A Western dilemma

This is my blog, so I can talk about whatever I want. And today I’m going to spill some thoughts that trouble me. And here the emphasis is ME. I expect some of you (especially those who communicate regularly with Himself) will have another point of view. As is your right. So here we go. This blog is about Jews, Muslims, Islam, and ‘racial’ hatred. For I hasten to add that neither the Jews, nor the Muslims, are a race, .

I cringe at the notion of pointing fingers at people and saying, “You’re a <insert religion of choice> therefore I hate you.” I hate extremists of any ‘faith’ who will kill and maim in the name of god. This includes Crusaders, Inquisitors, Conquistadors, Sinn Fein – and, of course, the followers of Mohamed who surged across Africa and the Middle East in record time in the sixth century.  Most people are not extremists. But even so I do not want to open the flood gates to Muslim immigration. Immigrants who are prepared to integrate with Western culture are fine. But people who come here and cannot and will not integrate because their basic beliefs are different should go somewhere else where they will fit in.

The Koran was written in the sixth century – the world was a different place. Rules that made sense then no longer make sense now, but Muslim clerics persist in peddling this antiquated belief system. We don’t need Sharia law here. We don’t need women having to wear clothing so they don’t provoke men. (It doesn’t work, anyway.) National hijab day? Give me a break. I don’t care what anyone says, it is a form of dress dictated by the mullahs. Look at pictures of young people before the overthrow of the Shah in Iran, or in the streets of Afghanistan before the Taliban. If women want to wear head scarves, that’s up to them. But the fact is the hijab (let alone the burqa) has become something that singles out Muslim women in our society. They’d be better off without it. This article from the Sydney Morning Herald expresses that view from a more compelling source than me. Note her comments about little girls wearing head scarves.

You might be wondering why I mentioned Jews at the beginning of this. Ah, that’s the other side of the argument, the point at which I am faced with a quandary. The Jews have been persecuted for thousands of years, because their religion was different, or they were an easy target, or they were rich. European Jews in 1920-30 Germany didn’t pose a threat to anybody. They contributed to society, paid their taxes, ran businesses. Lived. They were part of the community. But that all changed when the Nazis pointed fingers at them, and blamed them for everything that was wrong with the German world. Ordinary people either joined in, or turned a blind eye. The end result is well-known, although I fear it is starting to recede into distant memory, something that happened so long ago it doesn’t count in our modern world. Take heed, people. The Holocaust was genocide, a deliberate attempt to wipe anyone labeled JEW off the face of this earth. Sure, other people – homosexuals, the intellectually disabled, gypsies and others – died in  front of the firing squads, or in the gas chambers. But the vast majority of those six million people were Jewish. And for those who say it never happened, here’s the proof, pictures taken by the Allies as they liberated the death camps.

Think it can’t happen again? May I remind you of Rwanda. And of Kosovo. And of what’s happening right now in Sudan. And the slaughter of Christians in Syria by Daesh. In the name of Allah.

We must protect our nation from extremists. I watched the horror of the Lindt Cafe siege unfold.  I saw a kid shoot down an accountant in Sydney because he worked for the police. I recoiled at events in Nice, Brussels, Paris, Berlin. Some of the perpetrators were imported, but most were home grown. Home grown happens because the immigrants don’t integrate, don’t feel part of the society in which they find themselves. I can’t help but feel we’d be better off spending our money to help them stay at home, to rebuild their homelands and create a place like Lebanon used to be, when Beirut was the Paris of the Middle East.

Where do I stand with immigration to Australia? I’m an immigrant myself, tagging along with my parents not long after WW2. My parents got nothing from the Government, not even the ten pound Pom thing (on account of not being Poms). My family was dropped off at Northam and basically told to get on with it. No instant welfare, no handouts. I’m not saying it was ideal – but then, the country had just finished a punishing war and needed to rebuild. We integrated. Nearly twenty years later, my husband’s experience in 1974 when he arrived from UK was no different.

And there is the dilemma. On the one hand we have desperate people wanting a better life, on the other, people taking advantage of what we offer without contributing anything in return, in fact wanting to change the way we live. Yes, I’d prefer to allow Christians into Australia – because I think they would be more likely to integrate.  No, we should not let in everybody, because if we do, we will sow the seed for the destruction of the very thing they want to come for – our prosperity and our peace.

Bear in mind, too, our society has changed over the decades. Back in 1955 jobs were plentiful. Now, not so much, especially for unskilled people. Which is a good reason not to bring more unskilled people here. And we should certainly vet anyone who does want to live here, and extend the amount of time before people can claim Australian citizenship. Those who flout our laws should pay the price, as happened recently with a father arranging an underage ‘marriage’ for his 12-y-old daughter.

The very best thing the world could do for places like Syria is first, to end the fighting, and then offer the people help to stay at home and rebuild, just as what happened in Japan and Germany (and the rest of Europe) after WW2.  Accepting thousands of refugees won’t change things, anyway. I urge you to watch this 6 minute presentation that illustrates why it’s better to help the people where they come from.

Yes, folks, fundamental Islam frightens me. Any ‘religion’ which subjugates women and treats them as inferior frightens me. What is especially terrifying is that the barbaric custom of female genital mutilation is rising in the West – and this torture is carried out BY WOMEN on their female children. Seems to me the West is becoming a fast-dwindling outpost of sanity.Unlike the Jews, Islam is more than a religion; it’s a set of social mores than do not sit well with our democratic principles. I don’t want that in my country. Equally, I don’t want people being burnt at the stake because they espouse a different faith. For me it is a moral dilemma with no easy answers. We cannot change Islam. Only Muslims can do that. And they don’t seem to be in a hurry to consider the possibility.

If I were in the least bit religious, I’d be praying that we stand fast. Since I’m not, I’ll just have to hope our ‘leaders’ take note. One more thing – this is long, and was probably the reason I’ve written this post. History doesn’t repeat precisely – but it has trends. Things are trending right now.

And on that happy note, it’s picture time.

The Rhine at sunset

Eagle with snake in its talons

A Brahmani kite carries off dinner – a sea snake

Picture of a Noisy Miner Bird bathing

Noisy Miner Bird bathing in the swimming pool

The abbey at Melk

The trials of technology

It has been an interesting week as far as household goods go. We prefer to cook with gas, on account of it being easier to control than electricity. These days we have to contend with idiot regulations that stipulate one cannot own a cooker with gas burners, grill, and oven. One must choose either a gas grill OR a gas oven to go with a gas cook top.  So we elected to have a gas oven.

We don’t have household gas mains in our part of town, so we use bottled gas. And it appears some bottled gas is not as equal as other bottled gas. Before Christmas, being in somewhat of a hurry, and having 5 9kg bottles to refill, we bought ‘swap and go’ gas instead of waiting an hour or more to get them refilled. For those who don’t know, swap and go allows you to swap your empty gas bottle for a filled one for just the price of the gas. It’s also a good way of getting rid of your “soon to be” ten year old bottles that then need re-certifying.

When the oven started to play up, we called the gas fitters. We were informed that swap and go gas is not of the highest quality – although it’s fine for barbecues. Apparently our law makers, (yet to find out if it was State or Federal, suspect Federal), a few years ago passed a law that stated that bottled gas only needed to contain 51% gas or phrased another way, must contain at least 51% gas. We don’t know what the other (possibly) 49% is made up of but oil of some description is certainly part of it. Anyway the gas fitter explained that this “other” component of the gas cylinder’s content, (let’s call it gunk) will clog up your regulator and in particular the jets in the oven which although still working will reduce the pressure and result in less heat.

There you go. Lesson learnt, but only after the lasagne came out of the oven at the same temperature it went in. Thank goodness we have an outside oven/bbq. Needless to say, a late dinner ensued.

So we resurrected an idea we’d had for a time. Why not try an air fryer? We did some homework and decided upon a not very expensive model with good reviews.  You know the old saying, you get what you pay for? It’s not always true – you can often get a better deal by shopping around – but there are times when, yeah, it might have been wiser to shell out a little more. Anyway there were a heap of these things, all the same model, with prices from $110 to $299, so we took the $110 one and paid for delivery. Many others offer “free shipping”.

It wasn’t so much the unit’s performance. When it comes down to it, they all do the same thing – super heat air and circulate it quickly around the food to cook it with a minimum of oils or fats. But there are differences in the design of the oven. The one we bought looks a bit like a UFO, with a stainless steel removable tub. It said it came ‘with accessories’ but didn’t nominate which ones, so we ended up with less ‘accessories’ than the slightly more expensive units, some of which also had a non-stick tub. The one we bought was the same as the unit in this link – but we didn’t get the four items on the left (oil spray bottle, two flat plates, and the sort-of rotisserie thingy).

Hey ho. I had decided that we would try cooking a chook using a rotisserie provided with the oven. The (very meagre) instructions said that a whole chicken (and chopped roast potatoes, pumpkin, and carrot) would take 15 minutes at 250 degrees. After working out how to turn the bloody thing on (not explained in the Chinese Engrish) we gave it a whirl. Pun intended. We didn’t think the chicken would be cooked in 15 minutes and we weren’t disappointed. Apart from that, the prongs to keep the chicken on the rotisserie were a bit dinky. The chook slid down the pole to one end of the device and stopped turning – fortunately the cycle finished before we ended up with burnt on one side. The vegies weren’t cooked, either. We took the chook off the rotisserie and placed it in the tub with the veg and gave it another 20 at 220. Then we turned the chook over and gave it a final 15. By this time the green veg (on the stove top inside) was over cooked. But the chicken was lovely and moist.

Even after all that time the chicken could have used a little more cooking – it was still a bit pink at the joints. But that’s trial and error, isn’t it? And the oven was very easy to clean.

Apart from that, I have been watching the train-wreck that is America with growing trepidation. And I know it’s not just me. The highly respected New Yorker has an extinguished flame of liberty on its cover and Der Spiegel caused uproar with that highly evocative cover of somebody vaguely resembling Trump holding up the cut-off head of Liberty. There has been a rash of videos from many European countries urging Mister Trump to – sure, have America first – but what about us for second? I’m proud to say the Dutch started it. Many countries have joined in, but I think the best is Germany’s entry. (You’ll find the others listed on the Youtube page.) I don’t recall ever seeing a country’s leader lampooned quite so severely in his own country, and outside.

Meanwhile in Washington Trump has surrounded himself with a cabal of billionaires who know bugger all about the portfolios they have been given. The legislature’s descent into right wing Christian fundamentalist ideology is breathtaking.

On the other side of the world in Moscow several people who were suspected of being complicit in the West finding out about Russian hacking in the US election, have allegedly ‘disappeared’, and it seems one of Putin’s rivals has succumbed to mysterious poisoning. What’s the bet Putin will take over Eastern Ukraine any minute now?

And on that happy note, a few photos that have been artified by Photoshop.

Ancient hills in the Pilbara. Photo taken from the car (so a bit blurring and not great) but rendered acceptable by a PS filter. Paint daub.

Changing of the guard at Windsor Castle. This one was filtered as a poster, accentuating all those lines.

Autumn on the Rhine. I evened out the light in the water bottom left, and took out the power lines. The paint daub filter really brought out the Autumn colours

Geikie gorge. This was a good photo – but the dry brush effect is rather nice.

 

The Stuff of Legend – opposites attract

The Stuff of Legend‘s plot revolves around an open cluster and the legends and tales that have been told about that formation. As an analogy, consider the Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters. Just about every society on Earth seems to have had a legend around it – many very similar tales about maidens escaping from a suitor, whether they are Greek, Roman, or Australian aboriginal.

My two protagonists have very different views on ancient tales. History professor Olivia Jhutta thinks there’s often a core of truth; Admiral Jackson Prentiss is only interested in facts. This snippet illustrates their differences. Olivia and Jak are walking through the woods.

“How much do you know about the Ghria?” Olivia asked.

Jak shrugged. “Space demons that lie in wait for the unwary. They swallow ships whole. And that’s about it. Oh, and I’ve seen the pictures.”

Fanciful illustrations of non-existent creatures with huge mouths and slavering jaws. “That’s very likely fabrication.”

He chuckled. “You think?”

“We don’t know for certain, do we? What we do know is the Gh’ria legend dates back thousands of years. Although it pops up across Confederacy space, it has its roots here, in the Helicronian planets.”

Jak brushed an errant leaf off his shoulder. “I didn’t know that.”

“It’s because in its original form, the Gh’ria are linked to the Maidens. That thing about space demons is later, much later. The earliest stories are about maidens protecting a dragon’s hoard. ‘Cloaked in stardust, draped in shadow the maidens guard the dragon’s hoard’. From a poem written by Elivior San Brindel two thousand years ago.”

Smiling, Jak shook his head. “That’s better than space demons, is it?”

“It’s interesting. The story goes that if you get past the dancers protecting the place, you still have to avoid being swallowed up by a dragon.”

He laughed. “Oh please. A dragon? We have swirling gowns making up the dancers’ clothes, and now we have a dragon as well? That’s a first. Can you show me?”

Show him? Olivia riffled through the images she kept on her implant, including a few for the Maidens which she’d collected recently. “Can I transfer an image to your implant?”

“Please do.”

She waited for the invitation to access his private inbox, then transferred the one with the three women superimposed over the stars. “This shows the dancers.”

“Sure. Where’s the dragon?”

His tone bristled with scorn. But then, she should have realized he’d react like that. Bracing herself, she said, “The dragon is invisible. It’s beyond the ability of humans to see it.”

Jak shook his head slowly. “Professor, I deal with facts, not made-up stories. These legends are just idiotic notions made up by ignorant people trying to understand something beyond their knowledge. I can see it now. Some kid asks the teacher what that thing up there is, so teacher tries to explain, using things he understands. But there are no star women up there. Just an open cluster with a nebula behind it. If you look at the Maidens from Rigmont or Sallazar, the stars don’t look the same. As for an invisible dragon… give me strength.”

********************************************************************

The Stuff of Legend

When history professor Olivia Jhutta receives a distress call from her parents, she sets out into space with their business partner, her grandmother and injured Confederacy Admiral Jak Prentiss to find them. But she’s not the only one interested in the Jhutta’s whereabouts. The Helicronians believe Olivia’s parents have found an ancient weapon which they can use to wage war on the Confederacy.

Jak goes on the trip to fill in time while he’s on enforced leave, helping Olivia follow cryptic clues in what he considers an interplanetary wild goose chase in search of a fairy story. But as the journey progresses and legend begins to merge with unsettling fact, Olivia and Jak must resolve their differences and work together if they are to survive. The two are poles apart… but it’s said opposites attract. If they can manage to stay alive.

You’ll find The Stuff of Legend here.  Amazon  Google iBooks  Nook Kobo  Print

It’s all a matter of perception

Everlasting daisies in King’s Park

A few days ago a friend shared a set of pictures from Gardening Australia on Facebook. They are stunning photographs of flowers taken by Craig Burrows. It’s a shame they didn’t tell us what the common name was for each photo because with the “ultraviolet-induced visible fluorescence” process, they are transported to the extraordinary. In fact, I was very much reminded of the world-building in the movie Avatar. Just for fun I took the above photo and changed the photo’s temperature right down to purple. This is what it looked like.

Not quite ultra-violet

Which got me thinking. We see the worlds around us very much from our own point of view, and we miss so much. Bees see the world in ultraviolet. I wonder if their view is like those pictures? Our sense of hearing is vastly inferior to that of dogs and other predators. I love Terry Pratchett’s description of sense of smell as experienced by the Watch’s werewolf, Angua. For her, smell tells a great deal about the maker of the smell. It comes in layers, and it has a history, so dogs can sense how long ago bitch X was here.

Then there’s hearing. Once again, dogs and cats can hear things we don’t. Elephants can communicate in wave lengths so low we can’t hear them, while dolphins use much wider frequencies that overlap our sense of hearing only to a limited extent. Here’s a brief article on that subject. Dolphins in fact use sound to ‘see’.

And all this is on our own small blue dot. We can’t begin to know what’s out there in the vastness of space. What will a;ien species be able to do? How will they use their senses? And you know, that was the disappointing part of Avatar for me. Pandora was inhabited by wondrous, diverse (if recognizable versions of Earth) creatures. But the dominant species was a new version of pick your location of indigenous tribe. I suppose that was necessary in a romance movie for humans.

For this week I thought I’d share some lorikeet pictures. They brighten our lives, amuse, and annoy. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jostling over the apple juice. Note that one hanging upside down. I think they think that’s how the apple juice gets there. Also the two in the middle about to have an animated discussion.

This bird inserted himself between the two arguing – because there was a tiny gap

Things get a bit raucous

And sometimes they look like they’re dancing on the air

Who you gonna call?

This is a tale of woe we want to share with you because it’s interesting – and it’s a great example of ‘buyer beware’. It’s technical, so read on at your own risk.

Like everyone else (almost) on the planet, we believed we had to have a third party anti-virus system on our computers. We’ve had a few over the years – Macafee, Norton, AVG. A few years ago we switched to Avast’s freebie, then I decided to upgrade to a paid plan because it countered risks like malware. We had the Premium package, and have run that for a couple of years. Last November, I splurged on the $80 secureline option which was supposed to secure my internet connection.

In the last few weeks, around Christmas time, Avast started coming up with error messages informing Pete, whose machine is connected to the router, that such and such network had been changed from private to public.  At first, we didn’t take much notice, but as it became more common, we paid attention. We didn’t even recognise some of the network names. We couldn’t find out anything much about the message, so we contacted what we thought was Avast’s Australian online support. This was conducted via a chat interface.

Peter explained the issue and asked if the network switching from private to public was something to worry about. Yes, was the answer. We were transferred to someone else, who put us in contact with technical support. The tech’s name was (apparently) Jones. He asked for permission to take over the machine so he could check the status of the firewall and settings. Since we were connected to Avast we granted permission, and the conversation proceeded. Here’s a transcript.

11:36 AM Connecting…

11:37 AM Connected. A support representative will be with you shortly.

11:37 AM Support session established with Jones.

11:37 AM Jones restarting application as Windows system service

11:37 AM Connecting…

11:37 AM Application running as Windows system service

11:37 AM Connected. A support representative will be with you shortly.

11:38 AM Support session established with Jones.

11:38 AM You have granted full permission to Jones. To revoke, click the red X on the toolbar or press Pause/Break on the keyboard.

11:38 AM Remote Control started by Jones.

11:39 AM Jones: Hi, May I have your full name and your email address please?

11:39 AM Customer: Gret Johanna van der Rol gretavdr@gmail.com

11:39 AM Customer: Greta

11:40 AM Jones: Thank you, May I chck your fire wall settings?

11:40 AM Customer: Please do

11:41 AM Jones: Thank you, please dont move your mouse while I check

11:47 AM Jones: do you see those errors?

11:47 AM Customer: Yes, windows update failure

11:48 AM Jones: Most of the services were got effected. It seems already the security layer of your computer might have severely got effected  that may allow others to access your computer without any authorization anytime.

11:49 AM Jones: Did you download anything from internet recently?

11:49 AM Jones: From a non reliable resource

11:49 AM Customer: Free books from Instafreebie?

11:50 AM Jones: Okay, Let me check one more thing

11:50 AM Jones: Please wait

11:51 AM Jones: Do you see that, windows has stop defending itself

11:51 AM Jones: The defender is not working anymore

11:52 AM Customer: Yes. Can you turn it back on?

11:52 AM Jones: Sure, Even If I turn it on the onfection on your computer might turn it off soon

11:52 AM Jones: Let me show you something important

11:54 AM Jones: I hope you cane see the number of infections

11:55 AM Customer: Yes. What should I do?

11:55 AM Jones: We need to get rid of all these values fast, they could alter the functionality of software on your computer and may finally crash it. Eventually when the other programs are executed, even more programs may get “infected” with these self-replicating infected files.

11:56 AM Customer: Sure. How do we do that

11:56 AM Jones: Not to worry, We will do that for you. we found the exact locations to fix it. Today we will do a complete clean-up of your PC, fix your email issue, secure all the Pc and email ports, reconfigure all infected programming files, so that this issues is fixed and your computer would be safe without any data loss and computer crashes.

11:56 AM Customer: Excellent

11:57 AM Jones: Now for me to perform this task, we have few fix options for you. Let me give you a brief about the options. May I?

11:57 AM Customer: Yes please

11:58 AM Jones: 1. One time fix [Manual Clean-up + Today”s Fix] : $179.99

  1. Unlimited Tech support & Protection Plan for 1 Year : $299.99 (Includes today’s fix)
  2. Unlimited Tech support & Protection Plan for 2 Years : $399.99 (Includes today’s fix)
  3. Unlimited Tech support & Protection Plan for 3 Years : $499.99 (Includes today’s fix)

* The Unlimited plan also includes today’s fix.

* We will also install a calling card on your computer wherein you can reach our technicians automatically just by one click at any time.

Benefits of Unlimited Tech Plan : (Best value for money)

  1. Help to protect your privacy, data and online identity.
  2. Support for all kinds of Software related issues.
  3. Security against hackers programs, Viruses, spywares.
  4. Complete manual check-up periodically
  5. Cleanup of Registry & infected files.
  6. On Demand System Security Check.
  7. Fixing will be done in no time.
  8. We are just click away, no hold time to reach us.

I would suggest you to go for the long term as there are several issues on your PC and better value for your money.

12:00 PM Customer: Isn’t this what we’re paying Avast for, so this doesn’t happen?

12:00 PM Jones: the truth is no anti-virus is fool proof, so that’s the need of manual clean-up of any threats like Trojans, spywares at least once a month so that you can eliminate any threats immediately. This is where the human intervention is required.

12:01 PM Jones: Manual clean up is completly different from software clean up

12:03 PM Customer: I’ll do the option 1. Please make sure everything that should be turned on, is.

12:04 PM Jones: We will ensure that all the issues will be fixed

12:04 PM Jones: Shall I proceed with the one time fix

12:04 PM Customer: Yes please

12:06 PM Jones has sent a link: daskanini.com

12:08 PM Customer: Jonesy, we thought we were talking with Avast.  How did Log Me Rescuue get involved.

12:09 PM Jones: We do support for Avast products

12:09 PM Jones: Logmein rescue is the remote tool which is used to take the remote control

12:09 PM Jones: Thats a third party tool which everyone use

12:10 PM Customer: So who are you?

12:10 PM Jones: We are daskanini LLc

12:10 PM Jones: We support for Avast products

12:11 PM Customer: Well we’ll talk to Avast before we do anything.

12:11 PM Jones: Okay, I understand that, we gurantee 100 percent fix, if not you will get your money back

12:14 PM Customer: Send me your email address so we can get back to you, shortly.

12:18 PM Customer: You still there?

12:19 PM Customer: Email info@tekfixgo.com

12:19 PM Customer: Thks

12:19 PM Customer has revoked all permissions.

12:19 PM Remote Control by Jones stopped.

12:20 PM You have denied full permission to Jones.

12:21 PM Jones has ended the session.

We started getting suspicious at the size of the fee, although we seemed to be trapped between a rock and a hard place. So we got an email address, and closed the call. Then we did some homework.

First , note this statement.

11:51 AM Jones: Do you see that, windows has stop defending itself

11:51 AM Jones: The defender is not working anymore

In fact, when a third-party product like Avast is installed, Windows Defender has to be turned off.

Next, here’s a screen shot of Event Viewer from my machine. This was what Jones was showing us when he says ‘do you see all those errors?’ (Remember, my machine was fine – we were working on Peter’s)

Note the error messages. Scary stuff, huh? Well, no, actually. Scammers use that technique to trick people into thinking there’s a problem.
http://www.howtogeek.com/123646/htg-explains-what-the-windows-event-viewer-is-and-how-you-can-use-it/

The next thing to do was make sure the system on Peter’s machine was clean of any malware. I followed the steps detailed in this PC World article. Make sure you download a malware program such as MalwareBytes before you reboot your machine in safe mode. We were not surprised to discover there was nothing wrong with the machine and made sure to get rid of logmein, the program the scammers used to take over the machine.

We were pretty incensed that the support person had put us through to a scammer, so we contacted the company via email. After some discussion, we learned that we had not been talking to Avast at all. If you google Avast support you’ll see a list of sites purporting to support Avast customers. A couple of them are Avast.antivirussupportaustralia.com and getavast.net/support. They’re all scammers. We should have gone to the Avast site (Avast.com/en-au/support.) There’s nothing Avast or any of the other companies hit by these people can do to stop the scammers. They buy a domain name that sounds right (antivirus support australia). That’s perfectly legal. If we’d looked more carefully at the site, we would have found a very badly written disclaimer in the footer, stating that the company had no affiliation with Avast. But we didn’t.

So, we’ve learned a lesson. However, at least we had the sense to back off and investigate.

Take care out there, people. There are unscrupulous people who want to take advantage of you.

*******************************************************************************

Oh, and by the way, I’ve good a new book out if you’re into SF romance. Not too much romance, lots of intrigue and planet-hopping.

When history professor Olivia Jhutta receives a distress call from her parents, she sets out into space with their business partner, her grandmother, and injured Confederacy Admiral Jak Prentiss to find them. But she’s not the only one interested in the Jhutta’s whereabouts. The Helicronians believe Olivia’s parents have found an ancient weapon which they can use to wage war on the Confederacy.

Jak goes on the trip to fill in time while he’s on enforced leave, helping Olivia follow cryptic clues in what he considers an interplanetary wild goose chase in search of a fairy story. But as the journey progresses and legend begins to merge with unsettling fact, Olivia and Jak must resolve their differences and work together if they are to survive. The two are poles apart… but it’s said opposites attract. If they can manage to stay alive.

Buy it now on Amazon  Google iBooks Nook Kobo  (I’ll add them as they go live)

 

A brave new world for America

As it happens, this post coincides pretty much with the inauguration of the the incoming President of the United States of America, Donald Trump.

Brave new world indeed. I have quite a few (online) American friends and most of the people I’m close to await the coming months and years with trepidation. That’s honestly amazing. I’ve never seen this happen before. George W wasn’t popular, but he didn’t meet with the bitterness Trump has engendered. Sure, it has a bit to do with fake news, social media, back-stabbing campaigns on both sides. But from where I’m standing, it’s not about the president – it’s about the Republican party, which has blocked and dodged and prevented for the last eight years. It’s not for me to judge Trump –  from what I know of him, he is not a person I would like. But then, leaders don’t have to be liked. They have to be respected. And many of my friends don’t respect him. For me, what is really frightening is that the conservative, god-fearing, anti-science, pro-gun, paternalistic stance of so many American leaders will come to the fore. Too bad if you’re not a white, heterosexual, male.

But… the people have spoken according to the US political system, which is in as much need of an overhaul as our own. I shall watch with interest, and thank my lucky stars that I live in Australia.

For myself, my latest science fiction romance novel will be hitting the internet in a week or so. Keep an eye out if such things interest you.

And here are a few photos to admire.

Early morning on my beach

Eucalyptus bark

Cloud across the hills in South Australia

Moonrise over water

That’s 2016. Done and dusted.

Our little piece of paradise – the beach just after sunrise

Well, that’s it for 2016. One more turn around Sol. It has been a momentous year in many respects, and, of course, in others it is just another collection of days, one rolling into the next as the planet rotates from west to east.

S0… what will the history books say about 2016? I suspect that in fifty or one hundred years, historians will reflect on the similarity of the 1920’s and 30’s with the decades after the  2008 Global Financial Crisis. We saw the British people vote to leave the European Union, Australia’s double dissolution failed to return a majority government, Erdogan in Turkey manufactured a failed military coup to tighten his authoritarian grip on his country, Donald Trump has become president-elect in the USA, Putin continues to wage war on his neighbours, Greece continues to implode, Italy is following suit, terrorism rocked Belgium, France, and now Germany.

I’ve left out the natural calamities – earthquakes in Italy, cyclones in Japan, New Zealand, and the Philippines, massive drought and fires in the western USA. Nature throws disasters at us all the time. But the politics, I think, is ominous. Democracy has failed. Pretty much every Western country is now a Plutocracy – governed by the wealthy. Others are sliding into totalitarianism. In Australia, the Liberal party politicians are lawyers or businessmen, out of touch with the needs of people outside the big cities. The Labor (sic) Party politicians are almost all Union hacks, despite the fact that union membership is at an all-time low, and the Labor Party seems only to be concerned for the welfare of its unions, not of ordinary working people.  Every attempt by Government to curb the power and size of the public service seems to be doomed to failure. The plutocrats in government are supported by the faceless bureaucrats. The 1980’s BBC satire Yes Minister is well worth watching to see how these things work.

And all of this – Brexit, Trump, minority government, unrest in Europe etc – is a result of the fact that the People have had enough. Nobody trusts politicians anymore. Brexit and Trump are the outcome of people sick of a system where they have no say. They’re sick of the apparatchiks in Brussels, the swamp in Washington, and the ivory towers in Canberra. They’ve had enough of not being listened to, of having their concerns brushed aside, of ordinary folks suffering at the expense of migrants. People in Europe are afraid that their way of life is being subverted by people with different belief systems. There’s plenty of evidence to show that’s true. Even Angela Merkel has said multiculturalism doesn’t work. She said it in 2010, and repeated it in December 2015. And here in relatively peaceful Australia the young and the old and the in between are all feeling left behind. Gone are the days of the Great Australian Dream of owning your own home. An education will cripple most young people with debt, and the idea of a job for life has disappeared. And yet CEOs get higher bonuses, Labor politicians retire as millionaires, the rich get richer and the Government thinks it’s fair to retrospectively target superannuation. No wonder the peasants are on the verge of revolting. I’ve linked to this article (the pitchforks are coming) before, but it’s worth repeating.

I’m sure you’ll all have heard the Chinese saying “May you live in interesting times.” As it happens, it’s not a Chinese saying at all.  But hey ho, let’s pretend it is a curse. I think we’re there. We have arrived. We live in interesting times and 2017 will be a continuation.

That said, of course, lots of good things happened in 2016, too. There’s a vaccine for Ebola. Wild tiger numbers have risen for the first time in ages. Humpback whales are off the endangered list, as are Giant Pandas. And in Tasmania, it looks like the Tassy devil is beating the cancer threatening its existence.

Please note also that I didn’t mention the deaths of quite a number of entertainers this year (until now, anyway). Millions of people died in 2016, many of them well before their allotted time. The city of Aleppo comes to mind, as well as random bombings of civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and the like, commuters in Brussels and Bastille Day revelers in Nice. And that’s without the regular carnage on our roads. At least those entertainers got to live – even if some of them died at a relatively young age. Even so, most were a lot older than my father, my brother, two of my sisters, a niece… Everybody dies. It’s part of the cycle.

But even so the death of Carrie Fisher does resonate. I’m a Star Wars tragic, so that one’s taken a little bit of ‘me’ with it. I was the same with Terry Pratchett who died a couple of years ago. I guess we all have our soft spots.

Anyway, that’s it for the navel gazing.

From a personal point of view, we’re doing okay. In 2016 we enjoyed a river cruise in Europe, an unforgettable trip to see Lake Eyre in flood, and drove clockwise around Australia, visiting old friends and relatives in Esperance and Perth, and newer friends in Karratha.  I blog our travels, and share the photos. You’ll find links to the trips here.

2017 will see more travel. After all, if you don’t do it while you can… And yes, I’ll blog our trips and share the photos. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as you have the previous offerings.

I want to wish everyone who reads my blogs a safe, peaceful and healthy 2017. And everybody else, too.

And as a finale, just a few photographic highlights for this year.

Last light on Geikie Gorge on the Fitzroy River

Lake Geneva and the French Alps

Sunset on Veere, the Netherlands

A distant view of the Flinders at dawn

Flinders Range – taken from the truck

Lake Eyre

A serious storm at sunset – heading away from us.

One of our little mates coming in to land

 

 

Celebrate your solstice

Yes, it’s that time of year again. The planet has reached the end of its eliptical course around the sun and down here in the temperate south the days will begin to shorten. It means we look forward to the eventual end of searing summer temperatures, cyclones, and humidity. But it’s not a time we dread. Neither is our winter solstice in June. Winters are not so severe here.

It’s a different matter for our forebears in Europe, though. Up there in the frozen north the temperatures dropped, snow fell, blizzards happened and the food you’d harvested in autumn would pretty much have to do you until spring and summer. That’s why the festivities associated with this season (Christmas is the best known) are really all about the winter solstice and the return of the sun. The evergreen fir tree covered with lights, the jolly man in the red suit, lots of food. Christians know their religion has become entangled with Pagan practices. And it hardly matters.

I hate the commercialism of Christmas, the endless buy buy buy ads, the sappy Christmas carols in the supermarkets, fake snow in the windows when it’s 35C outside. I’m also not interested in the traditional Christmas fare of ham, turkey, roast vegetables, mince pies, plum pudding and the like. It’s too hot for that sort of food here in midsummer. But I don’t begrudge anyone a time to share with family and friends. Pete and I will spend a quiet day at home and partake of various small servings of seafood. However you celebrate, I wish you well.

If any of you are interested in some holiday reading around the concept of Christmas and what it means, I recommend Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather (also available as a movie). Good stuff, and many HO HO HO’s. In a nutshell, somebody is trying to kill the Hogfather (Father Christmas), and in his absence, Death takes over the gig. Which puts a lot of undue pressure on his granddaughter (yes), Susan, who is on that cover. Did you know that white horse Death rides is called Binky? Yes, true. I wrote a review.

And a very merry Christmas to you, too.

 

 

SFR Brigade holiday showcase

sfrbholidayshowcaseUPDATE: The prize has been won and claimed. Thanks to everyone who entered.

Hi there folks. Welcome to my world. Yes, there’s a giveaway.

Christmas is coming. I’m mentioning that in case you hadn’t noticed. 🙂 Here in Australia it is, of course, high summer. No snow, no egg nog in front of a roaring fire. Unless it’s a beach barbecue, and then it’s cold beer or fizzy wine, not egg nog. But even so we share the time with friends and family, whatever our religious or cultural belief might be.

In our hot climate many of us have weaned ourselves off the traditional turkey, ham, roast veg, plum pudding etc food orgy we inherited from our English forebears.  Although there is a new tradition of Christmas in July where those who like that sort of food can indulge themselves in mid-Winter. My husband and I will be having a peaceful day, eating a selection of delicious seafood. To finish, I might even whip up this rather tasty dessert – but in smaller proportions, and without the toffee.

For your reading pleasure I’ve selected a piece of the current work in progress, The Stuff of Legend. It should be published in late February – early March.

Here’s the blurb

When history professor Olivia Jhutta receives a distress call from her parents, in trouble somewhere in space, she returns to her home planet to find out what happened to them. Together with her grandmother and injured Confederacy Admiral Jak Prentiss, she sets out to find them. But she’s not the only one interested in the Jhutta’s whereabouts. The Helicronians believe Olivia’s parents have found an ancient weapon which they can use to wage war on the Confederacy, and their agents secretly follow Olivia’s every move. If they lay their hands on the weapon it will mean certain death for Olivia – and interplanetary war.

And here’s an excerpt

The shower was a blessing. Olivia washed the grime and dust out of her hair, and turned through the dry cycle. She still felt guilty about Jak. He’d been hurt because of her, and his wounds were painful. She’d seen him bounce up and down the stairs like a mountain goat. Now, he had to take the elevator, and he limped. She’d been such a fool, letting him dictate her mood like that.

She stepped out of the shower stall. Even when she’d tried to apologize she’d fluffed her lines. She’d been surprised to see him wearing the black fleet uniform with the stars on the shoulder boards. Maybe that was it. He’d said once before that the uniform made ordinary people nervous. She could see why. The dress uniform, all sparkling white with gold insignia and a high collar, was probably designed to intimidate, but even in everyday black Jak oozed authority.

What to wear to dinner? Grandma had hung some dresses in the closet for her and after spending the last couple of days in dust and grime, Olivia felt like looking pretty. The red one with the cleavage should suit. If nothing else, it would give His Admiralness something to look at. She twirled in front of the mirror. Grandma had bought the dress on New Haven and it had nanotech so it would fit whoever wore it. You couldn’t buy anything like that on Belledura. Olivia had modified the style slightly to show a little more skin. She looked good and more important, she felt good.

She opened the door to her bedroom and nearly walked into Jak. He stopped and stared at her, his lips curving into a hungry smile. “Delightful. Absolutely delightful.”

Her face heated. He didn’t look so bad himself. He’d changed out of the uniform and into black evening dress with a white shirt and bow tie, old fashioned but elegant. He’d left his walking stick behind.

“No stick?”

“I’m trying to wean myself off it.” He gestured. “Shall we go?”

Giveaway

To be in the draw for one ebook copy of any of my books, please tell me what you’ll be doing for Christmas.  I’ll contact the winner, using the email address you are asked to enter when you leave a comment (unless otherwise advised) on 20th December.

Have a very wonderful solstice celebration, whichever version works for you. And please, don’t forget to visit all the other blogs for more chances to win stuff.

Participants:

1. Lea Kirk 16. Kyndra Hatch
2. Greta van der Rol 17. Melisse Aires
3. Pippa Jay 18. Shari Elder
4. Carol Van Natta 19. Ed Hoornaert
5. Liza O’Connor 20. C.E. Kilgore
6. Jolie Mason 21. Diane Burton
7. Aurora Springer 22. Athena Grayson
8. S. A. Hoag 23. Misa Buckley
9. Veronica Scott 24. Kaye Manro
10. Jess Anastasi 25. E.M Reders
11. AR DeClerck 26. Pauline Baird Jones
12. Carmen Webster Buxton 27. Dena Garson
13. Christina Westcott 28. Imogene Nix
14. Michelle Howard 29. Tess Rider
15. Siren Allen 30. Michelle Diener

First Saturday in December

I really don’t have a lot to talk about today. I’m pleased that I’m well on the way to fifty thousands words for the new Ptorix Empire book. I’ve also decided to invest a bit of money, and some time and effort, in mastering Lightroom and Photoshop. They are both incredibly powerful programs – Lightroom to spiffy up your photos, and Photoshop to turn them into art.

I’m not an artist (in the painterly sense) although I have tried in the past. I know they say you don’t have to paint to anyone else’s standards – but my own art doesn’t please me. I’d rather take a great photo. I’m not advanced far enough in my training to be able to share any photo ART with you. But I can (of course) share some of my favourite photos. I hope you like them almost as much as I do.

Nature's artistry and reflections at Geikie Gorge

Nature’s artistry and reflections at Geikie Gorge

A bee in a mass of wax flowers

A bee in a mass of wax flowers

Three swans in the mist on the Rhine

Three swans in the mist on the Rhine

Whale spyhopping

A whale pops up to say hello

The folded curves of the Flinders Range near Wilpena Pound

The folded curves of the Flinders Range near Wilpena Pound