Gegenschein 96 August 2003

Gold Coast Drive

I managed to get SARS (Jean claimed it was just a cold) on the flight back from Brisbane (see last issue), so I hadn't been feeling all that well, for the week we were at home. Did get packing done, which wasn't much of an accomplishment. Also went totally ballistic about how bad the new IBM notebook computer was, with the unusable Windows XP pre-installed. Vowed it was my last Windows computer.

Saturday 5 April 2003

We set out after breakfast at 6:30 a.m. which wasn't bad. Took on 29 litres of petrol 60 km down the Bruce Highway at Bloomsbury, where Jean collected four sandwiches for the rest of the day. I'd say she was feeling peckish. Mind you, she wouldn't let me have one of their milkshakes.

We stopped to share a sandwich at the information centre just past Mackay, but they were not open until 9 a.m. Sarina seemed somehow smaller and further away than we remembered, some 35 km south of Mackay. I was interested to note just off the Bruce highway a small ethanol plant. This alternate fuel is probably going to be even more of a political football in coming years, with some sugar and other farmers seeing it as a potential method of clearing production surpluses.

We also stopped another 100 km down the road at Claireview, despite the long drive across the railway line and past the caravan park to get to the facilities. That area has a long, rocky ocean beach, and numerous small weekender style houses, almost all with large boats in the front yard. It is certainly isolated, with only a small caravan park store.

Big Mt Waverley rest area approximately halfway between Mackay and Rockhampton where we stopped to share another sandwich took our eye. I'm not sure I recall it being so obvious on prior trips. It has a plaque commemorating the opening of the new highway between Sarina and Rockhampton in 1982. No signs saying you couldn't stay overnight. Little sheltered picnic tables, but not a lot of shade otherwise. There was a caretaker's hut, with a guard dog sign. No other facilities anywhere nearby, and there are basically no real towns in the stretch, only one isolated store on the roadside, and a few petrol stations. After Marlborough we came across two petrol stations, one just off the highway on a side road, and one on the highway. They must have been having a price war, for that was the cheapest fuel we sighted.

We reached Rockhampton around 1:30 p.m., and booked into the Ambassador Motor Inn north at 355 Yaamba Road (Bruce Highway) (Stephen and Madonna Lee 4928 2222). It is tricky getting in, as you need to turn off one block before the Bruce Highway turns off Yaamba Road at the large Rockhampton Shopping Fair (very original name).

We walked the short distance to the shopping centre, delayed by the wide highway turn and three pedestrian lights for one street crossing. The shopping centre certainly appears in plan to have had various extensions tacked on afterwards. We found some magazines not available at home in the newsagent, although not the Elektor magazine Bob Devries had shown me in Brisbane. Jean tried to use her Millers gift discount, but couldn't find anything she liked there or in Katies. I got a cheap pair of shorts at Lowes, but the cut is not particularly good (however the price is right and the ones they are to replace are scheduled for the old rag basket). Jean wouldn't let me check out the Darrell Lee chocolate section of the newsagent, but I did manage to find an appropriate ATM to restock my wallet.

Our aim however was Sizzlers, where as usual we stuffed ourselves. Jean even had a chicken meal, as well as the salad. I felt double crossed, because she declined to have any potatoes with the meal (I'd been planning to "assist" with the chips. It appears that this trip will consist of staying in the (few) towns that have a Sizzlers. We were thinking maybe Bundaberg and Caloundra.

Around 4:30, after lunch, we checked what was on at the cinema. While there was nothing that interested us, we did find a Seniors discount membership at the cinema. This involved a $6 annual fee, and $6.50 cinema tickets to any session. Had an appropriate cinema been closer than 150 km to us, it would be very likely to draw us to a visit or so.

The few shops still open appeared to be closing at 5, so we didn't check further in the shopping centre.

The room phone was not enabled, and we couldn't be bothered arranging that, so we didn't collect email. We read for a while, but collapsed early. We are just not good at travelling long distances (or even short ones) by car these days. When I was much younger I could do a 500 km ride on my motorcycle in under four hours. I think I'm probably much less at risk from either speed or fatigue these days. We had forgotten to take a powerboard for connecting our computers in any case.

Sunday 6 April 2003

We drove along the Rockhampton riverside, checking the new facilities and parkland along there. It is looking very nice, flanked by many older but restored buildings. Jean took some photos of the area. The information centre is in the old stone Customs House. It has a large museum-designed exhibit of how the place was used in the past. Very helpful people looking after the place, just as was the case last time we visited.

We refueled (37.36 litres) before leaving town. Apart from the many statues of beef cattle, you know the area is beef country when bank advertisements proclaim "There is a bank that understands beef".

We drove through the countryside in perfect sunny weather, a reminder of the Queensland tourism slogan, "Beautiful one day, perfect the next." We were often alongside the railway tracks, and saw a number of two-locomotive 80-wagon coal trains, with another two locomotives mid load. These would have been headed for Gladstone, although whether for export or for the power station and bauxite plant there we didn't know.

We stopped to share a sandwich near the Marmor Hotel and Boyne River rest area, and again at Miriam Vale. The small town of Miriam Vale had a tourist information place, and some nice facilities near the railway, but we found the proper picnic place after we had eaten.

We saw two recumbent bicycles, and two regular bicycle tourists, down on the five the previous day. That is touring the hard way.

Heading southeast from Miriam Vale, we negotiated several kilometres of gravel road (with the kind of pointy rocks that often eat tyres) before reaching a somewhat better road that took us on into the Town of 1770, by way of Agnes Water. 1770 is a small backpacker and boat tourist area, at the southern mouth of the river, which is protected by a sandbar. A number of older weekend cottages have been converted to tourist accommodation. The headland is steep, and some very expensive homes have been built to take advantage of the wild sea views. There is a nature park occupying the headland. Town of 1770 commemorates the date and place of Cook's first landing in what is now the state of Queensland.

Further south there are a number of housing developments along the coast on sand dunes, with a short walk to the beach. We drove through a few of them, amused at the huge piles of sand and the large walls of interlocking concrete blocks attempting to constrain the sand into hills on which to build houses. We are dubious about housing estates built on sand dunes... seems very shifty to us.

Continuing south, we took the alternate route, roughly paralleling the Bruce Highway but a bit closer to the coast. Most of this road is in better condition that we expected. It was a slow trip, as we were spending some time exploring.

At Bundaberg we entered town from an unfamiliar direction, and it took some time to get oriented to locate the Sizzler, and a nearby motel. The motel we used previously was unidentifiable, and we ended up off the main road at the Alexandra Park motor inn, which was much quieter and very pleasant. We had spotted some motels on the main street, so when this one nominated a price, Jean said we were looking for something cheaper. Asked how much, she quoted a price we had seen elsewhere, and was given it.

Naturally we again went to a Sizzler, and since there are no time specials on Sunday, ordered a chicken burger with salad bar each, and a bottle of wine. At the last moment, Jean recalled she now had a Seniors Card (at least, the Claytons* Seniors Card for business you can get when you are not eligible for a pensioner Seniors card). This place gave a 20% discount, and they applied it to the whole meal, which came to under A$36 for the two of us including the wine. That wasn't hard to take. (*Claytons: the drink you have when you are not having a drink, from an advertising campaign here.)

At the motel, we were both able to collect our email that evening, although I don't believe either of us did much about it subsequently.

Monday 7 April 2003

From Bundaberg, headed for Caloundra. We refueled (31.44 litres) before leaving town, and headed through sugar and cattle areas, where flat land alternated with gentle hills. The cruise control in Jean's car gets entirely too enthusiastic in hilly areas. Surge, slow, surge, slow.

I didn't like the first town at which we tried to stop past Maryborough, as I couldn't work out where to park so we could use the toilets. (Jean: I told him where, but he didn't follow my instructions.) On our second pass through town, someone else had parked in the same area, so it was more obvious. This was one of those towns with service roads paralleling the main road, and angle parking reached from the service roads -- a very good design but confusing to the uninitiated.

We stopped at an information centre at Barambah Ridge winery, next to a Matilda fuel stop that was under reconstruction. The information centre had a wonderful herb and native foods garden, all labelled with plant information. The winery sign said "A meal without wine is breakfast". I never did find the Matilda service station at which Jean was mugged by the ducks many years ago. I was hoping for a return engagement, which probably explains Jean's reluctance to assist in locating it.

The information centre at Tiaro had some great local crafts for sale. I was taken by the wooden eggs. We got a sandwich to share across the road, and when we ate it at midday at a roadside stop a few km before Gympie, found it great. Typical of country towns, and much nicer than the pre-stale stuff packed in bulk and loaded in fridges or vending machines in some garages. If I wanted pre-stale, I'd locate some Twinkies and import them.

Our memory of Gympie (from 4 years ago) includes a bridge over a river, but we didn't spot the bridge this time. Perhaps the main road has been rerouted? Moving the river seems unlikely.

Continuing on, we managed to find the right exit off the motorway and headed for Noosa through pleasant countryside. The Sunshine Coast area looked far too developed. Jean, who was driving, said "I don't think I like civilisation, even if the roads are better." We skipped around Noosaville to the extent we could. Good signposting made up for the map and navigation deficiencies, and the traffic (though heavy for our sensibilities) was not as bad as expected.

We tried to check many of the other beachside areas on the way down the coast past Noosa. Much of the area had very little space between the hills (national park perhaps) and the dunes, so there were only a few streets of houses, a mixture of older places (some little more than shacks) and newer ones. Most of the residential areas are set well back from the shore, behind heavily vegetated dunes. Numerous paths have been built through the dunes to allow beach access. In a few places the road runs along a clifftop, with great views of the surf. We didn't stop in any of the occasional parking spots to get a better view, because at this point a large black cloud began raining on us. The cloud didn't last long; by the time we'd gone past the interesting views, it was behind us.

Coolum Beach featured high rise and garden-style developments, much higher density. Further south the flat land opens up, allowing more development, with shopping areas as well as housing.

Our plans to eat at the Caloundra Sizzler were set aback when Jean finally located the list of locations and we discovered there wasn't one there. The only Sunshine Coast Sizzler was several suburbs back at Maroochydore. We contemplated returning, but it all seemed too complicated, and Jean remembered Maroochydore as being difficult to drive in. Instead we continued, after a refuelling stop (26.07 lit). We are most impressed with the fuel prices in this area, at least 10 cents a litre less than at home. Fuel in Australia has sometimes been less (before government charges) than it is in California.

Glasshouse Mountain Road took us back into a more country area, although it parallels the faster motorway. Glasshouse Mountain is a spectacular rock. We also passed Steve (The Crocodile Hunter) Irwin's Australia Zoo, which made good use of his TV publicity to draw in the tourists -- if you were in any doubt, the huge sign of Steve wrestling a crocodile was a definite clue. The back road went through a couple of very small towns, and eventually deposited us into an industrial and shopping area of Cabolture.

We spotted the Sizzler and immediately began looking for a motel. Spotted one just next door, at a tavern. This place turned out to be one of only two motels in the area, so we were not surprised to find that it was a bit overpriced for what we got. I wasn't thrilled with the motel, as the room lights were not great, and power points very scarce. The Commander phone system didn't allow Jean's modem to work (I didn't bother trying after that). Jean collected her email the expensive way, via her mobile phone.

Jean managed to once again get a Seniors discount on our Sizzler burger meal and wine, so we stuffed ourselves on salad bar. We attempted to check the news, but the TV at the motel didn't seem to receive the ABC. It is of little surprise that soon after we returned to the motel, we were asleep.

Tuesday 8 April 2003

A newsagency was right opposite the hotel, so I was able to get a newspaper easily. We couldn't find an appropriate map, but the newsagent said it was an easy run to Ikea. British fans should note that this is a report about visiting Ikea.

On the road at 9 to avoid earlier morning traffic, although we had been up since 6 or so.

Down the road to the Sunshine motorway, then the Gateway Motorway, We even had the right money for the bridge toll. The Pacific Motorway next, where we spotted the road to the Ikea store without problems. Totally amazing navigation performance for us, especially for me as map reader. Jean did the city driving, as she is much less unused to it than I am.

Wasted a fair amount of time looking around the Ikea store. Wandered around hoping for inspiration, and when that failed, got a small gadget each. Jean got some wire bookends, I got a small mirror with an extending mount (which I promptly put in a drawer at home and never mounted), and a yellow umbrella (that I've never used). Somehow the visit didn't seem to be worth the distance we drove. Naturally the Ivar shelves we were particularly seeking were totally out of stock. Try later in the week Ikea staff said, when we eventually found someone who could talk to us.

Had an unsatisfactory lunch nearby at the small mall in the area. Then on the road again, and again we didn't have any navigation problems getting to the Gold Coast. Lots of building lots being sited around artificial waterways, of which there were a maze behind the coastal strip. Mosquito breeding ponds, we decided.

Portobellos (where we had booked over the internet) turned out to be one block away from where we joined the Gold Coast Highway, which was pretty good picking for an apartment we had selected from 1200 km away. It was a comfortable one bedroom unit, with a decent kitchen, dining and living space, and a laundry in a cupboard. It was also within walking distance of the Sizzler, and of the much more pricey Mercure hotel where the online documentation conference was. Jean planned to catch up with editors and friends at the conference, and also hoped to sell some of her new book.

Across the road (and a moat ... or maybe a canal) was a large Pacific Fair shopping complex. I went there once we were settled in. The place was a maze of little streets all connected to a block of strip mall. Very strange. They had dangerous food places, like Royal Copenhagen ice cream, and not only a Darrell Lee chocolates, but also a specialty hand made chocolate store. Eventually I found a Coles food market, and got milk, orange juice and breakfast supplies for our stay.

A late lunch at the Sizzler at the Gold Coast was even cheaper, under A$25 for us both, including a bottle of wine.

After that we pretty much collapsed.

Wednesday 9 April 2003

I went for an early morning walk south along the Gold Coast highway. Discovered a number of unlikely stores, including a Dick Smith and a Jaycar hobby electronics stores (I subsequently discovered it was the only one on that coast), and collected papers including the local Gold Coast Bulletin. This paper reported glowingly on the Joh (former Premier) measure of building industry, namely the number of cranes visible on the horizon (around 24).

During our later beach walk south a stranger greeted Jean. Turned out to be one of the attendees at the conference, now resident in Adelaide, but who recognised Jean.

Starting our laundry was a little late, and the washing machine did not co-operate well, so we were late hanging it out to dry, and thus late getting away. A $10 bus pass was good for all day, and we were very pleased not to be driving in the heavy traffic and down various one way streets in bumper to bumper conditions. The area seemed full of tall, skinny apartment blocks all along the coast. Sort of like The Strip in Las Vegas, except no casinos (well, not entirely true - there is a Jupiters within walking distance). Many small shops, especially surf shops, and a number of major malls and shopping centres.

At Australia Fair mall at Southport we went seeking the Office Works to get them started printing the first few copies of Jean's new Open Office Writer book, to go on sale at the conference the next day. They promised an earlier job than we expected, so we wandered around the Australia Fair area. Found far too many bookshops, and even more irresistible books. I did resist the second hand bookshop.

We quickly managed to find the RACQ and get an accommodation guide for future trips, which eliminated one item from the ToDo list.

I found a cheap digital camera at Retrovision, and Jean got it as a replacement for the failing Kodak DC240 she had been using for the past few years. Another ToDo item removed.

At a book sale I filled my pack with heavy books. That wasn't a ToDo, and Jean disapproved. So did my pack, which promptly had more seams give way. Getting a replacement pack had been on my ToDo list for some time.

Caught up with ANZAPAn Glen Crawford working at Lowes, and we both had a good time talking with him. I guess we hadn't seen him for 15 years or so.

Back up the street to Office Works, where we collected Jean's books all printed. Correct first go, which isn't exactly common. They had phoned Jean just after she put them in, to clarify one point, which was a good sign.

Return to Lowes for photos of Glen, at the suggestion of Jean, who correctly figured I wouldn't remember later. Since the bus leaves from directly outside that wasn't much of a problem.

Bus back to Portobello, where after a while Jean decided she was too tired to go searching for food at an early hour.

I wandered off south to Dick Smith Electronics and Brisbane Car Sound, where I was tempted by many items but managed to resist buying (Just before I left Jean had again asked me where would you put it?) Got a bottle of wine for Jean and a beer for me.

A little later I went out and got a Domino pizza for our dinner. What an exciting event!

Read first few pages of Matthew Reilly novel I'd bought, and decided to get more of his work. Fast paced, exciting. It took a while longer to realise I should have added unbelievable, bereft of all knowledge of physics, and not well written (although acceptable for action novels).

Thursday 10 April 2003

Off first thing in the morning to find office supplies for Jean's day at the Online Documentation Developers conference. We must put together a kit of the things you need at a conference, ready for next time.

Jean had a bunch of her books to take along, so I dragged her little folding wheeled carrier behind me to the Grand Mercure hotel at the Oasis shopping centre. When Jean was settled in at her stand, I wandered around the Oasis, looking at various upmarket shops, and not finding the grotty types of place I find more attractive. Dropped back to the Mercure to make sure Jean had everything she needed for her day of attempting to sell her books.

Back at the Portobello, and then I wandered south until I reached Jaycar. While I was tempted by many of the electronic gadgets, I managed to resist for the moment. Maybe when I have built a few more of the ones I already have parts for.

Checked FS Computing and was impressed by their glass sided computer cases with room for USB and other connectors on the front rather than the rear of the case. I guess it was lucky they didn't have the ones with plumbing connections for the water cooling. They may however have had the neon tubes for making the interior look flashy.

Into Pacific Fair shopping centre, to get lunch, where instead I checked Myer. Naturally it is mostly women's fashions (like most mall stores), but they always have a decent (albeit overpriced) camera and electronics section. Then I found the books. Best sellers at 35% off. Another Matthew Reilly novel, and very helpful staff. Wandering off with these few books I found a table of under $3 novels. Shortly after I was staggering to the nearby Portobello with about another 20 books, where I sat and read while I recovered.

Eventually I stagger back again to Pacific Fair to again attempt to get lunch. Remember my first visit was an attempt to get lunch, and resist temptation to check Myers for more books. I also resist the temptation to have a Royal Coperhagen ice-cream for lunch, and instead get a pie (for lack of a better idea). I should have had the ice cream.

Read books at the Portobello, lose track of time. Rush back to the Mercure to see if Jean needs a hand. She is packing up, so I once again tote the wheeled carrier, with it biting my heels, back to the Portobello.

Then I rush out to go to Australia Fair at Southport on the bus, with more books as a first priority.

Visit Glen Crawford in the Lowes, and as pre-arranged we have dinner during his evening meal break. He seems in fine form, telling me of his script writing ideas. Seems to me if more films were done with story ideas, especially with real stories with real plots, I wouldn't ignore so many movies. I had a wonderful time talking with Glen, and catching up on many years of his life, although I guess no summary of the conversation would do it justice.

More book shopping after dinner, for the rest of the Matthew Reilly novels, which turned out to be a mistake. They were glib and fast paced, but reading them was like making a main meal of plain popcorn without butter or salt. Easy to gulp down, but not satisfying.

A long wait for a bus in the rain, and it is hard to see where we are in the dark. Eventually get there, although I have to get out at Pacific Fair and walk through that mall.

Back at the Portobello, it turns out that the new digital camera went missing, probably while Jean had it at the conference. She had managed to get a photo of one of the people from her net conversations, so this was doubly disappointing.

Friday 11 April 2003

Raining. Jean returned to the Mercure and sought the camera, in case it had been mispacked. No luck.

We planned a late start, around 9 a.m., so as to miss some of the expected peak hour traffic.

Drive towards home. I was very tired for some reason, even before we left. We managed to get to Ikea without trouble, and discovered the shelves we wanted were in stock. However there must have been an instant rush for them as again the shelves we wanted were in short supply. There were two (which we grabbed) but we couldn't get the half dozen we wanted. Stock had come in since the Monday we were first there, and all disappeared by the Friday.

A terrible traffic jam around 11 near the airport as road is built, reminding us more reasons to avoid cities.

Rain, not heavy, but overcast and dull. I kept feeling sleepy.

Service Centre food, where Jean got lots of unhealthy KFC. She never does that at home. I had a McDonalds cheese and tomato sandwich, and begged chicken from Jean.

We just couldn't stay awake long enough to drive a long distance. We stopped at the Avocado Motel at Childers, which was a little strange. Overlooked an avocado orchard and had a pretty outlook.

I eventually recovered somewhat and wandered into town, which was a decent distance to walk. Managed to get milk and fruit, but not much else, so we ate dried fruits, biscuits and cheese for dinner. The motel had a food service, but we didn't feel like a full meal.

Saturday 12 April 2003

Driving all morning from Childers starting at 8 a.m. Apple slices and a newspaper at Gin Gin, which looked a good spot to stop on future trips, as there were more motels and facilities than we remembered. Very peaceful on the road. Saw another two bicyclists. I was noting bicyclists so I could mention them to a fan planning a bicycle trip.

Arrived at Rockhampton and stopped as usual at Ambassador motel just after midday. No more real stopping points until Mackay, and we didn't feel up to driving all the way home that afternoon. Went to the mall and had a Sizzler lunch around 1:30. Checked the cinemas (uninspiring) and the mall (nothing we wanted, and the shops were rolling up the sidewalks early). We mostly collapsed and read the papers and our novels. Didn't even try to connect with our computers.

Sunday 13 April 2003

Didn't sleep well. Jean says we will try to take the old highway from Marlborough to Sarina, to see what it is like. We couldn't even find where the old road turnoff had gone, although the road does still exist. We arrived home mid afternoon, I believe.

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Gold Coast Attractions

What did the Gold Coast have that Airlie didn't? The obvious ones were numerous major shopping malls, and several cinema complexes. More crowding, more traffic, more ugly high rise buildings. The big film studio related complex plus Dreamworld, plus trained sea animals at Sea World. I get the impression a lot of families visit to see this sort of stuff.

Nearby was a winery, which wouldn't suit our more tropical climate. A brewery, with tours. Some DUWKs, the amphibious touring gadgets, which I could see being handy for beach and canal tours. Several shooting ranges, so overseas tourists could try their hand - I know some people would have liked to do that, from countries where guns are uncommon. Ripley's Believe it or not, which I guess is sort of a museum. A traditional wax museum.

It was an interesting place to visit, but I couldn't see it as being high on my list for either living or visiting repeatedly. Building prices seemed way out of proportion for the rentals that could be demanded, if our figures were any guide. To me, that indicates an oversupply, and lots of optimism about capital gains.

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Eagle's niche

Gold Coast entrepreneur Paul Mander supplies wedge tailed eagles to deter ibis, corellas and other pest species of birds from moving onto golf courses and wetlands. Just fly the two and half metre wingspan wedge tail eagle around a bit, and the pests leave. Now that it is a protected species in all states, numbers of our largest bird of prey are increasing. Soren, the eagle, was also on a five week contract to remove ibis from central Brisbane.


Selling off the power stations in Australia to private enterprise fits in with trends to privatise former inefficient government enterprises, in search of lower costs, and also provides extra money for governments to waste. Consumer prices are indeed lower now. Average retail prices in 1993 were 13.12c/kWh, whereas in 2002 they were 12.53c/kWh including GST, a fall of 4.5%. Employment in electricity has fallen from 83,000 in mid 1990's to 33,000 in 2002. Despite this, in Victoria the five distributors improved outage time from 86 minutes to 65 minutes a year. Industry has done even better, negotiating rates down from 4c/kWh to 2c/kWh. This has contributed perhaps $1.5B a year to the wider economy, however if reform is continued, could rise to $2.4B a year within ten years, according to the Warwick Parer Energy Market Review report.

In Victoria, the government raised $32B selling off electricity and gas infrastructure. US companies were precluded from taking a position in their domestic rivals, and looked overseas for expansion. It appears they may have collectively lost $10B, and as a result of problems at home are attempting to sell overseas infrastructure if they can get suitable bids.

Despite not gaining ACCC approval, AGL has gained Victorian Government approval to bid for the Loy Yang power station. They are bidding A$3.5 billion the station including the mine. The station cost the current owners $4.85 billion in 1997 when it was privatised. One US joint owner CMS has already written down its half ownership to zero. Everyone seems pretty certain that if the sale fails, Loy Yong will go into receivership, and may go off the grid. It has $3 billion in debt, and the current owners owe a half billion repayment in the next few months. I hardly need to mention anything about the effect of a 2000 megawatt base load station going off the Victorian grid. I'm glad I live a long way away, in a warm climate.

In Queensland, annual residential growth can be up to 15%, and investment in generation capacity is not matching this. Both Queensland and NSW still have government owned systems, which are cross subsidised. Neither Labor government are likely to sell as residential rates would rise. The private plants are not getting a sufficient return on investment to justify new plant investment, so sooner or later we run out of sufficient power and get brownouts. Also, you need to invest in plants a long time ahead of needs, as plants take a long time to build.

Zero Volts

Must have had a good few months. Thursday 3 July 2003, 8:48 p.m. Half second

Lawyers and Profits

It is harder to use mass production methods in service industries. Top law firms in Australia have been following world trends, with the top 25% employing 2.5 lawyers per partner a decade ago, against up to 7 per partner now. Profits for the top firms have doubled, against static profits in the bottom 25% of law firms using traditional structures. Partner profits in the top firms have jumped from $360,000 to $700,000 although fees per hour have gone up only 40%. Partners are spending time managing employed lawyers and paralegals, rather than increasing their own billable hours. Billable hours per worker have been static at around 1300 to 1400 hours a year, much as it was a decade ago. Net fees per solicitor have been static at $55,000, while the cost of employing solicitors have risen from $56,000 to $90,000 which cancels the increased legal charges. Productivity per employee basically hasn't risen, according to the survey, leaving one to wonder about the validity of some of the figures. Gadens in Melbourne has one partner and 100 paralegals in its mortgage processing business, for example. Figures from a survey by FRMC Legal.

Pay TV and Free to Air

There are claims Foxtel's digital pay TV launch will bring 120 channels to a small portion of the Australian population in 2004. However advertising is still flat for pay TV, being a mere A$95 million in 2002, against an estimated A$2.2 billion for free to air. Foxtel is reported to have lost A$1 billion since it was formed in 1995.

In the USA, cable TV is reported to have overtaken the commercial networks in viewer numbers this year. However advertising changes via the free networks is still three times that of the cable networks, which like Australia get most of their money from subscriptions. What a surprise that people who pay for their TV are not happy about being subject to advertising!

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SF Books

Best book dedication I've seen this year, from Nancy Kress. To Charles Sheffield, founder, The Charitable Foundation for the Promotion of Scientific Literacy Among People Purporting to Be Science Fiction writers.

Genesis II by Paul Adam

Little Brown, 2001, 426pp, ISBN 0316857475

Militant ecological protestors used as a cover to steal secrets from a biotech company. However the company will do anything to recover its secrets, and to hide a problem it had in India. When a new version of influenza crosses species lines, it became a race to control the new version before it escapes a limited area and gets into the general population. Right up to date on the problems of disease control with a mobile population.

Gridlinked by Neal Asher

Pan, 2001, 522pp, ISBN 0330484338

Fast paced SF thriller set in a 25th century of matter transmission controlled by runcible AIs. Ian Cormac is gridlinked to the runcible AIs that run all the worlds, all their knowledge, advice and commands a thought away. He destroys troublemakers and rebels, but has been gridlinked far too long to remain really human, and has to unlink. Now he is hunted by another gridlinked criminal, seeking revenge for the death of his sister. However when two eons old godlike alien beings clash, and a newly terraformed planetary system is destroyed by a transmission accident, perhaps Cormac is the right person to handle the situation. But is he working for himself, for the human race, for the AIs, or for one of the alien gods?

Vitals by Greg Bear

Ballantine Books, April 2003, 396pp, ISBN 0345423348

Scientist seeking immortality via studies of ancient protobacteria finds not only is his twin brother ahead of him in this race, but an entire secret and resourceful group are using bacterial controls to run the world. Like his dead brother, he is now a target. Fast paced thriller, with entirely too many bits of hard science underlying some of it for comfort.

The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold

Harper, Oct 2002, 502pp, US$7.99 ISBN 0380818604

Betrayed by powerful rulers, Cazaril returns to a household he once served. There he is named tutor to the strong willed sister to the heir to the throne. However there are plots and intrigue when they finally have to visit the court. Well drawn characters help make this a strong story, despite not being to my taste.

Diplomatic Immunity by Lois McMaster Bujold

Baen, June 2003, 367pp, US$7.99 ISBN 0743436121

Miles Vorkosigan plan on returning home to watch the decanting of their children, but Gregor has other ideas. A little job, to get a Komarran merchant fleet out of Quaddiespace, while retaining port rights, and at the lowest cost of course. Diplomatic problems are only part of it, with biotech weapons involved. Some very neat bits about genetic manipulation, all without lectures. Usual plot within plot and detective work. Bujold is a fine writer, and doesn't let you down.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Headline, 1999, 280pp, ISBN 0747263698

Charming fairy tale for adults, set on the cusp between Victorian England and faery, about a youth who sets out to find his Heart's Desire. Not to my taste, but very well done.

White Wolf by David Gemmell

Bantam, April 2003, 428pp, TPB A$32.95 ISBN 0593044568

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.

Gravity by Tess Gerritsen

Harper Collins, 2000, 342pp, ISBN 000651308

Very much along the lines of The Andromeda Strain or Hot Zone. A research sample on the ISS goes badly out of control, with the organism proving more deadly than ebola, and threatening everyone on the space station. Very good medical background, and lots of detailed research evident in the low earth orbit space material, as medical researchers attempt to understand how the organism came to exist, while NASA and the US Army each work towards their own different agendas. Nicely done SF from a mainstream writer.

Crescent City Rhapsody by Kathleen Ann Goonan

Eos, July 2002, 526pp, US$7.50 ISBN 038080350X

Set at the start of a nanotech revolution that changes the face of the world, as a powerful broadcast from space makes many electronic technologies fail, and changes many people. Lots of characters, freewheeling ideas, lots of things happening. An interesting read, let down slightly by some flawed ideas about technology.

A Caress of Twilight by Laurell K Hamilton

Bantam (Random House), April 2003, 441pp, A$19.95 ISBN 0553813846

Contemporary erotic detective fantasy.

Emergence by Ray Hammond

Pan, 2002, 597pp, ISBN 0330485954

Near future society with a global corporation controlling much of the communication and biotech infrastructure. Thomas Tye is the world's richest man, with his own personal island country, his talented son is the first viable human clone, and his inner circle have the promise of extended longevity in sight. Climate manipulation is well within reach, as is AI, and the Tye corporation is beyond the control of even the largest countries. Mostly a thriller, as Tye's security chief becomes aware of the threat Tye may be to his own country, and as a journalist prepares a book exposing Tye's hidden past. The author has written several books on future trends, and has some very neat bits of futureology included, however on the first page, setting out what will become a critical plot point involving cryptology, shows he does not actually understand what a prime number is. This tends to make one somewhat suspicious of the technical quality of the rest of what is actually a reasonable readable novel.

Probability Sun by Nancy Kress

Tor, Feb 2003, 351pp, US$6.99 ISBN 076534355X

Sequel to Probability Planet. The military want, and will take, the second strange alien artifact, when after it becomes clear this will destroy the shared reality that sustains the entire social system of World. The military see themselves as having no choice, as they are losing the war with the homicidal Fallers, and this can defend against the equivalent Faller weapon (or itself destroy the Faller world). Very well done account of interference in another culture, of competent characters manipulating others, and of the nature of doing what you believe has to be done, regardless of consequences. Parallels can well be drawn with recent events, as I'm sure is intended.

The Collapsium by Wil McCarthy

Gollancz, 2000, 325pp, ISBN 0575068930

Bruno invented collapsium, miniature black holes vital to matter transmission and information flows throughout the solar system. The programmable wellstone is the basis for most material constructions within the system. His rival, Marlon, engineers a collapsium ring around the sun, designed to bring even more prosperity. However the ring is sabotaged, and the entire system is at risk. Set of stories, manipulated into a novel. Some very interesting ideas of future physics, set in tales that are just like the old super science stories.

Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan

Gollancz, 2002, 534pp, UK6.99 ISBN 057507390X

A wonderful first novel. Your memories are stored in a capsule buried in your neck. Provided it isn't destroyed, you can be revived after accident or murder. If you are rich, you organise multiple backups, clone bodies, feeds to orbital storage. So just how can such a person be murdered? The only answer is that it was suicide, but what could make a person suicide, knowing they would be revived having lost at most 24 hours of their memories? If you are rich enough, you hire someone to find out. Cyberpunk express and hard boiled detective action all the way. Be real interesting to see a second novel.

Revelation by Bill Napier

Headline, 2000, 471pp, ISBN 0747259941

Will nuclear weapons ignite the atmosphere? It didn't happen, but the risk made one 1950's atom scientist take a different path that might release the zero point energy. However that scientist is dead, his plane lost fleeing to Russia long ago. When the plane is found in a glacier, several groups race to recover his papers. One group would destroy the world. One simply wants to understand what happened. More of a mystery than SF, but the plot is heavily based on reactions to scientific discovery. Nice thriller, with a heap of twists.

Dark as Day by Charles Sheffield

Tor, April 2003, 479pp, US$7.99 A$19.95 ISBN 0812580311

Takes us back to the world of Rustum Battachariya, Great War weapons collector, and as Megachirops, a Master of the Puzzle Network. The background is a large scale, well funded SETI project, run as two fiefdoms by rival brothers. If something is received, who better to unravel a puzzle? Meanwhile, predicting the future works better is you have massive computing power for your models, and when all the computers in the solar system are joined, that is large enough for very good models indeed. The trouble is, the first run predicts the inevitable end of the human race within a few generations. Wonderfully tangled and involved plot. I shall miss Sheffield's fine work.

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Emails and Letters

Taral Wayne

Do you actually publish anymore or is Geg only on-line? {{Essential online. The fanzine is written directly in HTML using a text editor. I run paper copies through various apas, FLAP, FAPA, ANZAPA, when the size (page count) is appropriate, plus I feel I can afford to do paper copies (photocopy costs have doubled), and have the time to handle the conversion to a printable Postscript format. However I'd guess when some critical element (like the 7 year old printer) dies in the path to paper version, then I won't replace it, and that will end my production of paper (and PDF) versions. EL}}

I'm not asking for a hardcopy, mind you. I'm out of the collecting business, following the sale of my fanzines that's in the works. I'm trying to be ruthless, but it is hard. There's no question of transferring ownership of zines I have material in, or runs of zines that I'm heavily represented in if not necessarily in every issue. And there are zines done by close friends, or that I particularly like. After the first pass through, I was left with about 40% of the material -- much too much. So I'm having to go through it again, and be more ruthless.

I'm also not reading a lot of what comes in the mail, unless it has a personal connection. At one time it was very exciting to read about a virtual stranger visiting some other virtual strangers in a part of the country I've never been to, but these days I'd rather read a book about total strangers etc. Strange when you think about it...

Neil Kaden

Thu, 9 Jan 2003

Enjoyed R F Nelson's reposte of your past Geg editorial. But frankly, Californians are noted for doing things not for economic or business reasons, but for populist reasons that boggle the mind. Note for example California's electricity "deregulation" that put many energy producers out of business, cost the state a bundle, and resulted in a summer of brown-outs as bad as parts of India. Even worse, California governments fix things in ways that make things worse -- to balance an overextended budget LA police just announced (to the crooks) that they will no longer respond when burglar alarms go off ("Gee whiz, it's only a house really being robbed 20 percent of the time."). {{Surely standard office politics? If you haven't the budget to keep everything, cut critical programs first to force a bigger budget. Don't ever cut the fat from an old organisation. EL}}

ConV: Sounds like Aussie airlines are not as accommodating as US ones are -- when one of ours messes up they usually shower you with $100-400 travel vouchers (and a first class seat on the next flight when they overbook), or thousands of air miles when you write to complain about something -- you guys got "a free meal." TNSTAAFM Metal in shoes? When even my sneakers and rivets in my jeans set things off, I've resigned myself to wearing boots and taking them off, and getting the pat-down -- just allow for an extra 5 minutes to check in. Sorry the 7/11 was disappointing, tho -- another example of Texas cultural imperialism. Guess Vodaphone got more points on this trip.

ABRelaxacon: made me think of years back staying a nite at your Blue Mountain digs, surrounded by friendly fen, and "walking the back boundary" -- in some ways that visit led my to my own semi-rural home (CircleNK) and my keeping much of the surrounding acre wild and woodsy. {{Meanwhile, we now live in a tourist resort. Bit of a change. EL}}

INConnects: DSL and cable/wireless broadband redefined the value equation for internet access in the population, and "jumped the chasm" to fuel current growth (in the US 60% of the population is now on-line). But even these technologies have big costs ("truck-rolls"), and with the bursting of the "internet bubble" you can no longer get away (not for long) with selling such services for a loss ("making it up in volume and stock options"). Growth will not resume until the price/performance curve moves dramatically once again.

CyberTerrorism: it's gotten so bad that SPAM is now more than 30% of all internet traffic -- just think of the billions of lost productivity. And yet federal industry resources are leaving it up to free-downloads or a few pay-commercial sites to combat spam -- while paying the expensive lawyers and complex laws and supreme court appeals to keep people who paid for the right to enjoy content on DVDs and CDs from copying that content to their disk drives or making copies so little junior doesn't scratch the original.

Jim Caughran

Thu, 23 Jan 2003

Lifted a line from Ray Nelson's note: You go on to maintain that "multiculturalism is a total failure in every country that has large mixed populations."

Speaking from the most culturally diverse city in the world (yes, really), multiculturalism has done reasonably well in Canada. There are three major historical cultures (native, or Amerind and Innu, Quebecois, and English Canadian), but vastly more immigrant diversity. The official philosophy is to preserve various cultures within the `Canadian mosaic'. There seems to be more friction among the three original cultures than with immigrants, but there's only occasional real trouble there.

The US has taken the stance of intolerance toward anything different, which you might call assimilation. This has not worked; the US is a battleground and may soon lose such diversities as difference of opinion. (But the pending US police state is another discussion.)

Even Quebec nationalists, if honest, realize that if Quebec were independent, it'd be culturally swallowed by the US and lose its identity much faster.

Canada's immigration has favoured the educated and well off, though it has been more accommodating to refugees than most countries. Immigrants generally do well. The provinces may not adapt as well as the Feds; there are rumoured to be a lot of qualified medical doctors driving taxis in Toronto.

I live in a largely Greek neighbourhood, not far from a Muslim-Arab area, reasonably close to Little India. Toronto's second language is Cantonese. People I see represent the entire world.

It works.

Getting ready to leave Sunday for Sydney. It takes three days to get there, but we get back in only 4 hours and we even get to Los Angeles before we leave Sydney! Will be in Queensland in a couple of weeks, and we'll call you from there.

{{This LoC was written using MS Word, and sent as email either from Word or via Outlook as XML. There were some very constructive typos included when I cut and pasted it here, including sections of text that had obviously been deleted (tagged not to display). I hope I have restored to what Jim intended to write, rather than what the software delivered. We did indeed get to have a pleasant visit when they were staying here in Airlie. EL}

Richard E Geis

Fri, 10 Jan 2003

Gotta say it, Eric; I like you, respect you, honor you, but... I'm just not 'into' personal travelogues at this time in my life. {{I never did think my content would be right for everyone. I suspect more people are indifferent to my travel notes than like them, so I try to make it easy to skip elsewhere in the zine. EL}}

Currently, I'm questioning the value of writing stories for; have four issues of Taboo SF in the site, am writing a serial sf novel, and haven't gotten any feedback at all. Like dropping a diamond into a well; a very very deep well, since I never even hear the splash.

So, after stupidly losing three chapters of the novel into the trash bin and then into nothingness - wrong buttonitis! - I am thinking of reverting to my boyhood love of drawing. I'm not really good at drawing, but at least there is a sense of accomplishment and a tangible artifact. Electrons are the opposite - the essence of temporary and subject to power loss and idiocy. Words on paper are not even pretty. They have to be read. And nowadays even free words go begging for readers.

So fuck it.

Now that I've dumped on you, my apologies for any depression I may have engendered. But given the world today, I can't expect to affect anyone no matter what I write. GRUMP! {{I was sorry to note you being depressed about your impact on the world. Can only wish you well. EL}}

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Pamela Boal

Thu, 13 Feb 2003

How good to hear from you again, believe it or not the very day these three issues plopped through my letter box I had planned to e-mail you to ask if Jean and yourself were well and had enjoyed your last trip.

Working backwards. 94, as I knew I would, I greatly enjoyed traveling with you via your writings. Here's a thought, I wonder if there are any points of similarity what so ever between Croydon Australia and Croydon England. Spare parts and modification problems so familiar to us even if it is for us a boat not a land vehicle. Free swimming pool that's something one would never find in this country. What is a barra burger and a yowie burger? {{A barra burger is a fish hamburger, with the fish being barramundi. This is a light tasting, freshwater tropical game fish, freely stocked in many dams here. A Yowie is an ape-like human believed by some to roam parts of Australia, similar to a yeti. From Yuwaalarraay aboriginal term yuwi, or dream spirit. A Yowie burger is a considerably more than giant hamburger. EL}}

The travel bug has long since ceased to bite me even in my own country but if it ever did again it would take me to Airlie Beach when a Relaxacon was being held.

92. I'm in tune with most of your rants (that goes for 93 as well) though when it comes to Past Life and Future Promise, tread carefully Eric for you tread on my childhood home. In fact our first married quarters in the 50s had electric lights but back to back coal range for cooking on (the coal fire in the living room heated the cooker in the kitchen) flat irons and copper boiler (heated by coal) for laundry. Unless you have an industrial strength vacuum a fitted carpet holds far more dirt and dust than a polished or scrubbed floor does and mats were vigorously shaken and beaten every day. True it was hard work but I can assure you cotton shirts, sheets, petticoats (not that people wear those today) all came up much cleaner and whites in particular kept their freshness far longer than any synthetic material. They also lasted longer despite the rough treatment of boiling. Local fresh produce has a far better flavour than the supermarket offering of today. If you wanted fruit out of season bottled fruit has to my tongue a better flavour than frozen. Fresh vegetables in season are superior to out of season stuff that has limped its way around the world. Pity is it costs more now and I'm as lazy as the next person not prepared to shop every day. Sad when a fresh baked crispy loaf becomes an occasional treat though.

Yes industrial centres could not be supplied by alternative energy. I do think it could cover most domestic use, at least in towns and villages. Our children cover all their electrical needs (that includes fridge, hot shower, TV, radio) with just two modestly sized solar panels. Even in cloudy old Britain they have only had to top up their batteries by other means on three occasions this year. {{I am utterly astonished at anyone getting that much performance from solar panels. EL}}

Thanks for all three editions much appreciated.

Craig Hilton

Thu, 27 Mar 2003

I've just had a look at Gegenschein. It's a nice feeling to remind my self of the environs of Airlie Beach. I hope you and Jean are doing well. Life here in Melbourne is mostly work and leisure events, so I've really fallen out of the habit of writing, drawing and even looking at the e-mail. It's my late morning, so I'm taking an hour on the net to catch up with things. A brief catch up is all that I can manage.

I'm working in a group practice in Brighton, a suburb in one of the long-established bayside regions. My keyboard skills are improving quite well, with the use of computerised notes. (These have their upside and their down.)

Hope to bump into you again sometime. I apologise in advance for my next late reply.

Please note the new e-mail address. Mail to previous address is forwarded. docrat at bigpond com au

Michael O'Brien

re your comment about short SF reviews ...

gee, I'd actually like to see more short SF books reviewed! I find at my age I don't have the patience to read a trilogy of three 600-page novels anymore....

The local press last month featured a schoolgirl who finished reading the new Harry Potter book the day she got it - and that wasn't till 11:30 a.m.! I guess I might have been able to do it at her age, but it's taken me most of the last fortnight to get through A. Merritt's The Moon Pool...

Taral Wayne

Substitute "life" for the word "fanzine".... and aren't we all?

These days I prefer to sort, date, and identify Roman coins than loc fanzines.

Since Torcon pretty much refuses to use anything of my art, I've added some odds and ends. {{And very attractive the jpgs were too. I was likewise impressed by the images from your coin collection. EL}}

Terry Pratchett


"The publishers claim it is a Discworld book. It isn't (although the witches put in a late appearance to support that claim)."

*I* claim it is a Discworld book. Are you calling me a liar?


I am very happy to pay for cable TV - Foxtel -as free-to-air TV in Melbourne is worse than crap. Apart from most program on the non- government stations running 10 mins to an hour after advertised times, TV advertisements drive me spare! On cable, I know they come at 15 mins breaks so I can mute the TV and go an do something for 2-3 mins. To access National Geographic and the Discovery Channel and keep my sanity is worth the money each month I pay for cable. As a voice-chaser, I get to see the animations/cartoons (admittedly some are awful) that would never see the light of day on free-to-air.

We all, of course, view things in our lives differently. To me, my internet connection and my cable TV are my essentials in life!

Lyn McConchie

Sigh, ever since my hard drive crashed late last year I haven't been able to get into websites, although e-mail is fine. But Sharman is due in a week or two and maybe we can fix the problem then.

Lloyd Penney

I've saved the Gegenschein 95 webpage to my desktop so I can read and write at the same time. Geg 95 and my Word document get half a screen each. Now to see if my final product is any good.

So, the mobile home is gone, and Jean is driving a Subaru - we've had a Suzuki Esteem station wagon for five years now, and it's gotten us to two Worldcons, and of course, a third one downtown in less than two months.

Australia ranks 16th out of 17 countries when it comes to spending on public broadcasting? I wouldn't be surprised if Canada was no. 17. I think the CBC should get more funding, seeing it's been steadily cut for years, and then gets criticized for not producing more domestic programming. I've listened to Radio Australia via the Internet, and I liked what I heard, but I often listen to BBC Radio 2.

We've got our obscene prices as well. I refuse to pay for A Name on what I might want to wear, and I'm a little better off for having a little common consumer sense. This especially goes for expensive computer equipment - I've had that Palm m100 I mentioned for 3.5 years now, and it does me just fine, thank you, in spite of some people with high-powered PDAs and thin wallets laughing at it. I'll upgrade when it's necessary, and not before.

These days, the only time I'm going to the United States is when I go to that convention in Niagara Falls, New York, Eeriecon, whose hotel is literally a few steps away from the bridge across the river. As said in a previous loc, we show the guard our birth certificates, our passports (not really needed, but couldn't hurt), the convention flyer and a printout of the e-mail with our confirmation number. We have never had a hard time at the border - the guards there don't like all these restrictions, either. In my first letter, I said that the US dollar was worth Can$1.60. That's now about Can$1.33, so now US dollars are much cheaper to buy. Still expensive, but now not exorbitant.

The bounced e-mail files - Benoit Girard has disappeared for so long, but Torcon housing liaison Murray Moore has revealed that Benoit has resurfaced to take a room for Torcon. It will be a pleasure to see him again. Hugh Gregory is still in Vancouver, but I don't have e-mail for him.

Time to fold - it's getting late for me. Take care, and see you next issue.

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Gregory Benford

30 Jun 2003

Good Geg!--tho problems with line spacing again. Eye exercisers, I think of them. {{I'll eventually borrow a Mac with AOL, and figure out what the layout problem is with their browser (or find a way to disable CSS, like I do with Netscape 4). EL}}

I've been doing ideas for ENTERPRISE, and my Trek adventures continue at Paramount. The show is even more chaotic and befuddled than you'd guess.

I was in Seattle 3 weeks ago, but had no time to get in touch with fans; I was there to have dinner with Paul Allen. Not just me, of course, the whole board for the SFX, SF EXperience museum Allen's funding to the tune of $20 million. Dinner was in Allen's own restaurant, and he proved to be your standard technonerd with $20 billion. Greg Bear's the Board Chairman and Brin and I are on the board, with Mike Whelan, Tim Kirk, and assorted scientific and museum types.

Larry Krauss of Physics of Star Trek is among them. He knows nothing of sf and indeed had never watched Trek when he proposed the book, to make money. He now writes about the science/sf boundary for NYTimes etc and knows little about it. Though he is a good physicist. He played dog in manger, maintaining that scientists didn't get ideas from sf. I countered with a half dozen examples and Krauss answered "Anecdotal Evidence", so I said, "That's what we call data ", getting a laugh.

SFX opens next summer so there's lots to be done, especially fitting it into the museum of pop music that's already in the same Frank Geary building right next to the space needle.

We'll make a distinction between sf and scifi, too...

See you next year at Brisbane! {{I suspect you mean Canberra. The SFX sounds like a wonderful idea, especially given the nature of those assisting the project, and I look forward to more news of how it is going. EL}}

Stephen Thompson

Mon, 30 Jun 2003

Thanks for fanzine. It was quite a surprise to receive it, but a pleasant one all the same.

I should put you on my mailing list to receive Visions. I presume you know Vision writers from your association with Erika and perhaps you are even on the Vision Yahoo list - there's been so many new people joining it's hard to keep track.

Have you seen the Visions fanzine? You aren't on my subscription list (as far as I'm aware - at least a quick browse didn't turn up your name) so perhaps I can send you the latest issue. You may have got it from other sources so I'll wait for your reply before sending something - it's a 12 page pdf email attachment. It used to be the Vision writers' newsletter but I'm trying to turn it into something far more relevant to all sf readers and writers in Oz. {{And a very nice piece of PDF it is too, with the design suited to on screen display, unlike so much PDF. EL}}

There's a lot of things happening on the sf writing scene in Brisbane at the moment - Clarion South, EnVision, Fantastic Queensland. Was it you who organised Relaxacon? Is that where I know your name from? I can't recall what the outcome of that was, but I remember wishing I was in a position to go. You're probably much more famous than that in sf circles, but I don't get out much. Actually, I'm fairly new to the sf scene so forgive me if I'm doing you a dis-service. If you are interested in cons, Fantastic Queensland has been discussing a convention plan for Brisbane/Queensland. You might be interested in what is going on there.

Anyway, good to make contact with you. Hope to meet up with you one day. And let me know if you'd like to get the Visions newszine

Cheryl Morgan

Here's one for your collection of things to rant about.

Kevin and I travel by air a lot (won't let either terrorists or Shrub drive us away). Consequently we have got pretty good at working our way through the security screening. Yet on our way to Wiscon this year Kevin got buzzed by the metal detector. We were completely bemused. The security guy gives him the once over with the magic wand and waves us through. It being late at night and there being no one else around we asked if he knew what Kevin had done wrong. "Probably nothing", he says, "there's a service road under here. If a truck goes past as you are walking through it will set off the detector."

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Ned Brooks

Site came up fine on my old Netscape 4.8, though for some reason an empty inch wider than the monitor. I am increasingly forced to use IE for sites that the Netscape sees badly or not at all.

I have not tried to twiddle the DVD player so it can watch other Regions - the only DVD I had from outside Region 1 was British and marked "Region 0". And the player would try, but of course the result was unwatchable because it was also PAL and I have only an NTSC television set. This was THE STONE TAPE, a Nigel Kneale production. Finally a local video guru made me an NTSC copy on VHS, worked fine.

I'm not sure about digital TV either - at the normal viewing distance, in my case about 10 feet, would you really see much more. I view the PC monitor at about 1 foot using glasses made to the prescription for the bottom half of my bifocals - I would notice lack of resolution there! But with a dial-up modem I am seldom watching moving images, and I'm not sure that I would want to.

As to the number of channels, more gives the illusion that there might actually be something worth watching anyway. I don't have cable and the broadcast signal is worthless, but I watch at my mother's house. There are 146 channels in the service that we pay some $100/month for - and quite often nothing to watch.

Who pays $440 for jeans or $100 for playing cards? I never wore jeans, I don't like them - and wash and wear pants have gone up but nothing like that! Playing cards are dead cheap in the variety stores, you could buy a lifetime supply for $100 even if you were a heavy user. Do these prices represent anything real in the economy or just fashions for the very rich?

Seems like it rained here every day through our very wet spring. So far the summer has been pretty rainy too.

Apparently we have "sky marshals" on some flights here - no one knows which or how many because it is all kept secret. There was a story lately that in the rush to hire such people they got some that should not have been allowed to handle loaded weapons at all, much less on an airplane. {{I was delighted to note an interview here with the local managing director of Emirates, who mentioned that they had spent a lot of time ensuring guns didn't get on their aircraft, and were not going to change to deliberately put guns on board with air marshalls. EL}}

I had frequent power outages here in 1998-2001, but something has been fixed and in spite of the numerous thunderstorms this spring I have not lost power. My mother's house lost power for most of an hour recently, we never heard why. It wasn't the weather. I gave her one of those Coleman lamps with the two big 6-volt batteries in the base and the fluorescent tubes - I've used one for years on two sets of batteries.

You get through a lot more books than I do - I never even heard of most of those authors. The only really great think I have read lately is THE TELLING by LeGuin, and I almost gave up on that as the first 30 pages are utter drivel.

I was joking of course about a solar-powered ground-effect machine. Hard to see how there could be any low-energy way to get around on bad terrain faster than a horse can go - the situation is inherently inefficient. The screwballs over in Atlanta are apparently planning to bring back electric trolleys - including the tracks. Why bear the expense of track-laying? Is there any advantage over a rubber-tired vehicle driven by power from overhead wires? Even solid rubber tires would be quieter and give a better ride than steel wheels on steel tracks. They say these things will only go 15 mph, so I can't imaging the energy lost in tire-flexing would pay for the tracks.

I still hope to get IT GOES ON THE SHELF 25 out by the end of the year. If you are no longer keeping paper, should I drop you from the mailing list? I generally get the cyber-version up before the paper copies are delivered, but I haven't organized a mass email emission to say that it is up. {{Electronic versions of all paper products are fine by me, and links to a web presence even better. I have no storage space, and I'm no longer a collector. EL}}

Bill Burns

Thanks, Eric, I updated the G link from, also made sure the DUFF info there is correct.

Can't you buy a PC without an OS from *anyone* in Australia? Here, I buy machines from Dell all the time without OS so I can install Linux; many other suppliers offer bare-bones or component systems where you specify exactly what you want, hardware and software.

Gordon Lingard

Thanks for the Geg link Eric. Twas fun and interesting to read as usual. Especially your rants.

Jeanne Mealy

I greatly enjoyed reading Geg. 95. Hmmm, looks like I'd better look again. I don't remember anything about third eyes.

We're in some tropical weather for a few days, bleah. Thank heavens for AC.

I've been sick since June 18th. Got checked for strep a week ago Monday, but it was negative. The fever was gone by then. I talked with my doctor yesterday, and he prescribed a 10-day course of an antibiotic. Hope it does the trick. The current symptoms are a congested-feeling throat, swollen left lymph node, and fatigue. {{I blame a lack of tropical weather ... EL}}

I tried to carry on with a temp job while sick with the previous virus, but never did like the work and didn't do it well. I was let go with less than an hour's notice. At that point, I was more relieved than alarmed. I'll miss a few of the people and the paychecks, but NOT the work. It required use of my weaker skills, and I didn't get good enough to be kept on.

I'm looking forward to CONvergence this weekend -- a local media-oriented con.

Ah, I see that I somehow skipped part of your zine. Now I understand the reference to third eyes -- more of your sly humor. How is Jean's vision these days? I was quite excited when you said her recovery seemed quicker and better.

I enjoyed hearing about your Brisbane trip. You write up so many details, I feel like I'm ambling around with you!

I'm tempted to get you both "Shop 'til I drop!" t-shirts.

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Laurraine Tutihasi

Lloyd Penney will be happy to know I ordered a copy of FEARS FOR EARS. I hope the transaction goes okay, as I've never used Paypal to by anything before.

The Canada Day mention I made was last year. I don't recall noticing what was happening this year. Undoubtedly one of the reasons for our attention to it is because we have a Canadian Consulate in Los Angeles. This year I am always happy when something other than Iraq is being discussed.

Ken Ozanne mentions a coolroom. What is a coolroom? Is it something like a wine cellar?

I'm so glad we have cable modem. I have an AOL account, but I hate using it to go to web sites. It is very slow, and there are frequent problems. All e-mail that contains links that don't display URLs has been diverted to my account. My primary web browser currently is Safari, which is the new browser developed by Apple. My secondary is Mozilla. Internet Explorer is my third backup; some sites only work properly there. The other AOL problem is the HTML encoding, which you can't turn off. Some of my e-mail recipients block e-mail containing HTML. I use Entourage for my account, and I have it set to send out only text. I can receive HTML just fine, but I only send out text except as attachments.

AOL'S standard browser used to be Internet Explorer or Netscape. I don't know what's currently being used. In either case, though, they don't use the full version of the browser. I think that's the problem.

Araldite sounds like what we call epoxy.

Your zine looks fine on Safari. I don't remember ever having any problems viewing any of your zines.

Ken Ozanne

We shall be off round the world again. It's a hard life, but somebody has to do it.

I saw Keith Curtis for the first time in years a few months back.

I see a bit of Dave Stirrup lately - he is just in the throes of moving and has borrowed my van for a couple of weeks. I think I had told you that I bought the van for my move here and ended up bringing 53 vanloads of stuff. Never again!

Lucy Sussex

I'll be in Brisbane end of this week, teaching at the QWC. I was half planning to maybe get up to Airlie (must have been decades since I visited as a teen) aforehand. It would be nice to see you two again. However, I have a thesis to get fact spent all of this evening struggling with the revisions to ch 4.

I'll be in Bris again next Feb. (groan, monsoon weather) for Clarion South. Maybe then I can do the Airlie bit.

John Tipper

Just a short note to say that I've still not bought myself a place in the mountains. Still renting at Lawson

Alas, as three quarters of my book collection is still in storage at Blaxland; now madly going through the 450 cartons of books and mags. Groan ... don't really want to get rid of anything.

House prices up here have gone through the roof. Down in your old territory, at Faulconbridge, one would be lucky to find anything under 350K. Here, I'll be lucky to find anything under 300K. Ah, well.

Jim Caughran

According to Screenrights, the audio visual copyright society, and the Australasian Performing Rights Association, we are all pirates. This bunch demand a 3%-10% levy - another tax - on blank CDs and DVDs, on the basis that all of them are used to steal their products.

The Canadian equivalent managed to get such a tax enacted. I buy my CDs in the US, and if I ever want a recording of a Canadian performer, I am tempted to pirate it on principle. I use my CDs for backups, and I resent being treated as a criminal just for buying disks.

I'm worried about cultures in collision under circumstances that preclude a totally dominant culture. It leads to violence in almost all cases I can think of.

Well, Canada's immigration has made it about the most multicultural place in the world, and there is much less violence than in that country south of us where they try to fit people into a common mould.

Abbreviated comments only, I'm afraid. Hope to see you somewhere soon--Torcon, or Las Vegas corflu?

Ken Ozanne

It was good to see you and Sue briefly in Springwood. I presume you worked out why we didn't reappear. Marea will need two cataract operations next year; I'll hide your piece about Jean.

Our travel plans have grown like Topsy. We visit at least ten pacific islands over the month, then up to Vancouver to catch a boat up the inside passage to Seward and on to Anchorage (very luxurious cruise, it sounds). A week in Alaska, back to Vancouver, on to Boston and thence to Puerto Rico for just on three weeks in the Caribbean with no fixed plans apart from visiting the US Virgin Islands. To England for a fortnight, a bit over a week in North Africa, up to Frankfurt for a couple of days and from there to Delhi for nearly three weeks in India. Then to Singapore (Marea hasn't seen Jurong Bird Park), down to Jakarta, north to Bangkok and on to Pnomh Penh. PP to Vientiane, thence to Krabi for Pang Nga Bay and a week in southern Thailand before flying Phuket-Bangkok-Sydney.

Pause there while I watched a couple of grey kangaroos hop up outside the window. A female and a half-grown joey, sex not obvious to me. I have every sympathy with foreign visitors who expect to see kangaroos hopping down the streets. They do most days on Crown Station Road.


Tom Feller, Laurraine Tutihasi, Lync, Sean McMullen, Mervyn Beamish, Jack Dann, Kurt Maring, Zara Baxter, Jerry Kaufman (see efanzines), Stephen Thompson.

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This fanzine is hand written to comply with HTML Strict 4.0, and is syntax checked using the free CSE checker. It is then validated against the public DTD using the official W3C SGML parser. It uses only CSS1 formatting, and the style file is checked by the W3C style sheet validator. I attempt to prevent known buggy browsers (Netscape 4.x) from applying styles by using other bugs to stop netscape 4.x reading the style sheet. The HTML file alone should display in a readable (but plain) fashion in any browser, no matter what age or type, including PDA and mobile phone browsers. However, I am unable to test the result against all browsers. In particular, I do not have any versions of Internet Explorer, nor can I check results on a Macintosh.

The zine should be in black san serif on a pale yellow background, with blue or blue on grey headers, outdented from the general text. Paragraphs should be only very slightly separated from previous paragraphs, and the first line of each paragraph should be slightly indented. If you are seeing different (or especially hard to read) results, please let me know which operating system and browser version you are using, and what problems you encounter (a jpeg screen capture of poor results is really helpful).


Don't forget the GUFF race from the UK for 2004 has commenced. Doug Bell and Pat McMurray are the contenders. Please donate and vote. Download voting forms from our GUFF website

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A science fiction fanzine from Eric Lindsay ISSN #0310-9968

Snail mail accumulates at PO Box 640, Airlie Beach, Qld 4802 Australia, and then leaps out unexpectedly and pulps us when we return home after an interval away. My mobile number (in the unlikely event I'm in range) is 0409 434 293 Please send any messages for us via email. I've attempted to remove all obvious email addresses from all my back issues, as an anti-spam measure. I am happy to forward email from fans to fans to assist in building mailing lists, but don't think I will be listing email addresses again.