Monday 24 June 2024

Europe Diary - Week 1

My little family is visiting the motherland.

We are in Germany, where my wife was born and my ancestors made fine wine. The trip is a holiday, a chance to catch up with my wife's many relatives, and an opportunity for my soccer-obsessed son to see some games of the Euro Cup.

We started with relatives in Lüneburg, a really beautiful town. And we went to look at the best view in the city - from the historic water tower.

Next we were off to Berlin.

In each town hosting games of the Euro Cup, there's a Fan Zone, with giant screens to watch the games and a bevy of beer and sausage vendors. The Fan Zone in Berlin is huge, with a mile of astroturf stretching back from the Brandenberg Gate.

We stopped in for a burger at Five Guys in Berlin. The food was excellent, but very expensive. They had their supply of local potatoes in the middle of the shop, with details of the farm they came from.

Our next stop was Düsseldorf, which sits on the Rhein River, to see our first match.

We originally entered a kind of ticket lottery, which got us three seats to see Turkey vs Chechnia. But my wife wanted more, so she joined the French team fan club and got double passes to some French games.

So in that Dusseldorf, my wife and son went to see France play, while I wandered around in the city. Down by the docks it was crowded with huge groups of various nationalities, drunkenly singing their anthems and local tunes.

This next guy knows how to party! Drink with a bird on your head or why even bother?

Allow me to translate. Frog vomit is the drink du jour.

This is a shopping centre in Dusseldorf, with over a thousand trees planted on it. You've got to love the design.

We had a brief stop in Celle, my wife's home town. It was the last day of school and the school-leavers had painted each other in bright colours and got brought into town on tractor wagons!

Leipzig was next, where we arrived at the biggest train station in the world! This is just the front entry.

It's been a market town since Roman times, so the town square is huge.

While my wife and son hit the next French game, I went to the Fan Zone and rode the Ferris wheel.

I watched the game for a while, but I'll be frank, it was boring. The atmosphere is fabulous but the sport itself is often very dull indeed - 90 minutes of ultra careful play and no scoring.

There are some nice sculptures in Leipzig though. It feels like a very wealthy town.

Leipzig is also home to the Monument to the Battle of the Nations, or Völkerschlachtdenkmal.

It commemorates Napoleon's defeat by half a dozen armies in the largest open battle that had ever been seen on the face of the earth.

It was also built to encourage German pride, so the images are very powerful - brave soldiers, holy knights, proud mothers uplifting their children to glory. And the scale of it it amazing.

This is the viewing platform. Behind me is a historic cemetery that looks like a castle. And behind that in the far distance is a nuclear power station!

But it's a long way back down.

As our final stop in Leipzig, my wife suggested an ice cream Cafe. This one has been around since before the wall was built! And the sundaes were sensational.

Next, we're heading back to Berlin. We've also got more soccer games to see and a side trip to Paris!

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Friday 10 May 2024

About me

Hi there, I'm Joel Rheinberger, author and broadcaster.

I have seven books you might want to check out:

ZeitHeist - after the ecological apocalypse, the banks and corporations that ruined the planet build an island paradise for themselves. And a group of Aussie thieves are hired to crack the place open.

The Poppy Lu Series - a young pilot learns to fly without a plane and joins the world of super heroes. Three books so far: (1) Suddenly Super, (2) Surprisingly Super and (3) Seriously Super.

The Hopping Ghost - a wee Scottish vampire finds herself in deep trouble in 1920's Shanghai.

Chick Magnet - a crime caper with a number-crunching assassin tracking down stolen drugs.

Discipline - a modern fantasy about an apprentice to a black magician.

When I'm not writing, I talk for a living on ABC Radio. (But for the record, this blog is purely personal.)

Some of my interviews get played right around the network, so if you live in Australia you've probably heard my voice. Often doing silly things, like getting naked on the radio or brushing a dead whale's teeth.

I also created and presented a long-running ABC podcast called Nerdzilla, which was about comics, computers, sci-fi, super heroes, games, gadgets, and geeks.

Before my time at the ABC, I was a copywriter. I won some awards for it, including a couple of New York Medals.

When I'm not typing or talking, I play games with my friends and teach Loong Choo Kung Fu.

I live in Hobart, truly the most beautiful city in the world, with my equally beautiful wife Iris and my son Louis.

You can find me on Twitter.

I have an author page on Facebook too.

I even post on Mastadon noe and then.

And I would love to email you! Please join my list. 

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Sunday 5 May 2024

ZeitHeist Launch!

I officially launched my latest book in Hobart this weekend.

It was a part of the Indie Authors Book Fair, so we had dozens of self-published authors like myself selling our wares. Here we are:

As it was an official launch, I got to make a speech and attempted to explain the origins of ZeitHeist:

"Hello everyone,

Thank you for coming. Thank you to Georgie and Mark for organising this day. It’s great to be here amongst my fellow writers.

I’m Joel Rheinberger. I’m usually a broadcaster on ABC Radio. But today I’m here to launch this - my new science fiction novel ZeitHeist.

I fell in love with sci fi as a kid, because the future was just so cool.

People flying amazing space ships, exploring weird new worlds, meeting freaky aliens, upgrading their bodies with awesome cyborg parts, and most of all - Pew! Pew! - They had cool sci fi weapons.

And cool futuristic stuff was enough, for a kid.

But as I got older, and especially as I started writing, I could see that great sci-fi is not about cool stuff from the future, it’s about real stuff from the now.

It’s about the seeds of the future being planted now and the things that might grow from them.

I don’t know if this book is great. That is a decision for you.

But I do know I’m saying something about the now. That we’re screwing up the planet and I’m frightened and furiousd about the future my son will live in.

I remember the exact moment this story germinated in my head.

I was talking to Rob King, who runs the Antarctic Division’s krill aquarium.

Krill look like tiny prawns. They live in all the world’s oceans but Rob’s aquarium is for the Antarctic ones, which are happiest when the water’s between zero degrees and one degree.

He told me he’s testing how they’ll handle climate change.

As we get more CO2 in the air, it dissolves into the water too, which makes the water more acidic. So how do krill cope with that?

The adults are okay, but the eggs are a different story. As the acidity rises, the eggs fail.

If we do nothing, by the end of this century, only half will hatch. By 2300, maybe 2% will make it.

You might think that’s just a sad little story about a single species. But krill are the bottom of the food chain, the basis of virtually all marine life. If they go, so do all the fish, the whales, and the octopi..

And the people who rely on marine protein go too. The UN says that’s currently three billion of us. Scary, isn’t it?

So ZeitHeist takes place after that environmental apocalypse. The fish are gone. We’ve killed off the oceanic algae and the forests too, so oxygen levels have plummeted. You need O2 in a can to go outside, so humans and rats are the only vertebrates left in the wild.

But the people who wrecked the planet - the banks and corporations - have built themselves an island paradise amongst the ruins. And a small team of Australian thieves are hired to crack the place open.

It’s still a fun read - there’s lots of cool sci-fi stuff in it. Hackers and gene splicing and murderous drones and futuristic weapons - how do they go? Pew! Pew!

It’s too early to drink, so I’ll ask you to raise your pretend ray gun and shoot my new book.

Pew! Pew!"

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Tuesday 5 December 2023



If you're caught trying to rob Geld Island, they torture you to death on TV. But enough money to buy yourself a biodome in paradise is hard to resist.

The eco-crash killed the oceans and dropped oxygen levels, leaving humans and rats as the only surviving vertebrates. But people have adapted to eating crickets and breathing from a can, so life and crime continue.

Tempted from her spider-hole in the desert, ruthless planner Kalinda assembles a team weird enough to risk a run at Geld Island and clever enough to bring home the booty.

Can four thieves, a reptile and a murderous AI drone infiltrate the richest place on the ruined earth and escape with their skins intact?


This is ZeitHeist, the new novel I've been talking about.

It's got elements of climate fiction, cyberpunk and crime. Not to mention the coolest title I've ever come up with! I usually find that difficult, but this time the name came when the book was barely an idea.

Grab a copy now - paperbacks and ebooks are available from Amazon.

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Friday 6 October 2023

I wish I wasn't so good at predicting the future

I've got a new book coming out very soon - I'm just waiting for the proofs to arrive so I can order some fresh copies to sell.

It's a cli-fi novel about post-apocalyptic thieves. So I tried to make it accurately futuristic, but the stuff I projected into the next century is happening much closer to now. By the time I'd finished writing it, many of my ideas had already come to psss.

Let me give you some examples.

Stealing data via internet backbone cables.

Dying krill leading to a mass extinction event in the ocean.

Major cities becoming completely unliveable.

Insects becoming an increasingly important 
source of protein.

And sentient AI. Admittedly, the one in this news story isn't actually sentient, but I suspect they're going to pass the Turing Test soon enough.

These are the terrible thoughts that have taken over my brain as I've written my new book.

It's a cracker. And it's only weeks away from being published.

I'll let you know when it's ready.

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Sunday 24 September 2023

Whisky Tasting: Spring 2023

We are together once again, stout yeoman all! Ready to sup at the teat of our reasonably priced distilleries.

The usual rules apply - buy your 700ml bottle for under $100 and bring it in a paper bag, so we make our tasting notes and score each one without knowing what we’re drinking.

Whisky: Jura 10 (40%) - Bourbon and Sherry casks
Supplied by: Tim Griggs 
Chosen from the selection at the airport! And as you’d expect from such a dram, it’s relatively simple in flavour, neither harsh nor bitey.
The nose detects raisins and rose water.
The flavour is very light, with sweet caramel and vanilla notes.
Score:  40 / 60

Whisky: Jura Rum Cask (40%)
Supplied by: Simon
This is somehow familiar! Two of our panel have chosen the same brand.
There’s a tang of cola on the nose.
On first taste it’s still smooth, but has more bite than the Jura 10. There’s a little bit of a tang, a sourness to it.
Score:  34 / 60

Whisky: Auchentoshan 12 yo - bourbon and sherry cask
Supplied by: Tim Grimsey
An old favourite of Tim's, presented to this group for the first time.
It has a very fruity nose, with banana and peach!
This is more complex and very oaky, with a little black pepper.
Score:  43 / 60

Whisky: 23rd Street Australian Malt (46%)
From a South Australian distillery.
Starts strongly with a lovely nose - dark chocolate and toffee notes
Bit of a burn mid palate, but none at the back. It feels strong!
Really vanilla, very rich, 
Good mouthfeel, oily and rich, the sort of thing you could happily drink alone.
Score:  39 / 60

Whisky: Glenshiel Deluxe Highland blend (40%)
Supplied by: Andy
He deliberately chose the cheapest single malt he could find - we didn’t know that when tasting it and making notes.
The smell and taste are very different, almost like two different drinks.
The nose is good, pear and honeycomb come out first. It’s a little bit spicy too, with clove and vanilla.
It has a good mouthfeel, but the taste is ordinary - a little sour, like wine grapes that aren't suitable for eating.
Scores:  42 / 60

Whisky: Silkie Signature Blend (46%)
Supplied by: Marty
An easily found Irish whisky.
Very sweet scent, with a touch of apricot, 
The taste is also sweet and a little tingly, with a tiny glow of smoke.
There’s a nice after-taste, a pleasant lingering sweetness, which speaks of a well-made spirit.
As you continue drinking it, the flavour only improves!
Scores:  43 / 60

Whisky: Deviant Anthology (50.3%)
Supplied by: Michael
This is a bloody marvellous drop from Tasmania, which doesn’t actually qualify as whisky, as it hasn’t been in its barrels for long enough!
The nose offers mandarin, lavender, and a hint of toffee.
The taste is complex and unique. Sweet, creamy, barley forward, with loads of citrus.
No regrets on buying a bottle of this, especially for under $100! If you see another one, buy it instantly.
Scores:  50 / 60
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Saturday 24 June 2023

The value of listening

My old school, Marist College in Canberra, asked me to write a few words for their quarterly newsletter. They like to feature successful old boys and someone dobbed me in.

These things are generally a potted biography, but I wanted to say something that might actually be of value. And this particular subject is close to my heart. As is this photo of me with Big Ted.

My name's Joel Rheinberger and I talk for a living. But the skill is really in the listening.

I'm a Presenter for ABC Radio in Hobart, doing a daily talk show about every subject under the sun. It's a delightful job, where you meet new people every day and help them to tell their stories.

It took me a while to get here. After graduating from Marist with the class of '88, I did a communications degree with a writing major. And I found work writing and voicing comedy at a radio station.

Voice work is also all about listening. You've got to pay very close attention to the people you want to sound like and pick the words that give them character. Then you have to do the even harder thing of listening to yourself to see if you're nailing it.

Most people hate hearing recordings of themselves. This is because you normally hear the vibrations of your voice via bone conduction inside your head, which is very different to hearing your voice vibrating through the air. And so the recordings don't sound like you at all!

Except they actually do. That recording is how you really sound to everyone else.

To become better at voice overs, I had to listen to what I really sounded like. I previously thought I had a great voice, but it turns out I was quite nasal with some odd breathing habits. And some of my impressions were terrible. It's humbling, but only by listening did I get better.

After I was done with comedy, I spent some years writing ads, before finding my current career at the ABC. My day basically consists of interviewing people and I can’t emphasize enough the value of listening to them.

You want to hear the facts, but also the emotions behind them, so you can find the heart of their story. Sometimes a guest will drop a tiny nugget of gold in a conversation, which can lead you to brilliant tales. So you've got to follow the gold!

I once interviewed a French woman who acts as a tour guide here, to talk about what French tourists want to see in Tasmania. She mentioned sailing to Australia with a look of great nostalgia, so I asked questions about that. It turns out she and her husband lived on a yacht, adopted a child in South America, then sailed with him to Antarctica. She showed me pictures of this grinning dark-haired waif standing in snow next to an emperor penguin.

What an amazing story! And if I hadn't paid attention, I would have missed it.

Sometimes I think my guests have never experienced someone listening to them this way. Nobody has ever given them that quality of attention, so it's very powerful. They will trust me with dark and difficult tales, shedding tears on the radio, because they can see I am truly with them.

So I talk for a living. But first I listen.

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