Gegenschein 97 September 2003

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Sydney Trip

Saturday 3 May 2003

After a leisurely morning stroll through the Airlie markets, Jean drove me to Proserpine to catch my cheap Virgin Blue flight 664 to Sydney. At the airport we were surprised to see our Swiss friend Kurt, there to collect a visitor, so we were able to catch up on what they had been doing. Security settings at Proserpine once again ensured I had to take off my shoes before going through the metal detectors. I hate that!

I must be getting used to 737 seats, as I had no problems with cramp this time. I'd packed a nice fresh lunch, and had that instead of buying from the cabin crew. I didn't notice them having any sandwiches this time in any case. I had carefully ensured I had aromatic deli food, designed specifically to reduce the entire cabin to hungry beasts, and promote frenzied purchasing of whatever candy Virgin had available. Sometimes I can be a really nasty person.

Took me a little time at Sydney airport to spot the Airporter bus, which at $13 return is about the most cost effective way to get to your city hotel. I couldn't spot the hotel when I alighted, and wandered off down George Street, instead of crossing the road to the then clearly visible sign.

The Capitol Square Hotel is run under the Best Western label. Five floor, an older renovated building near the Capitol Theatre, with many businesses occupying shopfronts. Dark domed security cameras dotted the reception wall and the corridors. Big Brother doesn't care, when Free Enterprise can be just as invasive.

The room wasn't large, but was adequate, with the major area perhaps twice the size of the Queen size bed. Reading lamps on bedside tables, two wall mounted lights on a dimmer for main illumination, and a downlight in the entrance. There was a usable sized table for writing, and two chairs. The tiny bar fridge, with mini-bar, was in a closet, as was an ironing board. Of luggage space there was effectively none. I didn't test the phone for computer access.

Soon after arriving I set off for Town Hall railway. Contrary to what Jean had led me to expect, there was still construction occupying parts of the footpaths. Instead of the Olympics that I recalled from five years ago, this seemed mostly major new highrise towers. Meridian, and Latitude. It appeared that apartments were being built in the centre of the city. In theory I like the idea of residents in the city reviving the abandoned neighbourhoods. In practice I thought the crowded conditions on the streets a vexation to the spirit, but I always feel that way about large cities.

Town Hall station was crowded, hot and smelly with fumes. The platform I wanted was closed, and I missed a possible train while seeking the revised and totally crowded platform. Luckily trains are frequent, and I had another in less than 20 minutes. Even got a seat, which was why I'd used Town Hall rather than Central.

At Hurstville I noticed a shopping centre had been build astride the station. Wandering along streets familiar to me from my high school days, I saw multiple highrise buildings atop the hills where once were bungalows. I was early at the RSL (club) at Hurstville, so after checking the bistro and entrance area for fans, I bought myself a beer, and sat at a table with a good view of the entrance. Around 6:30 old time sf reader and historian Graham Stone arrived, with rocketeer John August. We sat around at the table with a drink. Shortly afterwards the retired and energetic Ted Scribner, who organised this dinner, also arrived. Last to arrive was Garry Dalrymple. I was able to hand out some fanzines, and distribute GUFF ballots including extras for further circulation.

This meeting involved a few people noted from the Southern SF Group, whose meetings I'd never managed to attend. Ted told us of his San Jose trip for the Worldcon, and of the fantasy festival via a writers centre. Garry told of his ever growing museum SF events.

I noted some publicity for Graham's fine book on the history of Australian SF, with note of much further historical work to come. I can't emphasise sufficiently how impressed I am by Graham's minute knowledge of older science fiction, and by his dedication in setting it down. I doubt there is anyone else in Australia with as much background, and that is a sad thought.

Naturally we heard of Garry's renamed Freecons, which have seen a fine and undervalued resurgence of small convention fandom in Sydney.

Being a tech, John's trips to Woomera for Ausrock launches were his contribution. I think it is great that the tradition of amateur (well, actually, not so amateur really) rocketry continues. I didn't realise I'd shortly be visiting Woomera myself.

Finish up around 9:30, and head off by train with Graham, who was heading into the same general area to change trains for his trip to the suburbs.

Sunday 4 May 2003

It was a windy, bleak and cold day as I wandered towards Town Hall checking what was open first thing Sunday. Alas, no sign of the discount bookshop being one of the places opening early. I didn't really want a large breakfast either, so I soon returned to my room and continued reading a novel and writing notes until it was time to depart my hotel. I hadn't been able to get my choice of hotel for Saturday night, so the Capitol Square room was only for the one night.

Luckily my luggage was light, and it wasn't far from the Capitol Square hotel to Aarons hotel in Ultimo Road, across from the UTS library and the large multifloor Chinese market where I expected to do some food shopping later.

I was too early for check in, so I left my bag in the hotel luggage room, and headed back to the Capitol Square area to look briefly at some of the computer stores in their Concept Computer area. Some really interesting gear there, including many small digital cameras I had never seen before, and a laptop store with rugged laptops. However my time was limited, and I wanted to get moving around 11, in case of transport problems.

Walked to Central railway, and after a small survey of indicator boards and of the automatic ticket machine, looked instead for a human to sell me a ticket. A train arrived within minutes, and although a phone signal could be picked up while in the underground, being suspicious of the extent of the antenna system I waited until the train emerged from the underground before phoning my former workmate Martin. I don't like cell phones, but have to admit they can be handy at times, especially in a country where they work across every city, continent wide. I note however that I don't like any sort of phone, and except for connecting to an ISP, would not usually make (nor receive) more than one or two phone calls a month. I'm at a total loss as to what the people who are forever on the phone manage to find to say on the infernal device.

Martin (and his soulful eyed dog) met me at Chatswood. I had half been expecting a sporty car (not that I'm sure I would recognise which cars are sporty), but instead interior space and a baby seat were now considerations. A bit of a change there.

I was delighted to hear that he had escaped from having twenty or more people who used computers reporting to him as IT manager, partly by pointing out that everyone was using computers these days. Like other friends doing Linux work, he was back doing technical things he enjoyed. He had moved the entire Sydney production from very expensive Silicon Graphics workstations to faster and much cheaper PCs with decent graphics cards, all running under Redhat Linux, at considerable cost savings. The USA operation sounded more inclined to stick with larger computer company support, and perhaps they were not as willing to bet they could keep things working without any changeover problems.

I met the new baby Liam, only six months old, and already showing he could stand on his own two feet, with a little help from Fiona. Seemed to pay a lot of attention to his surroundings, which I think is a great sign.

Jean and I had seen the house soon after they bought it. The renovations were pretty extensive, with much more space, and a very nice front treatment which included a nice verandah. There was now a sheltered area for the BBQ at the back. Mind you, as far as I can tell, you can keep working on houses forever. Jean, who used to enjoy renovations, would probably cast a keener eye over it all than I could ever manage.

In looking at their quiet suburban street, I had forgotten how close they really were to a main road, and to major shops. A walk of a few minutes took us to this area, which I recalled Martin showing Jean and I on our only previous visit several years ago.

Martin did a wonderful barbecue lunch, all the time protesting he didn't do them very well.

I had a wonderful time, catching up on what had been happening over the past four or five years. Martin told me various things about his use of Linux that encourage me to take a closer look. It sounded like mySQL and in particular, PHP, may be very suitable for some changes I should have made long ago. I may make my own changeover from Windows to Linux sooner rather than later. To my considerable amusement, as I'm sure was intended, Martin claimed that the inventory control he wrote for work was triggered by recalling the little system of Unix scripts I did back at UTS to track purchases and harass anyone who didn't put our orders through in a timely manner.

Time got away from me, and before I knew it, it was five o'clock, rather later than I had intended to intrude on friends with a young child. Martin and Fiona kindly drove me back to the city to Aarons Hotel, through traffic that appeared heavy to me, but was undoubtedly considered exceedingly light by Sydney standards.

Went for a walk through the Chinese market area, picking up snacks for future days, and a gigantic weekend newspaper. It had been years since I had read a Sydney newspaper like the Herald, which is considerable less right wing than the Australian national newspaper I buy in Airlie.

Sent an SMS to Jean from my cell phone, although I wasn't positive she looked at SMS messages. Celebrate Star Wars today. May the fourth be with you. I think Garry pulled that one on us over drinks on Saturday.

Monday 5 May 2003

Rain, more rain, pour. Not good for my purposes. My planned excursion to Ikea got deferred, after I walked across to Elizabeth Street. Being in the area, I sought some of the computer companies I had once known and used, but many had disappeared over the years I'd been away.

Walk, walk, walk until near exhausted by city pavements. I wandered up Wentworth Avenue looking in various motorcycle places, wondering whether a renewed interest in motorcycles was a sign of some strange midlife crisis. I tend to doubt motorcycles are all that much more reliable now that when they annoyed me as a rider and reluctant mechanic thirty years ago.

Went into mobile phone stores, seeking a replacement phone for my now very ancient Ericsson SH888 GSM, but with the appropriate characteristics for country use. However the minimum specifications had to suit me, namely IrDA with IrCOMM (to connect wirelessly with my existing devices), and a built in data adaptor (for data calls), and using CDMA instead of the shorter range GSM. Most sales people seemed to act as if I'd come from Mars. Some bumped me up the chain of sales people. None could actually point me to a phone that did what I wanted. Telstra were the best of the bunch, suggesting I check the Kyocera 7135 smart phone, and also Nokia 6385.

I also sought chocolate stores. Luckily I couldn't find these, except for The Nut Shop in Strand Arcade. That had alas gone downhill in range and scope, in my view, thus saving me from the very attractive sin of gluttony.

Other stores sought were for cameras, and computers. I doubt it will surprise anyone to hear the quest for computers produced only a boring, pedestrian range of "me too" go faster beige boxes, with little thought for improved human factors. Cameras I'll return to later, since they were deliberately a continued item in my search through Sydney.

Met Sarah at Grosvenor Place, up towards the Harbour, near where she works, for a pre-arranged lunch. She led me to a nice tourist cafe, hidden well away from all on the narrow Nurses Walk at The Rocks. So, what do fans talk about when they meet? Fandom, conventions and mutual friends? No, more like investment returns, residential property problems and the like. You know you are middle aged when you know what the stock market is being quoted at in a half dozen countries, rather than not knowing what a stock market is (as I recall from my youth).

Sarah told me I could get a 343 bus to pretty close to Ikea, which was about what I figured. As it had been 15 years since I got buses to that area, it was nice to have my memory confirmed by recent local knowledge.

Wandering back through town, I was delighted to notice Map World still existed. While I didn't get any maps (I did get a magnifying glass, to replace one Jean had lost) I did note lots of interesting stuff about Raster maps. Europe and the USA have been well treated in terms of digital map availability, however until recently, Australia has been a lost continent.

To boldly go seek books was on my mind, but I still hadn't been to Galaxy, once the major SF bookshop in central Sydney.

David Stirrup, someone I hadn't heard from in ages, kindly phoned me re Ken and Maree's movements. They were going to briefly be in their old neighbourhood, Springwood in the Blue Mountains, on Wednesday. I rapidly restructured my plans, and organised to see them, and Susan Batho, at Springwood on that day.

Michelle Hallett was in town, in the suburbs, for a few appointments, so I'd arranged to catch up with her at Newtown Railway Station that evening. Walking that distance made me a little late, and although I noted Gould's bookshop still existed, I didn't have time to look carefully at it. By then it was raining, so we went to a nearby Thai restaurant, rather than seeking something strange. We talked investments and computer problems and generally caught up. Newtown closed by the time we had eaten, which I thought was passing strange. Luckily we could still get a 423 bus to Central, where she could get her train home, and it was in close walking distance to my hotel.

Tuesday 6 May 2003

The weather was fine this morning, so I could visit Ikea! So I wandered over to Elizabeth Street and waited for a 343 bus to Zetland, an old working class suburb where I grew up as a child. I deliberately alighted a few streets early, at Botany Road, where the pub and fire station were at the corner. I was amused to see the old fire station, in a strange repurposing, now housed the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils. The once busy (at least in the memory of a child) Elizabeth Street now had miniature traffic calming roundabouts at the top of the hill where the general store stood. To my delight, there still was a general store. I should have crossed the road and examined the interior.

In walking the two blocks down Elizabeth Street, I noticed extensive gentrification of the area. The adjoining two story homes were still on their narrow blocks, constraining construction to a single room wide. However most had pleasant albeit tiny front gardens, were in good repair, with iron lacework in good shape, and had new tasteful paint. That certainly didn't correspond with what I remember from childhood as basically a slum.

When I got to my old home location, at 966 Elizabeth Street, I discovered our old single story double front cottage was now an industrial site housing South Sydney Framing, and Dyna Motors. The very small vacant block on the corner was now a tiny but attractive park. Across the road at the corner was a large and prosperous appearing Mercedes dealer. Where once was the Nufield factory on Joynton Avenue was now a construction zone. Two blocks along Joynton Avenue, the park I recall as a grand expansive space far away as a child now seemed small, and close, however I believe the actual area of the park was unchanged. There were now many cars around. Large gnarled trees line Joynton Avenue, while Email (a whitegood manufacturer, but what a great name) has a car park that extends the length of the block.

Instead of factories and vacant land, there are now smart four story apartment blocks lining the street. Some have a startling porcelain bathroom tile appearance, in blue colours I feel most inappropriate, at least for exterior use (and likely for interior use as well).

At the corner there was a large Landcom site, which I recalled as a swamp, with signs for things like Waterloo Business Centre. The concept of any business in Waterloo was foreign to me.

I eventually reached the Homemaker Centre. It was really great. A whole bunch of mostly household theme stores in a compact multistory building. At that time of day it was totally uncrowded, with only one or two customers in most stores, so I looked in pretty much all of them.

Freedom Furniture had a neat laptop table, which I noted as black and white at $149. A Zed small PC workstation in black or pewter at $99, a Zed computer workstation which obviously must have been different. I must have been impressed by the appearance, possibly with much use of glass, or I wouldn't have noted them.

Although I was at the Homemaker Centre specifically to visit Ikea, I took advantage of the stores nearly all having digital cameras to look closely at various models. My specifications were that the camera have a 3x or better optical zoom, and that I could turn off any digital zoom. I didn't care all that much for really impressive zoom factors, as I figured I wouldn't normally be able to hold it steady with extreme zooms anyway. It would take considerable effort to move me from having Compact Flash as the storage media, since so much of my gear already uses that. I consider it a better, faster design than any other storage card competitor. I particularly didn't want a proprietary card format such as Sony's Memory Stick. I also had a strong preference for the camera to use standard size AA batteries, both rechargeable and alkaline. I was at that stage willing to consider alternative batteries if the camera were sufficiently small.

I didn't much care about picture resolution, since I'd be using the photos on web pages, where 640 by 480 would be a very large photo. I figure I'd probably never actually do any printouts (alas, poor Kodak, it is all digital now). Of course, resolution is the area in which the camera companies are now concentrating their attention, since the electronics keep improving in this area, so I keep seeing cameras move from a megapixel, to two, three, four and even five megapixel. For me, this resolution increase is a dead loss, since you then fill your picture storage very rapidly. If you can save wanted pictures elsewhere easily, this isn't a problem, but we often travel in circumstances were we don't have access to power, communications, or a computer to store the photos on.

Jean's previous camera was a Kodak DC240, which gave us good photos but had broken twice, which made me a bit reluctant to buy another Kodak. I did find that Kodak no longer used Compact Flash, and had changed to Secure Digital cards, so I didn't look further at them.

Office Works had a Canon A40 at A$500. That looked acceptable in all respects, and we had been considering one of the Cannon range previously. For one thing, Canon have a web site on which it is very easy to look up the exact specifications of their cameras, so we knew what they had.

Harvey Norman had a Nikon 2000 camera at A$500, and a Nikon 2500 at A$700. They had the 3x optical zoom, compact flash memory, and AA batteries I insist on. I think there was some extra cost for rechargeables and a battery charger. Not a show stopper, but I figured I'd look at others.

Dick Smith had the very compact Canon Ixus at A$650, but that is only 2x optical zoom, and Canon A30 with 3x zoom at A$450, but a lower resolution. Another possibility, but by then I thought I'd report back to Jean on camera prices in the big city, which I did by cell phone.

I finally gave up window shopping and went to Ikea. This is yet another tale of going shopping at Ikea. Naturally they didn't have any stock of the shelves I wanted. Indeed, their bulk storage facility (where you would pick them up) was some considerable (walking) distance away.

Another 343 bus back to Sydney. At Central railway, near the old dental hospital, I noticed a small expanse of open space between the wall and the street now contained various plaques devoted to South American political figures. It was interesting, but I have no idea why it was there. I was at the railway to collect a timetable for a trip to Springwood. Although much had changed, at least timetables were still available.

I visited my old workplace UTS briefly, to see if I could organise to catch up with some of the remaining staff I used to know when I worked at the School of Mathematical Sciences. I got some gratifying double takes from people who hadn't seen me in several years.

The afternoon was occupied by a visit to CeBit at the Darling Harbour Exhibition Centre. I'd managed a free entry, but I have to admit most of the computer gear still seemed to me to fall into the boring category.

In the evening I caught up with old Futurian society member Peter Eisler, still active as a bookseller in George Street.

Market Town supplied a dinner, as I'd expected. The Chinatown area always seemed good for food.

Wednesday 7 May 2003

Lots of disturbances in the night. 3 a.m. alarms out on street. 4 a.m. traffic noise like someone was dragging rubbish bins beneath a truck.

To York Street and the remaining electronic stores there. Jaycar were the most interesting, but David Reid gave best results with connectors. Tandy and Dick Smith, both now owned by Woolworths, and both pretty boring. CX Computers had some connector bits I wanted, so that generally worked well.

Naturally I stopped at Abbey's to gaze in awe at multitudes of science and maths books, wanted several, including one on the Orien atomic spaceship project that I just couldn't resist.

At George's Camera Store I checked out a Canon A60 camera, which had the 3x optical zoom and AA batteries I wanted, but the A$649 price didn't seem that good for 2 megapixels. A nice 20GB USB connected hard drive with a built in compact flash reader at A$700 hinted at a future gadget, when the price was less insane. Also a similar Nixvue Vista model with multiple card readers and TV output at a much higher price. There were empty USB2 cases at A$500, which seemed way too high for something that will appear cheap from Taiwan soon. I basically don't trust any of the prices at George's, but they sometime have interesting gadgets earlier than all except obscure shops.

Soon it was time for the train for the long ride to Springwood. Didn't manage to catch up with John Hogan, my former solicitor, as I'd sort of hoped. However I did get to see Ken and Marea and also Susan Batho. We had a late snack at Springwood, and sat in a coffee shop between the Ozanne's appointments, so I actually saw Susan more than them. But that was fine. I had to leave before the Ozannes were through, to get the 4 p.m. train back to city.

My next meeting was dinner with former Applix enthusiasts Andrew Baluk and Mark Lovelock at the Genghis Khan Mongolian BBQ restaurant. Andrew was obviously very familiar with the place, and proceeded to show and tell us how to maximise the quantity of food in the self serve bowl. Given he had ordered the unlimited refills dish, this was obviously more a matter of pride of execution of the technique than any fear of starvation. I enjoyed the rare treat of Mongolian BBQ, a restaurant style not available near Airlie Beach. I had an even more enjoyable time talking with Andrew and Mark, although it is increasingly obvious just how out of date I am with events in the computer industry. I'm also less and less interested in the direction computing has taken. It is pretty obvious I'd never again attempt to work in the industry.

Thursday 8 May 2003

My morning walk took me to Office Works, which didn't provide whatever I was seeking. However I'd gone there mostly to look at a computer shop opposite that Andrew had mentioned. This had some interesting small format (170mm square) motherboards such as Andrew was using. I liked the idea, since it would perhaps assist in making my room less cluttered, although value for money was still a little lower than more conventional sizes. Of course, since then I came across mention of 120mm square mother boards, so perhaps I should await them becoming common.

Science books were the other item I sought in Sydney, since it isn't a common feature here, but the prices were discouraging.

As prearranged, I met briefly again with Andrew, who gave me two old PC power supplies. Once home, this had the effect of moving one of my PCs from suddenly unreliable to working again.

My big treat for the day was visiting UTS, and catching up with a bunch of the staff either there or at lunch. Ron, still crunching numbers of multiple machines. Barry, my first boss there, who still contacts me each year. Layna, now with her PhD. The ever energetic Lindsay, my last boss there. Tim, still working long hours (I thought he would be there, no matter when I visited). Ray, who had been completing a thesis when I left. Brian, now part time. It was great to catch up with these people. I was however a little disappointed that the number of computing labs was down. I got the impression that times had gotten even tighter in the years since I left.

I failed to catch up with several people. I'd hoped to see old fan Gordon Lingard, who had worked with me at Maths doing the Windows NT labs for my last twelve months there. He had moved to Computing Science, as an academic, but the secured access in their new building stopped me wandering in search of of him. I also failed to catch up with John Fox, also at UTS.

At CeBit again for the last of the afternoon. I saw Martin there. The interesting things for me were the 3D monitors, and external drives.

I thought I'd try getting a bus straight up George Street, and hope I could spot the right street to walk from. However Gerald gave me much better instructions about a convoluted bus route that landed me just around the corner from their house. It was wonderful to see Gerald, Womble, and Blair for a meal and conversation, now they were no longer doing that in town. That was just like old times in many ways, and it was great to catch up with them. I hear from Gerald and Womble in ANZAPA on a very regular basis, of course, so it isn't like I am totally out of touch.

Friday 9 May 2003

Took a morning walk to a computer shop called Bits Computer Graphics. This was difficult to find, on Level 5 of 111 Devonshire Street. Had a bunch of very nice specialist gadgets, and a very handy web site listing a lot of strange gear. I liked that place a lot, and intend to check it out for some gadgets I'd like.

I collapsed in the afternoon. Luckily Applix enthusiast Kevin Dawson decided he could spare the time to visit for a chat, because I just didn't manage to get much else done. I'd been sending him a bunch of older computer gear, including Applix stuff, intent on finding it a good home.

Next day was an early start, and the long flight to Proserpine, where Jean collected me from the airport.

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Cultural Elite Museum Ripoff

Like the ABC, museums throughout Australia are another example of a conspicuous waste of our taxes on a yet another minority interest. What is even more infuriating is that the culture vultures who say we must spend up big on museums frequently don't even attend them. At least, the widespread interest claimed seems not to reflect in attendance numbers.

Take the National Museum of Australia. The A$152 million building in Canberra, organised so that it costs A$48 million a year to operate. It is under-used, has empty gallery space, and can't pull crowds. Hint. Canberra is not precisely the largest city in Australia, nor does it have the most tourists. Government is planning to provide an additional A$9 million a year, on top of the previously agreed A$31 million annual taxpayer funded contribution. In short, the one million annual visitors are already subsidised A$31 per person by our taxes. Of course, lower total subsidies reduce the present limited interest, and visitors numbers without large exhibits would decline even further (and the subsidy per person is then even higher.

Subsidies per visitor to museums, as revealed via Freedom of Information questions from The Australia, are National Maritime Gallery A$38, National Gallery of Australia A$37, Powerhouse A$30, Australian War memorial A$27.

In short, taxpayers who don't attend museums had to pay visitors about thirty bucks to get half of them through the door of NMA. The same report that gave these figures estimates visitor numbers will drop to 550,000 at the present funding level. Sounds like a typical culture vulture rip off to me.

Geothermal Energy

Hot dry rock geothermal power came a small step closer for Australia with Geodynamics' Habanero-1 in the Cooper Basin near Moomba expected to be down to its 5 kilometres target by September. Temperatures are already 250C. Water pumping into the drill hole commences soon. There is a lot of thermal energy in a cubic kilometer of granite at 300C, about as much a 40 million barrels of oil.

This is really nice, given the only other real major directions for Australian energy supply are continual increases in carbon dioxide belching coal stations (and we have lots of coal), or moving to the distrusted nuclear option.

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Other Fiction

I visited four bookshops while in Townsville, those being all that I located. Checked the SF and fantasy (more accurately, the fantasy) section of each. What a waste of time! Justin Ackroyd sent me our previous book order (three SF books, and the recent Harry Potter), but when the next Slow Glass booklist arrived, I couldn't find any SF books I wanted. So I picked up a bunch of remaindered novels at Target, as a far better choice than anything in the bookstore fantasy sections. The only full price book I bought was a Windows XP one, and that only because Microsoft are too tight to provide the manual you manifestly need.

In The Red by Regan C Ashbaugh

Pocket Books, June 2000, 595pp, ISBN 0671027743

An arsonist is burning alive the wives of top executives of a major company. The Fire Marshall is tracking the killer, but those around him risk becoming a target. Lots of very detailed material about fire and arson investigation. Very well done.

The Winner by David Baldacci

Pocket, 1998, 513pp, ISBN 0671015753

Ever want to win the lottery? LuAnn is a tough, smart young unmarried mother in an abusive relationship, with a dead-end job and no prospects unless she can get out. What if someone could guarantee you won the lottery. All they want is to manage the money for you, which they do honestly. However, there are a lot of risks, from the benefactor, the impossible Mr Jackson.

The Simple Truth by David Baldacci

Pocket, 1999, 506pp, ISBN 0671033077

Rufus killed the little girl in front of witnesses, and has been in military jail for twenty five years. But what if he were actually innocent, part of a military trial. If the people who organised that are sufficiently high in the court system, justice will be blind.

Saving Faith by David Baldacci

Pocket, 2000, 451pp, ISBN 0671037765

Danny Buchanan manipulates politicians for a cause he came to believe in, however his illegal methods make him vulnerable to blackmail by a rogue CIA director. His assistant Faith Lockhart knows something has happened to her boss, and is trying to make a deal with FBI investigators. However the truth must never come out, so Faith must die, unless someone manages to save her. Fast paced plot.

You Wouldn't Be Dead For Quids by Robert G Barrett

Pan, 1985, 232pp, ISBN 0330271636

Six short stories featuring Les Norton. Reprinted 14 times up to 1998. Les Norton is a red headed bruiser who had to leave his beloved Queensland country town town when things got too hot with the law. As you would expect for someone with his talent for trouble, he ends up as a bouncer at an illegal casino in Kings Cross. Les is a good natured person, except when someone crosses him, and then he has a tendency to break their ribs and put them in hospital for a few weeks. There is a certain sameness to the stories, but the various illegal characters Les meets are the high points to this cult figure.

Sweet Talking Money by Harry Bingham

Harper Collins, 2001, 437pp, ISBN 006513557

A medical discovery that can change the world, but it will destroy many of the largest pharmaceutical companies. Two idealists against a hundred billion dollars. Would companies really be ruthless. What do you think?

Dreamland by Dale Brown and Jim Defelice

Harper Collins, 2001, 375pp, ISBN 0007109660

First in a series of franchised novels, set around a secret air force research and forward action base hidden in Nevada. Same set of characters, with lots of hitech military material, lots of flight action. Fast paced.

Dreamland - Nerve Center by Dale Brown and Jim Defelice

Harper Collins, 2002, 484pp, ISBN 0007109679

Second in this series, with the unmanned Flighthawk attack aircraft prototype stolen by a psychotic pilot testing an experimental mind computer control link. Again, lots of action, not all that believable, but who is complaining.

24/7by Jim Brown

Pan, 2002, 362pp, ISBN 0330490982

The latest TV reality show, set on a small island filled with remote control cameras. However an evil genius has released a new and deadly plague on the island, to kill the entire crew, with a 24 hour antidote released to the show participants once a day, with each day one less vial of antidote. The broadcast can't be stopped, nor can help reach the island. Interesting look at the idea of a society in which every act is on video, especially as some areas head increasingly in that direction.

Executive Orders by Tom Clancy

Berkley, August 1997, 1358pp, ISBN 0425158632

Sequel to Debt of Honor. Most of Congress and the court system are dead in a terrorist attack, and a reluctant Jack Ryan is President by accident. This weakness in the US political structure leads to multiple attacks, some internal from some of the few remaining politicians and press, some external and deadly in intent. To some extent Clancy's large book is a right wing rave of what someone might do if the constraints and checks and balances were removed. It is interesting, and gets more under the skin of Ryan's character than usual, but I'd hardly count it as vintage Clancy, despite being a bestseller.

State of SiegeTom Clancy and Steve Piecznik

Harper Collins, 1999, 368pp, ISBN 0006513190

One of the Tom Clancy's Op-Centre franchise. Always fast paced thrillers, with some competent but uninspired character development. Pass the time stuff only, and not at full price, as far as I'm concerned. Rogue soldiers hold the UN to ransom, and assassinate diplomats to make their point. Op-centre get involved, although they have no legal justification. Glorifies might makes right (which I disagree with philosophically, but pragmatically figure it probably works).

Reverse Negative by Shaun Clarke

Pocket Books, 2000, 372pp, ISBN 0671029479

Future Europe, with arms running in high places. Ex-SAS sent to kill off someone too powerful to dismiss, but gets personally involved. Big fight scene at the end, but otherwise read like amateur hour at the gang fight.

White Guard by David Clunies-Ross

Mandarin, 1995, 347pp, ISBN 1863304894

An Australian Prime Minister grasps at power, while his rivals attempt blackmail and murder to block a grab for power. But will external forces make their own move, to ensure a government that suits them?

Blue Goldby Clive Cussler and Paul Kemprecos

Pocket Books, August 2000, 378pp, ISBN 0671022172

Kurt Austin NUMA franchise adventure. Someone is cornering the world's supply of water, and isn't worried about who gets hurt. Fair bit of action in various parts of the world, but not really convincing (except maybe to people who watch too many movies).

An Expensive Place to Die by Len Deighton

Grafton (Harper Collins), 1995, 244pp, ISBN 0007652003

The clinic in Paris staffed by intellectual and sexually liberated girls caters to kinky, highly placed social and political figures. However what else does it do, with its detailed dossiers, and just who does the enigmatic Monsieur Datt work for? Deighton's cynical spy plods along, always watching, and we follow, fascinated, wondering what will happen next.

Hope by Len Deighton

Harper Collins, 1996, 305pp, ISBN 0006478999

Second in the third series of trilogies set around cynical spy Bernard Samson in the late 1980's. Some wonderful scene setting, mood, plotting and general good writing. If I spot the others in the series, I'll surely read them, but this stood well enough alone.

Goodby Mickey Mouse by Len Deighton

Grafton, 1994 (1982), 437pp, ISBN 000765202X

US air force bomber crews in England in 1944, and how they reacted to the war, died in it, and sometimes found love. A fine detailed picture of ordinary people during the harshness of wartime.

Violent Ward by Len Deighton

Grafton (Harper Collins), 1994, 361pp, ISBN 0007652038

Law noir, as criminal lawyer Mickey Murphy wonders why his seedy downtown LA law office would be taken over, and just what has his partner been organising. Meanwhile, his ex-wife is grasping for money, his spoiled son is enjoying university life, and his high school sweetheart turned out to be married to the new owner of his firm. Wonderful pace and observation.

Eagles Fly by Sean Flannery

Forge, 1980, 311pp, ISBN 0812538897

Also writes under the name David Hagberg. A devious plot by the rich and powerful remains of the Third Reich to seize power once again. Plastic surgeon Dr Richard Kelsey wonders how he could be involved, and how he can possibly prove his suspicions.

Term Limits by Vince Flynn

Pocket, 2000, 612pp, ISBN 0743408209

Your country trains your team to be killers, and then its leaders betray everything they claim to stand for, in search of party political gain. What if political leaders were held to their promises and claims, with death the reward for those who fail to do what they say they will do? What if no-one is safe, no matter how highly placed?

The Third Option by Vince Flynn

Pocket, 2000, 358pp, ISBN 0743429001

The Third Option is direct and deadly strikes against terrorists and their supporters by agents whose existence you can deny. People in the government and CIA want their people in charge, and having a mission go horribly wrong is one way to help ensure that. However failing to kill their most efficient assassin is not the best way to start such a campaign. Now he is after whoever betrayed him.

SWIFT by James Follett

Arrow, 1986 (1994), 287pp, ISBN 074931012X

SWIFT, the interbank communication system, is encrypted. However, if you have the designer on your side, and criminal millions behind you, and are on a quest for revenge, perhaps SWIFT isn't invulnerable. The biggest bank heist in history is underway. Nice fast paced thriller.

The Tiptoe Boys by James Follett

Arrow, 1992, 279pp, ISBN 0749312866

Ex-SAS man seeks excitement and joins an undercover plot to bring terrorism to a UK site in the '80's. However is he playing a double game? Filmed as Who Dares Wins.

Those in Peril by James Follett

Arrow, 1994, 344pp, ISBN 0749319631

Ernst Kessler needs to get his U-Boat back to Germany from the Brazilian coast. However his supply ship has been sunk, an he is short of fuel. An arranged refuelling goes very wrong, leaving the overcrowded U-Boat and a string of lifeboats and liferafts to survive the South Atlantic and the long journey home. WWII action, with character, and the sea as enemy.

Torus by James Follett

Mandarin, 1990, 404pp, ISBN 0749304928

Something has put a hole through a geosynchronous orbit satellite. Beam weapons are not supposed to exist. Harry Dyson has to find where the weapon is, and who made it. Lesa Wessex has shaped her entire life since she escaped from Vietnam to looking for revenge. Her photo analysis skills make her the person best suited to helping find the beam weapon. However her path is in a different direction. Well done thriller, with character.

Trojan by James Follett

Mandarin, 1992, 488pp, ISBN 0749303638

Something has contaminated the Nano Systems Kronos superchip, a biological neural network. Beverley Laine suspects media mogul Marshall Tate, however the real reason is out of this world in this thriller.

This United State + Tramp in Armour by Colin Forbes

Pan, 533pp + 406pp, 1999 + 1969, ISBN 0330418203

The British Prime Minister is assassinated, and in the confusion a US Task Force approaches the coast. A bunch of spies run around the continent, fighting off their unidentified enemies. This really seemed badly disconnected from any reality. Tramp in Armour is a British Matilda tank, trapped behind enemy lines when the Germans push towards Dunkirk. Much better characters, better plotted.

Vertical Run by Joseph R Garber

Pocket Books, 1996, 305pp, ISBN 0671854682

Dave ran into work in a high rise building in New York as a rising executive with a private shower suite in his office. Then his boss pulled a gun and tried to kill him. Before he can understand what is happening, a very professional and well funded hit squad seal the building, and begin hunting him. Dave doesn't even know why he is suddenly a target, nor why even his wife tries to betray him, but his old military background isn't forgotten. As the death toll rises, Dave is going to find what is behind this vertical trap.

In A Perfect State by Joseph R Garber

Pocket Books, 1999, 368pp, ISBN 0671854674

Singapore is the perfect society, where no-one complains about the paternalistic controls on their life. Executive Jack Tait is jet lagged and just wants to collapse when he reached his hotel. Then the bullets start flying, with Jack targetted by both the police and the mob, and he still doesn't know why either side want him. Just as fast paced and well plotted a thriller as the previous novel.

Wake of the Perdido Star by Gene Hackman and Daniel Lenihan

Piatkus, 2000, 337pp, ISBN 0749931752

Seventeen year old Jack O'Reilly escapes to sea on the Star when his parents are murdered in Cuba in 1805. Perils at sea, growing up, shipwreck, natives friendly and unfriendly, ingenious underwater salvage, Dutch blackbirders to fight, and a return to Cuba for revenge. Lots of things happening. Probably make a pretty exciting movie.

Joshua's Hammerby David Hagberg

Tor, August 2000 (pb June 2001), 533pp, ISBN 0812544390

Osama bin Laden has a cancer that will kill him, but he also has a suitcase nuke. Kirk McGarvey meets him to seek a different path. A failed US missile attack on his base in Afghanistan destroys much of the base, and kills his daughter. Osama plans a revenge attack against not only a US city, but against the daughter of the US president, and the daughter of Kirk McGarvey, who is tracking down the movement of the bomb. Written well before the attack of 11 Sept, 2001, it makes fine use of the previous known terrorist activities of bin Laden.

Lunch With The Stationmaster by Derek Hansen

Harper Collins, 2002, 504pp, ISBN 0732275083

Very well written novel framed by a group of people who meet at a restaurant and take turns telling their story. This one was reliving a Jewish childhood in Europe before and during WWII.

Against All Enemies by Richard Herman

Coronet, 1998, 453pp, A$16.95 ISBN 9999999999

A B2 bomber is brought down on a mission to destroy biological weapons in the Sudan. In the USA, an intelligence captain is accused of betraying the mission. Then his military prosecutor finds he is innocent, but by then the captain is dead. Meanwhile, millennium madness takes hold of crowds, as various groups make a grab at increased power. Lots of courtroom action, lots of plot twists

Ten Minutes to Turn the Devil by Douglas Hurd

Warner, 2000, 171pp, ISBN 0751529842

Ten fine short stories, many with political twists, by a former British Minister of State and Home Secretary. Very enjoyable.

Signal - Close Action by Alexander Kent

Arrow, 1976, 320pp, ISBN 009912940X

Second last in a sequence of sixteen sea stories, this one set during the Battle of the Nile (1798), with Richard Bolitho Commodore of a squadron of ships that seek the French fleet in the Mediterranean.

Form Line of Battle by Alexander Kent

Arrow, 1970, 384pp, ISBN 0099088509

Richard Bolitho in command of his first ship of the line, in action against revolutionary France in 1793.

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Red Tide by R Karl Largent

Leisure, June 1999 pb, 442pp, ISBN 0843946024

The liberal Russian leader in a top secret meeting in a neutral location in the Caribbean. Meanwhile, the hardliners in the Kremlin plot his unstoppable assassination, with the USA likely to be blamed, while they take over in Moscow. TC Bogner needs to take underwater action to recover proof of what actually happened. Thriller, with no plan surviving contact with the enemy.

The Jakarta Plot by R Karl Largent

Leisure, August 1999, 358pp, ISBN 0843945680

Heads of state are meeting in Jakarta to demand China stop nuclear testing or face economic sanctions when a Chinese supported opponent of the Indonesian government seizes the venue and threatens to kill a hostage each day unless his forces are given control of Java and the west stop interfering in the third world. The Chinese say war is possible if the US attacks to save their vice President. Thriller as a small disorganised group attempt a rescue.

The Company by Robert Littell

Pan, 2002, 888pp, ISBN 0330413058

A novel of the CIA. Basically a fictionalised history from when the CIA was founded, following several families who work for (or against) the CIA. Has some nice material on Berlin in the '50's, Kim Philby and the moles, the Hungarian Revolution, Cuba and the Bay of Pigs, Mafia connections and the attempt to assassinate Castro, Afghanistan in 1983. Lots of background about CIA intervention in here. The right sort of book to give to anyone who has a paranoid view of history, as it will probably push them right over the edge.

Counterplot by Alistair MacNeill

Orion, 1999, 250pp, ISBN 0752834045

The witness protection program is under threat, when a jailed sociopath arranges a hit on his former lover. When that fails, Genno breaks out in a rampage of vicious murders, with only one final aim. Fast paced, lots of plot twists.

The Convoy Commander + Cameron Ordinary Seaman by Philip McCutchan

Pan, 2003, 186pp + 160pp, ISBN 0330420615

Convoy duty in the North Atlantic in WWII.

Dallas Down by Richard Moran

Fontana, 1988, 289pp, ISBN 0006176445

The US southwest is drying out, and as the watertable shrinks, sinkholes start eating the ground out beneath even cities. Oil billionaire Otto Ralt was working on hydrogen power, but find he needed to divert the Colorado underground. Only one geologist can stop him. Fast paced, but not real believable.

Headwind by John Nance

Pan, 2001, 455pp, A$16.95 ISBN 0330482475

At Athens airport, an Interpol warrant awaits a former US president. All valid and legal, however the ex airforce pilot of the flight isn't willing to hand over his passenger for a show trial in a South American dictatorship. Lots of action in the air, plus a lot of legal flights as the aircraft seeks safety, only a step ahead of the law. However every step is being masterminded by the best lawyer around.

Ramage and the Rebels by Dudley Pope

Grafton, 1999 (1979), 284pp, ISBN 0261673564

Ramage takes on privateers in the West Indies. Worthy Rival to Hornblower.

Seawolf by Patrick Robinson

Arrow, 2001, 488pp, ISBN 009405261

Chinese warships on maneuvers "accidentally" send a missile across Taiwan. Would the USA go to war to protect Taiwan from a more serious incident? The Chinese believe they could get weapons into range of the west coast, and so they believe the USA would stand aside. The USA needs to know whether the latest Chinese submarine really could carry a missile within range, so they send the Seawolf into Chinese waters to measure the threat. Classic nicely plotted military thriller.

Fatalis by jeff Rovin

St Martins, Oct 2001, 375pp, ISBN 0312981201

Sabertooth cats in cryogenic suspension for 11,000 years head for the La Brea tar pits, killing as they move. Fast paced semi-horror as the count of victims rise.

The Angels of Russian by Patricia le Roy

Piatkus, 1997, 300pp, ISBN 0749931183

In Leningrad studying for six months, naive classic Russian literature student Stephanie meets endangered dissident Sergei, and in a marriage of convenience, helps him return with her to France. However Stephanie's interest in Russian literature came from her Aunt Marina, who defected while young, many years before, and ruined her father's career. Was the meeting with Sergei as accidental as it appeared? Interesting take on the fall of communism. Originally appeared on the internet, and was considered for the Booker Prize.

The Fool's Run by John Sandford

Pocket, 2001, 338pp, ISBN 0743415604

Originally appeared in 1989 by John Camp, as the first thriller by this author. Painter pays the rent by hacking corporate computers for money. He is paid to locate a corporate spy, and somehow trash the computers and the future of a rival defence aviation corporation. He puts together a team of a burglar and a muck racking journalist, and sets to work. However the corporations are playing a lot dirtier than he ever expected. Thriller.

Certain Prey by John Sandford

Headline, 1999, 439pp, ISBN 0747263671

A southern hitwoman eliminates a rival for a defence attorney who turns out to be just as dangerous. However one cop keeps turning up loose ends, and Clara Rinker only knows one way to eliminate problems. Fast paced, well plotted.

Kydd by Julian Stockwin

Hodder and Stoughton, 2001, 373pp, ISBN 0340770872

Pressganged to sea in 1793, young wig-maker Tom Kydd learns harsh lessons about seamanship and battle.

The Fifth Hostage by Terence Strong

Coronet, 1983, 366pp, ISBN 9999999999

A journalist who knows too much, and a press photographer, imprisoned in Iran and about to be killed. An SAS team is assigned to get them out, through the chaos in Iran. However is the aim to rescue them, or to silence them?

Dragon Plague by Terence Strong

Coronet, 1986, 442pp, ISBN 9999999999

Thriller about the drug trade, and how it impacts on economies and the lives of various people. Fast paced.

A Different War by Craig Thomas

Warner, 1998, 474pp, ISBN 0751518093

Mitchell Gant of Firefox investigates the crash of a new plane in Arizona for his former father in law. A very convenient crash for a rival British conglomerate. A British MP finds spending anomalies in Euro grants, and silence from those who should notice it. Business is war, and in this war, the civilian death toll is mounting rapidly. Fast paced and well plotted.

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Andy Hooper

Tue, 5 Aug 2003

It's a sad comment on the state of things that you have to be worried about being lumped in with spammers when announcing something as worthwhile and completely non-spammish as Gegenschein. I'll be sure to check it out shortly.

FYI, we're finishing CHUNGA #5, and I'll send you a link to the on-line pdf around the 14th.

Edwin Scribner

Wed, 06 Aug 2003

That message is now on the current Bullsheet web page. I could view Gegenschein 96 without any problems, using Netscape 7.

I'll do the GUFF notice later today. I need to do a little restructuring there, to divide "Awards" into "Awards", "Competitions" and "Fan Funds".

Marty Cantor

Mon, 4 Aug 2003

Am I correct in assuming that I can remove you from the mailing list of the paper zine . . . thus saving me postage monies . . . and put you onto my pdf notification list? As long as you do not mind. {{That is right. Email or web based copies of zines are fine for me. EL}}

I actually finally managed to find the time to go on-line and *read* your last issue, despite the fact that I find it tiring to my eyes to spend much time reading zines on-line. Your zine, though, did not exceed my time-limit on comfort. Sorry about no loc; however, I have been totally out of a loccing mode this past year . . . but that, too, shall pass . . . probably.

Andrew Stephenson

Thanks for the Gegenschein alerts. I don't get around to reading more than the odd fanzine these days; but it's definitely good to hear the scraggy old birds are out there still despite depressing lists in Ansible of those who recently fell off their perches.

So I don't mind a bit being on your spam list. [g] (PS: when do those little blue pills and the special ointment arrive?)

BTW: Am very pleased to see your HTML is "to spec". M$ will have so much to answer for, come The Great Debugging Day.

Steve George

Thanks for the link to the recent Geg. I prefer HTML to PDF format for fanzines. The PDF downloads on are annoying and might explain the lack of feedback to some of the zines there, including Richard Geis's TABOO SF. Geg formats nicely for Lynx 2.8.4 on TTY, by the way. In fact, it's almost a perfect text-only Website. {{Like you, I am not happy about PDF for fanzines, at least where there isn't really an intention of producing the print version first and foremost. It seems to me inappropriate. EL}}

Kevin Standlee

Mon, 4 Aug 2003

Jean reports on seeing you at Westercon.

Yes, and thank you for the Geg issue notification.

Westercon this year was a bit better than last year in Los Angeles, but it's still a sick convention. I'm measuring it by American standards, of course, but Westercon used to be more than 2,000 people, and now it's down to about 1,000, and is now drawing fewer people than the annual local conventions. This year's Westercon was smaller than Norwescon (same hotel, overlapping similar committees); last year's in LA was smaller than Loscon. It may be that the need for Westercon (which was started as an alternative convention for US west coast fans to attend when Worldcon was on the east coast) has ended and we should simply shut it down. However, this feeling does not stop me from continuing to volunteer to work on it -- I'm on the newly-elected 2005 Calgary committee.

When Terry Frost was here in the USA on his DUFF trip, he attended Westercon and the Business Meeting there, where he proposed adding Australia to the list of places that can hold a Westercon. (Westercons can be held anywhere in North America west of 104 degrees west, or in Hawaii.) The Business Meeting attendees being a whimsical lot, it looked like this was going to pass. At the last minute, an amendment that I called the "No Fun Clause" was inserted, that made the addition of Australia to Westercon contingent upon the annexation of Australia by the USA or vice versa, and the amended change eventually was ratified.

This little gem has been sitting in the Westercon bylaws for some years now, doing nothing other than amusing a few people and annoying others who don't like unnecessary verbiage in the governing documents. At this year's Westercon Business Meeting, Jordan Brown moved to strike out the provision and the extra wording and rid us of a change that is highly unlikely to ever happen. To his displeasure, Seth Breidbart moved to amend Jordan's motion to turn it upside down and basically implement the wording change without the "No Fun Clause." Seth's inversion passed, and the amended motion then passed. This has to go on to next year's Westercon in Arizona for ratification, but if it is ratified, then Australia will now be eligible to host the Westercon. Because of the way Westercon sites rotate, Australia will be eligible in any even-numbered year. I think the Australia in 2010 Worldcon bid should expand their bid to include the 2010 Westercon as well, and that this might also be a good time to wind Westercon down as well, going out with a bang, so to speak.

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Cuyler Brooks

Mon, 04 Aug 2003

Zine comes up fine on my Netscape 4.8. Still raining here almost every day. I have no objection to eZines, though I make no attempt to archive them. If the cyber-equivalent of NIEKAS or CARANDAITH or NEKROMANTIKON were to show up I suppose I might try.

I have heard of the Canada geese being a nuisance here, but not the ibis or other tall wading birds. I don't think anyone here would be allowed interfere with an eagle to the extent of using it to scare off other birds - or do you mean some sort of simulated eagle? {{It is a trained eagle, which returns to its handler on command. Eagles are returning to many bush areas as top predators. A common sea eagle passes our balcony on many afternoons, on the way back to its nest. EL}}

Ken Ozanne told me he had heard from Ken Curtis and that Curtis "had something for me", and gave me an address. I wrote to it and sent the latest IGOTS, but it bounced. I still have the suitcase-full of stuff Curtis left with me in Virginia nearly 30 years ago!

David Bofinger

Tue, 5 Aug 2003

A reply to your Sky Marshall rant:

Having spent forty years mostly managing to keep firearms mostly out of airports and off planes, we now rush to put them aboard!

How likely is it that a sky marshall would be a terrorist? Perhaps a better question is, how likely that a terrorist could get on as a sky marshall? {{Exceptions to keeping guns off airports mean you need to check the legitimacy of all guns. If none are allowed past security under any circumstances, you merely have to locate them, not determine whether someone is authorised to have them. EL}}

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.

Over the course of decades of mutual evolution hijackers and passengers had come to an agreement: the hijackers wouldn't kill the passengers and the passengers didn't try to interfere in the hijacking. This is the only reason anyone was able to take over a vehicle with hundreds of healthy people aboard armed with, IIUC, something like a Stanley knife: the passengers cooperated because they assumed they'd be OK.

A handful of real fanatics have thrown that agreement out in a single day, and it will be a long, long time before it can be restored. As a consequence, the 11-9 technique is no longer viable. Try taking over a plane like that today and the passengers will remove all your limbs, poke you in the eye with your own fingers and mail them to Baghdad. (I know that's not a sensible place to send them, but in the stress and excitement many people get Sadam Hussein and Usama bin Laden confused.) I guess this is a libertarian model of defence of aircraft: forget the professionals, rely on the enraged citizenry.

Under the Lindsay model, though, the door to the cockpit is secure. That makes it harder to get inside. But if you can get inside then there's nothing the passengers can do. Leave that door open: _I_ want to be able to kill whoever's inside. Or at least to send the pair of deranged off-duty Royal Marines through to do it for me. Or to send the centenarian Mosquito pilot through to fly the aircraft after the pilots all die laughing at a particularly witty joke by ATC.

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.

In LA I had a block of plasticine in my luggage. One guess what plasticine comes up as on NMRI gear.

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.

I don't understand why passports are so pathetically easy to forge. Why isn't every passport, at least every one from a civilised country, logged on a computer at the airport, along with a photograph of the holder? I have heard this might be getting better.

Paul Anderson

Tue, 5 Aug 2003

Reading through Geg at the moment. I was struck by Mike O'Briens's comment about the girl who read the Harry Potter 5 the day she got the thing. That reminded me of you and I having to tackle Rendezvous With Rama after it carefully left lying in view in the room we were staying in at the Coulson's these many years ago now. (I hate to think of how many now)

Privatisation is not that good a word for me as virtually none of the ventures have succeeded in SA. The cost of water went up by 20% the next year, electricity hasn't done that yet but there is still time. The public transport system is now in a large mess as a result of this fund raising as well.

The fares are set by the government - and subsidized by them - but the real damage was done to the bus drivers. They are in the middle of a protracted pay dispute because they want pay rises of 4% pa for the next few years. The companies want to restrict them to under 3 1/2% which would keep the gross pay level less than that of a check out chick or Macca's employee. They are also after an end to split shifts where they start work at 7am or earlier and then finish around 6pm with a large unpaid break in the and all on normal payrates. When I am going home I want to put my life in the hands of a skilled driver who is paid for being much better than the average driver and who is not likely to be on automatic pilot from being too tired after a long shift. {{Check out chicks will be gone soon. RFID tags in all store items, ring up the total when you push the trolley through the loop, and then you just swipe a credit card. Even before then, you will get to run your own small quantity barcoded items through the scanner, and have only say one cashier for each four scan stations. EL}}

Things mostly go well here now that the house extensions have finally finished. The size of the house has virtually doubled.

Til next time as I am being kicked off the net.

jan howard finder

Tue, 5 Aug 2003

I returned in mid-July from a nice trip around the US.

After 15+ weeks and 26,877 km/16,704 miles on the road it is good to be home. However, the trip was fun. Between sailing, seeing folk again after many years and not so many, teaching paleontology to bunches of 5th and 6th graders, a quick visit to a film festival, visiting parks [including one which looked a lot like Mordor], a number of Saturn dealerships and attending 3 SF cons, I had a pretty good time. However, it is nice to sleep in my own bed and use my own shower. :-)

Some of the money I made from 4 weeks of teaching went into my 007 Trip Fund. If I don't go, I'll have some extra cash for essentials here. :-) If I do come over, I'll give you warning before I come up your way so you can flee the country.

I've actually received one donation to my "Yaminon Defense Fund." I'm working on getting dancing wombats on the site. Had to pay a licencing fee for use of Waltzing Matilda.

I saw Jean at WESTERCON. A most pleasant surprise.

Tell Ken Ozanne he is supposed to come by on his travels. :-)

Ken Ozanne

Eric, I am losing about the three or four left characters of your subheads, using Outlook Express. I have a 19" monitor so should have plenty of area. Maybe you are optimized for less real estate than I customarily use (1280 x whatever). {{Since my zines are web pages I'm guessing you mean Internet Explorer, not Outlook Express. Some versions of IE, especially on Macs, have bugs in their handling of CSS. If you can tell me which version you are using, I may be able to get advice on working around their specific bugs. EL}}

For Laurraine: A coolroom is like a refrigerator with megalomania. Mine is about seven feet high and four feet square (internal dimensions). I now live over forty miles from the nearest grocery store (supermarket) so I need the storage. I also have a separate freezer, will probably add another when we finally get back home.

I enjoyed the issue but have no time for more - we start tomorrow.

Alf van der Poorten

Actually, I am delighted to receive your messages and I do in fact occasionally look at Gegenschein and other fan publications on the web. I'm not really too busy to attend fan events; rather, I don't feel hugely interested. But I still read occasional sf (currently Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt).

I reckon that drive to Melbourne is quite likely to have been some thirty years ago.

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Don Fitch

Thanks for Geg. 96. AOL's browser -- I think it's a lite version of Netscape -- did its usual thing, superimposing some lines, but don't sweat the problem, just tell AOL users to download it to disk as html and read it offline, where it comes across fine. (Actually, I download it as text only, open in a WP program, do a global search and replace to change single paragraph marks to double ones (to separate paragraphs), then read it in a typeface and size I find most legible.) {{One reason I do Gegenschein in HTML with CSS and without a specified type size is so that anyone can change the type size in their browser (at least, in most recent browsers). Likewise a change to one line of the CSS will let you use any typeface. If you have set your own User styles in your browser, just click on that to override the entire appearance I use (Ctrl G in Opera) EL}}

There probably won't be time to re-read it and write an extensive loc, but.... you mentioned some readers maybe not liking your local trip reports. That's quite possible, considering fans, but I certainly enjoy them. You don't go nearly deeply enough, for my taste, into the (to me exotic) Australian things you see, but I find fascination in even the everyday prosaic details you tend to include frequently. I suppose much of this is because I don't really believe that Australian townships and cities could be as crowded, or the traffic as bad (by Southern California standards) as you find them. (Mind you, I guess I should believe it, on the grounds that planning and road construction didn't adequately anticipate population shifts and growth.) Or that Sizzlers (if they're much like the chain here) could possibly be a restaurant that anyone would seek out frequently. So I mentally juggle cultural and personality differences in perception and preferences, and that makes the whole account/adventure quite fascinating.

It's also interesting that you've found privatization of the electrical supply beneficial -- here in Calif. the de-regulation has been nearly-disastrous, and Los Angeles, which retained its municipally-owned and operated Department of Water and Power is one of the few areas where the prices for such utilities haven't doubled every couple years. There are times when I regret living outside the City.

Ikea have recently opened a store here in Covina; I spent one long afternoon getting a lot of Sensory Overload, but not much else (except for some plastic bins to convert into mouse-cages, and a wood and fiberboard storage chest, which went together fairly easily but still awaits painting) -- their bookshelves look great, for the price, but I don't have any _space_ for more. *sigh* Still... I think I'll try to get back this week or next, just for general wandering and looking-around.

Richard Brandt

I hear from fans every now and then... Jack Heneghan and Elaine Normandy live in town and try to get me to more First Friday get-togethers. And I get to Vegas when I can. And Bowers e-mails his zines. And so on.

But I really need to get more in touch.

Neil Kaden

Fri, 8 Aug 2003

Thanks for Geg-96 (thanx also to w3 for the web that brought it).

on... Pay TV and Free to Air: I'm noting the trend that the cable networks are spending more on quality / popular series that are winning awards, while the commercial networks are cutting costs to fill space with more copycat "reality shows" which are pure formula, 80% scripted / fake -- and even cheaper blooper and homage shows. Even the "free" cable channels -- like those in the home and garden space -- are producing entertaining fare (like "changing places" where neighbors renovate each other's homes with the help of decorator/coaches).

Kurt Maring

I really enjoyed reading your travel report. Too many times we did rush to Brisbane. I always wondered of what we could see in Clairview. Now I know. We had a nice stay some time ago in 1770. We also wondered of who would spent four hundred thousand $ or more for a house behind the sand dunes in Agnes Waters.

I have made good progress with Sea Clear and have scanned map sketches from 100 Magic miles, aerial photographs and small sections of official charts. After calibration the accuracy is astonishing. In fact the aerial photos are probably more accurate than charts. It is fun to sail through a photo on the screen. (I believe there is a company selling aerial photo charts for navigation in the USA.) The draw-back is that zooming is not good. I try to find big scanner in Airlie to digitize a larger section of the chart, as stitching of small sections is too cumbersome.

Lloyd Penney

Sun, 10 Aug 2003

Thank you for the notification about Gegenschein 96. I've downloaded the page, and can now cook up some comments in return.

Did your doctor say you had SARS? I think it's finally run its course in Toronto, so with some luck and thought about what's really happening, fans will flock to Torcon in less than three weeks. Can hardly wait for it to get here; can hardly wait for it to be done. I can imagine how I'd feel if I was actually on the committee.

I can seek the seniors' discount as well now. I bought Yvonne a membership in CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons) where eligibility is being at least 50 years old. As her husband, I have an associate membership. I still have to find out what the membership card actually gets me, and I have to remember to whip the card out where a deal may be had. (Just for the record, I'm now 44. It'll be strange the first time I ever claim the seniors' discount, and actually get it.)

Digital television - just more channels I wouldn't watch. I rarely watch what I do get, and what there is isn't very good. We're so busy with other things now, we watch the odd documentary and the news at 9pm.

Don't know of Robert J. Sawyer is to your taste. We've received an advance copy of the third book in his Neanderthal Parallax trilogy, Hybrids, and it is dedicated to us. A wonderful surprise.

I believe Taral has sold his fanzine collection, to Murray Moore of Toronto. I may have to be ruthless with my own fanzine collection in the future - it's getting quite large. I am also looking forward to the next IGOTS - I am still a bit of a paper purist, preferring fanzines I can pick up and read, but if my fanzine collection is indeed getting too large, electronic zines of all types may be the way to go. Did I really type that?

Hi, Laurraine! Thank you for purchasing Fears For Ears - hope you enjoyed it.

Thank you kindly, Eric - please keep them coming, pester Jean for another WeberWoman's Wrevenge, and see you next issue.

Mark Loney

Wed, 13 Aug 2003

Couldn't help but laugh at your comment that you "got a cheap pair of shorts at Lowes, but the cut is not particularly good."

I wasted about half an hour in Lowes a couple of years ago trying to find a pair of shorts that would fit - for me it's normally a straightforward choice between L or XL for any particular style. But not in Lowes that year. They had some quite attractive designs (in the sense of fabrics, length and pockets) but nothing would actually fit. I couldn't comfortably wear anything in the store, even going up to XXL, and I eventually came to the conclusion that they were cut for short Chinese men rather than tall Australians and went off to buy shorts elsewhere.

Interestingly, my suspicions were confirmed a couple of months later when I met a guy who is involved in importing clothes and shoes. His experience was that Australian companies that imported from, say, a Chinese factory were only successful with product quality if they had their own representatives in China to deal directly with the factory - to stop the factory staff from changing clothing specifications that (to them) were obviously wrong!

The joys of globalisation. Or perhaps just another salutary reminder of the fact that quality costs more for a reason.

Greg Benford

Very good issue, as usual. I marvel at the distances you travel to buy Ikea goods! And your analysis of electricity costs and lawyer fees is insightful, though the US is going the opposite direction. I was on a Rand Corp panel for our Dept of Commerce 6 years ago, which found that the most probable negative influence on US tech productivity over the next 20 years was the rise in "contractual costs" - ie, lawyers and insurance; US costs are nearly twice those in Europe. There seems no force (aside from the Bush administration) working to keep lawyers from grabbing ever more of the pie. US could suffer greatly from this. Maybe I should retire in Oz! I'll think this over next year, when I'm there for the NZ and Oz conventions in April.

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John Purcell

Thanks, Eric! I can't believe you've done 96 ishes of Gegenschein. That's astonishing staying power on your part. That, and an astonishing amount of faannish lunacy.

Craig Hilton

I've just read Geg 95. You come across in the 'zine as a man with such forthright views that I'd be afraid to argue with you face to face if I didn't know you. But knowing you, I remember you as such an easygoing person in the flesh that I wonder if I'm reading stuff written by the same person. You think that the ABC is getting too much funding? Now there's an argument I don't hear very often. Okay, well you're entitled to your own opinion, and I'd be interested to hear more on the matter. {{I have to ensure the red neck reputation of the deep north is upheld. Provoking comments can be fun. EL}}

My own interest in it is from watching the series MDA. The first series showed great promise, in the production of a drama in the field of the medical defence industry, just as it was going through unprecedented challenges and crises. The series touched upon Incurred But Not Reported (IBNR) liabilities, financial collapses and legislative issues. I was hoping for the second series to capitalise on the first, and to run in step with the change to insurance companies for doctors from 1st July 2003, insurance contracts, abolition of discretionary cover, the government's bail out of UMP and imposition of several years of levies on UMP members, capping of payouts, and many more things that are happening in the real world.

Instead, what we get in the second series is less of the same form the first. Personal soap operas set in small rooms. The murder of one of Australia's first Aboriginal doctors by an irate widow passing with barely a blink from the public eye. No big picture, no causes and effects, no evidence of the tale being set in anything like a real world with real events happening, just a sequence of heart-tugging anecdotes. I put this down to skimping on script writing, and that seems to me to be related to funding. Spend more on the series, and the writing could be polished and re-polished, researched better, kicked around by more writers, overseen, edited, and finally turned into something much more worthy of screening. It wouldn't look like the squandering of an opportunity to release cutting edge, mirror-to-the-world drama. I compare it with some of the series that were referred to (I think by the ABC's head at the time) as having used up too much of the budget - the police/law series Phoenix and Janus. Those series (two each of both of them) were some of the best TV drama I've ever watched, Australian or otherwise.

(By the way, I wrote an e-mail comment to the website for MDA on the ABC page.

James Benford

Eric: Finally got caught up and read Geg. Liked it!

We're thinking of moving to Down Under in a few years to escape the Collapse of California (and because our daughter married an Aussie from Melbourne a few years ago. They're in London just now, but will return to Melbourne in '05 to start a family. ) So we may buy property down there for part of the year. Do you know the beach town Sorrento? Seems nice by accounts.

And what exactly is ABC? {{Australian Broadcasting Commission, something like the BBC. EL}}

Felger Carbon

I've been retired from the electronics business for over 12 years now. Yep, retired at age 55. But I still try to keep up with the computing industry. I occasionally post to newsgroups, esp. the .chips NG.

Catherine Mintz

I must say I enjoy receiving a fanzine online. Your formatting looks good. The doctors have discovered I have a fine collection of allergies, which means my book collection is being severely trimmed and my fanzines given away to loving homes. Next to go, I hope, is the carpeting. The poor cat is being drenched in anti-allergy stuff to insure that he -- he is fourteen -- has a home.

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Don't forget the GUFF race from the UK for 2004 is on. 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.