Author Archives: acflory

About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes...

Australia voted…

On May 18, 2019, Australia voted in an election that we all thought was in the bag. We all thought Labor would win because their policies would be good for the whole country…and because the hard right conservative government was so on the nose. We were wrong. The hard right conservative government was returned for another three years.

The talking heads on the tv were stunned as the unfolding result went against the last 50 polls. I was stunned because this expletive-deleted government was not only being voted back in, it was being voted back in with an increased margin.

Peter Dutton, the most hated man on #auspol, retained his seat of Dickson…with an increased margin.

George Christensen, a politician who posted a photo of himself shooting a handgun and spent more time in the Philippines than in his own electorate, was returned…with an increased margin.

Why? I still don’t know. The voters of Queensland were certainly sending a message, but they were not alone. Even in Victoria, the state considered the most progressive in Australia, Labor did not make enough gains to make a difference.

For a while, I hoped that the results were skewed out of shape by the huge number of pre-polls, but by the end of the night it became clear that even if the pre-polls all favoured Labor, it still wouldn’t be enough. To put it quite brutally, Australia has done a trump, and we have no excuse. All of us voted. Half of us ignored the scandals, the corruption and the actual economic record of the LNP and voted in favour of fear and self-interest.

I am more shocked than I can say. But. The people have spoken, and that’s what democracy is about. The fact that I don’t like it is neither here nor there.

The only bright spots to come out of this election all centre around Independent women:

  • Zali Steggall beat Tony Abbott in Waringah
  • Helen Haines won the seat of Indi after the former Independent [also a woman] retired from the seat. That’s a first.
  • Dr Kerryn Phelps may, possibly, retain the seat of Wentworth.

Whether these Independents will be able to change things for the better is doubtful. There are just not enough of them, and it doesn’t look as if the conservatives will have a minority government. Ergo, they won’t have to compromise to get the votes of the Independents.

To be honest, at this point I’m pinning all my hopes on people who don’t even have the vote yet. In three years time, the 15, 16 and 17 years olds of today will be eligible to vote. Many of them care about the future. I hope they vote in a government that’s prepared to do something about it.

Meeks

 


The Eye of the Spine

I have a bad cold and my brain feels like cotton wool, so rather than doing productive work, I’ve been doing jigsaws on screen. This is what I just found:

It’s a lake in the caldera of an extinct, or at least, inactive volcano. If you were to flip that image vertically and then rotate it a little, you’d end up with something like this:

Now, let’s just draw a rough outline of the lake and fill it in…

And finally, compare it to the eye of a cat…

…and…hey presto! You have the Eye of the Spine!

Many years ago, when I was working out the geography of Vokhtah, I came up with this rather crude map:

The blue blob at the top of the map [just above the label for ‘The Spine’] was my idea of how the ‘Eye of the Spine’ might look. I never imagined I’d ever find a real picture that actually looked like the eye of a Vokh! -dance-

As a quick explanation, the map is drawn from the perspective of a Vokh, one of the flying alien species in the story of Vokhtah. The eyes of both Vokh and iVokh have vertical pupils similar to those of a cat. Unlike cats, however, their nictating membrane [semi-transparent, inner eyelid] opens and closes vertically rather than horizontally.

Thus, from a certain angle, a Vokh flying high above that lake would see the shape of an ‘eye’, its own eye. Hence the name given to the lake.

I’m going to count this amazing find as ‘research’ rather than play. 😀

cheers

Meeks

 


Fried Rice with Soffritto

Most people know what fried rice is, but I bet very few of you know what ‘soffritto’ is. Don’t worry, I’ll give you a hint, in French it’s called ‘mirepoix’. Still no takers? Don’t feel bad. I didn’t know what soffritto was until a few months ago either.

Okay, no more teasing. Soffritto is an Italian flavour base made of onion, celery and carrot. All three ingredients are chopped very fine and then sauteed in olive oil or butter until they soften. When used in a bolognese, for example, the soffritto cooks down so much that you can’t distinguish the separate ingredients. But you can taste the rich flavour they impart to the dish.

For those with an inquiring mind, here’s a link to a full explanation:

http://www.italianfoodforever.com/2011/11/soffritto-the-holy-trinity-of-italian-cuisine/

But what does an Italian flavour base have to do with an Asian dish? It turns said dish into a one-wok meal, that’s what!

This is a picture of what the finished dish looks like:

Apologies for the shadow. My head got in the way.

As you can see from the photo, there’s a lot going on in this dish. Apart from the carrot and celery there’s red capsicum, chopped bacon, sweet corn, spring onions and one egg. The dish would have been a bit healthier if I’d added some pulses, but that was a step too far, even for me. Read on for the recipe.

Ingredients

1 cup of long grain rice cooked using the absorption method [or any kind of rice you have on hand].

2 rashers of middle bacon, rind removed.

1 egg

1/2 of a red capsicum cut into thin strips

1 large stick of celery, washed and cut into thin strips

1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into thin strips

1 corn on the cob, cooked

3 spring onions [mostly the whites]

1 – 2 tablespoons of peanut oil

a few drops of sesame oil

about 1 tablespoon of light Soy Sauce to drizzle over

Method

Add the oil to the wok and bring it to medium heat. [I have a cast iron ring that sits on my gas burner and raises the wok above the flames. Highly recommended as it ensures more even heat to the wok].

Add the chopped bacon and fry gently until the bacon is just coloured.

Add the carrots, celery and capsicum to the bacon, lower the heat and sautee very gently [approx. 10 minutes]. It will look something like this:

Some of you may have noticed that my soffritto vegetables didn’t include onion. That’s because I’ll be using the spring onions to add a slightly more Asian flavour at the end of the dish. Oh, and the capsicum is in there because I really like capsicum. 🙂

While the soffritto mix is softening, cut the kernels of corn off the cob and give them a rough chop:

You can also chop the spring onions but do NOT add them to the dish yet.

Once the soffritto is done, add the corn and toss through the other ingredients:

Allow the corn to heat through for a minute or two and then add the rice:

Break the rice up in the wok and toss it through the soffritto base to absorb all those delicious flavours.

It was at this point of the cooking that I suddenly remembered I hadn’t cooked the egg ahead of time. Oh woe! Luckily, fried rice is a very forgiving dish. I pushed the rice to one side, cracked an egg straight into the wok and quickly turned it into scrambled egg with the spatula I use to toss the rice:

As always, abject apologies for the out-of-focus photo. 😦

Once the egg is incorporated into the rice mixture, there are only 3 ingredients left to add. Sprinkle a few drops of sesame oil over the rice [a little goes a long way]. Next, sprinkle or slosh the soy sauce on top. Add the chopped spring onions and quickly toss through the fried rice.

And that’s it. Serve in a small bowl and eat however you wish, chop sticks, forks, spoons, who cares. 🙂

If you have any rice left over, scrape it into a small saucepan and place in the fridge. When you’re ready to reheat, simply add a teaspoon of water to the pot – to stop the rice from burning – cover and steam gently for about 5 minutes.

Buon appetito!

chī chī chī” 吃吃吃 [I think this mean ‘eat, eat, eat’. Please correct me if it’s wrong!]

cheers

Meeks

 

 


The psychology of inequality

I read an amazing thread on Twitter today. It was written by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez  [@AOC on Twitter], the young woman who is making huge waves in US politics. As an Australian, I knew very little about her and just assumed that she was someone from the usual privileged classes. Wrong. Apparently, AOC used to be a waitress, living on a tiny wage and making ends meet via unpredictable ‘tips’.

That was surprise enough, but then she went on to say:

…1 of the greatest scams in US is the idea that financial struggle is due to “poor character.”

AOC was talking about the poor in America, but I suddenly understood why the Liberal National Party coalition here in Australia has no problem with the growing inequality in our country. It’s because they see the poor as ‘dolebludgers’, ‘leaners’, parasites on the body economic. Furthermore, they believe the undeserving poor are poor because they are too stupid, uneducated, or lazy to contribute to society. Helping these undeserving poor is seen as a terrible waste of valuable resources.

Those who stand for the LNP can heap disdain on the undeserving poor because they see themselves as the source of all prosperity. They see themselves as the ones who create the wealth that’s wasted on the undeserving poor. They see themselves as the good guys because…well, because they’re rich. Obvious, right?

This unquestioned equating of wealth with goodness and value is at the heart of the inequality in both the US and Australia. The rich deserve to be rich; the poor deserve to be poor. End of story.

But as AOC goes on to say in her thread, many of those living below the poverty line in the US actually work two or more jobs. They work just as hard, if not harder, than wealthy people, but the value of their work is so much less. And who determines the value of that work? The top 1% who own all the industries that generate the wealth.

To be honest, until today, I thought that most of the people who voted LNP did so because they lacked compassion, or were fundamentally selfish and greedy. Now I understand that it’s not so much a lack of compassion that’s at the heart of our inequality, it’s a lack of experience. It’s ignorance.

I can’t speak for the super rich, but I can speak for what used to be called the ‘middle class’. My parents sent me to a Catholic primary school and then on to a Catholic high school. They gave me piano lessons, and ballet lessons and even singing lessons. Books, ideas and music were an integral part of my life growing up. University was the natural next step.

But while my parents voted Liberal, I never did. There were two reasons for that. The first was the Catholic insistence on charity and compassion for those less well off than myself. The second was that despite their insistence on a good education for me, my parents were not rich. Dad was an engineer, but he was the sole bread winner. My parents bought a house but never bought a car because it was an unnecessary expense. They gave me the best education they could afford, but I grew up wearing op. shop clothes.

Seeing both sides of the poverty divide turned me into a Labor voter. Living on Newstart for 5 years because I was too old to be offered a job made me realise that anyone can drop below the poverty line. More importantly, it made me see that people without the benefits I had growing up can never rise above the poverty line.

That’s why AOC’s words had such a profound effect on me. Yes, there are a few, rare individuals who manage to make an absolute fortune through their own efforts, but very few [if any] do so without some of the benefits we all take for granted. Most wealthy people inherit a good start in life. Some wealthy people inherit so much wealth that they can play the ‘who’s the richest woman in the world?’ game. But none of these people are inherently ‘good’.

Wealth does not make anyone a good person, and poverty does not make anyone a ‘bludger’.

Until we can provide the kind of stable society that allows all children to grow up with equal opportunities, the economic divide will continue to grow. As it does, our democracies will turn into oligarchies and our countries will begin the slide into global ‘has beens’.

For those who are interested, I’ve taken screenshots of a couple of the tweets AOC posted:

If you’re already a Labor voter, then good for you. See you on the 18th of May!

If you’re a centrist of the Liberal persuasion, then please think about some of the assumptions you make about your world. Society works best when most of the members of that society belong to the ‘middle class’, just like you. If the middle class continues to be eroded then one day, your children or your children’s children may find themselves below the poverty, unable to better themselves because they can no longer afford the opportunities that make prosperity possible.

We all need to ‘walk a mile’ in the shoes of someone less prosperous than ourselves. Only then can we pat ourselves on the back for having ‘made it’, or not, as the case may be.

Meeks


Call for bloggers

via Call for bloggers

This is a great initiative and the proceeds go to a great cause – no kill animal shelters!


Compassion in practical action

via Compassion in practical action

Please follow the link to the ‘Backpackbed’ site. This amazing invention is true compassion at work.


Stress aaaand…release

With a title like that, I’m sure you’ve all guessed that I’ve been under some pressure lately. Oddly enough, the one person who didn’t know was me. I thought I was having a heart attack or something. Duh. The doctor said most emphatically that there was NOTHING wrong with my heart!

There, that was the good news and the bad news in two short sentences. The lived reality was a little more drawn out though, and probably began on Christmas Eve, 2018, when I started to get muscle spasms in my back. The reason? Trying to mow about an acre of steep land with a battery driven lawnmower and whippersnipper [edge cutter for non-Australians].

I’d been mowing little bits for weeks, so my back was used to the backwards and forwards motion of the lawn mower; it was the side-to-side motion of the whippersnipper that actually did me in. Continuing to do normal ‘stuff’ for a few more days compounded the problem and led to about four weeks of misery. As the muscle is in my middle back, twisting hurt, getting into bed hurt, rolling over in bed hurt, pushing up from bed to go to the loo was agony. All because those damn muscles are used by our arms for just about everything.

Adding to this physical misery was the weather. Fire season has been awful this year, and despite the rain during the last couple of days, I’m still not sure it’s over because the ground is bone dry. With so little moisture in the ground, any day with wind becomes a potential bushfire day. Warrandyte has had many small fires, but nothing major, unlike the rest of the state, thank god. So add an almost constant, low grade fear to the backache.

Part of the reason for that fear was that I was due to start my paid job in April. Who would turn on the pumps and protect everything if I was out working?

As things turned out, the start date was delayed until the 3rd of May, which was just as well because April ended up being an awful month. Beloved little friend Buffa died, the offspring had medical issues, lots of driving backwards and forwards, very little sleep, constant anger thanks to the political situation both here and overseas and bang, I had what felt like heart palpitations…for hours.

As I said at the beginning of this post, the doctor said it wasn’t my heart. All the tests proved that it wasn’t my heart, but I wasn’t ready to accept that it was ‘just’ stress and anxiety until yesterday. You see yesterday was the day I taught my first class at the retirement village, and it was wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, that I could literally feel the weight of all this combined fear and anxiety falling off my shoulders.

Last night I slept for seven hours straight. Today I feel ready to take on the world again. More importantly, I feel like me again, positive, optimistic, Pollyanna-esque me. 🙂

I don’t like talking about negative things much, especially when they relate to me, but this episode really shocked me as I’d always thought of myself as quite laid back, competent, easy going…

I was wrong, and I suspect I’m not alone, so if your life feels as if everything is becoming too much, please don’t soldier on. Stress creeps up on all of us, no matter how strong we think we are, and stress can cause actual, physical symptoms. Chronic stress can also depress the immune system which can then lead to even more problems.

Please, don’t dismiss the negative things in your life as ‘just’ stress. There’s no such thing. Stress can cause real damage, so be kind to yourself and put some balance back in your life. If you are doing too much, take a good long look at your day, and ask yourself whether all of those tasks are really important, or whether they’re just part of you, wanting to live up to your superwoman image?

The crunch for me came when I realised that I was physically incapable of driving all the way across town and back on just a couple of hours sleep. But I did need to be at that appointment so I threw my very tight budget out the window and took a taxi there and back. Those two trips cost me almost $200, but I ended up napping in the back seat of the taxi instead of at the wheel of my car.

I’d like to be superwoman, but at 66 I’m starting to learn my limits. And I’m so much happier for it.

-big hugs-

Meeks

 


Who Knows the History of Traditional Publishing?? — Plaisted Publishing House

Not many. Especially readers. Well, guess what it’s only been around for approx 120 – 150 years at most. Writers used to go out an find a printer who would print copies of their manuscripts, pay them and then the writer would sell their books to the public. Oh, wait! Isn’t this what we do […]

via Who Knows the History of Traditional Publishing?? — Plaisted Publishing House

I seriously did not know that Mark Twain was an Indie! Click the link to read the whole article. It’ll make Indie authors smile, and it might make readers give us a chance the next time they buy a book. 🙂


Smorgasbord Easter Parade Blog Party – Part Two – Music, dancing, food, Behatted guests and time to drop you links.

This post made me smile today, and even if you’re not an ABBA fan, I really, really recommend that you watch the flashdance video. As you do, keep an eye out for a very brief shot of someone in the window, looking down.

Click the link below to go to Sally’s post. Enjoy!

via Smorgasbord Easter Parade Blog Party – Part Two – Music, dancing, food, Behatted guests and time to drop you links.


An atheist’s Easter

I’ve mentioned before that I’m an atheist, but I probably didn’t mention that I only became one when I was about seventeen. Until then, I was a Catholic.

I ‘came out’ as an atheist during my matriculation year at school. Back then, matric was year twelve, and your matriculation scores determined which university, and course,  you would be offered. I matriculated at an all-girl, Catholic convent school.

The headmistress of the school was an amazing woman called Sister Philomena. She was not a cuddly nun. She was an academic in a wimple, and once she [and the local priest and representatives from the arch diocese] accepted that my claim was genuine, she did two amazing things. First, she allowed me to stay at school and finish my matric. Second, she allowed me to skip religion classes. This amounted to approximately half an hour of free time every day. I spent that time practising the piano in one of the music rooms. I’ve often wondered whether I would have passed matric piano without all that extra practice time.

The reason I’m boring you all with this ancient history is so you’ll understand that I’m still a committed atheist, but my ethics have their roots in the Catholic concepts of sacrifice, charity, compassion and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Those are the concepts I consciously retained after much questioning. I retained them because they gelled with who I was as a person. I still believe in them, especially the ‘do unto others’ bit.

In my not so humble opinion, compassion and empathy are the two greatest human traits. They are the only traits that make us worthwhile as a species. They are the only traits that balance out the greed and selfishness and outright hatred that always lead us to war.

Yet when I look at the world on this Good Friday, 2019, I see nothing but greed and selfishness and outright hatred in the West. The US, the UK, parts of Europe and Australia are all in the grip of a frenzy of ‘us against them’, and I can’t see a way out because each side is convinced they are right.

To be honest, I don’t see how I, personally, can compromise on the issues I believe in when the ‘other side’ is doing such awful things. I won’t name them, not today, but I will ask people on both the Left and the Right to stop for a moment and ask – is this how compassionate people behave? Is this how people who believe in a Christian god treat their fellow man?

I’ve never forgotten the parables I learned in school, and here is the one that I live by:

The Good Samaritan

‘”Love your neighbor as yourself” was part of the Old Testament law (Leviticus 19:18). But the Jewish teachers had often interpreted “neighbor” to include only people of their own nationality and religion. The expert in the law was looking to Jesus for justification for that interpretation, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In response, Jesus told His famous Parable of the Good Samaritan.’

https://www.christianbiblereference.org/jparable.htm

To the Jews, Samaritans were ‘the Other’. The lesson here was, and is, that we are all neighbours, and we all deserve to be helped. It is also a plea for compassion. Sadly compassion is in very short supply at this moment in time. Hypocrisy, however, is everywhere.

Part of the reason I became an atheist was because my youthful self rebelled against the hypocrisy I saw all around me. So called ‘good’ Catholics who went to church every Sunday, said their prayers and left a donation for the ‘poor’ and then went away convinced they had done their bit. Worse, they were convinced that they were so good, they were justified in lying and cheating all week.

Those people did not live their beliefs, they only paid lip service to them. They were also the first to speak out against any ‘other’ who was different. They did not do unto others as they would have wanted to be treated themselves.

Why? Because they were the righteous. They were the saved. They were entitled….

Now, fifty years on, I see the same sense of entitlement in many who consider themselves to be ‘good’ Christians.

This is not a post against religion. It is a post for the principles that religions are meant to be based on.

This Easter, we all need to ask ourselves if we are doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. If the answer is no, let’s do better.

Meeks

 

 


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