Thursday, August 31, 2017

Weather Worries

I've been avoiding the news as much as possible lately. Sabre rattling stupidities on every side do not make for an easy mind, do they, and I've been finding it all a bit much.

Then there are the severe weather events which seem to be happening all over the planet. While my heart goes out to those affected by Hurricane Harvey in Texas - so far there are 22 deaths reported and widespread severe and destructive flooding - they aren't the only ones in trouble. In the past few days Typhoon Hato lashed Hong Kong, Macao and southern China killing at least twelve and causing much damage and yet another severe tropical storm is heading towards the region while over 1,200 people have already lost their lives in monsoonal floods in India, Bangladesh and Nepal. It almost feels as if we are being given a nasty shake up by the Earth to remind us that we are not invulnerable which, given the number of climate change denialists out there, is probably necessary. After all it doesn't matter much what it was that started it now. What matters is what we're going to do to try and slow things down. I don't know about you but I tremble at the thought of what kind of world my grandchildren will grow up in if we - by which I mean humankind in general - don't act.

It's depressing beyond belief to think about all this but there are a few things happening that give me hope for humanity and this video of people and pets being rescued in Texas is one. It made me cry - in a good way.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

It's Been One of Those Weeks

It really has. First off last Saturday I broke a toe which has left me hobbling and hurting all week. Since there's nothing to be done about it except wait until it heals it's a case of grin and bear it - and remember not to try to walk normally because 'Owwwww!'

Then on Sunday I got a severe sore throat and by Monday had added a headache, weakness, achy muscles and total exhaustion that left me in bed for the next three days. By Tuesday Pisces had something similar but fortunately not as badly. Oh, and I now have what I would otherwise have thought was a bad cold if it hadn't developed while I was already sick.

The sore throat and other symptoms had improved somewhat by yesterday but not enough to eat anything that wasn't soft so soup seemed a good idea. And this was why I was out in the veggie patch  and how I discovered the aphid invasion I told you about. I managed to keep upright long enough to deal them a bit of a blow and ended back in bed.

Given all this I need something to cheer me up so here is part of the garden outside my back door. This photo doesn't do it justice but the poppies and anemones and the little heartsease in the front (so small they barely show up here) give me much pleasure.

Friday, August 25, 2017

I Hates Them

Aphids, that is. I'm pretty much a live and let live kind of gardener. As long as I can get enough from the garden for our needs I don't mind if something nibbles on a leaf or two. I companion plant, avoid killing unless it's absolutely unavoidable and sharing's fine by me. If you're disturbed by this and want perfection you'll probably not want to look too closely at what I bring in from the garden but since I'm growing things for us, well. who cares. Certainly not me or Pisces.

But occasionally I have to resort to sterner measures like using organic sprays or one containing a specific form of bacteria (Bacillus thuringiensis) which is toxic only to leaf eating caterpillars. If I didn't do this there wouldn't be a cabbage plant left in the garden - and I confess that sometimes I grit my teeth and squash.

This is all well and good and this year things have been going along fruitfully in the veggie patch - until yesterday when I went out to get some spring onions and silverbeet to make a pot of soup for our lunch. The silverbeet was fine and I picked a big bunch but I noticed as I was heading to the spring onion bed that the red onion seedlings I planted a few weeks ago had been pretty much wiped out. Odd, I thought, but things like that happen in gardening - and then I discovered the probable reason why. More than half the spring onions were smothered in black aphids. These nasty wee beasties can devastate a garden in a very short time so I reluctantly decided on the squashing approach after pulling out the worst affected then hosed the remainder - and, although I couldn't see any problems with them, the rest of the onion tribe - with a blast of water.

This morning there was only a light scattering of aphids on the spring onions but they had - courtesy of some resident ants whose nest I haven't been able to track down - spread to the rest of the onions. So I squashed and hosed the spring onions - the red onion bed is too big to deal with by hand so my fingers are crossed that hosing will be enough. It probably would have been even better if yesterday I hadn't forgotten that chives are part of the onion family, too, because when I checked them they were literally seething with the little blighters to the point that when I hosed them the water came off like a grey soup. That lot of greedy little invaders is now buried never to rise again and I hope the chives will survive

So that's the situation at the moment and I guess I'll be battling aphids for a few more days until the ladybirds build up sufficient numbers to help control them.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Lookie, Lookie, Lookie

I don't know if you remember but some weeks ago I came across a mushroom 'farm' in a box - and, of course, I had to 'invest' in it, didn't I. It's been sitting safely under the worm farm around the side of the house where I could check on it and water it regularly. While I could see along the inside edge of the box when I pulled it back from the plastic liner that things were happening, nothing looked even faintly like the beginning of a mushroom.

Then yesterday I found this.

That's right I have little bitty mushrooms coming up - and these are only a few of them. I can't wait until they are big enough to pick.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Character Names Matter

I splurged recently on a bunch of e-books that were part of a promo. They are a mixture of science fiction and fantasy of various types and I've been really enjoying them. It's always great to find new authors and this is one way I get to read widely and experience other parts of the genre that I might not find otherwise.

Among these books are a lot of fantasy of various types - urban fantasy, steampunk, YA, epic fantasy and much else besides. A lot have crossovers between our present day and the fey world and many are seriously dark. All really good stuff but...

Something has been seriously annoying me and it's the way some authors have named their characters. It can really throw you out of the story to suddenly meet a fairy, fey or what ever you like to call them who has a very modern name. For example in one story there's a character who is an important fey but doesn't know it because she was hidden in the human world as a baby. This makes her a threat to the very traditional fey society with its hatred of pretty much anything human and they are out to get her any way they can. It's a cracking read, too, as she deals with the constant attacks and comes into her fey powers. But her fey name is one which when I researched it - I had to because it was bugging me so much - only appeared as a girl's name in the late sixties or early seventies while her human name is a more traditional Anne. This jarred so much that I struggled to get back into the story for a while.

I'm pretty sure some of you are thinking I'm making a lot of fuss about a name and even I couldn't work out initially why this irritated me so much but then I got it. The fey name wasn't consistent with  the fey society we were being shown. Whoever had named the girl wouldn't have chosen a name popular in the modern human society they despised. Once that was done believability in the world evaporated.

I'm not suggesting that an author should be tied into anyone else's ideas of what to name their characters. My characters are apt to spring into life complete with their names and changing it is fraught with anguish - it's like they won't give up whatever defines who they are - so I get how hard it is to do. At the same time, though, it's important to be consistent with the world of which the character is part.

I'll give you an example from my own writing. I wrote a story about two girls and their relationship with a telepathic herd of one horned creatures. I had no problems with naming the girls but the leader of the herd was a different thing. No matter what I called him it didn't seem to fit. In the end he was given the name of Unicorn and I wrote on not entirely happily but hoping it work. One hundred and thirty thousand words later he was still Unicorn and I knew it didn't fit with the society of the world or that of the herd and my critiquers were all picking up on it. It took a lot of thinking and research but finally he had another name that made sense in the world in which he lived. To my surprise I found that with that new name a number of other niggles could be dealt with, too, because the world itself worked better.

So, although it slightly diminished my enjoyment of the story that started me off on this train of thought, I'm actually grateful to that author. She has given me an important reminder. Names do matter in writing and it's essential to get that right if you want to keep your readers happy.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Storms Are A-Coming

Well, that's what the forecast says so yesterday I went out to try to get some photos of the Iceland poppies before they are destroyed by the wind and rain. I've planted them in the garden outside the family room where I can see them every time I look out and they are a joy to me and to the bees.

As you can see my plan didn't work very well. The wind kept whipping them around making them either face away from the camera, have their petals blown backwards or simply end up a blur. Given they would certainly be badly damaged if I left them I picked a big bunch and they're now inside where they are much better behaved.

Just to prove that you can sometimes be lucky, though, here's a photo of the first poppy flower we had this year. I took it a couple of days ago. Still not the greatest photo but isn't it a gorgeous colour.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Tattoos and Football

Yes, the inked body art that's becoome so popular these days. What's made me think about tattoos right now? Well I've been watching the footy and many of the players are heavily tattooed so it's hard not to think about them.

Before I go any further perhaps I should say I couldn't care less if someone is tattooed. Virgo has several  - and my horror when she rang me from Egypt when she was much younger to announce that she was planning to get a tattoo was all to do with the possibility of her getting tattooed in a country where she couldn't even speak the language and had no way of judging hygiene standards and not the tattoo itself. She waited to get home much to my relief and those she has are attractive and elegant. It's not something I'd do myself because first of all I'm a wimp and I know it would hurt a lot and second I wouldn't want something so permanent anywhere on me because I like variety in my choices of personal adornment too much to want to be limited by ink, and, of course, like every art there are good and bad practitioners. I've certainly seen some tatts that make me wonder what was the tattooist thinking. This is me, though, and what others do is their business.

One thing I do wonder about, though, is if some the football players might not come to regret the amount of tattooing they have. They seem to be trying to hide what, let's face it, are currently pretty good looking bodies and I'm not sure why. They're young, fit and muscular, which makes them very physically attractive to start with and while tattoos look good on taut young muscles they may not look so great in twenty or thirty years when things start to sag, something that inevitably happens no matter how fit you are.

Still it's not my place to judge and I defend their right to do as they see fit. Not everyone agrees with such bodily autonomy apparently and it's amazing what these choices can lead to according to some people. In a letter to the editor in our local newspaper one writer had a number of complaints about footballers who, in his opinion, need to improve their game. He complained briefly about lack of skills - which is valid - but that wasn't the worst. The trouble with AFL football today is that so many players are sporting tattoos and - wait for it - they wear their knee socks folded down. Really.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Helsinki or What Might Have Been

About this time last year I was slowly coming to terms with the fact that I mightn't be going to Worldcon - the annual World Science Fiction convention - in Helsinki in 2017. There was still a faint possibility so I was getting stuff organised like making sure Pisces had renewed his passport and working out the complicated logistics of travelling. For those of us with disabilities travel is more complicated than for the able bodied. There's working out how to break flights so that your back doesn't seize up completely - it was going to involve several days with breaks in what admittedly are some lovely places but that in turn adds cost, sorting out medication and trying to find accommodation within close walking distance of the venue at a price I could afford.

Truth was I was already half-hearted about this. Pisces' illness had taken up so much time that I was finding it hard to focus on something as far away as August 2017. I had quite literally lost count of the number of scans, pathology tests and specialists' visits he had had - I had gone to all these with him so you can imagine how many hours had accumulated - and that's not even mentioning all the hospital admissions and, of course, on top of that was the endless worry. What if he doesn't get better. What if... What if...

Still by September he was starting to improve. I wasn't making any definite plans but there did seem to be a chance we'd make it to Helsinki. I wasn't prepared to actually risk making bookings but things were looking up. If he continued to improve by the New Year maybe...

Then disaster struck in November when I ended up in hospital. It was serious but something that I should have recovered from very quickly but that wasn't what happened. I was almost a complete invalid for the next seven months, only leaving the house to go to the doctor. I'm over the worst of that now but I'm still not well enough to consider travelling and truth be told, neither is Pisces.

So no Worldcon for me this year. Will I consider next year? Maybe but we'll just have to see how things go.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017


There I was talking about the TV series Trapped the other day and said it was set in rural Iceland. Of course, it wasn't, was it. For some reason I'd got that bit mixed up with another series. Trapped was set in a remote, small port, still in Iceland but hardly rural. I have no idea why I got that wrong given the fact that it was a port was crucial to the plot, too. Oh well. Now I've straightened out that confusion out I should say that I thoroughly enjoyed this series. I liked the way historical crimes as well as their consequences were explored in a town cut off by a blizzard as the tiny police force tried to deal with present day murders and other serious crimes all the while under stress from their own personal problems, pressure from police headquarters and a car ferry load of irate visitors who had expected to disembark and head for Reykjavik. Filled with tension and really gripping.