Fishy facts

Did you know that when you catch snapper they sometimes have a bump on their head?

According to a fisherman I heard on the radio yesterday morning, he’s seen the bumps and he’s seen the fish banging their head against a reef to get the crustaceans out. (He was diving at the time, not fishing.)

The radio host talking with him added this fun fact.  In their search for said crustaceans, snapper can die from eating too much of the mud along the bottom of the sea,

How do I know this?

I’ve had my clock radio ten years now. It’s nothing fancy. It does the job.  I can see it when I wake in the night. Most important, it’s easy to reset if the power goes out.  The one I had before that was horrible. It had one button to reset the time.  You pressed it and the minutes would flick by, one second at a time.  Hold your finger down for a few seconds and the time speeds up.  But, take your finger off too late and you go past the time you wanted to set it to and had to go around the whole 24 hours again.

Back in those days, we had quite a few power problems, too.

So I like my (now ten years old) clock. The alarm wakes me in the morning with news and music and weather.  That’s all I want. I don’t need—don’t want—talkback radio first thing in the morning. Seriously, all I want to do is go back to sleep.

The alarm itself is an AM radio.  Who needs an alarm like this anyway when you’ve got a phone with an alarm on it?

I do, because I forget my phone if it’s in the bedroom.

I might need to start using my phone soon, however, because many of the radio stations have left the AM band. (And sometimes on the FM band too.)  Some of them are going digital. A lot are closing down.

The only thing that’s making money at the moment are the talkback stations, and you know what I think of them for waking up to.  I don’t mind them later in the day, just not first thing.

So this is the third radio station I’ve had to switch to in the last two years.  On weekdays they play music, but on Saturday morning they have a fishing show.

It’s kind of surreal.  Saturday mornings I wake up to little snippets of fishing trivia like the above. In between gale warnings, and ringing various fishermen around the bay, and on the rivers, to find out where the fish are biting and what type of fish are being caught in that area.

Goodbye Cassini. Thanks for all the data

So I watched the last minutes of Cassini on Friday night (Melbourne time).  Got a bit teary, I must admit.

The Cassini-Huygens mission ran for twenty-seven years. The module itself was launched into space on 15 October 1997.

The Huygens module broke away and went on to Titan, while Cassini spent 13 years orbiting Saturn.

The decision to destroy the probe has a lot to do with protecting Saturn’s fascinating moons from contamination. Thanks to [Cassini] we now know that some of these worlds hide liquid water and may have the potential to support life.

Eric Mack, CNET, How NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will dive-bomb Saturn and die

Well done, Cassini, and responsible science, too.

There’s this great cartoon by Erika Neskvold (@erikanesvold) going around the Twitterverse, which I think anyone who had an interest in Cassini might appreciate.

I’m not sure about copyright here, so I’m not reproducing it on my blog, but here’s the link.

Answers to last week’s quiz

So last week we asked you to name some characters from speculative fiction you thought you really shouldn’t like, but did.

This week we have some answers for you. If you haven’t done the quiz, go and do it now.

I used to be a hero, until I got tortured. Now I’m the torturer. I’m good at my job. I hurt people, I force them to confess (even if they didn’t do it). I am grumpy.

Oh, and I hate stairs.

A measure of how well readers love a character is at author talks, when lots of the audience ask specific questions about one character.

The first time I heard Joe Abercrombie talk was at GenreCon Australia.  Come question time, it seemed that all anyone wanted to talk about was Sand dan Glokta, from Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy. You could tell, from the way the audience reacted to both the questions and the answers, that they loved Glokta.

And you have to admit, he is a great character. Even though he does torture people. You even make excuses for him. He’s in pain all the time, he was tortured himself.

 

I’m a convicted killer and a thief. I supposedly once gouged a man’s eyes out, just for fun.

I’m the last surviving member of a bikie gang that terrorized the Barbary Coast of California.

The government offers me a pardon if I take a shipment of drugs across country.

Here’s a perfect example of a character who has a reputation that doesn’t gel with who he is.

Hell Tanner, from Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley. He’s the opposite of the unreliable narrator. It’s external people who say he’s one thing, he behaves in another way.  That is, we’re told he’s a monster, murder and rapist (and no doubt he is), but we see him as a someone who loves his brother, and tries to stop him going into danger.

 

One of us is a burglar, the other a hitman. We’re partners, and we help out a private investigator on occasion.

We’re on the side of angels, although the angels don’t necessarily believe this is an entirely positive thing.

Louis and Angel, from John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series of books.

These are two more characters popular with readers. I first heard about Louis and Angel when I went to a dinner organised by one of our bookstores, Dymock’s. John gave a talk. A member of the audience wanted to talk about Louis and Angel. You could hear from the response of the other people in the room that it was a popular question.

Sherylyn, who has since read some of the Charlie Parker books, agrees. Louis and Angel are great.

They even get their own book, in The Reapers.

 

I’m a seven-foot skeleton. I wear a black robe, and carry a scythe.

Easy? Duh? But which one am I?

I have a granddaughter, Susan, and an apprentice named Mort.

This one was easy, yes.

Death, from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.

What else can I say?

Except that Death is a great character.

 

 

 

I am a former lawyer. I lost my girlfriend to another man, and keep trying to get her back. I’m nice to my dog, I let him push the button to set off the explosives.

 

I sort of wish we could write characters like Jack Holloway, from John Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation. I don’t think a lot of Jack, and I still can’t work out if he’s deliberately written to be a decent man who hides the fact that he does a decent thing behind a facade wisecracking and moral unpleasantness, or whether I just didn’t like him much.

I sort of don’t wish we could write them, too, because Jack wasn’t a great person. The closest we’d get to someone like that is Jordan Rossi (in the unpublished Acquard stories, not in Linesman.)

Or maybe not.

Loved the book, didn’t know what to think about Jack, even after the story finished.

 

How did you go?

Incidentally, if you ever get a chance to hear either Joe Abercrombie or John Connolly talk, go along. They’re both great speakers.

Quiz: Characters you like, but feel you shouldn’t

We haven’t had a quiz for a while, so let’s talk about characters who really aren’t nice, but you like them anyway.

They’re all speculative fiction (and the fact that we used that word rather than fantasy and science fiction is a clue in itself, folks, as one is more a mystery with supernatural elements). Some of them are anti-heroes, some secondary characters in other books.

Also, your degree of ‘not nice’ may differ from ours, especially for the last one. It’s subjective.

 

   I used to be a hero, until I got tortured.  Now I’m the torturer.  I’m good at my job. I hurt people, I force them to confess (even if they didn’t do it). I am grumpy.

Oh, and I hate stairs.

 

I’m a convicted killer and a thief. I supposedly once gouged a man’s eyes out, just for fun.

I’m the last surviving member of a bikie gang that terrorized the Barbary Coast of California.

The government offers me a pardon if I take a shipment of drugs across country.

 

One of us is a burglar, the other a hitman. We’re partners, and we help out a private investigator on occasion.

We’re on the side of angels, although the angels don’t necessarily believe this is an entirely positive thing.

 

I’m a seven-foot skeleton. I wear a black robe, and carry a scythe.

Easy? Duh?  But which one am I?

I have a granddaughter, Susan, and an apprentice named Mort.

 

I am a former lawyer. I lost my girlfriend to another man, and keep trying to get her back. I’m nice to my dog, I let him push the button to set off the explosives.

You may not consider this guy unlikeable. We do, but we can’t work out if he’s deliberately meant to be an unpleasant man who turns out okay, or if he’s supposed to be an okay man who just doesn’t work for us as a character.

We’ve actually mentioned our ambivalence about him in another blog post (and that’s another clue). You decide.

 

How do you think you went?

Answers next week.