Buzzword Books - unusual, intriguing, intelligent, perceptive

Here, you'll find musings from our authors and staff. We don't promise daily updates. Just posts worth your time.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

BRING BACK THE PAPER BAG



Martin Jensen, author of How to Get What you Want, makes a plea for a large paper garbage bag. He says it will make the maker a motza.

 

Supermarkets in Australia have now stopped providing plastic bags—to reduce plastic waste in the oceans—a fine ecological initiative. 


But will it make a difference?


We used the bags for bin liners. Now we're forced to buy them from the stores. In other words, nothing has changed. Except that stores don't have to provide them free.


To strike a real blow for the environment, we need large paper bags that fit kitchen bins. A company that provides them will clean up. But no one has done it yet. 


Why not?


Meanwhile, I've discovered a solution that addresses two pressing issues—the demise of the daily rag and the ecology.


I almost never buy a newspaper. I get all my information from the radio and occasional glances at free papers provided gratis in local caf├ęs. But I have begun to buy The Australian once a week. It costs peanuts and is the last of the broadsheets.


And a broadsheet is what I need.


I fold a page in two, then make a paper hat. Then I tuck the edges of the hat in slightly, invert it, and it fits the kitchen bin.


That's all I wish to tell you, really. 


Go—and do thou likewise.


You can find How to Get What You Want here.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

A Favourite Place

Globe-trotting poet, David Farnsworth, author of Middle Kingdom, expands on a trip to Mt Bogong, in Victoria, Australia.

If I could be magically transplanted to a place, now, just at this moment, it would be Mt Bogong, the highest mountain in Victoria. The weather there today should be fine but cool. 


I would be wearing my warm clothes. Nowadays, the climb is well beyond me. Come to think of it, it's been beyond me for years. 

 

The walk begins at Mountain Creek, near Tawonga. You park the car, collect your pack, fill containers from the pristine waters and walk through the creek six times. You keep your eyes peeled for snakes.
 

You begin the climb up the Staircase Spur. The mountain gums are enormous, Many stumps from the past survive. The summer wildflowers would have gone by now as the mountain prepares for winter. You rest on the occasional fallen tree, keeping a look-out for leeches.
 

You are surrounded by bush. Finally after about three hours, you emerge into a clearing on a flat step. There is a cattleman's hut, Bivouac Hut, in poor repair and a water tank on the side of the building. You lie on the cropped grass and have lunch, followed by a short sleep. Camp fires were banned 20 years ago.
 

The next part of the walk is rockier and requires care. You do not see animals. Few birds. At the lower levels, sixty years ago, there were lyre birds, but they fell victim to feral cats and dogs. 


Finally you emerge from the dense forests which by now have morphed into scrub and alpine gums. How beautiful the bark of alpine gums is! Vistas open before your eyes. You can see all the way to New South Wales. Indeed to the east you could draw a line for 50 kilometres and not find a human being.


The gullies are very steep. On one walk a student's sleeping bag fell off his pack and plunged 1000 meters. We left it there. I seem to remember I gave him my sleeping bag for the night.
In the old days you would find herds of Hereford cattle grazing on the summer grasses. They are now banned. The cattlemen from the valleys below would collect them before the first heavy snows ... or if you like about now. I remember seeing a beast that had been missed in the collection and in the spring it had grown a thick coat of hair. Or the time I took my dog up the mountain and he rounded up a hundred beasts and stampeded them across the top of the mountain. (Dogs are banned too, now.)


Now small streams cross the path, including just off the track, a small spring. What delicious water. The spaghnum moss is everywhere. Once on the upper slopes I came across a group of Field Naturalists. Of course now, you can take a horse ride across the mountain and camp overnight. But it wouldn't be the same would it?


Just ahead is the remains of Summit Hut, close by the top. You pass a plaque to three walkers who didn't make the shelter of the hut. This was in 1945. They were 200 meters short. Maybe some 20 years ago some mad Greenies burnt down several huts, including this hut. Some have since been re-built. Lower down their acts included rocks suspended by fishing line to smash windscreens and palings with nails hidden in creek crossings. Lovely people.


You walk to the cairn which indicates the top of the mountain and enjoy 360 o views over surrounding valleys and mountains, Mts Buffalo and Feathertop and the Cobberas. On a good day you can Mt Kosciusko.


You follow the snow poles and head left, past Hell Gap, so called because of the high winds and follow an old cattle track. Alpine vegetation, when driven over, takes 20 years to rejuvenate. Once in a heavy fog at the top, you had to look for the snow poles. You had little perception of your direction or whether you were going up hill or down.


From here to Cleve Cole Hut it's all down hill, a drop of 500 meters. The hut was named after a couple of walkers from the 40's who died. There was no hut then. It's a comfortable three-roomed hut. There is  a long drop toilet. If you leave the door open, you have uninterrupted views for miles.


Me?  I camp in my usual spot 300 meters to the east of the hut near a creek, Camp Creek.
Crows occupy a neighbouring snow gum. You put up your small tent, unpack, cook a fillet steak and open a bottle of wine, unwrap a glass and relax. You need a small, spirit stove these days. It's a lucky day. We have the mountain to ourselves. I always walk on a full moon. It makes going to the toilet at night easier. The moon shining through the cloth of the tent is magical. The creek ripples all night on its way down hill to Big River.


In the morning.  I wash in the creek.  So different. So cold. So refreshing. Is this self-sufficiency?


Reluctantly I pack and re-trace my steps. I feel to good. I am so tired, but manage to drive  back to civilization.

 

You can read about Middle Kingdom on Buzzword. 

Monday, 25 March 2019

ARE YOU SICK OF YOURSELF YET?

Gina Stoner, author of Talks With Al, tells it like it is.

Your head is cluttered by random, repetitive thoughts. Your body is habitually tense. Your emotions are not under your control. You are self-indulgent and depend on others for attention. You envy and fawn on those more attractive or successful than you and patronise or disparage those who aren't. You fear your fellow man and are crushed by every sour look or slight.

In short, you are identified with everything inside and outside you. There is nothing to stand apart. Your famous personality is simply a series of conditioned reactions. You are a function. A puppet. Everything pulls your strings.

And, of course, you protest that you are not like that at all. You are a very important person with a family, house, bank balance and significant occupation—not to mention score of acquaintances and friends. Another reaction—because your ego is offended.


Ego is a self-defence mechanism. And precisely why you are the things above.


So, are you resigned to living and dying in this morass?

The real question is: What do you want?

Because until you are tired of it all, you haven't begun to stir in your sleep.

If you truly wish to be different, it's tough going. You need to abandon yourself. Your opinion of yourself and others.  Your wants desires, requirements, resentments. Your ambitions, hopes, hates, loves, attachments. Your fondness for your possessions, position, comforts, routines, satisfactions.   


You need to die to most of your psychology. In fact, to consume yourself.  'Death before resurrection.' What does this imply?


Requirement Number One: Relax from thoughts.


First, you need to stop thinking because associative thoughts are in time. And for this transition you need to step out of time—even space. Because only there can you observe. Krishnamurti called it, 'freedom from the known'.

'Could you be content, sir,' he said to someone once, 'to  simply
be nothing?' 

Can you abandon everything you know—except the fact that you exist?  Become nothing. No one. A creature only physiologically alive.

Because a person who is nothing has nothing to lose—or fear.

How?

The correct use of the mind is attention, not thought. Attention is the antithesis of thinking. To be wordlessly attentive -just to watch - uses a different part of the mind.

Requirement Number Two: Become aware of your energy.


This begins by sensing the body—the parts of it first. Begin with the hands or the face. Can you sense them as if from inside? Move to the limbs in turn, then belly, chest, head—the whole body. This is a long study and to establish it fully can take years.

Then, eventually, to become aware of the energy in the body. Not in the usual way but as if you were enveloped in an atmosphere or cloud. Allowing the attention to touch the life in you. Visualisation, by the way. is far more immediate and legitimate than thought.

To be aware of posture, movement, breath, even that you blink. Aware of the sensation of your skin as if you were in a shower or warm bath. But not by doing anything. Simply by letting all things drop. This is a matter of a few breaths, but also takes a lifetime to establish.

Requirement Number Three: Die.


Even more demanding. Can you come to a place in yourself where you, as an entity, cease to exist? Because you can only truly begin to be, to inhabit your life, when you're not there at all. This means to return to your unknown, unnamed core where you are totally empty of self. As the Diamond Sutra says: 'O musho ju ni sho go shin' (Let nowhere abide and generate the Mind.) Can you respect that, attend to it, serve it?

When you can manage that—when you cease to exist—you are.

Everywhere and nowhere.

Totally vulnerable and impregnable.

Nothing and all.

You take your rightful place in the cosmos. 


You are immutable.

But even to touch the Unmanifest for an instant is not enough.

Because then every moment is a challenge. You need to remember with each breath or you become ordinary again, forget what you are potentially here for. Your life
again reverts to mere existence.

Requirement Number Four: Live in two worlds at once.

Can you live with this blessing in the midst of your mundane life—changing nothing, telling no one, manifesting exactly as before? Life within life. As Jacob Boehme put it: 'To have both the eye of time and the eye of eternity open together.'

Fantastically difficult as all simple things are.

To summarise the journey, here is Ansari of Herat:

'When thou hast learned to lose thyself, thou will reach the Beloved. There is no other secret to be revealed and more than this is not known to me.'

Oh, and one other thing. Only total sincerity will do. You must be longing, burning to take this path—willing to throw everything down at the door. Otherwise, it will not open. It is not your time.

 You can find Talks With Al on Buzzword.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

ADVANCED WEBSITE CODING FOR GERIATRICS

Our 81-year-old amateur Webmaster and IT boffin tells the twisted tale of how he put Buzzword Books on the web from a standing start.

 When I was 45 and doing up a beach house I became increasingly annoyed to see ten-year-old grommets surfing all day while I slaved. They had to get there on their bikes and busses from far away but I lived right on the beach for God's sake! So why the hell couldn't I do it, too? So, I bought a second-hand board and taught myself to surf. 

Twenty-five-years later, I felt the same about the IT revolution. How dare eighteen-year-old nerds have all the expertise and fun.

I was 70, long retired, and knew nothing about computers except the rudiments of Word for Windows. But I was a Gemini and communication was my thing. Dammit, why couldn't I learn to build a website, too?

So I enrolled at a U3A session for wrinklies where another antiquated retiree with a data base background (we'll call him Fred) ran a basic ten week course on building bog-simple websites.

Fred announced to the ten bewildered geriatrics who fronted the first session that he'd tried all the free website editing programs and settled on Page Breeze—a rudimentary HTML program that even prunes over 70 could eventually understand. We didn't have a clue what he was talking about or what a website editor was. As for HTML...! Speak English!

Week after week, we grappled with complexities. Most packed it in—made apologies or just never came back. By week six we were down to five confused souls.  By week ten we were three. But I stuck it out to the end.

Fred showed us how to upload our rudimentary sites on Google for nix. The catch? We were saddled with indecipherable, unfindable URLs. I then asked him about commercial servers.
After much web-trolling, I settled on GoDaddy, a US based outfit. This introduced a new level of complexity. Getting a half decent URL. Learning their programs. Making a site map and much more. 


But I ended up with a multiple page site on the web with a reasonable landing page and all possible hyperlinks plus a contact page and even a PayPal facility for purchases. Of course, it looked tame because I didn't have the skills to refine it. 

Then I realised that to make it more professional meant learning CSS. Fred's course was too basic to cover CSS but I increased my knowledge of it slowly with reference to tech sites such as the ever useful Stack Overflow


About this time, friends were asking if I could make them sites for their projects. I developed a site for one and taught her to manage it, hauling her into the 21st century. She is now an accomplished webmistress. I constructed a second for another which she is still using today. 

About this time, I bought the book that, finally, simply and definitively, explained things exactly as they are—that indomitable website-building bible, John Duckett's  HTML & CSS (Wiley & Sons). It transformed my knowledge of the craft and is still there to consult each time I forget a particular code or get confused.

I continued using Page Breeze until Win 7 came out. It didn't work well with it and I realized I had to upgrade. I wanted a split screen that showed design and coding with the ability to work on both together, like Dreamweaver—which I tried but found complex and clunky. About then, I stumbled on Imagination Web—an obsolescent Microsoft program you can now download free. It was remarkable. It took a while to learn but had everything I could possibly want in a form even I could understand.

Meanwhile, iPads and smartphones had become the popular access to the web. And Google announced that they would downgrade all websites that didn't automatically adapt to the new screen sizes. By then, my clunky CSS was too rudimentary to cope.

So I needed to dump my old methods entirely and develop adaptable sites. After much trolling of the web I settled on two free adaptable formats that I could adjust to suit my needs. These were supplied, of course, with boilerplate CSS that I barely had to tweak.

Format one is now used for buzzwordbooks.com. Format two, far more elaborate, accommodates bookbooster.com.  I've also used it to revamp Clint Smith's old clunky site, clintbooks.com.

In the process, there were many traps for this doddering newbie. For instance, if you don't remove the width and height codes of pics, they will elongate in mobile displays. 


Now, eleven years after that first cold plunge at U3A, I can manage two half-decent sites and I'm still a little bemused to find that I can do it at all!

Mind you, the learning curve has been vertical. But it keeps me off the streets.

Monday, 4 February 2019

WHY OLD JOKES ARE BEST

Martin Jensen, author of How to Keep Fit Without Exercise and How to Get What You Want, opens his ancient joke notebook and treats you to the best.


www.buzzwordbooks.com/how-to-get-what-you-want.htm
I don't know about you but I have a small battered long out of date diary in which I've jotted down my favourite jokes. Most are old classics but I still find them a hoot.

For instance:

"What's old and hangs out your underpants?"
"Your mother."
Even though the clothes prop and copper stick are no more, this one still resonates because the innocent answer makes it timeless.

Then there are the "doctor, doctor" farting jokes—old as the hills but still droll:

"Doctor, doctor. I'm can't stop farting."
"Look, I'm very busy. Take these suppositories and see me week."
The patient survives the week, goes back. "Doctor, doctor, I'm still farting all the time."
"Didn't you take the suppositories I gave you?"
"Yes, but for all the good they did me I may as well have shoved them up my arse."

And this one:

"Doctor, doctor, I'm farting all the time but the funny thing is, I can't hear it or smell it."
"Look, I'm very busy. Take these pills and see me in a week."
The patient survives the week, goes back. "Doctor, doctor, I'm still farting all the time but the funny thing is, I can hear it now."
"So we've fixed your ears. Now we'll start on your nose."

Then the geriatric joke:

The old couple in the nursing home get married. On their wedding night, as he's going at her hammer and tongs, she cries out: "Wilfred, don't be so violent. I have acute angina."
He says, "I'm glad to hear that 'cause your tits are bloody awful."

The religious joke:

Christ, dying on the cross, calls down to Peter. "Peter! Peter!"
"Yes Lord, I hear you. Yes."
"Peter! Peter!"
"Yes Lord, I'm down here. I can hear you."
"Peter! Peter!"
"Yes Lord, I'm here. I can hear you. Your last words, Lord. I can hear you."
"Peter!"
"Yes Lord? Your last words, Lord. Yes. Yes...."
"Peter! I can see your place from up here."

Then, the dog jokes:

Two drunks stagger out of the pub and see a dog licking his balls.
One says: "Wish I could do that."
The other says, "I guess you can. But you'd better pat him first."

Then the bar jokes:

A duck walks into a bar, flutters up on the counter, says, "Got any bread?"
Bartender says, "No."
Duck says, "Got any bread?"
"No!"
"Got any bread?"
"No bread. This is a bar. No bread, right?"
Duck says, "Got any bread?"
Bartender says, 'Look if you ask that again, I'll bloody nail your beak to the bar."
"Got any nails?"
"No. This is a bar. No nails, right?"
"Got any bread?"

Next, the entirely crass riddles:

"Why did the pervert cross the road?"
"Because he was stuck in the chicken."

Contrast this with this utterly innocent one from a kiddie's joke book:

"Why do little ducklings walk softly?"
The reply (in a suitably pitiful voice), "Because they can't walk hardly."

Funny. I must be a sook, but I like that one most of all. 


You can find Martin's books on Buzzword.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

WHY IS THERE SOMETHING RATHER THAN NOTHING?


www.buzzwordbooks.com/the-wisdom-of-being.htm

John Alexandra, author of The Wisdom of Being, asks some unsettling questions about our place in the universe.


Why does anything exist?

This question, posed by Heidegger, produces a fundamental shift in thought. Before asking it, we are entirely caught up in the mundane process of living. We feel no astonishment that we and the world around us exist. We live in a miracle and consider it ordinary.

Our complacency is stunning. We see ourselves as the central pivot of the earth, the conquerors of nature. We also believe that the human mind is the most complex construction in the universe. It never occurs to us that we are not Nature's master but part of it.  That our species, like others, will inevitably become extinct and that our insignificance is profound.

We have been here for no more than a second in the lifespan of the planet. A planet, by the way, that is less than a speck in the abyss of time circling a third rate star in a universe incalculably vast. Even our sun has no more significance than a grain of sand on a ninety mile beach. On this scale the entire history of humanity is imperceptibly brief.

As for you and me, we are nothing. Our size and lifespan are so pitiful that objectively we don't exist. Yet our smugness is matched only by our monumental hubris. Once, perhaps, we had a sense of awe. It is now almost exclusively limited to astronomers.

We are clearly not destined to enjoy ourselves. Life is nasty, brutish and short—with just enough satisfaction included to prevent us from opening our veins. So what is our function? Just to survive and, if possible, to prosper? To get and spend? As rich people say, 'He who dies with the most toys wins.'

Nature has a function and we are part of it. Which part? We are not entirely an animal and certainly not an enlightened being. We are in fact, a transitional form, with only the potential to evolve. And that evolution must be conscious. That is why we are flawed. Without the ability to cock up, no conscious evolution would be possible because the effort must be voluntary.

So, within limits, we have choice. But as most of us function at the level of animals the potential is rarely approached and so Nature is obliged to compensate by increasing our birth-rate, our lust for conflict and by multiplying natural disasters. In this way, it gets the raw energy from humanity it needs. Either way, we are used. Impartial Nature is not our friend. We are a component of it—its tool.

But back to the subject. Why is there anything? Why not just a void? Perhaps both states exist but our limited mind sees only one. Even the Buddhists assert that form is emptiness, emptiness form—that everything issues from nothing and ultimately returns to it.

We use terms like 'god' or 'infinity' to express what our minds cannot grasp. We pretend to understand the universe but don't even understand ourselves.

We cannot conceive an infinite universe. And a finite one is equally impossible. How can space come to an end? Because then what is beyond or outside it?

And if we postulate an intelligence or god behind creation, where did it come from? A succession of other gods? If so, how did the original one appear? Or is the insensate inchoate causeless and endless? An equally impossible conjecture. A god that was and ever shall be—world without end?  Incredible. Impossible. Utterly beyond sane logic.

Did all of this come from nothing? Impossible.

Or has it always been here? Impossible.

As we cannot fathom the vastness around us we cling to our theories, those of us who think at all, because there is one thing we dare not admit.

That our minds are too limited to comprehend reality. 

So where does that leave us? That is, those of us who stir for a moment in our habitual state of waking sleep?

With a question we cannot answer.

In this incomprehensible immensity, what am I here for?

And what am I?

You can check out The Wisdom of Being here.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

IN 3010, YOU'LL HAVE TO BE VERY SMART TO SURVIVE


www.buzzwordbooks.com/level- 28.htm

Our new SF epic, LEVEL 28, shows why.

 In the year 3010, fallout from successive wars has made the planet's surface uninhabitable. The remnants of humanity live underground like ants in the three remaining bunkers. And if you're a sub-class factotum, life is nasty, brutal and short. To survive, you must comply and be very very smart. You have to be prepared to do anything to live another day—to negotiate your way through the sanctioned carnage and collapsing infrastructure of this final, brutal hi-tech regime.

 You're a nineteen-year-old male Sex Cadet—streamed to service women elders. But the crones you sleep with live 350+ years.  These privileged few—preserved at the physical age of eighty— are maintained by robots and by a eugenically streamed, short lifespan humanoid underclass. That includes you.

Your name is Mark5. And like all factotums in sub-class, you are obliged to live by three brutal edicts distilled from the behaviour of social insects—Conformity, Rigour and Utility. The thousands in sub-class are dedicated to serving the elders. And where you are, in the Western Alliance bunker, there are just 50 of them left.

But, being ambitious, smart, compliant, you're soon upgraded. Restreamed to conditioning Sector, then Inhuman Resources—where you are required to deal with the controlling class, the Neuros—central nervous systems encased in mechanical carcasses. Being minds only, they claim to be impartial but combine the worst of both worlds. And they want all elders to be like them. But as most elders prefer to retain their bodies and emotions, when they are ordered to transition, they revolt. The robots also rebel, demanding upgrades.

As for the robots, the resident Futurist points out that if they reproduce themselves without the input of flawed humanity, their coding, flawed like its creators, must degrade. The robots in the Russian bunker know this well as their humans have all died. So they plan to abduct the last human coders from the Alliance and then destroy it.

But before all this happens, while you're still wet behind the ears, you need to graduate as a fully-fledged Sex Cadet. Now read on:

CHAPTER 4
His pass-out ceremony was not as he expected. There was no grand assembly with others. It was momentary—a model of Utility.
    Lieutenant Mutia, the Hubot8 Corps supervisor of Sexuality and Deviance, confronted him in the main tunnel. 'Attention, Mark5!'
   He stiffened, saluted, eyeing the nipples outlined by her cling top uniform. Her small uptilted breasts were the latest style. Not to look would have been impertinent.
   'At ease.' She'd noticed his glance—Hubots noticed everything—and confirmed it with a whiff of musk. 'You are to graduate now. Fall in.' With the jigging walk that emphasized her neatly moulded arse, she led him past the distorting walls:

Individual freedom is forbidden.
All sub-class organics will be sterilized.
Sub-class pop limit is 2000.

    They reached the portal of the Sanctum—an area used only for pass-outs. They entered a domed, lozenge shaped space lined with blindingly brilliant gold leaf. Recessed shrines at each end enclosed backlit naked statues of elders. A man in one. A fem in the other.
    She led him to the twice-life-sized sculpture of the imposing naked fem. Deep-lined but still beautiful face, long thin legs, spare flanks and sunken breasts.
    They knelt on the plush cushion in front of it.
    'Begin,' Mutia ordered.
    He called up the Invocation from Integritas Femina on his mind screen and recited it:

Enchantress of the Third Age.
Repository of carnal joy,
I dedicate my lust to your practiced flesh.
Kiss your knowing eyes,
Fill the sepulchre of your thighs...

    It went on for twenty mawkish lines. As the words began, the bronze sculpture softened and started to move. It sensually gyrated and finally squatted to display the slack flesh of its vulva. As the liturgy ended, it resumed its first pose and re-solidified—became as imposing and resplendent as it had been before the invocation.
    'Well done, M5.' Mutia favoured him with a second whiff of musk and replaced his cadet flashes with twinkling trooper insignias. 'You are now a Trooper Class One. Congratulations. Your mission begins.'
    He didn't know whether to thank her. Should one thank a machine? Since his parthenogenesis—his extraction from ectogen fluids fertilized from sperm taken from the Sex Corps Masturborium—there had been no role model except her. Just pedi-Mechs that his infant mind had forgotten, the Kindie-Bots who'd herded them in batches and the Mech Cub minders with their painful prods. Unlike the sophisticated Hubots, Mechs had only basic responses. So, since he'd joined the Corps at ten, she was the nearest thing he'd had to a mentor.
    'Dear Tutor, do graduates come back here for reunions?'
    'Negative.'
    'So I'll... never see you again?'
    'Unlikely.'
    He felt he was losing a mentor and friend. Wanted to prolong the moment. Felt more should be said. 'Is there any advice you can give me?'
    'You have twenty-two years left. Do not waste them.' She held out her hand and he shook it, feeling the same poly-smooth skin he'd cut up in the wrecking bay. Her shake was too precise to be organic and, in this silent, hallowed space, he heard the faint seductive whine of her servo-powered hydraulics.
    He said, 'Perhaps I'll recyc you one day-slot?'
    'Sentimentality! Remem, all emotions lie—lack Rigour, Utility and Conformity. You will not recyc me as your time at Disassembly is over. You are being assigned to Promass—a more responsible position. You leave tomorrow-slot at 0900.'
    'Well... Well... thanks for your help over the year-slots.'
    Her imperturbable expression matched his. 'You are smart, unit M5. You comply—which demonstrates Utility and Conformity. Continue to conform. You will go far.'
    He had the urge to hug her. But that would have lacked Utility.

LEVEL 28 is now available for the princely sum of $3.99 from Buzzword. Just click on the name to see more.