The Marie Antoinette disorder [in politics]

low carb hazelnut cakeMarie Antoinette pirouetted in front of the mirror, admiring her milk-white neck, or perhaps the priceless diamonds that nestled there. She really should have asked for matching earrings…

A timid knock on the door interrupted the Queen’s weighty deliberations.

“Entrez!” she trilled, not at all pleased.

The door opened to reveal a haggard man in full court regalia. When he bowed, the light streaming in through the windows of the Petit Trianon lit up the bald spots on his head.

“Majesty!” he said.

“Lord High Chamberlain,” she replied. “Why are We being disturbed?”

“Deepest apologies, Majesty,” the Chamberlain replied, absently brushing another hank of hair from his shoulder. “A delegation has arrived to petition the Crown. It seems the people have no bread…”

“No bread?” the Queen said, her perfect forehead creased in a tiny frown. “Why then, let them eat cake!”

Marie Antoinette, born on 2 November 1755,  beheaded by guillotine on 16 October 1793.

* * *

There is no historical evidence that Marie Antoinette ever said those infamous words, however the willful blindness behind them could well have been true. Sadly, modern day ‘rulers’ seem to be afflicted by the same disorder.

I am, just at this moment, thinking of our estwhile Treasurer,  Joe Hockey. Apparently Joe Hockey is trying to float the idea of pushing the retirement age out to 70…perhaps to claw back some of the money Prime Minister Abbott wants to give extremely well off women in the form of paid maternity leave.

It goes without saying that women capable of earning $150,000 per annum are in desperate straits, and need all the help they can get. The same cannot be said for Baby Boomers, such as myself, who selfishly refuse to pop off, and will soon become a huge burden on the welfare system.

Mr Hockey’s brilliant plan is to make Boomers keep working until they hit 70, at which point they may, or may not get a pension.

Now, I have to say that I never planned on retiring, at least as a writer, but given how hard it is to find a job at 61,  I do wonder what jobs Mr Hockey has in mind. Bricklaying? Plumbing? Garbology? Or perhaps some of the high flying CEO’s will burn out at 40 and make way for us mature types?

Or perhaps Mr Hockey doesn’t really care that there are no jobs out there for us. I’m sure his number crunchers have already worked out that having Boomers on the dole NewStart Allowance, is preferable to having them on the Age Pension.

Let’s do the sums. A single Pensioner at the maximum rate gets $842.80 per fortnight, or $421.40 per week. An unemployed person on NewStart gets $508.00 per fortnight, or $254.00 per week. I’m no maths genius, but even I know that’s a saving of $167.40 per person per week. That is $8,704.80 per year. Now if the retirement age is raised from 67 to 70 [for men] and from 65 to 68 for women, the government will save $26,114.40 per Boomer during those 3 extra years of -cough- work -cough-.

Another benefit of pushing the retirement age out to 70 is that many of the poorest Boomers may well die of starvation,  freeze to death in winter or die of heatstroke in summer as they try to juggle the conflicting needs of buying food, or paying the utilities out of $254.oo per week.

Of course, not all Baby Boomers will be affected by the new retirement age. Those on big incomes and hefty superannuation payouts will be fine. They will be able to access their superannuation at 60, and use all those lovely dollars to replace their ageing Mercedes with a new Beemer, and still have enough left to last them till they reach 70. With luck, and judicious spending, they should then be eligible for the full pension because all of their superannuation will be gone.

So let’s take those Boomers out of the equation. Who have we got left? Hmm,  apparently there will still be quite a few Boomers with a disability [and no superannuation], unskilled manual workers [men and women] with very little superannuation, single parents [mostly women] with little to no superannuation, and divorced women with grown children who never managed to accrue any superannuation at all…

* * *

Tony Abbott is staring into the mirror, admiring his spandex when his deliberations are interrupted by a knock on the door.

“Enter!” he growls, not at all pleased.

The door opens to reveal a haggard man suffering from severe alopecia.

“What is it Joe?”

“Um, I got the budget into surplus, Tony, but there’s a delegation of Boomers outside, and they’re not happy. They say they can’t get a job…”

“No jobs?” the Prime Minister said, his forehead creased in a tiny frown. “Why then, let them have NewStart!”

* * *

I rest my case.

Meeks

p.s. I hope you all had a wonderful Easter!

 


Lentil stew – a quick, home-alone recipe

The Daughter is away this weekend, so last night I indulged myself by cooking a lentil stew she hates! If there are other lentil haters out there, turn away now. :D

Ingredients

1 plain Kransky sausage [or Chorizo or salami or even just a couple of rashers of bacon]

1 medium onion

2 cloves of garlic

2 tablespoons of tomato paste

1 or 2 sad, leftover fresh tomatoes [optional]

1 x tin lentils

a pinch of cayenne [hot and optional]

1 tablespoon of oil [I use peanut or olive]

Method

Slice the smoked whatever and gently saute in the oil.

While the meat is sautee-ing, finely chop the onion and add to the meat.

Allow the onions to cook for 5 minutes before adding the finely chopped garlic.

Allow the meat mixture to cook for another 5 minutes before stirring in the tomato paste, chopped tomatoes [if using] and the cayenne. Do NOT add salt as the cured meats are salty enough already.

Empty the tin of lentils into a colander and rinse under cold water before adding to the meat mix. Stir, add about 1/4 cup of water and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes. If the stew gets too dry, or looks as if it might burn, add a little more water, but remember – this is a stew not a soup!

The longer you leave the stew simmering the better the flavour becomes, but if you’re very hungry you can serve up as soon as the fresh tomatoes have softened. Last night, total cooking time was about 1/2 an hour.

You can make steamed rice to go with the stew, or even mashed potatoes, but I just ate my quick stew with fresh, crusty white bread. It was delicious, and I had the added satisfaction of knowing I had well and truly had my fibre for the day. Better still, it was faster than getting takeaway, and cost next to nothing as I keep most of the ingredients on hand at all times. If you had to buy in the ingredients this stew might cost $6 – 7, tops.

Lentil stew will never be mistaken for haute cuisine, but if you don’t mind lentils, it will provide a hearty, delicious meal in a hurry.

cheers

Meeks


Interview with Ch’kara Silverwolf

Apologies, the title of this post is a little misleading – Ch’kara Silverwolf, another aussie author, is the interviewer, I am the interviewee. If you’d like to have a look, please follow the URL below :

http://sheerak.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/author-interview-a-c-flory-the-vintage-egg/comment-page-1/#comment-805

While you’re there, have a look at some of the other great interviews Ch’kara has done.

cheers

Meeks


The Queen of twist

Candy Korman is best known for her Monster novellas, but she is also a highly talented short story writer, and her stories always have a twist at the end. I’ve read quite a few of them now, so I know what to expect, yet the twists still take me by surprise.

I particularly enjoyed this one, so I thought I’d be nice and share. :)

***

Immortal Stranger

by Candy Korman

Very early in her life, Sonia began to entertain the notion of her immortality. When she was five, she received news that she took as a definitive confirmation. Her mother, then unexpectedly pregnant, told Sonia that she was adopted.

“We chose you, Sonia. You were a tiny, little baby and we picked you to be our daughter.”

The speech had the feel of something that had been rehearsed before a mirror many times. Her mother also seemed to expect a number of questions about the new baby, the origins of babies in general and about the nature of family. But Sonia only smiled. As far as she was concerned this simply added credence to her observations. She was not like her parents. She was smarter, braver, more important and definitely immortal. At this point, she wasn’t sure how to define her condition. Was she a creature from a fairy tale? Perhaps. Or an alien spawn from a movie on TV? Either way, she was an immortal stranger lodging with this human family.

When Jared was born, Sonia became a devoted older sister. She felt that she had to protect him and guide him. The extended family was very impressed by this. They’d expected some form of extreme sibling resentment, if not outright rivalry. As Bette, Sonia and Jared’s mother, was 46 and their father, Ben, was 45 when Jared was born there was chatter about the difference between accidents and surprises.

Grandma Anne, Bette’s mother, was appalled by the perimenopausal pregnancy. She continued to dote on Sonia, but was always a bit cool toward Jared. In this, she was not alone. Jared was a difficult child.; he was intelligent, but socially awkward; large and strong, but uncoordinated. This disturbed his sports-loving father. Jared bit another kindergartener during playtime, wet the bed until he was eight, was caught snooping in his grandmother’s medicine cabinet at nine, and walked in his sleep. Sonia was his only friend. Even the family’s cat didn’t like him. Fluffy slept in Sonia’s room and hid under her bed if Jared visited…

***

The link to the rest of the story, and the twist at the end, is below. Enjoy!

http://www.candysmonsters.com/immortal-stranger-a-strange-family-saga/

cheers

Meeks

p.s. While you’re visiting Candy’s new website, have a look at some of the other goodies you’ll find there. :)


Vokhtah’s 11th review!

Vokhtah has been out for just over a year now, and seemed to be stuck on 10 wonderful reviews, hardly surprising given the lack of promotion on my part. So you can imagine my surprise when I had a look on Amazon this morning… and discovered another review! And a good one at that. :)

Right from the start, I’ve had trouble trying to describe what Vokhtah is about. Here, in the 11th review is one of the most succinct descriptions I could possibly ask for. Thank you Lynne Cantwell!*

And now, as my present to me, here is Lynne’s review in full:

***

Vokhtah is a fascinating look into an alien culture — and unusual because there’s not a human character in the whole novel. This is no “first contact” kind of book, like much of classical sci-fi. Instead, it’s a full-on immersion into life on another planet, where the dominant life forms are not at all humanoid.

The sentient species are of two types — the Vohk, who rule the planet’s day-to-day life, and the smaller iVokh, or healers. But the iVokh also act as a shadowy sort of check-and-balance on the Vokh: the iVokh’s ruling council can decide that a particular Vokh is an abomination and arrange for its death. Yes, it; both the Vokh and the iVokh are hermaphrodites. Mating requires a fight for dominance — which has obvious implications when a Vokh ruler decides to take over a territory adjoining its own.

As the book opens, the Blue — a member of the iVokh ruling council — is so troubled by a decision by the council to assassinate one of the Vokh that it abandons its seat on the council and goes undercover as a Messenger to try to put things right. This involves a dangerous journey with a group of Traders across mountains and desert — one that taxes the Messenger to its physical limits — as it races against time to beat the council’s orders to their destination. It falls to one of the Traders — a small but mysteriously powerful Vokh called the Apprentice — to decide whether to help the Messenger survive.

It took me a little bit to get into Vokhtah. The reader is dropped into the world without the usual sci-fi trope of a human observer describing the new race, and so physical descriptions and explanations of the culture are left for the reader to discover during the course of the novel. But the characters’ motivations are clearly explained and the book is well paced. There’s even some humor.

If you don’t mind a little bit of strangeness in your sci-fi — and why are you reading sci-fi if you don’t? — then give Vokhtah a try.

***

*Lynne Cantwell is a fellow Indie from Indies Unlimited. Her background is journalism, but her creative genre of choice is contemporary urban fantasy. Her first series – The Pipe Woman Chronicles – is available on Amazon.

Cheers

Meeks


Astor Piazzolla and Nuevo Tango – ole!

It’s Sunday morning Downunder, and I’ve discovered a new music to love! To be honest, Bluey of Bluebird Blvd discovered Astor Piazzolla, [thanks Bluey!] so I can’t take any credit, but I will try to spread the love. :)

If Latin American music and rhythms are not your thing, stick your fingers in your ears right now, otherwise sit back and enjoy!

cheers

Meeks

p.s. Candy, this is for you.


How to transfer photos from Samsung Galaxy S2, ver 4.1.2

One of the frustrations of the S2 is that all the various android versions behave in different ways. My heartfelt thanks to Jan who posted a comment detailing a method for the 4.1.2 version. I have cut and pasted the comment below to help others find it a little easier.

*****

Jan 4h

Hi! I have been up all night but I HAVE FOUND A WAY to copy photos from S2 to pc. (I found your blog & instructions, but it didn’t work) I have 4.1.2 on my S2
here goes:
connect phone to pc via usb cable (as though you are charging)
pull down the roller blind thing at the top of the screen
tap on the trident charging icon
hey presto! usb pc connection comes up!
it will be ticked on media device (MTP), so tick camera (PTP)
menu comes up on pc, choose photos via windows live
you can transfer all of them or select which ones you want.
I did this a second time after taking another photo with the phone, and you choose all the photos again OR just the new ones!!
But remember to retick media device before you disconnect (just unplug cable) OR it will not work as a media device
yay!

cheers

Meeks


Yet another reason to be an Indie

Another one of my articles is live on Indies Unlimited :

‘Do you secretly dream of being traditionally published?

When someone you know is offered a contract, do you experience a moment of intense envy? Do you smile, and say ‘congratulations’ while silently screaming ‘why not me’?

Don’t worry, your dirty little secret is safe because….yes, hand-on-heart, I too share your shame. Despite everything I have learned about the traditional publishing world in the last two years, I still haven’t completely quashed the romantic notions I used to hold about the Big Six. I guess it’s like the dream of finding Mr Right and living happily ever after, it never completely dies.

But to quote the Bard, “All that glitters is not gold…”’

To read the full article, and hopefully comment, follow this link to Indies Unlimited :

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2014/03/27/yet-another-reason-to-be-an-indie/#comments

cheers

Meeks


Working with Children Check – step-by-step

Most community based learning centres have some programs for children, so most community centres require volunteers [and paid staff] to be cleared for working with children. Given the horrific tales of child abuse all over the media, I agree that vetting adults who work with children is a good idea. Unfortunately the implementation of that good idea is a bureaucratic nightmare.

Having just struggled with this nightmare myself, I thought a step-by-step walkthrough of the process might be useful to others. So here it is.

Step 1 Go to the Working with Children home page :

http://www.workingwithchildren.vic.gov.au/utility/home/

Step 2 Ignore the animated prompt to register and click on the big, blue ‘Apply for a check’ button on the right of the page :

working with children home page

Step 3 You should now be looking at a page full of information about who should apply, etc etc. Ignore all that, and scroll down to the bottom of the page where you will find some more big, blue buttons. Right at the very bottom you will see a slightly smaller, blue button called ‘Start Application’. Click it as shown :

working with children app page2

Step 4 You should now be looking at another long page of information. Scroll down until you reach the bottom of that page. There you will find this :

working with children app page4The first text box asks if you’ve applied for a check before. Click on the small arrow next to the question and select either yes or no. I selected no.

The second text box is only for those who have applied for the check before and already have some documentation. For newbies like us, ignore.

The third text box requires that you choose between a check for an employee, or a volunteer. If you select ‘employee’ it is assumed that you will be paid for your work and/or that the employer will pay for your check. The fee for an employee check is $102. If you select ‘volunteer’ there is no fee, but you will not be able to work with children in a paid capacity.

To select either employee or volunteer, click the small arrow to the right of the text box and make your selection. To continue, click ‘Next’.

 

Step 5 At last, the contact details form. This should have been very straight forward, but it wasn’t. You start by filling in your current, residential address details. Then you get to the bit shown in red below :

working with children app page7

This is for your postal address, and includes a little checkbox that you can click if your postal address is the same as your residential address. This is what happened when I clicked the checkbox and ‘Next’ :

working with children app page7 errorThe address details aren’t real, but you can see that they were carried over quite nicely to the postal address fields… except for the state. For some reason the application doesn’t recognize its own data.

The only way to get around this error is to uncheck the checkbox and manually type your postal details in again. Then hit ‘Next’ and everything is fine. -face palm-

Step 6 The next page asks for ‘Organisation details’:

working with children app page8

The organisations in question are the companies for which you are volunteering. Now despite the fact that I am volunteering to work with adults, not children, I may be asked to do something with children in the future – e.g. take a class, or take over for 5 minutes while the assigned carer goes to the loo – so I need to have the checks in place ahead of time…

- click ‘yes’

- click the small arrow next to ‘Occupational Work Codes’ and select the option that best describes what you will be required to do with children.

Step 7  Then you click ‘Next’ and get this :

working with children app page8 error

Luckily, this error is actually not a real error at all. What’s happened is that when you clicked ‘yes’ under  Organisation details, the system did not allow you to specify the names of those organisations. This form is a kind of catch-up [and something you should have seen all along]. Click in each box and fill in the relevant details. Finally click ‘Add organisation to list’ as shown :

 

working with children app page9 error

Step 8 If you need to add multiple organisations, click ‘Add another organisation’ as shown :

working with children app page10 error

Step 9 Almost done. You should now be looking at a legal looking page. Right down the bottom you should see this :

working with children app page11

- Click the small checkbox [small red circle] and then,

- Click on ‘Sign and Submit’

What this does is send a sort of electronic ‘intent to apply’. But…. YOU STILL HAVE TO SEND IN THE PAPER APPLICATION!

Step 10 The Confirmation page. This is actually rather important:

working with children app page12 print

You now have to print off the form you have just filled in by clicking ‘Print or Save’. It will have a box for signing… BUT DO NOT SIGN IT! Take the unsigned form, along with a passport photo and suitable ID – e.g. passport, driver’s license, Medicare card etc – to an Australia Post office*. The Australia Post employee will then watch you sign the printed form [and date it]. They will then certify that the ID you have shown and your signature all match.

Then, they will take your application and do whatever it is they do with it. In return, you will receive a receipt to show that you have applied. However you will not, legally, be authorized to work with children until your application is accepted. Not sure how long the acceptance part will take but I’d guess at least two working weeks.

* You will not be able to find a list of ‘participating Australia Post offices‘ by clicking the link on the Confirmation page. That link only takes you to the main Australia Post page. Where you go from there I have no idea. I’d suggest ringing up one of the larger Australia Post offices instead.

And there, at last, you have it, how to navigate one of the worst interfaces I have ever had the misfortune to use. Good luck, and now I’m off for a much needed coffee.

cheers

Meeks

p.s. My application is in! I went to the Australia Post office in Eltham and everything went smoothly.

 

 

 


Fire – what it’s really like

Sometimes fate works in unexpected ways! Fire season is almost over again for another year, but the close calls this season prompted me to buy a novel called ‘The Spark’. It’s a fictional story with an incredible ring of authenticity to it because it’s written by a bonafide fire-fighter, John Kenny. Kenny is Canadian, not Australian, but that doesn’t matter because fire respects no boundaries or artificial borders.

“Interesting,” you say with a yawn. “But choosing to read a book about fire is hardly serendipty!”

“Indeed,” I say, with a smirk. “But reading an article by Kenny that describes the reality of fire – the day after finishing his book - is.”

The article in question was written for Indies Unlimited, under the ‘getting it right’ banner. These articles provide writers with much needed information so their descriptions etc ring true. But this authenticity can also be valuable to those of us who have never come face to face with a real fire – in the bush or anywhere else for that matter. Let me give you a sample of what Kenny wrote :

The theatre manager told us we would have to leave if we couldn’t be quiet. A group of fellow firefighters and I were howling with laughter as we watched “Backdraft”. Kurt Russell was dashing through a blazing inferno, coat open, boots rolled down and with no breathing apparatus.

Even the rawest recruit knew that in real life Russell would be dead two steps in.’

I remember that movie, and I think it has coloured how I imagine a blazing fire ever since. However when Kenny continued on to describe the smoke in a real fire, all the news reports about Black Saturday suddenly clunked into place. You see, somehow I hadn’t really believed that a bushfire could turn day into night….

You’ll find the link to the whole of Kenny’s article at the end of this post, and I’d recommend EVERYONE read it, but first I’d like to say a few things about Kenny’s novel.

1. It is not some dry memoir full of facts, with the barest nod to story. It’s not a memoir at all. The Spark is a tight, well told story with a great plot that will keep you reading because you won’t be able to sleep until you know what happens next!

2. The characters in The Spark are not action heroes. They are not cookie cutouts. They are not there just to push the story along. Even the most minor characters have depth and personality while the major ones are people you would love to know in real life. Well, maybe not all of them. Let’s just say the villains of the piece are people who could exist, and probably do, but you really, really wouldn’t want to mess with them.

3. The story is not formulaic. Like life itself, the story depicted in The Spark does not have a perfect ending. But it’s the only ending that fits.

4. Despite being a debut novel, The Spark is beautifully written, with just the right balance between scene setting, action and introspection.

In short, The Spark is one hell of a good book even though it isn’t science fiction. :) Read it people!

And now for that link :

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2014/03/18/getting-it-right-fire/

cheers

Meeks


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