacturer) has given up on thin film solar due to their numerous failures in the field. Now using crystalline, like over 85% of the market. Solar makers have been using the lower cost ends of electronics grade silicon ingots, which were overproduced when electronics and computers were expected to surge. However as demand for solar ramps up, there is no longer enough, except by buying the much more expensive electronics grade. EL}}

Lloyd Penney

Many thanks for Gegenschein 93 (I'll only loc this issue once, I promise.) It looks like another good issue, and Christmas is close, so I'll get into the loc right away.

Radio in Canada is so format-bound, there's almost no way a station like KPFA could exist here. I'd like to see a science fiction programme on national radio, but it's unlikely it'll happen. Robert Sawyer did a pilot for a radio show on the CBC a little while ago, but Rob is not optimistic about it. The CBC is so funds-starved, public radio here can do very little. Even the local university stations play only popular music, and they are usually hostile to eclectic programming of any kind.

Toronto is a short drive away from the border with the United States, and in the past, getting across the border was relatively simple. Have your ID with you, the flyer for the con you're going to, and your hotel registration. I gather it's getting tougher. The Canadian government is not following the US government blindly in its militant policies against Iraq, so some Bush officials are looking at us with some suspicion, as if we're simply northern versions of Mexican wetbacks. Yvonne and I are guests at a convention in Niagara Falls, New York, and the hotel is actually a short walk away from the physical border, but we might have a difficult time getting into the country. Every American dollar costs me about C$1.60, so the currency is becoming more and more unaffordable. We're thinking of just going to local Canadian cons after 2003. At least we can afford those.

I have a simple but quite usable Palm m100, and even though I know Palm doesn't make it any more (replaced by the Zire), there are still peripherals available for it. I've been looking for a foldable keyboard for the m100, and I may have to resort to eBay to find it. There is a Palm Store in Toronto, but getting to it is not easy, and their hours are fairly short.

Joe Haldeman's drawing was of Jack Dann? I don't know what Jack looks like, but I first thought of Andy Warhol when I saw this portrait.

Yvonne and I always say it's just as well federal and provincial elections don't put None of the Above, or No Award, or Hold Over Funds on ballots. There'd be no suspense left in waiting for the results. Jean Chrtien has surprised many of us by announcing that he will bring in legislation that will force companies and political parties to disclose all political contributions. He's in trouble with his own party over this, which may mean that M. Chritien may leave office a little sooner than he planned.

Ned Brooks reminds me of the electronics kits I had when I was a kid. My father was an television and other electronics repairman, but during the vacuum tube era. Today, who needs an electronics kit when the average 8-year-old can rewire his computer?

The CD I worked on is now out. It's called Fears For Ears, and is available through its own website, It contains five horror stories written by Canadian horror writers, and rewritten into five radio-style plays. I have a role on the fifth story, The Rug, written by Edo van Belkom, and I can be heard in the background of two more. I have some hopes for this disc, I've sold about ten of them, and some conventions are coming up where I might be able to sell the rest of what I purchased. {{ Congratulations on the CD. EL}}

Laurraine Tutihasi's public TV and radio stations in Pasadena did something special for Canada Day? I'd like to find out more about that. I'm quite happy when there is some recognition for my country in the American press; doesn't often happen.

I still write physical letters. When I respond to John Hertz' Vanamonde, Michael Hailstone's Busswarble and Dale Speirs' Opuntia, I mail a loc to them. None of them are online, so a paper letter is what's needed to respond to them. Paper zines are what I'd prefer, anyway. I don't mind mailing letters. I know some people will not mail letters any more, but that's more petty than practical. Communications is the main thing, so paper locs, e-locs, I don't really care what form they take.

Time to wrap it up and say thank you. Yvonne and I wish you both the best of Christmases, and a happy New Year. Maybe we can actually meet at Torcon! See you then, and see you next issue.

Eric Mayer

Thanks for alerting me to the posting of GEG. Having sworn off non-electronic mail entirely, I heartily approve of this method, but it doesn't work without locs. Thus I will try to knock the rust off my locomatic.

Continuously updated websites just aren't the same as separate issues being posted IMHO. The former, I suspect, has many advantages, but I just prefer the latter. Of course email and cyberpubbing saves on energy consumption.

My conservation efforts involve driving a 1985 Chevy Chevette and living in a situation where I can get snowed in for three weeks before winter even begins. Out in the sticks, as far as I am, bicycles, alone, aren't practical. Not being amongst the vast majority of Americans who drive SUVs does have its disadvantages, however, in that I am in that tiny minority that hasn't stocked up on the popcorn and chips, ready to enjoy our military junta's oil war to preserve SUVs. In fact, the right to own an SUV is pretty much the only right left to Americans these days. I'm thinking about your metal shoes. Tsk tsk one these shoe bomb waving bolsheviks are you? Or suspected as such. It'd be safer if airline passengers had to go barefoot. What was that line at the end of the Puppet Masters about from now any civilized person would have to strip for inspection at the drop of a hat? (No doubt I misremember. Has been a long time since I read Heinlein. Am I illuminating my own perverse mind set at the time I read it? Reading that book as an adolescent I found that pretty prurient. Was that supposed to be sarcasm? Reminds me of all the stripping of rights going on, and all the authoritarian frauds intoning about the necessity but there's really a leer behind it all because deep down they just love stripping people of rights. Ah well, the only bright spot of this terroristic security is that since I'm unlikely to ever be able to afford a plane ticket, now I don't want to go through the hassle of getting on a plane anyhow.

Taxes. Surpluses. Ah yes. As you probably know the junta here has already looted the enormous surplus we briefly had for the benefit of their business buddies. But we get tax "cuts." So called, because the game is to pass the buck. People demand services, so what happens, when federal taxes go down then state and local taxes have to go up to supply the services. Each level of government frantically tries to push the "blame" down. What makes it particularly bad is that generally the more localized the tax the more regressive so as taxes are pushed down they tend to fall in greater proportion on those who can't afford them.

People have the wrong end of the stick, with taxes. It isn't a question of what you pay but what return you get. It would be a benefit to me to pay taxes and receive health care in return, for example. But I derive no benefit from having my money confiscated so some psychopaths can play at blowing people up with remote controlled airplanes or dropping bombs on foreigners. I mean to say, I worked for the money they are using for these abhorrent purposes. Let our VP Cheney spend his own millions on buying bombs to drop on people. This is a guy who voted against spending a pittance on giving breakfast to school children, mind you.

Spam is not a big problem for me personally because it is easily deleted however, when one look at the percentage of email circulating that consists of spam then it obviously is a problem, costs everyone. One thing I wonder is who profits? Certainly the ads themselves don't generate profits for anyone, or do they? One wouldn't think anyone would be stupid enough to fall for these ridiculous schemes - how many dead Africans with millions in the bank can there be anyway? -- but then I understand now people are making money just begging on the internet. Beggars with computers and internet connections. And people send them money. Incredible. But, presumably the people that sell the CDS with the 300 gazillion addresses make money. Who else? Hope springs eternal, I suppose. As for viruses though, anyone who uses Microsoft Diseaseware and complains about picking up a virus -- I've got no sympathy.

I can tell you something about people of size and seating on transportation. Well, I'm a person of size myself -- but skinny size. I used to commute on buses every day and I only took up half a seat. I swear, as soon as someone at the opposite end of the size spectrum got on the bus and looked down the aisle their eyes lit up! So I ended up doing a good deed to a lot of folks twice my size. And what the heck, in the winter mostly the heaters didn't work so I guess I benefited too.

Cool drawing - reminds me I faunch for an electronic pad and pen. ( can gafiate but you can't stop faunching) Of no use to me, but I can't control a mouse at all. An e-zine with lots of freehand electronic pen sketches could be neat.

Can't say anything about the reviews since I long since abandoned sf for mysteries, and pretty much abandoned reading mysteries for just co-writing. The fourth Byzantine mystery will be out in February. I do think of sixth century Constantinople as a sort of alien society, however. I realize what's popular is historical writers drawing parallels and showing how its all just the same in funny clothes but me, I'm more fascinated by the idea that maybe it wasn't all just the same.

Paul Collins

Thanks for thinking of me re Geg 93. I've had a dip into it and will do so over the next few weeks. Always a good way to know what's happening around the place without actually having to go anywhere:-). Thanks too for the mention re the Peter McNamara Award.

You might be interested to know that Lothian is releasing a fantasy series I've co-edited with Michael Pryor called The Quentaris Chronicles. This is a series similar to Emily Rodda's tremendously successful Deltora Quest. Ours differs in as much as it's a shared world scenario, and we're commissioning authors to write books within the world of Quentaris. The first series will have six titles, two each written by Michael Pryor and me, the other two by Jenny Pausacker and Lucy Sussex. Release date for Quentaris in Flames and Swords of Quentaris is Feb 1.

Good news for me is that my last two books for younger readers, The Great Ferret Race, and Dragonlinks, have both gone into reprint (it's the only way you can make decent money out of books!).

Well, hope the travel bug has been knocked out of you for at least six months, and you settle down and take it easy for a while!

Visit Paul at

Paul and Michael Pryor's website:

Tracy Benton

31 Dec 2002

Thanks, and thanks for the e-zine. Great fun to read. I was alternately enthralled, then disappointed, by the Airlie Beach Relaxacon report -- enthralled by all the activities and disappointed I wasn't there! Australia remains very high on Bill's list to visit so there is always a chance of seeing you there someday. But I must lodge a complaint; despite the fact that you were running the con, there are no anecdotes of disasters whatsoever. No hotel problems, no fire alarms, no food poisoning, no feuds... what kind of con-runner are you, to abandon such traditions?

(Insert my daydream here of taking Corflu 20 members scuba diving in murky Lake Mendota in the 50-degree water of April... okay, only the people who criticize the consuite.)

I rather like the design of your e-zines. So very simple. If I were doing the HTML, there is only one thing I would add: periodic links back to the table of contents. Not to imply that anyone doesn't read the zine front to back at one sitting, of course.... {{ Good idea. I've added such links back to the top of page now, in a smaller font and on the right hand edge of the page. As my usual browser (Opera) uses Home and End to go to the start of a page or the end of a page, it never occurred to me that anyone would not have browser based navigation readily available. Your comments seem to mean that your browser is showing my pages as designed, namely with very little extra space between paragraphs, and a small indent at the start of each paragraph, very similar to many books. Some browsers like Netscape 4 do not seem to cope well with standard CSS, so I've attempted to stop them from using the style sheet. EL}}

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Laurraine Tutihasi

Mon, 30 Dec 2002

I started drooling reading the account of your Relaxacon. I really regret not having been able to attend. We've just about decided that we're not going to do any more Worldcons unless they are in our backyard, so to speak. Maybe this will free up more time and money for future trips to places we really want to go to, such as Australia. Despite, or possibly because of, having been there once, it is high on our list of places we want to go to. You proposed having another Relaxacon in 2004. Maybe we'll be able to get there then.

One thing I'd like to do is get certified for SCUBA, and I can't think of a better place to do this than in Australia. I panicked in my first attempt at SCUBA, but I think it was because I hadn't known what to expect. The pressure of the water around your chest with all the weight of the SCUBA gear in addition really feels like an asthma attack.

You have learned so much about travel in Australia, maybe you should consider going into business as a travel agent. You don't have to do it full-time. As an agent, you get perks, discounts from various places.

Ken Ozanne

I just finished reading Geg 94, with the motorhome problems at the end. (Probably yet to be expanded at that end.)

We have been over some of the same ground but our reactions were fairly different. Also our choice of directions in places. For instance, we turned south on the great inland way from Charters Towers and met with some road that made me very nervous - one lane of bitumen with much in the way of very deep ruts either side from the road trains. The ruts were deeper than the total height of my tyres.

Fortunately, the only road train we met was at a place where I could get entirely off the road. Just as well, because the road train, driving off the side of the road, still overlapped my side of the bitumen by a foot or so. {{You always get totally off the road for road trains. It is part of the rules. They just don't have enough stability when loaded to cope well with having one side on the dirt. Of course, if there is no place to dodge it makes things much more interesting. EL}}

You are much braver than I am in taking your motorhome over nasty gravel. Not that I am ever likely to drive a motorhome anywhere at all. I currently have a diesel van (Ford Econovan maxi with 1 ton carrying capacity) for moving. So far it has travelled to our new place and back 30 times and moved over fifteen tons of my accumulated junk. We have 13 km of gravel, mostly on the Capertee - Glen Davis road, and most of it is actually fairly good. My only problem was that the bull bar on the front had to be welded back in place.

I seem to have liked Katherine more than you did, especially Katherine Gorge. When I was there I climbed up out of the gorge in a couple of places and enjoyed the whole thing thoroughly. I also had the wit (or maybe the tour boat operator did) to take a frozen can of fruit salad along, which made a wonderful lunch in the conditions.

As far as I can recall, Ubirr was not accessible by two wheel drive vehicle when I was at Kakadu. I did like Nourlangie rock and Marea was able to see all the paintings there, probably at about the last time she could have managed so much exercise. I fancy that there have been improvements in roads since then. The roads in the entire north are improving enormously and rapidly. You can now easily get to heaps of places that were once difficult. We have noticed that even over the past three years. EL}}

I also visited the caves you did. At the time I thought their tour groups were too large for the size of the show cave.

My new phone number is (02) 63797374, but it is unlikely to be of much use for a month or so. I'm out there about one day a week at present, but I am not often in the house and I can't hear the phone from anywhere else.

Alex and Angie are buying a house at Kandos, which is 60 km from us by the short road (via Glen Alice) or 72 by the route with only 13 km of gravel. Alex claims that he will only ever drive that way - I will be interested to see what he does when he has a bit more experience of driving on gravel roads.

I expect that we will all be more or less fully moved by Christmas. Marea will probably be moved to Capertee by the end of this month. We will be 67 km from the nearest supermarket, 24 km from the nearest shop. Not quite the situation of some of the people on the gulf, but I am planning to shop once a month and am putting in enough refrigeration for that. In particular, I have a coolroom - a thing I have wanted since I saw one in my cousin Judy's house some years ago.

At present, our new four bedroom house has three bedrooms totally occupied by books (only a thousand or so in the other). That is largely because it took longer to build my nice shed than I had planned on. But now we have over 1300 square feet of new shed and should have enough space to never be cluttered again. I'm not sure what excuse for clutter I will find in future.

I'm also planning to extend the house, possibly next year, possibly in 1994. The principle aim will be to give Marea an area where her life will be as easy as it is possible to make it. Here she is practically a prisoner in the house, once we move she will at least be able to go outside under her own steam. When the extension is built she should be as much in control as she can ever hope to be.

There has been a large fire in the mountains (12000 hectares burned) but it has not come very close to habitation. The closest was north of Lawson, where it may have been about a mile from the town. South of the Grose, the eastern limit was mostly the line of Wentworth creek. The map suggest that there was some fire in the bluegum forest but I haven't heard anything particularly worrying about it. I would think those trees about the best adapted to fire around and I recall that there was little long term damage when most of Govett's Gorge was burned a few years back.

I don't think we will get to your neck of the woods in the next year or so (and you would probably be out anyway!), but I do have plans to go up to the gulf in a couple of years or so and we may then decide to come back down the east coast. We should be able to put visitors up from about the middle of next year and should be able to do it in some style from about a year after that.

Don Fitch

Thanks for Geg. 94 -- the html version had (like the previous issue) lotsa lines superimposed (or partly so) when viewed OnLine, but comes out fine when viewed after downloading. It's probably all AOL's fault, but I thought you might want to know.

Now that I've gotten the Adobe Acrobat Reader to work, I've been downloading as many fanzines as possible in PDF versions. Both the issues of Geg. in this almost complete loading, then blank out with the message "File Corrupted; unable to download". *sigh* Again, probably AOL's fault (or maybe my Acrobat has developed a defect).

So I'll spend the rest of the evening reading about your travels... in the plain version, which is quite ok with me.

As far as I can figure out (they make discovering such things as difficult as possible) the browser is Netscape's Internet Explorer v. 5 for Mac. (AOL probably use something newer for their PC customers, and perhaps for their Mac ones who are willing to go to their latest upgrade -- the one that _requires_ sending an HTML version of all email, and which I refuse to use.)

Indeed, what does Geg actually look like to you?

Quite good, actually, except that there is ... ummm... slightly negative leading between the last line of each paragraph and the first line of the next, and thus a bit of overlap of text, making reading extremely difficult, though possible. When downloaded as an HTML file and read (via the same browser) offline, the overlap problem disappears and all is right, with a blank line between paragraphs. (The PDF version -- which now loads fine -- is probably best of all, what with its 2-column formatting and the ease with which it can be enlarged for reading onscreen. I've not yet gotten around to making a shelf and hooking up the printer so I'm not quite sure how to best handle printing A4 (or whatever) on US std. paper, but that should be a trivial detail.)

{{Sounds like the AOL browser isn't standard enough, and can't deal with pages using CSS to set the line spacing. Unfortunately, Netscape don't make Internet Explorer, so I'm still unsure which browser AOL use for Macs. I try to write my web pages to be validated for HTML 4.01 Strict, and CSS1 and CSS2, however it seems that custom line spacing between paragraphs is beyond some browsers. It is supposed to show as slightly more than a line space between paragraphs, and have the first line of the paragraph indented. When viewed offline, it appears the browser failed to either download or use the associated CSS file, and thus is showing only the raw HTML file. This is of course still a valid, correctly written file, but no longer has any formatting except the browser defaults for HTML tags. You can also enlarge the web page to any degree - there is no fixed width formatting in the file. I do attempt to stop Netscape 4 from using the style sheet file, by taking advantage of another of its bugs, but I can't be sure such tricks work. EL}}

The trip report itself made fascinating reading, even though you went light on the kind of local color details I find most enjoyable, and rather heavy on the mechanical and physical difficulties. The latter at least enabled me to cease burdening my mind with the hope of someday making a long motor-home trip across the Australian outback (or anywhere else, for that matter). It's really quite refreshing to reduce the length of the List of Things I Want To Do, even though striking only one of them off doesn't shorten it significantly.

Mind you, I'd still like to see/visit all or most of the places you mention, but not by way of A Big Vehicle -- unless it be a luxury bus on which I'm but a passenger. I worry, though, about the number of dry bores you mentioned -- this would seem to suggest that Australia is exhausting a significant amount of its fossil water in at least some regions, much as the U.S. is beginning to do. {{As the driest continent, we have severe water problems. Bores need to be capped, but first you need to the political will to do it. Progress is being made. EL}}

Karen AKA Kajikit

Congratulations on managing two issues so quickly (Gegenschein 93 and 94)! Since I haven't read the last one yet, I'll have to combine my comments. My New Years Resolution was to pick up my socks about pubbing/locing, so here goes. :)

ConVergence seems like a heck of a long time ago, but it was certainly enjoyable. It was good to meet you and Jean in person at the ANZAPA party, so I'm glad you could make it down from Queensland. It sounds like you had quite an odyssey getting there! I had a pair of shoes with a metal bar in the base of them to strengthen them, and I had no idea it was there until the shoes wore out and the leather insole peeled off to reveal it underneath. Airport security is a bit of a pain in the rear, and I think that everyone is entirely too paranoid about it! Are a pair of nailclippers really that much of a danger to humanity? When I flew to Canberra I removed all potentially 'dangerous' metal implements from my bag before I left home, and spent the weekend without a nailfile or scissors. I figured that way they couldn't be confiscated from me by an overzealous security person. Coming home the woman behind me set off the metal detectors, and when they opened up her bag the side pocket contained a large kitchen knife! She made suitably embarassed noises, and went on without it, but I really have to wonder why she had it in the first place...

You wouldn't think Melbourne was too cold last week - the other day we absolutely sweltered as the temperature hit 40 in the city, and 38 out at Croydon. Without air-conditioning it was over 30 inside, and I was too hot to think, let alone move!

There's only one thing that I really hate about the middle of the city and that's the dirt... and the crowds, but I guess that's two things. :) It's also so incredibly far from home, which makes three things... also everything seems to cost more there, and to be hard to find, as though it was some foreign country rather than the heart of my hometown. I used to go in to Slowglass fairly regularly, so it's a real shame that Justin's closed up shop. I loathe Minotaur, so now I have no regular book-pusher to send (keep) me bankrupt! The North end of the city seems to be notably free of convenient eating places. The Vic Market has great food, but alas it's not open long enough. We were going to eat and go back to the con a couple of nights, but we ended up going home for dinner instead because we will NOT eat McDonalds under any circumstances and there wasn't anything else open.

Isn't the 2003 Natcon in Canberra? Or is that 2004? I have no idea! I just remember somebody making an announcement about it... Ah, I see you've got that covered. It's 2004, so there goes my excuse for another trip to Canberra. I went to a Relaxacon in Canberra at the end of November, and it was surprisingly enjoyable (for a city full of politicians and civil servants, Canberra wasn't half bad!) I wouldn't mind going back again, but it's not that likely since 2003 is full up already, and unless something drastic happens to prevent it I'll be living in Florida by 2004. I'm sorry I couldn't make it up to Airlie Beach for your Relaxacon, because it would have been a lovely holiday, but all of my funds were already committed to the Ausgather and the Canberra trip. I hate to think how much excess baggage fees Lyn had to pay on her way back to NZ with all of those books in her case! I'm jealous of how much fun you all had...

Don't get me started on taxes and government, or I'll write a rant three times as long as all of yours put together! Ned - I use Netscape, and it works just fine except for one little quirk. It does not accept filenames with spaces in them, so all you see is a broken link instead of the perfectly good image. That puzzled the heck out of me when I started writing webpages, because I'm used to using descriptive long file-names. Everyone using IE could see my images but I couldn't, until I broke myself of the habit! {{File paths and file names with spaces within them are not legal on the web. Netscape is entirely correct in not showing them. EL}}

And on to issue 94.

As usual, I'm screamingly jealous of your travelling adventures. My life seems so boring in comparison, as my big excitement lately was my trip to Canberra, and an excursion down to Phillip Island between Christmas and New Years with Justin Semmell and some other friends. Still, it was very pleasant, and in a few months I'll be having adventures of my own in the US which will give me plenty to write about! I can just see the officeworks guy blinking at you if you tried to bring the 'van' up to the door for pickup. I don't know why docs give you envelopes marked 'do not read' like that - what else do they think you're going to do as soon as you're out the door? It's like school reports... I usually look at them and read what they say before deciding whether to pass them on to my GP or not. Dealing with medicare is easy until you have to try to claim the extra 'safety net' benefits. I don't usually bother because I get their notice about it some time in December, but I had a few more doctor's visits than usual this year, and they were supposed to pay me back for November too. It took three visits and in the end I got a whole $20 cash in my hand (but they also sent about $100 to my doctor for as-yet-unpaid bills, or at least I hope they did!)'

Hmmm... on second thoughts I'm not so jealous of you after all - flies, mozzies, broken petrol tanks, leaking water, and no milk. I think I'll leave the exploring to you. My idea of roughing it is a motel room without an ensuite bathroom.

Bruce Gillespie

I found No. 94 okay, and have already downloaded it. Apologies for never writing letters of comment -- I meant to write and say that 93 represents a pretty high standard, even by Gegenschein standards. Loved Ray Nelson's comments on weight loss -- I could put up with the walking regime, but couldn't stand the roots, flakes and vegies diet (is that how he put it)? Elaine and I eat well at meals, but we also snack between meals, which is the real reason I never lose weight. Of course, if I got brilliant SF books to edit instead of vast tomes on accountancy, I might be less inclined to snack between meals.

I got as far north as Maroochydore in August (for my sister Robin's second marriage), but still can't work out how to afford to get up your way. However, Robin and Grant spent their honeymoon in your burg; you probably passed each other in the street.

Karen Babich

Hmm, I can't imagine that mindset, though I understand that it occurs (and how it might originate). Have you considered that nosing this sentiment about might encourage/strengthen the idea of an Oz Corflu? Hmm. (I wouldn't mind, but as always some people have strong opinions.) Oh dear -- was the Oz corflu your idea in the first place? Sorry -- terrible memory.

Denny Lein

Story of your trip horrified me (in a good way). I suppose if I were twenty-five again and went on such a journey I might think of it as an adventure, but these days I figure anytime I go beyond the first-ring suburbs from my house that I'm just asking for trouble. I'm glad you made it home safely, even if tired and broke...

On the Australian sf magazine front, I've been getting ORB and ANDROMEDA SPACEWAYS from Alan Stewart (he picks up newly started Oz sf/f magazines and anthologies for me and I swap for US things on his want lists, plus keeping his membership to the SFPA up in date in American funds). If you are subscribing and don't want to keep your copies, I could certainly get them from you and save the duplication, but if you're not subscribing and picked them up just with me in mind it's not necessary to do so. I do appreciate keeping up AUREALIS with you though (I gather EIDOLON stopped publishing?) and again suggest that if there's something available in the US that I could send you in exchange I'll be glad to do it. I think new autographed books from Gordy are Right Out, alas.

Lloyd Penney

January 16, 2003

Many thanks for the heads-up on Gegenschein 94. I have a copy of that in an HTML file on my desktop, and will try a quick loc on this latest issue. (it's being sent to two addresses, I hope I have at least one right one)

Canadian highways have a time-tested network of truckstops and rest stops along the highways. They not only welcome truckers, but also anyone traveling any distance, and there is usually spots for motorhomes. On the main highways, these truckstops often have well-maintained picnic areas. They are usually for cars and the families within, who'd like a rest, and a grassy area to enjoy before hitting the highway again, but all can take advantage of them. You left on your trip on Canada Day!

More and more, truckstops invite the general public to take advantage of the fact that they have some hotel facilities, usually in the back, where you can rest for the night, or simply shower up before heading back into the highway. Few people know about it, and the truckstops could use the business. They have to be good places to rest and wash up, or the truckers wouldn't use them. Fewer truckers use them because of time constraints, the need for speed to get a shipment to wherever it's going, and the increasing number of hours a trucker drives, in spite of regulations. {{A fair number of service stations in remote areas have showers. Pretty much all have decent food. Very handy stuff. EL}}

In 2004, we may be driving to the Boston Worldcon, and we have the equipment we need to do a grocery order not only in Boston itself to keep our food expenses down, but also for the trip back and forth from Toronto. In future, coolers and jugs will keep our expenses down at any convention we go to, even local. {{Hotels and motels in Australia have fridges in the room, and an electric jug, and often a toaster and plates and utensils. Makes it a lot easier to just go to a local grocery or supermarket. EL}}

There are stores in Toronto who offer exotic fare from around the world and I might be bold one day, and ask if they have barramundi. They might surprise me and say yes! They might surprise me further by revealing the price.

A shame so many repairs were needed on the motorhome along the way. I guess they were broken or shaken loose by the corrugations, which might be code for lousy roads. We've got enough corrugations here, and some of them are on the major highways. The more pieces there are, the more likely they are to break or simply not work.

This is probably just a cultural thing, but what is araldite? Is it like a superglue? {{It is a binary glue - you mix two ingredients. EL}}

In Darwin, you said the aboriginals luggage was leaking. Dare I ask what it was in their bags? {{Something that stank! EL}} I am becoming inured to beggars. There seems to be lots of them around the subway station close to where I work now, and there's even more in the underground pathway on either side of the subway station. There seems to be a regular rotation, and always someone new waiting to hold the door open for you in the hopes of relieving you or a coin or two. I should be a little more generous, but I'm not.

Weird pizza in Darwin. Should I ask what was weird about it? When Yvonne and I were in Holland, we decided to try a local pizza, and we asked for our usual (pepperoni, mushrooms, bacon and pineapple) to see what would happen. We got quizzed over the pineapple, but thought, okay, cultural differences. We got our pizza (a lot smaller than we expected), plus the menu of toppings, which included artichoke hearts, sliced beets, sliced hard-boiled eggs, asparagus tips, tuna and sliced Brussels sprouts. Very strange to us.

I find that when we travel, we enjoy it for a while, but if we're away too long, we can hardly wait to get home. Good to go away, good to come back again. We're never gone longer than a week, so being away for about two months would drive us up the wall.

So, what is the fate of the mobile home? Going to keep it, or push it off a cliff? Is the upkeep worth having it, or seeing that you've had at least two large trips around Australia, are you going to ditch it and remain at home? {{We eventually sold the mobile home, just before Jean went to visit her mother in October. The purchaser seemed more attuned to mechanical devices and engines than I am, so I imagine he will have more luck with it than I ever did. Personally, I'll never own another vehicle, under any circumstances. I never did like even cars. EL}}

Thanks for this. Is Jean planning another Wrevenge, or has she been producing them as always, and wondering why I don't reply? If so I can always catch up. Thanks for keeping this log, and I'll be patient waiting for the next full issue. {{Eventually she will probably do more. She is busy writing books about MS Word and Open Office, as you would see on her web site. EL}}


Merv Binns, Mike Resnick, Catherine Mintz, Mark Olson, jan howard finder, Ben Zuhl from Tunisia, James Allen, Andrew Porter, Rose Mitchell, Tom Feller, Lawrie Brown, Pamela Boal (new grandaughter), Lawrie Brown, Michael Ward, Tom Feller, Edwina Harvey, Jack Dann,

E B Frohvet - I don't know about the religion thing. I freely admit I find the whole subject confusing. I find it, how shall I say it, aesthetically disagreeable, that the universe, and the human race in particular, should be utterly without purpose. {{Well put, however if the universe has no purpose, then your disagreement with that means nothing. EL}}

Jack M Dann - Great issue, and I downloaded Joe's portrait of me. (Catches my quintessential goofyness [Grin])

Taral Wayne - A fanzine? But where are the staples? How can I get tetanus from handling old document files? {{Should I send a computer virus as a substitute? EL}}

Sean Williams has his own domain

Janice Gelb - Thanks - an interesting read as usual. In your convention report, under Awards, you probably want to change "A well deserved Ditmar for Ditmar, whose stunning computer art" to "A well deserved Ditmar for Dick Jenssen..."

John Tipper - It's almost a year since I moved to Lawson and I've settled into the mountains lifestyle: Don't do today what you can put off until whenever!

Lilian Edwards - Merry Xmas to you too (and Jean of course). I was just thinking that my happiest memory of 2002 is almost certainly lazing around in the Whitsundays. So thank you mucho again. Have a dancing santa!! And I'll look forward to your comments on Floss! What do you do for Xmas there? And how hot is it right now??? SIGH!!!! It is dark and damp and soggily warmer here right now. I preferred it a few days ago when it was at least very cold but bright. At least we're past the darkest day of the year tho it's hard to tell!!!

Cheryl Morgan - {I want to bring back duelling as a way of dealing with spammers. EL}
What's wrong with assassination?

Mike Resnick sends books for review as ebooks. I must include thumbnails of his covers.

Ro Nagey - With wireless networking, I wonder how many students have taken 'open computer' tests...while getting the answers from someone else on the network?

Andy Porter says he will get here sometime.

Chaz Boston Baden asks did you take pictures. For photos, try Jean's travel site

Judith Buckrich writes we hope to go O/S this year if the impending war does not stop us.

Lyn McConchie says her computer keeps saying she has no space to view web sites. {{Would be more appropriate to say you had no time to watch web sites. EL}}

Laurraine Tutihasi writes: "You mention having leaks in your air tanks. Surely you have breathable air in the outback. I'm puzzled." {{You can't take too many precautions, especially after your air tanks start leaking - actually they were for the brakes. EL}}

Ned Brooks - Hope you got rid of the land yacht OK - sounds like it wasn't really up to the roads you had to use. What you want is a solar-powered ground-effect vehicle.... {{That would be a real dead end. Do the figures for solar power inputs, electric motor power outputs, and you will see internal combustion is much better. No need for a war for oil if electric cars worked. EL}}

Chris Nelson - I'm finally catching up on my reading and wanted to thank you for the last few Gegenscheins. I have a sister in Darwin, so a number of the placenames in 94 at least sound familiar from her own travel accounts. I've only ever visited a few times and we never got very far out of Darwin each time, so it was interesting to hear more about what is actually there.
I have seen the Museum and always enjoy going back there. It's a good size and layout. We look forward to taking the girls to see it some day.
Funnily enough, one of the librarians who was here at Alafua moved to Darwin and now works at the same place as my sister, NTU. They both seem to like life in the Top End.

Roy Tackett - You don't ever want to travel again? Why not? I'd love to be able to travel again. Unfortunately I can't and haven't been able to for the past 8 years. {{Farewell Roy. EL}}

Bob Sabella - Thanks for both fanzines. Reading them makes me want to go motoring when I retire which, considering the state of the stock market and 2 sons beginning college, seems sooooo far away right now. I also enjoyed all your book reviews, although they have the unwanted side effect of adding titles to my recommended books list. ;) {{We aim to cause economic disruption. EL}}

2002 Xmas Cards and letters

Bounced Emails

I found a report that we each lose a third of our email correspondents in each year, due to changes of email address

Fanzine appearance

This fanzine is hand written to comply with HTML Strict 4.0, and is syntax checked using the free CSE checker. It is then validated against the public DTD using the official W3C SGML parser. It uses only CSS1 formatting, and the style file is checked by the W3C style sheet validator. I attempt to prevent known buggy browsers (Netscape 4.x) from applying styles by using other bugs to stop netscape 4.x reading the style sheet. The HTML file alone should display in a readable (but plain) fashion in any browser, no matter what age or type, including PDA and mobile phone browsers. However, I am unable to test the result against all browsers. In particular, I do not have any versions of Internet Explorer, nor can I check results on a Macintosh.

The zine should be in black san serif on a pale yellow background, with blue or blue on grey headers, outdented from the general text. Paragraphs should be only very slightly separated from previous paragraphs, and the first line of each paragraph should be slightly indented. If you are seeing different (or especially hard to read) results, please let me know which operating system and browser version you are using, and what problems you encounter (a jpeg screen capture of poor results is really helpful).


Don't forget the GUFF race from the UK for 2004 has commenced. Doug Bell and Pat McMurray are the contenders. Please donate and vote. Download voting forms from our GUFF website

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A science fiction fanzine from Eric Lindsay ISSN #0310-9968

Snail mail accumulates at PO Box 640, Airlie Beach, Qld 4802 Australia, and then leaps out unexpectedly and pulps us when we return home after an interval away. My mobile number (in the unlikely event I'm in range) is 0409 434 293 Please send any messages for us via email. I've attempted to remove all obvious email addresses from all my back issues, as an anti-spam measure. I am happy to forward email from fans to fans to assist in building mailing lists, but don't think I will be listing email addresses again.