If My Dog Barked Too Much…

Hypothetically speaking, if someone complained that your dog barked too much, by dropping an anonymous, standard letter you can download off a website, in your mailbox, how would you handle that? The letter might have some obvious and lazily thought-up tips on how to reduce the allegedly annoying noise. It’s somewhat condescending (I imagine), because you have a dog and they probably don’t, so you most likely know some tricks they aren’t aware of. Whether they work is another story. Hypothetically speaking, of course. You don’t really want to door-knock the neighbourhood for fear of stirring up a hornets nest. Imagine: “I wouldn’t normally complain about a barking dog but now that you mention it…” No.

Or worse. The first communication you receive about your allegedly noisy pet is from the local council in the form of a letter to the effect of, “please shut your dog up or you could lose your dog”. Pretty scary stuff, especially if you have kids who really love their dog. But this is all hypothetical, right?

In either case how would you defend yourself? Apparently an official complaint about barking dogs around here must include approximately two weeks worth of log book entries of times when the dog was allegedly barking and a statement describing how it affects quality of life.

If you didn’t know anyone was taking note of your dog’s barking behaviour you could be left without any rebuttal, so I guess, hypothetically, in the case of receiving an anonymous letter you would owe the complainer a thank you (if you knew who they were) for at least providing the opportunity to gather your own evidence.

Okay, back to how you could mount a defence. Most likely the alleged barking is occurring when you’re not home because when you are home you can keep a lid on it, one would assume. So, how to determine when the mongrel barks while you’re out? Easy.

All you need is a laptop with a spreadsheet program and a free sound analysis program like Audacity. Use the Windows (operating system) Sound Recorder (or even Audacity itself) near an open window (glass pane) where you can hear the dog barking outside while you’re out. When you get back, save the sound file and note the start and end time of the recording in the spreadsheet. Use Audacity to find all the sounds automatically (read the manual), export the labels, import to Excel and you have a spreadsheet full of times various backyard sounds were detected. You can offset these times against the start time of the recording to get the real time-of-day for each sound detected.

The laborious part might be to go through the detected samples to verify that the sound is actually that of your dog barking. Or not. Discard any entries of birds twittering, aeroplanes flying overhead, phones and doorbells ringing, neighbours chatting, burglars farting… Link to the original sound file in your spreadsheet and you’re left with compelling evidence to counter any note-taking dog-hater prone to exaggerating their reports in order to justify their complaints.

You may also be gathering nails for your dog’s coffin. That’s why Audacity is also a good editor. But we wouldn’t go round doctoring evidence. That would be morally and legally dodgy and I won’t condone it. But if you don’t tell, I won’t. ;)

After a few weeks, I guess you will get sick of going through sound file after sound file. It will eat into your hobby time. It will eat into your family time. You might lose sleep. And not just from listening to random backyard sounds. Will there be a trigger that sends the complainer over the edge and take the next step? Will the next sound file you check contain nothing but constant barking for four hours? You will cringe, hoping the complainer was also out for the day. You check your mail for another anonymous letter upping the ante on your uncontrollable noisy beast.

But you will also breathe great sighs of relief when you come home to find a sound file five hours long with no barking whatsoever. Look forward to these. They are the key to your sanity. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

WordPress Tag – The What, Why and How of My Writing

Thank you to Goran for tagging me in this round of WordPress Tag. As a result I must answer the following questions then send out a few tags of my own.

What are you currently working on?

I have lots of experience in changing my mind when it comes to what I’m currently working on, which explains why nothing is finished. But I have tried to focus on one thing lately and other than all the distractions, that thing is The Mind Keeper. Now, I also exercise the art of changing my mind in the process of writing this piece of work. It started as a loosely related collection of short stories based on logic puzzles and similar brain teasing concepts. I have since realised that the stories themselves are linked by more than just theme. So I’ve been going through the ones I’ve written, strengthening the cross overs to provide a series of not-quite-so loosely themed stories that also have a common element in the form of a single disturbed character. Enough said.

How does your writing differ from other authors in the genre?

The genre in question is probably psychological thriller, going by the technical difference between a thriller and a mystery. I haven’t actually decided which it will be but will probably lean towards the thriller genre. In either case I think there are not so many short story collections that have a single crossover character (or maybe there are), so that might be the most unique feature of my stories.

Why do you write what you do?

Thrillers aren’t the only types of stories I write. I guess I’m still experimenting with what might be my preferred genre. Technically another novel of mine is a mystery. Yet another is more of an emotional relationship based memoir type story. Why? I guess the common theme in what I write is the psychology of the characters. I enjoy puzzling out how people might react in different situations and making it feel real.

How does your writing process work?

I’m not really a pantser. I always have a plan in mind about where the story starts and ends and usually try to stick to the script (which may change) as I go. However I don’t always write from beginning to end. I pick up any random part of the story and write what comes to mind, within the bounds of the plan in my head. Since using Scrivener this has been a lot easier to achieve and keep track of. It certainly beats wading through a Word doc to find where I need to insert a particular scene.

As for the logistics of writing, having a full time job to pay the bills, family and volunteering commitments, I’m very limited with time. Like everyone. I have a one hour train trip each way to work so I reserve the trip in for reading time and the trip home is for writing. I began doing this when I found that writing at night after everyone has gone to bed was not as productive as I would have liked (thank you, Internet!). But I still continue that effort and try to resist the distractions.

The Next Tagees

The rules of WordPress Tag, according to Goran’s post are that we must tag three other bloggers to see what they’re up to. Here are the people I’d like to tag:

  1. The current Queen of Trillers, Jordanna East.
  2. Clawing at his keys with humorous and interesting advice, Eric J Baker.
  3. Fellow Aussie aspiring writer, Jessica from Mittens Kittens Blog.

“You Can Call Me King Bee…”

Imagine you’re a 16 year old school girl living an ordinary life.

You write songs. You pour your heart in. Because you love it.

You can sing, too. So you sing your songs. You love it because they’re your songs. You wrote them. You’re singing them.

You get the songs recorded. One or two of them rocket up the charts world-wide.

You win a Grammy.

You feel pretty damn good.

Then someone like BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN covers your #1 song at his concert.

AWE. SOME!

Advance Australia Fair, by Adam Hills… or Jimmy Barnes, or…

Happy Australia Day, everyone!

Gotta love this. It’s an oldie but a goodie (you can tell because Adam looks about half his current age in this vid!). Much loved Aussie comedian Adam Hills mashes our rather solemn national anthem with a well known Aussie rock song, Jimmy Barnes’s Working Class Man, complete with Barnesy mannerisms. Classic.

For the record here’s a brilliant version of Advance Australia Fair sung by Human Nature and Julie Anthony with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.

And here is the original video for Barnesy’s Working Class Man.

Enjoy, and have a great Australia Day!

Book Review: Djinn by Laura Catherine

It’s the Australia Day Weekend! Happy Australia Day for Jan 26! To mark the occasion I will review the debut novel of an Australian author, fellow Melbournian, Laura Catherine. The following is the review I posted on Amazon. I was really pleasantly surprised by the quality of this book. Looking forward to more works from her.

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Djinn, by Melbourne author, Laura Catherine and edited by Lauren McKellar is a paranormal romance novel centring on a 17 year old girl named Kyra whose life is flipped upside-down when she is abducted by the mysterious but attractive young Will. After 16 years on the run with the man she knew as her father, she learns that her life was not exactly what she thought it was. She learns she is a Djinn, a genie-like creature with unique and unusual abilities.

Djinn Cover

Djinn Cover

Laura Catherine takes us along with Kyra as we learn about Kyra’s life in the world of the Djinn. She meets several attractive young male Djinn and romance begins to blossom. Torn between a prince and a slave, a loving mother and a mean and angry father, and friendly and hostile peers, Kyra battles the conflicts between the prejudices and strict class separation of this new society and her own feelings for the young men she meets and her belief in a society without slavery.

After taking us on a very convincing journey through the Djinn world, Laura ups the stakes with a mighty battle when pressures reach their peak, fights ensue, people die and Kyra discovers a shocking fact, providing a very effective teaser for the sequel.

Despite some small editing flaws such as missing words, this book is full of conflict, tension and teen angst and lighter moments in all the right places. Thoroughly enjoyed this book. 4 stars.

Review: Blood in the Past by Jordanna East

The following is the review I wrote for the book Blood in the Past by Jordanna East (Amazon link).

BloodInThePast-cover“Blood in the Past by Jordanna East is the prelude to a psychological thriller series, centred around three serial killers. This book introduces the three killers and touches on what makes them tick.

Jillian is a university student with a psychology major and falls for a cop who investigates the mugging of she and her flatmate. They embark on a steamy affair until…

Lyla finds her mother dead and believes she killed herself. She blames her father…

Jason’s father died trying to rescue a colleague trapped in a house fire…

Certainly well written and edited, this book draws the reader in with its dark themes and internal conflict gnawing at each of the killers’ minds as they battle their own reasons and desires for settling scores and satisfying perceived needs.

I felt the situations the three people find themselves in, and the conclusions they arrive at a little convenient. Two people might have been believable but three serial killers born of the events presented, probably approached, if not exceeded the bounds of credibility.  But that’s what you’d expect in the genre so I’m being picky. Nevertheless, and despite the book not quite giving equal exposure to all three killers, each did have their own reasons for beginning a killing spree. Lyla was arguably the most developed character and the one I found myself the most interested in. The story does make the reader wonder how they each continue on that path. I am interested to know what drives them to continue rather than stop at the first. A gripping prequel to the greater series.”

Happy Northern Winter Solstice!

And Merry Christmas and all that, too. Excuse my lateness in this festive greeting. Forgot to schedule a post and had the family over doing all the family stuff. It’s been great but getting to the computer without seeming rude was a little tricky. They’re out there watching some presents on the telly as I type. Series one of Mrs. Browne’s Boys. Feckin’ hilarious!

Saw this article on Anne Rice’s FB page about why we celebrate Christmas on December 25. Interesting. I always suspected something was amiss when my interest in astronomy and geography at a young age made me realise the Middle East gets kinda cold this time of year. Is it likely the sheep were out? I stopped researching at that point because… I dunno. I was a kid.

It seems the Romans hijacked a pagan festival related to solstice celebrations. Fair enough. I believe another reason Christmas is celebrated on 25/12/yyyy (non-US date format, ie the logical one, but that’s a whole post on its own) is because it coincides with the climax of a slowly increasing period of retail frenzy during the month of December when people go all out and spend a crap load of money on presents for their loved ones on behalf of a red-suited mythical being associated with this festive season. Another hijack.

Anyway, the most important thing about Christmas for our family is, well, family. It will be a double Christmas this year because my parents couldn’t make it down this year due to Dad’s health so we’re doing it all again on Sunday when we all go up there. We get together and celebrate good times together. This year we didn’t even go to Mass. Just wasn’t important enough for anyone any more.

I hope you all have a great day with your families!

P.S. Although not being religious, I find the music of the Christmas carol Silent Night one of the most hauntingly beautiful pieces and will always stop and listen to well performed rendition like this one by harpist Alana Conway at Melbourne’s Carols By Candlelight last night. Absolutely spellbinding. Enjoy!