Best Day Ever

Social media seems to be full of people asking why we should all be locked down during this pandemic. The answer is Sam, Sam and his wonderful, inspiring family who demonstrate each day what courage and love truly mean. Meeks

My OBT

Photo: Allyson Buck

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And one more for The Egg!

The Vintage Egg is my one and only foray into short stories, and it just received a fabulous 5/5 star review:

acflory writes some great sci-fi, and though I’ve read her novels, this was my first experience with her short stories. Her imagination and polished writing skills never disappoint, and these six stories are original and entertaining. My favorite tale was broken into two parts—The Vintage Egg and Egg Run—which bookend the other offerings. I also thoroughly enjoyed The Christmas Roast. I read this collection in under an hour and highly recommend it. A great peek at acflory’s writing talent.

I’m happy-dancing my way to the kitchen now for some lunch. Have a great day or evening. 🙂

cheers
Meeks


Where did all the [ABC] investigative journalists go?

Have you heard of the ‘Friendly Jordies’?

I hadn’t until the Offspring started talking about this daring exposé of National Party shenanigans in the small country town of Narrandera.

I watched the youtube podcast, and my first thought was “Why isn’t Four Corners investigating this?” Why is it being left to a young man and his mates to ask the tough questions?

I don’t want to be accused of being a conspiracy theorist so I won’t answer those questions. Instead I’ll post the youtube video I just watched and let you make up your own mind.

To quote the Bard, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”.

Meeks


More Music to Write by

My focus is on writing at the moment, so you’ll have to forgive me if a lot of my posts are about music!

In my last post, I featured a compilation video called ‘Forgotten Odes’. The first track – Revolution – is by a composer called Piotr Musial, and while I love it, I’ve just discovered that further down the list of tracks are some stunning pieces composed by a young, gorgeous woman by the name of Bianca Ban!

This is the official music video of her ‘Forgotten Odes’ [from the album Eternal Eclipse]:

To call this music ‘haunting’ is an understatement. If you look closely at the fingers of the violinists at the very beginning of the video you can see that they are playing without any vibrato at all, giving the notes a thin, crystaline clarity. Then the lead violin comes in and it’s warm and rich and vibrant. The two sounds duel it out for a short time before the lead violin ‘wins’.

Love, love, LOVE! And the melodies are so beautiful…

Ahem. I know I shouldn’t be sexist but heck, hell and pftttttui…this truly stunning music was composed by a woman, and female composer are still so rare! Surely it’s okay to celebrate the fact that women are not only making beautiful music, but being recognized for doing so?

Anyway, this is the link to the Bianca Ban website where you can learn more about her. Under ‘Music’ you can also find samples of her most popular tracks. One of my other favourites is ‘Spirit of Africa’ which features a wind instrument of some kind – flute? pan pipes? Whatever it is it’s great. 🙂

Actually, there isn’t a single track that I don’t love so…enjoy! Oh, and this is the link to her Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHbmYdMBx1A8tkwxrjCRKpQ

cheers
Meeks


Music – epic violin

Piano is my first love, but my Dad played the violin and this piece would have made him smile and the sheer virtuosity. The bowing is pretty amazing. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do:

have a great weekend,
Meeks


Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in….

The lyrics come from a very famous Fifth Dimension song, but this is not a post about music.

The Fifth Dimension

It’s a post about Covid-19 and an update on its spread, and how to live with it. And guess what? Sunshine really does make a difference, in ways that are not immediately obvious.

First up I’m going to start with some research conducted by the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness, Geelong, VIC, Australia. As some of you know, my state of Victoria is at the centre of the largest outbreak in Australia. And we’re not over it [completely] yet.

What the Australian study did was to measure the infectiveness of the virus – ON SURFACES – in a rather unusual way. As the UV in light is known to kill viruses, the researchers conducted their study on the virus in the dark. They also controlled the temperature of the environment in which the virus was studied. Their results are interesting to say the least.

The following is a direct quote taken from those results :

‘viable virus was isolated for up to 28 days at 20 °C from common surfaces such as glass, stainless steel and both paper and polymer banknotes. Conversely, infectious virus survived less than 24 h at 40 °C on some surfaces.’

https://virologyj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12985-020-01418-7

For a more in-depth explanation of the study and what it found, please check out Dr John’s video.

For me, personally, these results are both good news and bad because we’ve been ‘isolating’ dry goods bought from the supermarket in the boot of the Offspring’s car. As the boot is dark, I immediately worried about how effective this isolation had been, especially as it’s been a cold winter here in Melbourne.

Then I realised that as neither one of us has become sick, the decon in the boot probably worked. A little later I realised why. The car is parked in the open so, although dark, the temperature in the boot would probably drop to about 5C at night and heat up past 20C during most of the day [the virus dislikes extremes of heat and cold]. Phew. Plus…masks have been mandated for most of this second wave so the chance of someone sneezing on my shopping before it arrives is that much less.

Keep all of that in mind as I tell you about the pandemic in Japan. A study conducted on working people in Tokyo found that despite the tiny death toll – under 2000 for the whole of Japan – close to 50% of those tested may have already been infected by the virus. For more on this please see Dr John’s video here or you can go direct to the study here.

There’s a lot to explain so I’ll try to keep it to the most important details. Firstly, the study was conducted during the summer months and the low death rate is partially backed up by data from the Western world where infection rates have also increased but without a corresponding increase in the death rate.

Doesn’t make sense, or does it?

If dark and temperate conditions keep the virus alive, the conditions in summer would do the exact opposite because people spend much more time outdoors…in the sunshine…with good ventilation. So even when they are exposed to the virus, their VIRAL LOAD is likely to be much less. And viral load determines how sick you’re likely to get.

But still, even taking the sunshine and heat and ventilation and viral load into consideration, why would the Japanese results be so extremely good despite no major lockdowns?

In Japan, the answer seems to be mostly cultural:

  • Wearing masks is normal.
  • Bowing instead of hugging or shaking hands is normal.
  • Not shouting and speaking quietly is normal.
  • Opening windows [good ventilation] is normal.
  • Supervised 14 day quarantine is strictly enforced.
  • And finally, obesity is very low in Japan. Obesity has been shown to be a major co-morbidity with the virus – i.e. you’re likely to get much sicker if you get the virus and you’re obese.

Putting it all together, cultural good practice means that the viral load is kept very low. And that means that the people who are infected are far more likely to have few symptoms, or no symptoms at all. Thus, lots of spread, but most people do not actually get sick, and those who do are much less likely to die.

If this is all true, and I think it is, then we here in Australia are going to get a reprieve over the summer months. Unfortunately, it also means that the northern hemisphere is going to be hit hard, again, especially as Western cultural practices make the virus so happy.

I can’t do anything about the northern hemisphere, but I can ask the people here in Melbourne two very simple questions:

  1. Even if you don’t believe the pandemic is real, would it really kill you to wear a mask? Not just now, when the State government has mandated that all of us must wear one in public, but after? Couldn’t you err on the side of caution, if not for yourself, then for the sick, the elderly and the disabled?
  2. Could you really live with yourself if someone you loved died, or developed a long term health problem because you put your convenience ahead of everything and everyone else?

Wearing a mask is such a small thing when compared to the horror of watching someone die.

love,
Meeks


A flurry of reviews

I don’t write a lot of reviews, but every now and then, a cluster of books come along that have something about them that really appeals to me. This next lot cleaned out my TBR list and triggered my desperate plea for more reading material. 🙂

Reviews on Amazon

The first review is for ‘Allies and Spies‘, book 2 of the Unravelling the Veil series, by D. Wallace Peach :

5/5 No middle book sag here!

After falling in love with the first book of the series, Liars and Thieves, I was a little apprehensive about whether the second book could live up to the first. Second books are a bit like the ‘middle child’ of a family. You get all the surprises with the first one so what’s left for the second?

I needn’t have worried. 😀 Allies and Spies sees the story grow up and out, both in terms of the plot and the characters.

I really didn’t like Alue very much in Liars and Thieves, but she really comes into her own in book 2. I can’t tell you what she does, but she saves both Naj and Tallin from a very nasty death. More importantly, she does so by coming into her strength. She’s always been brave, but there’s a difference between physical courage and the courage needed to overcome your own shortcomings. Or even to recognize them. Yet that is precisely what all three of the main characters must do if they are ever to solve the mystery of the disappearances that have claimed so many lives.

That said, I have a secret fondness for tortured characters and in book 2, Naj suffers. That suffering serves to catapult him into a greater understanding of his world and himself, but that’s not much consolation on a personal level. I truly feel for Naj. 😦

And finally, Tallin. In many ways, Tallin the Changeling was my favourite right from the start. There’s something about his easy going nature that is very appealing. His alter ego Slick seems to encapsulate his personality perfectly – cute, cuddly, cunning, and naughty. But Tallin has demons of his own, and in book 2 he faces at least some of them.

I wish I could tell you about the plot, but if I do I’ll spoil it for everyone. Let’s just say that some things become clearer, but the forces behind the disappearances are still shrouded in impossibilities.

I can tell you about the writing though. Peach makes writing on multiple levels look easy. The prose is lyrical, the dialogue is always just right and the pace is perfect. No typos, no plot holes, no ‘what the?’ moments. Definitely no saggy middles! The story. Just. Flows. And takes us with it.

This series is character driven fantasy of the highest quality, and I recommend it to everyone, even those who don’t normally read fantasy. I’d give it 6 stars if I could.

The second review is for Tales from the Annexe, by Audrey Driscoll.

5/5 Dipping a toe into the world of Herbert West

I absolutely adored the Herbert West series and really enjoyed revisiting the world in which the series is set. Of the new stories, the one that will probably stick in my mind the longest, and give me nightmares, is The Ice Cream Truck from Hell. I will never think of Mr Whippy the same way again. lol

Beautifully written horror-ish short stories that all lovers of good writing will enjoy.

Review no. 3 is for ‘Serang‘, by C.S. Boyack.

5/5 Coming of Age in a time of chaos

Serang bears a slight similarity to the Karate Kid story, but only because the main character is young and learns martial arts. Beyond that, Serang is a lovely, unique story about a young girl who is given to the Temple to be raised by monks. These monks are both male and female, and there is no qualitative difference between them. All monks learn martial arts. Which style of martial art they learn depends upon their individual personalities – i.e. what suits each monk the best.

When the temple is destroyed, Serang is saved by one of the wandering monks who also survived the carnage. He continues Serang’s education in martial arts and living off the land. There are exciting fight scenes, but they are not the main focus of the story. Serang’s development and growth are the drivers, and I have to say that I loved the story from start to finish.

I would recommend Serang to anyone who loves reading about ‘becoming’ and the triumph of the human spirit.

And there you have it, three very different authors, genres and stories, but I enjoyed every single one.

Have a great Sunday [in Australia] or Saturday [everywhere else]!

cheers
Meeks


Recommend an Indie…PLEASE!

desperate-reader-in-need

I’ve reached a point in my writing where I’m stuck. It happens. So what do you do when your writing is stuck? You read, of course. But who in hell can afford $10 USD for an ebook?

I read 99.9% Indie only and noticed a price hike from $3.99 to around $5.99 USD a while ago, but suddenly this morning, I discovered that a great long list of Indie authors are pricing their books around the $10 mark. Given that I’d already bought most of their books at the ‘normal’ Indie price, I was shocked at the sudden leap.

After rejecting book after book because it was simply too expensive, I finally thought to look at the book details and…doh. Without fail, these previously Indie authors are now ‘published’ by a company.

Indie to traditionally published… I understand. No matter how much we may extol the virtues of being an Indie – creative freedom, product control, more money – a part of every author wants to be traditionally published. Why? Because of the validation.

We still think that traditional publishers are the doyens of good taste and literary value, the way they used to be before publishing became a big business like any other. Even those who know that’s not true succumb to the siren song of validation.

I get that. What makes me furious is that these publishers are reaping the benefits of ebook sales without having done any of the work. And it’s loyal readers like me who suffer because we cannot afford to spend that much money on ebooks. Or any books for that matter. Not when we often read two books a week.

I’m also angry at the fact that it’s the pandemic that’s brought about this price grab by publishers. They can’t get their ‘normal’ books out there because most bookshops and retail outlets are closed, so they hoover up ebooks that cost them next to nothing, and suddenly they have a cash flow again.

The third thing that makes me spitting mad is that these previously Indie authors who had it all – money coming in, fans by the thousand, control of their art and their future – have probably signed away their copyright for ‘life plus 70 years’.

What happens when this pandemic finally ends, and most of them become the equivalent of midlist authors? Will the publishing companies be grateful that these authors gave them a cashflow for next to nothing? Or will they consign them to publishing limbo as they did with a previous generation of midlist authors?

Okay, I tell a lie. I do not care what happens to these authors. I care about me and readers like me. So…having struck a heap of authors off my to-be-read list, I’m asking you guys for recommendations, but true Indies only, please!

I love scifi, first and foremost, then fantasy, then thrillers, and murder mysteries. Can you recommend a good Indie for me to read? Someone who doesn’t charge $10 for an ebook?

As a reader, I’m loyal, and if I like the author, I will read everything he or she has ever written. My Kindle is testament to that.

Thanks to recommendations and reviews by D.Wallace Peach and Indies Unlimited I have two Indie books to keep me going. They are:

  • Voyage of the Lanternfish, by C.S. Boyack
  • A Woman Misunderstood, by Melinda Clayton

I read one of Melinda Clayton’s book some time ago [psychological thriller ], and I read C.S. Boyack’s, ‘Serang’ just recently, so I know both writers are great value. But I need more, so please tell me about your favourite Indies in the comments.

Signed:

desperate-reader-in-need


Power at last!

SP Ausnet had a planned power outage today from about 8:30am to 3:30pm, and it was not pleasant. The weather was grey and drizzly but thankfully not super cold otherwise I have no idea how we would have coped. It seems that electricity is needed for absolutely everything.

Did you know that without electricity the solar hotwater doesn’t work? Yup, because a small pump sends the water up to the solar thingie on the roof. No pump, no circulation, no hot water.

And heating is no better. We have gas heating but…a fan is required to blow the hot air around, and also to stop the heater from overheating. So again, no power, no heat.

But wait, there’s more! I knew the electric oven wouldn’t work, but I forgot that the gas cooktop has piezo electric ignition. Thank heavens I had matches! Actually, that’s one of the good things about living in Warrandyte; we have unplanned outages a lot so candles and matches are staples.

And finally, there are the solar panels on my roof. Great investment for my old age except…when the power goes out, they’re automatically switched off because we ‘feed in’ to the grid. I swear, if I ever win tattslotto, I am buying a battery and hooking the solar panels up to that so we have power even when we don’t have power.

But today wasn’t all doom and gloom. The Offspring and I got stuck into garden stuff. Still a work in progress, but we both feel super righteous. 🙂

Hope your day was productive but pleasant!
Meeks


Coffee and banana muffins

Today’s delicious offering was baked by the Offspring based on a recipe given to me by a fellow kindergarten mum, Diana. I won’t tell you how long ago she gave it to me. 😉

The thing I like about this recipe is that it’s very easy. It’s also very forgiving of variations. In the following recipe, our variations are shown in italics after the base recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup soft butter [we used Lurpak Slightly salted spreadable butter which contains a small amount of vegetable oil],
  • 1/2 cup of white sugar [we used caster sugar],
  • 1.5 cups of self raising flour,
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of plain yoghurt or milk. Yoghurt makes it rise more. [We only used 1/2 a cup of yoghurt so we could add more banana]
  • 1 cup fresh fruit [we used 2 cups of bananas, chopped into decent sized ‘chunks’. NOT mashed]
  • a little extra butter to grease the muffin tins [we used paper cupcake thingies? to save on clean up]

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200 C [392 F]. If using fan bake, lower the temperature a couple of degrees.
  2. Grease muffin tins [or use paper thingies for easy clean up].
  3. With an electric mixer, blend the butter with the sugar until it changes colour and looks ‘creamy’.
  4. Beat in 2 whole eggs. If the mixture starts to separate or ‘curdle’, add a tablespoon of the flour.
  5. Beat in the yoghurt.
  6. Remove from beater and fold in the chunks of banana. [This is a trick I learned by accident. If you mush the banana the flavour will be very bland. If you leave the banana in chunks, you’ll get a burst of strong banana flavour whenever you bite into a piece].
  7. Fold in the flour [no need to sieve].
  8. Spoon mixture into the muffin tin [or into the paper cupcake thingies inside the muffin tin].
  9. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
  10. Remove from the muffin tin and place onto a cooling rack

You can eat these muffins straight from the oven with a bit of butter, just watch out for the chunks of banana, they are hot! Or you can eat them plain, hot or cold. Either way they’re delicious with your beverage of choice.

Bon appetit!
Meeks


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