Saturday, March 31, 2007

Earth Hour

Earth Hour

Questions about TrekLit

From TrekBBS, and copied to here for posterity:
What piece of "Star Trek" literature has really inspired you? Could be anything, to take a new direction in your life, informed a particular decision you had to make, etc.

Mmmm. Maybe it was David Gerrold's "The Galactic Whirlpool" and his two "making of..." books, plus Susan Sackett's various ST books, that inspired me to write. I've attended writers' workshops by both of them since - and it definitely led to paid writing work.

What event or sequence in a piece of Trek Lit drove you (or nearly drove you) to tears?

Easy. I was playing the soundtrack of "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" while reading the last few chapters of "Andor: Paradigm" ("Worlds of Deep Space Nine, Book 1") and the hauntingly beautiful Annie Lennox song, "Into the West", started up just as the traditional Andorian funeral for Thriss got going. I was a sobbing mess. Weeks later, after posting my review online, author Heather Jarman told me she'd played the earlier LotR albums while writing "Paradigm".

Is there any specific piece of Trek Lit where you just could not put the book or story down until you finished it? Did you keep the lights on until 6:00 A.M. because you just couldn't put it down?

"Star Trek: The Motion Picture" and "Star Trek III" (before seeing those movies), and the surprisingly shocking "Prime Directive". Oh, and "Ex Machina".

What sequence of a piece of Trek Lit has put the biggest smile on your face while reading it?

It would have to be a Peter David book. Many moments in many PAD books. But it was the unexpected bittersweet ending of "New Frontier: Stone and Anvil", with Ensign Janos frolicking on planet Neural, that produced the most heartwarming grin.

Oh, and the scene in Therin Park in "Andor: Paradigm", of course. And thanks to editor Marco Palmieri for sending me a pre-publication preview copy.

Who is the one Trek Lit only character you most relate to and why?

I really rallied behind "Specks" in "The Galactic Whirlpool" and was fascinated to learn it was Gerrold making his own cameo.

Side question: Who is the one Trek Lit only character you would like to meet if possible.

Meet? Probably the perky, mysterious, intelligent Dr Evan Wilson in "Uhura's Song". (I assumed it was a cameo appearance based on Bjo Trimble, but Janet Kagan told me she was based on her own mother, IIRC.) But I'd also like to meet Piper ("Dreadnought!"; "Battlestations") and Ensign Shar (DS9 relaunch).

Friday, March 30, 2007

Talking shop

I just arrived back home after a wonderful meal at Springwood's Orient Hotel. It was a staff dinner. Several non-teaching partners of the staff had that half-bemused expression as the teachers did what they do so well: talked shop about students, classes and teaching methods. No matter how earnestly we promise it won't happen, it always does...

The restaurant seems to have become become a staff favourite over recent years. Although there are several cosy nooks inside, we usually end up in the large front area, which is a transparent plastic-curtained area (with gas heaters on poles). The looooong table made conversations a bit restricted, so there was plenty of chair-hopping during the night.

When there are lots of us, there is a cheaper, limited choice menu available but, last night, we ordred from the regular a la carte selection. The lamb dish sounded very tempting, but I'd eaten lamb only last Wednesday, so I went for a well-recommended barbecued chicken fillet dish, which was scrumptious.

Oh, by the way, I've recently stumbled across the blog of Ian MacLean, a student of Dearborn, Michigan (not far from Ann Arbor, where my penpal, Olivia, lives) in the USA: The Chronicles of Ian. I absolutely love his blog's motto: "... where I'm Ian, and you're wrong."

Thursday, March 29, 2007


I haven't had to watch the TV news this week to know that the temperatures have been dropping considerably overnight. When I awake and stretch the next morning, my feet inevitably come into contact with a warm, immobile Jack Russell terrier, comfortably parked under the doona. Sometimes he doesn't even wait till I'm asleep before he gets into position.

Funnily enough, though, sometimes when Jack senses I'm awake, he slides down - serpent-like - onto his sheepskin rug on the floor beside the bed, and pretends that he's been there all night. Who's he trying to kid?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Something fishy

Okay, now I'm really freaked out. Tonight, I wrote up some true ghost encounters for the blog - and the bloody browser page froze on me in mid sentence! It will let me copy all the sentences I've already written, but it won't let me paste them in any other document. So - under protest, Mrs Ghost - I'm RETYPING THEM ALL, while you no doubt enjoy a little snigger at my expense. And to think I was going to say I felt no malevolence from you.

Anyway, what I tried to say was:

I love checking out my blog's site meter, which is able to give me a list of URLs from which people have encountered links to my blogspot. Sometimes they are from the ever-mysterious "Unknown", but more often via a Google search, or a Google Images link.

Tonight, someone had reached one of my old blog entries by performing a search on the term "ghosts+smells", and I think I should expand on this with the full stories, because I'm sure the previous - wasn't exactly what they'd been hoping for.

I love checking out my blog's site meter, which is able to give me a list of URLs from which people have encountered links to my blogspot. Sometimes they are from the ever-mysterious "Unknown", but more often via a Google search, or a Google Images link. One post - concerning my dog rolling in ferret poo. Tonight, someone reached one of my old blog entries by performing a search on the terms "Jack Russell terriers" and "ghosts+smells".

Not long after moving into this house in 2000 (it was already 33 years old and built on the site of an old lemon grove), I realised it had a ghostly presence. I'm not one to see ghosts in every dark room, but I've heard of several friends having inexplicable experiences with ghosts - and right now my dog is going ballistic, barking at absolutely nothing in the middle of the room and... this entry is getting creepier by the second!

Anyway, not long after moving in, we smelt the extremely strong odor of fish one evening. The smell was so strong, I'd assumed my housemate had just opened a tin of sardines - except that I know (1) he hates sardines, and (2) he denied opening such a tin anyway. The smell lasted about ten minutes, and was very strongly associated with a vacant section of floor in the family room.

We laughed it off but, a few weeks later, I was suddenly very aware of a large grey shape in the family room, standing just inside my field of vision. As soon as I directed my full attention to it, it was gone, of course. Again, we laughed it off. What stayed with me, though, was a sense of the object's benevolence. I'd assumed I'd feel quite scared by a "ghost" - rather like I feel a little creeped out, at the moment, by tonight's occurrences - but no, I felt nothing nasty from this phenomenon. Defintely female, and definitely benevolent.

When the new puppy arrived, we thought nothing of the effect of the ghost - until there was a particularly weird feeling the night that twelve-week-old Jack the Jack Russell walked over to the exact position of the previous fishy smell, stared at a spot just above the floor, and barked wildly! Seemingly at nothing at all. (Certainly, we are not game to dig up the earth under our garage floor, lest we find the remains of an orchard-owner's wife and her pet goldfish?)

Nothing happened for quite a while, then, although I did once spot something, momentarily, in the old rocking chair we'd inherited. The fishy smell returned briefly a few more times: sometimes in the hall and sometimes in the family room; and then my housemate received a strong shove in the back just as he was about to go to sleep.

He reappeared, wide-eyed, in the lounge room - where I was watching television - and he said softly, "We have had a visitor." I assumed he meant we'd had a break-and-enter via a bedroom window, but no, he'd been shoved in the back, and was suddenly more believing of my own wacky encounters.

We told these stories to the previous owners, who were quite surprised. In all their years of living here, they'd never noticed anything unearthly. However, they did say they'd had a few unexplained experiences in their new house. We also told a woman in a magic 'n' incense 'n' herbal medicine shop, and she listened eagerly, and offered to sell us a "smudge stick", which would supposedly help our ghost to find a path out of the house and into The Other Place. We declined.

So, we had the fishy smell before we had the dog, and yet people associate Jack Russells with fishy smells. Anyway, apart from the odd sighting or sniffing, things have been rather quiet on the ghost front. Until tonight, that is. As Dame Edna Everidge would say: "Spooky!"

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The cosmic consciousness II

A few weeks ago, I discussed the concept of an inexplicable Star Trek cosmic consciousness. Today, on TrekBBS, someone asked about why he couldn't contribute his own ideas for Star Trek novels, which the pro authors could then pick up on, then write novels on his dream ST topics.

Pro authors are never short of a new idea. Ideas are the easy bit. It's the grunt work of writing (and rewriting) them up in novel form that's so hard. You should see my ideas file!

Eventually, all the really great ideas turn up without any need for me - or anyone - to promote them, because great ideas occur to lots of other ST fans, too. And most of the ST writers are also fans. For example: when I first saw "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" in 1979, I visualised the next big ST adventure, featuring TMP's main cast and with all the wonderful new alien UFP races in supporting roles. As a naive, newbie ST fan I even wrote my first fanfic from that angle. Weirdly for me, just weeks after that fanfic ("Hoodwinked") had won a short story competition and was published in a fanzine, along came the pro novel "Black Fire" by Sonni Cooper, set in that TOS-turning-to-TMP era, and which shared no less than thirteen coincidental plot points with my story. But I also knew it was impossible for Sonni to have been inspired by my story: it was all just wacky coincidence.

And, eventually, along came Christopher L Bennett's "Ex Machina". Reading it, even though I hadn't thought of doing a sequel to "For the World is Hollow...", the novel felt so much like the style of post-TMP story I'd always wanted to tell. Christopher even ensured that all the wonderful new alien UFP races of TMP were in supporting roles, and it still feels as if he'd written "Ex Machina" just for me. (Well, apart from what he did with one character, LOL.)

My second fanfic was a prequel (and sequel) to "Space Seed", in which I tried to anticipate events which might occur in the as-yet-unreleased ST II - and my story, "A Model Officer", actually ended years later, with Kyle on the Reliant. Imagine my shock and delight when actor John Winston - as Kyle - turned up on ST II. On Reliant!

Similarly, I once did an interview with Robert Greenberger, the then-Star Trek comics editor at DC Comics, and mentioned how cool a ST novel set on Andor would be: a book that managed to discuss Andorian sexuality, politics, family life, etc, and we laughed about how such a novel would never get approved by the then-Star Trek Office. Years later, along came Heather Jarman's "Andor: Paradigm" in "Worlds of Star trek: Deep Space Nine, Book 1". Again, it was as if she'd written the whole story for me .

But I guess my Andorian enthusiasm paid off anyway, since my Andorian persona gets a cameo mention in both of those recent pro novels, even though I had no idea I'd be acknowledged (until just before each book got published), and I'd never discussed my ideas with either author, nor posted them online. It was mostly just wonderful coincidence - a tapping into the cosmic consciousness, perhaps - and proof, to me, that good ideas will rise to the surface, no matter what.

Beckie the Vigilant

My niece (and God-daughter) in Queensland emailed me in the wee hours to say, "Was awaiting patiently for my nightly giggle, and no blog today???"

How great that someone noticed!

I actually climbed into bed last night after several hours of putting little black dots on an alphabetical list of books, using a master list of books alphabetised by author. The hope is to indicate to the parents, teachers and students at my school which of the NSW Premier's Reading Challenge books are in the collection of our school library. It was a bit of a mind-numbing task (and only half-finished before I was falling asleep over the lists) so that, as soon as I was horizontal and under the doona, I remembered I'd left the day blogless, but was too comfy to beat the curse of midnight.

Eeek! The end of my dream run. Unless I can work out how to change the date on the Blogspot management panel.

Mind you, now I know at least one person noticed I'd missed Monday's entry. So, in a way, that's good. (Also, you'll notice I did two entries on Sunday.)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sunday in the Park with Jack

Sunday in the Park with Jack

Okay, it's all Stephen Sondheim's fault. I've been playing the Broadway cast album of "Sunday..." today - I bought it years ago via Amazon because Brent Spiner (Data, "Star Trek: The Next Generation") was in it - but I'd only ever played it the once before.

I'm really enjoying it; the song "Lesson #8" brought tears to my eyes, hearing it again. I love finally getting to understand all of the words in a musical by playing catch-up with the soundtrack album after the big event.

I found this pic of Jack - who's currently really, really keen on going to the park - except it's raining. So here's a virtual park for ya, little matey. Sorry about the inclement weather. Who'd have thought it after the heat of yesterday?

Non-drivers unite!

You know, I had about six driving lessons - at age 18 or so - and decided then and there that driving a motor vehicle was like every other sport I ever tried to do as a kid, and had all the same skill requirements: hand/eye coordination, outwitting your opponent, etc.

The world is a safer place without me behind the wheel.

And the money I save not running a car buys more books and toys, and pays for the three or four cabs I might need per year. Otherwise, yay public transport and a book to read until I reach my destination (train+walk chosen over a bus any day, though).

After all, the newly re-elected Premier has promised to fix the trains.

And Tellarites might fly.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Sunday on Saturday

Today, after voting (Labor was returned to power, by the way), I went to see the local production of the musical, "Sunday in the Park with George" at the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre (scene of my recent stage escapade), and I found "Sunday..." to be very moving. Sometimes, a musical comes along at just the right moment in one's life and, only this morning, I'd been contemplating some themes that were brought into perspective by the messages in today's performance.

A few weeks ago, one of my new Star Trek friends (discovered via the online Meetup group) happened to ask if his father was welcome to attend the next meeting. Well, of course he could. But the topic was mulled over in my head, until... I emailed him back today, saying, "I just realised, of course, that your Dad is probably about my age. I feel so old! ;-)

Ben wrote back, "He's just turned 40. Does this make you feel any better/worse?"

I'm 48. Gosh, I dunno how I feel? It's really weird. I relate to Ben - and AdamJ, for that matter - as equals, because we are all science fiction media fans. However, Ben's Dad is not only younger than me, he's also younger that both of my younger brothers.

Actually, I'm looking forward to meeting Ben's Dad; every now and then (but not often) I regret not ever having kids. To think, by now, in some alternate universe, I have a whole household of some really cool 20-Something kids who like SF. So bizarre. And very, very kewl (to coin a phrase). Actually, AdamJ, who's already taken to calling me "Dad", tells me that his parents are visiting Australia this year, from the UK. (Cheeky young whippersnappers!)

Anyway, all this "woe is my future" stuff was reflected, quite unexpectedly, by the plot of the second half of "Sunday in the Park with George". The action jumps from the 1880s to the modern day. One of the characters, a wheelchair-bound character in her 90s, had been a tiny babe-in-arms in the famous painting being celebrated ("A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte" by Georges Seurat). The important thing, she explains to an art gallery first-night audience, is to leave a legacy after one has died: and that can be children and/or art.


I guess, since I'm not producing any children of my own (not counting, I guess, the 380 young students I teach every week), I'm really going to have to get my act together, and finish preparing something from the arts to be my legacy!

The other scary thing is: we have Grandparents' Day coming up again at school, just before Easter. We teachers realised a few years ago that most of the grandparents who attend are actually younger than most of us. Sigh.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Saturday in the Polling Booth, without a Clue

New South Wales goes to the polls tomorrow to elect a new state government. After helping to vote in some very unwise choices over the years - and then having to live with the resulting changes to education (Terry Metherill, remember him?), etc. - I gleefully voted Australian Democrats for several elections, so at least I knew I'd voted to "Keep the Bastards Honest".

But then, I began to notice that the Democrats couldn't even get enough volunteers to hand out their How to Vote cards at each polling booth. (I almost volunteered myself!) A few elections later, they shot themselves in the foot, then in the head.

Dunno what I'm going to do tomorrow...

After voting, I'm off to see a local production of the musical, "Sunday in the Park with George". Except I'm seeing it on a Saturday. With CH and Jonas.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Easter fast approaching

With my Thursday nights - and weekly trips into the CBD - such an entrenched part of my life, it's always a shock when Thursday comes around yet again. Life's little treadmill.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A complaint free world

Our school was a sea of orange today, as we celebrated Harmony Day.

I felt a little at a lose end. My first library class didn't arrive for a lesson, because the Stage 1 students were doing rotating harmonious, orange activities. It was the first time in four consecutive Harmony Days that I haven't been up to my elbows in orange icing, Arnott's Arrowroot biscuits, and assorted lollies, to help the students make (and eat) "friendly face" bikkies. But I couldn't commit to an activity station because I had a Stage 2 class due at the halfway point. It was still fun to do a quick tour of all the (very orange) group activities.

Wearing an orange rabbit Beanie Baby around my neck, I was telling any of the teachers who queried my choice of mascot that I'd always wanted a hare on my chest.

Speaking of colours: over at radio station MIX 106.5 FM, they were discussing an innovative website from Christ Church Unity in Kansas, USA, which offers free rubbery purple bracelets to promote the concept of a complaint free world.

Essentially, you wear the bracelet but, when you catch yourself complaining, gossiping or criticising, you move the bracelet to the other arm and begin again. If you hear someone else who is wearing a bracelet complain, you may point out their need to switch the bracelet to the other arm, but... you have to switch your own bracelet first. After 21 complaint-free days you are supposed to find that "your entire life is happier, more loving, more positive and more abundant".

In typical Sammy Power style, MIX's morning announcer said, "I'm going to tell them that I don't like purple."

"Oh, Magoo, you've done it again!"

Remember my post of yesterday, where I droned on and on and on about people who do not, or cannot, interpret the publication data in books?

For all my enthusiasm and helpfulness, I was told, "There's no need to be condescending."

Sigh. There I go again.

There was no malice whatsoever in my TrekBBS post. I'm a teacher-librarian (USA: school librarian) in a primary (USA: elementary) school. I spend many minutes of every working day - as do all teacher-librarians I know - modelling to students how to interpret the parts of a book, and stressing the importance of noting the reliability of a resource (ie. by noting its publication details, etc), and yet many people ask questions about books on the bulletin boards that indicate (to me) that many adults choose not to remember, or never received, the same school experience.

Ok, so the poster knew all about the books, how to check the publication data, etc, but they weren't available to him or her, so by answering the question - I managed to insult the poster. I know all of the poster's back story, and I only added my internal dialogue as I compiled my answer because I thought that was as interesting as the answer itself.

At the risk of seeming to be even further condescending, I suggested that using Google, and some judicious search terms, they'd have had the answer(s) even faster than asking on an online bulletin board. For example, crucible trek publication mccoy just gave me a full page of possible citations. The top entry turned out to be the Simon & Schuster page for "Crucible: McCoy" and the publication date is clearly marked.

Oh well. Was that condescending? (Please don't tell me.)

Onto two other happier topics:

Today is, ironically,

Harmony Day

and I need to go and raid the wardrobe for something orange. We have a full day of harmonious, orange activities planned for the students at school. It's always a wonderful day, with lots of good vibes.

Last night's Webloggers' Meetup was great, as usual. I didn't get much of a chance to circulate, but I really enjoyed chatting to the people who ended up in my proximity, but all too soon it was time to race off for my train. I'm thinking I'd love a different setting to a pub, because it would be great to hear each person introduce themselves and give a pocket biography. There's a lot of talent and energy in the room when these bloggers meet.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Date, what date?

Someone on TrekBBS asked, "What is the publishing order?" for a very recent trilogy of Star Trek novels.

Inside every book, usually on the page opposite the title page, one will find a year of publication. Some books, including all of Pocket's Star Trek tie-in MMPBs (mass market paperbacks), include the month of publication as well. Pocket makes it very easy to put the paperback ST novels into publication order. ("First time in hardcover" ST novels create a shelving challenge.)

Pocket also identifies how often the book as been reprinted: that row of spaced digits below the date - ie. the "1" is removed for the second printing; the "2" is removed for the third printing, etc.

It amazes me that so many people never discover the publication dates, nor read forewords, prefaces, introductions, "historian's notes", afterwords, postscripts, or glossaries in ST books about which that they have urgent questions. Are these the same people who leave cinemas long before the end credits roll, too? (Mmm, that's almost everyone these days!)

Monday, March 19, 2007

"My name is Therin and I'm a blogger..."

These Weblogger Meetup Group gatherings sound a bit like the equivalent of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting but the two I've attended so far have been very interesting.

Once again (tomorrow), we are meeting at the ArtHouse Hotel in Pitt Street in the Sydney CBD. On busy Thursday nights, that popular watering-hole routinely has a bouncer or two, looking over potential patrons, and commenting upon their dress sense, or lack of..., but on Tuesdays the conditions are seemingly lax. (We have school photo day at work, tomorrow, so I'll be in my best gear anyway.)

As of tonight, there are 23 positive RSVPs and seven "maybes" registered at the Meetup webpage, and I notice that many of them are professional bloggers, rather than hobbyists like me, so it's sure to be a big one. Tomorrow is also the start of the Sydney Search Engine Room conference in the Sydney CBD, so that event has helped to raise the profile of our latest Meetup.

It's fascinating to be a small part of this evolving, still-fledgling blogging phenomenon, and to observe how it's been so quickly integrated into the daily lives of the big (and small) professional wheels in the business, marketing and public relations sectors of the world community.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Yuck cha

Today I was invited to join fifteen other people, most only acquaintances and friends of friends to partake of their annual reunion lunch: this time at Chinese yum cha, in a restaurant in a major shopping centre.

I must restrain myself from naming the restaurant, just in case the problems were more related to me, and my wacky state of mind at the time, but there was absolutely nothing "yum" about this particular yum cha.

We arrived five minutes early, and the place was packed to the rafters! Men, women, children, young and old; screaming babies in strollers; both Asian groups and Westerner groups, some seated, eating and nattering away; and the rest crammed into the vestibule area, waiting anxiously for a table to be freed up. ah, but our hostess had made... a booking!

Surprisingly, and despite the crowds, my friend and I were escorted straight into the restaurant, passed waitresses pushing trolleys stacked with all manner of steaming goodies, towards where our group booking's table should have been. But there were no vacant tables. The female maitre d' shouted into her earpiece and we were told to "return in ten minutes".

After about 20 minutes browsing the shops, we returned. The vestibule area was just as crowded, but we were shown to a large vacant table. We also found our friend who'd organised the event, and then a small number of our group already seated elswhere, drinking green tea. But the big table the waiters were preparing for us seated only about ten people, and we now needed seventeen chairs (one more adult had confirmed), and a highchair for an infant. I watched, dismayed, as the waiters butted another round table up against the first one. The chairs had flaring wire legs so, although seventeen chairs appeared to fit around the tables, when everyone was seated, many of the chairs' occupants were now too far away from the edge of the table. I began to feel claustrophobic, and went off to the restroom to calm myself.

Barely had we sat down than bowls of food were unloaded onto the lazy Susan in the middle of the main table. Now one side of the group had food galore (our side), but confusion reigned over at the far table as to how, exactly, yum char worked. The waitresses did not explain, they just kept unloading dishes. The waiters did not explain, they just raced away like startled deer. One side (the other side) were given green tea; we weren't.

"Take it all away", said our harried hostess to the waitresses. "Take this food away. We'll order the ones we choose."

So, the next thing I knew, we suddenly had access to a communal bowl of noodles, a few other dishes and no serving cutlery whatsoever. People understandably started unloading food into their personal bowls using their own chopsticks, which was working fine - until people were faced with "double dipping" to serve themselves any additional portions. I kept asking for serving cutlery, and receiving blank stares from everyone who looked remotely like an employee of the restaurant. They were happy to offload more food, though. I began to feel extremely claustrophobic again, even though I was aware of the air conditioner blowing a slight breeze above my head.

I needed a drink. A Coke Zero would do. Or even a regular Coke. I noticed several people around our table had located drinks, and others returning with soft drinks in hand. Ah, there was the bar! I offered to get drinks for the people on either side of me.

"No," I was told at the counter. "Order from the waiter."

I returned to my seat. Suddenly there was no waiter in sight, just another trolley waitress.

"Roasted duck?" she asked.

Sounded good. Looked good. I agreed. Well, the two tiny slices of duck I then selected (with my fingers, as all the serving cutlery was in other bowls of food) looked great. I was now seated so far from the table edge, trying not to entangle my chair legs with other patrons' chairs, that it was ridiculous. And the duck slices were almost all bone and gristle. Ick.

Still no waiter to take a drink order. But now others at our table were returning from the bar with drinks in hand, ordered from the woman who refused to serve me?????? At that point, I'd almost reached frustration point.

The woman next to me said, "I think this duck is off. It tastes off."

That was it. The feeling of claustrophobia overwhelmed me. And, so, I went shopping, with a promise to return in about 45 minutes, to see if I could better judge to what time the meal would go.

You know, it's not as if it was my first yum cha experience. I've been to both good ones and bad ones. Even the really good one (in Melbourne) had its limitations, such as an overwhelming number of dishes made with, ugh, jellyfish. But I have a strong feeling that today's yum cha experience might be my last.

When I arrived home, I toasted myself a nice, safe fruit 'n' spice Old English Muffin. Yum!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Birthday bridge


This weekend, the Sydney Harbour Bridge turns 75. Something for Aussies to get excited about, perhaps - but, as a Danish Star Trek fan I met recently, intimated, "Nothing built in Australia is over 200 years old. In Europe, we have churches that are over a thousand years old." Certainly puts all the pomp and circumstance into perspective.

The bridge is open to pedestrian traffic only on Sunday, and you are supposed to have booked a time on the Internet in advance if you plan to be a part of the historic walk, re-enacting an event held 75 years ago. Funnily enough - or perhaps not so funnily - radio ads and news items all week have been warning people not to cheat and attempt to do the now-booked-out walk anyway, because no one's checking booking receipts. Sadly, the ads probably give people the idea to go into the city and walk the bridge, even if they forgot to book in time.

I hope the government gets this one right, especially after last Wednesday night's train tunnel debacle, and the recent crushing crowds the evening the Queen Mary ocean liner met the QE II in Sydney Harbour. All those spectators and not a Port-a-loo in sight! For the bridge's 60th birthday, pedestrians were enouraged to walk from either The Rocks' end, or the Milson's Point end, and to meet in the middle. An English friend of mine, on teacher exchange from London at the time, took her local Girl Guides group in - and they almost got crushed because no one had considered what would happen when the two sides of walkers met in the middle. A similar thing was done for the Sydney Olympic Games celebrations in 2000, but that one worked much better. If I recall correctly, carefully selected (non crush) footage from the earlier walk event was used in the campaign to win us the Olympic bid.

I've done the Bridge walk numerous times. On my first USA trip, in 1983/84, several penpals' relatives expected me to know exactly how long the walk would take, so I had to do it as soon as I got home. It's about ten minutes for the bridge proper, but both approaches are probably longer than the bridge itself. The tower museum is worth investigating, and I really loved the amazing milk bar/lolly shop I found over at Milson's Point that first time. (It's changed a lot now, but the shop used to sell the most amazing choc-coated green-jelly frogs!; worth several return visits just to buy frogs.) And, about six years ago, teacher-librarians of ALIA School Libraries Section (NSW) walked across the bridge, from Milson's Point, to celebrate Library Week. The next time I do it, I wanna go over the arch: Bridge Climb!

The state government's organized enough big bridge walking events now to get it right; this time everyone's supposed to be walking the same direction. And, not to mention, there's a NSW election coming up. Otherwise, lightning's gonna strike!


As I was just about to upload this blog entry, a friend writing a university thesis on Star Trek fandom contacted me, wanting the specifics on Captain Therin's "official" licensed tie-in appearances in the Star Trek literature.

I had to tell her that Captain Therin has had a recreational park named after him! The novel Andor: Paradigm by Heather Jarman (in Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Book 1, Pocket Books, 2004), has the two main characters walking through Therin Park on Andor! Heather wrote in the reference to thank me for my site providing her with essential Andorian research.

A short while later, one of the unnamed Andorian crew seen briefly in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture", was given the name Shantherin th'Clane - in the novel Ex Machina (Pocket Books, 2005) by Christopher L. Bennett - as a homage to me (and Therin), for providing Christopher with research on the alien races of the United Federation of Planets.

I'm in a thesis. Another one. Cool!

Friday, March 16, 2007

A kids' show in an adult timeslot

I've just heard that I'm to be quoted in a new scholarly book that's coming out - about a woman's life in country New South Wales in the 70s, when the author was a young girl watching naughty "Number 96" on prime time (adults' viewing) at 8.30 each weeknight.

A researcher had asked me last year for proof that "Number 96" was a TV soap opera popular with children, and I was able to reference a major Australian magazine, which ran a kids' page and an annual TV survey of popular shows. "Number 96" always ranked highly - and above many kids' shows.

Some work colleagues and I were only chatting yesterday about modern TV shows that are essentially made for adults, but watched by children. "The Simpsons", "Ren and Stimpy" and "South Park" come to mind. Probably "Desperate Housewives", too. But in the 70s, Down Under, it was "Number 96".

More details on the book as they come to hand! There will also be news of a TV reunion of the "96" actors (coming very soon) and more DVD news. I hope.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Visible Man

You know, I've been in my current school for over four and a half years but, in 2007, I'm suddenly highly visible: known to every student and, seemingly, someone worth greeting with a warm or excited "Hello!" in the playground, school corridors and even the shopping centre and the local streets.

Teacher-librarians certainly seem to carry a prestige or an aura about them. I'd quite forgotten the feeling, seeing it's been nine years since I was last in that position in a school.

I love it!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Star Trek shrine - enshrined!

Harbinger #1

A Star Trek fan cameos in the superhero comic, "Harbinger" (#1, Valiant, 1992), storyline "Children of the Eighth Day". Written by Jim Shooter; pencilled by David Lapham; inked by John Dixon.

Harbinger #1, new panel

Found during my recent clean-up. I was once urged to buy this by my comic shop, whose staff knew I would have a Star Trek shrine to rival Faith's in the comic. However, I've never owned a Star Trek waste-paper bin, nor a Starfleet insignia nightshirt.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Drifting off

I've been sitting here online for about 40 minutes or so, driftng in and out of sleep. Unless I get it together, and actually post something realsoonnow, I'll have missed the timecode for my second weekend post.

Captain's Log: Supplemental. Which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. "Driftng"? "Weekend post"? See? I told you I was half asleep! I think what I meant to say was that I haven't missed a daily post since before Christmas, now, and I didn't want to spoil my record.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Oh my aching ankles

Yes indeed. Every step tells me that I was at the Zoo on Saturday. Even though I do walk a lot every day, and am quite used to all-day walking excursions, every step I took today caused mild twinges of my ankles, and at the backs of my knees. Caused by Taronga Park Zoo's unique slope, I suppose, and thus I've been reminded of my Zoo visit quite often today.

Unforgettable was the platypus! Sometimes very shy, and sometimes playfully swimming loop-the-loops around his tank, this visit saw Taronga's platypus snatch a rather large crustacean from the sandy bottom and give it an aggressive shake. I assumed the live food a platypus ate was quite small. Wrong!

The prawny yabbie thing escaped and hid, cowering, under a rock shelf with its terrified comrade. They nervously watched the platypus doing loop-the-loops for the crowd of human onlookers, lulling the prawny yabby things into a false sense of security(?) that their pursuer was giving up on lunch, I guess. But soon the platypus was reenacting the movie "Jaws" - and, at his second attempt, little prawny yabby thing was no more. The web of life...

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Inside, looking out; outside, looking in


Above: The view of the elephants. This is the view from the old 1917 elephant enclosure at Taronga Park Zoo, looking out at human passersby.


Above: The new view of the elephants. This is the view into the new elephant enclosure at Taronga, 2007. I swear you could make out these elephants grinning, from ear to ear, from the cabin of our chairlift as we swooped over the zoo yesterday. So much for the animal liberationists who claimed that the new elephants would be cramped, bored and poorly-treated.

As the US-release poster for "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" used to say, "There is no comparison."

TMP Bridge

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Today, the Sydney Star Trek Meetup Group is off to Taronga Park Zoo to check out the newly-arrived elephants in Taronga's 90th birthday year. (Coincidentally, our main building at work/school turns 90 this year, too, and on Friday we threw it a party.)

I'm taking the digital camera, so hopefully will have some great photos to share. Of animals, and/or Star Trek fans, I assume.

Friday, March 09, 2007

From novel to comic: Diane Duane's Star Trek characters

I've been wanting to collect these images together for ages:

Duane Trek

Above: Naraht the horta; Harb Tanzer, Chief of Recreation; Nurse Lia Burke; linguist Janíce Kerasus; and Doctor Tom Krejci (DC Comics TOS Series I: the "Double Blind" two-parter, #24-25, and "The Last Word", #28).

All of these characters have appeared in Diane Duane Star Trek novels, and most also in the old text-based computer game, "The Kobayashi Alternative". Other Duane novel characters who get mentioned by name in "The Last Word" comic include Athende, the tentacled Sulamid, and Avoca. In the recent omnibus of her "Rihannsu" novels, The Bloodwing Voyages, Diane Duane revealed that transporter technician Theresa Renner is named for her former housemate.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Decisions, decisions: The Empty Chair and this week's purchases

I finished the Star Trek novel "Rihannsu: The Empty Chair" on the train home from the city tonight. Very mixed feelings; it's taken me all month to get through it - frustratingly, I started it the very night I bought "Demands of Honor" ("Errand of Fury #2").

Parts of TEC I loved: the fabulous rec deck parties, with witty Kirk, Ael, McCoy and Spock banter; jovial Harb Tanzer and chirpy K's't'lk the Hamalki, and the final scenes with the Empty Chair itself. However, I felt there were just too many huge slabs of preparations-and-speculations-for-war that seemed to move so slowly; sometimes I could spend an hour reading/phasing in and out, and only get a few pages accounted for. The rec deck stuff moved so much faster, but Diane Duane made us wait sooooo long to see Harb - eleven chapters in (p 186). And Naraht the horta's cameo was cute (p 405) but also too far into the book.

I'm thrilled that Diane Diane was finally able to complete this (Romulan) story arc (and once again use her great original characters). I was never really expecting it to continue beyond Book #2.

"The Wounded Sky", which introduced us to the glass-spider-like Hamalki scientist, was my very first purchase on US soil (my first American trip, starting with a Hawaiian stopover in December 1983 - friends had told me I'd never find Star Trek books in Honolulu - but the wonderfully engaging, quite lengthy, book kept me company on plane journeys all over USA... with the timely arrival of "The Trellisane Confrontation" to keep me company on the way home at the end of January 84). I still regard TWS most fondly, and also appreciated its bare-bones transformation into an early episode of TNG (ie. "Where No One Has Gone Before", with Eric Menyuk's the Traveller taking on the Hamalki's role).

With TWS's original characters so vivid in my mind, I eagerly devoured the first "Rihannsu" novel, "My Enemy, My Ally" (July 84), and its sequel, "The Romulan Way" (Aug 87), as they turned up, then mourned with the rest of Treklit fandom the loss of the Rihannsu via "that memo" in 1989 - and then delighted in their unexpected, but still controversial, return with "Swordhunt" and "Honor Blade" - because Ms Duane's unfinished manuscript, that was to end the whole thing, was running late, so Book 3 suddenly turned into Books 3 and 4, and ended with "To Be Continued". Aaaaarrrrgggghhhh!!!!!!

I'm also thrilled that the saga was recently collected, with ranks and timeslines revised, for the handsomely-produced "The Bloodwing Voyages".

And I'm ultimately satisfied that "The Empty Chair" concludes with some (perhaps inevitable) links to TNG's "The Neutral Zone" and "Unification". Ael's final line was unexpected, but probable should have been predictable. Excellent!

But what to read next? I finished TEC, and I thought I was moving on to "Demands of Honor" tonight. I even had it in my backpack, anticipating finishing up TEC. But tonight I found "Enterprise: The Good That Men Do" and "Crucible: Kirk". I say again, Aaaaarrrrgggghhhh!!!!!!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

How do you Google? Part II

Once again, the call of my site meter is both compelling and relentless. Some of the recent visitors to my site had to have been disappointed not to find what they were searching for, but hopefully they enjoyed their stay at this blog page. Recent activity came from surfers Googling under such terms as:

parramatta collectors sunday

Connor Trinneer

Star Trek catchcry

our jack russell terrier


therin of andor

David Gerrold Tribble seller

australian aboriginal surnames

The Tudors TV series

And the most popular picture on my site (via Google Images) is the wonderful, vivacious, topless Abigail (below). Still drawing a crowd after all these years! Onya Abby!


When I first put the site meter onto the blog, at the end of January, the blog was getting about 50 page views a day. That's now increased to almost 100 per day. And people seem to be staying longer, and viewing other entries on the blog. I'm feeling much better than when I could only use incoming comments as a measure for success. I know people are out there, although I'm constantly surprised about what people search for on the Internet: essentially, every topic (and combination) you could imagine, plus many more.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

When a headache begins to gel

"I've got gel in my hair again," said one of my students, in the middle of our library lesson, as if he'd only just noticed.

"It looks good," I reassured him. "I've got gel in my hair, too."

"I'm not going to have gel ever again," he protested. "It's giving me a haircut."

Monday, March 05, 2007

What's in a name, Shran?


Two recent Star Trek novels, released almost simultaneously, have caused a bit of a stir over the naming of Andorian General Shran. Which one, if any, will gain acceptance over the long term?

Writer of the (miniscule) text of the biographical computer screen image (below, as seen in the "Enterprise" two-parter, "In a Mirror, Darkly", set in the Mirror Universe), Mike Sussman uses Thy'lek as Mirror Shran's first name in his novel, written with Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore, "Age of the Empress" (in "Mirror Universe, Volume 1: Glass Empires"). It refers back to the first name he used in Archer's biography.

Archer biography

Mike Sussman once sent me an email, also copied to the TrekBBS, that said, "When I wrote this [for the TV episode], I assumed the text wouldn't be legible (silly me). There are probably some errors in here. One I can spot -- Archer took command of Enterprise in 2151, not 2150. Some of this text would seem to be contradicted by the finale (which obviously had not been written yet)... I wouldn't really consider any of this 'hard canon', so take it all with a grain of salt. Both bios were slapped together hastily and weren't approved by the exec producers."

In the days before High Definition television, the contents of the screen in "In a Mirror, Darkly" would never be discernable. These days, within seconds of broadcast, the freeze frames of Hoshi Sato's and Jonathan Archer's bio screens were all over the Internet.

"Enterprise: The Good That Men Do" a new novel by Andy Mangels & Michael A Martin - that already "explains" that the controversial finale of "Enterprise", the episode "These Are the Voyages..." did not happen exactly the way Riker and Troi saw it play out on the holodeck - kicks off the post-series "Enterprise" fiction line. As they weren't compelled to use the name "Thy'lek", Mangels & Martin call Shran, in full: Hravishran th'Zoarhi. Thus their choice conforms, instead, to the DS9 post-series novels' naming conventions for a typical Andorian thaan (alpha male).

There's nothing like a good ol' "canon" argument to get Star Trek fans' blue blood boiling! Isn't that so, Thy'lek? I mean Hravishran? (Or does he just answer to "Shran"?)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Dull Men's Club

This morning, on Radio MIX 106.5 FM's remix of Sammy Power & Subby Valentine's midweek breakfast show, Sammy promoted the Dull Men's Club website.

DMC Logo

The site informs: "Many Dull Men are shy. But with the anonymity of the web, now they are free to tell others what's on their minds -- to share their experiences, strengths, and (tame) desires. If you know of safe excitement -- dull things to do, places to visit, foods, events, books, etc, -- send a message telling us about them."

Now, any time I get stuck for a blog topic, I can turn to this spectacular grey (oh, so grey) cornucopia of virtual sand collections, air sickness bag posters, grey-print-on-grey souvenir T-shirts, finicky guides to airport luggage carousels and complimentary hotel soaps, and even a local view on the current drought in Australia.

And you thought my Rogues' Gallery of Andorians was bizarre, obscure, trivial or... dull?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Lore and Order by Ian McLean

Professional Star Trek authors beware:

... a "Next Generation" fanzine story, in a poetic style that began to feel very reminiscent of Dr Seuss when I was originally composing it. First published in "Klingons over Kiron III", (c) November 1991. It seems somehow appropriate to reprint it in the week of The Cat in the Hat's 50th birthday - which was, coincidentally, the very same day as my brand new Lore action figure (from Diamond Select toys/Art Asylum) arrived from the USA!

'Twas a sparkling day on Kiron III *
And Lore was living high;
He'd made ten thousand credits, see,
He didn't have to try.
Lore, he was too clever,
The colonists were dim;
Yes, Lore, he pulled the lever,
And his puppets danced for him.

The colonists all brought their queries
On farming or construction.
They paid him well to hear his theories
On preventing crop destruction.
In every answer Lore did sell
There always was 'Plan B';
If people from Lore's favour fell,
He'd wreck their plans with glee.

Lore wrapped his plots in scientific guise,
The farmers never guessed
That the android with the yellow eyes,
Was Kiron III's worst pest!
A ladies' man was Mr Lore,
The women found him witty;
The menfolk, they could take no more.
Soong thought all this a pity.

That his android loved the good life,
Caused Doctor Soong to wonder
How to cope when Lore caused strife?
Soong's experiments went under!
His idea had been a good one -
To create a robot man;
But he gave the thing emotion
And Soong's troubles they'd began!

Lore, he had rejected 'Dad',
No father figure now;
"I will not let my son go bad",
The doctor made his vow.
Doctor Soong discussed his troubles,
The technician's name was Karl;
"Well catch him at his own game",
The man said with a snarl.

If they devised a riddle,
To which they knew the key;
They'd catch Lore in the middle,
The colonists set free
From Lore's manipulations,
And money-making schemes;
But Karl had other reasons:
The end of all Soong's dreams...

Lore and Order
Illustration by Paul Beck, aka "Breeze".

For Karl, he was a Klingon spy,
Infiltrating Kiron III;
To steal the android he would try,
Technology for free!
His years of working for the Doc
Had helped him plan the feat:
To make the android's programs lock;
Karl's get-away was neat.

He walked in upon the android,
Who was busy making love;
The woman screamed, she looked annoyed,
Ran to the street above.
The android shook the bed-clothes free,
No fear he would allow;
"I know your plan's to challenge me.
Let's end it here and now!"

They paced each other 'round the floor,
Today would be the day;
If Karl could last ten minutes more,
A Klingon Bird of Prey
Would transport up the android, and
Leave orbit with its prize;
Then Lore began to crush his hand,
Karl could not believe his eyes!

Lore won by using all his strength,
Held the Klingon spy with ease.
Androids could go to any length -
"Your communicator, please..."
Imitating the Klingon's sound,
Lore admitted Karl's 'mistake',
Then smashed his skull into the ground,
One Klingon's life at stake.

And so Lore lived to lie again,
Men petitioned his creator;
Soong disassembled Lore and then
He manufactured Data.
"This new android won't love or hate;
Won't cause Lore's brand of terror.
His quest for knowledge will be great."
The Doc had learned his error.

By Ian McLean, 1991.

* otherwise known as Omicron Theta ("Datalore"). Planet first named Kiron III in David Gerrold's novelisation of "Encounter at Farpoint".

Friday, March 02, 2007

"They do not like it, not one little bit."

The title quote is adapted from the hapless fish's catchcry in "The Cat in the Hat" which, after today's national read-aloud at school to celebrate The Cat's 50th birthday, is at the forefront of my (temporarily) feline brain.

The Cat in the Hat national read-aloudwhiteNational read-aloud

Over on the TrekBBS, someone has once again claimed that, rather than JJ Abrams helm a young-Kirk-and-Spock-at-the-Academy Star Trek film, he should be revisiting "the carnage of the Earth-Romulan War, right before the birth of the Federation (circa 2156-60) and have the entire film be one huge sendoff for Captain Archer".

Well, I'm sure something like that was Paramount's intention for the first ST motion picture after seven successful years of "Star Trek: Enterprise" on TV. But it wasn't to be. For four years (before cancellation), the "Enterprise" telvision audience was miniscule compared even to "Deep Space Nine" and "Voyager", and hardly a good starting point for a new set of films.

As someone who actually enjoyed "Enterprise" - and has enjoyed "Forbidden Planet", "Master and Commander", "Galaxy Quest", Daniel Craig in "Casino Royale", and JJ Abrams' "Lost", most of which have been mentioned in the TrekBBS posts as "good" entertainment - I am confident that the new ST film will be a critical and financial success.

I am utterly disappointed by some ST fans' incredibly negative attitude, so ready to quash any and all new ST production(s) before anything's even started filming. In the old days, they'd say it was 'cos Executive Producer of 18 years or so, Rick Berman, was still around at Paramount... But now, they reject new ST even without quoting that excuse. Whatever happened to IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations") and ST fans' famous positive outlook for the future?

You know, if I was sitting through episodes of "Lost" every week and coming out of them saying, "Well, that was crap", I could understand their hesitation and lack of faith, but "Lost" is consistently strong on acting, writing, directing, sets, storytelling strategies and use of interactive advertising (via its website). JJ Abrams, director of ST XI, knows what he's doing.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

If it's Thursday...

What a rewarding time at work today. Two Kindergarten classes made their first official visit to the school library and, as teacher-librarian, I gave them a compressed version of all the activities I've been doing with the Stage 1 classes (Years 1 and 2). The topic for the term is "Nursery Rhymes", so we did "Little Miss Muffet" (starring my battery-operated, black, hairy Bungee Spider - he drops down from his web and crawls back up again!), and "Hey, Diddle Diddle" (featuring my handmade cardboard finger puppets).

We followed up with a reading of The Cat in the Hat, because Kindergarten will be otherwise engaged tomorrow afternoon during the time assigned for the national read-aloud.

This afternoon, as school finished and the playground filled with departing children and parents, several of my little first-time visitors returned, cloth library bag slung over a shoulder, hand inside Mum's or Dad's hand, to wave goodbye to me at the library door. Ten minutes later, when I was in the back office, I heard the pitter patter of little feet. Another first-time library patron had entered to announce, "I just needed to say 'Goodbye'. Goodbye!" And back out he went, the way he'd come. So cute! I wonder if I've made as big an impression on these young lives as my first teacher-librarian, the wonderful Janette McKenny, later Janette Mercer (when she married my Year 4 teacher, Milton Mercer!) did for me in 1967?

Tonight, the Sydney Star Trek Meetup Group had its second monthly midweek coffee shop meeting. Another rewarding experience. I'm looking forward to these Meetups very much. I'm in the city every Thursday night, anyway, and it's nice to have a regular group to commune with after a big shop-up at Galaxy Bookshop. Our next meeting, we return to Taronga Park Zoo.