The House Rules

  1. Separate recycling and compost from landfill rubbish.
  2. It’s pronounced skellington.
  3. Your mum’s pronounced skellington.
  4. No cats on the kitchen bench or dining room table.
  5. Last one to bed closes windows and doors and switches off lights.
  6. Reach into the back of the fridge at your own risk.
  7. Cats are not allowed to climb the curtains or flyscreens.
  8. Use the right glass for the beer; we have five different types of beer glasses for a reason.
  9. If you liked it then you should have put a ring on it.
  10. No clawing Mummy’s face.
  11. The only people who call the landline are telemarketers and mothers.
  12. No chewing Daddy’s legal papers.
  13. You can get away with anything if you’re cute.

Nice intentions finish last (shut up and geek me)

I wanted to make my first post back after our five weeks in South America a link to our travel photographs and various whimsical remembrances. Since I’m still sorting, naming and uploading our 850 photographs, despite it being another five weeks since we got back, this post represents my succumbing to the inevitable suck on that one. Hopefully coming soon, though!

This post also represents a “Hey, I did a nerdy thing!” announcement. The Queen’s Birthday weekend just gone was my second Continuum ever, and my first time signing up to be on panels. I used my honours degree and professional experience for awesome (sort of) talking “Good Governments” in spec-fic, and I traded off fourteen years (fourteen years! I looked up when the first X-movie came out to try and date my fannish involvement and nearly swore out loud) of mashing metaphorical action figures together on the “Writing Fanfic” panel. Which, incidentally, meant I was on a panel with both guests of honour – not actually a balm for my first-timer nerves! But apparently I managed to fake urbane experience, so that’s another win for brazen front.

The whole weekend was, once again, a fantastic experience and an invigorating slap in the face of ideas, enthusiasm, and things to be aware of; I always come out energised and full of thinky-thoughts. Ambelin Kwaymullina‘s guest of honour speech was a pivotal element in this, raising for me some deep questions about how we even think about exploration and investigation. Some stories are just not ours to tell. (And is this one more note in a complex chord of “learning to take no for an answer”?)

I even, around all this chicanery, got 2500 words written. Weekends like that should happen more often!

Now, back to sorting through 400 photographs of glaciers and waterfalls…

Shelving zen

We moved into our house (“to the country”, Mr Dee calls it, mostly because there is now grass instead of road and pavement, the sound of lawnmowers on the weekend, actual pets; ignoring the fact that we are still in zone 1) nearly two years ago now. When we first sat down with the designers to start planning the house, some two years before that, the first thing they asked me was, “What's the one thing you want? Why are you building this house?”

I said, “Because we've had to stop buying books because there's no room. I want bookshelves. I want a whole room of bookshelves.”

(They looked at me like I was a really strange person. I get that a lot.)

A girl and her bookshelves )

The next problem? Bookends. I cannot believe how difficult they are to find, and suddenly we need ten of the damn things…

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It's the trivial problems that make me laugh in the middle of the street

I have a problem, of the quintessentially “…and?” variety that is sometimes (slightly problematically) defined as “first-world”.

My preferred coffee-and-morning-munchy shop gives you a little chocolate meringue with your fix. This is delicious, and clearly not my problem, except inasmuch as it's one tiny bite and you're left going, “…more?” (There was a chap in there the other day asking for “no chocolate on top” and they said, “do you mean chocolate dust, or the meringue?” and he said, “oh no no no, I want ten of those things,” and I mentally toasted him with my coffee cup and said, “Amen, brother.”)

My preferred coffee-and-morning-munchy shop has changed the style of their takeaway coffee cup lids. This is my problem.

This is a problem because previously, the lid had a sort of raised rim all the way around the outside edge that – in its own sort of problematic way – allowed spillage to collect in a sort of puddle, but at least prevented it (all) splashing all over my wrist.

This is a problem because that raised rim also provided a place for the little chocolate meringue to nestle as I eyed it with covetous anticipation all the way back to the office. It had a wall to hide behind. It doesn't any longer.

This is a problem because it's been really windy – downright gusty, some days – in Melbourne recently.

And so there I was, standing in the middle of the street pouting like a toddler because the wind had just blown my chocolate meringue off the top of my now-flat coffee lid.

My life. So hard.

But still. I want, like, ten of those things. :(

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Summertime and the music is thick on the ground

My summer musical itinerary is currently looking something like this:

11th October – Husky* at the Corner Hotel
12th October – Regurgitator plays Unit and Tu-Plang at the HiFi Bar
9th November – Radiohead in Brisbane
17th November – Radiohead in Melbourne
6th December – Spiritualised at the HiFi
7th December – Primal Scream at the Palace
(You may have January off to drink beer and bitch about the heat before…)
15th February – Godspeed You! Black Emperor
16th/17th February – All Tomorrow's Parties
3rd March – Soundwave

* So I hear these guys signed with Sub Pop and are now available in the US and places. That means you should get into them because they make splendid noise with all the musicality (including delicious harmonies) of folk and a hefty helping of prog complexity.

What am I missing? Well, we don't have Harvest tickets, despite really enjoying the vibe of the festival last year, because it's irresponsibly in the middle of Radiovember. We were really hoping for Sigur Ros sideshows, but they're only playing Perth and Adelaide on the side (presumably because they're doing a whole second showing of the festival in Melbourne) and anyway we probably would've been in the wrong city at the time. Bummer. (We also declined to Big Day Out this year because there wasn't anyone we HAD to see, just lots of “and while we're there those guys are great” bands. I remain on the lookout for YYYs sideshows.)

Is this all getting a bit out of hand? HELL NO. Bring it on, musical universe! I can totally take more.

(One day I should perhaps talk about how I say, “Oh, I'm taking two weeks off in November,” and my workmates say, “Oh, lovely, where are you going?” and I say, “To see Radiohead. Multiple times.” And then I do these ones – \m/ \m/ – and they look perplexed and change the subject. But that's pretty much the story right there.)

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Where did you come from?

I have this very vivid memory from my childhood, probably somewhere around the age of 10-12, or thereabouts, of my mother and I getting ready to go out. It was a Queensland summer day, so pretty damn sweltering, and Mum lamented that she was going to have to put on pantyhose in this.

“Why?” I asked. She paused, and the obvious answer was, Because that's what one does. I hurried on with, “I mean, who's going to care if you do or not?”

It was obviously not something she'd thought about before. You wore pantyhose because that was part of being properly dressed – just like she also made up her face (not with foundation, but eyeshadow and lippie, always).

In the end, that day, she still wore pantyhose, but I like to think of that as the thin end of the wedge, and increasingly, as the years passed, she didn't bother more and more.

Years later, I would comment in passing to my maternal grandmother that I held the opinion that I come from an unflinching tradition of no-nonsense women who don't care for society's expectations.

“Oh,” she said. “Really? Do you think so? I've… well, I've always just wanted to be normal. Doesn't everyone?”

It was a highly disorienting moment. Stories in the family of my grandmother include the way she used to quell badly behaved Sunday School boys with one look. I grew up visiting a house full of golf trophies where half of them were hers, and the photograph of my young and trim grandparents on the dresser showed both of them heading down the beach to surf. My sense of Grandma had always been that she held her own, that she was a strong lady, that she couldn't be having with nonsense.

I have always considered irrational societal expectations, norms, “just-becauses” to be nonsense with which I could not be having. And while I do still believe I come from a strong and original line of women, I'm just honestly not entirely sure where that came from.

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Beer and books – a condensed summary of my life

  1. Did the Minotaur run last night, which I try to do every couple of months so I can paw over their “new releases” shelves and find shiny things to add to my GoodReads to-read queue (which often leads to me pestering my libraries to buy them, but I figure that's good for everyone, right?). There were a few interesting candidates last night, but I think the stand out winner is this guy Jay Kristoff, who it turns out is pretty much hilarious and moreover whose book Stormdancer looks so splendid I was excited about reading it even before the author described it like this.
  2. While in Minotaur, I got to overhear a phone call that started with, “Hi, your darlek has finally arrived,” and that just makes me happy.
  3. Over the weekend, while spending some wonderfully indulgent and entertaining time with '[personalcalico and her splendid hubby, we discovered that Holgate have made a new beer called the Gruit Expectations. It is a beer without hops.

    I'll say that again: It's a beer without hops.

    I appreciate that I'm maybe the only beer lover in the world who hears that and has a cloud-parting-choirs-of-angels moment, but seriously, for someone who has a hair trigger on her over-hopped sadface, this was a very exciting thing. And the beer itself is delish, all light and spicy and dangerously 6%. I love it in a way that's profoundly unnatural for me and anything paler than an amber; it's on tap at Deja Vu in the Melbourne CBD and I've already tried to go there to have some twice since the weekend, and the place isn't even open on Mondays.

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Weather. We have it.

There's a thing oft-lambasted in stories where a sudden storm springs up (often “magical”) and forces some plot point. The really lambasted bit is when the storm suddenly blows over and there's sunshine and birds singing.

Since Melbourne just did that, I'm not going to nitpick this when I see it happen in future. From fine sunny weather, to hailing thunderstorm, back to fine sunny weather again in forty-five minutes. I think that's a new record, even for this lunatic city.

Now where's my plot point?

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Number one: the larch

I've been reading fantasy fiction since I read Victor Kelleher and The Hobbit when I was about 10. I read everything else as well (no, literally, everything – my project for grade 7 was to read every book on the grade-7-only shelves) but I knew I liked that zany stuff. I fell irrevocably into all-fantasy-all-the-time when I discovered the genre as a thing at age 12, courtesy of David Eddings and a helpful librarian. (I remember standing there, staring at the cover of Pawn of Prophecy, with my mind exploding to the tune of “there's a whole body of books like this?” Of course, shortly thereafter the other shoe dropped when I reached the end of Eddings' currently-written works, and discovered that reading fantasy means waiting for the next book.)

But I grew up a sneeze away from the Tropic of Capricorn, basically subtropical, certainly cyclone territory. We had wet seasons when I was a kid, long sticky summers when it would start raining every day punctually between two and four in the afternoon, so three afternoons out of five I would walk home from school in the warm pelting rain with my shoes slung around my neck by their knotted laces. And then I got home, I would dry off and curl up on the couch with a humidity-edged book wherein folks wearing woollen cloaks trudged through frosty forests of oak trees.

This never seemed at all dislocating to me. I can only assume that, in my head, the books were books and the climatic conditions were like dragons – things that happened in the books. It wasn't until I moved south, to a town that actually had visible seasons beyond the wet and dry, that I realised I had no flipping idea what an oak tree looked like, despite practically every book I read using the species name as a shorthand for “and now you know exactly what this forest they're riding through looks like”.

Poinciana? Sure! (I fell out of enough of them as a child, I should be able to spot 'em… also frangipani and their unhelpful hollow branches.) I can recognise a jacaranda even when it isn't in full flower. When someone talks about a fig tree, I expect a banyan.

I started writing Boralos because I came back to my childhood home for Christmas, and watched the fruitbats swarming out of the mangroves at dusk, and thought, “…why am I constantly trying to write European fantasy when this is what flows in my veins?”

Which is absolutely not to say I grew up with hippos up the creek and people having pet pygmy crocodiles. We don't indulge in fantasy to stick with everything that we know, after all. ;)

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The social benefits of hairdressing

I got a fabulous haircut the other day.

Not only did I get tidy, saucy, pink hair out of it, but it involved media interactions outside my usual sphere, which is always a pretty entertaining part of my hair-salon experience. I do not – by conceited and socially awkward choice – interact a lot with “normal” people. I'm a bit better at this now that I work in an actual workplace, but still, my friends, in both virtual and physical spaces, are delightfully weird in various shades that complement my own oddities. Our media and issues and people of interest do not often coincide with those of the mainstream. So my two hours in the hairdresser are often an interesting window on a completely different world.

This window was particularly entertaining.

GQ magazine )

Music – long live the '90s )

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