Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I'm Back

And I've been back for a number of weeks.

Something that happens when you're away from constant internet access for a decent length of time is that you have a lessened desire to get back to the internet. So since I came back to Sydney I've been slowly ramping up my internet usage. It feels like it will never again reach the heady heights of my initial excursions into blogging and social networking.

And I have plenty of guitar to play, so don't expect me around so much. It's a little more than hibernation.

Of course, every time I say something like this I tend to indulge in a short burst of posts, so there's every chance you can look forward to some of my travel notes from New York and Los Angeles.

Anyway, I'm back.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Half-Life Long Dream Achieved!

Remember when I talked about my desires for a National Steel guitar? The kind of guitar that costs whole yearly salaries to ship to the sunburnt shores of Australia?

Well, in the last couple of days, I discovered to my absolute and goose-pimple-inducing delight that I could purchase one of these beautiful beasts for about half the price I would expect in my home country.

So, I did it.

I'm sorry, Mary, but there's a new love in my life.

Arrggghhh, grrrlll, drooooool ....

Monday, September 01, 2008

Gone Fishin'

It's pretty easy for three weeks to pass without my posting here, but I just thought I'd let you all know ... I'm going overseas for three weeks. New York and Los Angeles to be exact. I'll definitely be meeting some of the people that have read this blog for the very first time and I hope to meet a few others too. Like these guys.

Have fun, all. Don't break the place while I'm gone.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Around The Traps

Sure, I've been in hibernation, I've been having all of my creative juices sucked out of me by a ludicrous amount of over-engineering and lack of communication at my workplace, but I've still kept my nose to the screen.

Time for some bullets.

That'll do for now. Back to the hard slog.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Lineup: Poems On Crime, Issue 1 Out Now

"...every word has purpose: to plant clues, reveal character, move toward resolution."
Gerald So

Edited by Gerald So of Thrilling Detective, with Patrick Shawn Bagley, R. Narvaez, and Anthony Rainone.

Including the hard-hitting poets Patrick Shawn Bagley, Ken Bruen, Sarah Cortez, Graham Everett, Daniel Hatadi, Daniel Thomas Moran, R. Narvaez, Robert Plath, Misti Rainwater-Lites, Stephen D. Rogers, A.E. Roman, Sandra Seamans, Gerald So, KC Trommer.

Now available in paperback from Lulu.com and Murder By the Book (Houston, TX)

Support independent publishing: buy The Lineup on Lulu.

Get the lowdown at poemsoncrime.blogspot.com

Monday, June 16, 2008

News From Around The Interweb

Sure, I'm still firmly entrenched in hibernation mode, watching lots of episodes of The Outer Limits and drinking a responsible amount of absinthe, but that doesn't mean I don't have at least one eye to the cyber playground commonly referred to as "the internet."

  • Spinetingler magazine has just put out its Summer 2008 issue, which of course confuses me and my Antipodean biological clock (it's winter here, dammit!). Still, with fiction of all lengths (as long as they're short) coming from the likes of Patti Abbott, Amra Pajalic, Stephen D. Rogers, Allan Guthrie, Steve Mosby, Tony Black, Brian Lindenmuth, Grant McKenzie, John McFetridge, you're sure to have some chills regardless of climate.
  • Demolition is another fine zine that has the same need for seasonal confusion, but much more in the self-destructive noir mould. Go thou and read now some fine stories from Justin Porter, Stephen Blackmoore, William Dylan Powell and John Kenyon.
  • The Lineup, crime poetry collection extra-ordinaire, is gearing up for launch Real Soon Now. Click away and look forward to some poetry from the likes of Ken Bruen, Patrick Shawn Bagley, Ken Bruen, Sarah Cortez, Graham Everett, Daniel Hatadi, Daniel Thomas Moran, R. Narvaez, Robert Plath, Misti Rainwater-Lites, Stephen D. Rogers, A.E. Roman, Sandra Seamans, Gerald So, and KC Trommer. You saw my name in that list, didn't you? Well, get to it then.
  • I should have blogged about this a tad sooner but winter hibernation kicked in early: For those of you that live in the same sunburnt and overcast country as me, you may want to get your car in order to Rouse Hill Town Centre for An Evening Of Crime with Aussie crime authors Sydney Bauer, Kathryn Fox and Katherine Howell. Details below.
Dymocks Rouse Hill and Vinegar Hill Memorial Library present “An Evening of Crime” with Sydney Bauer, Kathryn Fox and Katherine Howell. Don’t miss this opportunity to meet three successful crime authors face to face and answer those questions you always wanted to ask.

Their books will also be available for purchase and signing.

Sydney Bauer has written 3 riveting legal thrillers –Undertow, Gospel and Alibi. Undertow was recently announced as the winner of the coveted Sisters In Crime Davitt Award under the main category of Best Crime Novel.

Kathryn Fox is the award winning author of internationally acclaimed forensic thrillers, Malicious Intent, Without Consent, and Skin and Bone. “Malicious Intent is the most exciting crime fiction released in Australia for a long time”.

Katherine Howell’s first book Frantic was released in May 2007 to rave reviews and will
be published internationally in 2008/2009. Her second book, The Darkest Hour, has just
been released.

Location: Vinegar Hill Memorial Library
Rouse Hill Town Centre
Rouse Hill, NSW
Date: 17th June,2008
Time: 7.30-9.00pm
Cost: $5
Bookings Essential: (02) 8889 5200

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hibernating With The Green Fairy

With this blog nearing its fourth birthday, I find myself less and less inclined to post.

Generally when I have an interesting topic of discussion centring around crime fiction, I'd much rather keep the booze flowing over at CrimeSpace by posting it in the forum. So this particular spot on the web has become more of a news list than something with regular meaty content.

Before your heart attacks you, don't worry, I'm not closing the blog down. But I do seem to be shifting into my regular wintry hibernation, just like the big teddy bear that I really am.

To explain further, interests not involving the internet--at least the crime fiction part of it--have been happily taking up brain space over at Casa Hatadi's Cranium Lounge & Bar.

Having recently purchased a respectable amount of camera gear, I've been teaching myself the digital photographic ropes. You can witness the constant fruits of these efforts in the sidebar under Photografia, or go straight to my Flickr account to stalk me over there.

The other interest that has taken up the full services of my liver and brain has been that of The Green Fairy known as absinthe. This has tied in with writing, over at my Absinthe-Minded Journal. Behind the scenes I have also been very slowly working on an absinthe-related crime story, as well as trying my hand at some very melodramatic and purple poetry.

On Sunday, the two of these interests combined to form some kind of pinnacle*.

You see, one night after coming back from a work function more than a little toasted, I received an email that led me to order a very small, sample bottle of approximately 100 year old absinthe. 50mls to be precise. That's two small shots, enough to make two decent glasses of absinthe. I won't share the price of it here, as it made someone at my workplace have a minor choking fit.

This weekend I invited a couple of fellow absintheurs to partake of the extremely aged amber nectar and in between tastes, gasps and giggles I tried my hand at updating a famous absinthe painting.

So, until I blog again with some real news or expand my range of topics for some real content, I leave you all with a taste of my handiwork.

An update of a famous absinthe painting. The newspaper is the Sydney Morning Herald from 8th June, 2008 and the absinthe is a glass of Pernod Fils circa 1910.

The original: Based on a painting by Charles Maire (1845-1919), this ubiquitous print advertising Pernod Fils once hung in almost every bar and cafe in France.


* Or possibly just a Voltron-like robot sword.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Forgotten Books Friday

Bill Pronzini's GUN IN CHEEK is not your average critical work of the genre of mystery fiction. While books on writing mysteries will guide authors in what makes good writing and books of literary criticism will look carefully at the writing craft over a period of time, Pronzini's book is an encyclopedic reference of what a writer shouldn't do.

Published by Mysterious Press in 1982, GUN IN CHEEK is part of a series of like-minded books that the erudite Pronzini wrote, including SON OF GUN IN CHEEK and SIX-GUN IN CHEEK (a focus on Westerns rather than mysteries).

When I started writing my trunk novel of a young PI-in-training, I bought a crate full of books on how to write, both in the genre of mystery, as well as on general fiction and editing. Randomly coming across this book on one of my regular adventures in the Amazon, I thought it would also be a great idea to have a reference on what to avoid in my writing.

Pronzini delivered with this title, not so much in terms of improving my writing, but by giving me a guaranteed good laugh, as well as saving me the trouble of buying some truly horrid novels.

The book includes chapters on the amateur detective, the private eye, thrillers, Gothic novels (the true pioneers of mystery), pulp-paperbacks and short stories, as well as dedicated chapters on British and Oriental-based mysteries.

With a brilliantly self-deprecating introduction by some guy called Ed McBain, and with gems like the one below, GUN IN CHEEK is definitely worth a thorough going over.

"He poured himself a drink and counted the money. It came to ten thousand even, mostly in fifties and twenty-fives."


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Happy Birthday To Me

Thank all possible deities for Sazeracs. I'm 35.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Hatadi Is Notable

I feel like the hitchhiker in Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas that says, "Hot damn. I never rode in a convertible before." Of course, it's a slightly different feeling in that I can legitimately say,

"Hot damn. I never been notable before."

Jamie Ford let me know that my name was on the Story South list of notable short stories online for 2007.

I seem to be getting a lot of mileage out of BUDDHA BEHIND BARS. It feels good. I should write more short stories, but I've been putting my meagre energies into the novel.

Other notables include Anthony Neil Smith, Katherine Tomlinson, Scott Wolven, Paul Guyot and Fleur Bradley.

Thanks to whoever nominated me and also to the judges over at Story South.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Six Random Things About Me

Bagley tagged me with this one. I ain't tagging anyone else. Yes, I'm a rebel without a cause, without a pause, without drawers?

  1. When I was sixteen, I fell in love with the saxophone. Because I couldn't afford one, I bought a harmonica instead. I've been playing ever since.
  2. For one whole year in high school, I only wore red socks. Yes, with other clothes. Quiet, you in the back.
  3. My biggest fear is an almost indescribable feeling of being turned inside-out in more than three dimensions.
  4. I can flare my nostrils on cue. Hey, not everyone can.
  5. My cat's name is Dax. He's a moggie, but mostly Russian Blue with a touch of Oriental.
  6. I was on Facebook for a while until it gave me the shits. So I removed myself. My digestion improved immediately.

Phishing Scam In The Office

Excellent! We just had this happen to us in our office. Of course, we didn't fall for it.

Fraud Squad detectives issue warning about ‘phishing’ scam targeting Sydney residents

Wednesday, 30 Apr 2008 12:53pm

NSW Fraud Squad detectives have today issued a warning following several reports in the past 24 hours of a ‘phishing’ scam targeting Sydney residents.

Several Sydney metropolitan residents have reported receiving an automated phone call, either at home or work, purportedly from a District Court. These messages should be ignored as they have not been authorised by the District Court.

In each case the intended victim is asked to press a number on the phone and is transferred to a call centre, who then forwards them to another person. In a number of reported cases, that scammer has claimed to be Col Dyson from the Fraud Squad.


Meanwhile, any members of the public with information about the scam are urged to contact detectives via Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. Information can be provided anonymously and will be treated in the strictest confidence.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The 123 Meme Ends Here

My creative energies have been sucked dry by my work schedule so I haven't been blogging much or spending too much time on the internet, aside from hanging out at The Wormwood Society. I still owe Barbara a post, but for now, this one's nice and easy.

The 123 Meme:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open it to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

Damien over at After Dark My Sweet tagged me, but since so many people have done this meme already, I'm going to be a complete rebel against society and not tag anyone else.


"It turned out that the bar hadn't ordered the correct glassware for a Boston shaker, so this guy had just improvised. Even when the right glasses arrived, he decided to keep using the two metal pieces. Nothing wrong with that--it displays showmanship and imagination."

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Movie Marathon

With my head full of cotton wool and my nose full of mucus, I've had the last couple of days to catch up on a bunch of movies. Reading's been too hard for this noggin, but I seem to have a little energy for writing just now, so what better time could there be to throw some movie thoughts down onto the blogosphere.

28 Days Later

Took me a long time to get round to seeing this. Aside from the poor film quality, this movie was a well realised update of the classic zombie flick. A little less cliched than Dawn Of The Dead, and a little less fun for it, but still the usual great look at how people survive in horrific situations.

28 Weeks Later

One of the reasons I'd put off seeing this for so long was that I wanted to see the prequel first and two movies at once only works well when I'm laid up on the couch stuffed full of tissues. For this moment, this is my favourite zombie movie of all time. Not that I've seen all of them, but it was mind-opening to see a movie take on what happens when society rebuilds itself after a holocaust, rather than just the descent into it. Great tensions throughout and a believable vision of how badly humans handle anything important.


Great to see a movie present a mostly balanced look at all sides of an international issue, but still a little too clear cut for my liking. And I wish Jake Gyllenhaal had a few more dimensions than just a blank worn out stare.

No Country For Old Men

Beautifully shot and acted, paced with a brilliant balance between the stillness of wide open spaces and the tension of action. Has one of my most favourite bad guys in the cinema of late. It also never tired me when it took the time to flesh out character details that weren't necessarily relevant to plot.

I Am Legend

I'm still yet to read the book, but this film delivered far more than I expected. Will Smith did a great job of holding the screen with no one but a dog and some mannequins to play off. It was also great to see a sci-fi/horror movie that didn't morph quickly into an action flick after the main ideas were presented. I took the extra time to watch the alternate ending and I think I prefer it. On the one hand, it's a little soppy, but it's also far less of a resolution, not bothering to tie up threads that didn't need it.

The Descent

This is right up there with Wolf Creek as some of the finest horror I've seen. Takes its time building the tension and claustrophobia but held me all the way. Great to see a group of women focusing on the task at hand rather than a group coupling off into likely love interests. And that's because the prologue did a great job of setting up that relationship tension, without having to waste time on it while we deal with the horrors that unfold. Strangely, these last two movies have similar looking monsters, but I much preferred how this movie only used CG when it had to.


I saw this earlier in the day, when I was feeling more lethargic, but it perked me right up from the get-go. Fuck me, I haven't had this much fun watching a film in ages. Some wildly implausible situations are completely forgiven by the tongue that's been super glued to the inside of the director's cheek. Killer soundtrack and hilarious action throughout, this is the film Shoot Em Up only wished it could have been. Loved the 80s videogame reference too!

Other stand-outs I've seen recently but not in the last few days have been Michael Clayton, Syriana, The Lookout, Last King Of Scotland, Fast Food Nation, Fur, and Fido. Haven't got the cojones to go into them right now, but they're all movies that have stuck to the inside of my skull and might never let go, for one reason or another.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Snapshot Interview

At the end of 2007, Karen Chisholm (of the Aust Crime Fiction weblog), Damien Gay (of Crime DownUnder) and Perry Middlemiss (of Matilda) decided a similar snapshot of Australian crime fiction was required.

Over the past couple of months these three have conducted a number of small, five-question interviews with a wide variety of Australian crime fiction writers and will begin publishing them across the three weblogs, starting Monday March 3, 2008.

If you are at all interested in the current state of Australian crime fiction, you'll find this series very entertaining and, hopefully, illuminating.

This is where you can read my interview, and here are all of the interviews.

It's especially worth reading my interview because I mention the existence of two dimensional poo.

Monday, March 31, 2008

CrimeSpace Short Story Competition Results 2008

We have now come to the end of the judging period for CrimeSpace's inaugural short story competition. From a total of thirty-two entries, the pre-judging team arrived at a shortlist that was passed on to the final panel of judges.

From there, the winning three were chosen by this year's panel, made up of authors Katherine Howell, Stuart MacBride, and Sandra Ruttan, as well as Crimespree Magazine's Jon Jordan.

The theme of 'Australia' proved an interesting one, in that most of the entries weren't written by Aussies. Some entrants used their internet prowess and social networking skills to flesh out the cultural details, where others settled for a mention of beer.

Click through to the results to find out who won.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I Was Born In The Wrong Decade

I'm sure this would have been cheaper in the late 30s. Right now, I'd have to kill for it.

I'm thinking about it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tom Waits: Down In The Hole

The song that gave this blog its title.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Hard-Hitting Poets Arrested For THE LINEUP

"...every word has purpose: to plant clues, reveal character, move toward resolution."
Gerald So

Edited by Gerald So of Thrilling Detective, with Patrick Shawn Bagley, R. Narvaez, and Anthony Rainone

Including the hard-hitting poets Patrick Shawn Bagley, Ken Bruen, Sarah Cortez, Graham Everett, Daniel Hatadi, Daniel Thomas Moran, R. Narvaez, Robert Plath, Misti Rainwater-Lites, Stephen D. Rogers, A.E. Roman, Sandra Seamans, Gerald So, KC Trommer

In paperback spring 2008 from www.lulu.com - $6.50

Get the lowdown at poemsoncrime.blogspot.com

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

An Absinthe-Minded Journal Begins

Around seven years ago, a good friend who played the oud came to my house with a strange bottle that he proclaimed as ‘absinthe’. I’d never heard of the drink before but was pleased to discover its illegal status. So even though he played a girly Turkish instrument that looked like strings on a watermelon, I did my best to conjure the spirit of Keith Richards as my friend popped the bottle open.

Daniel Hatadi, March 2008

I never thought I'd stoop so low as to quote myself in my own post, but today it has some worthwhile relevance.

For those of you that may have been watching certain photos appear on my Flickr account, you may have realised that an obsession centred around that fabled green liquid known as 'absinthe' has been building not so slowly in my soon to be feeble mind.

To ensure that I remember this time when the world seemed so simple and innocent, I've begun a journal of my absinthe-minded adventures. It will be published on a semi-regular basis over at absinthe.com.au. To read it in full you will have to subscribe, but it's free and they don't use your details for anything nefarious.

The first article is up now: An Absinthe-Minded Journal Begins

Friday, March 14, 2008

Cobra And Scorpion Whiskey

Who would have thought a product like this could come out of a sweet and innocent country like Thailand?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Happy 1st Birthday To CrimeSpace

When I started CrimeSpace on March 4th 2007, I didn't see it living past the six month mark. I certainly didn't see it hitting over 1000 members or winning any awards either. I just saw a hole in the crime fiction internet universe and wanted to fill it. I'm such a boy.

To celebrate CrimeSpace's 1st birthday, I've given the site a revamp.

Since I'm feeling nostalgic, I thought I'd assemble a list of memorable CrimeSpace moments:

Welcome To Crimespace: The very first post, still a good summary of what this place has become.

The Bar: Before the forum was split up into categories, this post served as a place for people to introduce themselves.

Daniel Hatadi: Posted by Ken Bruen, he doesn't mince words. I'm still yet to make it to America, and it looks like I won't be hitting a convention this year, but I will be in LA and NY in September so I'm sure I'll be organising to meet some of you fine folks at CrimeSpace.

The Must-Reads: I've been meaning to compile a list from this thread for some time, but it's easy to forget since it was so long ago. Hopefully this will make me remember.

JESUS!!!: Quite possibly the most fun post ever put on CrimeSpace, almost everyone felt the need to chip in with ideas on how to react when a severed head landed at your feet.

Are Libraries Unethical?: The only post I've ever had to close replies to, this would have to win the competition for Most Flameworthy. I'm happy to say that this is one rare exception to the general niceness of all the people on board this web-shaped ship.

What are you currently reading?: As far as I know, the longest running thread of discussion, this one's a classic that gets reinvented every month or so. Matter of fact, it's about time to start it up again.

How important in grammar?: I always assumed that the mistake in the subject heading was supposed to illustrate the point, but now I'm not so sure.

Is BSP Really Necessary?: The most difficult topic for me to find a nice balance between for CrimeSpace, this thread is where a lot of my early policies were formed. Since they came about from member discussion, I feel safe in saying that CrimeSpace has a good balance between promotion and community.

Now if only I could blow out this candle.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Australian Crime Fiction Snapshots

From Crime Down Under:

Back in April 2005 Ben Peek, on his weblog The Urban Sprawl Project, undertook to interview as many Australian speculative fiction writers as he could and to publish those interviews over the course of a week. Each interview was only short, some five questions in all, and was aimed primarily at getting a brief look at the author's latest work, what they were currently working on, and what they thought of the then current state of the speculative fiction field in Australia. He called it the "2005 Snapshot".

In August 2007, the ASif! (Australian SpecFic in focus) crew, along with a guest or two, decided to follow Peek's lead and came up with their own 2007 Snapshot. They finished up interviewing 83 authors, up from the 43 in Peek's original.

At the end of 2007, Karen Chisholm (of the Aust Crime Fiction weblog), Damien Gay (of Crime DownUnder) and Perry Middlemiss (of Matilda) decided a similar snapshot of Australian crime fiction was required.

Over the past couple of months these three have conducted a number of small, five-question interviews with a wide variety of Australian crime fiction writers and will begin publishing them across the three weblogs, starting Monday March 3, 2008.

If you are at all interested in the current state of Australian crime fiction, you'll find this series very entertaining and, hopefully, illuminating.

At some point during the month, my own SnapShot interview will appear at one of these venues, so keep a look out for it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Day To Be Proud Of Australia

I'm not a very political or patriotic person, but over the last year or so I've found that changing. Maybe I've reached an age where a lot of the things I used to find important are no longer so. Or maybe since I've been writing I've become more aware of the media and have been exposed to political issues as a consequence. Either way, today I can truthfully say that I am proud to be Australian. I am proud of our country and its current leader, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Because today, our country said sorry.

On behalf of the whole nation, our Prime Minister said sorry to the Stolen Generation, the indigenous children who were taken from their families and assimilated. The children who had their cultural identities erased over a number of generations, who had their genetic code diluted, who had all this done to them without a choice, by way of law and policy.

To a child, to a lover, to a friend, to family, saying sorry doesn't erase the hurts of the past. But it does say that the healing can begin, that the torn relationships can be mended with time. Saying sorry doesn't change anything, but it does send a clear message of understanding and vindication.

It's a simple thing to say, but for an entire country to do so is an astounding and mature action. So, today, February 13th 2008, I can say without a doubt that I am proud of my country.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Nothing Wrong With Him That $100 Won't Fix

One of these days I hope to have a book published that has multiple copies in the library. Not just for the recognition, or the ability to casually lead friends to the correct aisle in the library when we're all getting together for drinks in the library ... okay, maybe not. But there is a chance I'll get paid, thanks to the Public Lending Right program.

The Age newspaper tells me that I can earn $1.47 per book, although it's not clear how that relates to the number of times it's been borrowed. Looking through the list, Matthew Reilly is doing pretty well for himself, but then he's doing far, far better in the bookstores. I'd venture to say he was paid the highest amount from the PLR program, at somewhere between "$80,000- $89,999."

But out of the "$7.090 million in the 2006-07 financial year" that went to publishers and "8866 eligible writers", I have a feeling I may slot into the largest bracket "of authors, 2466," who "got only between $100 and $199."

Things could be worse, though. I might earn less than $50 a year, which would be no skin off anyone's back, since "Amounts of less than $50 are not payable."

Lucky I'm in this for the love of it.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Lineup: An Anthology Of Poems On Crime

Gerald So, Patrick Shawn Bagley, Richie Narvaez, and Anthony Rainone have combined forces to put together an anthology of poems with a hardboiled or noir bent. Coming out some time this spring (Australia's autumn/fall). Read more about the project at its new blog, The Lineup.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Spinetingler Awards For 2007

Spinetingler Magazine has announced its new set of awards, the Spinetinglers, for 2007. So run over and check out the list of winners and nominees, as well as the latest issue of Spinetingler, and have a gander at Sandra Ruttan's new crime fiction conglomerate, At Central Booking.

Since this is an online award, in lieu of a physical award ceremony, I am happy to accept the award for Special Services To The Industry, for my work at Crimespace.

After stumbling up towards the stage, clutching the award in my hands, and tapping on the microphone (creating a flurry of feedback), I will now thank the people who helped me.

Sandra Ruttan, for running the awards as well as helping to give Crimespace the push start it needed. Also, Stephen Blackmoore, Christa M. Miller, Angie Johnson-Schmit, Bill Crider, Anne Frasier, Karen Chisolm, M. G. Tarquini, Patricia Abbott, and John Rickards were all a great help in the early days of Crimespace. Whether they provided content in the shape of interesting forum topics or gave helpful feedback, they set the tone that the community would follow.

I'd also like to especially thank my friend Robert Sakaluk, whose super-hardcore Illustrator skills gave me the logo in its present form.

And then there's the fine people at Ning: Gina, Phil and Athena especially, who have all contributed to making Ning a seriously major league service that still feels like a grassroots operation.

Many thanks also to all of the 1200 or so members that have joined up since March 2007 and made Crimespace such a great community.

Lastly, I'd like to thank Mary, for putting up with my Crimespace-related insanities.

Congratulations to all the other winners and nominees.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Yoga: The First Night

When I fully commit to something, I usually don't mess around. So after my last visit to the sleep specialist I decided to enrol in a beginner's course in yoga, the first night of which was last night.

As the hour drew near, I found myself thinking that I'd rather stay home and watch a movie or read a book or play some video games. I was feeling tired as per usual and I started resenting the fact that I'd enrolled in the course. I thought that yoga was a new age bit of wankery that only materialistic Westerners indulged in, etc. This is the kind of stupid thinking I go through when I'm feeling nervous.

All that faded away once I was inside the studio and on my mat, in the front row of a group of about thirty people. What I quickly discovered was that there was no time to think about body image issues or how silly I looked doing the poses or even anything about the world outside the yoga class. I was simply too busy trying to keep up with the instructor.

And she really knew her stuff. She had a smooth, pleasant voice, didn't stutter or mumble, and filled in the empty gaps between poses with general yoga tips. She took us through Mountain, Tree, Child, Boat and Corpse pose, all of which have Sanskrit names that I won't bother looking up just now, but the English names are all very apt. I especially liked Tree and Mountain pose because, for whatever reason, they gave me little tingles of endorphins, and Vishnu knows I need them.

I sweated, I grunted, I did my best to stretch and concentrate on breathing with my belly, both of which I discovered I am terrible at. My legs are as inflexible as a Romanian grandmother (and I know this, because I have one), my nose lets in air like clenched buttocks don't, and my belly can't make up its mind whether it wants to go in or out.

But none of this mattered. I was using my body and it felt good.

The class took a total of 75 minutes, but it felt like a lot less. As we came to the end, candlelight replaced artificial light and New Age music took over from the voice of the instructor (or should that be teacher?). I lay on my back and closed my eyes, trying desperately to forget about the rest of the world as an assistant came round and dumped an eye pillow on my face. She must have seen me flinch, because I heard her warn the next person along.

The music faded out and a gentle gong rang out across the room; once, twice. We all sat up and while the teacher told us the meaning of namaste, the gong fell off its stand and banged against the wall. Normally this would have been cause for a gasp or a small scream, but in our relaxed state, no one seemed to notice, and when the teacher told us to pretend it didn't happen, we had already forgotten about it.

Even though I'm not entirely sure I'll stick with it after I complete the eight week course, my first experience with yoga is definitely a positive one, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the course.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Saga Of Sleep: Part III

(Part I and II).

A few weeks after the overnight sleep study, I returned to the sleep specialist for a diagnosis.

He was a young Asian man with an expensive and modern grey suit, a tasteful wedding band on a manicured finger, and a habit of shaking hands and telling you to call him by his first name. This appeared to be a technique for getting me to feel at ease, to make me feel that he was paying special attention to me and my case.

Yeah, I felt a little like Philip Marlowe, walking into that place.

Once we sat down, Frank pulled out the three sheets of data collated from my sleep study and started taking me through the various sections. Skip the next paragraph if numbers and details make your eyes glaze over.

From a total of 6 hours, I slept 4.7, with frequent arousals, 34 of which were associated with respiratory events. These little lapses are known as hypopneas, which simply means shallow breathing. None of them lasted for more than 30 seconds, and my oxygen levels never dropped below 90%. My brain activity was high throughout the night and my deepest stages of sleep, including dreamtime or REM sleep, were all below par, but still present. Overall, sleep efficiency was down to 78.1%, but maintenance was at a nice and safe 96.1%.

Diagnosis: mild obstructive sleep apnea.

What does this mean? Well, since my sleep for the night was always bound to be worse than normal, the doctor's opinion was that there wasn't much wrong with me. Nothing that losing 10% of my body weight wouldn't fix. He also gave me a nasal spray to try and lessen the shallow breathing. After nutting out some of these details, I asked the doctor for a copy of all the data.

This took a total of ten minutes and a cost of $100. The doctor also said that there was no need for me to visit him again.

I walked out of the doctor's office into the tepid air of the city of Sydney and breathed in the morning pollution. A wave of anger, frustration, and helplessness swept through me. After all that, I still slept like crap and that doctor didn't give a rat's arse if I did or didn't. My oxygen levels were fine and that was all that mattered to him. This sleep problem was my fault, because I'd allowed myself to put on some kilos. My fault because I had bad sleep habits and hadn't put enough effort into setting up a good sleep environment.

My fault because I thought too much.

Not being one to hold a grudge or indulge in excess bitterness (and also never blog about it), I let this feeling swoop through me and move away. There was good news here. I didn't have a serious problem in the shape of life-threatening sleep apnea. I didn't have to spend a grand or so on a bedside air pump and mask. All I had to do was lose some weight, try out this nasal spray for a month, take up some more regular exercise, and see what I could do about my sleep habits and environment.

I won't lie, my sleep problems have affected my relationship, but after telling this news to Mary, I found that she was right on top of things, and that means the world to me. She suggested I try walking with her in the evenings or taking up yoga. She said let's get a new bed, one that will move less. And avoid caffeine, eat better, etc.

Thanks for being there, babe.

So now I've booked into a beginner's course in yoga, at the same place that Mary frequents. We've checked out some futons and have almost settled on one. I've taken the nasal spray as directed for a few nights now and I find myself sneezing or having what I call 'throat hiccups' much less as I fall asleep. I'm trying to develop a better wind down routine before bed, including a cut-off hour for computer related activities (sorry, Mr. Xbox).

I'm not totally convinced that doing all this is going to help. The issue of brain activity is still there, and I'm wondering if there's a touch of Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome going on. But I'm on the case, I've narrowed down some areas to attack, and I'm looking forward to having more energy during the day.

We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Saga Of Sleep: Part II

(Part I).

My sleep study ended up being scheduled the night before my work Christmas party, so in an effort to make it all easier on myself, I took the day off work.

I turned up to the sleep clinic with a duffel bag filled with pyjamas, books (Tana French's IN THE WOODS and Duane Swierczynski's THE WHEELMAN), a pillow, and extra underwear (you never know). After a relaxing check-in where the nurse did her best to sooth my troubled soul with the mention of a catheter, I was led to my room in the sleep study ward.

St. Lukes is somewhere between a hospital and a bed-and-breakfast joint, an older building that isn't the usual hospital maze but is still filled with the expected equipment (and thankfully not the usual smells). My room had a semi-obscured view of the buildings around Potts Point, with a picturesque backdrop of the city to flesh things out.

Not long after settling in, the first assistant of the night showed up to tell me the plan for the stay. First, dinner; hospital style, followed by the initial stage of hooking me up to the equipment. Later in the evening, the final stage of the hookup would leave me semi-chained to my bed, so I was advised to make plenty of trips to the toilet beforehand. So, no catheter, but I did have the option of a bottle if needed.

The first stage of hookup made me feel a little like I was going to one of those hairdressers that specialise in rastafarian-style dreadlocks, although this lot had a decidedly cyber influence. Then I had a couple of hours to kill so I paced around and took some photos. I'm especially proud of my Blue Steel look. Either proud or embarrassed, I'm not sure.

Stage two of my Borg-like transformation saw me hooked up to various equipment that measured parameters such as EEG (brainwaves), EMG (leg movements), airflow, and oxygen levels. At this point I settled in for a good few chapters of IN THE WOODS, which was far less heart-pounding than THE WHEELMAN. Around midnight I wound down enough to switch off the light and attempt to find a comfortable position with cables coming from my head, legs, finger, and nose.

I slept like crap, of course, for an estimated total of three hours before I had to wake at the ungodly time of 6am. Some exciting moments throughout the night included taking the tubes out of my nose to blow it, standing at an angle to fill the urine bottle, and waking up half an hour before I needed to. With the work Christmas party being an all day affair, I can say I'm very glad for the existence of bourbon and Coke.

Stay tuned to find out the results and the aftermath in Part III.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Saga Of Sleep: Part I

Michelle Shocked once sang 'sleep keeps me awake all night'. For me, that's almost true, but not quite.

See, I've had a little demon on my back for many years now, and it has been the demon of sleep. A demon that is so easy to accept, even though it's a situation that's not the greatest. So easy to just say I'm a light sleeper and be done with it. But there's more to it than that. I wake easily, find it hard to fall asleep, and my sleep is heavily affected by my environment: bed, climate, noise, movement, you name it.

But the last few months it has been particularly bad.

I've had nights and weeks where I seem to be doing everything right, keeping a good sleep pattern, staying away from caffeine, exercising, and even creating an environment where I have minimal distractions while sleeping. Thing is, even with all of this, I've had many mornings where I wake up feeling like I'm hungover, without the fun of having got there in the first place.

Doctors are people I generally avoid, but I finally decided to tackle this sleep problem once and for all a few weeks ago. I went to my local doctor, told him the situation, and had him refer me to a sleep specialist. Did some talking with this next guy and he booked me in for a sleep study, an overnight stay at a sleep clinic where they hook you up in all manner of ways and monitor your activity throughout the night. Tomorrow I'm visiting Mr. Sleep Doc again. He'll tell me what the data from the overnight stay means.

I'm betting on one of two things: I have sleep apnea, or it's all psychological. In a strange way, I hope it's the former.

But you'll have to wait to read all about it. Next part will be about my overnight stay, complete with Borg-like photos of myself.

And yes, I'm that much of a geek.

(Part II and III).