Thursday, November 29, 2007

Nanowrimo 2007

I have been quiet on my blog of late - not a whole lot to say... well, not true, lots to say, but I've been putting all my words into my latest novel for National Novel Writing Month. Nano is the greatest thing ever and I plan to do it until I die. May I finish every year.

I struggled this year, and for the first time, I've reached the end of my 50k words and NOT finished my story. I plan to continue, because I liked the writing and love the idea.

This year, my novel is called "The Holy Book of Janus" and is about a far, far future where a space man is stranded on a primitive planet and becomes their messiah. This time around though, he gets to read what all the gospelers are writing about him. How will it turn out? Well, it's not done yet, but I have a good idea now that I've hit my 50,000 words.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Winning means giving!

I read Andy's blog regularly. Recently, he had a post called "Free Stuff is Good", and I was one of the first to comment on his blog, so I won this bottle of wine.

I am now trying to come up with a list of 5 things to give away.

Things that I'm thinking of giving:

- books
- cell phone (just bought a new one, need to give away the old one)
- mp3 player
- radio pen
- skype mike/headphone combination
- Master of Orion III video game

Look for my up and coming blog - I will post what I decide on along with photos.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

That bloody pen

A few months ago, I'm in Paper Plus at the Johnsonville Mall and I asked for a reasonable priced pen that was really comfortable and wrote well.

This is the pen that the guy there suggested:

I have to say, I have been more than happy with this pen, it was pretty expensive for a plastic pen ($9), but as promised, it is super smooth and very comfortable.

So - why am I writing this? Is it because the pen is great and I want to talk all about my fantastic pen? No, unfortunately not.

The pen, as most pens do, is running out of ink. I've probably got about a week at most left in it.

So, I go back to the same Paper Plus and ask for a refill - no issues right? NO! They don't have refills for that pen, they don't know where I can get them! Why, why, why!!! would that guy recommend me a pen if they don't even sell refills? I have paid $9 for a throw-away pen. Any time I spend looking for a re-fill is going to be effort to save pennies. I am unimpressed!

I can't believe how annoyed I was with this. I haven't been that angry in some time. I know I am taking this too seriously, but I like my pens and it's something I've very fussy about. I can't believe that I'd actually have to ask, "Can I buy refills too?" on a $9 pen!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Have Faith in God

Downtown Wellington, Lambton Quay, there's this old guy handing out pamphlets. There were two pamphlets, one folded inside the other. The outside one was labeled "Have Faith in God" and the inside one was labeled "Specially for you!".

While Una was shopping, I read through every bit of it and every quote. I have been reading lots of biblical scholarship lately, preparing for my fictional bible during National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) next month.

"Have Faith in God" was just various quotes from the New Testament while "Specially for you!" was one quote plus description.

It described that it had a message for me, and said, "First of all, let me emphasize that this message is absolutely true, because it is God who said it."

It then quoted John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

The ridiculousness of the description sentence bowled me over. "... because it is God who said it."

Don't get me wrong, while I'm an atheist, I feel that the King James Version of John 3:16 is one of the most beautiful sentences in the English language. It's a lovely sentiment and there's a reason it's one of the most recognized passages from the bible.

However, to say that God said it means two things:
1) God speaks in the third person, which is unacceptable, since anyone who speaks of themselves in the third person is completely annoying
2) The guy who actually wrote it isn't getting any credit at all. Surely, God would want to give credit where credit is due.

Throughout the Old Testament, God speaks in first person all the time, "for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God" for example. So why would He switch all of a sudden? I think the most likely thing is that the pamphlet was wrong. Comments?

Saturday, June 30, 2007

SoCNoC is over until next year

I hit 50,294 words by about 11PM on June 28th, a couple of days ahead of deadline!

This novel is about the far future in New Zealand. It's a dystopian sci-fi where different species of humans war with each other and live their difficult lives. The machines play an important role, and interact with the different species in mysterious ways that no one seems to understand.

I've enjoyed writing about the ruins of Wellington, the odd church in the wilds around Nelson, the b-mod city around Napier and the g-mod military installation in the bay of islands.

I still have a few thousand words to write to finish my story. Then, let it sit and edit it later, maybe sometime next month.

Thanks to everyone at kiwiwriters for the encouragement, and congratulations to all those other winners. It's been a great month to write a novel!

I'm looking forward to SoCNoC next year. I'm sure it will do nothing but grow each year.

Friday, June 22, 2007

SoCNoC day 21 and 22 - word wars

My best days so far this June for writing kiwiwriters's SoCNoC have been during word wars. You sit there for 10 minute spurts and get as many words in as you can. Having a group of crazy friends around usually helps. I do war with myself on occasion, but it's nowhere near as fun.

One thing is that you learn how fast that you can type, especially if you've got the scene you're going to write outlined in your head already. You also get lots of words out for completing the challenge, which is 50,000 words in one month.

Here are my word amounts - all are in 10 minute increments except where noted:
21st June:
736 (15 min)
828 (15 min)

- my goal that entire night was to hit 600 (in 10 minutes) at least once. Never happened.

I joined up with Andy and Kerryn tonight and got a couple of ten minute word wars going before I had to leave and watch a movie. Here are my word counts for tonight:

22nd June


Got my 600 in 10 minutes! I was very pleased. My fingers were relaxed and finding the keys. It was also lovely in the room, since I moved to the back room and blocked every route for the heat to escape, turned on a heater and loved every minute.

Oh - found an ok timer on sourceforge. It's called tea timer. It was useful and has a lot of features. It pops up while I'm typing and that gives me accurate measurements of how fast I'm typing. It's gotten faster over June actually. :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

SoCNoC, the drama!

I know, I know, backup your work. I can't tell you how often I've heard this in the past.

I did back up my work, I did, I did, I did. Unfortunately, I backed up an older copy over my newer copy and lost about two thousand words of my SoCNoC entry. I did it last night and stubbornly stayed up late tonight to correct it. I went from about 31, 000 down to about 29,000 in one stupid mistake. I wrote about 3000 words tonight, not quite catching where I could be, but at least I made my quota (19 * 1667 - the number of words you should have on the 19th to meet your 50k by the end of 30 days).

It isn't just backing up your work, it's about not being stupid about it! Geeze, I've been around computers long enough now, you'd think I'd figure out how to drag and drop.

Still, the worst thing is that my re-written scenes felt awkward and not as good as the ones that I wrote last night.

Anyway. I'm off to bed now (2AM). Bummer of a night.

Novel writing: SocNoC day 19th - nothing so far

SocNoC, Kiwiwriters own novel writing challenge has been going on all of June.

I thought that I'd breeze through it and be done by now (or close), and here I sit at about 31,000 words. 50,000 is the goal, so I'm pretty close to pace, but it's 10 to midnight, and I know that I should go and write a bit and at least get to my daily word count.

I know that I'll get through it, but I really have to put aside a few nights where I can really push the word count up. I had a word count over 4,000 one day... I need a few more like that!

Anyway - off to write a thousand words or so.

Friday, June 1, 2007

First day of SoCNoC completed!

If you're been following my blog, you are aware that it's Kiwiwriters SoCNoC novel challenge time. I started at midnight and here I am 24 hours later sitting at about 3500 words (about 7% finished). I spent about 3 hours of writing total, although there was a lot of unfocused sitting around picking at my writing.

The television is such a distraction, and I write in the same room as the TV, since otherwise, it's somewhat anti-social. The mp3 player doesn't seem to help. I might have to go back to Avril Lavigne songs, since that is all I could write to during Nanowrimo last November.

On the plus side, I got some good writing food from the grocery store. While I tell myself that it is stock-piling for the month, I'm just kidding myself and it will be gone in a week. Chips and dip, tim-tams, macaroons, trail mix, juice... I think I sampled one of each today - no way, it won't last long.

I also went to the gym for the first time on my new membership which I got on trademe just the other day. With winter coming, and it's pretty nasty today, it will be nice to have a way to exercise without getting myself cold and wet. It also helps me focus with the writing, and I'll be spending lots of time at the gym throughout June.

Good luck to the rest of you kiwiwriters!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

SoCNoC has begun!

I did a midnight start on SoCNoC (the Southern Cross Novel Challenge) last night. I managed to get in about 1300 words and continued this morning and got my quota. I will continue today and try and get a head start going into the weekend. It's a long way to 50,000 words, but making my quota every day will do it nicely, even if I'm more ambitious than that.

If I can get 10,000 words by Monday, I will be very happy and well on my way. It would be better to get even more, but considering how much I'm struggling with the current storyline (it feels like it's going quite slow), I'd be surprised if I got over 10k over the weekend.

Still - very exciting and I'm wondering where my story will go in the end. I've only sketched out the world roughly and some of the characters.

I have gone away from the first contact/telepath story, to a different one which I did on the kiwiwriters easter challenge. That story, which was never finished, is almost exactly like my current novel.

It is set in an alien land (I think it's New Zealand 1000 years from now), with many types of humans roaming around and big, mechanical creatures that aren't so friendly any more. Oh yeah, and there are packs of wild dogs all over the place. What would your pet do if all the people went away?

Friday, May 18, 2007

What is science fiction?

For much of my reading career, I've been reading science fiction and fantasy.

I have noticed a trend among science fiction readers to discriminate against fantasy as if it is some sort of lesser fiction.

Well, it is quite ironic that science fiction readers would do this, considering that science fiction itself has been considered inferior for most, if not all of its existence, something that continues to happen now.

It brings up the question of "what is science fiction?". Most people know it when they see it, but having discussed this in detail with a group of friends, I realize that there is disagreement and no clear definition.

Is there anything that automatically makes a novel science fiction? I think there is... time travel, stories set in the future, stories with technology that doesn't exist yet. That all seems reasonable to me. Still, there are probably plenty of examples of these where a novel or story has these elements but aren't considered science fiction.

Some examples of "disputed science fiction" are: "A Handmaid's Tale", "The Time Traveler's Wife" and "Slaughterhouse Five". The only reason that they aren't considered science fiction is because their author says that they aren't, or they don't "feel" like science fiction. I think they all are.

It is possible for a story set in the future NOT to be science fiction? Is is possible for a story with time travel in it not to be science fiction? What about aliens? What about new, future technology?

I'm tempted to say "No, it's not possible.", but I'm willing to listen to counter arguments.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Snippet of my writing

I don't post many pieces of my stories, but I've been in the mood to write, and have been gearing up for The Southern Cross Novel Challenge in June and decided to have a play with some of the characters from the novel. This one is part of "The Station Challenge" from kiwiwriters a few months ago, as well as "a small descriptive challenge" some time later.

So, take a look at the short piece called "Natasha".

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Signed up for SoCNoC 2007

What are you doing this June? Me, I'm writing my 2nd novel.

Seeing as Nanowrimo happens in November, just when the weather is getting more and more like summer, Kiwiwriters decided to set up a novel challenge more in line with the Southern Hemisphere. So, June it is.

50,000 words and a massive rush of accomplishment, Kiwiwriters brings you SoCNoC, "The Southern Cross Novel Challenge".

Here is my participation certificate... I'm sincerely hoping for a winner's certificate at the end of June!

I highly recommend that you join us. Good luck!

Best Cinemas in Wellington, 2007

I finally visited the SkyCity Cinemas in the WestField Queensgate in Lower Hutt. Now, I feel qualified to say what the best cinema in Wellington is.

There are a few factors that I could consider, like ease of parking, number of cinemas and so on, but really, the only thing I care about is pure cinema experience, that is, comfort and quality (sound/picture etc...). What cinema makes you feel the most like you are in the theater?

These are my picks in order:

1. Embassy theatre (great ambiance, beautiful quality everything - the only problem is that there aren't more like it.)
2. Courtney Central (big screens, top notch quality and sound, comfy seats)
3. Skycity Cinemas, Queensgate, Lower Hutt (just slightly less good than Courtney Central - parking is free, carpet is LOUD).

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Got my winnings!

Lynn Viehl, paperback writer, had a contest back in march called "Last Call". I won that, as posted here. Anyway - got my goods today (actually yesterday, but only checked the mail today - mail doesn't come on Anzac day).

Got a copy of "Blade Dancer" in hardcover, signed, along with the last of her "Stardoc" bookmarks.

When given the choice of any of her novels currently in print, or an Advance Reading Copy (ARC) of her latest novel, I asked for her to send her favorite novel and to say why it was her favorite. I got back exactly what I asked for, and here are some photos. I'm tickled pink over this - I think it's very cool.

Book cover and bookmark

Signatures inside and back of bookmark

Saturday, April 21, 2007

My Bookshelf

This is a picture of our bookshelf. It's pretty much only the books that I've acquired since arriving in New Zealand, and I've held myself back considerably. I have significantly more back in Canada.

I posted this idea a few months back on this Kiwiwriter's page as a way around typing all the titles and authors into some kind of book database, as it's much quicker and requires much less effort (i.e. the lazy way).

Here is it in all its glory - feel free to browse and ask questions. :-)

Oh - and this includes all of Una's books too - she's the massage therapist with all the anatomy books btw.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Seth Godin's blog: pro-business=anti-change?

I read this the other day on Seth Godin's blog. I'm a bit of a fan of Seth Godin, and this is one of his best blogs.

Why, why, why do businesses fight change so much? With change, there is a huge opportunity for money - guaranteed. Seth's examples here are excellent and show that the world of business is somewhat ass-backwards in their thinking.

I was introduced to Seth Godin with this video. I highly recommend it.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

100 Must-Read Science Fiction Novels

This isn't strictly a review, since I haven't finished this book yet, but I thought that I'd mention it, since I'm sort of using this book as a guide for novels to read for the next little while.

"100 Must-Read Science Fiction Novels" by Stephen E. Andrews and Nick Rennison is a small, attractive looking book which has, what seems at first glance to be a solid list of recommended science-fiction novels.

Going through it, I see that I've read less than 20% of the novels in there. Here is my list of 19:
author, title (year), my rating 1-5 stars
Azimov, "Foundation" (1953) , ****
Banks, "The Player of Games" (1988), ***1/2
Card, "Ender's Game" (1985), *****
Egan, "Permutation City" (1994), ****
Haldeman, "The Forever War" (1974), ***
Heinlein, "Orphans of the Sky" (1941), ***
Heinlein, "Starship Troopers" (1959), ****
Herbert, "Dune" (1965), *****
Keyes, "Flowers for Algernon" (1966), *****
Le Guin, "The Left Hand of Darkness" (1969), ***
Le Guin, "The Dispossessed" (1974), ***
Lem, "Solaris" (1961), ***
Miller, "A Canticle for Leibowitz" (1959) (unfinished)
Morgan, "Altered Carbon" (2002), ***
Niven, "Ringworld" (1970), ***1/2
Orwell, "1984" (1949), *****
Stephenson, "Snow Crash" (1992), ****
Verne, "Journey To the Centre of the Earth" (1864), ****
Wolfe, "Shadow of the Torturer" (1980) - book1 of "The Book of the New Sun", **

Considering that I have 4, 5 star ratings and 5, 4 star ratings in this list, I think I agree strongly with the authors so far, so will continue to read from their list - once I finish all my borrowed books of course. :-)

Of the other books, I don't quite get the inclusion of "Altered Carbon", which I read recently, nor "Player of Games", which while fine novels are hardly "must read". Then, there are things like "Shadow of the Torturer", which I never understood being written in the first place - pretty dull stuff mostly. Maybe I'm thinking of the 2nd or 3rd or 4th books, but they all blur together actually.

Also - "A Canticle for Leibowitz", while brilliant, killed a main character part of the way through and I couldn't bring myself to finish at the time. I promised to go back and finish one day.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

"That's not where I wanted it to go!"

That was one of the many exasperated sentences from Una on her first actual golf round recently. Other were, "I want to be better!" and "If it stays like this, I'm not going to play." and, of course, "Where's my ball?"

We've been to the driving range lots lately, but haven't spent much time out on the golf courses until last weekend, when we finally got a round in. It was at Ohariu Valley golf course and we played again this weekend at The Kapiti Golf course, but we were interrupted by a support call at the tee of on the 6th, so that blew. I was having one of the best scoring rounds ever, and that's my old home course.

They were doing some kind of upkeep on the greens though, and they were all covered in sand, which made for some strange putting results. Still, it didn't seem to affect me badly, although Una was another story - she wasn't happy at all with the sandy greens.

The outing were good enough that we will continue, and Una is still eager to get out to the driving range and work on her strokes, so that's a good thing.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Pavlov's Determinist

I carry a support phone for my company. It usually rings at inconvenient times, like at a restaurant or at 3AM in the morning. It has a distinctive ring, I think it's the default one on that phone.

The people on the other end are looking for solutions to their problems, and are usually facing a telco company that could be losing money or don't have a phone service for their two to twelve million subscribers. There is a bit of pressure involved and calls from a CEO or head of some department are pretty common.

On a walk to work the other day, I went by a bus stop and someone else's phone went off and they had the same ring.

Late nights, slogging through source code, looking at customer configurations, being tired to the point of hallucination all came back to me and ruined my morning.

Pavlov knew what he was doing. It doesn't mean we have to like it, but it probably means that we respond this way to everything. Think about the last time you were in a bad mood and see if there is anything that triggered it.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

My cats

I talk about my cats in my blog, but haven't posted many pictures.

Here is a picture of Fred (Princess Winnifred)

And here's a picture of Gordon (that's Flash Gordon to people who don't know him):

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Una's a golfing natural

I took Una out to the driving range in Petone now that she's got her nifty new golf clubs.

Because of her yoga, there are so many things I don't have to bother with teaching, like relaxing and good posture. She has stunning posture both before, during and after her swing, and a wicked follow-through.

It's hard for me to pick up on little adjustments because she's a lefty, but there's not much to adjust really.

Speaking of adjustments, I may have to adjust my estimate of when she'll start beating me on the golf course.

She's keen for another trip to the driving range too.

Cartoon Entry in Cartoon challenge

I created a cartoon challenge on the kiwiwriters page.

Here is my entry.

copyright Travis Cottreau, 2007

Dialog font: "Steel City Comic" by John Greyson.

Friday, March 9, 2007

I won a contest

Paperback writer, a blog by Lynn Viehl often holds give aways and various contests, often having her own, signed books as prizes.

One she had recently was called "Last Call" giveaway. It's a good read about how she has been trying to get rid of a large number of professionally printed bookmarks (big mistake) since she started selling novels and she's down to the last one. That, along with the novel of the winner's choice are the prize.

Here's the winning announcement... me, me, me... hahah...

As I said in an earlier musing, I attract books. This still seems to be the case. :-)

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Una has golf clubs

Can you believe this? I actually convinced Una to get golf clubs. She suggested it herself actually. This was after following me out for a few rounds just to walk the course. Now, she's decided to ruin her walk by golfing too - but I will never complain.

Now - how long before she starts beating me? I give it 6 months.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Bookstores without a Science-Fiction section

Whenever I go into a bookstore, I almost always end up in the sci-fi/fantasy section. When I don't find a sci-fi section, I end up wondering why.

Is it that they don't think that sci-fi qualifies to be in their bookstore? isn't literature? Something else?

Bookstores like this are usually filled with what other bookstores would put in the "Literature" section, either classic or contemporary.

It makes me think that the bookstore is stuffy, and ruins my browse, even if there are other books that I'm interested in reading.

I hit two bookstores like this during my weekend in Auckland... fortunately, there is always a Borders and a Dymocks there for me to browse.

Monday, February 19, 2007

"Do you have any other pants?"

Golf - it can grind down your determination, it can kill you just a little bit, it can steal your soul one shot at a time. Then, you hit one good drive, one good chip or one good putt, and all of that goes away.

Still - there are apparently some obstacles to get through before even getting on the golf course.

Saturday, noon, I drive out to The Ohariu Valley golf course. There is a club event going on and it's 3 hours before I can get on to play. Ok, there are lots of courses around - piece of cake. I'm off to the Hutt valley - I've never played the Shandon Golf course, I'll play there. Thirty minutes later, I'm walking up to the club house. I walk inside, clubs ready to go and ask, "Can I pay for nine holes?".

The guy behind the counter is young, maybe 20 and packing bottled water into a glass front fridge. He looks me up and down and asks, "Do you have any other pants?". I am somewhat aghast and shake my head and say, "No."

"Well, we've got a dress code here and you can't wear jeans.", meanwhile, every single other person I've seen on the course is wearing shorts. I don't debate the difference in formality between shorts and jeans, I just walk out, swearing all the way to the car. When I have my mind set on something, and have been thinking about it for days, I don't take that kind of thing well.

My wife consoles me by saying that we can head up to Kapiti on Sunday and I can play on the Kapiti course. This calms me down. That was my home course last year and I like playing there. We play mini golf at the Porirua Pirate mini golf place instead. I get my best score ever with a 41, 1 under par for the 18 holes. Michael Campbell has played at this mini golf course, and his best score there is only 37. :)

Sunday arrives and I insist on calling the Kapiti golf club because you never know when they might be closed for a club event. Sure enough - closed to the public until 3:30PM. How about The Ohariu Valley? They were closed Saturday, what's the chance of being closed again today? Well, pretty high, because they are closed to the public until at least 4PM.

Arraaaggghhhh!!! This isn't a golfing weekend at all.

I didn't really want to, but I head off to The Berhampore Golf Club. It isn't that it's a bad course, but man, it's a lot of hill climbing. For the same cost as everywhere else, I get 18 holes instead of 9. Did I mention the hills? It would be hard without carrying the 25kg of golf clubs.

I play really badly for the first 9 holes and get a 53. My best is something like 47, so I've done a lot better. Still, I console myself that I was regularly scoring 60 last summer. AND, it gets better after 9, I get a birdie on the par 5 tenth and par the 12th.

Still - a brutal golfing weekend.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Bush administration sweeping science under the rug

I read a disturbing editorial in the latest issue of "New Scientist" (Feb 3rd, 2007) which stated, and there is no reason to believe he is lying, that the Bush administration is deliberately covering up scientific results that might not agree with their political agendas, specifically anything to do with environmental problems or global warming.

Most governments, and this is true everywhere, regularly ignore scientific results. This, I think, is pretty normal. However, trying to cover up results, is a completely different thing. Tactics include, delaying press releases or canceling them completely, re-wording press releases to either sanitize them to reduce the impact, or make them too technical or bland to be understandable or even just changing the information completely.

If you want more details on this story, I suggest buying the magazine, it's well worth the read.

The thing that gets me about this is how dumb it is. Who exactly are they serving with this kind of behavior? Even if there was one single iota of usefulness in doing this kind of thing (I don't think there is), you'd think that they'd be smarter about it than this - after all, they've been caught doing it.

If the Bush administration were to simply ignore the scientific results like all the past governments, they would probably be treated like all the other past governments, i.e. they're politicians sure, but they aren't any more evil than lawyers. This way, they are worse than lawyers. I don't get it - why be so stupid?

I can think of a couple of reasons why you might NOT behave this way:

1. It's easier to let the scientific information flow. After all, you're just shooting yourself in the foot, since down the road, you're making your population more ignorant, and that's where your scientists come from in the first place.
2. Free flowing information makes people feel better and improves morale, after all, imagine the scientist who has this happening to him. What's he supposed to think? "This is the best government ever!" - I don't think so.
3. The more you lie, the more you have to keep your facts straight. Telling the truth is so much simpler, since you can then just let everyone verify your facts.

As I said, I can't think of a single good reason to do this. In the end, it's a lot harder to pull off than shooting straight. Una thought of something that hadn't occurred to me, but is an excellent point. With the Bush administration hiding scientific facts on global warming, it might explain why Al Gore decided to help push "An Inconvenient Truth" in 2006, since he's bound to know what the current administration is up to.

It isn't even a matter of saying, "Shame on you!" to Bush and his friends, but really, they deserve a, "What are you thinking?". It's a silly, transparent, ultimately self-destructive behavior.

Determinist - the name

A few people have asked me why the name "determinist". Does it mean I believe in a deterministic universe? I get the impression that most people aren't determinists by nature, since being a determinist usually means that you don't believe in things like a soul, free will, God and these kinds of things.

This is true for me as well, and I'm comfortable with that. And, I think that everyone is actually a determinists whether they like it or not.

One of the recent issues of "New Scientist" discusses "The big questions" like religion versus science (like there is a conflict!), life, death, free will, the theory of everything and so on. I read two different pieces on free will that I found quite interesting, and the bits that struck me were well put.

Generally, free will can be put this way, and I quote, "A rigid philosophical tradition claims that no choice is free unless it is uncaused; that is, unless the "will" is exercised independently of all causal influences - in a causal vacuum. ... The problem is that choices are made by brains, and brains operate causally..."

That sums up most of the entire argument about free will, even though I go one step further with determinism, which says that everything that will happen is determined here and now, i.e. everything is cause and effect.

This doesn't take away any of the magic of the universe, since we still can't predict this determined future, and that's where the magic is. Eventually maybe we will, but until then, we can live with the illusion of free will and that's good enough for most people.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Mr. Jingles - a reveal

I'm just getting used to this blogger, so am starting to play a little more with photos and other images.

The neighbor's cat who used to visit and eventually showed up on a "missing cat" flyer comes by to visit occasionally now that he has been set free.

Here is a picture of him from a month or so ago:

He is a mix of English short hair and something else. He has a beautiful demeanor, even if he steals the other cats' food.

This looks like a cat stalker

Recently, our cat Fred (that's Princess Winnifred in long form) wanders over to the neighbor's place and activates their motion detector. This turns on a light and she sits there looking for moths to come into the light so she can eat them. It looks something like this:

From this picture, it very much looks like a cat stalker staring into our windows. She sits in one place until the light goes out, and then when she decides to come home, re-activates the motion detector and decides to stay. This goes on for quite a while or until the neighbor drives a car into the driveway and in that case, she bolts for home.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

wwwW - the end?

I finished my 7500 words for the Waitangi Weekend Word Wace (wwwW) on the kiwiwriters site. I was luke warm about the progress and as I've already said, I struggled to finish.

We do get cool icons for finishing though. Here's mine:

When I say "finish", I don't mean finish my story, oh no, I mean finish my 7500 words in 4 days, which is a completely different thing.

So, there is more work to finish, and I'm not sure how I'm going to end it. I have a few ideas, but maybe I'll heap a little more trouble onto the main character and see if he comes out the other side.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Waitangi Weekend Word Wace - the struggle

The first official site-wide challenge is up on the kiwiwriters site. This is the Waitangi Weekend Word Wace. For any non New Zealanders who might be reading this, Waitangi day is the equivalent of the 4th of July in the US, Canada Day in Canada, or Australia Day in Aussie. Basically, Waitangi day represents the country's anniversary.

Our fledgling writing site will have several challenges each year, including this one. Being most of the way through it so far, I have to say, it's much tougher than I was expecting. It's 7500 words in 4 days, which is slightly more words on a per day basis than Nanowrimo was back in November, but during Nano, I was hitting an average of over 2200 words per day, and hit the 5000 word per day rate a couple of times, so I thought that it would be easy.

Not so... I guess life is just getting in the way, but I was experimenting with some of my writing, and that made it harder, especially writing in the present tense. I noticed slipping back into past tense many, many times and I would always go back and fix it.

I picked up some of my favorite novels sitting on the shelf behind me and took a look at their styles. This isn't something that you notice while reading, but now that I'm writing, I'm noticing more and more. My favorites are almost exclusively written in 3rd person and done in the past tense. I have read in various writing books that writing in the present tense adds to the impact of the writing, but strangely enough, none of the novels I've picked up are written that way. If I notice any, I'll post some comments on here.

Kerryn, a friend of mine (Writing Angel Blog) suggested writing the same piece (page or paragraph) several times, each time in a different tense. This is too smart to ignore, so I will try it shortly.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

New writing resource page

It was the end of November, Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) was almost over and a small group of Wellington writers got together to celebrate the insanity of writing 50,000 words in one month.

As it turns out, we got along so well that we decided we have to extend this insanity, we have to share it with the rest of the world, well, the southern hemisphere anyway. November was over - long live November!

So, like gears turning, our little minds went to work, scheming and plotting, planning and organizing, making check lists and checking them off, putting notches on our bedposts, creating a googlegroup and buying a domain name.

Two months later, we have a new web page ready to unveil! Muahahahaah... it's alive! It's alive!

The goal of this page: Nanowrimo has been so good to us, why have that feeling confined to November? We are gradually adding functionality to the page to let members issue writing challenges to everyone interested. The site will have "official" challenges like weekend short story writing (Waitangi Weekend Word Wace this weekend) to a full, Nanowrimo like novel writing contest in June ( Southern Cross Novel Challenge or SocNoc for short), but the real fun is in issuing your own challenge and seeing how everyone does and how many people you can get to join you! Want to write a travel guide for Palmerston North? Want to write that love letter to your partner that you've been putting off? Why not make it official and get other people to spread the love?

Join us in craziness, join us in fun - for whatever reason, please join us at

Monday, January 29, 2007

Australian Open Tennis - the end for 2007

As I expected, Gonzalez didn't quite come through. He lost a quite tight 3 setter against the world's #1 Roger Federer.

I think both these guys probably would have beaten any other players and certainly did a good job with the other contenders.

It was an OK match, and the first set was really close with Gonzalez leading by a break for part of it (Federer broke back immediately). Until that point, I had hopes that it would actually be a great match.

Still, except for the first set, Federer was holding serve more easily (lots of love games) and threatening more on Gonzalez's serve. Except for the odd point, we never quite saw Gonzalez open up as he did in so many other matches. We knew it would be different against Federer, and Federer's speed, somewhat under rated meant that he was getting to balls that a lot of the other players wouldn't have. 7-6, 6/4, 6/4 was a little better than Roddick's semi-final of 6-4, 6-0, 6-2.

Ah... my best news is that a Canadian got a title this year at the Aussie Open. Daniel Nestor got through a solid 6/4, 6/4 win with his partner Elena Likhovtseva. I've followed Daniel Nestor since he was 19 and played Davis Cup for Canada. Ranked 400+, he beat the then #1 player in the world Stefan Edberg in 5 sets. Good day for Canada. :)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Australian Open Tennis - a great year

I'm been a tennis fan since the late 80's and the first match I remember seeing (just as I was starting to play) was the 1989 French Open final. Michael Chang versus Stephan Edberg.

This year has been very interesting with the injection of Fernando Gonzalez into the mix. Sure, sure, he's been around a while, and he IS #10, but no one, and I mean no one expected him to roll over Hewitt, Blake, Nadal and Haas the way he did. It was almost like they weren't on the court with him.

We expect this kind of thing from Federer, after all, check out the semi against Roddick. It was painful to see such a dominating performance, especially against a guy as good as Roddick.

Still - that means we get a final with Gonzalez and Federer. Gonzalez is the only guy playing well enough to challenge Federer at the moment, and if he can continue playing the way he is, it will be a fantastic final. I'm expecting Gonzalez to go away, but in last night's semi-final, just as Gonzalez wins match point, the Australia day fireworks go off - a sign maybe? Here's hoping for a match that goes down in history, no matter which way it goes. I'll be cheering for Gonzalez.

Unfortunately, the women are nowhere near as interesting, with Serena Williams playing only 4 tournaments all last year and yet comes along and beats everyone, including Maria Sharapova, the world's #1 - and in one of the most dominating wins in the last decade. It's sad that there is so little depth in the woman's game.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Mr. Jingles - a follow-up

It seems that Mr. Jingles owners have allowed him access to his cat door again, and he's wandering the neighbourhood.

He showed up 2 days ago and said hello, got some pets and left again. We were happy to see that he wasn't cooped up in his house any more.

We've seen him every day since then, but he never stays long, he's in to say hello, rub up against us and leave again. The longest we've seen him for it probably five minutes.

It's a huge relief that he's allowed to wander again.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

The Neighbour's cat, Mr. Jingles - the saga

Back in October, when we moved into our new place, we got a neighbor's cat visiting. I remember the first night getting up at 4AM and carrying this cat outside under my arm because he'd gotten into the house through the window we'd left open for our own cats to get in and out of (we used to do that at our last place).

Since then, we've installed a cat door, and while I tried all kinds of things, chasing him away (once when I chased him away, he circled around me in the dark and went back to our door), locking the cat door (it takes about 5 minutes before my cats get annoyed at that), hiding the cat food (he jumps up on the counter top) and so on and so on.

In the end, after a few days of these things, we gave up and accepted that this little guy was going to be a regular visitor. He has a bell on his collar and we took to calling him Mr. Jingles (not related to the mouse of the same name from "The Green Mile).

Well, Mr. Jingles became a regular visitor at our place and was over almost every day. He eats our cat's food, but at the same time, he was not particularly intrusive, so it could have been worst. AND, he is adorable. A little gray, English short-hair with a lovely personality.

After a few days of Mr. Jingles visiting every day, Una found a pamphlet in the mail box, "MISSING CAT - we haven't seen him for a week". Of course, he was sleeping on our bed. AND, his name is Cyrus, which isn't as cute as Mr. Jingles, but everyone can't have the perfect name.

Una called them and chatted and said that we'd seen their cat. Someone came over to get him and take him away. Cool - it's always nice to reunite a missing cat with their owners, even if they weren't really missing.

So - weeks go by, and we haven't seen Mr. Jingles at all. We were expecting him to at least be around in the yard or something - no, not at all. It seems like his owners have decided to keep him inside and not let him out again.

For a cat that has always been indoors, this isn't an issue, but for one who has been an outside cat, it seems awfully cruel. It also wouldn't be as cruel if someone was always at home to keep him company, but we drive by that how every day, multiple times and there is almost never anyone home. It's a very odd thing to do, and is hardly the act of a loving owner.

We worry about Mr. Jingles regularly and hope that he's not going insane in his house now that he isn't allowed outside.

We noticed that our cats missed him too, since Fred has been meowing for no real reason. She really enjoyed Mr. Jingles, since he didn't beat her up like Gordon does (Fred is short for Winnefred).

So - what to do? I guess we can't really do anything, it feels like we should do something, but no idea what. Does anyone have any suggestions? They would be appreciated. :-)

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

English, plurals and why foreigners go a little crazy

English, I remember being young enough to think that English was a great language, and so much better than French, since there are fewer exceptions. Hahah... it's funny when I look back.

While I still prefer English to French, I realize that it's just because I know it better and spend more time reading, writing and generally working with it than I do with French. The French generally have it right when they go back and revise once every few years.

English speakers' general take on English is one of apathy, and we'd rather let the language evolve than try and fix it - anyone who tries to "fix" English comes across as pretentious. Not that you'd know what to fix anyway - there are many, many places where English is the first language, and there will always be a few who wouldn't want to speak any differently anyway. And, if enough people speak a certain way, it becomes the normal way of doing it and the new standard (try pronouncing the "t" in often, and then realize that you don't do it in soften - ever)

Think about this - how do you make a word plural? Sure, you can just add an "s", but then you have:

child - childs
sheep - sheeps
woman - womans

These are all wrong.

Of course, then there are words that have two plurals, like brothers and brethren, people and persons (not to mention peoples).

Then there are the words that imply plurals, but are actually singular, like "stuff" - there is no such thing as "stuffs", since stuff implies a group. Just like "beef" has no plural (cows maybe?).

This isn't even getting into weird words like through... which somehow sounds like "threw", or "throo" (which isn't even a word, but the only one which looks correct phonetically).

How about words that are pronounced differently depending on how they are meant to be used - "It was a minute amount of time, maybe a minute or so.". "Sewer" is a place where sewage goes, or something who sews with thread and needle. "Address" is pronounced differently if you are writing it on an envelope or if you are addressing someone. In isolation, these words are impossible to pronounce - think about "polish", "tear", "lead", "produce", "present" and so many more.

I had a boss who is Brazilian, and thus speaks Portuguese. She said that two Portuguese speakers looking at a word that they'd never seen before would pronounce it exactly the same way - that sounds reasonable to me.

Of course, everyone talks about the problem, but no one does anything about it. I would like to say that I'm solidly in this category as well, and will probably do nothing to fix English, but I like to complain.

I do one thing regularly, and that's use the American spelling of color, flavor, neighbor and so on. I get a lot of flack for this, since I'm a Canadian, and I'm living in New Zealand, neither country goes for the American spelling, and generally aren't warm to Americans anyway. The thing is, it's fewer keystrokes to write "color" rather than "colour", which no one pronounces that way anyway - all the Brits in the office say "callah" anyway. And the Canadians say "color" just like the Americans. It's shorter and I hear that these shorter spellings came first too. It isn't very often that Canadians side with Americans, but I'm doing it on the spelling.

Of course, if I ever write a book that sells overseas, I'll have to go and do a massive search and replace on all the words that I spell differently from everyone in the non-American world... it could happen. I look forward to the opportunity.

Anyway, while English is screwy, I still like it. I regret not living long enough to see English change in the various countries, so that the Americans and the English won't understand each other any more - that would be funny, since they barely understand each other now.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Summer in New Zealand

I would like to think that it's summer here in Wellington, but it's hard to feel that way when it is EXACTLY like winter outside. We're running the heater the same as we do in winter, we're getting all the same kind of cold wind we do in winter. My cats are even eating more, like they do when winter starts.

I heard on TV the other day that it's the coldest winter in NZ in 50 years. That's amazing. But, then I look on TV and there is tennis on in Auckland, the ASB classic, and all the women playing are in short skirts and don't seem to be freezing. AND, the people in the audience are also dressed for hot weather.

If anyone has any ideas about what to do with my summer, I would love to hear it. AND, I've already thought of leaving the country, or just moving to a warmer part of New Zealand - this is a brutal summer. Summer in Wellington is usually warmer than winter, but not this year.

I don't mind the odd cold day, but weeks and weeks of it are hard to take. I'm sitting at the computer now and my hands are cold... my hands are COLD! In the middle of summer! Who has heard of such a thing?