Friday, February 24, 2012

Guest_Louise Metcalf

A Warm Welcome
Louise Metcalf 
Director at Pax Leader Labs
Assoc. Lecturer, Macquarie University.
Awarded one of the top 100 sustainability leaders in the world. 

In 2007 I made the crazy decision to start my PhD, and only a few days ago (four years later - working full time and studying part time) it was sent off to external examiners, done, all done and I am so relieved!

When I first submitted my application to do the PhD I really only had a vague idea of what I wanted to do. Something on leadership and something on sustainability? Luckily the people who read my application didn't take offence to my lack of clarity. I think they looked at my existing qualifications and just thought I was likely to make it through to the end. Application stamped: accepted, and there I was stuck with a mountain to climb.

The first thing I did was buy three thick exercise books. In these I planned to write all my references as well as how I thought about them and all my ideas on theory and what I planned and... and... and... Good plan. I ended up using just three pages in each book.  As it turns out taking the time to write notes by hand wasn't my cup of tea. I preferred a slightly chaotic, by the seat of my pants approach to writing which wasn't always fun for my supervisors!

In the end I had three supervisors over the four years. The first was a nightmare. He wanted me to do his research for him and couldn't have cared less about what I wanted to investigate. The second was a dream come true. She was wise and kind and very patient with me. She taught me about wisdom and humility, lessons I never thought I would learn while I was writing my great tome.  Amazing woman. The third was a knight in shining armour.

My perfect second supervisor was offered her perfect job at another University and of course she went. I put in all the proper paper work to follow her, but by that time I had been a little too successful and my University said no, I was worth too much to them. This meant I had to complete my great tome on my own. The substitute supervisor I was given courageously took over, knowing nothing of my topic, but he was brave and dedicated and, somehow, we got through the final part of the journey.

Done, submitted, finished, complete. Strange words when you spend four years working on something  every day (actually it was every night after work...)

I suppose I thought the final moment would feel like an elation. I picked up the big box of printing and took it back to my office at the Uni, split it open and there it was, beautifully 'soft' bound for the examiners. It was nearly ten centimetres thick at the spine. I expected to be thrilled but it just seemed alien. This was the first time I had seen it outside of my computer and I discovered that I had bonded with the digital version, the hard copy just didn't seem to belong to me, despite my name being emblazoned across it.

So that was it. Mountain climbed.

Upon reflection, it was the journey that I loved, much more than the summit. I went to three amazing conferences, met incredibly important thinkers in my area and published two papers in the highest tier of science. Each step left me wondering of what else I was capable of and my wonderful supervisor just kept encouraging me. Looking back it was an incredibly personal journey where each small achievement became a very important base camp for the next part of the climb. I definitely surprised myself!

Writing of all kinds is deeply personal I find. Before I started my PhD I wrote fiction, terrible stories of apocalyptic fiction, all of which are yet to be published in any significant way. When I write fiction I write my nightmares, the flipside to the PhD. My PhD was on sustainability, my fiction writing is on what happens if we fail.

It amazes me that anyone can be in denial about climate change or dwindling resources. As a psychologist I am used to denial. My favourite joke is: How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? One. But the light bulb has to want to change! And I always laugh at my own jokes (you need a good sense of humour if you are psychologist!) But how can people deny that our lifestyle, our world really, is ending when there are massive floods, fires, earthquakes and tsunamis?

I heard the other day that there is only ten years of Helium left in the world. So, yes, only ten years of party balloons left in the world. But also, only ten years for MRI's, ultrasounds and many other kinds of medical instruments to work. These instruments rely on helium to cool them, no helium, no testing for so many deadly illnesses and no help for unborn children. And yet, right now, we use 16% of this dwindling resource for party balloons and air-ships that sail over sporting events.

Some say that technology will save us, that we will adapt. It's a nice idea, however we have been unable to do that ALL times in the past. Read Jared Diamond's "Collapse" where civilisation collapse is recorded very eloquently, and you will see that human beings don't save their civilisations through technology, they simply use up all the resources and fail. The reason technology fails is because it takes resources to make resources. In the case of Helium, it would take a nuclear explosion to make a surprisingly small amount. We aren't as clever as we think we are. Not yet.

Can we beat our  horrible history? I don't know. I do know that we have to think very differently from our ancestors to do it, and that's what my work, my research is striving toward. I believe that human beings can be great, but we have to get past denial first.

Life is a journey. Nothing surer than that. We all have to walk our own road and those who avoid it end their lives with regrets. I believe that is true of us a species too. We are on a journey. We want to be wise, we want to be good people, but that takes courage.

My hope is that we have the courage to truly love each other and the world we live on. I believe we can. It just takes courage.

*Footnote...  the examiners may want me to make changes so this PhD summit may yet to be reached! But it will, nothing surer, and then I will get to see it in hard bound which may be more impressive than the soft bound one was, I may yet bond with the hard copy!  

Louise Metcalf, guest blogger

Friday, February 10, 2012

New_ EmpireForLiberty_Review

Book Review By Rama Gaind
  PS News Books
Empire for Liberty
  By Terri Sedmak (Vivid Publishing, $34.95, softcover, 486 pages)

If captivating historical fiction—and a family saga at that— is your preference, then this second book in the Liberty & Property Legends series will nicely fit the bill.
    Terri Sedmak has again produced a sequel that is rich with characters, where we get the chance to observe the best and worst of humanity, a narrative that’s warmed with humour and romance.
    However, it will make for a more enjoyable experience if you read the prequel Heartland: On the Side of Angels.

Empire for Liberty by Terri Sedmak
The second instalment continues the story of Luke Taylor’s journey for justice, introducing intriguing and impertinent lively new characters who shed light on the darkness surrounding betrayal and murder.
    Set in Cheyenne, Wyoming, 1885, the narrative sets a fast pace.
    In the State Penitentiary in Colorado, prisoner Five One Three serving a life sentence is in poor health. Laramie County Sheriff, Cliff, has trouble extracting pertinent information from him.
    All the while, Cliff himself is surrounded by controversy with rumours circulating that he and prosecutor, Cam Faraday, have conspired to hide evidence. Disturbing consequences result after motivated journalist Emmaline Roberts is given the task of investigating these claims.  
    Each chapter tells the story through the eyes of a different ‘person’, well developed – just like in the first.
    It’s easy to get immersed in the vibrant history, walking along with the individuals, having to remind yourself that they are only fictional. As you are swept into the lives of an engaging Cliff and a feisty Emmaline, you start caring for the characters.
    Another emotional rollercoaster is assured with Empire for Liberty, a second instalment in
a six-part series.
    This Australian author certainly knows how to paint a vivid picture!

Edition 257, 8 February 2012

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

This_Year_Part 2...

Another 2012 Tank & Ferry Entertainment project we've been planning is almost up and running. You will be able to buy my books as ebooks from my website. Tank and I are in the midst of setting it up now, and we are excited about it because it offers readers greater flexibility.

The world economy, bless its heart, is going through a tough time. In this economic climate, 'the book', as we know it, is not cheap to produce and often more expensive to buy than we'd like. At Tank & Ferry, our goal is to produce the best book your money can buy. Our novels are essentially handcrafted, and once we have finished crafting them exactly the way we want them down to the smallest detail, we then send the electronic files to be printed/published at Vivid Publishing in Fremantle, WA, we hold copies for sale at our office (kitchen central), and our publisher/distributor places the files on the Ingram system for Print on Demand (POD) anywhere in the world.

The ebook, on the other hand, is both more affordable to produce and to purchase. It may not be that whole 'touchy feely-let me inhale you, your bookish perfume makes me dizzy with delight' experience we're used to, but ebooks are fantastic, and our ebook sales are up. As my rather savvy publicist says, "It's the way of the future." eBook docs are also created here at Tank & Ferry. The files of the novels must be stripped back of all the fancy details (fonts, layouts, etc.) that adorned the paperback version, right down to their simplest format so that they will be compatible across all the e-reader platforms. These simplified files are then sent to the publisher where they are converted into ebooks, called epub, and distributed on the Ingram system also. 
      You can purchase Heartland and Empire for Liberty as paperback and ebook from online bookstores all over the world. 
      You will be able to purchase ebooks direct from soon.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Guest Blogger_Deborah J. Evans

Back in May 2011, I was invited to be interviewed on North Shore Community Radio 99.3 FM by Deborah J Evans. It happened to be Deborah’s last program before she embarked upon something many of us would like to do but most often only dream about: she and her husband, Rod, packed up their city life and undertook a tree change. It seemed only right that I invite Deborah to be my first guest so she can share with all of you what it takes and how it feels to make such a dramatic lifestyle change. I thank her most sincerely for coming on my blog. I just love this joyous and invigorating adventure. The passion Deborah feels for the land is sympathetic with the themes in The Liberty & Property Legends, and her bold tree change in perfect sync with the ideals of liberty and property. While Rod has retired on the land, Deborah currently holds the position of Head Teacher, Business Services, Taree & Great Lakes Campuses of TAFE, NSW.

Breaking news: In the spirit of 'life is never dull when you live on the land', Deborah iphoned an update to her blog... after days of torrential rain her creek is in flood and swelling rapidly. She has sent through pics and video. As we know, this is an ongoing situation. I wish her and Rod well in this tree-changer's baptism of fire - er, rain?

In March 2011, my husband Rod decided that it was time to retire and resigned as the Station Manager at FM99.3; he wasn't sure what he would do next. We had always wanted to do a tree change and decided that the time was right.

I wasn't ready to retire so we decided that I'd look for a job in rural NSW. I applied for two jobs and in mid May I was offered both - decision time and we chose Taree. I resigned from FM102.5 as their Friday Jazz presenter and the Boards I was serving on and we started packing. My start date was mid July.

Oh my god - eight weeks to pack up our home in Marrickville, find somewhere to live in the Taree area, move, unpack, rent out the Marrickville house and start a new job. We did it but it nearly killed us. Rod’s son was fantastic and we would have been lost without him.

A quick trip to Taree at the end of May to look for properties and luck was with us. I found something that ticked all our boxes, was a mortgagee sale so available immediately and - I bought it. Rod only got to check it out on the net prior to purchase and I was sick to the stomach the first time we went there together - I was scared that he wouldn’t like it. I needn’t have worried. Rod loves the place and sees it as a dream come true.

We had a farewell party at the Coogee Surf Club and for those of you who made it, you know it was a wonderful afternoon.

The new job is fantastic, the new house on 10 wonderful acres is magnificent and the new life is unfolding… The two poodles are living the dream of dog heaven.

The house is about 20 yrs old but is a copy of a mid 19thC house. It is two stories with formal and informal living areas, two bathrooms, a big spare bedroom and a granny flat for our guests. We have lots of room, 10 acres with a meandering permanent creek and more native birds than I can count.

The farm is just fantastic. The land is incredibly beautiful. We have four chooks who have a collective name – The Henrietta’s. We have just bought three steers to keep the grass down in the paddocks and given their job, their names are Victor, Rover and Flymo.

We have had to do a bit of work on the house, and property – a new slow combustion fire, two new water tanks, a pool, outdoor paving, an outdoor wood fired oven and two new bathrooms in the house. We removed the carpet in the house to reveal beautiful polished wooden floors, tiled the kitchen floor, remodelled the kitchen and tiled and carpeted the granny flat. Then there is pasture improvement and electric fencing. Oh yes, we’ve updated the caravan, bought a ride on mower, chain saw and petrol whipper snipper. And we have only been here for five months!

Rod has turned into farmer Joe. He slashes paddocks, cares for the livestock, collects and counts the four eggs per day, and supervises the workmen. He has also joined the local Men’s Shed.

Actually, Rod went a bit crazy in the beginning - that bloke thing. Put him behind an engine and he turns into a hoon. He managed to almost wreck the new ride on mower which needed a new shaft and blades after two days. He got a dressing down from the mower man (and me) that lasted for about a week and now he is at it again. Thank God, he has joined the Men’s Shed - I’m hoping that he can blow off some steam there and make a few bloke friends. We have now bought a second ride on mower, (a rough and tumble second-hand thing) as a paddock basher. He is loving being on the land and being farmer Joe.

Rod is still the executive producer of GMC [Good Morning Country] and the presenter on Thursday mornings. On Wednesday and Thursdays the signal comes from a local radio station called 2BOB (well named) and goes to Sydney via mobile phone, then to Belrose and the Satellite, then to 80+ radio stations around Australia. Isn’t that amazing?

My job is bigger than I realised which is probably a good thing and my team are fantastic. As Head Teacher of Business Services - Taree & Great Lakes Campuses I have a team of about 25 teachers (and they are all great) and about 1100 students, many of whom are online and scattered around Australia.  The section covers Management, Marketing, HR, Accounting, Retail, TVET, Hair and Beauty and Retail Warehousing.

I miss having friends near home but that will change with time as we meet new people. It must have been really hard on people before phone and internet.  We don’t have mobile phone coverage at the farm, we do have a land line and we have satellite internet. It has made me realise how important the NBN [National Broadband Network] is. We are a 30 minute drive from Taree and 15 minutes from Wingham yet we have no mobile coverage and the phone lines do not support internet. Seems amazing to me - but I guess once you get out of town and away from the coast the Telcos can’t see the profit in providing mobile coverage. We could have satellite mobile but the cost is extraordinarily high - and we can’t really justify it.

The summers up here are quite hot and dry in terms of Sydney humidity, although everyone is predicting a wet summer this year. We have a permanent creek and have cleaned up all of the crappy stuff (lantana, weeds, privet etc).  We have picnics by the creek under the shade of the big gums and river oaks.  When we cleaned up the creek we found a big swimming hole, 7m in diameter and 1.2m deep with a gravel bottom – how lucky is that. The water is a bit too cool for Rod (he is a wuss about the cold) but I love it and swim there regularly. It’s a great place to skinny dip. We have built an outdoor wood fired oven and a brick terrace to the rear of the house and Friday night is Wood Fired Pizza night – who needs takeaway. It is the only way to cook on warm summer nights and a lovely way to meet the neighbouring farmers – invite them over for pizza.

As I write I can see my two grandsons (Paddy 6 and Ryan 4) fishing for yabbies in our dam. They are here for a week, their fourth visit. Over December and January we had about a dozen house guests and we love it that our friends are coming up to stay. It’s lucky that we have a granny flat and guest rooms in the house. 

The land is amazing. I have always felt that I have owned the land that I own. I feel that way about the home paddock which is where the house is but that is only 10% of the property. The rest, the paddocks and creek, I don’t feel that I own, more that I am the custodian/ keeper/carer. I think I am starting to understand how the aboriginals feel about the land. It owns you rather than you owning it.  

It is easier being a greenie when you live in the country. We are now eating meat from a cow that we met when it was living on our neighbour’s property. We only have tank water and the postman delivers the newspapers each day.

There is plenty to do in the area. You can camp by our creek, go yabbying in our dam, Wallis Lake oysters are fantastic, good beaches from Foster up to Crowdy, lots of lovely walks, falls and natural beauties. The local pub has great blues on Sundays, the entertainment centre has classical, jazz, county and blues as well as theatre.   

Then again, there is always just the wrap around veranda at the farm and a glass of wine while you watch the native birds feed at dusk. And there is the quiet.   

We have made the tree change and we are loving it - we are living our dream.

Deborah J. Evans, guest blogger.

Post Script: Since writing this blog it has rained for 10 days and our creek is in flood.  Terri has asked me to include a photo of the land, and these 2 shots show our creek in flood.  If I’m invited back as a blogger, the next shots will be of the house, the henriettas and steers. 

Shot of our land with the creek in flood
I really like this one as you can also see one of the cows

It is amazing how quickly things happen. Except that the main creek is a bit up – everything is back to normal. The rushing waters in the video are normally a trickle of a spillway from the dam that we have named Deborah Creek, it normally trickles into the main creek at the back of our property. We (human and livestock) are all safe and dry. The video is of a flash flood that lasted for about 5 hours. Makes you realise how dangerous these things can be. The Manning is on flood watch but not expected to flood.


Terri: Deborah, these flood pics and video are awesome in every sense of the word... the power and drama of water surging across your land untamed! Thanks for sending them through. I've been hoping you would like to return as guest blogger in the near future. Shots of the house, the henriettas and the steers would be perfect! Thanks again for a remarkable guest blog.