Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Wildlife Wednesday - echidna

The short-beaked echidna is the species of echidna we have in Australia I've been pretty lucky in that every place I've lived since I left Sydney, I've had an echidna come and visit me at least once. 
They're such incredibly weird critters. They sort of waddle. They're incredibly shy, and they tuck up into this little ball of spines and dig themselves into the ground and pretend that you can't see them.
We've seen a few near the beach, but this day there was one right on the beach - at the dunes, not surfing :) 
Here's some info about them if you'd like to learn more - The Australian Museum website is my favourite for snippets of info!

At the Shoalhaven Zoo a couple of years ago, there were some happy little echidnas who stretched up in their cage to be petted by friendly visitors. They were remarkable. Nowhere near as spikey as I'd imagined. And they seemed to love being scratched under their chin, like a dog or a cat. So very cute.

We have lots of sandy soil and ants around here, so I'm glad to see a thriving echidna population. I always think it's a special place if the inconspicuous Australian native animals are around :)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter!!

Wishing you a Happy Easter!!

This is my Easter lunch. Hope you have something scrumptious too :)

Friday, March 25, 2016

Phallic Friday - Yoni Massage

Oh, this article here. So very amazing, and brave.

A sexologist and yoga teacher speaks of having a Yoni massage (which is a vaginal massage) in a very honest and open manner.

Many many years ago, I became interested in Tantric sex. I devoured books on the topic and discussed with a few people. It's a mystical, deeply spiritual thing - where energy between bodies is used to deepen the connection between two people. That's probably a very simplistic explanation, but that's how I've always seen it.

It interests me because of 'chemistry'. You know when you meet someone and there's an immediate 'zap' between you? It can be sexual, but it can also be platonic. I reckon that has to come from somewhere or something. All sorts of people talk about it; romance always writes about it. But how does it happen? Is it a cellular thing? Pheromones? Energy? Or something else completely?

It baffles and puzzles me. So I went investigating for a while. I started writing a story about it, for a while. But there aren't answers and that frustrates me.

But anyway, back to the Yoni massage.

In a normal massage, your body responds to muscle manipulation for relaxation, tissue healing, joint movement, whatever the massage is targetted for. I'm a firm believer in massage and I have a semi-regular Bowen therapy, which is a very easy, non-painful, non-invasive muscle manipulation, to align my body. I joke that it keeps me alive :) But afterwards, I need to drink copious amounts of water to flush toxins from my body or I feel like I've been hit by a train. If I soak in a bath, and drink twice my normal water intake, then I don't get that horrible sick feeling. So I believe something happens to me, physically, when I have a massage.

The vagina is another body part, largely made up of muscles. I don't see that a Yoni massage is going to be too much different to a deep tissue shoulder massage - you know, except for the sexual component. But I know how much stress is caught up in my shoulders from writing and working at a computer, and so I take myself along for a regular massage to keep myself in good health and release those poor throbbing shoulder and neck muscles. I feel much better for it.

In Bowen, pretty much my whole body becomes aligned. A flex of a muscle in my hip, can be felt in my toe or ankle. Release in my neck can shoot right down my arm. Muscles are linked and easing one, helps another.

But the genitals are never touched. And yet, they're muscular. Maybe they'd benefit from massage. Maybe they hold energy that needs to be released. Maybe the emotional release that they sexologist/yoga teacher found would be beneficial for health.

I've never been brave enough to try! (And if you're my Bowen therapist reading this - I'm still not brave enough to try!!!)

But this article has shed some light on a subject that has been floating in my mind for many many years. Thanks, Vanessa!

Are you a fan of massage? Ever had a Yoni massage?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wildlife Wednesday - blue-arsed fly

We have a saying here in Australia, or my Dad does anyway, about a blue-arsed fly. When you're really busy, you're running around like a blue-arsed fly.

I looked it up online and you can read about the expression here. It's not just Dad's! :)

Anyway, a few weeks back we were having family photos done in a park. The kids were looking for cicada shells on the paperbark trees so I went to help them collect, and then I got all excited. I yelled for Dad and hubby with his phone. Surrounded by kids, and I yell, "My God, Dad, get over here. There's a blue-arsed fly."

Needless to say the mothers, my sisters, sighed with exasperation ... but Dad and Mr E came at my call. Dad as excited as me, and Mr E handing over his phone so I could get a photo.

I think it's a blowfly, also called a bluebottle. But according to my more extensive look at websites and books, it could also be the Snail Parasitic Blowfly - because of those white dots. It seems that they are indicative of that species (see here) - although I'm not sure it's right. If you look at this gorgeous shot on the Australian Museum site here, it doesn't look half as stunning.

So, yep, me and my good IDing! I'm calling it a blue-arsed fly :)

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sunday Story - Night Games

Book Cover:  Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport

Night Games by Anna Krien.

This book - loved it!

I've had a few Phallic Friday posts where I've ranted about footy players and their stupid antics denigrating women, and thsi book is all about that.

It takes all my muddled up thought, all my ranting, all the feels I've ever had on the subject, and puts into a whole coherent book.

It's largely structured around a rape case involving AFL footballers, but it explores so much more. It looks at similar instances of rape of women in Rugby League (even if she mostly calls it rugby).

It then looks at the treatment of women, generally, in sport. It gives instances and anecdotes about the difficulties of being a female sports reporter and a club board member. It shows the fight women have had to be on equal footing with men, and not just slaving behind the scenes.

It sits on the fence, largely. I think this might be because Anna Krien is a journalist and wants to open up a discussion, not force her point of view at the world. This is responsible for most of the 1 and 2 star reviews I saw.

It's not a thick or heavy book. I read it quite quickly. I felt it synthesised so many thoughts that I had. It showed up the sporting world in a different light to how the media mostly portray it. And it showed a journalist who thought about the subject she was reporting on, not just wrote what she saw. Because she delved into the rape case, and thought about what wasn't being seen, said or investigated, she came up with a story that was so moving, I couldn't help but keep reading - and have undecided loyalties.

A fabulous read. I can't recommend it enough to women who like sport, but are confused by the behaviour of many men involved.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Phallic Friday - being a woman

Today's post is inspired by a peculiar article I read on the website. You can read it here.

A male comedian wasn't having much luck on the dating app, Tinder, so he thought he might create a female profile and see if he could learn something.

From the small amount of detail in this article, I think he learned far more than he expected about the slime-balls some women have to put up with on social media.

He received over 400 messages - heaps of date requests, most given in a manner than horrified him. He thought some suggestions should be illegal. I read them and shrugged. They seemed kind of normal for the weird people who hound you on social media.

It's not easy being a woman. There's an expectation that you should always 'look your best' which to most people means make up, body-hugging clothes, and uncomfortable shoes. Yet, when you dress like that, and attract attention, you're said to be 'asking for it'. There's some fine line between looking your best and attracting attention that is impossible to find.

I'm useless at conforming and rarely go to any effort to 'look my best' and still I attract the weirdos who want to leave all sorts of ridiculous suggestions for me. Facebook is full of these types, and it's not even a dating service! I hate to think what Tinder would be like.

Being a woman isn't easy. As I think this poor guy discovered! Good for him for having a go and seeing what it was like from the other side.

Do you get harassed by strange men wanting to do odd things?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wildlife Wednesday - Dolphins

There's something magical about dolphins. When we were in Cairns, I booked on a sailing vessel out to Green Island but no wind meant it was motored, but no matter. I was looking for a small group and that's what I got.

Coming home, we came across a pod of dolphins. And when I say came across, the Captain stopped the boat and waited for the dolphins to come and play.

The crew leaned over and called and yeehaaed and explained that these dolphins knew them and enjoyed riding the bow waves. I knew dolphins enjoyed riding bow waves...but I didn't know they came when called. These ones did (sort of like Flipper of you're that old!).

We were towing a dinghy out the back, and while everyone crowded around the front of the boat and oohed and ahhed over the amazing animals, out the back, quietly cruising on the bow wave of the dinghy were a couple more dolphins completely out of the limelight.

The ones who worked the crowd, worked hard. The rode the waves, drifted out for photos, came back in. They hung around for maybe 20 minutes. And not a soul on that boat wasn't captivated. You can see in the second picture that everyone is there, right on the edge, jammed up tight, just to watch these animals.

I wonder what makes them everyone's favourite? Is it that they seem to interact with people? Is it that they often travel in groups, which may be families? Is it that they have no capacity to bite us? Is it the popular media coverage they've always enjoyed?

Earlier in the day three white tip reef sharks circled the boat and I was pretty much the only person taking photos and being amazed by them. A dolphin and a shark don't look that different to make everyone love one and hate/fear the other. It's an interesting observation I made that day. It made me feel a bit sorry for the poor old shark.

Any ideas?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sunday Story - writing quickly

I've been thinking a lot lately about writing quickly. It's something I haven't mastered.

Well, actually, I can write quickly...but it's pretty one-dimensional. I need time to go back and layer upon layer upon layer. There are so many things I miss in that first quick write.

Some of the things I miss are:
  • emotion
  • depth ie making the story and characters deeper than what I come up with first off
  • character nuances
  • repetition by the bucket full
  • explanations as to why/how things are happening
  • creating a smooth emotional arc for the characters (in my first drafts they're mad, then happy within seconds for no fathomable reason)
  • descriptions of people and clothes and stuff like that
  • mixing it up, so it's not the same words and phrases and actions used 
I think they're pretty important things in telling a good story.

I've read a couple of books lately where the writing is good, but the characters are missing something, or their emotional arc is jerky and not quite right. Do you know the ones? Where you read but you're not totally into the characters, there's something just not quite right.

And then I was thinking about the speed of publication in the digital age. Mostly self-publishing, where the current advice is to have a book out every 3 months. I can't do that. Not if I want my story to be more than one dimensional, and miss out on that list plus whatever else I put on that list.

Maybe I'm a slow writer, or thinker. I can crack out a 100K in 3 months if I get a good run. I did one in 6 weeks once when I needed to purge. It was shit, but it was written.

Maybe it's because I don't plot it out first, but my first drafts aren't always right. Who am I kidding? They're never right. I need to go back and tighten the story, make sure things are put in early that I might need later on. I sometimes need to ditch a whole bit where I wandered down the wrong path. Usually I need to restructure the whole ending. I never have my characters reacting properly, I always have to smooth that out and go over and over to get the emotional responses right.

None of that happens in a hurry. If I can write in 6 weeks, then it takes twice that to edit and tweak it - at least.

So I'm at nearly 5 months for 100K book, minimum. If I'm waiting on people to read and critique, add in a few more weeks. I'd be lucky to get 2 books out a year. Sure, I have a day job and I don't write 7 days a week, or in every spare minute. I have a husband who deserves some attention ;)

All that thinking has me looking at a lot of self-published books in a new light. Are they first drafts? Is that why they're missing the highly nuanced bits that I require to enjoy them? Am I a book snob wanting this extra?

I suspect I am a book snob. I belong to a book group. I read, dissect and analyse every story. I want value for my money. I want a book to transport me places, with people I want to spend time with.

After saying all this, I don't believe what I produce is perfect. I find flaws as soon as they're gone. But I'm hoping each story improves as I learn more. I'm hoping that one day I can produce books I won't want to change. Maybe I need to look at other authors that way too. *sigh* I'm so hard on people.

Do you have any thoughts?

Friday, March 11, 2016

Phallic Friday - responses to sex

This is a topic I keep coming back to because people  have such a strange reaction to sex, and it confuses and confounds me. So I keep writing, hoping to one day understand.

I have a review for Lucky that confuses me. Now the blurb of Lucky says something like "From Australia's hottest writers..." It's fairly clear, if not crystal clear, that we're talking steamy stories here. Yet there's a review that says, 3 stars "...only based on and around the erotic style of writing."

What was the person expecting? A sweet romance?

It goes on to say they wanted more character development - and that's fair enough - but they bought a 10K short erotic story. The focus of an erotic story is sex. If I don't deliver on that promise, then I'm not writing in the erotic genre. You don't get much character development in 10 000 words. You get a scene, a snapshot, and a bucketful of sex.

I've seen a few other girls in the same series receive reviews criticising the story for having too much sex...wonder what these readers expected they were buying?

And this is the thing...people are uncomfortable with sex. Reading it, writing it, talking about it. But I've been finding, in my real life, that if I break the ice just a tiny bit, sometimes others dip their toes in.

Tonight at bookgroup we'd read "The Household Guide to Dying" and there was a line in there that made me laugh as I was crying. Debra Adelaide is writing about a woman who has cancer and is in her last days, and she's thinking of her husband and wishing they'd had more sex because for the last 3 years, she's been so focussed on fighting cancer that sex didn't feature. The line says, "Or what about his glorious cock, its satiny folds when at rest, the smooth tip that remained like silken velvet despite years and years of friction."

I was crying reading the start of the sentence but by friction, I was snorting with laughter. So I took the line to book group and asked if they minded if I read the rude bits. They giggled. I read the line. More giggling...and then we discussed. We didn't discuss the poignancy, the memory of the woman. No, we discussed whether or not the friction caused the smooth tip, or if it would be like that without friction. Funny!

And I felt there was a victory. Even if it was tiny. One day they might even read a Cate Ellink story :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Wildlife Wednesday - little fish

First up, sorry I neglected Friday. I am battling post-holiday lethargy and a cold/flu, and trying to keep up with my other self...and it all crashed down on Friday.

So, I've decided that there's no beating myself up. When I can't get something done, it just won't happen, although I will try my best to keep on top of things.

So, today...

Our river is open to the sea at the moment, or it was and I haven't got down there post holidays, and that means a blast of clean water into this usually stagnant end. And this means lots more life - fish, crustaceans, birds, plant life, etc. It's always fascinating to me to watch the river come to life again. This is the second time we've got to see it in the last 7 years.

So, the other week we were exploring and tucked in under a heap of weed and Juncus spp. plants, was a school of tiny fish. I don't know if you can see them well in the top photo - they're in the middle to top of the photo, especially the right side. I shoved my camera underwater and snapped some shots of them there (bottom pic).

Rivers, estuaries, mangrove systems, are all places of vital importance for rivers and oceans, and us. They're the nursery grounds for so many species. We go in and chop down so many mangrove areas because they smell at low tide, block the view, look unsightly, etc etc, when in actual fact they're doing a job that is vital to survival.

Little fish need shelter to survive - plant roots, weeds, rocks, etc - and if we remove those things, predators get them, life cycles break. So we need these nursery zones kept clean and unaffected to allow plentiful fish stocks, crustaceans, even birds.

That's one thing I love seeing when the river opens - new life. It's fantastic. So many babies getting a start. So much of life continuing. It'll be sad when the river closes up again and stagnates...but hopefully it'll open again in the not too distant future!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Wildlife Wednesday - Garden Orb Spider (picture)

I have this really huge, ugly spider on my verandah at the moment. I've been taking pictures, then Mr E told me I had to find out what he was because he was so ugly it even had him intrigued (and taking photos - he took this one of the spider).

So, the trusty Australian Museum site came through for me again. This fellow is the Garden Orb Spider, you can find out more here.

These guys are only seen mid to late summer and make huge webs (which I photographed with glorious rain droplets in it yesterday). The spider hides up on the posts, all tucked up, through the day. But at night, he's big and beautiful (?) in his huge web, just as the museum site says.

Hmm, I think it's also called the Garden Orb Weaving Spider, because the same photo is used on that site too (here). Here's some life cycle info from the webpage -

"The lifespan of a female Garden Orb Weaver is about twelve months. A female lays her eggs in late summer to autumn. The eggs are encased in a fluffy silken cocoon and attached to foliage. During autumn, the spiderlings hatch and disperse by ballooning (floating on the breeze using small silk strands as "balloons"), and build their own tiny orb webs among vegetation and wait out the winter. During spring the spiderlings start to develop more quickly and they mature in summer.  The cycle then begins again, the adult females mate and lay their eggs.  Adult females usually die off in autumn - early winter. Males and females are similar in size."

I'll have to keep an eye out for the eggs and the spiderlings.