Monday, 31 October 2011

Sunday Sesh #9 - The Sesh With No Beer

Sorry about no Sunday Sesh this week. I'm still not overly good at this pre-planning thing. I'm blaming Nanowrimo, since you're not supposed to plan too far ahead in order to get the best experience possible.


Unplanned visitors + planned visitors + housework + reno's = Full house and no time for blogging.

The simplest solution would have been for me to do the post early, and then just add the beer review before I posted. Not for me this business though. What if what I wrote on (say) Wednesday for the post was no longer relevant on Sunday? I'd have to completely re-write the post anyway.

I thought I could sneak in a quick post, review my beer and just write some crap about whatever was happening that interested me and then go be sociable.

It certainly did not work out that way.

Plus, it's the day before Nanowrimo starts, my work week starts tomorrow and I'll have visitors until Wednesday. I am NOT going to get my head-start I was hoping for.

On top of that, we have the tupperware party and a going away party for friends in two weeks that wipes out almost a full day. I have the next weekend free, and then we're in Brisbane both weekends after that.

So I was wondering how this month was going to work with such an unproductive start and so much other stuff on. For a few days I tossed around just dropping Nano until next year, and I also tossed around dropping absolutely everything else except my real job.

I've decided that even though this month is one of the most hectic we've had all year, I'm still doing Nano because no matter how much I could have tried to get a fully free month, something would have come up to throw a spanner in the works.

So this is how it's all going to go down this month. Bear in mind these are your rules as much as they are mine, and I apologise in advance for dropping off the radar for the next 30 days.

Things I am NOT doing (or restricting to next to nothing) for the next month:

Answering the phone - I'm giving Wifey my mobile phone when I'm at home. From tomorrow, Wifey will be my secretary after 5pm. All texts and phone calls will go through her. I can call and text to my heart's content between 8.30am and 5pm, and because I'm at my real job between those hours, it means not very much at all. So unless you or someone else is dying, you're going to have to get through my secretary first.

Facebooking and blog-reading - I'm restricting my facebooking and blog-reading, and will only allow myself to jump on if I reach my word counts for each day. If I'm behind from the previous day, I'll need to catch up on those words as well as do that day's word count before I can access the net. I will, however, post a link to the blog whenever I post. If you catch me on facebook, and there's no post on the blog, flick me a message and ask what I'm doing on there. Alternatively, poke me and tell me to "GET WRITING DAMMIT!"

Watching TV - No TV. Not even the news in the afternoon. I'll be setting the timers tonight to tape everything I would normally watch. There are no if's or but's on this rule. Even if I hit my word counts every day, I won't be watching anything on the idiot box. Sitting down in front of the TV in December, catching up on all my shows, will be my reward for getting through the next 30 days, regardless of whether I hit that 50k or not.

Restricted Twitter - Why restricted and not just banned? Because I want to see how the other #nanowrimo's are doing since it's my first year. They've been getting pretty excited lately, and so far I've just watched and not tweeted too much. I may get in on the conversation as the month progresses though. I'll see how things go.

Staying off the internet - This one's a tricky one. I want to get onto the Nano forums, but I will only allow myself to do that after I've hit my word counts. I will only get online for that though. Any research I think I may have to do for the novel I'll keep track of in a notebook, and if the Nano novel turns out to be ok, I'll sort it out then. I can get a bit of an online fix to read newspapers etc at work before I get started and at lunch-time, so this won't feel too restrictive.

There are probably other things I'll be giving up or restricting over the next 30 days, but those are the major ones.

Since this post is quite long enough, I'll leave over the things I will be doing during Nano for the next post, when I give my first report from the trenches.

Until then, I'm going to try to relax and not think about what lies ahead.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

One small step for Gays....

On Tuesday night, Wifey and I watched a live telecast of Qld Treasurer Andrew Fraser introducing a private members' bill called the "Civil Partnership Bill."

While this in no way provides what marriage would provide at the federal level, it is a small step forward to having our relationships recognised in some form, and also shows that our state government is serious about ending discrimination.

What I admire most about Andrew Fraser, and the other MPs who have come out in support of this bill, is that finally, someone is standing up and saying  they are just doing "what's right."

As a result of the introduction of this bill, and watching a youtube video released by Gus Johnston (you can see that here: Gus Johnston: The reality of homophobia in sport), Wifey and I had a discussion about what the Civil Partnership Bill means to us.

We've already had our Big C (commitment ceremony) in front of family and friends, fully aware that it in no way conferred anything legal onto our relationship. The fact that we could soon be able to have our relationship legally recognised by our own state means a lot more to us than we first thought.
I think Wifey said it best. She said "it's personal". When people say they don't understand the obsession "us" gays have with marriage, it's because they don't understand what it's like to grow up being gay.

They don't understand how lonely it can get trying to hide a part of you that shouldn't really matter.

They don't know how it feels to be closeted, and to not be brave enough to stand up to people when they use derogatory terms to make other people feel bad, all the while not realising they're actually talking about you.

They don't get how much courage it takes to tell the people you love and care about that you're just that little bit different to them, and risk losing them in the process.

Or how every day of your life, you have to make assessments on the fly of people you meet to decide whether you tell them that your partner is of the same sex because you're thinking of their feelings and not your own. Or to not mention anything at all that might let on that you're gay for fear of ridicule or condescension.

To hear people you don't know make judgements about your character, based only on stereotypes and ignorance, and about such a small part of your being, and then expect you to not take their opinion personally.

All of these things combine to make you feel like you're less of a person than your straight sisters, brothers, parents and friends. It makes you feel that no matter how good you are as a person, how much you contribute to your family, community and society, that you are not as worthy as a heterosexual simply because of the person you fall in love with.

Wifey and I discovered something very important today. We discovered it's apathy from people like us, who stand by waiting for those people who have the power to change things to do what's right, that is the reason for nothing getting done.

We are not activists. We are two people in a community who are discriminated against. And I am saddened to think that it is partly my fault for not calling people on the things they say and do that hurt me deeply. I have never had the courage to stand up and fight, because I really didn't understand that I should, or could.

So what are we doing about it? We are going to see our local member to let him know that we are proud of him for standing with Andrew Fraser, and for doing what is right. We are going to ask him what it is we need to do to make people realise how this one piece of legislation will have such a positive effect on so many peoples' lives. We are going to stand up and say that it's not ok to treat us any differently, and that we are the same as any other couple in this state and in this country. We are a loving, committed couple and we want the same things as every other loving, committed couple, which includes the legal protections that relationship recognition affords.

I have never asked anything of my family and friends except for love and acceptance. However, if you do want to help this change come about, and if you do want Wifey and I to be treated no differently to you and your wife/husband, you can do one simple thing, and that is to go to your local MP, write, email, whatever, and let them know that this legislation is important to you and let them know why.

The simple act of Wifey and I being able to register our relationship as a legally married couple can, will mean the world to us.

And for those of you who are wondering, yes, there will most likely be another Big C to celebrate.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Nanowrimo: The Panic Begins

Nanowrimo starts in a week, and up until yesterday, I wasn't overly excited. Why? Because after re-thinking the 50,000 words in 30 days pledge, I realised just how bloody crazy that is.

What the hell was I thinking?

I have my Nano novel idea ready to go. I've deliberately been not researching and not doing character profiles (not too indepth anyway) and not overthinking the plot. I am basing my Nano novel on four basic plot points. I have the start and end points, and a rough idea (if only in my head) of what could happen in between.

And yet to be able to write all of that, in at least 50,000 words and in 30 days whilst still working four days a week, and trying to maintain some semblance of a life?

I started hyperventilating. My chest began to tighten, and I thought I was going to have some sort of panic-induced attack of writer-self-doubt. Wifey would come home from work to see me balled up in the corner of my study, rocking back and forth, muttering incoherantly.

So what did I do? I made myself a strong coffee in a big mug, and sat outside in the sunshine on the deck. Then, in a caffeine-induced haze of bravado, I came back inside, cleaned off my white-board, wrote down the bare bones of my Nano plot, and then started writing in my Nano diary.

I wrote down all the crap that my self-doubt was trying to sabotage me with, and made myself some pretty easy goals. I thought about my long-term writing goals and wrote them down too. I realised that there are two possible scenarios that could happen by the end of November:

1. I could end up with a crap-load of dross in 50,000 words


2. I could end up with no novel

And the worst case for me would be to end up with nothing. It is afterall what I've started with. If I manage to do this, regardless of what happens at the end of it, I will be 50,000 words closer to having a publishable novel.

So the decision is made - at least for today - that I will forge ahead, and in seven days time be sitting eagerly at my keyboard, typing out the first word of my 50,000 word Nano masterpiece.

I hope you can come along for the ride.

Now, I'm off to work out what treats I want to fill my study with as an incentive to write. At the end of November, my head will be 50,000 words lighter, but my body may well be 50,000 words worth of treats heavier.

This is the first in a number of posts over the next 37 days about Nano. If you couldn't give a flying frog about my Nano journey, I'm totally happy for you to come back after it's all over. I still intend on doing my Sunday Sesh posts though, and promise to make them a Nano-free zone.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Sunday Sesh #8 - Stoke Gold (NZ)

This week's Sunday Sesh is brought to you by a NZ drop - Stoke Gold, made by the McCashin Brewery in Nelson.

It's a little bit fortuitous that I decided to review this beer this weekend. It is, afterall, the same Sunday that the All Blacks are going for Gold in the RWC final. Another bit of trivia for you - McCashin's Brewery was started by a former All Black, Terry McCashin in 1980. So there you go - I was meant to review this beer on this day. Talk about Fate.

So there's not much on the company's website about this one - it is a small family brewery, so I'm guessing they want their brews to speak for themselves.

What does it say? To me it says amateur home-brewer. It's a little cloudy on the pour, and smells a little bit fruity in the bottle. It tastes like it's flat, and I did not enjoy this one at all.
Like a lot of Kiwi sports teams, it's so full of promise but lacking in the execution. Ordinarily, I would still just drink it, but I couldn't get through it.

On that note, I'll get onto something a little more interesting.

This weekend saw Wifey and I head down to the local Spring Home Show, which we normally walk out swearing we'll never waste our money on again. Still, for some reason twelve months goes by, and we forget how disappointing it was last time and go around again getting accosted by people we don't know trying to sell us things we don't want.

This year though, success. We got some advice off a guy who builds decks, and Wifey bought herself a $50 three-man tent for work - bargain!

We have also gotten ourselves into something that could turn into something quite interesting.

We were winding our way back through the throng, re-avoiding eye contact with everyone the second time on our way out of the home show, when Wifey spied a stall she couldn't believe she missed on the way in.....


Back story -

Anyone who knows my wife will tell you that she loves her Tupperware - to the point where it only ever leaves the house if she has it in her lunch box. I get to take it occasionally, but only if I swear on my life that it will return in the same state as it left in, and on the same day.
Never, under any circumstances, is Tupperware allowed to leave our house with anyone who doesn't live here - there is less chance it will find it's way home (apparently).
As a side note, don't ever leave my wife in your kitchen unattended. If you do, check your Tupperware drawer/cupboard and make sure you double-check she's not hiding any in her jumper before she leaves.

Anyway, so I follow Wifey over to the Tupperware stall where the Tupperware Lady greets us and asks if we've seen Tupperware before. Wifey says "Oh yes, I just LOVE Tupperware!" Well, that's the cue for the Tupperware Lady to inform us that she's hosting the launch of the new season's range, and how would we like an invitation to have a sneak peek? Before I can even say anything, Wifey is signing us up to go to a Tupperware party with people we don't know from a bar of soap.

I really have no problem with going - for starters, who knows what would happen to my wife in a room full of other Tupperware-crazy ladies. I may not get her back in the same state she left home in. Plus, if I'm there, I can stop the impulse buys before they happen. (Note to self - leave the credit card at home).

Also, it gets us out of the house. I mean, what else was I going to do on a Monday night?

But the scariest part? Wifey now wants to have a Tupperware party of her own. Why? Because of "all the free Tupperware I can get!"

Come to think of it though, the last few times I went to (and hosted) Tupperware parties were pretty awesome. There was that time when our crazy Tupperware Lady (let's call her Kirsty) did a cocktail party, and said one of the jugs was leak-proof, and my house-mate (let's call her, hmm, Kim), decided to shake said jug which sent green cocktail all over the kitchen floor. Kim then proudly proclaimed "I thought you said this was leak-proof? Well, that was crap!" Yep, that night was a doozey. I still remember our Tupperware Lady packing up the display the next morning (yep, she stayed at our place!) with a HUGE hangover - classic! I still wonder how much money we made for her......

On that note, I'm going to check out the new Tupperware catalogue and see if I can spot the stuff Wifey's going to want to buy at this party, and maybe even call the boss and ask for some extra hours to pay for it.

Until next Sunday's Sesh,

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Sunday Sesh #7 - FNQ Lager

Today's Sunday Sesh is brought to you by the wonderful people at Blue Sky Brewery in Cairns, and their FNQ Lager.

Since the weather's so good here, I thought I'd try something a little bit different, and go a lager made in sunny Qld. This brew didn't disappoint. It's a pale lager, a little bit of froth on the pour that disappears quite quickly, and it goes down well. Very refreshing, a slightly bitter aftertaste, but would be easy to drink a couple of these too fast. Perfect beer for a hot day in the tropics. Dare I say it - a little bit of tropical sunshine in a bottle.

I got this one from 1st Choice. I only really went there just to see whether they had anything different to my usual Dan Murphy's. The range was disappointing, however I'm glad we stopped in - I would never have discovered this all-round brew because Dan's doesn't stock it. It cost $2.99 for a stubby but if we go there again I think I might stump up for a carton, just to have this sitting in the fridge ready for summer.

Since I'm feeling all summery and in a good mood, I thought I'd go a bit lighter on the Sunday Sesh today, and talk about something that only makes sense in summer in Australia. That's right - thongs. No, not the play-hide'n'seek-in-the-bum-crack type. I'm talking about the go-anywhere, slip-on-your-feet-and-you're-ready-for-a-night-out type.

I love thongs. It's no secret amongst my friends and family. As soon as the sun feels hot enough for me to get a tan, I'm tossing the joggers and work shoes, and slipping on a pair of thongs. I'm a sucker for the Kustom variety at the moment - only because I get a new pair every year for Christmas (did I mention I love Christmas too?) But I am my father's daughter, and I love just picking up a pair of $2 double-pluggers from Big W or Target. In fact, Dad and I have been known to grab a couple at that price - you never know when you're going to have a blow-out. Plus, if you get a couple the same colour, if you lose or break just one, you can still wear the other one - you just replace the broken one with the new one from another pair. Crisis averted, and no good thong gets wasted.

I go through them quite quickly since I wear them so much. I have a good pair, that I wear out to BBQ's and such, and a yard pair I use when I'm helping wifey with the outside jobs. Even wifey has her protective safety thongs for when she's mowing or working on the roof.

There's so much to love about a piece of rubber with two little plasticy bits that sit on the bottom of your feet. I mean, could you imagine going to the beach in a pair of joggers and trying to get the sand out of them when you got home? It's thongs that separate us from the tourists - only a true Aussie understands that the only real way to be able to run across stinking hot sand and be able to get into the surf quickly is to wear thongs.

Also, when you get home, just chuck on a pair of jeans, a nice shirt, slip on your thongs and you're ready for a night out at the local beer-garden. Get a drink spilt on your feet? No problem - take them out the back, wash them under the tap and they're good to go.

Is there any other type of footwear you could wear when you're fishing, wading into the water to retrieve a tangled line, and still be able to wear home? Plus, if they slip off in the drink, you never lose them - they just float to the top.

The only place I don't think I'd wear them is a fully-loaded cow paddock - they don't tend to be too good with the squishy stuff. However, again, if you do happen to stand in something you should've seen but didn't, wash them under the tap and you're away.

And they've become quite a fashion statement for the ladies as well I've noticed. You can get all sorts of thongs with bling on them now, and for all occasions too. Take my wife, for example. Just have a guess what she wore for her wedding shoes. That's right - she wore a pair of blinged up thongs, and since she wanted to stay a little traditional, she bought them in white.

Anyway, I'm hoping for another pair of thongs for Christmas again this year. My old ones are looking a bit worse for wear, and probably need to be consigned to the yard pair. I am due for a shopping trip though, so I might go and see whether there are any $2 double-pluggers on special yet.

As always, I love to hear your feedback. Do you have a favourite pair of thongs or another great reason to wear them? Is there anywhere that you think they would be totally inappropriate?

(An aside: why is it that every time I go to type "thongs" I type "things"? If I've missed any "things" in the spell-check, let me know, but you'll know what I'm talking about.)

Until next Sunday's Sesh,

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Sunday Sesh #6 - Matilda Bay Fat Yak

Today's Sunday Sesh is brought to you by Matilda Bay's Fat Yak, an American-style pale ale. Matilda Bay is currently one of my favourite breweries, bringing you crackers such as Beez Neez honey-infused lager, Dogbolter Dark Lager, and Big Helga, a Munich-style, Oktoberfest-inspired dry lager.

As you can see, it's a nice golden colour - darker than your usual run-of-the-mill pale ale. Smells crisp, and it's a refreshing drink, especially after a day working on the house. A great pub beer when it's on tap (it's my beer of choice when we go out), and great with a counter meal. I always try to have some of this in the fridge (if not, I normally have some in stock in the cupboard).
A question to start off the session today - are Wifey and I the only two people in Oz who don't give a toss about the outcome of Bathurst? Sorry Brocky and Dick Johnson (yeh, I know who they are) but Ford v Holden? Meh! Even the fact that I could plant myself in front of the telly with an esky full of beer couldn't make me sit through a car race.

If I wanted to see motor-enhanced action, I'd just sit at any of the main roads in town on a Friday or Saturday night, and watch the heroes dragging each other off at the lights. Come to think of it, I can just watch out my bedroom window at the clowns racing down my street, leaving their tyre-rubber on the corner up the road.

Or I could just get out the scalextric set, and drive the cars myself.

So if we haven't been watching the Big Race, what have we been up to? This weekend is the first we've had in awhile that was free of visitors and commitments, so we decided to work on the house. Wifey has been doing the yard work, and I've been doing bits and pieces of painting and prep-work for more renos. Wifey even got excited and started knocking down the brick back steps in readiness for the new deck. Three hours later and she's only half-way done.

We've also been looking at open houses, as we're hoping to get our house on the market by Jan/Feb, and buy our second house. We've decided on another renovator, but we're hoping to buy up into a better area, so we're looking for a "worst house in the best street" kind of thing. It's been awhile since we've really been looking, but it's nice to know that the real estate jargon hasn't changed.

"Original condition" means nothing has been done on it since it was built - this, funnily enough, is what we're after. Although there is a huge difference between a house that's been looked after, and one that's falling down around itself.

"Entertaining area" is a pretty ambiguous one - a few pavers out the back does not an entertaining area make. Neither does a bit of cement that used to be the old outdoor laundry.

"Lush gardens" usually means overgrown and unwieldy, meaning a complete overhaul.

"Newly renovated" means some stuff has been done to it in the last ten years. Usually badly.

After having a look around this weekend, we've settled on a few areas we want to concentrate on, and know what we definitely don't want. Finding it will be the problem, but we're hoping that starting early will mean we have a better chance. We're also using it as a chance to narrow the field of agents we think we might use. So far, we've been pleasantly surprised and haven't had too many hard-sellers. They tend to leave you alone when you tell them you're currently renovating and just keeping an eye on the market.

There's just over three weeks to go before Nano starts, and apart from cleaning the study last weekend in readiness, I've also been doing some plotting and characterisation on my chosen Nano idea. After working on it for the past week, I've come to realise that I seem to have an obsession with death. It shouldn't have come as too much of a surprise, since I do work in taxes, but I didn't realise how obsessed I was until I looked back over a few of my other ideas that have been percolating in my brain.

In the process of cleaning the study, I also organised my notes and paperwork, and no less than five of my WIP/ideas have a whiff of death about them. Some of them more than others, but it's there. I'm not sure why entirely, although when you kill a character off, that's a pretty good plot point. It's also a great way to get rid of a character you thought was alright when you started, but they turned into a whiney, self-obsessed pain in the ass. The story is not all about them but they take it over, so you know, as God, I get to drive them off a cliff, or get some horrible disease. Or I can just make them disappear - you really shouldn't mess with someone who knows some badass characters......

It's time for another Fat Yak methinks. And to see how the Wallabies went against the Springboks. Rugby isn't something I normally watch, but if we make the final, I'll make sure I support them with a beer or three in front of the telly. Much better than watching cars go around a track all day.

until next Sunday's Sesh,

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Sunday Sesh #5 - James Squire Jack of Spades

Bit late in coming this week, but here's today's Sunday Sesh, brought to you by James Squire's Jack of Spades Porter.

I've ventured into the dark ales a bit over the last couple of weeks, and this one is now one of my favourites. Next time I'm at the Bottle-o I'll be grabbing myself a carton.

Little bit of history on the porter, as it's a variety I haven't come across until now. Apparently, it was one of the first "engineered" beers, being made from a combination of old (stale or soured) ale, a new ale and a weak one. It's name came about because it was popular with transportation workers (porters) in the 1700s.

This one from James Squire is made on roasted barley and they say has "hints of malt chocolate and roasted coffee."

Well, I'm not sure about that but it poured well with a creamy head and no real bubbles. It's when you drink it that it really surprises. It's a little tingly on your tongue, like sherbert, and very refreshing. It's not as heavy as it looks and was surprisingly easy to drink.

At $17.99 for a 6-pack, it's another top-shelfer.

After last weekend's whinge-a-thon, I thought I'd go for something a little different this week and talk about writing. Nanowrimo to be exact. It's been a while since I've spoken about Nano, but since there's less than a month left before it begins, I figured I better get cracking. I decided, since my desk is where all the action will happen, I'd better give it a good clean.

My desk before...
and after the clean-up

As you can see by the before and after pictures above, it's a far cry from my usual mess. In the second photo, you can see the hat which is part of my Nano Super Writer Disguise, and the frames in the background are my Nano-cartas - the two documents which remind me what I think represents good writing, and what I hope to avoid as bad writing. I've also got my reference books ready to go - two dictionaries, a thesaurus, a baby name book and the Nano bible "No plot? No problem."

The document box under my hat contains my various notes on "Pandora's Box/Elysium". I have a habit of jotting down notes on random bits of paper, but I'm trying to kick that habit. So I don't get too lost with plotting on that WIP (not my Nano WIP) all my notes go into that box, and at the end of the week, I go through them all, transfer the best of them into a note book, turf out the bits of paper and start again. It's a slow process, but I'm getting there. I just have to teach Wifey to leave my note books alone...

A little bit off track now, but still on writing - I ordered my Christmas present last week. Yes, you read right - I ordered my own Christmas present. Not because Wifey's bad at buying presents (she's quite good as a matter of fact), but because it's a new release, and I figured I might be waiting a while to get it. What did I get? I hear you ask.

A newly-released kindle e-reader from Amazon. Amazon have just released their latest suite of readers - a basic model for $US79, two touch-screens $US99 (wi-fi) and $US149 (3G), and a colour touch-screen model called the Fire for $US199. They also still have the previous models of the Kindle Keyboard available for $US99 (wi-fi) and $139 (3G) - the basic model is the only one currently available to us here in Aus, with the rest hopefully soon to follow.

Why am I excited about this? Because Amazon have just increased my potential reader market. Cheaper e-readers means more people seeing what it's all about, and that means more people looking for e-books. I'm not sure how long it will take to get my shiny new toy, but I am sure of one thing - since it's a Christmas present, there is no way Wifey will let me have it until Christmas day, so you'll have to wait (just like me) for me to give you my verdict.

If you've been trying to decide whether or not to buy an e-reader, now is a good time to be getting one. As for me, there's only one thing left to do - finish my damn book and get it onto Amazon.

until next Sunday's Sesh,


PS Notice I just wrote the whole Sunday Sesh without mentioning that Manly won the NRL grand final (until now) - this was the one time I hoped the Kiwis would triumph (sorry Nat). But, kudos to the Sea Eagles - they were the most consistent team through the finals series, if not the season, so it wasn't an entirely surprising result.