The Honeyeater, the new novel by Australian author Jessie Tu

1 July 2024

Cover image of The Honeyeater, the new novel by Jessie Tu.

The Honeyeater is the second novel by Sydney based Australian writer Jessie Tu, and will be in bookshops on Tuesday 2 July 2024. That’s tomorrow.

I read Tu’s 2020 debut A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing almost four years ago. It was the story of a once child prodigy musician, who wasn’t always successfully navigating life as a twenty-something adult. It often made for difficult reading. In contrast, The Honeyeater seems more like a thriller:

Young academic and emerging translator Fay takes her mother on a package tour holiday to France to celebrate her birthday. It’s a chance for the two of them to take a break from work and have a little fun, but they both find it hard to relax. Her mother seems reluctant to leave their room in the evening, and Fay is working on a difficult translation. On their last night in France, Fay receives the shattering news that her former lover has suddenly died.

Back in Sydney, Fay seeks solace from her mentor, Professor Samantha Egan-Smith, who offers her a spot at a prestigious translation conference in Taipei. But can she trust her? Does the Professor know more than she is admitting, or is Fay being paranoid? When a shocking allegation is made, Fay chooses to keep it secret. Is she protecting the Professor or exercising power over her?

Fay arrives at the conference in Taipei. Career opportunities abound, but it’s ghost month in Taiwan. Her mother had begged her not to go at that time, warning that she would be susceptible to dangers and threats. And there is almost nothing a mother won’t do to protect her child.

And coincidentally, Tuesday 2 July 2024 is also when the shortlist for Australian literary prize, the Miles Franklin, will be announced. Not that The Honeyeater will feature on that list, though who knows, it may in 2025.

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The Tetris font, fun and games with typography

28 June 2024

Is there a version of Tetris that requires the player to try and spell words with the Tetris pieces, as they fall from the sky? If there is, I’ve not heard of it. But, that’s not saying much, as I don’t know a whole lot about gaming.

Anyway, Tetris Font, developed by Erik Demaine and Martin Demaine, may not be quite such a game, but you can still have fun typing in a word or name, and watching it take shape with the Tetris pieces.

There goes the morning…

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Did the universe exist before the Big Bang? Maybe…

27 June 2024

What happened, or was there, before the Big Bang that is said to have brought the universe into being? Was there nothing, to which something came? It is the question of the ages.

In his recent documentary series, Universe, British physicist Brian Cox posits that the universe existed before the Big Bang. How long this pre Big Bang entity had been there, or its origins, remain unknown however. How fascinating these before-the-beginning sort of questions are.

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Ye Old Blogroll, a trove of links to blogs, personal websites

26 June 2024

My thanks to Ray for recently adding disassociated to Ye Old Blogroll, a directory of small and independent websites and blogs. Directory websites like Ray’s are invaluable when it comes to promoting the work of Indie and Small Web writers and bloggers, which is often overshadowed by all sorts of things, including some of the search engines.

Blogrolls and links pages were once often a common feature of websites and blogs, as were web directories — similar to Ye Old Blogroll — in the past, before search engines emerged. They were one of the few ways website owners could make their work known to a wider audience.

While looking around Ye Old Blogroll, I spotted this post about Substack, by Ray. Substack, an online publishing platform, was flavour of the month about two years ago. I even opened an account myself. Bloggers and writers were drawn in by the appeal of earning real money for their work, and I believe many did, or still are, doing well.

But, it was not for me. For one thing, it would have meant “starting over” again. That is, building up a following on Substack, when I already had one, or a semblance of one, here. And why would I go diluting my online presence? It would almost be the same as setting up on something like Instagram. Plus, some other entity would have ultimate control over my page there. They could decide to pull the plug at whim. And then there is this point made by Ray:

On a related note, when I browse from someone’s blog over to their Substack it feels like going from a sweet little neighborhood into a staid corporate park. A little piece of joy dies in me when that happens because it’s another reminder of the corporatization of the web.

The platform has also drawn the ire of some, including Jason Kottke, who is critical of the sort of content Substack allows to be published. No, stay in your own place. There’ll be ways to make it pay, if that’s what you need.

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The Artocalypse, an IndieWeb arts community by Chris Shaw

26 June 2024

The Artocalypse is a subscription based community for artists on IndieWeb, created by Chris Shaw at uncountable thoughts. This a great cross-promotional idea, showcasing the work of artists, while also spreading the word about IndieWeb.

I dare say some of the participating artists will already have followings elsewhere, and their membership of Artocalypse will introduce IndieWeb to people who have not heard of it before.

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Windows 11 forces data backup to OneDrive, possible workaround

26 June 2024

Maybe it’s time to start a Windows 11 is going just great website, similar to Molly White’s Web3 is Going Just Great. I say this after reading about another instance of heavy-handedness on Microsoft’s part, at Neowin:

Quietly and without any announcement, the company changed Windows 11’s initial setup so that it could turn on the automatic folder backup without asking for it.

Quietly and without any announcement. What a way to treat customers/users. OneDrive is a little like Apple’s iCloud, which stores data (files, photos) according to choices made by the individual. The difference, now, between iCloud and OneDrive, is one is user configurable, the other isn’t.

This is foul. Every time OneDrive tried to open on my old Win 10 install, I promptly closed it down. No doubt Microsoft was watching my every move as it was, but there was no way I’d trust them with copies of my data files.

As a result of this move though, some inadvertent OneDrive users are apparently finding their auto-backed up data exceeds the default five gigabyte OneDrive folder limit. Any excess above five-gigs needs to be paid for. Marvellous.

But there may, possibly, be a workaround.

It involves transferring (cut/copy and paste) all files from the default data folders, e.g. Documents, and moving them to a separate folder on your hard drive. Perhaps call the new folder My Data, and then set up sub-folders inside that for your data, e.g. photos, word documents, etc, etc. This is what I’ve been doing all along, I’ve never kept anything in those default folders. I even set up my own separate downloads folder, and configured all downloads to save there.

Trying this might keep data and files out of OneDrive’s reach. For now, anyway.

Despite using Dropbox for a lot of the files I use daily, I also keep backups of everything on thumb drives (which are stowed securely elsewhere). It was a bit of work to set up, but is quick and easy to use now. Hopefully my data storage system also helps keeps my data and files a little more secure.

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Put your Palace Cinema wine glass in the cup-holder carefully

25 June 2024

Whether they are a part of an on-going series of light-hearted clips by Australian cinema group Palace Cinemas, remains to be seen, but the two I’ve caught to date, on their Instagram page, have been pretty witty.

The first is in response to the apparent problem of patrons nicking the cinema’s wine glasses. Why would anyone do that? An Australian chain of discount stores sells six wine glasses for less than five dollars. So why take the cinema’s? It should also be noted the cinema’s glasses have their logo emblazoned upon them. People visiting your house are going to know where they came from.

Fun fact: the wine glass clip cleverly riffs off the old Piracy is a Crime ads, that used to screen, some years ago now, prior to cinema screenings in Australia*.

The second clip is a glimpse of a cinema employee’s work day. Just be careful with the cup-holders…

* Interesting, I tried to click through to the Piracy is a Crime video through a DuckDuckGo search engine result. I was greeted by a “www.youtube.com is blocked” error message. YouTube is of course owned by Google/Alphabet. Are they blocking access to the video platform via competing search engines?

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A book about ferns: the truth of the three-hour Gilligan’s Island cruise

24 June 2024

Gilligan’s Island was a slapstick American TV series which ran from 1964 to 1967. Despite its popularity, the show was cancelled shortly before filming of a fourth series commenced. I first saw reruns of Gilligan’s quite some time later. A number of movies, featuring most of the original cast, were made between 1978 and 1982. For all its goofiness, and ludicrously fanciful storyline, the show’s appeal has not waned, since production ceased over forty years ago.

Much of the allure lay in the way a group of mismatched passengers and crew were forced to get along after being marooned on an unchartered island, somewhere in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands. Among them were the wealthy and the working class, the chic and the collegiate. Most of the laughs were generated by the titular character, Gilligan, the well-meaning though bungling first mate, of the shipwrecked charter vessel, that all had been aboard.

But the premise of Gilligan’s Island, about seven people setting off on what was meant to be three-hour cruise, has been a constant source of speculation. And conspiracy theories. For instance, why was the millionaire, Thurston Howell III, carrying a briefcase full of cash? Further, why did he board the charter vessel with dozens of suitcases of clothing? And what of the professor? Why on earth was he on a fun cruise with a cache of scientific paraphernalia?

I wrote about this topic in 2008, after reading an in-depth exposé by Gilligan’s fan, and writer, Adam-Troy Castro, published on the no longer online SFF Net website. I’m glad I posted a number of excerpts from Castro’s article, in my piece, as they may be all that’s left of the original article.

But, long story short, no one aboard the S.S. Minnow, the shipwrecked charter boat, was out on any three-hour cruise. Howell wanted to cross into international waters, and make a big drug buy. That explains the cash he was carrying. The professor meanwhile, had brought analysis equipment with him, so he could check the contraband was the real deal. Everyone else on the Minnow had their not so wholesome reasons for being there.

Although my post is sixteen-years old, it still comes up in search engines results, which says a lot about the enduring popularity of Gilligan’s Island, together with the intrigue of the show’s peculiar premise. And then the other day, during my weekly login to Facebook (FB), an article about the professor, posted on the Classic Stars FB page, popped up in my feed. If you’re a fan, it’s well worth a read (and I don’t think you need to be a FB member), but this is possibly the most salient sentence:

The Professor’s backstory identifies him as Roy Hinkley (though his actual name is rarely mentioned during the series), a high-school science teacher who was born in Cleveland, Ohio. His principal expertise was as a botanist, whose purpose in joining the ill-fated voyage that stranded the castaways was to write a book to be titled “Fun With Ferns”.

So there we have it. The professor was not on board the charter vessel so he could test the authenticity of goods Howell was allegedly buying, somewhere on the open sea. The great big mystery can finally be laid to rest. The professor was there researching a book about ferns. Plants, not illicit drugs. Nor was anyone else, therefore, up to no good.

Maybe.

How though does going on a three-hour cruise, where nary a fern is to be seen, with an excess of laboratory equipment no less, help in the writing of such a book? Oh no: we’re by no means anywhere near getting to the bottom of what was really happening on this “three-hour cruise”…

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Blogging about blogging versus adding value through your blog

21 June 2024

Less blogging about blogging:

The majority of my posts are either platform explanations/justifications or organizational posts. Stuff like, “I’m moving the Archives here” or “I’ve added a ton of Links there.” Other times it’s simple announcements about me moving my blog someplace new. So, why do I feel the need to talk about this?

This is something I grapple with, though maybe not to the same degree. Are people really interested in my blog posts about my blog? They’re pretty far and few between here, the last meta, blogging about blogging post, was when I added (re-added) a blogroll. I don’t know, maybe they’re a bit more common. What’s meta, and what’s not meta, can be highly subjective.

Yet a concept that — supposedly — has shaped the way I write here, derives from Twitter. I’m talking about Twitter when it was Twitter back in the day, not what it is presently. Anyway, we’d all been on Twitter for a couple of years, when 2009 arrived. By then, Twitter was deemed to be a mature platform for networking and micro-blogging, and now it was time, we, the users, conducted ourselves with a little more… sophistication.

“Add value” was a term frequently bandied about at the top of 2009. Add value meant we ought to ease back on tweeting about what we had for lunch (but not completely), and start contributing to a more useful overall conversation. Maybe there were a few years when value was indeed added through our tweets, or at least those of whom I moved in the same circles with.

But I decided I needed to bring the add value mantra to disassociated. To me, that meant less posts of an introspective nature, and more, er, useful stuff. No more: “I updated to the latest version of WordPress”, or “I backed up my website database last night”. I wanted to publish articles people might find helpful. I wasn’t sure what interest people, who wanted to find out more about how the Oscar nomination process worked, or etiquette at a classical music recital, would have in stuff meta.

Some people might argue these two examples are informational, or magazine style, posts. Not the sort of thing that belongs on a personal website. But the distinction possibly lies in the definition of a personal website. One of my first websites was a personal website, but not the very first. Instead, it was a web fiction series (emphasis on fiction), a collaboration with a friend. At that point, I saw the web as, among other things, a story telling platform.

In other words, anything other than a platform for publishing diary-like posts. Who could possibly be interested in that, I thought. But after seeing others doing it, I eventually followed suit, and started publishing an online journal. By the time the web fiction series came to an end, I had two websites, one personal — which included my online journal — and the other more magazine-like, that I called Channel Static. But I’m not sure how much “value” Channel Static really added to anything.

This was all in 1997, 1998 though. I don’t think it was until 2007, when I re-invented disassociated as a WordPress website, that value really came into the equation. But not at first. There was much meta-stuff going on. WordPress version this, WordPress version that. There was a whole lot of blogging about blogging also. A lot of that may have been me channelling the zeitgeist though.

Blogging was taking off in 2007. There were people making a full time living through their blogs. It was an exciting time to be blogging alive. Despite running a magazine website that was still meant to be a personal website, in so much as it was mine, it was near nigh impossible to ignore what was happening in what we called the blogosphere.

The 2009 catch cry to “add value” was more of a wake-up call to me to get more serious about what I published here. Even if the message had been intended for the twitterati. But the next person’s interpretation of “adding value” is their call to make. If you feel you achieve that through informational, magazine style, publishing on your personal website, well that’s fine. Exactly the same goes for meta, and blogging about blogging, posts.

They’re not called personal websites for nothing: they’re there for you to do whatever you choose.

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Easy OS, an experimental Linux distro, by Barry Kauler

21 June 2024

I’m in the process of migrating my OS away from Windows. I’ve been running Linux Mint, considered to be a user-friendly, Windows-like distribution of the Linux family of OS’s, on a backup device for almost two weeks now. It’s been a learning curve naturally, but so far, so good.

In the meantime though, the word Linux seems to jump out at me, whenever I’m going through my RSS subscriptions, or other news channels. A distribution (distro), called EasyOS, the creation of software developer Barry Kauler, caught my eye the other day, and might be one to consider, if you’re looking to change your OS, for whatever reason.

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