September 30, 2008


Like most of us who hang out a bit on the internet, I read blogs (possibly too many blogs but that's another post altogether).

I don't use any sort of blog aggregator (basically, I cannot be bothered learning how to use one and setting it up etc etc). However I do love my RSS feeds and have the very low tech solution of when a blog I read regularly has a feed, I save the link to the feed in a folder in my bookmarks menu. So when I open the bookmarks menu and there are new posts it says something like:

Blogs I like (3) to let me know there are 3 new posts to the feeds. Open up the folder and each blog name has the number of new posts next to it if it has any ie:

Blog A (1) Simple. Who needs an aggregator, right?

Except, er, lately my RSS feeds seem to be toying with the laws of mathmatics. I've noticed a couple of times that when I've read all the blogs with new posts, the folder will still insist that there are Blogs I like (1) even though none of the blogs have any new posts. Which I figured was just an occasional glitch in the browser clearing the feed or something. Until I came home to day to discover that apparently my RSS has gone for broke and invented some entirely new system of mathematics altogether.

I opened the bookmarks menu to see "Blogs I like (23)". Hmmm, thinks I, that seems like a lot of posts for one day (I don't have heaps of blogs in this folder and those I do, I often read during breakfast as lots of them are written by people who live in places where it is daytime while I sleep and post then). So I go in and see something like.

Blog A (1)
Blog B (1)
Blog C (5)
Blogs E - N, say had 11 between them. So that adds up to 18, not 23. I thought maybe Blog C was being weird so opened it up to read it and clear the RSS count. The Blogs I like figure dropped to 17 (which you will note is not what 23 - 5 equals). Worse still, Blog C still said Blog C (5). So I click on Blog C again to see if it will clear. Blogs I like total becomes 15 (17 - 5 equals 12 last time I checked). Blog C still insists it has 5 posts. So I read a couple more of the blogs and the Blogs I like number dropped to 10. Which was then less than the total of what the individual blogs said. The math, they no like it. I know how they feel. As someone who often works with numbers in the day job, I can relate to the "math, I no like it" vibe. But that doesn't change the fact that 1 + 1 = 2. Something appears to be rotten in the state of RSS (or maybe rotten in the state of Safari). As I type, Blog C is still insisting it has five new articles despite being opened several times, all the other blogs say they have none and the Blogs I like insists that 2 is the correct count. Maybe it's using the same math that the financial systems has been relying on. Oy.

I think all this adds up to it's time to have some dinner and a glass of wine while we put the browser in the naughty corner and threaten it with remedial arithmetic. Maybe it's time to work out that whole aggregator thing after all....

September 28, 2008


Paul Newman has left us at the age of 83. I remember seeing The Sting and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when I was younger and being pretty taken with both Paul and Robert Redford. And I've liked them both ever since. Paul was a great actor, had gorgeous blue eyes, a long and happy marriage in Hollywood, followed his passions and gave away lots of money to good causes. That's a good life though I'm sad it's over.

Vale Mr Newman.

September 26, 2008


Well the week has sped by in a blur of "you were sick last week and missed work and now you have even MORE work to do" at the day job and the inevitable, "yes I was sick last week and pushing it this week will make me sick again" dragging out the virus thing. Lots of early nights to try and get enough sleep given it's been cough central.

Lots of thinking about the books but not much writing. I need to get the first act of Wolf 2 moving a bit faster and have the antag more active. I have an idea about that but will mean re-writing a chunk. So there may be much writer hermit Mel going on while we figure this stuff out. Having never attempted book 2 in a series before (I've written short contemps with characters that appeared in other wips but that's a whole stand alone plot and everything in the other book was always pretty much wrapped up apart from the tension between the new couple for book two) it's a bit of a learning curve to get the pace and balance of new threads/old threads/what's happening/what's happened/what will happen right.

So before being hermit Mel, we went on an excursion to see the Art Deco exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria which was fabulous. Full of beautiful things. I love a lot of Art Deco stuff (and they had some truly beautiful '30's evening gowns and jewellery). So it was a feast for the eyes. If you're in Melbourne and like Art Deco, it's only on for another week but is well worth a visit.

But the girls kind of latched onto this:

The one I saw today was a little different, bronze not black and you couldn't see the face so much (maybe it was turned around) but it was all sleek and intriguing and the little pointy ears are otherwordly and the girls went "oooh". It's called 'Departing Night'. Which is a muse jumpstarting phrase if ever I heard one. So a little excursion out of the ordinary was well worth it. Unintentional artist dates are good. Note to self: Please remember this.

September 18, 2008

Friday thirteen

Just because I was listening to the radio and something that made me kind of nostalgic came on.

Thirteen of my favourite artists or albums (er Rock/Pop/Country category):

U2: The Joshua Tree (for the sense of joy and exaltation in the music that just makes me happy) and Achtung Baby (for memories of waiting in Bourke Street at midnight to buy it then listening late and night and falling in love with Bono's voice all over again)

Sunday Mornings and Saturday Nights: Matraca Berg (an album I listened to over and over writing one of my books and still don't get tired of)

Melissa Etheridge: Melissa Etheridge/Yes I am

Barenaked Ladies: Gordon. Goes from silliness to heartbreak all with gorgeous harmonies and contains "If I had a million dollars" a song to be sung with a friend whilst drinking margaritas on warm summer nights.

The Getaway: Chris de Burgh (I blame my mother but he does write great story songs which just happen to hook me in)

Abba: Abba Gold (I'll pick this as it hits most of the high spots. Because I'm an child of seventies Australia, that's why)

Pink: I'm Not Dead (for releasing an album that is spot on for one of my heroines and for being a generally fabulous in your face rock chick)

Robbie Williams: The Ego has Landed/Escapology (for a fabulous voice and being ridiculously charismatic live aka HOT)

Wham: The Final (because I was also a teenager in the eighties)

Mary Chapin Carpenter: Stones in the Road (more beautiful story songs)

The Dixie Chicks: Taking the Long Way Round (for standing up and generally rocking)

Chris Isaak: Wicked Games/Always Got Tonight (for smooth sexy heartbreak and being, you know, generally hilarious and easy on the eyes)

Damien Rice: O (for not so smooth heartbreak)

And this list could go way over thirteen so I'll just stop there...

Or maybe I could add Thirteen of my favourite albums (Instrumental/Electronic/Soundtrack category):

Adam Hurst: Passages (Haunting cello over a drone)

Moby: Play

Lisa Gerrard: The Mirror Pool (Mostly for Sanvean but it's all beautiful)

Rodrigo y Gabriela: Rodrigo y Gabriela (Brilliant spanish guitar)

Pirates of the Carribean: At World's End (More book crack for my werewolves)

Gotan Project: La Revancha del Tango (Sexy tango electronica)

Ottmar Liebert: Winter Rose (Christmas with guitar)

Buffy the Musical (Well, because Joss is God and can write musicals)

Delerium: Archives Vol 1 (Book crack for witches)

The Last of the Mohicans (First film soundtrack I ever fell in love with)

Local Hero (Moody celtic as done by Mark Knopfler)

The Lion King (Because everyone just can't wait to be king and needs to remember Hakuna Matata lol)

Rent: Original Broadway recording and the movie. (It needs no reason, it's just great)

Stationery lust part 2

This evening the girls decided that they might consent to send up a little info if I wrote longhand. And, more specifically, long hand on blue paper with black ink. Or, white paper with something turquoisey. Preferably a fountain pen. I don't even OWN a fountain pen. My favourite writing pens when the girls demand longhand are either the good old Bic Velocity if I'm in a ballpoint mood or the Uniball Signo Fine Blue if I want gel ink. I've only ever had one fountain pen which was a gift and never really worked well, so I gave up on it. But I duly googled cheap fountain pens and found that there are a few brands of disposable ones if you don't want to shell out too much.

I came across the Pilot Varsity, which in the states (once again, this is a grrr, why do I live in Australia moment) comes in blue, black, purple, pink and a gorgeous looking turquoise. The Australian equivalent (which seems to be mostly available online anyway) comes in boring blue, black and red. Le sigh. Officeworks yielded one black Pentel disposable which is okay, but it has a plastic nib, so not great. So I gave in and bought myself a Lamy Safari (Blue, of course) with some aqua-ish ink as a birthday present which is nice but I'm still lusting after the Varsity's...given that they'd let me change ink colours at less expense than acquiring more Lamy's (which are almost twice as much here as in the US, so double grrrr). So now I'm googling to find who does international shipping. On cheap pens. The girls must be crazy.

If you've got it, flaunt it

About all I have to flaunt at the moment is a bug that knocked me out late in the evening of my birthday and has kept me in bed, sleeping and reading (yay for ebooks on the iPhone) for most of the two days since.

So to entertain you until my brain starts to function again, a couple of snaps of the gorgeous lilies a couple of the work gals gave me. They smell as good as they look, or at least they do when the decongestants work. Maybe they'll inspire my other Lily to tell me a bit more of her story.

September 15, 2008

Time of the sign

Warning: potentially long post ahead. Like I have said before, it's my birthday tomorrow and maybe it's that (ie I'm a Virgo in Virgo season) or maybe it's being back at work and needing to remember everything I'm supposed to know and be working on or maybe it's trying to rebuild all my routines after six weeks off but I have virgo brain on overdrive today. And overloaded virgo brains bounce from subject to subject and thought thought at about 3 zillion miles per hour and won't settle. Hence the long post to try and just dump some of it out and get the noise down to a dull roar.

So what is buzzing in my head? Virgos, in general, are analytical, logical, thorough (so why the heck I'm not a plotter remains one of the mysteries of the universe) and somewhat cautious. And while I'm perfectly happy to fly into the mists with my books, when it comes to a lot of other stuff, I am definitely a Virgo. I like to research, to learn about things, to ponder, to circle a decision for awhile while I weigh up the facts and generally look before I leap (usually). Most of the time this is fine but when the virgo brain cranks up it's not. It means I get a horrible sensation of spinning my wheels. I get too much into my head and stress myself out and then put things off so I can worry about them some more and repeat, repeat, repeat. At the moment my brain seems to be doing this in a number of different directions (so I have bouncing, spinning

I'm trying to think of better ways to keep track of my writing and juggle the different things I want to work on. I did the metrics posts for the first draft of the last book which I did find helpful and I have my progress spreadsheets for each book but nothing that gives me the overview of everything. I went to a great workshop in San Francisco given by Lilian Darcy and Jane Porter about writing processes and they suggest keeping a writer's journal. The girls kind of pricked up their ears and went oooh but the idea somehow got lost in the holiday haze until it popped back into the brain the other day. Which means of course, that the virgo brain says "but how do you do it? What goes in it? Let's read about this online (there's not a lot online about keeping a writer's journal)". I haven't got my RWA tapes yet and can't listen to the workshop again, so I've been umming and aahing. Until I finally remembered I had the cd of the handouts. The handout says (in a manner designed to thwart virgo brain) pretty much whatever you want, wordcounts, ideas, problems, how you're feeling, what felt good etc. Okay, I can do that. I like that idea. (Though, hey, if anyone keeps one, let me know how you do it : ) ) I do bits of it already, so collating it all might be useful. Then the brain pops up with "but what do we keep it in? Another notebook? Something to carry around, something small? A serious writerly moleskine? A journal? What?" After speaking sternly to my brain we agreed that this is why we bought the circa stuff, dummy so we will make a junior sized circa to keep on the desk and transfer pages we write in either the day to day notebook or anywhere else into it. Let's see how that works.

Next there's the projects. I'm trying to work out an issue with Wolf 2, figure out what's making me stuck in the current WIP and come up with a vague plot or problem for which 2. Three sets of characters are sending me cranky looks and pleading neglect. But the words aren't ready. So I need to find things to spark ideas. I've even been reading some bits of my contemporaries just to try and think about something different. But that just makes me think "I like writing contemporaries too". Don't really need even more books to worry about. Hopefully something will click soon and I can get stuck back into something for a few weeks.

What else? Well, the diet and exercise part of life seems to have gone onto some way back recess of the brain. I need to coax it towards the light but getting back into the routine is not easy. I've been going through a cooking is boring mood but the ever brilliant VT gave me a slow cooker for my birthday so I'm hoping playing with that will bring some inspiration. I've cut the virgo brain off at the pass on that on and picked a recipe and bought the ingredients and will try it tomorrow (not that I didn't manage to spend a reasonable amount of time reading about slow cookers and recipes on the net before I got that far). Not sure what would inspire me to exercise at this point other than Johnny Depp wanting to take me tangoing or something, I think it's just going to have to be grit my teeth and do it until my endorphins come out of hibernation.

Endorphins which I know will help the brain chill out. Vicious circle and all that. Then again, maybe I'll wake up tomorrow and everything will feel do-able again thanks to the birthday fairies. But until then, I'll be the one in the corner trying the deep breathing thing.

September 13, 2008


In my cleaning frenzy, I came across an old photo know, one of those plastic things that you stuck photos on five sides.

Anyway one of the photos was this (excuse the blurriness, a scanner is still something I don't possess so this is an iPhone pic of the pic - strangely the iphone took a better pic than my actual camera):

This is me and five of my best buddies at school camp circa grade five (which was early eighties). From left to right Helen, Ali, Me, Anita at the back then Sarah and Alicia in front. Man, we look young (well, we were young. Ten or eleven, I can't remember what time of year this was). But happy and kind of like we can do anything. I like the body language, all leaning on each other.

All of these girls have kind of drifted out of my life over the years though I'm happy to say my oldest friend predates this photo by a few years. I hear about some of them from time to time because my folks still live in the same time but haven't seen any of them for years. Tonight most of my current crop of best buddies and closest female friends (and assorted boys) will be coming over to help me celebrate my birthday. Some of them I've known for almost as long as the gals in the pic, some are more recent additions but I wouldn't be who I am, or where I am today if it wasn't for the love and support of my gals, past and present, and I hope we'll all be leaning on each other and smiling for many, many more years to come.

Smooches to all of you in case I forget to tell you enough that you all rock!

September 12, 2008


Apparently I'm feeling bloggy.

So things that aren't so cranky making:

I have actually done over half the cleaning and all the shopping except for a cake (tomorrow morning's task) and ice (has to wait until party time).

The new Genius feature on iTunes actually does seem to generate some decent playlists (unlike party shuffle which I've never liked). Plus it throws in songs I never knew I had in my library : )

The weather today was gorgeous! 23 or so with mostly blue skies. A little windy but who cares? I was actually walking around in a t-shirt and jeans.


Well I have made some progress, though in a somewhat thwarted and annoying way (so the death metal being played by one of my neighbours is not improving my mood...I'm about to blast back with something designed to be just as annoying to Abba).

I have achieved half the grocery shopping after parking at my regular spot at the mall only to discover that the lift isn't working so I couldn't do all the shopping or wouldn't be able to carry it up the stairs (nothing sensible like a ramp exists). Went to the chemist to stock up on my moisturiser only to find it's been discontinued. I have somewhat sensitive skin that gets dehydrated at work yet is slightly oiler and I'm fair and live in Australia-land-of-skin-cancer so I need something with a sunscreen but am allergic to some sunscreens. Which makes choosing a new moisturiser fun.

I was using Nivea which has always suited my skin but they've done away with mine and all the new lines come in pots (I like moisturisers in tubes or pumps...much more hygienic). Their one other tubey kind is too heavy for me in warmer weather. This is where I start to gnash teeth and wish I lived in the US because we just don't get all the ranges they get. We don't get Aveeno moisturisers (I use their handcream and bodywash which we do get), we don't get a LOT of the Neutrogena stuff (only the oil free range and oil free, despite my slightly oily skin just doesn't cut it for me at work in the air-conditioning these days). I finally settled on the sensitive version of the Olay Complete (their regular kind made me itch but this seems to have different sunscreens so fingers crossed). If this makes me itch then who knows what I'll end up with. I really don't want to have to go to a department store brand because god knows Australians get ripped off by cosmetic and skin care prices (all the department store stuff is at least 50% more expensive here) and I've never really found a department store moisturiser that made my skin feel any better than my good old Nivea despite periodic experiments.

To cheer myself up I looked for a new top for potential party wear. Promptly discovered that the spring fashions seem designed to make me look pregnant. Lots of prints and florals (I've never been a fan of florals of the tiny busy kind) and peasant stuff. I know. Whine. Whine. Whine. I did find some pretty earrings at Diva, source of always cool good costume stuff, so one score.

And now, let's see if I can work off the crankys with some housework.


It's birthday season here in Melbourne. Four out of six lulus have their birthdays in August or September and all four of my best friends have their birthdays in September or October. Leos and Virgos and Librans, oh my. This week it was the birthday of the lovely VT and next week, it's moi.

So I am busy cleaning house and planning my very low key birthday bash for tomorrow night. I survived the first week back at work, though have come down with a case of the itchies so I'm thinking that whatever it is that my tolerance to whatever it is that makes me itch (which I think is something at work) has lowered a bit while I was away. Hopefully a few days of Claramax will get me through it.

I was thinking I might buy myself Spore for my birthday but apparently it won't run on Mac Minis (even though my mini is only a month or so old) or some Macbooks even though it would run on a Windows machine with the same specs. Plus it seems to have atrocious DRM. So boo to that. I bought the iPhone version which is fun but doesn't have the stages that really interest me. I think I'm better at games on the iPhone - my male roomies always used to laugh at me on the Nintendo because I move the controller around...on the iPhone, that's a good thing. I was apparently just ahead of my time. And after a bit of time tooling around on it, the girls did seem to be throwing up some interesting ideas for the wip (and giving me a not so good nightmare last night...I'm pretty sure it was story related anyway). I tend to resist computer games because of the time suck factor but maybe some time suck is what they want right now....

Anyway, I am left without a suitable present for myself...I might just have to go shopping and see what catches my eye.

September 08, 2008

Monday monday

Holidays over: 1
Blistering dvorak speed: 22wpm (but I really haven't done much typing the last few days to practice)
Minutes it took to decide that the new 90210 was lame (not to mention lacking in Luke Perry): 1

Also microsoft - still annoying. On a Mac switching keyboard layout from qwerty to dvorak means setting two system preferences then you get a nice little button in the menu bar that instantly switches you back and forth for all apps. In windows, you have to fiddle around with the system preferences and, based on today's experiences, choose the dvorak layout using hot keys for each separate app and each time you switch apps it will flick back to qwerty. Annoying.

Days to weekend: 3

September 04, 2008

Even more slowly

Progress - Lily

New pages - Two
Intriguing things - Is it intrigue when you have no clue what's driving everyone?
Annoyances - Having no clue what's driving everyone...
Music - Soundtrack at the desk with added teeth gnashing.
Linear/Non-linear - Linear kind of. Maybe. Who knows at this point?
Location - Desk, Word
Taking care of Mel - Sleeping in
Muse food - Not much that seems to be working. But tomorrow is another day and all that

Slowly does it

Blistering Dvorak speed for today: 18 wpm

Which is still pretty slow but I no longer feel like I've completely lost my ability to type. I'm typing this in Dvorak and it is bearable. And it's a 30% improvement from yesterday.

I even typed some of my wip today. Given the girls are dragging their feet and not particularly wanting to play this week it felt like my brain and fingers were roughly in sync : ) .

At the moment I'm faster copy typing than drafting which I guess might be because copy typing gives the brain a chance to get a little ahead and break down the words into letters rather than having to think what you want to type and how to spell it at the same time (I'm a pretty good speller so rarely have to consciously think about that in qwerty). I'm going to keep trying to do emails and other non book stuff in dv and draft mainly in qwerty until I can get the dv speed closer to something like 35 - 40 wpm then swap to drafting in qwerty (typing qwerty in dv is weird!).

Book progress report later.

September 03, 2008

Dvorak update

Okay, learning to type differently is just a bit odd. For one thing, you realise that as a touch typist, you kind of think or see a word and your fingers just wiggle and the word pops up on screen. Learning a new system, you have to go back to seeing a word and recognising individual letters and then thinking about moving each finger to get that letter in the new system. But I guess I had the same thing happen when I first learned QWERTY (twenty years ago, yikes), so we shall overcome.

So far over the last three days I've spent about half an hour a day doing online lessons or drills and have covered the home row and the second row. Blistering Dvorak typing speed at end of Day 1 - 7wpm. Blistering Dvorak typing speed today - 13 wpm so that's at least improving. Most of the speed tests include all the letters so I get slowed down having to look up at the diagram to work out where the ones I haven't memorised yet are. Tomorrow hopefully I can do the drills for the bottom row and then it's just a matter of practice, practice, practice to get the speed up.

I've been listening to music while I type and it's funny, to some songs I can type faster (or is it some I slow down to keep the beat). Maybe I need a metronome or something.

September 01, 2008




One of my fellow Tassie travellers not only has a very covetable MacBook Air (pretty!) but she also types using the Dvorak keyboard layout. As someone who types a lot for work and obviously a lot writing and does get hand and wrist pain despite using an ergonomic keyboard and stretching etc, it was very interesting watching her type and seeing her hands move a lot less than a QWERTY typist.

I've read about Dvorak before, particularly a few years ago on Holly Lisle's blog but at the time it all seemed too much hassle. But I'm thinking I'd like to give it a go this time. Have been scuttling round the internet reading various articles about pros and cons and people's experiences.

I also found Colemak but even though I found it a bit more intuitive than Dvorak on a website that lets you try different layouts without switching your keyboards, the cold hard fact is that you still have to install Colemak and the day job is not big on letting us install things on our work computers (even the portable version might be a problem). Plus there's no Colemak option on an Alphasmart (and there is a Dvorak option). I use my Alphie to draft fast without thinking too much, so if my QWERTY speed drops from switching, I need to be able to use whatever alternative method on it. So I think, for me, Colemak is a no-go. Something to be put in the 'maybe later' category when I have perhaps changed from an alphie to an eee or something similar and Colemak is maybe imbedded into OSX and Windows a la Dvorak.

But I definitely want to give Dvorak a go to see if it helps my hands. I'm not sure I can do the cold turkey method because I do need to produce lots of text every day but I'm going to do some lessons and practice and see how I go, following the system suggested here. It seems like it can be harder for fast QWERTY typists to switch and I guess I fall into that category (My speed is around 70wpm when I'm stopping to think about accuracy and probably a lot faster then that when I'm drafting and don't care about typos). I don't want to lose my QWERTY skills so I'm going to try and be come bi-keyboard-al. I'm going to try and use the version that keeps the QWERTY commands the same at first. Command keys are the one thing that trip my brain up a bit between Mac and Windows, so changing the position of the keys I'm reaching for has the potential for true chaos whilst I'm still in the position of having to use both.

So let's see how this goes. I've got my mac set-up to be able to switch between layouts easily and am going to try some drills today...I'll keep you posted.