‘Dead Guy in Erongo’ — a novel

My novel Dead Guy in Erongo is now available on Amazon as a Kindle download. DGIE is my second and perhaps most accessible novel thus far. Blurb and (temporary) cover below.

I also reduced the price of Neutrino Dreams, my collection of six SF novellas. That said, I’m still giving these away for free to anybody who wants them.

What’s next? Well, my first novel needs a rewrite, my third novel needs a good edit, and the fourth novel is in progress (after several months of daydreaming / dithering).

Edit: 16/01/2015 — Updated the blurb. I think it’s better now.

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DEAD GUY IN ERONGO

Geologist and Border War veteran Lothar Sengt leaves behind his dull consulting job in Frankfurt to visit his eccentric cousin Felix, living in a Dorset seaside village.

He arrives too late. Felix’s broken body is discovered on a foreshore, in the shadow of England’s forbidding Jurassic cliffs.

While the police treat the death as a tragic accident, Sengt suspects foul play. With the help of an aging police constable and the local paleontology expert, Sengt attempts to piece together the events that led to his cousin’s gruesome death.

How well did he really know his cousin? What did he miss during their travels together? And whom can he trust? Is Sengt chasing a delusion, a phantom — or is he close to uncovering one of the most important scientific discoveries in history? TTEOG-version-final_2_small

My quest for the perfect cat toy

I’ve always loved playing with cats. We’re getting two kittens this weekend, so I’ve spent a fair amount of time putting together cheap, durable cat toys with random items salvaged from around the house.

Fangs

Constructed from a toilet roll core stuffed with leather, along with a single long leather strip that protrudes from both ends. Tightly wrapped in thick packing string. Hoping this will make for a good wrestling toy.

Size: approximately 10cm across.

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The Mayfly

The ‘lure’ is made up of supple leather strips and ribbons attached to a doweling rod with strong twine. The strips emit a pleasant flapping sound.

Size: 12cm in length

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The Catfish

Rough packing string and ribbons attached to a rod as above. Light and agile, but I don’t expect this one to last very long.

Size: about 10cm in length.

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The Cnidarian

Toilet roll core filled with long leather strips and an old sponge. Wrapped in soft leather and reinforced with sturdy packing string. It’s too large to attach to a rod, but may come into its own when hidden under a carpet. My favourite.

Size: around 30cm in length.

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Now all we need is a couple of kittens to begin testing…

Rosetta / Philae is here. Witness and remember.

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[Update: Philae has landed — well done ESA! Liked the DG’s comment: ‘The problem with success is that it looks easy.’]

New house. Full-time job. Life. And yet — I will watch the Rosetta landing, or at least as much as humanly possible.

Watching this, I feel there are too few momentous events in our lives, particularly where the exploration of the solar system is concerned.

Something like this doesn’t happen every day. Let’s enjoy it.

At the risk of seeming petty, the attractive lady presenter is dressed rather like Carl Sagan from Cosmos: beige jacket, dark polo neck, gawky manner and so forth. Sexy, enthusiastic and scientific. Bless her.

She is interviewing lots of nerds. Bless ’em too.

The broadcast is from ESA in Darmstadt, Germany. I worked for EUMETSAT for a couple of years, who are ESA’s sister organisation. Memories…

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Leafy creature (in progress)

A leafy creature, made largely of cat’s claw creepers wrapped around a T-shaped frame of wire and string. The head is an old piece wood. Once this layer dries up and the leaves fall off I’ll add more cat’s claw and embellishments to fill out the limbs.

So far the creature is rather ugly and has a distinct voodoo look, but that is not really my intention. I’m hoping the end result will suggest some kind of wood sprite / forest guardian.

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Who will defend our collective chastity?

[The full version (PDF) is published in the Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership’s newsletter Reflect.]  

Politics and reality television: not so different. (Image source: Washington Post)

Politics and reality television: not so different. (Image source: Washington Post)

Politics are like reality television, where a group of good-for-nothings denounce one another – most often in an attempt to curry favour with the audience (i.e. voters). I’m simply too embarrassed to listen to politicians, or their bronzed and air-headed counterparts.

For reasons I still don’t fully understand I was asked to write an editorial about responsible leadership in the political domain, which may be the grandest oxymoron I have ever encountered. As a rule I avoid reading or writing about anything political. This means I need to begin from first principles in the hope of uncovering a grain of integrity hidden beneath a mountain of slush funds and dodgy lobbyists. I apologise in advance for my naivety.

First things first: we live in a democracy, which is a vast improvement over apartheid, ruthless colonialism, laissez-faire corporate anarchy (I’m looking at you, Cecil Rhodes), terrorism and war. Unfortunately democracy is largely defined by its flaws, rather than its redeeming features. Right now South Africa is not particularly democratic, nor are its rulers very effective – mostly likely due to a lack of a cohesive opposition. The lack of accountability in the present government is a problem.

Autocrats inevitably begin to take liberties with their citizens.

Autocrats inevitably begin to take liberties with their citizens. (Image source: mwebantu.com)

Leaders in a ruling majority invariably start to take certain ‘liberties’ with its citizens, and  there is every indication that something similar is happening in South Africa. We citizens are like secretaries subjected to the occasional paternal pat on the rump every time the boss wobbles by on his way to another six-hour luncheon. Such naughty behaviour may seem relatively harmless at first but can easily escalate into a full-scale assault on our collective chastity. Ruling parties can grow dangerously paranoid and quickly ossify into tyrants as the citizenry are increasingly forgotten or oppressed. Just ask Uncle Rob M up north.

A more immediate concern is that South African leaders appear to suffer from ‘entitlement syndrome’, where the act of achieving a position of leadership is seen as the equivalent to being a leader. A perfectly random example may involve a politician who commissions a R200m taxpayer-funded ‘homestead’ for having achieved a position of leadership – and not much else. A case of such monumental hubris may actually be visible from space.

Visible from space?

Is this presidential ‘homestead’ visible from space? (Image source: constitutionallyspeaking.co.za/)

But we need to be careful, as it’s all too easy to criticise el presidente and his minions. Politicians are flawed individuals like the rest of us. Like us, some are arrogant, short-sighted, occasionally even stupid. A handful of them do work hard and with the best intentions, that is until their luck runs out. Politicians often need to make deeply unpopular decisions sooner or later. All we can hope for is that they consistently make the least undesirable of choices on our behalf. That said, their labours are conducted within an overwhelmingly corrupt administrative and party-political superstructure. Idealists often fail through slow asphyxiation of their principles.

My point is that politics are a mirror of society at large: a bedlam of fragmented souls, confusion, contradiction and lethargy – so there is little sense in us complaining about their general ineptness, unless we’re willing to criticise ourselves in turn. Until that happens we simply cannot expect a host of diligent saints to ease us into the future.

However, there is no harm in searching for a benchmark – some default level of competency that can help us determine whether our dear leaders are of any use to us. Here’s one: above all, our politicians should do what they’re supposed to do. Decent leaders don’t need to be charismatic, driven, or even particularly intelligent. What’s important is that they do what they are supposed to do. Everything else is secondary.
But this raises the question of what we should expect of our politicians in the first place. A knee-jerk answer may be ‘to govern’, but such a response already hints at trouble. To govern implies domination, subjugation, even ownership.

Thomas Jefferson, looking determined.

Thomas Jefferson, looking determined. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Let’s go back to basics: we often forget that democratically elected leaders are intended to be our representatives. Voting somebody into office is not the same as having them represent us. Quite simply, if our leaders do not represent us then we should not expect any help from them, as Thomas Jefferson pointed out: ‘When the people fear the government there is tyranny. When the government fears the people there is liberty.’

Jefferson was right, but I think we can do better. Let us rather state that when the people serve the government there is tyranny. When the government serves the people there is liberty – which suggests that politicians should be caretakers who do as they’re told, rather than overlords who do as they please.

But we’re not out of the woods yet, because the whims of the average voter may easily be misguided, naïve or just plain wrong. The mob can be as vicious as any dictator who displays an unsettling fondness for firing squads. So, should a leader simply be an unthinking automaton who does the bidding of the voter? No. We need responsible politicians who will leave behind a legacy of enlightenment and education. A great leader will set an example and help us make the difficult decisions. Such a leader will not only do what they are supposed to do; they will also be remembered for changing us – hopefully for the better.

Anybody come to mind? There was one man, not so long ago. But he’s gone now.