Art: #Huevember 2019

24. Path through to the Beach

This time last year, being under the mistaken apprehension that if I painted every day for thirty days that would then be a habit, and I would continue to paint every day.

But as we all know when the pressure is off, we tend to relax. I seem to recall I achieved an unbroken 24 day run of painting, followed by some patchy efforts thereafter.

During the time I painted for #huevember2019, I used postcard-sized paper and I’d have up to four scenes on the go at the same time. For that size paintings I need 2 or 3 passes with drying times in between.

On a particular day I’d take a look at what I had in hand, and decide which one to finish for that day. Above is the claustrophobic push through tall shrubbery to the beach. Of course, by the time ten surfers have pushed their way through, there is quite a well-delineated path.

I’m still such a beginner, that I’m always testing something. I think I was using the sepia for the first time that Sharon at the art shop talked me into. A greenish-olivey tint that she said she got more mileage out of than true sepia.

Mixed feelings about it then and now. Not that I’ve done any painting for the last six months. My paints are packed up with all the rest of my chattels, in storage.

Novel is Selling?

This week I was amazed to find that in spite of very little promotion by me, still not one customer review on Amazon, and almost no attention while I’ve been sick, my novel Mongrel is selling.

While it’s not flying out the door, I’ve been getting enough monthly sales notices from both Amazon and Kobo that I’ve finally added my photo to my Amazon sales page, a link to this blog, and I’m thinking of translating my bio into my mother tongue. Or maybe having it translated. Though not by Google.

Getting a novel to a publishable state takes far more than just writing it. There isn’t just one aspect I could point the finger at and say this is what is selling Doomed? Mongrel. The good feeling is that the amalgamation of processes worked.

I found Kat Betts, a most excellent editor, after two goes with other people. Though she marked-up about 600+/- things to think about and/or change, Mongrel spangles with life.

I spent many many hours studying book covers and at first only learned what worked and what didn’t. I have no regrets that I went professional. The cover Dan van Oss designed exceeded all my expectations. I love it.

An eye-catching title that also might be beloved of one or two or three browsers was one of my responsibilities. It took me as long as I was writing Book 1 to hit on a series name, to decide that a question mark in a title was all right, and finally to jiggle the three book names so they might make the most sense.

The guy who wrote about keywords for Amazon? I followed his every instruction.

In between everything I’m writing again.

Cancer is the New Go …

From living here …

My life couldn’t have changed more in the two months since I posted last.

It started with a respiratory infection. In May. GP sent me for my first COVID test (negative) and then sent me home to sweat it out. Three weeks later, I was still coughing and I agreed to a tele-conference. The Doc heard me coughing and prescribed asthma medicines. He was of the opinion that my asthma had been “turned on” by the bushfires earlier in the year, and was now being exacerbated by wood smoke from cosy winter fires.

Six weeks of serious coughing ensued. The Doc asked me to count the average number of times I coughed during a minute–which was six times when the bout was particularly fierce. And how many hours per bout. Some days that would be six or seven hours. Another tele-conference and two live appointments, different medicines and different regimes of when to take them didn’t throw any light on the matter. Because, since my lungs were clear, it had to be asthma.

In the first week of September, maybe, I decided in my dull, sick state of mind I should get a second opinion. To be able to have my blood tested–I had to go for another COVID test as local clinics refused clients with any symptoms of COVID. My second-opinion doctor rang me as soon as he had the results on his computer, on a Sunday, and convinced me to come into the surgery the next day on Monday 14th September.

“Your blood doesn’t look very good,” he said. “Anemia and probably malnutrition are only two of your problems.” He organized for me to be admitted to hospital in Queensland. A friend drove me–the border crossing was a mess of detours and a long conference with the police charged with keeping the border safe.

In hospital I was required to be quarantined for a fortnight and COVID tested, again. Ten of those days were taken up with all the tests medical expertise could put me through. Plus blood transfusions to address the anemia, a platelet transfusion, oxygen (which finally stopped the coughing), lots of good food. I swear I ate red meat at every meal.

It wasn’t until the PET scan that my hematologist got a hint. An inconclusive lung biopsy was next–other than I definitely had a lymphoma. The results had to be sent to the state medical review board for confirmation.

What I’m sick with is called Intravascular diffuse large B cell lymphoma. Also known as Intravascular DLBCL. It’s rare and largely unknown how well chemo will work.

My second-opinion doctor saved my life for the present.

Food: Back to testing ingredients

One of my successful low-FODMAP lunches … two pieces of GF toast, 2 pieces dried tomato and maybe a couple of half-olives, tofu, sprinkled with black sesame seeds. Lettuce for a green and water to drink

Almost 2 months after I had the flu which last three weeks as far as I can tell, I’m still coughing due–my doctor said to an asthma flare-up. He puts it down to wood-smoke in the air and a new allergy. He prescribed an antihistamine and expected me to get better forthwith. When that didn’t happen but I’d have an all day coughing fit if and when I went outside, I bought an air purifier for in the house. It’s hard to tell if it’s making a difference, except when I stick my nose outside.

My nearest and dearest people are getting sick of the constant news, no I’m not better yet. Yes I’m still coughing. My son reminded me last call that I’ve been coughing for as long as my new grand-daughter has been in the world. A couple of days ago I researched the malady again–you get like that when you get no resolution from the medical profession. This time I discovered that a tenacious flare-up is a possible after-effect of catching the flu if you are also an asthma sufferer.

No, it wasn’t a wonky website. I think it was the Mayo Clinic. If not that one, something equally as dependable.

While it didn’t give me any hope for when I might hope to be rid of the flare-up, it did give me a bit of comfort that it exists, and people do get well again. Fingers crossed. Next, I researched inflammation. Inevitably, food intolerance came up. The wrong foods for a person can cause a lot of inflammation in their gut, and when your gut goes into a leaky-gut-syndrome, the inflammatory compounds will cross the gut wall and be carried all over the place by your blood.

All this is happening while I’m trialing the fortnightly fruit and veg boxes, with me trying out all sorts of foods I’m not accustomed to. Like the spring onions today, of which I am allowed to have 75 grams a day according to the low FODMAP diet app I have on my mobile. After six years on the diet, it’s gotten a bit onerous to be measuring every mouthful and I’ve let it go a bit. Today, though, after spring onion on my delicious lunch, I had a bad coughing fit.

So I’m back in testing mode. I’ve already cut out black currants for breakfast, of which I’m allowed 13 grams–not worth the bother if it’s going to cause me to cough for hours after breakfast. Tomorrow, no spring onions on my lunch, see how I go.

Transport

This one, yes, this one I would really like … it’s an EV of course … built in 1918 by I think it was Millard

My car is yet again incapacitated. I didn’t drive it enough through my illness and the battery is flat once more. The poor NRMA guys have been to my place at least three times already this year and I’m wondering why I still have a car with an internal combustion engine.

If I had an electric car I could just plug in the power cord and charge it up. Problem solved. It isn’t as though I don’t have enough electricity.

I started to research that today. New EV cars cost an arm and a leg. I’ve never spent more than 20k on a car even when I was still working. Second hand EV cars are as scarce as hens’ teeth in Australia. New Zealand has enough sense to import them from Japan, but Australia is a Johnny-come-lately, still wanting to run the world on coal, oil and gas fracking.

Then I plugged ‘lightweight EV vehicles’ into Google. It came up with the goods, of a sort, but I can’t imagine riding 10 kilometers along a narrow secondary road–two lanes only with a shoulder meant for single file bicycle riders–up a steep hill and down it again on the other side to Brunswick Heads, for example, on something that looks like an electric wheel chair.

I’m not old enough. I’m not a daredevil. I’m not stupid, we get rain here sometimes. and the new bike path is still a long time off. Maybe another ten years, when I have gone into my feisty years.

Food Adventures

My food adventures are nothing like anything you could post to Instagram or any other site lauding the expertise of both cooking and photography.

Sludge gone chewy

My food adventures this year are the result of how COVID19 is keeping me indoors with my two co-morbidities–heart problems and asthma, with my asthma in a long enduring state of aggressive flare-up supposedly due to wood-smoke in the local air–and the resulting difficulties of getting food into the house.

Friends help and recently I’ve begun to order in a fruit-and-veg box fortnightly. All good, one would think. But I’m lacking quite a lot of groceries out of my normal diet. Canned fish. Any kind of fish. Tofu. Tempeh. Olives. Rice milk. Tomato paste. Olive oil. Oil to fry with. Coconut yoghurt.

Food additives are my curse. My gut forces me to commit to the low FODMAP diet and so I need to go down to the shops and read labels. All the above need reading. But I’m still coughing too much for a trip into the supermarket.

More doctor appointments needed. Why haven’t I seen a specialist yet? The state border between us in Northern New South Wales and South East Queensland where all the specialists live, is closed. I mean, did you hear about the sick baby that was airlifted from NSW? The parents had to by road and were denied entry. They were directed to a fortnight’s quarantine at their own expense. Can you imagine?

It’s all too stressful.

So …. when I order a bag of brown rice with ancient grains–and am not able to read the label because the way the product is presented on the website–there’s nothing for it when it arrives but to experiment. [Should’ve read the label when it arrived!]

It’s rice. I cook it the way I cook all rice. Never had a failure. A student from Malaysia taught me when we were both marooned at Waikato Uni (NZ) for the holidays a long time ago.

This time, three-quarters of the mess in the pot is half raw while a few rice grains have made it to the desired density. I study that for a while and decide there is no way I’m going to be able to separate the half-raw from the cooked. I add more water and more heat.

The result is sludge. In the days when my son still lived at home this might’ve been the point where I would accept defeat and traipse the mess out to the worm farm.

But last week I decided I didn’t want to waste my money–ten dollars for the bag–and would continue experimenting. That night, planning for dinner, I extracted three tablespoons of the sludge–pot kept in the fridge to prevent it going to beer mash–added three tablespoons of a chewy, low FODMAP flour, two spoons of curry powder, salt, bit of baking powder and an egg and stirred it all about.

Looked all right. I set it cooking in a heating frying pan, like a big pancake and topped it with tomatoes, broccoli, cooked carrot and a couple of chopped spinach leaves. Flipped it when the baking powder told me, and hey presto.

Nice meal. Enjoyed it. A couple of hours later lots of complaints by my gut. Why, I said? I gave you everything according to the diet?

Next day I thought I would try a breakfasty thing. Two tablespoons of the mash in a mug. Cocoa to taste. Brown sugar. Two tablespoons buckwheat flour. Rice-milk to help amalgamate it all. Pinch of baking powder. Three minutes in the microwave.

A very tasty and and different kind of breakfast. Ate it with a teaspoon. Debated whether to write the recipe on paper to slip into my favorite low FODMAP cookbook for future reference. More gut complaints. I put them down to the one-eighth apple I had been eating every day.

Third day. I studied the mash and thought it probably would be reaching its use-by date pretty soon. But I decided to have a go at making bread with it. A hot oven kills off all kinds of wild-life, right? The yeast mixture bubbled nicely. I drained four tablespoons of the mash thinking to use it to replace one of the two flours used in the recipe. Added the yeast mixture, and the second of the two flours. I used to love making bread in the days when my gut wasn’t the pernicketey animal that it is now.

The ‘dough’ wasn’t like any that I’d ever associated with successful bread-making before. More like a stiffish batter. Too far into the process, I pressed on. Turned the stuff into a bread pan. Topped the loaf with sunflower seeds and pepitas. Set it to rise on the stove. No rising. Set it to rise in the preheating oven. Then thought I might as well bake it. Upped the heat.

The seeds helped to form a nice crust. I ate that. The innards were not edible. Sludge gone chewy. For a while I played with the idea of frying pieces of it… frying improves a lot of foods. It’s the times I was raised. A good fry-up remains one of my favorite meals. But why was this stuff so obdurate?

Next morning, I read the label. Picked out the baddie at once. Lupins. A high FODMAP food. I decided on a trip into the backyard there and then. Mash gone. Chewy sludge gone. The rest of the packet of Ancient Grains, gone.

Reading …

One of my quarterly goals (Third Quarter) for Discord.com’s The Writing Cartel is to read at least one book a week. Going all right with that goal. I’ve probably read two books a week up to now but that progress may slow when I try to continue my writing progress in the new WIP and finish the old WIP.

Getting distancing happening in MELD to be able to re-think the last couple of chapters is my second goal. The idea is to enable the supporting MC into a stronger role ready for part 3 of the trilogy.

I’ve just finished reading The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Its fantasy and the world building is out of this world. I loved the main character … he’s a great thief but absolutely the worst skilled murderer in the Gentlemen Bastards, needs other people to save him quite often; lots of twists and unexpected turns in the plot.

The thing that surprised me most, considering I was reading fantasy, was the late introduction of magic … probably about a third way in before it was used. By then I’d almost forgotten there was such a thing as magic. The culture in this world is so well thought out. Commerce is there, being used for scams by the Bastards. Twelve acceptable religions and one unacceptable all have their place. there are plenty of poor people, middle income, and rich all trying to live their own lives. Festivals are fabulous, including the shark combats.

There is a lot of killing murdering dueling sword play and other more intricately inventive ways of getting rid of enemies. lots of swearing. Most memorable line? Memorable lines, I should say. More than I can say. A great read … it will be one of my favorites this quarter.

Personal Headlines

When she was a first-time grandmother. It might take a while before she meets the new baby.

Trawling through my social media accounts during the week, I came across a little article written by a man in his late eighties. He said the thing that cheered him up most through all the troubled times that he he experienced in his life, was his daily habit of composing a positive personal headline.

I had a think about the idea for a couple of days without doing anything about it. I was negative. How could any of my personal positive news compete with COVID, political stupidities, cyber-attacks on all government departments (in Australia), and the thing not sitting just over the horizon but already in our midst, climate change and the continual ending of species diversity?

Then a new baby was born in the family.

I let all that stuff up there go. Released it from my mind. I filled my mind with thoughts of the baby’s parents. Her other grandmother, her grandfather. Her little brother. How could I not celebrate her arrival? Even in these frightening times, a new baby is a powerful sign of hope.

My headline? Two-times grandmother welcomes her grand-daughter into the world.

Of course, yes, I know the world is not a perfect place. When was it ever and for everyone at the same time? That’s Utopia we’re talking about.

In this world, there are positive things happening. The #BlackLivesMatter movement. I heard #GretaThunberg speak again yesterday. The Fifth Estate keeps plugging away for more green jobs, green buildings, green cities. People are still planting trees. I’m looking at you #Brunswick Valley Heritage Park, Maslen Arboretum in Mullumbimby.

A fifty-words-or-less competition

A couple of months ago I stumbled across a CSIROscope competition in honor of World Ocean Day and as I had just been researching ocean clean-ups and the work done on the gyres, I thought: Yeah, I’ll give that a go. The prize would be an analysis by a bunch if scientists of the feasibility of the idea and the illustration once it had been used for social media promotions.

Mmm. An illustration by Campbell Whyte? Could be useful for a story I might write one day. It seemed like a very faint hope/plan/dream/possibility.

I thought up the words, reverse engineered them down to the required number, posted my entry and then forgot about it. The Covid thing makes you forgetful on a lot of fronts. Duly got an email telling me the good news that I was one of four winners. I was amazed.

So, yes, I’ve tried embedding to show-off my prize. I’ve tried merely to link. I’ve tried to post the URL. I’ve tried … to no avail.

I don’t see the problem.

Ah ha … stopped the embedding function. Learn something new everyday. I better hurry up and post. Battery is down to 47% …

https://blog.csiro.au/powering-our-future-oceans-floating-lab/?fbclid=IwAR2XN82ZahsgFK8mVokYBUoi0Tx2IK2DSYOGIukVCV85eVIzwXar5W5HQ_Y