NaNoWriMo 2017 Day 1: Smashing targets

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Words written today: 3,418

The daily target is 1,700 words, so I’ve well and truly smashed that – but there’s a reason. Tomorrow we have the 2017 Finder Awards, and I calculate I will have zero opportunity for writing. So I’m knocking off enough to cover the first two days.

Writing more is usually easier at the start of a NaNoWriMo project, because all the ideas you’ve been mulling in the run-up come pouring out. That said, it was a long work day and I really had to push myself to dive into writing. Got there in the end though.

NaNoWriMo 2017: Let the journey begin!

So once again I’m taking part in NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as trying to write a complete novel of at least 50,000 words in 30 days. I have successfully completed NaNoWriMo three times before, but I’ve failed nearly as often, including last year. Nonetheless, I’ll be taking a crack at it again in 2017.

I have an idea, I’ve blocked out two hours in my calendar every day (with extra sessions on days when that just seems not doable), and I’m excited to begin. I’ll be posting daily updates here, mainly because I want a degree of public accountability and it’s too hard to fit everything into a single tweet.

To reach 50,000 words, I need to write 1,700 words every day. So I’ll be tracking how much I write each day and what my total is. And I’ll be offering random observations about the process. Let the novel drafting commence! (Well, it can commence on November 1. Starting earlier would be cheating.)

Undies ads in 1960 and today

Reminder: the times, they change. In 1960, this mens underwear advertisement caused a sensation in New Zealand, where apparently the site of so much bare flesh was so scandalous it was initially rejected for broadcast. It was allowed on appeal.

Jump forward a quarter-century to 1984 and you could show far more skin with no problem at all, as this (still) vintage Bonds ad demonstrates:

Add another 25 years and the sky is apparently the limit:

My time as a “scary girl” on Doctor Who

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Sylvester McCoy was Doctor Who in 1987, when Julie Collins appeared as Leader of the Red Kangs in the TV show. Source: BBC

Julie Collins, University of New England

In 1987, I appeared as Fire Escape, the Leader of the Red Kangs, in a Doctor Who tale of dystopian mayhem: Paradise Towers. In a dilapidated Tower Block, colour-coded gangs of “Kangs” — delinquent teenage girls — ran amok, whilst behind closed doors, sweet and endearing old ladies lured unsuspecting visitors into their apartment for tea, so that they could eat them.

The Kangs became allies of the Doctor — number seven, played by Sylvester McCoy — who went on to defeat the Hitler-like totalitarian Chief Caretaker, played by veteran British actor Richard Briers. The fans both loved and hated this story. The acting was at times way over the top. But on the plus side, Paradise Towers, a storyline written by Stephen Wyatt, contained great social commentary, critiquing the social upheaval of Thatcher’s Britain. The Kangs were seriously “scary girls”, and the streets were full of them.

The recent news that a woman — English actor Jodie Whittaker – will be the 13th Doctor Who has got me thinking about my time on the set of this classic show. Whittaker’s appointment to the role has been hailed by many and criticised by some purists. I think that it is about time a Wise Woman took control of the Tardis, even if the Tardis does not always do as it’s told these days. Reflecting on my brief time on the show, it is interesting that while women such as the Kangs were feisty, the Doctor’s female companions were there mostly to help show how clever he was.

The author as Fire Escape in 1987. Source: author provided

My own personal association with Doctor Who — apart from hiding behind the couch as a very small person — began in the mid 1980s, when my partner at the time, Mark Strickson, was cast as Turlough, companion to the fifth Doctor, played by Peter Davison. I was so jealous! But over the next few years, I probably spent almost as much time on the set as Mark did. This was the era when John Nathan Turner (known as JNT) was the producer and the series was probably at its most economical.

Production was fast and furious. But despite the pressures, I was welcome on location and in the studio. I watched from the sidelines and even from the control room. One day when I entered the studio, the Daleks were there. They were really very scary, even though you knew the voices were coming from four small and elderly gentlemen sitting at a table in the corner with large microphones.

When I eventually got the call to audition for my own story on Doctor Who, it was unlike any audition I’d been to. Instead of sitting across a desk, having a quiet chat and perhaps reading a few lines of script, which was the norm, JNT and the director, Nicholas Mallett, had overturned the furniture and I was asked to improvise a life and death battle.

Working on Paradise Towers was hard work. You had to stay focussed; if at 10pm, your concentration was about to lapse, the production team was unlikely to retake a shot to fix up your performance.

One of the episodes in which Fire Escape appeared.

This was only Sylvester’s second outing as the Doctor, and he was quite nervous at times but his background as a stand up comic helped — and his wry sense of humour came to define his portrayal.

I met many of the Doctors over the years: the quietly dignified Pat Troughton; the charming Jon Pertwee; the ascerbic Tom Baker; the very kind Peter Davison; and the flamboyant Colin Baker.

In recent years, I also met Paul McGann, the eighth Doctor, who appeared in the movie, and he told me a story that shows how the character has evolved over the years.

The Doctor began his existence as a typical white, upper middle class, patriarchal male. While the casting of Peter Davison in 1981 sent shock waves through the BBC — I mean how could you have a young Doctor? — he was still the wise and nicely spoken patriarch.

Paul McGann as Doctor Who in 1996. Source: BBC

McGann told me that when he was cast as Doctor Who, in 1996, he suggested that he play him as a Northerner in a leather jacket. But the producers insisted he play the Doctor as an Edwardian gentleman.

Yet in 2005, Christopher Eccleston became the ninth Doctor — as a Northener in a leather jacket. The Doctor was no longer quite so posh.

Peter Capaldi who played the Doctor from 2013 until now, might be seen as a return to the old model — the mature patriarch — apart from the fact he is Scottish. And yet Capaldi is quite different, more reflective, more self doubting. Ironically, considering the Doctor is not human, this incarnation seems more human and in need of support from his companions. For this reason, he is my favourite Superhero. The Doctor is in a sense Everyman and therefore, Everywoman.

The idea that Time Lords can change genders has already been established, and the Doctors can remember all their previous incarnations, so I do not think the change to a female Doctor will be earth shattering. Maybe Doctor number 14 will be a person of colour, that would be exciting.

The ConversationPostscript: After appearing in four Doctor Who episodes, the author went on to study zoology and do a PhD in ecological humanities … as you do.

Julie Collins is Lecturer in Indigenous studies at University of New England. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Gusworld note: how could I resist republish an account of Doctor Who from a fellow UNE survivor?

Paul Young sings Love Of The Common People, 2017-style

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Ah, nostalgia. Paul Young looks and sounds a bit different in 2017 than he did in 1983, when I first heard this magnificent song. To be fair, so do I. The fact that Paul Young’s range has shrunk isn’t news to me, since I learned that when I obsessively stalked the Here & Now Australia tour back in 2003.

Anyway, make of it what you will. This was filmed at Butlin’s Minehead in June this year, detail freaks.

Full List Of 2016 IT Journalism Awards Winners #Lizzies

Yay, the Lizzies are here! I’ll be updating this from around 7pm this evening to note the winners and highly commended for the 15th Annual ACS IT Journalism Awards as they’re announced. As is often the case, many people have multiple nominations, so it will be a tight contest. Good luck everyone!

WINNER: Hayley Williams, Krishan Sharma
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Corrine Reichert, Rae Johnston, Seamus Byrne, Angus Kidman

WINNER: Larissa Bricis
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Elizabeth Barry, Hayley Williams

Alex Choros
Amanda Yeo
Julian Rizzo-Smith
Kenneth Tsang
Luke Lancaster
Tegan Jones

WINNER: Lucy O’Brien
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Mark Serrels, Richard Moss

Alex Walker
Amanda Yeo
Chris Stead
David Milner
Hayley Williams
Jeremy Ray
Luke Reilly
Seamus Byrne

WINNER: Max Mason
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Petroc Wilton, Claire Reilly

Allie Coyne
Campbell Simpson
Corinne Reichert
James Pinnell
Leon Spencer
Rohan Pearce
Ry Crozier
Supratim Adhikari

WINNER: Patrick Gray
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Darren Pauli, Claire Reilly

Allie Coyne
Asha McLean
Chris Duckett
David Braue
Jeremy Kirk
Juha Saarinen
Yolanda Redrup

WINNER: Nick Ross
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Petroc Wilton, Kenneth Tsang

Alex Choros
David Braue
Jeremy Kirk
Leigh Stark
Peter Zaluzny
Rae Johnston
Simon Sharwood

WINNER: David Swan

Brendon Foye
David Braue
Hafizah Osman
Harry Tucker
Holly Morgan
Leon Spencer
Samira Sarraf
Simon Sharwood
Yolanda Redrup

WINNER: Mark Serrels
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Claire Reilly, Chris Jager

Adam Turner
Chris Griffith
Jessica Sier
Malcolm Adler
Mark Pesce
Matthew Sainsbury
Paul Smith
Peter Wells

WINNER: Claire Reilly, Marc Fennell

Adam Turner
Angus Kidman
Ariel Bogle
Chris Griffith
Claire Connelly
James Riley
Matthew Sainsbury
Paul Smith

HIGHLY COMMENDED: iTnews, Australian Financial Review

ARN, Business Insider Australia, CIO Australia, Communications Day, , Lifehacker, PC World, The Australian, ZDNet

WINNER: Paul Smith
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Brad Howarth, Ry Crozier

Allie Coyne
Ariel Bogle
George Nott
Jennifer O’Brien
Paris Cowan
Paul Wallbank
Tess Bennett

WINNER: iTnews

ARN, Australian Financial Review, Business Insider Australia, Communications Day, CRN, EFTM,, Gizmodo Australia, Kotaku Australia, Lifehacker, The Australian, Which-50 Media, ZDNet

WINNER: Claire Reilly

Allie Coyne
Chris Pash
Corinne Reichert
David Swan
Max Mason
Paul Smith
Petroc Wilton
Rohan Pearce
Ry Crozier

WINNER: Simon Sharwood

Alex Kidman
Angus Kidman
Campbell Simpson
Geoff Quattromani
Hayley Williams
Krishan Sharma
Luke Lancaster
Rae Johnston
Ros Page
Seamus Byrne

WINNER: The Australian

Business Insider Australia, Channel 7, Djuro Sen, CHOICE, , EFTM,, Game Informer, Gizmodo Australia, Lifehacker, PC World/Good Gear Guide, Pickr, The Gadget Grill, WhistleOut Australia, Women Love Tech

WINNER: Alex Kidman
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Leigh Stark, Trevor Long

Chris Griffith
Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson
Nic Healey
Nick Broughall
Nick Ross
Simon Sharwood
Stephen Fenech


Rocket Chainsaw, CNET,,, Game Informer, Good Game (ABC TV), Hyper Magazine, IGN, Kotaku Australia, Lifehacker, PC World & Good Gear Guide, Point & Clickbait, Press Start Australia, Stevivor, The Australian, Vooks, Digitally Downloaded

WINNER: Bec Waddy, Bethesda / Sony

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Everyone else!

Angela Coombes, NEC
David Wolf, Closer Communications
Jenna Woods, Weber Shandwick
Matthew Wu, Media & Capital Partners
Rebecca Blasina, Closer Communications

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Progress Bar, Gloss

Ausdroid Media, Dominic Sharoo /, Frederique Bros, Gloss, Progress Bar, Rocket Chainsaw, Stevivor, Tech Guide



All the 2017 Lizzies nominees with more than one nomination

Woo-hoo, it’s almost time for the 15th Annual ACS IT Journalism awards, also known as the Lizzies, recognising the best tech journos in Australia. You can check out the full list of finalists here. I’m thrilled to have made the cut for two of them: Best Consumer Technology Journalist and Best Technology Issues Journalist. Tech is only a small part of my writing life these days, so it’s nice to have some skin in the game.

As in previous years (2016, 2015), I’ve summarised who has received the most finalist slots. (And no, this isn’t self-serving – I only just made the list!) Here’s everyone who is a finalist in more than one category:

  • 6 finalist berths: Claire Reilly
  • 5 finalist berths: Paul Smith
  • 4 finalist berths: Allie Coyne, Simon Sharwood
  • 3 finalist berths: Chris Griffith, David Braue, Hayley Williams, Petroc Wilton, Ry Crozier
  • 2 finalist berths: Adam Turner, Alex Choros, Alex Kidman, Amanda Yeo, Angus Kidman, Ariel Bogle, Campbell Simpson, Corinne Reichert, David Swan, Jeremy Kirk, Kenneth Tsang, Leigh Stark, Leon Spencer, Luke Lancaster, Mark Serrels, Matthew Sainsbury, Max Mason, Nick Ross, Rae Johnston, Rohan Pearce, Seamus Byrne, Yolanda Redrup

The amazing Claire Reilly is clearly the one to beat (and she’s competing in both the categories I’m in, dammit). In total, 31 people are finalists in more than one category, up from 24 last year. I didn’t do an analysis for the coverage awards which are given to individual titles, as there’s only a longlist for each category.

I will be live-blogging the results from the Lizzies ceremony, which kicks off at 1830 on Friday 12 May. I’ll tweet out a link with the hashtag #lizzies on the day. I can also confidently predict: I won’t win anything this year. The competition is really tight in my categories, and no-one’s allowed to win Best Dressed two years in a row. Despite that, I promise my outfit will indeed be disruptive.

United Airlines’ use of language demonstrates what a deadshit company it is

Everyone is horrified by how United Airlines has treated a paying passenger it decided to kick off a plane after he had boarded. One minor but chilling aspect of the horror? How United’s own comments abuse what language actually means to try and justify its shitty behaviour.

The two standout examples of United spin:

  • The tweet from United suggests that it had to “re-accommodate” customers. That is not what the phrase means.
  • The letter sent to staff talks about how United “denied boarding” for the passenger. As the video makes clear, he had already boarded and been assigned a seat, before some late-running crew were given priority. To suggest this equals “denying boarding” is Orwellian in its warping of reality.

No, this doesn’t suck as much as an already crappy US airline deciding to use government-funded forces to make a passenger bleed as it drags him off the plane because it’s too cheap to organise proper staff rosters. But it underscores why no sane person would ever fly with United again. Your ticket literally isn’t worth the paper it’s (possibly) printed on.

Update: the sequel apology was equally crap, including the phrase “No-one should ever be mistreated this way.” Mistreated in any other way would be OK then, right?

Update: I ended up writing a longer version of this for Lifehacker.

Cootamundra West Railway Station: how did that happen?

Another addition to the list of regional towns in NSW that once had more than one station: Cootamundra. With two hours to kill between trains in Cootamundra yesterday, I decided to check out Cootamundra West.

Cootamundra West was the first station on the branch line from Cootamundra to Lake Cargelligo, which opened in stages from 1893 to 1917. While the line had been built as far as Temora in 1893, Cootamundra West itself didn’t open until 22 March 1911, according to Given that Cootamundra’s main station is just 20 minutes walk away, it’s not entirely surprising that building a second station in town wasn’t the top priority.

The initial station must have been little more than a halt. The current building was announced in 1916 and opened in 1918. Here’s the announcement of the plans:

The double-story building (apparently now used by local community groups) is very substantial, and there’s still a signalling cabin on the platform as well.

At the time the station was constructed, trains from the branch line were not going to intersect with the main line at all. If you wanted to travel to Temora or Lake Cargelligo, Cootamundra West would be your only choice. The daily mail train usually only went as far as Temora, while services for West Wyalong and Griffith would use the line from Cootamundra West to Stockinbingal. Lake Cargelligo services always seem to have been less frequent.

The original services carried both freight and passengers in what must have been very basic trains. In 1938, diesel began replacing steam on the line and passenger-only services began. However, even before that station usage appears to have been dropping.

On 25 May 1930, the refreshment rooms were closed, with contemporary newspaper reports noting that the Temora mail train would now stop at Cootamundra West if required, but would otherwise continue on to Cootamundra’s main station.

1938 also saw a widely reported accident for the station’s gatekeeper, Mrs Williams:

One imagines Mrs Williams lived in the house that’s still adjacent to the level crossing (on the left in this picture):

In 1949, there was a proposal to convert the station building into accommodation for railway workers (reportedly, eight railway families were forced to live in tents because of a lack of housing in Cootamundra). While that didn’t happen, this suggests that even at that point the station itself was not being heavily used.

The Secretary for Railways apparently was concerned about the viability of these services by 1950, threatening to withdraw modern trains from country services if patrongage didn’t increase. Those threats don’t seem to have inspired more custom. In 1951, in a further mark of how usage of the line had deteroriated, some diesel passenger services were indeed removed, with those services reverting to steam.

In 1952, the assistant stationmaster at Cootamundra West retired after 42 years working for the railways. It’s tempting to assume that the role wasn’t replaced.

While this was once a busy double-tracked junction, it’s now just a single line. The rails for the second line have long since been removed, but some sleepers remain.

Passenger services on the line were withdrawn in 1983, and these days the main use for the line is for freight which is routed through Stockinbingal to the cross-country line to Parkes and beyond, thus keeping the main southern and western lines less congested. At Cootamundra West, congestion isn’t going to be a problem.