Saturday, December 31, 2011

We all have opinions on something.

Below something I put on the Jerusalem Post Talkback site, in response to a series of articles where the journalist quoted one of my (shorter) comments.
As you quoted one of my comments Martin, I'll address you directly as you obviously, to my surprise but your credit, read Talkback. Dealing with your last point first, although many countries do of course take into account the economic position of applicants seeking to live in those countries, that is not the only or main criteria. The mere fact that an applicant has, oh let's say $1 million (US) wouldn't automatically get them into a country they wanted to go to. I would agree with you that for demographic reasons a 'one state' solution is not the answer, not if you want Israel to remain a Jewish state. I also feel that the 'vision' put forward in the Oslo accords was flawed, just looking at a map I could never see how it could be made to work. I'm thinking here about the notion of having two geographically separated parts of the proposed Palestinian state. So what to do? It is possible that a war would sort this out, but I'm sure you'd agree with me when I say that a war would cause a humanitarian disaster, for both Israel and the Palestinians. Yes, I did say Palestinians because despite all your very erudite arguments, the Palestinians think of themselves as a homogenous people, and at the end of the day it's how a group of people perceive themselves that counts, not how others perceive them. Imagine the response from Israelis if a Palestinian academic put forward a cogent argument to show that Israelis were not Israelis but displaced Europeans. Before you point out that they already do this, I would ask you 'and how do you feel about that?'. It's also worth noting that the arguments put forward to support this notion are fairly easily disproved.So what to do? To my mind, although I have to admit it somewhat sticks in my throat, the only lasting answer is a two-state solution. One could go at great length into slightly suspect historical population figures to prove that Arabs have been in the geographic area as long as Jews. It is clear that Arabs didn't suddenly 'appear' in the West bank or Gaza about one hundred years ago. It's also clear that there was an upsurge in Arab migration in response to Zionist migration. You can twist and turn the figures anyway that you want, you can even throw God into the equation, but the fact is 'we are where we are' for whatever combination of reasons. So now what? You propose a population transfer. One might call it ethnic cleasing with a humane face, because I accept that you are not suggesting forcing people to leave by violent methods but rather by giving inducements. There might have been a moment when a population transfer was a possibility, but that moment passed over sixty years ago. In any event, people who suggest this, saying that it would bring peace after a great deal of pain, need only look to India and Pakestan for a real-life example of what happens when populations are forcibly transferred. The two countries are now staring at each other over nuclear barrels, hardly the situation one would wish on Israel. So what to do? Israel should make an effort to reach out to the Palestinians. By that I don't mean acquiese to all or even most of their demands, but I mean paint a picture of what peace would look like. Give the Palestinians something concrete to think about instead of what they have at the moment, hazy notions of independance which seem to revolve about freedom of travel. It seems obvious to me that purely because of geographic realities, the two states would have to co-operate in economic affairs, and would have to share natural resources. Israel is a highly developed technological society, with many innovative agricultural techniques. With peace, comes sharing. With sharing comes economic developement and with that comes a perceived mutual inter-dependence. Together, or at least as together as is realistically possible, both countries can prosper, seperately, the Palestinians will never achieve statehood and Israel will bleed to death. Bleed to death? Yes, because if a war occurs, the Palestinians are ethnically cleansed and Israel becomes 'Greater Israel', then not only will there be an immediate cost in Israeli blood, but there will be continuing internal unrest. Then the rest of the world will act, not militarily but economically, and no nation can survive in this world by remaining isolated. Oh, countries do survive for fifty years or so, at the cost of becoming like North Korea, an iron-fisted dictatorship where most of the population exists at starvation level, but in the end they simply fade way, the collapse of the Soviet Union showed that. My apologies to all the other contributors and readers for having made such a long post.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Eliezer's Return: A Christmas present to you, the readers.

The line of curraghs was about a mile distant, spreading across the entrance to the inlet, still well out range of the bows. Less than ten minutes sail away. Mapen fired off an arrow, behind the ship where it was unlikely to be noticed by those in the curraghs. It went about two hundred metres before exploding; he nodded to himself.
Itthobaal surveyed the approaching line; he raised his voice so all could hear.
“Steersman; count along the line from the right hand side and aim directly for the third boat. We’ll sink those buggers then deal with the rest.” Cheers and shouts from the crew.
Sikarbaal nodded and adjusted the steering oar slightly. Mapen was now standing in the bow, a burning taper in a tub at his feet to light the fire arrows with, Hanno and Luliya standing slightly behind him.
“They’ll concentrate their fire on the two outside boats, hoping to kill or disable the crew. That way, when we snag the line we only have to worry about being boarded from one side.”
Ben Asher nodded; all the crew were outwardly calm now, patiently waiting for battle, confident in their preparations and each other, knowing what the plan was.
“There is a saying in my time Eliezer; a battle plan doesn’t survive initial contact with the enemy.”
“We have a saying which expresses a similar thought. The key I have found is teamwork. Whatever happens, work together, each man guarding the others back. There is a tendency for men to act singly in battle, heroic no doubt but generally fatal. I want no dead heroes, I want live winners.”
Mochus, standing close by and handling a long spear, understood his words and smiled at them.
“You remember that, Mister Danny. We’ve got used to having you on board, you make sure you’re a live winner.”
“I’ll do my very best to make sure we celebrate this victory together Mochus; even if I do have more hair and teeth than you.”
Mochus convulsed with laughter and shouted out a translation of their conversation, the others responded with more cheers and waving of weapons. The line of curraghs drew ever closer.
On the right hand headland, people, mainly women and children, some old men, shouted and jeered; some capered about making gestures, some threw ineffectual rocks, but most just screamed what must be insults and abuse, cheering on the home team. The crew ignored them and concentrated on the task in hand.

Mapen conferring with Hanno and Luliya; Hanno firing off an arrow; the aim off but the range good. All three commence firing, concentrating on the first two curraghs in the line. Two fire arrows explode over the curraghs, causing visible confusion and fear, then Mapen scoring a direct hit on the second along the line, the burning arrow burying itself in the hide covering before exploding. Both men in the curragh hurled into the water and neither seen to come to the surface. Cheers from the ship, howls of rage from the curraghs. Slingshots from the curraghs, Hanno struck on the shoulder; Abibal coming forward and picking up his dropped bow, taking his place whilst Hanno flexes his arm for a few moments and steps back taking up the long spear that Abibal has put down. Teamwork; no individual heroics, just a united purpose and a cold determination to win. A fire arrow into the first curragh, now about fifty metres away; the two occupants waste no time but dive over the side. Abibal and Hanno rapidly send two arrows apiece into the general area where the two have disappeared then switch their aim to the curraghs on the other side of the ship. Javelins in the air now, a scream of pain from someone on the ship; Ben Asher gripping the axe tightly, watching out for missiles, calculating angles. With a splintering crash, the ship destroys the curragh, Abibal and Hanno firing into the two occupants just before the impact. Javelins and slingshots coming from the left side now but Mapen keeping up a steady stream of fire arrows which has an unsettling effect on their opponents; the ship’s way checked momentarily as the line between the curraghs is pulled taught. Unnoticed the wind has strengthened slightly, speeding up the ship and the whole line of some twenty remaining curraghs is jerked forward, making the aiming of javelins and slingshots difficult. Curraghs being dragged alongside the ship, the crew jabbing at the occupants with the long spears. Several men trying to clamber up the side of the ship. Two on deck; Eliezer stepping forward and despatching one with a thrust of his sword, Itthobaal stabbing the other and throwing him back over the side. Men down on the ship; more men trying to board from the curraghs; Ben Asher taking in that if the line attached to the curraghs were cut the fight would be ended quickly as the curraghs are left behind, rushing forward, clearing a path with his axe. The three archers were now engaged in repelling boarders using whatever came to hand, a bloody, vicious, mindless scuffle. Ben Asher, leaning over the right side of the bow, can’t reach the line with the axe; climbing over the side, one hand bloody where unnoticed he grasps the sharp rope; swings the axe, the line parts and he pivots himself back on board; blood and bodies on the deck; a final few javelins and a scattering of sling-shot; cheering; howls of rage and pain; Sikarbaal leaning on the oar and the ship turning more to the South West.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Christmas

Looking at the stats on the blog, I see I have readers from quite literally all round the world. Right now, it's Christmas day, 0745, so as good a time as any to wish everybody an enjoyable Christmas and a safe and prosperous new year.
I'm almost on the 'home straight' with Eliezer 2 (working title 'Eliezer's Return'), eighteen chapters down and probably about ten more to go. Unfortunately, there's been a 'developement' in the plot, which means a rewrite of the last chapter, but that's the joy of writing, even though you may have a plot in mind, the characters seem to come alive and go their own way!
I'll post a 'taster of two' in a day or so, once I've worked out which 'taste' won't give too much away, in the meantime thanks to everybody who've sent messages of support, hope I'll meet up with at least some of you this coming sailing season.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Problem shared

Becomes a problem solved. Thanks to everybody who came up with offers of help, some excellent ideas and many, many positive vibes. A special thanks to the person who delivered the solution.
I will put some updated pictures on this blog in a day or so, but the GRP work is almost finished and in the New Year I can get back to work on the interior. If you say it quickly, there's not that much more to do. Just rebuild the engines, a bit of rewiring, a couple of new halyards, new masthead lights, sail repairs and 'Bobs yer uncle'.Hopefully back in the water early to mid Feb, but barring anything unforseen the departure from Fiji should take place the end of April. Not quite sure where to right now, the options are direct to Brisbane, Vanuatu then Mackay (QLD) or even Tonga then back down to NZ (nah, probably not!). In any event, early in Jan I'd better start arranging an Aussie multiple entry visa.
Merry Christmas to you all, a safe and prosperous New Year.
Oh, and Santa, a bit of inspiration please. I'm just approaching the three-quarter stage of my new book, I know how it ends but I'm not too sure what happens between now and the end.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I need some ideas/help.

I have a problem that I'm hoping some of you can help me with.
Thanks to a personal loan (on very generous terms) from folks who would like to remain anonymous, I've been able to fund the work on Trouters to date, supplemented by my pension. However, due to some unfortunate surprises, I'm just about at the end of my financial tether. The shortfall is US$12,000. It would be great (well perhaps not exactly great, but you know what I mean) if I could say this shortfall was due to 'high living', but unfortunately it isn't, so I need to find more money.
First thought, of course, would be a job. Due to visa restrictions in Fiji, I can't look for work here, and in any event the wages would not be of any great help. Those still involved in flying, or recently retired, will understand that going back flying is not a viable option. Nobody wants to hire a 59 year old pilot who is not in current flying practice (current medical, instrument rating and class rating) and for me to achieve that lot would take about six months salary and certainly two to three months at the fastest. I don't have either the money or the time, I'll be sixty in May, at which point I can no longer fly single-pilot ops in Europe. Trust me, flying is not an option. So, anybody got a job, or know of anything going? Anything legal considered, but minimum wage stuff might be a bit unhelpful, I may 'take back' one of the books from the agent and self publish on Amazon, but again this is no quick fix.
Which leaves me with a third option, which is to ask for help. The email address is
Peter {DOT} bernfeld {CHANGE TO AT} Gmail {DOT} com
A final twist is that I've been given a warning that the club is thinking of doubling my monthly hard fees sometime next year, from F$500 per month to F$1000 per month. I have a suspicion that this is somebody trying to acquire a boat on the cheap as that has been tried before, but whether or not that's true, it makes the whole business unsupportable unless I have a job or a loan.
My options at this point are stark. Either I get more money by some means, or I will simply have to walk away from the boat in the not too distant future. When I say walk away, I mean the sort of money I would most likely be offered for it is around F$20,000, that's around US $10,000. Probably less, if I am having to bail out.
So, any ideas? I'm not looking for charity, for a few reasons I'd rather be able to arrange a loan (avoiding customs problems in Fiji, avoiding somebody pulling a fast one to get their hands on my home) and lastly getting work outside Fiji. Like I said, anything legal considered.
I had a question within a few minutes posting the above on my sailamail blog. Before I answer that, let me give a brief rundown of what's been happening with the book. The manuscript was accepted by a literary agent in August last year (2010). In April this year (2011) she found an independant publisher in the UK who liked it and a contract was signed in June. The book was e published, but there were many formatting errors, which frankly was the publishers' responsibility. There were also quite a few typing errors which the agents' proof reader didn't pick up. The proof reader was fired, but that still left the immediate problem. Anyway, the book was temporarily suspended on Amazon and Smash Words and the agent and I worked solidly for two weeks, checking the formatting, proof reading and making a few minor alterations. I had literally just sent off the final chapter when an email arrived from the publisher. They had run into financial difficulties and were breaking several contracts, one of which was mine. Basically they were dropping any manuscript that wasn't ready to publish immediately, and although I had finished, the agent needed about another week to finish her checking, so that was that. I have a small amount of royalties due for payment in early January, about three weeks of being available generated some interest/sales and looked promising. Not to totally 'float my boat' anytime soon, but it looked like I might get a small amount every quarter, to help things along. Right now, the agent has three of my manuscripts, one is a series of children's bedtime stories and we're hoping to find an illustrator who will take a chance and work on a shared royalties basis. One is historical 'faction', and the other is the slightly reworked one that was published and withdrawn.
OK, so why not self-publish. In a word, marketing. I could self-publish at just about zero cost on both Amazon and Smash Words, but there is no marketing support. The thing about a publisher as opposed to a company which self-publishes books is that they have a vested interest in sales. They will also have an 'in' with retail outlets for paperbacks and those retail outlets will also advertise, something that I couldn't afford to do. Certainly, using facebook and Twitter help to gain publicity, but that I think is no substitute for solid marketing, something at which I have only hazy notions anyway. Another friend pointed out to me that an e book 'might go viral'. It might, but the chances are it won't. Ex crewmember C suggested I 'do a reading on U tube', for the same reason. That remains a possibility. What I may do is 'take back' one of the manuscripts, if the agent agrees, and maybe try self-publishing, despite all my misgivings about it. I know the agent is very wary about this, the publishing industry is in a state of rapid change at the moment, but right now are very much against self-publishing, and the agent thinks might be predjudiced against any author who does so. I don't know, but I'm not too keen to take the chance. A friend has self-published and his sales are modest, but rising slowly. The books are good reads and deserve to do well, in time he might well find that his sales are respectable, purely by word of mouth, but he has also signed up with the same agent, the book that she accepted he had to withdraw from Amazon.
So, that is why I have not self published.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Meanwhile, back at the farm

This has absolutely nothing to do with writing, except that it's difficult to use a laptop when you have a purring ball of fur in your lap, and the dog is hungry five seconds after he's been given a VERY large helping of dogfood!
Sometimes they don't fight!

'OOs that out there then?

Mum, Mum I'm hungry. Aww MUM

I understand why Zagi is always after food now, a big job feedingn three kittens that are nearly as big as you!

Yes Boss, you have just fed me and I am still hungry FEED ME!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Establishing a routine

Over the last week or so I've 'got into the groove'. This consists of leaving the house around 0830, toddling off down the hill to 'ye olde Hop Hing caffe' for my F$2.60 breakfast, a mug of tea and the' bigger than a McWhoppa with extra whoppa breakfast bun', then along to the yacht club to check on progress with the boat. This inevitably involves paying out various sums of money (there is a looming problem with this, especially since the bank has kindly decided to close one of my accounts, despite my not being above the overdraft limit and recently making a couple of payments. In the long term this may well be my problem, should I ever need the dubious services of a credit agency, but in the short/medium term they are the losers).
After the inspection of work in progress, I'll then act as a 'gofa' and pick up any small items that need to be purchased, then I sit at the club for an hour or so, before going back up the hill, showering and reviewing/writing. I reckon that I now have slightly over 50% of Eliezer 2 on the hard drive. Working on the assumption that the book will be about twenty eight chapters, I'm on chapter thirteen, with another three written out of sequence. I'm experimenting with writing the book as one continuous document, at the suggestion of a fellow writer/chum (Larry Jeram-Croft). In some ways it's easier, formatting mainly, but in other ways there's a lot of scrolling around the document and of course doing a grammar/spell check becomes a major excercise. Now you would think that this wouldn't be the case, having corrected something it should stay corrected, but the version of Word that I have on the PC seems to have difficulty with the concept 'ignore this'. Oh yes, the Mac Lapdancer. The video chip was in Nadi (Fiji airport) on Friday afternoon, and should be delivered to the Apple reseller on Monday morning. It is their number one job so I'm really hoping to be reunited Monday afternoon. Right now, I'm working in Word 2000, and I'll be transferring the document into Word 2003, so it'll be interesting (i.e. somewhat tedious) to see if the two versions of the spellchecker agree with each other. My experience is spelling yes, but grammar not always, despite the fact that I have inputed the same criteria into both grammar checkers.
I'm starting to enjoy writing again, although I do suffer from the occasional bout of 'oh what's the point'. I think the point is that all the publishing houses will be preocuppied with the run up to Christmas, so realistically Emma the Agent won't get a request for a full manuscript until the new year. Getting book two finished will help her I think, and it'll also mean that I can take a bit of a break once it's done and dusted.
I find it fascinating how I actually write most of the book in my head as I'm walking. Provided I remember it all, it's then relatively easy to sit in front of the keyboard. Speaking of walking, the F$20 sandals are wearing a bit thin, the tread on the soles is wearing away, so I'm almost down to 'racing slicks'. This is fine when it isn't raining!
Christmas.... I saw a depressing headline in the local papers the other day, "24 days until Christmas". For the last few years, Christmas to me has meant having a party on the boat in some pleasant anchorage, this year, assuming the GRP dust has been cleared up (i.e. by me) I think I'll take a bottle of wine down to the boat, hook up the electric so I can have a bit of music, and sit and contemplate. This coming week I'm going to attempt to reserect the hob, so I'll be able to make a curry or something.
To end on an good news note, my passport and driving licence that I couriered to the UK to renew the licence, has been returned to my Stepmother's flat and she will courier them out to me on Monday, so with a bit of luck I should have them in my hot and sticky hand by the end of this coming week. I also ordered a solar panel regulator which will be leaving UK on Monday and likewise should be here the end of the week. Just one minor detail, the emailed invoice showed VAT, so I've pointed out their clerical error. As a point of interest, even with VAT, couriering and four metres of wire, the cost was less than just buying the controller in Oz. Exchange rates, I suppose. Finally, the cat had three kittens and we thought that they hadn't survived for some reason, but last night there were three balls of fur running shyly around the living room. 'Mum' has been ravenous the last week or so, feeding three not so small kittens I'm not that surprised. I'll try and get an 'ah' picture in the next day or so.