Thursday, 31 January 2008

Positive thoughts

After my last rant I’d better balance the scales with some positive thoughts so I don’t come across as a whinger. I am a whinger but I’m going to try to be positive for just one day. Already a lot of internal resistance is building up within me to this idea. Manipulating my naturally negative thought patterns is like trying to twist my head all the way around on my neck. It’s possible, but also painful and usually fatal. I'll try anyway.

The new split system A/C’s are still a fantastic novelty. Cool, quiet and instant. All those years down south have spoiled me. Seasons, whole months of cool weather, sunshine and a breeze at the same time, low humidity. Why the hell did we come back to the tropics? You'd never guess I grew up in Darwin and spent 18 years in that sweltering steam box.

The awesome rain we just had after so many months of drought. It also means we don’t have to water the garden. We've had almost a 500mm this month. It’s hammering down every day. Luckily the house site drains pretty well. We're slightly off the ground on half-meter stumps and on a hill. I can’t see a problem with flooding unless we get another 1000mm.

I can use my welder whenever I want now that I have a 15 amp power point. I learned to weld while working in Thailand. The most common method was to strike an arc then turn your face away and weld by feel. Probably should buy a mask now that I’m in Australia though. I should learn how to use the welder properly too. Practice makes perfect, or at the least less mistakes, hopefully.

The bug catcher we bought works beautifully. It’s catching thousands of moths and mossies and flies. We are having an explosion of pest due to the rain. No poisons are needed in this trap. It has a special light that only horny male mosquitos can see. They come over for a look and a fan pushes them into a water reservoir directly under the light. Just a little squirt of detergent is needed to break the water tension so the little buggers drown. The many tiny rotting corpses are good for the plants too. We found that leaving the tray in for two days makes the dead stuff stink a bit and the smell draws (and drowns) the flies like you wouldn't believe. When I empty it the water is almost solid with dead stuff. A praying mantis had taken up residence on top of it and it gets a good feed as well.

Writings going OK. Combed one story straight. What a bloody effort. I'll see what my proof reader thinks (thanks Sis). I finally dragged out my Nanowrimo submission and split the short stories into separate files. As I went though them I had to look very closely at a few that I had totally forgotten about. They weren’t half bad ideas too. I don't mean to sound up myself. Reading old stories can be an interesting experience. (Sometimes I cringe when I forget how bad a few of them are as well.)

I must go to a different place when I write fiction without any external interruptions or interference. Nanowrimo was particularly useful to make me write. It forces you to do nothing but write. I wasn't allowed to edit, spell check or refine my ideas. They are even against re-reading what was written the day before. It’s all about the writing. With these constraints and pressure of reaching that 50,000 word target it’s no wonder there’s whole stories I don't remember writing. I'm doing it again this year and it will be interesting to see if it’s easier or harder without the physical pain and exhaustion to help me along.

Last positive item of the day is that I have cleaned almost every wall in the house. With bleach. Almost gassed myself. It’s a filthy horrific job but the mould and mill dirt had built up to an embarrassing level. So many tradesmen have been through the house lately I started worrying about what they thought of our messy house. I don't often care what other people think of me but a filthy house doesn't reflect well on a person and mould spores can make you ill. So the place is reasonably clean. I also took the time to make a few repairs, move pictures, sorted the stereo and speaker wiring, and found homes for stuff that's always in the way. I feel a bit more organized. You still can’t call our home neat and it'll never be in Home Beautiful but I don't feel embarrassed anymore. Until the mill starts in a few months and it begins churning out choking clouds of smoke from the unscrubbed boiler. Sorry that’s negative. Lets see, how about this, it’s really nice that the mill isn't going at the moment.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Employing children in the wrong industries

Be warned, this is a rant. It is my opinion and will possibly cause offence to someone, somewhere.

This problem has been irritating me for some time now. As I have just gotten home from a particularly annoying day dealing with people who just don't care I thought I'd air my views while the experience was still fresh.

As a qualifier I will say that my point of view is from a thirty-something white male. My perception of how I classify a child, (14-18 years old), obviously has changed as I get older. My complaint is not limited to what used to be two of my favourite places to shop. Stupidlycheap (a car accessory franchise) and a certain discount hardware and gardening warehouse.

I am picking on these two companies specifically as they have let me down the most. EMPLOYING CHEAP, TEENAGE LABOUR, IN AN INDUSTRY THAT NEEDS INFORMED, MOTIVATED STAFF, IS WRECKING YOUR BUSINESSES.

Stupidlycheap. I go there to buy car stuff. If I go there to buy a seat cover or filter I'm probably going to leave happy and get the lowest price of anyone else in town. If I arrive not quite sure exactly what I want in terms of, is this product better that that product, or, have you got some item that will fix this thing, I’m in trouble. I will invariably get a blank bored look from a child who has absolutely no knowledge of the products they sell and severely lack any motivation to help me with my request. You'd swear these kids are forced to be there. Sure, they are on minimum wage, and sure, this isn't the job they want to be doing in 5 years time, but if they had a bit of a go, actually learned their job and helped a few customers, wouldn’t that alleviate their boredom. Why can’t they take an interest in the products their employer sells? Why are they never around when you need something?

At this point of my rant I can just hear some parent saying "well my kids not like that" and I suppose, on the rarest occasion, I have met your kid and received a suitable level of service. But on the whole I'm afraid his retard friends who have the run of the store and are busily avoiding customers who can clearly hear them giggling in the back room as they talk freely about their non-existent sex lives.

Home Hardware Warehouse. The board that is running this show have screwed up royally. I can even pin point WHEN they screwed up. It was about 5 years ago when customer service was exceptional. Let me explain. When I went into ‘HHW’ I'd get this great feeling that I was in the world’s greatest store. I loved it. For me it’s a bloody huge toyshop. I was happy and I spent a lot of money. If I couldn't find an item, someone would invariably point me in the right direction to find it. If I looked overwhelmed by the range of choices, someone would stop and have a chat about what project I had in mind and would even give me a bit of insight or handy advice. These people sold me stuff I never would have bothered looking at or ever known about if they hadn't taken an interest in my needs. I bought big-ticket items on their say so and was usually well satisfied. Are you listening to me ‘HHW’? These people made you money.

These days I go to ‘HHW’ less often and the old feelings are much diluted. I can wander around forever trying to catch the down cast eye of a fleeting gang of kids who are either rushing away from you or huddling in obscure corners. If I do manage to pin one of them down I get, 'Oh, I think it’s down that aisle', to get rid of me, (they never offer to show you), or the dreaded blank look crosses their face and you know you've wasted your time straight away.

I still like ‘HHW’, they stock the items that I’m after but now I have to find them myself. Then I have to work out if it’s the best thing for my application without an objective opinion. Sometimes I have to return a product when it doesn't do what I expected it to. You think you got a cheaper workforce ‘HHW’, but you got rid of an irreplaceable asset, the middle aged and senior floor staff who actually knew what they were talking about and had an interest in doing the job to the best of their abilities. I think, in the long run it will cost you customers and money.

(Like it? See my eBay post).

Monday, 28 January 2008


So I’ve quit the ‘real job’ and I write for a living. Getting a head full of ideas onto a computer that’s already loaded with partially finished stories is a freeing experience that I enjoy very much. Then there’s the other stuff.

I don't know how the publishing industry works. It seems I can’t just write, I must ‘network’ and publicise myself. I also need to set up ABN numbers, read submission guidelines, find freelance job offers, wash dishes and hang clothes. Getting everything done is difficult as writing is a selfish ‘zoning’ activity that chews time leaving nothing in reserve for other activities.

On the other hand working from home is paying off for all those other projects I have on the go. I can work on the house and car without feeling that I'm burning up a rest day. I don't have reserve enough energy to face another six days of heavy labour anymore.

I thought I'd kick off my meteoritic rise by submitting one of my completed short fiction stories to smaller publishers. I dug out a finished story that I wrote for my sister. She’d been on my back about not writing. At the time the story flowed out of me very easily. I was happy with it, even the annoying ending that lacked closure, (in some people’s view). I started to tidy it up a little and ended up with a total rewrite after discovering many continuance flaws. The story has evolved into a much more substantial piece of work. That’s all well and good but it no longer fits the submission guidelines. Bugger. Start new story.

I've stopped telling people I'm a freelance writer. They always ask, "What do you write?" I immediately want to answer ‘Horror and Science Fiction’ but that doesn’t cover Alternate Realities, reviews or this blog. The coverall ‘Speculative Fiction’ is slightly cringe-worthy for some reason I haven’t pinpointed yet.

I suppose I’d like to say that I’m an entertainer and see what evolves.

(Like it? See - Death)

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Manual labourer enters the virtual world

I’m here. Finally. Thanks to my sisters' patience I have a blog. I really had to shed a few preconceptions before being convinced to get on here. I didn’t even know what a blog was until half an hour ago.

I've worked as a semi-skilled labourer (a pliable and multi-faceted job description), for the past 20 years, around Australia and overseas. Working with my hands and letting my brain freewheel a bit too much. I’m going through a change of life. There’s a lot of mental exercise in store for my flabby cerebral machine.

So what do I need a blog for? I’m going to share, because that’s the type of bloke I am. I’m going to leave my private diary full of personal thoughts and images lying around the web for anyone to read. It’s a strange concept.

I would like my blog to amuse and lighten your life if only by a few minutes or seconds. It’ll also serve as a springboard for ideas, occasional rants, and observations. I hope you don’t mind if I flounder around a bit until I find my target audience. Even at this moment I am learning the importance of editing to avoid overfilling my calendar with law suit court dates.

I’m a slow starter in this medium having become isolated from the emerging technologies. I’m overly careful at times as I like a certain amount of stability. I don't buy series one cars, I buy computer programs well after beta testing and I still know nothing about Bluetooth, iPod’s and MP3 players. Something to do with music?

Jamming my brain into the fast moving world that used to pass me by is going to be an interesting/frustrating time.

The kids of today have it much tougher than us X’ers. They have to, and are able to, keep up with every new gadget that floods the market. I remember how hard we thought it was in the olden days when the first home computers, microwaves and VCR's came out. If you got your clock working on the VCR and your microwave, you were a legend. After the first power outage mine flashed 12:00 for the rest of its life.

(Like it? See - Underground Mining)