“Real Australians say welcome – from Alice Springs to Dandenong” – The Guardian

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This article from the Guardian is truly inspiring. It shows how community art can carry a message and get others involved, showing how people feel, even though public policy settings and MSM of some sorts may dominate the narrative far too much.

It started with 1,000 posters, but Peter Drew’s project has inspired thousands of Australians, artists and otherwise, to send their own messages to asylum seekers

Source: Real Australians say welcome – from Alice Springs to Dandenong | Art and design | The Guardian

The “Gone” Series by Michael Grant

I’m stuck into the Gone series by Michael Grant. I sucked down the first two, Gone and Hunger, and am now into Lies — all in a couple weeks, which is quite unlike me. I usually plod through a book at night before going to sleep. The stories are useful to learn how this author does a few things:

– writing horror for a young audience; these are listed as YA because the characters are all 15 and younger, but if I were a 12-14 y.o., I’d be having nightmares. I think I’d prefer more explicit sex to the blood and gore and emotional cruelty that happens in this story. Then again, maybe that is the catharsis that is needed — since much of it is about cruel bullying, and I mean cruel to the extent of outright murder.

– transition a series from book to book; I’ve been thinking about this since I’m writing a series — how do you do this so the reader who doesn’t start at the beginning isn’t at a disadvantage to understand the characters and the dependence on events from earlier books

– a cast of characters — introducing without overwhelming, letting them develop over time, introducing new ones along the way in a closed environment

Anyway, if you are into Stephen King (Under The Dome), Marvel’s Avengers, Animal Farm or Lord Of the Flies, this series is worth a look.

You’re Never Too Old (Or Young) To Learn

I belong to a computer user club for which I often give presentations (as well as organising others to do so). This month, I assigned myself the task to find out what was going on in the online learning world.

I spent many years of my career in alternative education programs, distance learning in all sorts of formats from TV to radio to audio- and video-teleconferencing, mostly pre-Internet, so I was curious to find out what had happened in the last 25 years. Just as I was leaving that role back then, online was emerging. One of my first forays into online teaching was organising a first year college English subject to be delivered to students in Moscow during the Glasnost period. It was just a glimmer of what was to come not long after with the emergence of the World Wide Web.

My research and preparation for the talk last week was an eye-opener. But I shouldn’t have been all that surprised.

Here is the PDF of my talk slides, complete with links. If you’ve wondered what a MOOC* is, you’ll find it here, along with free, fee, formal, informal, a range of countries and levels, in almost any subject you may have wanted to learn about on your own time (mostly) just for the love of learning it.

If you have a favourite or more to promote, feel free to leave a comment.

                                             Link: Learning Stuff Online

*MOOC: Massive Open Online Course

Australian Commonwealth Electoral Seats Margins – 2013

The link below is to a file that shows the electorate margins for all seats in the Federal House of Representatives from the 2013 election. It was saved from the Australian Electoral Commission website. The only manipulation I have done is to sort the chart so that the margins appear from smallest to largest.

This file is saved in .csv format. Feel free to download a copy and sort in any way you wish to answer your own questions.

Link: HouseSeatSummaryDownload-17496

Book Review: The Word Exchange

[also posted on Goodreads]

The Word Exchange – Alena Graedon

I picked this novel up at the library and decided to read it based on the back blurb. I’ve been working on a project about a dystopian story of a world without words, so I wanted to see how someone else handled this topic. The answer: very differently. But still, enjoyable themes. Plus I learned something as a writer from this book that I can apply to my own revisions from this author’s first novel, things I didn’t care for.

There are some really deep layers in this story, from philosophy of language, how important it is to we humans, to the impact of technology, our tools, on our ability to be human. Graedon exposes the risks involved when we don’t think clearly about those risks and what could go wrong.

I enjoyed the characters and dealing with occupations we don’t think about – lexicographers and dictionary publishing. Be honest now. When is the last time, if ever, you thought about who does this work?

The possibility that the really bad things that happen in this fictional world would/could really happen is probably at the low end, but there are already impacts of our technologies that we are experiencing: reduced emphasis on hand-writing, reduced reliance on memory, and poor spelling. These are forms of aphasia – damaged language centres – so maybe she is on to something and we are sleep walking into a major shift in our use of language. We may be communicating worldwide and with more frequency than in the past but are we really doing it well and clearly?

A good effort.

Queensland Election Miracle or Predictable?

[grrrr — had to fix my blog, several hours later, now working again – I hope!]

Last night was amazing! Not only did the Socceroos win the Asian Cup Final, the Queensland ALP came through with a slew of seats, going from 9 to at least 43, dispatching the Newman LNP government after one term.

Many pundits didn’t think this possible. They believed the landline-based polls, taking no notice of the swing in recent by-elections. Bob Ellis called it right recently, well before the last days of the campaign. Many of us hoped against hope this would be the result. But by the looks on the faces of some in the Liberal and LibNat Parties, they were in complete shock.

Tony Abbott is still Prime Minister. But if this is the sort of tide that the public is riding, he won’t be for long if his colleagues have any sense. Me, I hope he stays. It will ensure a one-term federal government, just like in Victoria and now in Queensland.

Heartland Institute Board

An organisation that is often presented as being on top of the climate change debate, on the denier side, is the Heartland Institute.

I wondered who these people are. I spent the time searching out all the names. Guess what – not a single scientist in the bunch. ALL are money people or lobbyists. One is an educational psychologist and how he got involved in this topic is beyond me.

Here is the list of board members and their affiliations.

HeartlandBoard

All information was collected from company websites, Linked-in pages for the individual, or research done by others equally wondering who these people are.

 

Letter to Senator Leyonhjelm (warning: BAD language from HIM quoted)

Today Senator Leyonhjelm (Liberal Democrat Party, NSW) abused someone who wrote an email to him. That abuse is quoted below in my letter to him, calling him out on bringing the Australian Senate into disrepute. The President of the Senate, Stephen Parry, was copied in on my email to Senator Leyonhjelm.

 
Dear Senator Leyonhjelm

I read today that you have been abusing people who write emails to you. I’m appalled that an elected member of the Australian Senate behaves in such a manner:
“ Go Fuck Yourself You Communist Turd”

Did you actually say this?

Grow up or go home. This behaviour is unacceptable! I hope the President of the Senate deals with you appropriately and puts you on notice for bringing the Senate of Australia into disrepute.

SINCERELY (disgusted),
Jan Whitaker
(location deleted here)
THRILLED to not be one of your constituents

GP rebate change – Letter to Health Minister (UPDATED)

It’s just dawning on the public and the media that the Abbott government pulled a swifty before Christmas, reducing the amount of Medicare rebate to General Practitioner doctors, increasing the charge to many patients by $20/visit, ABOVE any out of pocket payments already charged,  even more than the $7 copay they ditched because of a public outcry. Here’s my letter to Sussan Ley, Health Minister following Peter Dutton who she replaced recently. And here is her email address if you want to vent your spleen as well.

UPDATED: Letter and her NEW email address via the Dept. of Health

Minister.Ley@health.gov.au
Farrer@aph.gov.au

Dear Minister
I know you didn’t do this, but it’s in your lap now. Since sending this to your Farrer office, I understand that YOU have come out in SUPPORT of this poorly thought through policy.

Have you been listening to anyone in the media this week about the DAMAGE this change in policy/fees is going to cause? Here’s what I’ve heard:
– extended consultations that are unnecessary, including chats about pets, to meet the 10 min. minimum.
– reduced patient through-put
– reduced number of appointments/day, making access to GPs WORSE
– referrals back to GPs by Emergency Departments STOPPED, making ED services even MORE CLOGGED, cost shifting to STATES; Your party tries this on often. It’s getting to be a very old and tiring strategy.
– more people avoiding going to GPs, the CHEAPEST part of the system through preventative care and check-ups, yet no changes to specialist rebates. How does that make ANY sense?
– parents w/ kids thinking twice about taking their children to the doctor because: NO MONEY for paying
– NEW info: 26% of rebates for short consults average out the longer ones, hence 26% of GP productivity reduced.
– NEW info: rural especially hit hard

I don’t think I need to go on any more. This change will put clinics out of business.

The impact of this change is FAR worse than the $5-7 copay, which was bad enough. Now your government has snuck through a bombshell of a fee increase through a sickening pre-Christmas “gift”.

If you thought this was a one-term government before, which many people already did, this is the last nail in the coffin.

If there isn’t a backdown on this change pretty quick, before bulk billing is totally destroyed, you can kiss your time in any form of government away for at least the next decade. The home budget, which is a REAL budget, will sink your government in a heartbeat.

Sincerely,
Jan Whitaker

Why I stopped worrying about keeping track of (most) ideas

Today I read a blog post that advised writers to keep track of ideas for their writing, things they see or hear in life that may work their way into a story one day. I thought, cool, I do that. Then I realized, except in specific situations, I don’t do that. Here’s why.

There is no limit to ideas. That’s it. There’s always another one around the corner. My brain churns out ideas all the time. If I tried to write down even just the interesting things I see that might be useful in a story someday, I’d never write any real stories! notepad-pencilThis doesn’t mean I never write down story ideas, just that I stopped concerning myself with “oh no, I must write that down or I’ll forget it for a story idea”. I ONLY write down (in an Evernote note) really really really ‘stumbled upon’ interesting things, noting the source as well, in case I need to go back and explore it more. Some of these have become the stubs of projects. Maybe two. Most haven’t, though.

Another reason I stopped is because I’m by nature a hoarder, or at least a ‘can’t throw it away because I know I’ll need it one day’ type. My story idea file got nutso large (like my ‘to read’ list — sigh). The likelihood of ever working up the ideas or snippets, or even remembering they are there, is very low. Isn’t that what the Internet is for? Ideas need context to be useful. Square peg and round holes comes to mind as well. So the likelihood of a particular idea some day some time will fit a real project is low.

BUT, there are ideas that I grab onto and capture as soon as I can: ideas that relate to the project I’m working on RIGHT NOW. The reason for this is that the usefulness is real, not at some time for some story some day. I write these down. I may not be in a place to connect the idea in the project at this particular point in time. It may fit later in a chapter that I’m not writing yet. It may be an exciting plot idea that would beef up a particular point in the story during revision. It may be something I read in life that resonates with my fictional world to make the fiction feel more realistic. It may be something about a character that I had been unaware of. These ideas have context and function – right now, not in some amorphous future maybe-might-get-around-to-it-one-day project. These ideas help me accomplish a current goal. Where I keep them is in my chapter diary [see Writing techniques I’ve learned in Nano 2014] so they are readily available for consideration, particularly in the first revision pass or if I’m stuck and need a way in to start writing again on this project.

If they are ideas that pop into my head presumably from nowhere, rather than from external observation, I definitely capture these. They haven’t come from nowhere at all. They have come from my subconscious mind, which has been working away on a problem or gap or creative direction for the story without me even being aware ol’ subby is doing it. These are diamond ideas. These are precious and must be respected and adored. This is the real author at work.

So the next time you find yourself falling into the procrastination trap of collecting story ideas that never get written instead of adding words to a real project, stop yourself and see if changing your attitude, trusting your subconscious, and getting on with writing your characters might not be time better spent.

Is it just me? Or do you feel the same? Feel free to leave a comment with your own use of idea collection.