Cities without streets?

This is the jigsaw puzzle I completed this morning – just to see what the image was actually about:

Isn’t it amazing? A straight, boring street completely re-purposed to provide a beautiful green space for both residents and casual visitors to enjoy.

I know nothing about that street, other than the title of the jigsaw puzzle: ‘Lombard street’. If anyone knows where it is, please share in comments!

Anyway, the Lombard Street puzzle got me thinking about another place that I did know about: Havana. It’s become the urban agriculture capital of the world, with citizens and government working together to create food gardens on every available urban space. There are chickens and rabbits being ‘grown’ on roof tops, vegie plots on balconies, larger communal gardens in the middle of parks, and street markets selling the locally grown produce back to this city of two million.

The birth of Havana’s urban agriculture was painful to say the least, and driven by need. You can read the history in this great article:

https://www.dwell.com/article/havana-world-capital-of-urban-farming-659b65ad

The point though, is that it began as a grass roots movement with ordinary, hungry people taking food production into their own hands because they had to. The food they grew was organic because Cuba couldn’t afford herbicides and pesticides. The food Havana grows is still organic or semi-organic because the Cuban government recognized the value of what was happening and formalised it. Commercial pesticides are not allowed within the city limits. And the weird thing is that those organic, urban gardens really do supplement the diets of Havana’s residents.

Getting back to the jigsaw puzzle that triggered this post, I started wondering how much real estate our cities devote to roads. What if those roads could be re-purposed for parks and open spaces and communal gardens? What if we had alpacas wandering down Swanston Street, mowing the grass? [I chose alpacas coz they poop in the same spots all the time, making clean up a lot easier].

Seriously, we could go from this:

Image copyright Anthony Frey Photos – click photo to visit site

to this:

Original image by Anthony Frey Photos. Alpacas by acflory

Now I know that roads are like the veins and arteries of a city, but do they have to be so wasteful? Surely we have the technology to put them underground? Maybe not all of them, but the freeways could definitely go…

I’m sure that anyone with real engineering experience will shoot this idea down in flames, but still…it appeals to me. At some point we really will have to rethink the design of our cities. Maybe then we’ll find a way to stop wasting all that space on roads. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


House hunting in Paris

I went looking for an apartment in Paris that would fit Jason Armitage’s lifestyle. Get ready to drool. 🙂

This first pic shows the massive skylight and two floors of luxury living:

I have no idea what 2.5 million EUR is in Australian dollars, but it seems a lot for a three bedroom apartment. Then again, it is in the most expensive part of Paris. Here are a few more pics to make you weep:

and

These last two shots are from a different apartment, but I had to include them in Jason’s dream apartment as they both have a view of the Eiffel tower in the distance:

When I was 21, I spent a semester studying French at the Sorbonne and living with a rather well-to-do family as their au pair. I remember that I had to get off at Trocadero metro station to get to the apartment. It wasn’t quite as beautiful as the one shown in the pics above, but it was big enough for a master bedroom, kids’ bedroom and a spare bedroom with ensuite for the live in nanny: me.

I enjoyed looking after Bruno and Eric, but I didn’t appreciate my huge good fortune in landing that job until just now. Room and board for a few hours of kid-sitting. I was even invited to go on holidays with them.

As an au pair, I wasn’t paid a wage, but I did receive ‘pocket money’. It was more than enough to cover my expenses to and from the Sorbonne, plus evenings at the local cafe, dining on Croque Monsieur et cafe au lait. In those days I could drink coffee all night and still sleep like a baby. 🙂

Thanks for joining me on this trip down memory lane. I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying myself. Oh and my words finally passed the necessary daily count: 1782. I’m still behind, but writing is fun again so I’m pretty confident I’ll catch up.

cheers

Meeks


Freud wore glasses…how about that. :)

Remember how I said that research invariably leads me to new writing ideas? Well, the Sainte Anne mental hospital must have got me thinking about earlier psychoanalysts because I created a character today who has a fascination with Freud. His name is Stephen Maher:

Back in his office, Stephen spent a few minutes polishing his spectacles before calling the AI. The spectacles had belonged to his grandfather and provided no optical enhancements whatsoever, but they did provide some much needed time out. They also made him look like a young Sigmund Freud, or so he’d been told.

Now, the weird thing is that I wrote that paragraph without any clear memory of whether Freud wore glasses or not. This is what I found:

Followed by this:

Both photos are of Sigmund Freud and come from the Freud Museum London.

I was tempted to draw spectacles on the younger image, to give myself a reference pic for ‘Stephen Maher’, but then I got cold feet. I’m more into Skinner than Freud, but defacing his portrait would have felt terribly disrespectful!

Anyway, thanks to Stephen Maher and Freud, my wordcount today is a much more respectable 1161. My imagination is still creaking from lack of use, but I can feel it loosening up, a little bit more each day. Life’s good. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


Sainte Anne, psychiatric hospital in Paris

I’ve been researching psychiatric conditions because the story of P7698 starts with two Innerscape Residents needing treatment. One of them is Keith Marsden, a minor but charming character who appeared in both ‘Miira’ and ‘Nabatea’.

Anyway, the Residents respond better to therapy when it occurs in a hospital setting so suddenly, I needed a mental hospital. As Keith Marsden lives in Paris, it seemed reasonable to start my search there. And boy did I hit pay dirt!

The link below leads to an article with lots of pictures of this amazing hospital, right in the heart of Paris. Not only is it an utterly beautiful place, it’s a good hospital too. If you read the history, you’ll realise that much of modern psychiatry originated at Sainte Anne:

https://www.cherrychapman.com/2014/05/05/sainte-anne-psychiatric-hospital-in-paris-a-hidden-sanctuary-of-nature-and-art/

For those who don’t want to read it all, here are some pictures. First up a map showing Paris:

By ThePromenader at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1753317

The thick brown line denotes the original arrondissements of Paris. Within that shape, the area shaded in dark orange is the 14th arrondissement where Sainte Anne is located.

The next picture is of one of the old buildings. The campus is huge.

This pic gives you some idea of the gardens too. Back when there were no treatments for psychiatric conditions, patients were encouraged to work in the gardens – fresh air, sunshine, purpose, exercise. These days we’d call it occupational therapy.

Anyway, the setting is superb and gives me a great location to work with.

Happy Weekend!

Meeks

 


Yes! New music for writing

Nano took a back seat this morning as I’ve been searching for the ‘right’, writing music. I listened to new music by old favourites, but nothing really matched how I feel about this new story. So in desperation I went to SoundCloud and there, thanks to SoundClouds great recommendation engine, I found…

Jon Altino

This is the playlist I just put together. It’s a bit rough as I just grabbed songs as I heard them, but the very first one – A World Asleep – is glorious and should give you some idea of the kind of music I need this year.

Jon Altino? If you’re reading this, I wanted to buy the album, but iTunes only offered Superhero. Please, please put a new album up there!

Well, time to put this lovely music to the test and fire up StoryBox.  I have this feeling P7698 is going to flow a whole lot better today than yesterday.

cheers

Meeks


Nano 2018…it begins!

And we’re off, in eastern Australia, at least. For those who worry that we get an unfair advantage, don’t forget that our Nano ends earlier too.

So what now? Well, I’ve started my 3rd nano by writing this blog post. Some might call that procrastination. I call it clearing the decks. -smirk- I’ll be obsessed with nano for the rest of November so it behooves me to explain, right? Right.

Anyway, this post is really just to say that I won’t be posting anything of world shattering importance in November, so apologies in advance. I will post little bits of research though, if they’re interesting, and the word count, of course. If anyone wants to look me up or become a writing buddy, you’ll find me on Nano as ‘Meeka Flory’. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

 


#VicEmergency, phone app question

With the continued dry weather and fire season fast approaching, I’m a bit worried by the VicEmergency app on my phone. Okay, lie, I’m a lot worried. I get notifications of fires within my watch zone, but the damn phone doesn’t ‘ring’. All I get is a vibration.

When I’m home, the phone sits on my desk so I can generally hear it as it bounces around. If I go to the bathroom or into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee, I hear nothing at all. Zero. Zip. Nada.

My phone is a Samsung Galaxy SII with the most up-to-date firmware it can take. I looked up the specs. My phone should be receiving the VicEmergency notifications without any problems. And I do, I just can’t hear them.

I’ve checked the phone and all the settings are fine. I get proper notification sounds for both calls and SMS messages. What’s more, when I was using the now defunct, EmergencyAus phone app. I had a special sound setup just for the notifications. If I heard that sound I knew to go check the phone, immediately.

-sigh- I really have to say this. The EmergencyAus app was ten times better than the VicEmergency app that seems to have pushed it out of the market. VicEmergency should be the better app because it includes data – such as wind direction – that wasn’t available on EmergencyAus. Read this post to see why wind direction is good.

The trouble is, the VicEmergency app is slow to load and slow to update.  I’ve seen fires showing on the app long after they’ve been downgraded to ‘safe’ on the VicEmergency website. That makes me wonder how much I can trust the app to provide emergency info. when there really is an emergency situation. And I can’t hear the alerts. In some ways, that’s the worst thing about the app because I’m now constantly worried that I’ve missed a vital notification. And that will only get worse as the season progresses.

So, the reason for this post is to ask other VicEmergency users out there if you get notifications with sound or not. If you do, what phone are you using?

I can’t afford to buy new phones for the Offspring and me, but I can’t afford to continue with this stress either. Not being able to hear the alerts has dumped me right back into the emotional state I was in after Black Saturday. People died because they didn’t know. 😦

Oh, and I did try to get some info. from VicEmergency itself but got no reply. Don’t you just love government agencies?

Any info. gratefully received.

Meeks


Fried Rice, from leftovers

I’m sitting here shoveling down the leftover fried rice from last night, but the leftovers began the night before. If you like fried rice and never know what to do with leftover roast chicken, read on.

Recipe – Fried Rice à la Meeka

Ingredients*

Leftover roast or braised chicken, meat removed from bones

Leftover cooked rice [boiled or via the absorption method]

1 – 2 rashers of middle bacon [or ham]

1 – 2 eggs

Capsicum, red [diced]

Spring onion [the white part, cleaned and chopped into small pieces] 

Leftover corn on the cob if available [kernels cut off the cob]

Sesame oil [a drop or two]

Soy Sauce [Light or dark]

Peanut oil for frying [it has a light, clean flavour that’s perfect for Chinese dishes, but I use it for everything]

A large wok

An egg slice or some other tool for stir frying the rice

*quantities will depend upon how many people are to be served and how much they like certain ingredients. As a rule of thumb, you’ll need approx. 1.5 – 2 cups of cooked rice for two medium sized people.

Method

Heat a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil in the wok until you can see a ‘heat haze’ rising from the oil.

While the oil is heating:

  • beat the egg[s]
  • cut the rind off the bacon and cut the meat and fat into small cubes/squares.
  • wash and cut the capsicum into small squares.

When the oil is hot, pour the beaten egg into the hot wok and swirl it around to spread it as much as possible [a bit like making a pancake].

When one side of the egg pancake is done, flip it over and cook the other side until it too is golden. Remove from wok and place on a cutting board. Cut into bite sized pieces and set aside.

Next, place the bacon pieces into the remaining oil along with the capsicum. Lower the heat and allow to cook gently until the bacon is nicely coloured but not quite crisp.

If using, add the corn kernels to the bacon and capsicum. Allow to cook gently for a few minutes more. [This is just to heat the corn through as it’s already cooked].

Remove the bacon, capsicum and corn from the oil. You can add it to the cooked egg.

Add a drop or two of sesame oil to the oil remaining in the wok. Don’t throw this oil out as it contains all the lovely flavours of the bacon etc!

Add the cooked rice to the wok and break up the lumps, tossing the rice almost constantly until the grains are nice and loose.

Return the egg, bacon, capsicum and corn to the wok and toss through the rice.

Add the pieces of cooked chicken.

Keep tossing until all the ingredients are heated through again, and the flavour has had a chance to spread through the rice.

Finally, add the chopped spring onions and a slosh of soy sauce to the rice. Do NOT overdo the soy sauce. 1/2 a tablespoon is more than enough at this stage. People can add more later, to suit their own tastes.

Toss the soy and the spring onions for a minute or two until the rice is slightly…beige? It will get a little colour from the soy, but it shouldn’t be brown. That means there’s too much soy!

Serve as is or braise some Chinese vegetables to serve with the rice.

To reheat the next day, place the leftover fried rice in a pot and add 1 tablespoon of water [the water will steam the rice and stop it from burning]. Cover and heat on a very low flame until it’s hot enough.

Bon appetit!

Meeks

 


Apples, alpacas and some results

First and foremost, to all those who re-blogged and retweeted my ebook free promotion over the last two days…THANK YOU! There were 40 downloads and I’m grateful for each and every one. 🙂

And now to soothe my frazzled nerves and yours, I thought I’d show you what else I’ve been up to:

Exhibit 1 – one of the alpacas that mows my grass, strips my rose bushes and turns my fruit trees into umbrellas

You may also notice that there’s not much grass on the ground. This time last year, the two alpacas would have been chewing through knee high growth. It’s been dry, very dry.

Exhibit 2 – the apple tree inside the new fence

I got  a bit artistic with this shot. 🙂 The metal framing the picture is actually the reo ‘gate’. More on that in the next shot.

This whole project started because I was determined to save the apple tree from the alpacas. Most of my fruit trees are tall enough to survive having all their lower branched pruned into an umbrella shape by the ‘girls’. The apple, however, is kind of a dwarf, and I made the mistake of planting it too close to the fence. As a result, even when the alpacas are locked out, they just reach over the barbed wire and nibble away [that’s why there’s new growth in the middle of the apple tree but not on the ends of the branches].

The first step, therefore, was to put wire mesh above the fence. To do that, I had to hammer some star pickets into the ground and then screw another star picket half way up to increase the combined height [star pickets have holes along one flange so if you marry up the holes you can screw them together]. Then the wire was attached to the ‘posts’.

You can see how the star pickets are attached in Exhibit 3.

Exhibit 3 – the fence

The grid of metal wired to the star pickets is the ‘gate’ leading into the fenced off area. The grid is called ‘reo’ by tradies, but it’s official name is ‘reinforced wire mesh‘. Reo is used to reinforce concrete as it’s being poured. The heavy duty variety is also rigid enough to make an excellent gate. And that’s what I did. Haven’t quite finished so the gate is just wired shut for now.

Exhibit 4 – the enclosure

This last pic just shows the wire enclosure around the apple tree. If you look closely you can see the doubled up star pickets and wire mesh.

Apple tree 1, alpacas 0. -fist pump-

My hands are covered in bandaids and my back hurts, but seeing the apple tree burst into green makes it all worthwhile.

cheers from Warrandyte!

Meeks

 


2 free days for the KDP how-to books

I should probably stretch these promotions out but…meh, let’s have some fun. 🙂

Okay, from October 23 to 24 [2 days], the ebook version of How to Print Your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing and How to Print Non-Fiction with Kindle Direct Publishing will be free on Amazon:

The difference between the two books is that the How to…Novel is pitched at absolute beginners while the How to Non-Fiction is for self-publishers who have to deal with lots of graphics. Oh and the How to Non-Fiction has a new Index of Links at the very back. You can find it by looking at the bottom of the Table of Contents.

If you’re just interested in the KDP side of the equation, both books cover the same information. This includes three appendices that contain information specifically for Aussie authors.

Both how-to books are in colour and fixed layout:

Although you can pinch-and-zoom with fixed format ebooks, you can’t change the font size to suit your comfort zone. That’s why I made the font size 24. On my Kindle Fire, that size is like a normal size 12 font in a paperback. I also made the pictures as ‘visible’ as possible so you wouldn’t have to keep zooming in and out all the time. I haven’t tried either book on a phone so if anyone gives it a try I’d love to know how well [or badly] it works.

Fixed format ebooks can only be read on one of the Kindle Fires or via the free Kindle app.  You can get the app. for a variety of devices at this web address:

https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/fd/kcp

The free promotion should start at midnight tomorrow for the Northern hemisphere. For us Aussies, it will begin at about 6 pm tomorrow.  I genuinely hope lots of people download the books, and I would really, really appreciate the odd review. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


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