Gegenschein 99 May 2004

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New Zealand Trip

Monday 1 September 2003

We got sneaky about leaving Airlie, and gave our address to the bus company as Martinique. This way we just had to walk across the road, rather than all the way down to the Terraces reception five buildings away. This made it easier to wait for the bus to the airport near Proserpine. We had packed a Subway for the midday flight to Brisbane, but Qantas unexpectedly fed us anyway. You just can't trust these airlines.

At Brisbane we stayed overnight at the Good Earth hotel. We arrived too late to visit any bookshops (sorry Ron), but just in time to buy wine, and also breakfast foods. We dined in the hotel rather than go into town to Sizzler, since Qantas had stuffed us with food and we had taken a sandwich with us on the trip. You sure get through some books while waiting in hotel rooms.

Tuesday 2 September 2003

Mid morning, fly to Auckland, New Zealand. As usual, airport security while leaving Sydney had annoyed me, since my shoes triggered their detectors. We arrived at the Centra Hotel near the airport late afternoon. I'd just finished commenting on the patches of blue, and the mild weather in New Zealand. So as we got off the hotel bus and I was getting the bags, the heavens opened with sleet and hail, soaking me in seconds. So much for a greeting from New Zealand.

The Centra near Auckland airport was where the NZ Online Documentation conference was being held. There didn't seem much food available nearby, so we dined enormously and expensively at the hotel. Actually, there didn't seem much of anything except and industrial area around the hotel.

Wednesday 3 September 2003

Jean had a free day, so we walked to both of the close shops we had discovered in the morning. We also later walked to a more distant shopping centre, and collected breakfast foods for following days. That took most of the morning. Like Australian hotels, the room had a fridge. I think Jean managed to locate some of the conference attendees to talk with. We weren't going anywhere in the afternoon, as it was raining again. I found the spa and exercise room and made use of it most days.

Thursday 4 September 2003

Jean was at her conference all day. I went to the shopping centre, wandered around, and bought more fruit and breakfast supplies. What an exciting morning! Luckily I had books to read.

Andrew, a Psion Revo owner, visited me at the hotel around lunchtime, and I spent the afternoon talking with him about Psion PDAs and other computing topics.

Friday 5 September 2003

I again went to the shopping mall, although by then I knew the shortcuts, so as a walk it wasn't as good. However most times I stuck my head outdoors it either threatened or actually rained on me. The rain at home is such that I don't bother with an umbrella, and don't own a raincoat. In New Zealand it was cold and biting. I did the laundry while Jean was off at her conference, thus filling out another exciting day.

Dinner with some of the authors after the conference, which I found interesting, not having seen the conference. Lots of sensible things said about web site usability and access, plus some CSS and HTML tricks I hadn't known.

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Saturday 6 September 2003

To Auckland by taxi, where we stayed at a nice one bedroom apartment at the Quest on Nelson, very close to the impressive Sky City tower. After we settled in we walked into the downtown, mostly along thriving Queen Street. The area around the waterfront was very nice. I was delighted to locate a cheap, old fashioned roast lamb carvery. Lamb has to be good in New Zealand, at least in my view, else they wouldn't have so many. With the roast vegetables it was enough to allow a very late lunch (for us 2:30 p.m. is very late) serve as lunch and dinner.

I had an idea about GPS, and went looking for camera stores that knew about digital cameras that had a connector for a GPS, and that stored the GPS co-ordinates in the EXIF file information on your jpeg photos. The JPEG folks showed admirable foresight and had provided appropriate EXIF fields for latitude and longitude. Unfortunately the camera stores didn't seem to know what I was raving about. I did later find that one or two cameras did have such a facility. Not my fault that my good ideas haven't been taken up (as yet) by sufficient manufacturers. I was thinking of the way Google are indexing photos, and thought that if photos also contained GPS position information, this would ultimately let you search Google for any photograph taken within a certain radius of any spot on earth. At least it didn't rain on me that day.

We found Jean a store that stocked a New Zealand phone to modem cable (we naturally enough hadn't seen any in Australia), so after we got back that evening she was able to connect her computer to the internet. As usual, I didn't bother with the internet. I didn't take my computer, only my PDA. Indeed, next time I go overseas, I may just kill off my email accounts, as I hate trying to collect email via a web interface. Anyone who wants to contact me probably knows that Jean is more reliable about collecting email anyway.

Sunday 7 September 2003

We had originally planned a boat trip with some of the conference attendees, but the weather really wasn't co-operating. Free bus downtown was one nice discovery. Milk shakes we shouldn't have had, and another late roast lamb lunch. Book shopping on the way back. Some impressive bookshops. But mostly it was looking at the sights through the overcast.

Monday 8 September 2003

Again we took a bus, this time the Link bus ride through Auckland, which gave an excellent view of much of the city. At the waterfront, the Britomart building gave entrance to a brand new underground railway station. This was decorated in perforated steel and coloured lights, looking exactly like an over the top SF movie set. It was spectacular, and to me was the highlight of our trip to Auckland.

As we returned to the hotel we noticed people jumping off the Sky Tower. We hung around hoping rain wouldn't fall, and watched several people jump. Interesting winch mechanism slows them down, but it would certainly not be for anyone who got nervous in elevators. Another one of those rides that were not for the faint of heart.

Collected a hire car rather late in the day. Traffic looked pretty terrible from the hire car place, due to construction and peak hour, but seemed OK once we finally got out of the car hire driveway. Our navigation worked tolerably well for getting back to the hotel.

Laundry real late, since the apartment had a washing machine and dryer.

Andrew visited late and collected a working Psion 5 in swap for a Revo with the usual battery problems. I had a surplus of Psion 5, but had never tried a Revo, so I hope I can repair the failed battery. I can kludge it somehow of course.

Tuesday 9 September 2003

We set off north in the car, stopping a hundred km up the road for a snack. Apple pie, done warm and with cream. Also a proper cup of hot tea, with boiled water in a tea pot, with a pot of milk, and with the cup already pre-warmed. If little New Zealand can get that right, how come the USA can't cope at all with making proper tea? Must have something to do with the Boston tea party. With overcast, and on a main road, we were not really in the scenic areas, but the vegetation density was impressive (after the generally sparse landscapes of Australia) despite that.

Wayfarer motel, Kaitaia for the night, and we picked up a chicken for dinner. This was about as far north as we could go, and still hope to find a motel. New Zealand is pretty small after all.

Wednesday 10 September 2003

To the Cape, the northernmost point of New Zealand, on a narrow but reasonable road. There was a neat lighthouse, and great ocean and seaside views somewhat obscured by distant mist. We visited various parts of the isolated 90 mile beach on the way back, and I got away with an ice cream for lunch.

Ancient Kauri furniture near Kaitaia was a store where bog buried kauri wood was recovered. This light wood was turned into expensive furniture and tourist mementos. The staircase leading upstairs constructed inside the trunk of a section of tree was an impressive indication of just how large these giant trees were. Very light wood however, which sort of surprised me.

Stayed at a nice beach front unit under a house on the west coast for the evening. A walk on the beach was our evening entertainment.

Thursday 11 September 2003

Lost on secondary roads as were headed through Auckland, not a voluntary route. The whole country seems to narrow here, so you end up stuck with a path pretty much through Auckland. Good roads in the main, but often narrow in hill and forest areas.

Stopped to visit Tare Mahuta, the God of the Forest, largest kauri tree in Waipoua Forest. Lots of curved roads through forests and ranges. Absolutely spectacular scenery, but what can you say about most of it?

Dargaville pies I will remember, and avoid in future. One is interesting, a second would be masochism. Stayed at Wellford, had a pizza at 5 p.m. Did laundry again that evening. We don't seem to be good at evenings.

Friday 12 September 2003

We continued the long drive south for most of the day. Great views of a large snow capped mountain as we approached New Plymouth. We stayed at the Best Western on the outskirts of New Plymouth, being reluctant to head too far further into town to search for an alternative.

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Saturday 13 September 2003

From New Plymouth in the morning. Fuel at Strathford. Strange pies for lunch. I should know better. Even more lush farmland all around. Our route took us through a very impressive gorge. Arrived at Lyn McConchie's farm mid afternoon. Hand over bunches of books brought with us, and accumulated during trip. Ignored the complaints of the geese, who don't even read books.

Sunday 14 September 2003

Lyn takes us to the local Norsewood factory, where we buy woollen jumpers and socks. This proved very handy on a subsequent US trip. Jean talks with Lyn about publishing some new books. I sat and read, and got mugged by the cats. It was all very relaxing.

Monday 15 September 2003

At Lyn's place. Look at village. It is small even by Airlie standards. Much more rural. Nice place, although it would be too cold for me.

Tuesday 16 September 2003

Leave Lyn's place early, and have a good (albeit wet) run through to Rotarua. Long walk through sulphur marshes, especially after we took the wrong path. We seemed to spend several hours looking at marsh areas and marsh plants and things stuck in marshes, all the while hearing traffic noises not very far away. Spas in hotels. Smell of sulphur throughout. We also found what was probably the only Sizzler left in New Zealand, and found it was all a la carte. Interesting regional variation.

Wednesday 17 September 2003

On the way back to the airport area, now not wanting to get there too late. On the way was The Castle which was an impressive cafe, built to house a toy collection. It certainly had some polish. However we had to get to the Auckland airport area.

To hotel a little after 1 p.m., about 2250km covered in total. As soon as we were unpacked we set out to return the car. Couldn't locate Ezy Car Rentals to return car, and it took us about a half hour to discover it was under an entirely different name in the industrial area. Would have been a disaster if trying that at 4 a.m. Ate scraps for dinner to use up the food we had in the car.

Thursday 18 September 2003

Alarm at 3:45, and leave hotel at 4:20. Arrived at airport before 5 a.m. Queue at Qantas for boarding passes, with Proserpine (Whitsunday Coast airport) destination giving trouble. Queue for departure tax payment at Bank NZ, and discovered it had gone up from the NZ$20 in guide book to NZ$25. At least a bank can probably take currencies other than only NZ. Queue to get through immigration to departure lounges. Queue again to go through security screening. Wander around and eventually head for gate. Have to go through yet another security check queue around 6 a.m., to a gate area that totally lacks facilities. Luckily the flight is relatively short.

It is this multiple queue approach to airport access and security, followed by a lack of facilities at the gate area, that annoy me. My travel is optional. I'm already annoyed enough about the security that I've declined one free ticket from the airlines to the USA. It would probably only take one more bad experience with overseas travel to make me decide that I wasn't going to ever do it again.

Check average speed of the trip home, after allowing for all the local transport and airport delays. Auckland to Brisbane 2289 km. Then on to Proserpine, etc. About 3200 km in about 14 hours. Looks like it is faster than driving, but were the distance somewhat less, maybe not. I've heard already that in the USA businessmen are often driving distances under about 600 km, rather than going to the trouble of flying.

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An End to Printing

My moderately ancient Hewlett Packard LaserJet 5MP has developed paper feed (or perhaps it is paper sensor) problems. Won't work from the paper tray. Only about one page in two works when hand fed, since it mostly falsely detects a jam. So far I haven't spotted what the problem is, despite wasting a lot of time blowing air over the paper paths and poking at it in the hope of dislodging anything stuck in a sensor.

Since I'm trying to drop the amount of clutter in this apartment, this may mean I stop printing anything. I keep saying I'm moving from paper to electronic copies, but don't do much about it. At the moment I'm undecided about whether there will be a replacement printer at all.

I can however report that when I got the paper version of Gegenschein 97 printed (for apas) the 100 copies were $126. This means it was back to a more reasonable 7 cents a copy side, rather than almost twice that amount a previous time. Mind you, with the copy place 300 km away, this isn't a real lot of help when you have deadlines.


Advertising in the UK, 1938 to 1961

Year            1938    1948    1956    1961
Press             51      65     159     215
Outdoor            8      14      26      30
TV                                11      85
Films              1       3       5       5
Catalogs          10      12      35      40
Total             98     121     309     470
% of GNP         1.7     1.0     1.6     1.8

Advertising in the USA, 1948 to 1960

Year                    1948    1956    1960
Newspaper               1750    3240    3700
Magazines                530     830     970
TV                              1210    1610
Radio                    560     570     670
Direct Mail              690    1420    1830
Business Papers          250     500     610
Outdoor                  130     200     200
Misc                     950    1950    2340
Total                   4860    9900   11930
% of GNP                 1.9     2.4     2.4

It probably comes as no surprise that the heaviest advertising expenditure occurs in areas where there is little to differentiate one product from another. Soap and similar products 8.7% of sales, tobacco 6.9% of sales, alcohol 5.3% of sales (not including taxes), snacks, soft drinks and sweets 2.5% of sales. The smaller and mid sized companies did more advertising per sales dollar than the larger companies.

Advertising in Australia rose 7.5% this year to reach A$8.6 billion. Free to air TV networks put up their rates about 8%, however the 16 to 39 year old demographic is now down to 6.73% in peak viewing hours. This isn't good for advertisers, as almost A$3 billion is aimed at that group. Maybe the reason they lose viewers is 14 reality shows, jumping from 6.5 hours a week to 11.5 hours a week. Some people got a life instead of a reality show.

Internet advertising went up by 50% to A$250 million. As far as I can see, most companies still just don't get it. Make it easy for me, and let me get at all the information I want, and you can make sales without major efforts. Make it the slightest bit hard, make me wait more than ten seconds, and I've already clicked on some other web site. Companies that made it hard for me to buy included Harvey Norman and Harris Technology (Coles), both of whom should know better.

Advertisers are still largely ignoring the baby boomers, which is where the discretionary spending money is. Over the next ten years, 50% of each dollar spent will be by people over 55. On the other hand, it is much harder to move people who are already totally cynical about marketing.

Audience Share

The free to air TV stations are getting 64.3% of the viewing audience, leaving a mere 15% for the ABC, 15.1% for cable pay TV, and 3.1% for SBS. Channel 9 leads the free to air channels, with 24.2%, followed by 7 at 20.4% and 10 with 19.7%. Prime time figures are even better. No wonder the advertising money is going to free to air rather than cable.

The pay TV providers in Australia have managed to sign up a mere 23% of Australian households. US and UK readers will know this is far below the figures in their areas. The largest provider here, Foxtel, hope to increase their audience to 40% by 2008, by rolling out a A$550 million digital service. I think they are up themselves. Another 500 channels with nothing worth watching will not significantly change viewing habits.

This especially applies while every cable provider wants top dollar for their service. Losing money hand over fist will tend to drive you to overcharging, but doesn't bring in the customers. Cheap cable packages just don't exist, so cable gets ignored. Content doesn't help much either. I get free cable in the resort, and it basically isn't worth having. Several sports channels (I never watch sports, although I realise many do). Several movie channels. Now I like movies, but the cable idea of movies is to repeat the same three for a month. I could make a deal with the local video store to do that for about $10 a month.

Basically cable came into Australia too late in the mid 1990's. Free to air were already providing an excellent service (in terms of access) in all except fringe areas (which are too expensive to cable anyway). At the same time, the internet, cheap VCRs and even cheaper DVDs grabbed the family entertainment budget and the family entertainment time.

I got that idea from a book called Turning off the Television: Broadcasting's Uncertain Future by Jock Given, a senior research fellow at Swinburne University's Institute for Social Research. Seems reasonable. I'd extend it further. When my (old, analog) TV breaks, or when digital TV is forced upon us, I'm not going along. The only thing I need a TV for is the weather forecast, the news, and to watch the odd movie. There are perfectly good alternatives for all three.

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Business on Welfare

How much business is on welfare? According to the Productivity Commission, business got about A$10 billion from the federal government in 2002-2003. Manufacturing was the largest recipient of assistance in subsidies and tax breaks but tariff protection made up A$4.43 billion of the A$5.49 billion manufacturing got. Farmers and agriculture also got more partly due to the drought, with A$1.05 billion. These two are about proportional to their value added to the economy. Mining didn't get much, and services sector went backwards compared to previous years.

Classic Music Recording Dead

I've read a prediction that 2004 will see the end of the classic music recording industry. The recording companies are shedding stars and dumping contracts down to one record a year. The major labels are all merging, dumping skilled staff and generally getting out. Smaller labels are not doing much better. One obvious exception is Naxos, which sell their CDs dirt cheap (under A$10), and pay orchestras only a small no-royalties fee. This is very unlike the $155,000 demanded by the Berlin Philharmonic, so I guess you won't hear them on Naxos.

This all fits in with what I've said before about the performing arts. If you want to make a living at it, you had better make sure you can find a live, paying, repeat audience, like the deadheads. You won't be able to fool people with Idol forever, although having a scandal will probably help there. Technology gave the recording publishers a fortune, and gave the public relatively cheap access they had never had before. Now a better digital technology is taking that fortune away from the recording industry, and giving the public ever cheaper access to music.

Fast Food

Fast food chains and franchises haven't had an easy time in Australia and New Zealand. While Australians spend A$7B a year on takeaway food, and have one eatery for every 300 people, they also spend only 21 cents of the food dollar on fast food, against 60 cents in the USA. Lots of international brands bounced here. Our favourite, Sizzlers, went out long ago, and outside Queensland only have about two stores in Sydney, one in Brisbane, one in Darwin and one in Perth. Yum Brands closed its Taco Bell chain. Delifrance collapsed. Others that appeared here and then disappeared included Arby's, Cassidy's, Denny's, Fuddruckers and Keg. Even McDonalds had problems with its Boston Market. I can't see any of the donut chains surviving, nor Wendy's. Starbucks have managed to reach 43 stores, which is well short of its 2002 launch target.

Pizza Hut survived, but like Dominos, it now concentrates on the home delivery and pickup market, after initially launching as restaurants. Yum Brands are still doing KFC, against strong competition from local brands like Red Rooster and much cheaper regular food store deli counters. McDonald's have been here a long time, and are by far the largest fast food chain here. They have been doing well with their low fat Salads Plus range of muffins, yoghurt, garden salads and chicken salads. Adding breakfast cereals, fruit juice and fruit snacks to their breakfast menu didn't hurt them either. Subway are also expanding rapidly, especially in New Zealand, although they have 500 outlets in Australia as well. Again, they are quoting low fat content.

Some convenience range foods are also doing well. Michel's Patisserie has over 270 stores, served by central bakeries. This makes it easier on franchise owners as there is no need for local baking. Both Baker's Delight and Brumbies bread stores do a lot of on-site baking. Leonard's chicken shops also do a lot of on-site preparation of their extensive ready to cook selections, and don't sell precooked food.

Ikea Report

While I suspect this is an April Fools Day hoax that escaped to Reuters and news outlets, I have here a report that Ingvar Kamprad, 77, Swiss based Swede who founded Ikea and owns 180 stores in 30 countries, is richer than Bill Gates. Swedish business weekly Veckans Affarer is claimed to have reported he has 400 billion crowns A$69.2 billion) against Bill Gates' A$61.4 billion. The claim is said to come from ST2 public television.

Zero Volts

We were away from the end of January until almost April. When we returned the air conditioner was dead. Fried Chinese kitchen gecko had shorted the inverter, and set the circuit board on fire. The replacement stayed working for about three hours before it also died (reversed connections, fixed fairly quickly).

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SF Books

This time I did manage to get through some science fiction. As usual, the offerings in the SF section of stores now seem almost exclusively fantasy. I don't mind that fantasy exists (someone must be reading it). I just wish it had its own section of the store so it didn't get in my way.

Climbing Olympus by Kevin J Anderson

Harper Collins Voyager, 1997, 297pp, ISBN 0006483054

Mars was colonised by the surgically transformed Russian Adin, while the long slow process of terraforming continues. However what will the discarded and almost forgotten remaining Adin do on a Mars becoming Earthlike?

Not of Woman Bornedited by Constance Ash

Roc, 1999, 272pp, ISBN 0739402595

Fourteen short stories of SF discovering alternatives to the traditional family.

Myth Conceptions by Robert Asprin

Orbit, 1980, 279pp, ISBN 1857238044

Skeeve the magician apprentice in training, and the demon Adhz, assisted by Bleep the dumb dragon and others, try for a comfortable position as Court Magician. No one told them about the invincible invading army on the border, not that the magician alone had to defeat the army.

Quicker than the Eye by Ray Bradbury

Earthlight, 1996, 261pp, ISBN 0671017845

Twenty short stories from classic SF author.

The Ambassador by Edwina Currie

Warner, 1999, 503pp, ISBN 0751528498

UK Conservative Minister sets her fourth novel 100 years hence, in a UK where class is enforced by genetic manipulation. Has detective elements, a love story, etc. Seemed somewhat stilted.

Schild's Ladder by Greg Egan

Eos, 2004, 339pp, US$13.95 ISBN 006107344X

I usually enjoy Egan's stretching stories, and this is no exception. I still think he is better at short stories, where idea is champion. It is hard for mere humans to empathise with transhumans.

Rogue Star by Michael Flynn

Tor, 1998, 446pp, ISBN 0312861362

Sequel to Firestar, set in the near future. Mariesa van Huyten has been able to start her space station. She continues with her obsessive quest to protect Earth against asteroid impact, regardless of who gets in the way, and what the financial consequences to the company she runs. Work on the space station proves politically disastrous, and brings arms into space. Some nice work here on a Future History.

The Howling Stones by Alan Dead Foster

Orbit, 1998, 330pp, ISBN 1857235320

Senisran is rich with rare minerals worth mining. However the natives in one of the better areas are unwilling to sign a treaty with either the Commonwealth or the AAnn Empire.

The Swords of Night and Day by David Gemmell

Bantam, April 2004, 459pp, PB A$32.95 ISBN 0593044576

A novel of Skilgannon the Damned, a thousand years after he and Druss fell in battle. Heroic fantasy.

White Wolf by David Gemmell

Corgi, April 2004, 4589pp, PB A$21.95 ISBN 0552146773

First of a new fantasy series by a well known fantasy author. Let's see, demon haunted realm, mysterious temple, ageless goddess, a mighty warrior. Yep, it is fantasy.

Missisippi Blues by Kathleen Ann Goonan

Tor, 1997, 511pp, US$15.95 TP ISBN 0312868936

Light Music by Kathleen Ann Goonan

Eos, 2002, 406pp, US$25.95 HC ISBN 0380977125

A nanotech and biotech future. I thought them probably well done, but just couldn't get into them.

Corrupting Dr Nice by John Kessel

Gollancz Millennium, 1999, 286pp, ISBN 1857988930

Time travelling rogues, father and daughter, swindle naive time travellers. The most naive of all, Dr Nice, has smuggled a dinosaur as far as Jerusalem early AD. A screwball comedy, an account of the trials of Simon and his defender Jesus, a love story. Great fun.

Immortal Coil by Jeffrey Lang

Pocket, feb 2002, 331pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0743405927

Star Trek TNG. Convoluted story of how androids were created in the very distant past, and how information from them fed into the creation of Data. The hidden history of artificial intelligence.

Reckless Sleep by Roger Levy

Gollancz, 2000, 345pp, ISBN 057506899X

Virtual reality based novel, in a depressed apocalyptic Britain. I found it a struggle to finish it.

The Guardians: Berserker by J M H Lovegrove

Gollancz Millennium, 1999, 407pp, ISBN 1857985567

A secret cabal, intending to save us all from another secret cabal. Hackers, kidnapping, super powers. The author is better than his material.

The Invisible Country by Paul J McAuley

Vista, 1996, 319pp, ISBN 0575601892

Nine short stories by acclaimed British author. Some very nice introductions to some of his novels.

Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

Orbit, 2002, 424pp, ISBN 1841491411

Moon has an autistic child. This novel is written from the viewpoint of an autistic in a regular job, struggling with prejudice and lack of concern with what works for their type of people. The development of a possible treatment raises issues of what makes up your personality, and whether you should be pressured to change to be more like other people. Well done.

A Mind for Trade by Andre Norton and Sherwood Smith

Tor, 1997, 256pp, ISBN 0312859201

Sequel to Derelict for Trade, a new Solar Star adventure. Traditional SF adventure with the traders trying to make a living.

Factoring Humanity by Robert J Sawyer

Tor, 1998, 350pp, US$23.95 ISBN 0312864582

Edited by David Hartwell. A message from space, hard to understand. Attempts at decoding lead one person to a design that can be fabricated. A bit like Contact in some ways, but interesting despite that, as it moves in other directions.

Wheelers by Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen

Earthlight, 2001, 505pp, ISBN 0743207432

Eccentric interplanetary explorer Prudence returns to an underpopulated 23rd Century Earth with 100,000 year old wheeled artefacts recovered from Callisto. At her trial for fraud, an artefact takes flight, which does tend to prove they are real. Then it is discovered that Jupiter's moons are changing orbit, and slingshoting an asteroid away from Jupiter, directly at Earth. How do you communicate with long lived beings on Jupiter who used asteroids for fireworks displays, but after an accident have now changed their policy. Especially when it can take them thousands of years to reach a considered decision. Earth has only a short time before an extinction event. I particularly liked the Tibetan Zen Buddhists being the richest people in space. From two popularist academics, in physics and astrobiology. Nicely done SF.

T2 Rising Storm by S M Stirling

Harper, June 2003, 529pp, US$7.99 A$19.95 ISBN 038080817X

Sequel to T2 Infiltrator. A sort of alternate history Terminator novel with an adult John Connor and Dieter von Rossback, the human commando on which the original terminator models physical appearance was based. You can probably fill in the rest for yourselves. Fast paced.

Meet Me At Infinity by James Tiptree Jr

Orb, 2000, 396pp, US$15.95 ISBN 031286938X

Inside notes say edited by David Hartwell. This is partly the uncollected fiction, and there is basically a good reason most of this wasn't reprinted. The more interesting contents are the material Tiptree contributed to Jeffrey D Smith, when he was a young fanzine editor. A small amount comes from the fanzines, but there is much from letters also. Collectors should love this.

Mind Changer by James White

Tor, 1998, 301pp, ISBN 0312866631

Sector General novel, as Dr O'Mara becomes chief administrator, searches for his replacement, and recalls humorous highlights of his unconventional career. Lots of fun.

Orphans of Earth by Sean Williams and Shane Dix

Voyager, 2003, 419pp, A$18.95 ISBN 0732275261

After discovering the spike AIs have destroyed Earth, and that the Starfish aliens have then destroyed all intelligence in the Sol system, human engram Peter Alander and last true human, Caryl Hatzis FTL broadcast to the remaining engram exploration parties that they must co-operate to survive the irresistible attacks of the Starfish aliens, and to discover more about the powers of the Spinner Gifts that attract the Starfish. Help comes from an unexpected and potentially deadly source.

Heirs of Earth by Sean Williams and Shane Dix

Voyager, 2003, 411pp, A$18.95 ISBN 0732275253

The Starfish aliens are rapidly eliminating every human engram exploration colony. Allied with the aliens who hide in the wake of Starfish destruction, they are all betrayed by a cloned colony of human engrams. Peter and Caryl attempt to penetrate the heart of the Starfish menace to argue for their survival. However the Starfish don't notice microbes like the humans. But perhaps their parasites will notice the humans.

The Golden Age by John C Wright

Tor, April 2003, 395pp, US$6.99 A$15.95 ISBN 0812579844

Ten thousand years in the future, a glorious party welcomes the thousandth anniversary of the High Transcendence. Phaethon finds his memory of much of his three thousand years of life removed, apparently voluntarily.

The Phoenix Exultant by John C Wright

Tor, May 2003, 291pp, US$6.99 A$16.95 ISBN 0765343541

Phaethon, reduced by exile to his real body, stripped of his access to the collective mind enhancements of his world, supported only by his pilot armour and its limited nanotech, sets out to recover the starship he had spent his life and fortune creating.

The Bridge by Janine Ellen Young

Simon and Schuster, 2000, 348pp, ISBN 0743404157

The Ring aliens seek to communicate via a virus that conveys their thoughts to others. However the virus unexpectedly proves deadly to 90% of humans, while others it leaves almost insane with dreams of a bridge to the stars, and perhaps revenge on the aliens.

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Other Fiction Books

The appearance here in Airlie of one of the discount remaindered book stores has led to me getting vast quantities of cheap marginal thrillers, crime and sea stories. Hence these reviews. If you don't like it, point me to some science fiction.

Wings of Fire by Dale Brown

Harper Collins, 2003, 595pp, ISBN 000710989X

Mercenary Patrick McLanahan and his Tin Man armoured commandos take on Libya, while their stealthed B52 attacks weapon of mass destruction sites. Fast paced, but doesn't make a lot of sense. Probably appeals more to those who have followed the series. Major characters get killed.

Razor's Edge by Dale Brown and Jim Defelice

Harper Collins, 2003, 506pp, ISBN 0007109687

Another in the Dreamland series, with secret weapons on a B52 deployed against what appears to be an amazingly effective ground based Iraq laser weapon. Lots of background on the continuing cast of characters.

The Sum of All Fears by Tom Clancy

Harper Collins, 1992 (2002), 1027pp, ISBN 0007147333

Massive novel of a terrorist plot to use a lost nuclear bomb as the trigger for a hydrogen bomb sneak attack on the USA. Lots of convincing details of the plot, plus lots of side plots, and sneaky characters. Usual Clancy style thriller

Executive Orders by Tom Clancy

Berkley, 1997, 1358pp, ISBN 0425158632

Sequel to Debt of Honour, as Jack Ryan tries to set up a US government with most of the executive and congress dead.

The Lion's Game by Nelson DeMill

Warner, 2000, 854pp, ISBN 0751528234

Anti terrorist group in New York seek the Lion, a Libyan terrorist. Character John Corey from previous novel Plum Island is protagonist. The Lion seeks to kill, amongst many others, the US pilots who bombed Tripoli in 1986. Police procedural mostly, with double crosses and lack of interagency co-operation.

Barracuda Final Bearing by Michael Dimercurio

Coronet, 1997, 365pp, ISBN 0340831936

Really fast paced submarine action as a rearmed and isolated Japan disarms a rival country carved out of China. The US decides to blockade Japan, and sink its automated sub force, using inadequate and dated marine forces.

Day of Wrath by Kevin Easterman

Harper Collins, 1995, 472pp, ISBN 0006498213

IRA, MI5, police, politics, Arab terrorists, all in a bloody duplicitous turf fight with an incredible body count.

Claws of Mercy by John Harris

Redwood, 2003 (1955), 314pp, ISBN 1741211182

A mine in Sierra Leone, where a misfit manager causes a worker riot. Others around him can see the damage he is causing, but for one reason or another don't find the strength of character to stop him. Well written older style novel.

Top Hook by Gordon Kent

Harper Collins, 2003, 586pp, ISBN 0006512968

US Navy Intelligence officer find himself suspected of disloyalty when a double agent spreads misinformation. However the double agent is playing his own end game that will destroy an entire generation of enemy agents. Realistic feeling fleet scenes.

The Company by Robert Littell

Pan, 2002, 888pp, ISBN 0330413058

A novel of the CIA, covers entire generations during the Cold War, from the founding of the CIA. Feels realistic.

The Dead of the Night by John Marsden

Pan, 1995, 271pp, ISBN 0330359789

Sequel to When the War Began. The country invaded, and teenage resistance fighters find a different world facing them as they grow up.

The Year of the Fire Monkey by Chris Mullin

Sheridan, 1995, 262pp, ISBN 1855016966

During the Chinese invasion of Tibet, the CIA recruit a sleeper to get into a position to assassinate Mao. On the retirement of one of the only two agents who still know about the sleeper, they realise he is still in position, and over 20 years later about to fullfil his mission. Meanwhile, Nixon's visit to China is being planned. Nice piece of work from a British Labor MP.

Pandora's Clock by John J Nance

Knight, 2003 (1995), 501pp, ISBN 1840672544

A passenger on a 747 may be infected with a deadly, fast spreading disease. Governments won't let the US flight land in their territory. Thriller by an airline pilot about the most likely extinction event for humans.

Convoy by Dudley Pope

Redwood, 2001 (1979), 450pp, ISBN 1741211255

How are the Germans managing to get a submarine within certain convoys? WWII action story, by an author better known for his Ramage sailing ship war stories.

Darker Angels by S P Somtow

Vista, 1997, 351pp, ISBN 0575600608

Lincoln lies in state, while sharmen and boy evangelists raise the dead. Very strange dark horror. Seems well enough written, and quite literate. Not to my taste at all.

Snow Falcon by Craig Thomas

Grafton, 1993, 444pp, ISBN 0007697457

British intelligence stumble upon a Russian Army coup attempt. So does a small section of the KGB. However the Red army holds all the cards, in their efforts to invade northern Europe and enhance their importance within Russia. By the author of Firefox.

The Lions of Lucerne by Brad Thor

Pocket, 2002, 507pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0743436741

The President is kidnapped on a ski trip to Utah. Surviving Secret Service agent is determined to follow any possible clue, on a trail that takes him up against a team of professional killers. Fast paced.

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Computer Book Reviews

We get all sorts of books for review, and some of the best computer books come from O'Reilly. Given that almost everyone (at least in cities) has to interact with computers these days, you may need to know more about using them effectively.

Hardware Hacking Projects for Geeks by Scott Fullam

O'Reilly, Jan 2004, 329pp, US$29.95 ISBN 0596003145 Amazon link

This is a big, floppy paperback full of projects many geeks or would be geeks already know about. After all, the internet leaks this sort of information all over. However despite some of the projects being a little underwhelming for the geek about town, the fifteen projects would probably be the perfect introduction to hardware hacking for a youngster keen to get into electronics and computers.

Now that there are very few electronic hobbyist magazines around, it is hard to know how any except the most talented youngsters will get started on hacking gadgets, except via books like this. Having a talented toy designer write the book is a great ploy, as many of the best gadgets are derived from subverting toys and general consumer appliances.

Some of the introductory projects are a little wimpy. The author doesn't really make it sufficiently clear that an external battery pack for a notebook computer is unlikely to extend your working time much (alkaline batteries are ill suited to most high current drain computers). However there is an undeniable need for a very simple introduction to the tools and materials you need to use. This is one of six tasks teaching tools and materials. The last couple are hacking Furbys, and making a video periscope for a car.

The advanced section includes digital video recorders, building lighting control, a remote GPS object tracker (just like James Bond). There is a very nice one chapter introduction to making wearable computers.

The book would make a perfect gift for the potential hardware geek.

Amazon Hacks by Paul Bausch

O'Reilly, August 2003, 280pp, US$24.95 ISBN 0596005423 Amazon link

Using the Amazon shopping site more effectively. Better linking, selling products online, and lots more.

Google Hacks by Tara Calishain and Rael Dornfest

O'Reilly, Feb 2003, 329pp, US$24.95 ISBN 0596004478 Amazon link

Filter Google searches, retrieve information via programs in Java, Perl, etc. More about PageRank algorithm. Special search term syntax. Great for automating your Google activity.

Google Pocket Guide by Tara Calishain and Rael Dornfest and D J Adams

O'Reilly, June 2003, 129pp, US$9.95 ISBN 0596005504 Amazon link

Offline guide to using Google, to save you going through their online help and special pages. You can get most of this from the site, but will you ever actually look it up?

MP3 and the Digital Music Revolution by John Hedtke

Top Floor Publishers, 1999, 247pp, US$27.95 ISBN 0966103246 Amazon link

Introduction to MP3 sound file format, and using your computer to produce, save and play sound files. Great introduction if you aren't into this sort of stuff. After checking what computer music sounded like, I decided I'd rather not have any sound on my computer, and ripped out the speakers. Much more peaceful now.

Spidering Hacks by Kevin Hemenway and Tara Calishain

O'Reilly, Oct 2003, 402pp, US$24.95 ISBN 0596005776 Amazon link

100 tips and tools for writing and using your own web search spiders and scrapers, for people heavily into data searches. Toolboxes of Perl scripts describes. Details of organising various specific interfaces to rich databases online. Lots of RSS data. Just the thing for automating downloads of MP3, books, stock quotes, extracting web pages as email, and many others. Does assume a certain amount of Perl programming background.

eBay Hacks by David A Karp

O'Reilly, August 2003, 331pp, US$24.95 ISBN 0596005644 Amazon link

Tools to monitor auctions, etc. Lots on eBay culture, for those who use it. Again, assuming a certain level of scripting familiarity, or at least a willingness to get your coding fingers a little dirty.

Homepage Usability by Jakob Nielson and Marie Tahir

New Riders, 2002, 315pp, US$39.99 ISBN 073571102X Amazon link

50 websites deconstructed. This one is a great way to tell whether your web site is of use to visitors. It takes 50 large scale web sites, and explores what makes them work, or not work. You can use it as a guide to doing the same for your own web sites.

Designing Web Graphics.3 by Lynda Weinman

New Riders, 1999 (3rd edition), 445pp, US$55 ISBN 1562059491 Amazon link

How to prepare images and media for the web. Nice looking glossy book, with a pretty sensible approach to making nice looking web pages while keeping them accessible. Reasonable background on HTML, editors, site design, compatibility, graphics formats, download speeds and low bandwidth graphics. Then plunges into the main material, on graphics on the web, and how to do them. Also introduces tables, frames, CSS, Javascript, Shockwave.

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Non-Fiction Book Reviews

Not satisfied with fiction and computers, here are a few non-fiction books as well.

Virtual Murdoch by Neil Chenoweth

Secker and Warburg, 2001, 399pp, ISBN 0436233894 0609610384 Amazon link

Reality wars in the information highway. Australian investigative reporter who in 1991 triggered a Government enquiry into media giant Rupert Murdoch's family companies. Covers the 50 year rise of the closely controlled News Corporation, the deals with Bill Gates, Ted Turner, Tony Blair and others. His brilliant Oxford contemporary Robin Farquharson was a mathematician, at a time when game theory was a hot topic. John Von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern had just published The Theory of Games and Economic Behaviour, while John F Nash, at age 21, had published the paper for which he would share the Nobel Prize 45 years later. Murdoch learnt when it might be safe to cut corners. The Wapping battle with the British print unions that broke the union stranglehold on printing. Battle it was, with 92 delivery truck windscreens broken, 16 trucks rammed, 89 other trucks damaged, at a plant surrounded by 12 foot iron railing fences topped with barbed wire, and backed with another fence of razor wire. The anniversary of the dispute brought out 10,000 protesters. Murdoch's takeover of the Herald and Weekly Times gave him control of 70% of Australia's newspapers, but was done to improve News Corp's gearing. Each July since 1983, Herb Allen invites media and business executives to a ski resort at Sun Valley, Idaho, near Ketchum, population 1200, for a five day business presentation. It is where the deals are made. Fox and the cable networks.

Inside Espionage by David W Doyle

St Ermin's Press, 2000, 280pp, ISBN 0953615146 0471416088Amazon link

Autobiography of a US citizen who grew up in Belgium and Britain, plus Africa, fought covert actions in WWII with OSS, studied in Colorado and at Princeton, and then joined the CIA in 1949. Lots of background material and stories of Africa, and headquarters. Retired in 1972, after being promoted to GS-18. An interesting amount of background on what spies really do.

Advertising and the Public by Ralph Harris and Arthur Seldon

Andre Deutsch, 1962, 304pp,

Dated Institute of Economic Affairs publication detailing the rise of British advertising. Philosophical justification for advertising, and its helpful economic effects. Makes a plea for freedom of advertising. Interesting work from a British pressure group.

Code name Ginger by Steve Kemper

Harvard Business School, 2003, 315pp, US$27.95 ISBN 1578516730 Amazon link

The story behind the Segway and Dean Kamen's quest to invent a new world. Background on millionaire inventor Dean Kamer, and what happens when an inventive genius turns his attention to building a mass business. Starts with Kamen's earlier inventions, and then follows the attempt at designing the Segway and attempting to turn it into a major factor in modern industrial society. I found it fascinating (several people are likely to claim I would).

Fences and Windows by Naomi Klein

Flamingo, 2002, 267pp, ISBN 0007150474 0312307993 Amazon link

Essays by the author of No logo, about encounters with the globalisation debate. Naturally Klein is sympathetic to the various protest groups, and has front line reports from demonstrations. Unfortunately for her side, there isn't actually any debate going on. People are choosing their sides with their spending patterns, not by demonstrations.

Them by Jon Ronson

Picador, 2001, 328pp, A$21 ISBN 0350375466 0330375466 Amazon link

Adventures with Extremists. Jewish comedy writer visits the PR savvy Ku Klux Klan (several variations, all claiming to be the one true religion), plus a visit to Africa with Ian Paisley, Muslim meetings in the UK, unmasked as a Jew at a Jihad training camp, plus how twelve foot lizards who sacrifice to owls rule the world, with famous names. Sounds plausible to me. Right!

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Letters from various fans. Your chances of appearing are greatly enhanced by using plain text email.

Lloyd Penney

Mon, 13 Oct 2003

Thank you for the newest Gegenschein, issue 97. It's the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, so I have a little time to get a quick loc done before the guests start arriving.

I haven't flown for some time, but in listening to the news, Air Canada flights will be offering superior food for during your flight, but it'll be for sale. Nothing will be complementary with your flight, except for the peanuts, maybe. The more imaginative businessmen have opened small stands in various airports, offering gourmet bag lunches to take aboard your flight, and slightly cheaper than what Air Canada might charge.

It sounds like the older fannish community in Australia is a little far flung, but it's still possible for it to get together. Wish that it were so here - it's so expensive to fly within Canada, our own older community simply can't afford to assemble. Torcon had to do, and even then, so many either couldn't afford to go, or didn't want to go to Worldcon, which has grown so far outside the interests of older fans.

I finally got rid of my old Nokia 918 cell phone. Its batteries were so old, it kept a charge of only 90 minutes, and replacements weren't available. Given the plan we had with Bell, I wound up with a Samsung N370. Great little unit, and does everything but make your coffee in the morning. The reason for getting it was to have reliable communications at Torcon 3, especially if Yvonne and I were separated, which happened regularly. {{ Any halfway decent cell phone should be able to buy you a can of coke, if it can't make the coffee - I'm not joking either. EL}}

I won't say anything about IKEA, except to say that I can see one from my balcony. (IKEA envy on the part of British fandom. Doesn't do to get them excited. If they do, they get dressed in leather and skirts, and complain about the lack of Real Ale.)

In the book section, the only name I recognized as being vaguely connected with SF is Jeff Rovin. I think he had something to do with a Star Trek book or two a long time ago.

A good letter column, with old friends like Steve George, Richard Brandt and jan howard finder there. I'd like to see more from Jim Benford on the Collapse of California. Does this have anything to do with the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger to the governor's mansion? I'd swear something like this is one of the sure signs of the apocalypse.

Bob Sabella

Sun, 16 Nov 2003

Thanks for Gegenschein 97, sorry it took so long to find the time to read it! I enjoyed the trip to Sydney, especially the part about the aromatic deli food, designed specifically to reduce the entire cabin to hungry beasts. I wonder if we are even allowed to bring our own food on board American flights. My only flight in recent memory was to Las Vegas last summer, and we did bring a few little snacks on board with us. But a full lunch? I need to ask some more seasoned travellers about that possibility (for future use, since domestic flights have cut back their meals to drinks and crackers--at least that's all we got going practically across the entire country to LV).

So you're a chocoholic, eh? That seems to be a growing condition among people I know. Personally, I only like chocolate when it's mixed with nuts (snickers, for example). Chocolate is too strong in its naked state for my taste.

Your visit to your "old home location" was a bit sad from a nostalgic point of view. I don't get to cliffside park, the little city where I grew up, very often, but when I do it's always a shock both to see how my childishness affected my views of it, and how it has changed. I could not picture myself living there now that I've grown used to the sprawling suburbs for so long.

At times reading your trip report I got the feeling that the entire trip was an excuse for a big shopping outing, haha. {{ More a matter of seeing the credit card details bringing note of the shopping to mind. When I'm enjoying things, I'm unlikely to be taking notes. EL}}

You and I seem to have very little overlap in our sfnal reading taste, which supports the contention that "science fiction" is not one field per se, but a sprawling umbrella of many sub-genres. Something for everybody, so to speak. I've just never been a fan of thrillers/mysteries/adventures though.

Hugh Gregory

Wed, 26 Nov 2003

How are things in sunny, HOT, Airlie Beach mate. We had a great holiday on up in Port Douglas and on Fitzroy Island.

We too have the same (spam) problem. The best part of being an AOL member is being able to forward that trash to their "TOSSPAM" folks, who (as the news is reporting correctly) are spending $ Millions on litigation to shut this &^%$#@'s down.

Has long been a standing policy of mine when ever I am put onto a con's program as a Spaceflight Historian Pro Panelist. I tell them Do Not put my e-address onto your web site or on any web based automated mailing system. Recently I was put onto an automated announcement list from RustyCon in Seattle and for the first time in at least two years, my private address started to get spammed. I initially thought (very silly of me), these folks are all ex-Microsoft and therefore probably some of the best programmers in the US. Wrong!!! I disconnect 36 hours later, but the damage was already done, I came home from Oz to about 50 pieces of spam. My wife's e-address linked to her web site for user written improvements to the "Creatures" game is regularly filled with tons of spam.

Ned Brooks

With all the travelling I would have thought you would see some Australian stuff never seen here at all. {{ No bookshops where we go travelling. EL }}

You boggle my mind.... It would not occur to me to make much effort to go where there are no bookshops....

Paul Anderson

I have now read my comments on the consequences of privatisation in Ge. The power bills have come to roost now. Our rates (in South Australia) are approx double those in NSW. Oh the joys of rampant capitalism.

I've reread almost all of the Jack Ran saga. It makes for a good read as an alternate history. A lot of the postulates would not work in our world but make fun reading, like a lot of SF. Rainbow 6 is a good anti terrorist romp, especially the ending that we would never have the nerve to try out. A nice idea to try out at an Olympics.

On the subject of the Olympics though we are only now recovering from the artificial devaluing of the Aussie dollar. The only reason it went down to 47 was that we were going to get so much US currency. Now that is history the ceiling has been lifted and it is bouncing back. A 50% rise in this short a time takes a lot of explaining as our economy is not that different to what it was.

Hope Leibowitz

That isn't just a change of address - it is a major change of philosophy of life! I was always the fiawol type, not the fijagh type!

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R Laurraine Tutihasi

Good luck with your search for the ideal computer system. At Loscon I attended a panel about opensys, namely Linux. Does that serve your purposes at all? In this country, Dell and HP are both shipping computers with Linux.

{{I saw some Linux systems at Frys and Walmart. Comments from experienced Linux users convinced me Linux is still not suitable for desktop deployment unless you have system support people on hand. I'm looking for an easier computer experience, not a harder one. I went with a Macintosh Powerbook, and some aspects of getting it working were just as hard as any other system. EL}}

A few of the panellists really hate Windows and Bill Gates. The moderator tried to stay neutral and keep the panel that way but wasn't entirely successful.

Peggy Rae Sapienza

Thanks for the Head's Up on your email address. My imagination is totally boggled that we can have such a wonderfully useful tool as email and the internet made considerably less useful by a combination of idiots and money-grasping people who abuse the opportunities.

Pamela Boal

Thu, 18 Dec 2003

Geg 96 arrived thank you, as ever full of interest especially the travel news. No particular comment.

To answer your questions below Derek got the HP Photosmart 7762 in fact the next one up is better, having three inks two colour and one black for best photography work and you change the black for desk top publishing, letters with colour, etc. Derek's has just the two colours and one black. We had the next one up but it is mechanically less sound, the main fault being after limited use it fails to pick up the paper, we couldn't be doing with going back and forth getting a replacement. The scanner is the HP Scanjet 3970 the two together are just cheaper than the all in one scanner printers. Yes our camera displays on the TV. We do find that the Serif Photo Plus 8 programme offers far more artistic options of improving, manipulating and combining photos than any thing you can do with the camera and direct print options. We looked at independent printers (some are very reasonably priced) there are even battery powered ones of good quality but as our set up covers other needs it seemed daft to buy a dedicated printer. We can print direct (without using computer programmes) just pop the camera memory card in the appropriate printer slot. there is a display on the printer, to select the photo, choose size of print, get rid of red eye and adjust brightness.

Cuyler Brooks

Wed, 24 Dec 2003

Nice rants, but "Capsian" Sea and Pamela "Boel"? Tsk tsk.... The tobacco people bankrolled movies here for years, then there was a reaction against it and for a while, only villains lit up on screen. Now they're at it again - a big play on "pipeweed" in THE TWO TOWERS, and of course Gandalf was already smoking like a chimney in the first film. Your Terrorist Police Powers Act sounds even worse than our Patriot Act.

Ian Woolf

Thu, 25 Dec 2003

Despite all the health problems, industrial disputes, Centrelink disputes and Immigration snafus this year, I'm enjoying my first white Christmas in Canada. We're here for seven weeks.

It may be scary going through US customs when we visit friends in Buffalo next week, with Anxiety Levels set to Orange. Apparently they won't get the finger-printing set up until after we leave, but the full authoritarian experience will be available next time.

{{ Starts for Visit-USA non-visa countries on 30 September 2004. That may be enough to convince me never to visit the USA again. I'm not interested in being treated like a criminal as part of my tourist experience. Wonder if US international airlines will survive what I expect to be a backlash? EL}}

With my temporarily diminished technical skills, I've set up a Moveable Type weblog formerly at

Yvonne Rousseau

Thu, 25 Dec 2003

On my computer, Gegenschein 98 appeared exactly as you described, on a Microsoft Internet Explorer screen: thank you!

Meanwhile, although I can't comment on the train trip from Adelaide to Perth, never having attempted it -- I should warn Greg Benford that in Adelaide the Volga Restaurant no longer exists. On the evening of Saturday 12 April 2003, my daughter Vida (visiting from Melbourne) and I ate there with Lucy Sussex and Julian Warner (on their way from Melbourne to Perth) and with Roman Orszanski (with whom Lucy and Julian were staying). The proprietor and her son had not heard of John Foyster's death on 5 April, although they had been very concerned about his illness. In the kind of gesture that has so endeared this White Russian restaurant to us, Madame flung her arms around me and said: 'Darling! I love you so much!' We learnt that the restaurant would close down the following Saturday (19 April 2003). They were moving to the Grampians in Victoria, and would be keeping a small poultry yard to supply family festive occasions. At the end of our meal, our party was provided with very fine complimentary liqueurs -- and Madame presented me, when we left, with one of the restaurant's decorative painted spoons, as a keepsake.

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Lucy Sussex

Thu, 25 Dec 2003

And in return, here is a genuine Xmas poem from 1865.

Welcome to Xmas

By a New Chum

As Australian welcome as hearty, as true,
Though we light not the candles, nor kindle the log
If far from old Britain, we're Englishmen true
and yet can dispense with her snow, sleet and fog.
The sun is as hot as a good yule fire;
In fact rather warmer than heart could desire,
Except to those
Sad mosquitoes
Whose fretful buzzing makes one perspire.
Oh! we've lots of amusements at Christmas tide,
Though we lack the waits and the mummers,
'Tis true we can't skate and our boys can't slide,
But the sixpenny ices are stunners;
And as to good cheer, we've stout, ale and beer,
Price warranted high, and the quality low;
And if more to keep Christmas it needful appear;
Wine, colonial, a bob a bottle or so.

Thankfully anonymous...

Paul Anderson

Thu, 25 Dec 2003

I noted your comment on the Colin Forbes book Rhinoceros. Of course you thought you may have read the stuff before. Of course you had, all the Tweed stories are formula driven. A world domination plot and a small group of around 4 or 5 main suspects for the arch enemy, all set in exotic European locations. Naturally using top hotels that conveniently have sufficient vacancies close by for all of the cast. The books are fun none the less.

Carolyn Doyle

Sat, 27 Dec 2003

Re silk shirts ... did you know that people once believed that silk, due to its dense weave, would stop bullets? They theorized the projectiles would simply be stopped by the cloth, perhaps sticking, and could be removed simply by pulling it taut! Amazing.

I recently learned that the densely woven flat-pile sisal carpeting that was all the rage 10 or 12 years ago is now giving carpet cleaners fits ... it is so dense, once dirt gets inside, it's very difficult to extract. (In fact, cleaning can make the sisal look dirtier, as the washing water brings deep-buried dirt to the surface of the light-colored carpet!)

This was supposed to be a caution to owners of sisal carpets to vacuum regularly ... I can imagine other people simply resolving never to clean them at all!

The Big Mandarin caravan park ... that sounds more like a fast food place! "I'll have a Big Mandarin, and hold the duck sauce ..."

I had never heard of the bring your own bucket showers -- a clever idea!

Your comments about maps remind me of when Dave and I visited Italy and Switzerland a couple of years ago. I'd gotten two pretty useless maps from AAA here, and bought a really detailed street-by-street map of Venice for our stay there sans car. Once we left Venice and started driving, Dave (the navigator) quickly realized we needed a proper map for travelling the secondary roads, because each time we entered a small town, the signposts only listed upcoming towns in each direction ... not road numbers. A detailed map was essential! We picked up a good Michelin map of Switzerland in Chur, but I think we got by without a detailed Italian map, amazingly!

We love IKEA ... the nearest one is in Chicago, more than 4 hours away. (When we went to Toronto for the Worldcon this year, we saw an IKEA on the way into the city ... it was tempting to stop, but with Rob Chilson in the back seat, there wasn't much room for shelves!)

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Lloyd Penney

Sat, 27 Dec 2003

Thank you for Gegenschein 98.

Interesting loc column, with old familiar names like Nick Stathopoulos, and names I never expected to find here, like Hugh Gregory.

I wish we could travel the way you do - we are fairly familiar what's in all the compass points away from Toronto, but we just haven't been up that way in some time. All eating establishments here are non-smoking, with the possible exception of those restaurants who have separate, ventilated areas, and even they are on the way out. What's the next step? Fragrance-free areas for those who are allergic to perfumes. I can handle that, so many people will draw the line at that.

In some of my networking discussions, I have found that some opportunities in broadcasting and publishing may be opening up soon because past layoffs meant that youth was let go, and now, those who are older will be retiring, and there may be wholesale hirings to replace these people. Let's hope that's an opportunity for me to get back to steady work.

Michael Moore is often across the border in Canada (he lives in the Detroit area, so he's often in Windsor and Toronto), and he thinks Canada is cool, bless `im. He shares Canadian sensibilities about the American foolishnesses in Iraq and elsewhere, and I'd like to ask him about the current American BSE crisis, and about officials blaming the closest country available, namely Canada. This also happened during the big North American black-out this past August, so I expect that more officials will be made to look stupid by reacting, instead of doing their research before naming names.

As of the end of January 2004, our e-mail address will be penneys at . Allstream is the new name of ATT Canada, and already, because of spammers, AOL will not accept anything from Allstream. I'd like to tell AOL to keep its petty politics to itself, and let your client accept my e-mail.

Kerrie Dougherty

Tue, 30 Dec 2003

Hello and belated festive season greetings. Nice to hear that you are coming to Sydney at the end of [January]. Hopefully we'll be able to catch up during your visit, although I will be departing Sydney for France on Feb 4, so we'd have to touch base soon after your arrival. It's been a difficult time for me this year, with some serious health problems that have hit me one after the other-although it seems that at last they might be over for a while and I'm back on my feet!

Have been doing virtually nothing on the fannish front, but my various exhibition projects (like our Special Effects exhibition earlier in the year) have tended to keep the media thinking of me as a fan they can call on for comment on any science-fiction related subject. Don't know if you saw the piece with me on Negus about the return of Dr. Who? Overall it wasn't bad, but I was really annoyed by George's patronising comments at the end of the piece-especially when I'm pretty much the antithesis of the type of DW fan he was smugly dismissing.

Gregory Benford

Tue, 30 Dec 2003

Good issue! I'll look forward to meeting the DUFF winner, Pat McMurray. Planning to spend about 2 months in Oz & NZ, including Perth and Darwin. Gotta see the whole continent at last! I'm sorry Harry Turtledove had to bail out of being co-GOH with me. He told me he was too swamped with writing and personal deadlines. You might find his latest alternative history, about Rome surviving into the present, intriguing.

I had dinner with Bob Silverberg recently and was dismayed to find he's against the Japan worldcon bid! Apparently because he just doesn't like the Japanese generally. Hope it carries anyway!

Glen Crawford

Thu, 1 Jan 2004

The writing is going well, I've actually got a rather 'sick' short story appearing in issue 803 of The Picture magazine, which comes out in a few weeks. They publish pretty weird material, but it pays $300 for 700 words, so the cheque is most welcome indeed!

Pamela Boal

Mon, 5 Jan 2004

Thank you for Geg 97 which arrived today. I feel positively exhausted after reading your fascinating Sydney Trip. So many people and so many shops in just one week!

As always thanks for your reviews. I hardly ever buy books nowadays but do get our local Library to acquire them for me. PLR may not be much but it does add up but only if some one asks for the book and it gets on the shelf. I figure getting a book from the library does favourite authors a better service in the long run than my buying just one copy.

Re your last e-mail. Sympathy with the demise of your printer. An expensive piece of equipment to replace. It seems to me the basic mechanical parts of printers are simply bog standard while the electronic and ink performance has improved tremendously. Very irritating.

Robert Michael Sabella

I've signed up for a blog so that i can post thoughts and comments without bothering with graphics and fancy design (we don't need no stinkin' graphics!). you are all welcome to go read it, but be warned: it will not be regular like a daily journal, nor are there interactive comments, like a xanga. plus a lot of it will be sci-fi talk (of course! :)

Edwin Scribner

Sat, 27 Dec 2003

Among other relevant facts, the Southern SF&F group was thrown into some confusion by the 3 months during which convenor Brad Row was in Vanuatu on secondment to whatever passes there for the equivalent of our Attorney General's Department. John August organised a pre Christmas lunch on 13 December, but Brad was still away and I think that some of the members might be interested in another social activity about 31 January.

I don't suppose you could make it for the next, ie second, Magic Casements, the New South Wales Writers' Centre's festival of speculative fiction, which is scheduled for Saturday 6 March. Kate Eltham said that cheap flights from Brisbane to Sydney were going at that time. The first festival was, btw, a great success and the event is shaping up to be annual and perhaps to extend to two days. Terry Dowling, who has been very helpful with it, says it was the biggest literary oriented sf gathering in Sydney since the early 90's and I am hopeful that it could lead to another Sydney con in due course.

R-Laurraine Tutihasi

Wed, 14 Jan 2004

While it's true that if you travel with a computer, cell phone, and PDA, you invariably carry chargers for each, extra batteries, connectors, etc., Mike hasn't had any problems reviving his laptop from its sleep mode under Mac OS X. He says it takes about a second, and he's never had any problems with it not wanting to wake up.

When we travel, we have sometimes had access to DSL, such as at the hotel at the Millennium Philcon. On the cruise ship in Alaska, we were able to link up to a wireless network on the ship. At other times, we dial up through AOL's 800 number or the local node if there is one.

So sorry to hear that you got the wrong size shelving at IKEA.

Australia seems to have many of the same problems as the US - political corruption, Catholic priests, food labelling, health insurance, taxes, the ageing of the population, smoking.

With regard to Greg Benford's question, I watched a TV show about travelling by rail in Australia. I thought the Adelaide to Perth run looked great.

Paul Anderson

Tue, 20 Jan 2004

Political backflips are nothing new. Check the records for referenda. It is par for the course for the opposition party to change views and support almost anything after a proposed change has gone down once. They then put it forward from government only for the other party to also change. That is why we have so few successful changes.

Re Iraq I follow the UN direction of 91 and take the view that the current invasion was authorised by that resolution- just unjustifiably 10 years late. The cost in Iraqi lives of the Bush snr failure has been very high. I am not sure if the current cost for Bush jr has become higher than the normal attrition rate under Saddam or not but he did manage to eliminate quite few of his own people each year.

Sex offences: When I was growing up the danger areas were scout masters - quite a few hit the headline back in the 50s along with the occasional teacher. Recent cases also suggest apparently people in the law profession offended. Liddy molested quite a few before he was jailed. On a percentage basis I would think the church has a much better record than the press would lead one to believe. It is into rehabilitation and has erred a lot in trusting too many predators.

Sickies: That reminds me of the old statistic that 40% of all sickies are taken on Mondays and Fridays.

Superannuation: The Superannuation Guarantee Charge - and the 15% tax on voluntary (tax deductible) payments into your scheme were introduced by Keating. He was the first to actually do something about the cost.

Of course the superannuation law is now in a constant state of change.

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Tom Feller

Thanks for sending the zine through FAPA.

I usually wear a pair of running shoes when I fly. My dress shoes set off the alarm.

The rule against non-passengers going through security may be lifted at the Pittsburgh airport soon. Before 9/11, they had built a shopping mall in the middle of the airport, which has suffered greatly since the rule was made mandatory for all airports in the United States.

I think there's still a problem with the range of purely electric cars. The hybrids are supposed to address this by recharging the battery while the car is running gasoline.

Eric Mayer is almost correct in his remembering of the end of Heinlein's The Puppetmasters. Toward the end, one character predicts that the taboo against nudity to be replaced by a taboo against unnecessary clothing. However, it was not going to be enforced from the top down by a government. Ordinary, gun-carrying citizens would enforce the taboo and in many cases would shoot first and inspect later.

Anita and I heard Larry Krauss, author of The Physics of Star Trek, speak at Vanderbilt University a couple years ago. He was attempting to assume Carl Sagan's position as a spokesperson in favor of good science and against junk science, such as UFOs, ghosts, spiritualism, etc.

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Xmas Cards 2003 season

We Also Heard From

Sheryl Birkhead writes of being envious of our booklists. I should mention we sold the motorhome in 2003.

Richard Brandt is at

Lilian Edwards - I'm off to Mexico, Berkely, Chicago , Stanford and maybe Las Vegas in the spring.

E B Frohvet assumes we use the same VCR VHS system. Nope, yours is NTSC while ours is PAL (however we deliberately bought VCRs and TVs that can handle both, an unusual and hard to find option in the USA, so I'm told).

Lawrie Brown

David L Russell often sends envelopes with chatty letters, and a great deal of strange kipple. I've totally failed to find decent kipple to send him. He hopes my printer has a long life, but unfortunately the feed mechanism on it has failed. I know (via Google) of a place that may sell spare printer parts, but I'm not sure they ship to Australia. David complains about my not publishing email addresses for use by other faneds (known fans can ask me to pass along their email addresses however).

Bounced Email

Some of these I've since found other email adddresses.

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A science fiction fanzine from Eric Lindsay whose address is fijagh