Wednesday, June 29, 2011

It's a Start

Here's some wildlife shots taken today. Anyone know the name of this butterfly ... and don't say 'Eric'.

The End of June

Wednesday 22nd June

I have to make some mention of the wildlife up here in the mountains (if I haven’t already done so and then forgotten). One evening whilst sitting outside with a couple of visitors (Hi Roddy & Ruth) we saw a pair pine martins running across nearby roofs, then another larger one nearby apparently eating our strawberries, whilst being watched closely by a local cat. The next morning we spotted a weasel on the ruin opposite our house and then, on our way out, watched a large green lizard, about twenty-five centimetres long, nip up into our geraniums. Our ‘ruin’ now has its resident gecko and other lizards of all different kinds can be seen here and down on the beach in Makrigialos – in fact Caroline was feeding one cheese crackers only a short while ago. Quite often, when sitting outside we’ll see a pair of eagles circling on thermals above the valley, whilst hawks of various kinds are also frequent visitors. Other birds include the usual, like sparrows and swallows, but occasionally we’ll get some brightly coloured visitors I couldn’t name. Hedgehogs we see occasionally, but then that’s not surprising considering the population of snails here, and I’m told there are badgers out there but I’ve yet to see one. Thus far I’ve had one snake in the garden but I have seen plenty on the roads. At night, near a neighbour’s house behind the village, frogs set up a chorus and we also hear little owls hooting and have seen the silent and ghostly shape of a snowy owl flying over our terrace then perching on wires opposite.

Then there are the insects. Thus far I’ve found about five scorpions in my little shed, and recently captured one for those neighbours with the frogs to show a visiting autistic kid who really wanted to see one last time he was at their house. Quite often I’ll see them scuttling from under plant pots too. Whilst digging in the bank next to our house I’ll often unearth centipedes about three inches long and I have been bitten by one. The garden abounds with shield bugs, long-legged leaf-cutting wasps, normal wasps and plenty of the kind Alien was based on, bees, ants ranging from the size of a pin head to three-quarters of an inch long and crickets the size of cafe crème cigars. This time of year, and earlier, bloody great beetles fly at your head or walk across the terrace in hobnail boots, and when flying they can easily be confused with the huge blue-black bees we get here. Soon the cicadas will be setting up their racket, and my tinnitus will fade into non-existence. Swatting flies can sometimes become a competition but, fortunately, we don’t get eaten alive by mosquitoes. However, there are flies here that look like normal house flies but which bite and a very small fly, which almost looks like a floating speck of dust and will lunch on you too.

Plenty of butterflies: tortoiseshells, cabbage whites, red admirals and a big yellow one with black markings I don’t know the name of. Yet, even with the cabbage whites settling on my veg I don’t get many caterpillars. I think this is due to the quantities of predatory insects out there eating them. The same applies to greenfly and black fly. Certainly, back in England, the stuff I grew would get hammered by all the above if I didn’t spray often. This is probably because that garden was amidst fields – monocultures – where the predatory insects are wiped out by the sprays getting rid of the pests.

Okay, I must take some pictures...

Thursday 23rd June
The chilli plants that survived from last year are, I’m happy to say, already producing chillies. The tomato plants I bought in Sitia have their first green tomatoes and the pepper plants from the same stall are also producing. Though there are lots of bunches of very small grapes on the vines they look a bit sickly, which is, I’m told, due to the rain we’ve had here. Other plants have succeeded or failed, but generally things are good and the gardens here are going to be stunning. Meanwhile, as I concern myself with the garden, with writing a book and with nipping off for an afternoon swim, the world seems to be going to pot all around me.

Sectarian violence has kicked off in Belfast again and when I see the rioters turning rabid and smashing the fuck out of police vehicles I wonder what point there is thinking about the future of the human race. When I then hear that Obama is spending two billion dollars a week on that pointless fucking war in Afghanistan the feeling is reinforced. With the amount of money being blown on these silly adventures we could be established both on the Moon and Mars by now and have orbital satellite industries and hotels visible from Earth. The world seems to be run by idiots and the waste of human life and wealth is sickening. I guess, when writing SF and imagining wonderful technologies ‘like magic’ one must never underestimate the massive power of human stupidity.

Meanwhile, here in Greece, the debt continues to grow whilst the politicians feast and dither. All sorts of new methods of taxation are introduced one day then dumped the next. The latest I’ve heard is that they now want to tax the already taxed money people like me bring into the country. Greece and Britain have a dual tax arrangement whereby if you’ve paid taxes in one country you shouldn’t have to pay them in the other, but apparently they’re trying to ignore that. Nothing must stand in the way of feeding the corrupt, nepotistic regime here and the bureaucrats and politicians must always be the last to take a pay cut or be put out of work because, obviously, they’re so important.

Friday 24th June
Interesting bit of info came our way yesterday from a couple with a home up in Stavrahori. Apparently they have thick glass windows in their roof. Now here one of the problems is the lack of windows and light inside. Often, when I come back in from outside, I have to wait a short while for my eyes to adjust, and often we have the lights on inside during the day. It’s also the case that because the house is set into a mountainside there are no windows at the back. And, both early and late in the year, the sun is mostly either behind or above the house so we get no direct sunlight through the front windows. This results in silly situations like us having the stove on inside whilst it’s also possible to sun bathe on the roof.

I looked into these ‘sun pipes’ often seen on ‘going green’ TV programs, but they are hideously expensive and really, with the flat concrete roof above we don’t need much in the way of the pipe part of them. I asked our builder about roof windows but all he suggested was aluminium windows set in built-up sections. I considered the idea of glass bricks in steel frames and setting them into the roof, but the kind of glass bricks I’ve seen are hollow and could be easily broken – I want thick glass up there that can stand being walked on.

So, today we’re going to go take a look at these roof windows and also obtain contact details for the builder who is making them. It would be great to not have to turn on the light every time we go to the toilet, and everywhere in the house it’ll be nice to get a bit of the powerful sunlight and heat beaming in.

Saturday 25th June
Yup, seen the roof windows and they are exactly what we want. Whilst we were there the guy whose house they are in called the Greek/American builder who did them and he’s coming up to see us at 10 this morning. The complications are that we’ll have to move the solar panel up onto the ‘ruin’, that once again we’ll be deep in dust and crap and, of course, ensuring the price is not a rip-off. If the guy is not in rip-off territory I may ask him to give me a price on putting air vents through our walls at the same time, at which point it might be an idea of me and Caroline to move up into the ruin for a while.

Monday 27th June
Wind wind wind! It started on Saturday night and is still going at 10 this morning. Thus far it has fried the sweet peas, picked up various plants in their pots and dumped them on the ground again, mauled a fuchsia, torn off unripe grapes and generally drained and sapped the plant life here. I don’t know if this wind is the one they call the ‘meltemi’, I just know it can get bloody windy and go on and on. There have been occasions when it’s blown like this for weeks on end and I’ve been overcome by the urge to run around screaming ‘Fuck off!’ at the sky. Of course it’s just this kind of anthropomorphizing of phenomena in the world that led to religion, so I really shouldn’t do it.

Tuesday 28th June
Feeling a bit stir-crazy yesterday we went down to Makrigialos expecting to have to sit inside a bar sheltering from the wind. This wasn’t the case. This wind is coming down from the North and tearing through the mountains, but overshooting Makrigialos to hit the ocean beyond. I was able to swim and we were able to sit at a table outside. However we returned to the wind here...

The wind is still blasting away at 8 this morning. We were told that we won’t have much of a grape crop, because of the rain and also because we haven’t sprayed them. Frankly I’m glad not to have wasted the spray since the vines have now been stripped of about half their leaves and most of the unripe grapes. Numerous other plants are looking sick – leaves and flowers wind-burnt – and there are drifts of ripped off leaves and flowers everywhere. It’s all somewhat heartbreaking and when it finally stops I’ll have a lot of clearing up to do.

Wednesday 29th June
So the Greek politicians are voting on ‘harsh austerity measures’ and, in response to this, they’ve had the worst riots in Athens for a year. Of course, this being the BBC we find a certain degree of terminological inexactitude. We are informed that things will be difficult for the government because the public are protesting. Sort of right but as ever misleading. Opposition parties are protesting but mainly it’s the state sector workers and unions that are protesting (along with the usual scattering of anarchist wankers) because they are the ones who will take the biggest hit. They are the overpaid non-producers with early retirement and large pensions. They are the ones whose organisations are going to be privatized and who will discover that the cushy little number, usually arrived at through nepotism, of sitting on their fat arses in offices shuffling paper, might end up being cut.

To a lesser degree it is the same people who are protesting in Britain and elsewhere across the world. Really, the lesson to be learned from Greece is that expanding the state sector and spending prolifically to buy votes is the road to bankruptcy and chaos. And the only way to make a country wealthy is to cut bureaucracy, cut taxes and let the wealth producers, i.e. everyone in the private sector, get on with doing what they do best. Of course this lesson will be ignored because those making the decisions are state sector parasites themselves. Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.

The wind ended yesterday afternoon at last. I went out and started clearing up the snapped off branches, the piles of crispy flowers and leaves and dumping plants that had simply shrivelled and died. I then did a lot of watering because the wind had sucked the moisture from everything. So much for my earlier comments about how well the gardens here are doing...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bugs and Stuff

Wednesday 15th June

It’s always difficult to know how to respond to an email that begins ‘I like your books but...’ The instinctive reaction of the author in his natural habitat is to shout, ‘Fuck off and die!’ at the top of his voice followed by the cry of, ‘How dare one of you mere mortals criticise ME?’ But seriously, it doesn’t ever get any easier to receive criticism as time goes on, no matter how loaded with provisos it might be. In fact, I submit that the ability to accept criticism reduces in inverse proportion to the growth of authorial arrogance so, if you’re serious about what you do, you have to make a positive effort to read and inwardly digest negative criticism. I’m not saying I’m very good at this. I reject out of hand pompous pronouncements whose obvious source has a political bias against me personally. I generally try to ignore criticisms that start with the ‘I didn’t like this book’ basis then go on a lengthy search for justifications. But I do pay attention to constructive criticism – the kind from which I can learn something about my writing, rather than something about the critic. I have to further submit that a degree of arrogance is a requirement if, as an author, you want to retain the confidence in your ability to turn out a 140,000-word book every year.

So, in a lengthy waffling fashion I come to the latest email like the one first described. When the correspondent has a gripe about my astrophysics, and is a professional astrophysicist, it really is time for me to sit up and take notice. I asked him to point out the errors he’d seen – first noting that I already knew about the somewhat contentious use of sun-mirrors to cause fusion in The Line of Polity– and he came back with some nice detail. He focused on Brass Man and noted that a million-tonne black hole would not eat an ice-giant planet, and that the tidal forces of a brown dwarf would not tear apart a space ship like the Ogygian. Now, by changing just a couple of lines I could correct this, but it’s already out there and that’s the end of it. However, I’m now sending a question or two, like, would an anode and cathode method work in tapping into the Io flux tube...

In fact, I should ask more such questions here since I know there are other physicists, astrophysicists and other such smart cookies who read my books and also read this blog. So, anyone got any gen on how you would go about tapping energy from the Io flux tube?

Friday 17th June
What a bloody day! To start with I’m not such a happy bunny because my lips look and feel like they’ve been skinned, then there’s this fucking weather. It started out sunny enough but then clouded over rapidly. In retrospect I realise we shouldn’t have gone to Sitia because it seems par for the course lately that when we go there it pisses down. Whilst we were the there the clouds loomed and lurked all about and when we were doing our final shop in Lidl thunder rumbled a few times. The rain did not hit us there, but on the way back up to the house. The road all the way back up was criss-crossed with muddy streams and we spend the rest of the day inside whilst the rain continued, filling a 150 litre water butt and turning the garden into a quagmire.

This morning it’s not particularly warm and clouds are again lurking all about. I look like I’m wearing a mottled dark red and black lipstick, and it’s almost with a sense of disbelief that I realise that it could start pissing down again and that shortly I’ll have to be putting my jeans back on. Even the Greeks here, for whom rain is usually a blessing, are starting to get a bit pissed off. For me there’s just the knowledge that if any prat mentions global warming to me today as a plausible explanation for cold weather their immediate concerns will cease to be environmental and become dental. To quote a scientist who worked for Australia’s Department of Climate change: ‘too many jobs, industries, trading profits and political careers are riding along on this nonsense’. Yeah, with the financial sector we’ve already learnt about that ‘too big to fail idea’ – it just means the crash is bigger and more damaging when it comes.

Saturday 18th June
So, continuing with the Papagianades weather and health report: it’s sunny today but also very windy, Caroline now has the bug that I picked up. Meanwhile, my bottom lip is just one big scab, but I am starting to feel better. I sometimes wonder about these viruses that pay our bodies visits; about their effects and whether they might be strategies. Viruses have evolved to multiply and spread themselves. This has been mooted as why we sneeze and cough and why our noses run, so we’re spreading about the virus in a nicely damp and particulate form better to give it to someone else, but how far does all this go? When a person gets the same virus as you but different symptoms is that because it’s attacking its hosts through their weaknesses or are their symptoms just a result of the general malaise the virus causes? Certainly the state of my lip was just about the cold sore virus taking advantage – rather like looters coming out during the war.

Monday 20th June
The heat has returned but, since I’ve been disappointed so often during this year here, I’m not putting any trust in it just yet. This morning at 9.35 the temperature is up to 25 and forecast to be in the 30s. Meanwhile some flowers from England have been a success – marigolds and lilies – whilst others, like night-scented stock have been a bust.

We’re not going anywhere today since our recovery from that bug has been a temporary illusion. This leads me to thoughts science-fictional. How about viruses being used to rapidly adapt people to extreme environments? I’ve always plumped for nano-technology in this respect (earliest use being in my short story Adaptogenic) but, let’s be frank here, in fictional terms that’s ‘technology indistinguishable from magic’ and if you reduce the scale to pico- or femto-tech you’re just using bigger magic. Anyway, my thoughts on this stem from how I’ve noticed that often, when I sneeze, it seems to reset by body (this is particularly noticeable when I’m coming out of a hangover). However, since this ‘viral adjustment’ has certainly been done in SF, I then start straying into other realms: we did use viruses to adjust and maintain our bodies when our space ship crashed on Earth two million years ago, but they mutated, bred with local primitive versions, became destructive ... now the lone researcher begins to unearth the truth...

No pictures again because I feel like crap and I forgot again.

Zima Blue - Alastair Reynolds

If you read and enjoy Alastair Reynolds writing then go buy this. It’s all wonderful engaging stuff. Oddly my impression was that all these were earlier short stories – written in the 90s or before – but on checking the afterword to each I see that quite a few of them were written post 2000 (or appeared then). Maybe my original impression came from a vague recollection of having read a couple of them and one of them definitely being set in the 90s. I particularly liked the trio of ‘Merlin’ stories because that vastness of time and space I look for in Alastair Reynolds stuff was all there. These were only slightly marred when, in Minla’s Flowers, a world leader who is somewhat war-mongering and murderous comes out with the line, ‘There’s no such thing as society’ – big clumsy clue there – and in the afterword we’re told that the inspiration for her comes from ‘a certain grocer’s daughter with ambitions to high office’. Ho-hum. But that aside this collection is still worth buying, reading and keeping.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Some Reviews

Here's one of The Skinner from Audible read by William Gaminara.

Here's one at World in Ink of The Line of Polity:

The corrupted versions of fairytales at the start of each chapter are also a nice touch. I’ll never be able to look at Goldilocks or any of the other classics in quite the same way again. I’ll always be expecting a gabbleduck or hooder to be lurking somewhere, waiting for the just the right moment to pounce.

And Worlds in Ink on the awesomeness that is Asher!

Binoculars and Books

Wednesday 8th June

It was 21C at 6.00 this morning and kept on climbing. Before it got too hot I spent a little time removing a tap from a metal beer barrel and then inserting it in my wormery so I can drain off ‘worm wine’ with which to feed plants. When I took the wormery apart I found that many of the worms had made their way down into the fluid and looked like they had drowned. I tipped this lot out round some plants but then saw them on the move again. I emptied the contents of the wormery into another bucket, putting back the stray worms, then did some work on the wormery itself, adding mosquito netting to ensure no further escape attempts and adding the tap. Next I planted some chillies in the beer barrel ... See how this high-tech mayhem and gratuitous violence SF writer spends his time?

The time is now 9.50AM and the temperature has climbed to 27.5C and is still climbing. Yesterday it hit 28C both up here and down in Makrigialos. The forecast for today is 34C and I rather suspect it’s not going to be far wrong. Now I must get on with Jupiter War – I want 2,000 words done before we head off for a swim...

Thursday 9th June
I polished off my 2,000 words quite easily yesterday since a plot thread (or rather sections involving one particular character) has found its direction and taken off. This is something that often happens with me: I’ll write in a new character following a separate thread from the main ones and later not know what to do with him or her. In The Voyage of the Sable Keech there were a couple like this I had to either cut out or blend with other characters. In this case the direction is perfect, almost like a moment of revelation and as if I’m not actually creating a story but unearthing one through some sort of esoteric mental exploration. Of course the reality of that feeling is due to my subconscious perpetually working on the story and elements like the above floating to the surface.

The temperature hovered at about 30 yesterday, probably kept down by it becoming cloudy and very muggy (later the air had that thunderstorm expectation but one never arrived). I took my swim to the harbour, lay in the sun for a while then had to find some shade where I was occasionally woken by my own explosive snores. After that, whilst sitting in Revans Bar, we got to watch a pod of dolphins passing by in the sea. In retrospect we realized that there have been more seagulls out on the sea than we’ve seen before, so maybe that’s a sign that there are more fish out there to attract the dolphins.

This morning, at 10.40, the temperature is already up to 30C with it predicted as being between 34 and 37. As usual there are those who are saying that because we had a bad and drawn out winter it’s going to be a hot summer going on late, which is apocryphal (or maybe just hopeful thinking). However, if the temperature keeps on climbing it’ll be interesting if it gets to where it went the year before we came here i.e. it hit 50C. The only solution then will be to sit in the sea, under an umbrella, calling for cold beers. I wonder if anyone makes a waterproof laptop?

Ah, and with the heat, after the damp period, comes the insects. Here’s a big cricket (locust?) of the kind that sounds like a dropped cutlery draw when it lands.

Friday 10th June
Felt like crap yesterday. Some sort of cold bug used as its approach vector my left ear hole, abseiled down my Eustachian tube to sink a few grapnels in the back of my throat, climbed the other Eustachian tube to balance the ear ache on that side, sent its cold sore allies out of both my lips (so I now look like a sink plunger) and then climbed up into my sinuses to stamp on some nerve nexuses so my face and teeth ached and my scalp actually hurt to touch. Large doses of Brufen and Depon, plus ear drops and Zovirex have helped alleviate things and this morning I’m feeling slightly better, though I have to drink through a straw. For all you believers in a creator God out there (who created viruses too) I have to state emphatically, right now, that he’s a total bastard. Thank you for your attention.

Monday 13th June
Our house here in Papagianades is approximately half of one large house. The other house has been empty for a long time, though frequently repainted before viewings by potential buyers and last year repointed and the roof tiled to match our house (though not such a good job done of either). This year a Belgian guy came up with Anesti (Albanian builder), was in and around the house for a while then upon his departure introduced himself to Caroline and told her that he’s our new neighbour. Our attitude to this was one of wait and see – we had seen and heard of these things falling through quite often. However, it turns out that the deal has gone through and Jean-Pierre is our new neighbour.

This year I brought out some of my foreign books. I get a number of copies of each translation and really only need one of each as a keepsake – it’s not as if I’m going to read Cowl in Portugese, Japanese or Romanian. Since suitcase space was limited I brought out a few of the German and French copies. The German ones I dropped in at the ‘Pub’ – an English bar where they run a book exchange. The French ones I was saving for a visit to the Gecko which has been taken over by some French. However, a couple of days ago we visited the Cabbiano for a meal and there was Jean-Pierre, sitting chatting and having a beer with Stelios and his brothers (Stelios sold us our house and sold Jean-Pierre his). We got to talking and, as expected, Stelios had told him what I do (house selling point or not?) and he asked if my books are in French. Perfect working of coincidence. Caroline got the three copies I had in the car and I signed them and handed them over as a house-warming gift.

Tuesday 14th June
Those of you that have read here before will know how I like repairing stuff, when really my time would be better spent writing. Yorgos, in Revans, showed me a pair of binoculars he had that had become all sticky and horrible – the plastic seemingly in the process of dissolving (I think it was being dissolved by silicon grease that had worked its way out from inside). I suggested white spirit but he used something a bit stronger. Some of this went inside to stain the lenses and prisms, so I took the binoculars away to clean internally. Okay, I’m getting there, but does anyone know how to align binocular prisms that have been taken out to be polished?

We have a possible explanation now for the dolphins and seagulls. According to Stelios the government here has banned inshore fishing with large fine nets that scoop out just about everything. This has resulted in a rise in fish stocks near shore (surprise surprise) hence the gulls and dolphins. Now this is the kind of ‘green’ action that makes sense – the stamping down on greed that’s destroying natural resources. But along with perfectly sane stuff like this comes the insanity. I hear now that Italians have voted against nuclear power (though only about 50% of the electorate turned out) and the anti-nuclear power wombats are dancing in the streets.

I wonder how these idealists will feel in later years when, in a hot summer, they are emptying spoiled food out of their fridges and freezers because again the power has gone off for too long, whilst remembering how granny died of hypothermia the previous winter; when walking, because the electric eco-friendly car with its flat battery has had to be abandoned, through the Tuscan countryside below endless bird-choppers and past mountainsides turned into acres of sterile solar panels; when gazing upon the smoke clouds from the coal-fired power stations hastily built as an ‘interim measure’ because renewables just aren’t up to the job; when studying a wage packet made meagre because the power has been off so often they haven’t been able to work a full week, and then comparing that wage packet to the power bill; when finding supermarket shelves empty; when their mobile phones work just as intermittently as their computers; when being able to catch an entire series on TV is a dream of the past; and when the water, with no power to pump it, stops coming out of their taps. I could go on, but the tossers deserve everything that’s coming, as do the rest of the supine electorate.

Ahem, enough of the ranting. Here’s some pretty pictures of flowers and stuff to unwind with...

Have a nice day!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

From Cuba to Cylons

Thursday June 2nd

There was more about Cuba on the news today. Sugar production was at its lowest ever last year whilst world sugar prices were at their highest, so the Cuban communist party is trying the weird and unusual technique of paying people for what they produce, privatizing the worst government run farms, and dropping the idea of paying everyone the same. Now where have I come across this idea before? Oh yeah, it’s called capitalism.

Beautiful weather yesterday so we went down to Makrigialos in the afternoon for a swim. However, just like last year the temperature was lower down there than up here. Talking in broken Greek to a garage owner, where I bought €1.78 per litre petrol, I learnt that with a South wind the temperature is higher up in Papagianades than in Makrigialos, whilst a North wind does the opposite, though I may have misunderstood some of what he was saying. We tried a swim, but gave up fairly rapidly.

I have to wonder what is going to happen here in Greece what with it being a certainty that the IMF loan to the country will never be paid off. Some speculate on, in extreme circumstances, a return to the Drachma, and extreme circumstances are what we now have. If that does happen I wonder how the hell it will work? Will the money I have in a bank here be converted to Drachmas then rapidly devalue against the Pound? I also have to wonder what else is on the cards. Will supermarkets empty, petrol stations run dry, all sorts of services close down? Will people riot even more? Will the army step in? And of course there’s the fact that in 2012 Crete has a vote on whether it will remain part of Greece, and I’ve yet to hear a single Cretan think that’s a good idea. Will Greece allow Crete, which is a net profit to the Greek economy, to separate?

Friday June 3rd
We’ve watched the first and second seasons of 24 many times, really enjoyed them, and now want the version that cuts out the Kim Bauer story thread, so recently we started on season three again. I have to say I’d forgotten quite a lot of it and it was all as enjoyable as ever. Moreover, I have to wonder how many Americans actually watched 24. Here we have a black president whose name is Palmer, which when heard through the filter of an American accent can sometimes sound like Obama, he is trying to introduce national healthcare, and this being Hollywood land and Palmer being a good guy means he must be a Democrat. Now, under this president, terrorist activity has ramped up so that we have nuclear weapons detonated on American soil, bio-weapons released, high-level assassinations, gun battles, torture the country taken to the brink of Armageddon. So please tell me why, with this fictional warning in place ten years beforehand, the Americans voted Obama into office?

I had a perfect day yesterday: I sat and wrote my 2,000 words, did a little bit of gardening, then we headed off down to the beach where I gritted my teeth and swam from Revans bar over to the harbour mouth and back again. Whilst doing that I had one or two spooky moments what with the black weed on the bottom and memories of a conversation about great white sharks (apparently they’re reappearing the Med what with tuna stocks growing). It’s very silly, but my swims are occasionally terminated to the sound of Jaws music playing in my head, especially if I have a view down in the distance into deeper water out of which I can easily imagine a shark rising. Sometimes too much imagination is not a good thing, but at least I know there are no glisters, homicidal whelks, or oceanic leeches down there ... are there?

With the sunshine increasing all the flowers are really coming out now. Here’s the broom in the mountains. It’s Spanish broom with a Greek name connected to rope, which I get since I’ve used the stuff to repair a bamboo chair and as ties in the garden.

Sunday June 5th
With Caroline having a cough she can’t shake we decided to go onto the electro-fags until at least 10.00 in the morning. I lasted until 8.50 thanks to some debate on BBC World about countries dumping nuclear power and replacing it with ‘renewables’. Some dickhead Scottish MP was going on about how easy it would be because it’s been done in wonderful Scotland with all its hydro-electric, wind and tidal power. What a complete and utter wanker. Might that have something to do with Scotland having a lot of mountains, rivers, coastline and not many people, and massive funding taken straight out of the pockets of those in the South?

Next we had some Liberal Democrat MP telling us that we must solve global warming or we’re just going to get hotter and hotter and end up like the planet Venus. I was hoping to hear the last of that one along with crap like the so-called consensus, the ‘10s of thousands of climate scientists agree’, the Polar bears are dying and Gore’s ‘correlation’. Could the heat on Venus have something to do with it being another planet – without a biosphere – lying 20 million miles closer to the sun than Earth?

Thankfully the interviewer picked up on German MPs bullshit with some comments about the coal-fired power stations there, but by then I was rolling a cigarette. I’ve come to the conclusion that I know the answer to the Fermi Paradox now: civilizations become the victims of mass stupidity and implode. This factor also needs to be included in the Drake Equation...

A volcano has just gone up in Southern Chile. This comes on top of the Japanese tsunami and numerous earthquakes all across the world. This morning some German Greeks turned up to try and sell us some God, brokenly mentioning the ‘devastation’ and perhaps getting ready for some bollocks about the power of prayer before we said goodbye. Personally I look forward to the stuff from the green religion giving us the ‘scientific reasons’ for why the earthquakes have all been caused by the evils of capitalism.

Tuesday June 7th
So first it was the Spanish cucumbers that caused the e-coli outbreak and now it’s organic bean sprouts grown in Germany, but in reality there’s been no proof of either. Twenty two people have died and thousands have been infected. Again, whenever I see some story like this my reaction is NOT one of, ‘Oh my God what’s happening!’ but one of, ‘Oh yeah, exactly the kind of thing that’s always happened in the past only now magnified by 24-hour news and a world population of over 6 billion.

It’s fast approaching the time now when I need to stop work on Jupiter War and start working through Zero Point again. Enough time has passed for me to have distanced myself from it a bit and to be able to pick up on more mistakes.

Now, enough of all that – I’ll now play catch-up on some photos. The first two here are the tiling of the spare room:

This next picture is especially for Martin in Agia Triada. I’m not sure if he looks at this blog, but he often growls when he sees how fast I grow stuff so I’ve put this here for future reference:

Here’s a flower coming up in the little garden in Revans Bar. Yorgos gave me a load of these last year and they’re coming up now so we should have a good display:

Now can anyone tell me why I look at one of our mosquito plug-ins and immediately think ‘Battlestar Galactica’?

Have a good day!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

May into June

Thursday 26th May

I see that Switzerland, just like Germany, noted for its earthquakes and tsunamis, is going to phase out nuclear power replacing it with renewables. It’ll be interesting to see how they are going to replace 40% of their power supply with windmills etc, meanwhile despairing of the depth of human stupidity in this world. I also note that some penguin species are ‘in danger’, and that to save them we need to reduce our fishing and, apparently, our carbon dioxide. I wonder if they are as in danger from CO2 as the polar bears (whose population has more than doubled in the last fifty years), and I wonder how Germany’s phasing out of nuclear power stations, whilst they are building more coal-fired stations on the quiet, works in that respect.

Saturday 28th May
I had to chuckle at the news today. Cuba, that beacon of hope for lefty plonkers around the world, is trying something to rejuvenate its moribund Soviet-style economy. The government is cutting the red tape and regulation on small businesses, for example, restaurants will now be allowed to seat as many as fifty people rather than the previous twenty. It is also waiving taxes for one year to allow such businesses to get a foothold; get established. Well well, so that would be the hated capitalism then? Funny how countries that have sat under the boot heel of communist dictatorship are discovering that, surprise surprise, if you give entrepreneurs their head they make stuff, grow stuff, generate wealth and improve the lot of every citizen.

Of course, this is whilst our ‘western’ societies are heading the other direction by killing businesses, and that old much-abused concept called ‘freedom’, with increasing red tape, the expansion of state bureaucracy by putting more and more people on the government payroll, and by increasing the client state. Reading the Athens News I’ve come to the conclusion that Greece is Britain under New Labour but with a larger serving of corruption and nepotism, the EU is much the same whilst Britain is now New Labour light. Odd, isn’t it, how the countries on the rise across the world are those that were starved of the opportunities capitalism and freedom provide, and are now grasping them enthusiastically, whilst those going down the toilet are those where the state is becoming increasingly dictatorial. Maybe this is something to do with the direction of change rather than the quantity of it (in Cuba four out of five are still state employees). Maybe you can feel more optimistic about the future when your freedom to act is on the increase rather than the opposite.

Today started of grey and rainy so I whipped myself to this computer, started with the ranty waffling above then moved on to Jupiter War. Now at 5.00PM I feel great because I’ve cleared 3,000 words. I can only say that it was a good thing that I did not find success straight away and that I had to work in numerous real jobs over about 25 years beforehand. Often in here I’ve commented on how one of the things impelling me to write is knowledge of the alternatives. That’s true as far as it goes, but also there’s that instilled work ethic, that niggling conscience that makes me feel like crap, like a lazy sod at the end of the day if I haven’t written something. I can stave it off by labouring on this house, or in the garden and sometimes with lengthy blog posts, but in the end none of them pay the bills and are the low alcohol decaffeinated version. Accept no substitutes...

Wednesday June 1st
Dusty and messy in the house yesterday since we decided to have new tiles laid over the crap tiles in the spare room. The original tiles are a creamy colour with a rough stone effect surface that means they are a bugger to clean. Shiny tiles are the answer here where ‘skoni’, or dust, is a perpetual fact of life. Even when it rains you can’t get away from the stuff since the rain often dumps a load off of the Sahara. Often I go out to my car, which was dark blue the evening before, and find it transformed to and orangy muddy brown.

Some lazy irresponsible Greek has dumped a dog at the top of our village and it has taken up residence around an empty house above us. Being soppy English this worries us, but what to do? The single overstretched animal charity here is impossible to get hold of, we have no intention of taking it in since we aren’t here all year and certainly don’t want to end up like a lot of English here fostering and looking after the waifs and strays. If we feed it then it will hang around, and if it hangs around one of the locals will eventually get round to lobbing rocks at it until it runs, or dies, poisoning it, hanging it from a tree or setting it on fire. This is one of the hard realities of this Mediterranean paradise, and I also have to wonder if the kind of lazy irresponsibility that put the dog there in the first place is the reason this country is financially fucked.

Sorry, no pictgures today – forgot to download.