Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Daylight saving myths

Can't help myself. Western Power research published in The West Australian today shows that there was a barely measurable increase in energy consumption during the daylight saving period last summer instead of the decrease which is always hyped by its supporters. I'm guessing there would have been more of an increase if we hadn't had a milder summer than usual given that coming home when it is close to the maximum temperature (the hottest times of the day in summer are usually 2:00-3:00 pm Western Standard Time which is 3:00-4:00 pm Daylight Saving Time) will inevitably lead to more use of air-conditioners. But will logic affect this debate? We must wait and see.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Of cactus flowers and roses.

Most of the year the cacti sit in their hanging baskets looking at best boring and at worst plain ugly but come October and they are splendid. Their strappy, uninteresting leaves trailing to the ground become garlands draped with enormous flowers rioting in a range of colours that is literally breathtaking. My collection ranges from white, through palest cream to gelati yellow and on through baby pink to scarlet and most dramatic of all, a stunning flower, the size of a cantaloupe, with a vivid cerise (verging on purple) centre surrounded by a hot pink skirt. Their perfume is subtle but sweet and the bees are as enamoured as I am.
The roses are spectacular too just now. Not quite as exhibitionist as the cacti, they go for the massed bouquet look. I wasn't expecting too much of them this year. The mild winter meant they never lost all their leaves and the Queen Elizabeth climber managed at least a couple of flowers all through the cold season. They are beautiful though in their first flush of the season. The Peace, Apricot Nectar and Princess de Monaco standards are rewarding me for taking them out of their pots and planting them in the garden. They are all smothered in blossoms. Up close they look a little ragged now after the wind, rain and hail of the weekend but from a distance they are still glorious. The Icebergs, on the other hand, seem quite happy to produce continual flowers, even in their pots on either side of the steps. Mr Lincoln, Papa Meilland, First Love and Pascali are not quite as generous with their blossoms but when they come they are a joy especially the two crimsons which produce a heady perfume that wafts in the back door.
And now to give everything a good weeding. They deserve it.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Okay, this is bordering on the absurd. Since last Thursday - 31 degrees Centigrade maximum, bright sun, cook in the car on the way home - we have been lashed by gales, battered by hail, drenched with rain (given the drought, I'm not complaining about that) and, even with our winter woollies hauled out of the cupboard and layered on, so cold that this morning I had to put the heater on while I sat huddled in a blanket to read the paper. This is the end of October in Perth, Western Australia. We do not have overnight lows of 4 degrees Centigrade at this time of the year. Usually we only get a handful of them in mid-winter. And there was snow on Bluff Knoll in the Stirling Ranges in the south of the state. It's all gone now, of course, but it was snow none the less. This only happens about once in fifteen years - in winter.

As of yesterday we have daylight saving which doesn't, of course, save daylight at all since the amount of daylight remains the same no matter how you fiddle with the clock. This means that one of the great pleasures in my life - that hour just after dawn before the sleepyheads get up and the noise of the day begins denied me through winter - is now denied me all summer as well.

Another illogicality seems to have escaped our leaders too. We are being offered subsidies to save energy, told to turn off stand by on our household gadgets, replace our light bulbs with energy efficient replacements and to turn off lights when we leave the room. All very sensible - except with daylight saving, it's dark when we get up so in a house of say four people at any one time there are at least four lights on and since it's not energy efficient to keep turning fluorescent lights on and off there may well be five or six. To get these people to their educational or work places the trains, buses etc. all have to run longer hours in the dark too with the workers involved starting earlier and having to turn on lights. In theory the lights then go on an hour later at night but in my house at least, because the day stays lighter longer, we eat later which means we stay up later so the lights are then on for the same period as they were before at night. This in turn makes for sleep deprived cranky folk who are now getting, as a result of being unable change their Nature ordained wake up clocks, an hour less sleep. And yes, I do know I could go to bed earlier. Unfortunately, my body doesn't feel the same. If I go to bed earlier, I don't go to sleep until the time I usually would. You know, the one prescribed by Nature. I must say that I now have a much greater appreciation of the stresses endured by shift workers though why that has to be inflicted on everyone I fail to see. So enlighten me, we are "saving" what exactly?

I will try not to rant again on this subject but I promise nothing.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Clarion South 2009

The tutors for Clarion South commencing January 2009 have been named and they are:

Week 1: Sean Williams
Week 2: Marianne de Pierres
Week 3: Margo Lanagan
Week 4: Jack Dann
Week 5: Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant
Week 6: Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant

Details of the workshop can be found at

Applications open February 1, 2008.

Friday, October 19, 2007

New Holland Honeyeaters

The New Holland honeyeaters are back. They're a bit late this year due to the way the seasons are changing no doubt. They are slender little birds, striking with their vertically striped, very dark brown and white waistcoats and faintly striped dark backs echoing their fronts. They're swaying, bold yellow wing panels making a bright flash, on the slender twigs of the standard Iceberg rose, where the first rosy buds are just starting to unfurl into white blossom. They're noisy creatures, often in crowds, squabbling and chattering. They plunge into the bird bath then sit on nearby branches to shake and preen. White cheeked honeyeaters sometimes arrive about the same time. The only difference between the two is a large white patch below the eye. Apart from that they all seem to be part of the same argumentative cohort.

Monday, October 15, 2007


I'm allergic to Spring, parts of Summer and Autumn as well but the whole of Spring. This is highly unfortunate because after the cold grey of Winter, Spring looks gorgeous. There are pleasantly warm sunny days, the weeds are growing even faster than the plants I want to grow and the birds... The thicket of star jasmine (may our neighbours never become gardeners) strangling the trees on the fence line next door is alive with birds - aggressive red wattle birds seeing off anyone or anything that dares to come near, squeaking, chirruping, squawking babies, frantic parents - mudlarks, singing honeyeaters (the only honeyeaters I can recognise because they are the only ones daring enough to stay for a moment when a human approaches. The others skedaddle in a whirr of wings the minute they sight you.) and little wattle birds. Unfortunately this population explosion brings the Western ravens (known locally as crows) to feast.
This in turn causes much stress and distress for a small tan and white dog who regards it as her absolute obligation to rid the world of big black birds even if they are nearly as big as she is and armed with a long sharp beak. So there are many mad barking rushes out into the yard followed by scratching on the back door and the pleading of "I can't do this by myself. Will you please come and help?"
The ravens are well aware of her limitations so they position themselves just out of reach and stare down at her setting off another barking frenzy. They're not at all sure of me though so they fly off when they see me pick up a pebble, with a fighter squad of honeyeaters diving on them as they go. They really have no need to be afraid of me because even if I threw the pebble they are much too far away for me to hit them and I wouldn't really want to anyway. After all they are only doing what they are meant to but I just prefer not to see them doing it so let's just keep it our little secret.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Since I had no internet access I wrote my blogs daily and now I’m transferring them to my blog. The dates will be weird but hey, if it doesn’t bother me…

Thursday 27 September, 2007

I’m at the airport waiting in line to check in. I’m juggling a walking stick, a carry on bag on wheels, a suitcase, also with wheels, my handbag, laptop, camera and ticket folder. I’m more than usually hampered because on my way here – in the car in fact – I suddenly developed severe sciatica. Simultaneously three check-in lights start flashing. Virgo, who dropped me off at the entrance and went to park the car, is nowhere to be seen and the line behind me is getting restive. You’d think the walking stick shuffle might have alerted them to my limitations but they seem to have the idea that I’m messing about. In fact I’m trying, not very effectively, to move forward without losing my grip on my belongings. Then I manage to drop just about everything. That helps a lot. With difficulty, I gather up my possessions and head for the nearest window where I drop another bundle. This does not make for a confident approach but the check-in itself goes smoothly and I’m offered and gratefully accept a wheelchair. At that moment a harried Virgo appears and takes over.

We head for the security check and the laptop is extracted and my bags get dumped in trays and we’re in the gate – to the accompaniment of loud beeps. This always happens to me! Why? Anyway I’m hustled away – as usual. Will I consent to a pat down – like I have any choice. A consent form and a pen are shoved in front of me and I sign. I offer to stand. Not necessary. Surely it would be less trouble for all concerned but I’m not going to cause any trouble. I’m not sure that much could have been concealed under a pair of jeans and a fitted sweater but if it makes them happy… Besides my very ample figure probably looks suspiciously oversize but I make it on board to wait out the delays caused by a late connecting passenger coming from the International Terminal and a disruptive passenger who has to be removed and we’re off. At least my journeys are full of exciting moments, aren't they.

Friday, 28 September, 2007

It’s years since I’ve been in Canberra so I spent some time this morning checking out the city centre before heading to the Gorman House Arts Centre for the first workshop I’d booked into – The Noble and Knightly Art of the Long Sword. What an experience! A mix of age and gender and all shapes and sizes, we lined up to be taught a few of the basics of handling a long sword. We stepped, lunged, attacked, defended. The difficulties of co-ordinating hands, feet and body while remembering exactly what moves had to be made provided a challenge, lots of laughs and near misses. It has to be the best fun I’ve had in years.

I caught up with some fellow Clarionites at the opening ceremony. This was a blast and MC Jack Dann had us in fits of laughter. The official guests were introduced. Most exciting from my point of view, Laura Goodin, one of my Clarion South mates, was presented with her prize as the winner of the Conflux Short Story Competition. Congratulations, Laura!

Then Larissa Stoljar gave an amazing performance of a vocal work – not singing but sounds familiar to us all from cartoons arranged into a co-ordinated performance piece. Truly extraordinary – and unforgettable.

Saturday 29 September 2007.

So many panels – and I want to go to all of them. They cover so much – paranormal romance, world building, blogging, magic, genres, publishing. Add the interview/question and answer sessions with the official guests and workshops and we barely have time to breathe. Fortunately the panels are all being transferred to pod casts so I can pick up any I miss later. Yay! Tonight I’m skipping the Regency Gothic banquet and out to dinner with friends. It has been so great to catch up with all those people I rarely get to see. And, even more exciting, some more Clarionites have arrived.

Sunday 30 September 2007

So now I know a lot more ways to kill someone efficiently using a dagger, long sword or short sword. Hmm. At last my heroine will know what she's actually doing which I'm sure will be a relief to her. I also know about writing tie-ins, where exactly YA fiction sits in relation to urban fantasy and more about blogging and using LJs. Most of us Clarionites turned up to the panel on Clarions and decided that we had been a fairly functional group as these workshops go. Then a couple of us wandered out into the cold Canberra night in search of pizza – and very good it was too. The Masquerade was in full swing when we got back and we peeked in but retreated from the noise and into the bar.

Monday October 2007

Dammit, I missed the panel on what makes a good villain due to yet another elevator malfunction. The lifts have been the one irritation of the weekend. They skip the floor you’re on or stop at every floor whether they have been called there or not. They arrive without a light indicating they are moving or which direction they are heading. You press the down button and are swept non-stop up to the top floor and back down to the basement before you’re spat out on the ground floor. Those who could tried the fire escape stairs but that led straight to the basement where the exit doors were locked so they had to take another lift, when it finally arrived, back up to the ground floor. You can wait with an ever increasing queue to go back to your room and on one occasion the lift never came – at all. We trailed around after a helpful staff member like a flock of ducklings and crammed in to the service elevator with the room service trolley. The worst though was when a lift full of people got stuck and they were rescued only when someone heard them hammering on the door. No-one (including me who finds stairs very difficult at the best of times) was brave enough to take the lift either up or down between the 1st floor (where the convention rooms were) and the ground floor (the bar and restaurant) so there was continual traipsing up and down the spiral staircase, which fortunately sweeps widely making it feasible for all but those with toddlers in pushers.

So what else today? Readings by Jason Nahrung, Kaaron Warren, Rob Hood and Richard Harland, a KaffeeKlatch session with Simon Brown, a fascinating panel on the role of the female in speculative fiction including insights into the success and otherwise of women writing male characters and men writing women and some thoughts on space opera. And finally the closing ceremony followed by the Dead Dog party in the bar.

By then we were just about dead from exhaustion and I wouldn’t have missed a moment of it.

Tuesday 2 October 2007

Apart from my blog entries I haven’t written a word over the four days but others have. Some disappeared to laptops in their rooms and a few settled in the bar with files or writing pads. While I really want to go to sleep now - for a long time but the plane flight home will have to suffice - I feel re-energised as well. My head is buzzing with ideas that I want to put on paper. Maybe a nice little horror piece on lifts? We shall see.

It was strange at breakfast this morning to see the change in those eating there. Only a handful of Confluxers remain, those of us who like me intend to do a bit of sightseeing or have awkward plane times. Most of the new cohort appears to be part of tour groups here to visit Floriade and that’s where I’m off to now.