Tag Archives: Australia

Worldbuilding with Inkarnate

All speculative fiction writers know about building worlds with words, but what if you need more than words to visualise the space in which your story takes place?

I’m a bit of a perfectionist yet even so, I recently discovered that a guestimate right at the start of Vokhtah was not only wrong, it was very wrong. That, plus needing a distraction from my first jab of AstraZeneca, lead me to Inkarnate, a brilliant, fantasy map making app.

Within the first week of playing around with Inkarnate, I had a map of Vokhtah that was a million times better than the dinky map I’d made using only Corel Draw 8. The trouble was, the more I worked on the map, the more I noticed the gaps in my worldbuilding. You see, the eyries of the Vokh don’t just appear as haphazard dots on a map. They are chosen for very specific requirements, such as:

  • the security provided by the cave system,
  • the proximity to water [and hence to food animals]
  • and the distance from other Vokh [the greater the better].

But if eyries have pre-requisites, so do the Trader caravans that service them. All iVokh can fly, including the Traders, but few can fly well. As for the Plodders who carry the bulk of the Traders’ goods, they can barely fly at all. And this is where biology and terrain combine to create problems, because if eyries need to be near water, but Plodders can’t fly over obstructions like rivers, how do the caravans travel from gather to gather? [A gather is like a human market place.]

In book 1 of Vokhtah, the only river the Traders had to cross was the Little Blue, and it had almost stopped running by the end of the dry season [Tohoh]. The ford across the river was dangerous but doable. But then what about the other seasons?

In my current WIP, I sidestepped that problem by saying that no caravans could travel during the wet season [Kohoh]. Neat. Unfortunately, when I came to filling in the Inkarnate map, I could no longer avoid the issue of terrain because the story of Vokhtah continues on past Kohoh into Tuhoh [the season of new growth] and beyond.

How in heck was I going to solve the problem of river crossings?

The solution to the problem of rivers required a complete rethink of the map, starting with geology and basic physics. Water always flows downhill, and depending on the slope and density of the material it flows through, it either slows down and spreads out:

… or it runs swiftly and carves out gorges. And sometimes it creates land bridges that span the gorge from side to side:

Or sometimes the bridge is actually the rim of a pool that sits high above the river. When the level of water goes back to its normal level, the rim provides a way from one side of the river to the other:

When there is too much water in the pool, it cascades over the rim and becomes a waterfall that feeds the river below:

And yes, I spent a couple of days just researching rivers and terrain here in Australia. πŸ™‚ Much of the info. I discovered came from these videos:

The middle video was shot by an amateur so the helicopter noise is quite loud, but it feels real, as if you’re sitting in the helicopter, experiencing the trip along with the pilot and sightseers. Videos 1 and 3 are professionally produced and provide better visuals.

One of the things I learned was that Katherine Gorge, which is where most of the images were shot, is actually a deep cut through a plateau. All the images I’d seen before this were from the river level and made it seem as if the gorge had cut its way through a flat plain. Not so.

The realisation that the gorge was part of a plateau changed my whole perspective about the Inkarnate map, and how the eyries and caravans [of Vokhtah] would interact with the geology. The end result is this:

Click the image to zoom in closer. The legend on the left identifies the icons used in the map, including the eyries belonging to the Vokh, from the most powerful [large purple] to least powerful [tiny white].

The fuzzy purple areas represent the native vegetation of Vokhtah. As the planet is quite different to Earth, I had to re-imagine the evolution of plants without chlorophyll [the thing that makes Earth plants green and which they use to synthesize food from sunlight, water and minerals in the soil]. I pinched the idea from Earth plants that don’t have chlorophyll of their own. They’re basically parasites, but hey… πŸ™‚

To be honest, I can’t remember exactly why I chose purple/lavender but you’ll notice that most of the water sources on the planet are shades of purple as well. A trick of the visible light off water in a binary star system maybe? The notable exceptions are The Eye [the lake at the top of the map], and the two rivers flowing out of the Eye [Little Blue and Big Blue]. The Eye is a maar lake and it was formed from a volcanic eruption.

This is a photo of Blue Lake in Mt Gambier [Victoria, Australia]:

Click the link above to discover more about volcanic activity in Victoria.

All of the photos and videos in this post are of Australia, and this ancient land was my inspiration for Vokhtah. Thanks for coming on this little journey with me. πŸ™‚

In my next post, I’ll start posting tips and tricks I’ve learned about Inkarnate, and how to use it with Corel Draw 8 to achieve special effects.

cheers,
Meeks


80% vaccination target – what does it really mean for Australia?

I’ve read the Doherty report on which the Federal government’s 4-phase plan is based. The modelling in that report is based on vaccination rates of 70 and 80%…of people 16 and older.

Hmm, I wonder how many children and teens there are under 16?

To find out, I went to the Australian Bureau of Statistics website and downloaded a spreadsheet of population data by age. This is what it looks like:

I added up the numbers [shown in red] the old fashioned way:

1,556,615 +
1,628,393 +
1,595,700 +
296,168 +
———–
5,106,876
———–

So, 5,106,876 out of a total population of 25,698,093 won’t be counted at all. AT. ALL. That’s a lot more than I was expecting.

Hmm, if we subtract all those kids from the total population, how many people are left?

25,698,093 –
5,106,876
————–
20,591,217
————–

So, only 20,591,217 Australians are actually eligible for the jab.

Hmm, how much is 80% of 20,591,217?

It’s 16,472,973 Australians. [I looked it up]

If we take that number away from the total population [ 25,698,093 ] it means that 9,225,120 Australians of all ages will remain unvaccinated. 9 million people who will be vulnerable to Delta when we reach 80% and the need for lockdowns becomes ‘unlikely’.

Unlikely? We’re going to throw over 9 million people under the Delta bus but yay, we won’t have to have lockdowns?

‘Oh, but kids don’t get that sick…’

At least 1,245 Indonesian children have died from coronavirus since the pandemic began, although the actual number is thought to be higher, given the low level of testing for the virus in remote areas.

The majority of those who died were under the age of five.

According to the Indonesian Paediatric Society (IDAI), more than 100 Indonesian children have died every week since July from COVID-19.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/16/devastated-indonesian-parents-mourn-children-lost-to-covid-19

‘Oh, but those that refuse to be vaccinated have only themselves to blame…’

Almost five million people deserve to get sick and possibly die? What sort of a sick society are we?

And what about those for whom the vaccine doesn’t work? Oh…you didn’t think of that, did you?

You know when a vaccine is said to be 90% effective [e.g. Pfizer and Moderna], have you ever wondered what happens to the other 10%?

Well, for that 10% of people, the vaccine won’t work, or will only work partially. And AstraZeneca has an even lower effectiveness rate.

‘Oh…but herd immunity will take care of that!’

Herd immunity is ‘Abracadabra!’ the magic phrase that will solve all our problems. Except it won’t, not with Delta and this first generation of vaccines. Why? Because herd immunity works by surrounding unvaccinated people with a ‘fence’ of vaccinated people. That ‘fence’ stops Covid from being able to reach the unvaccinated people.

But what if there’s a hole in the fence?

In fact, there are two holes in the herd immunity fence. The first one is that breakthrough infections happen, and when they do, the fully vaccinated person is as infectious as if they hadn’t been vaccinated at all. The second is that this crop of vaccines do not provide permanent protection from transmission.

In fact, that protection looks as if it might wear off rather quickly after just four months. This basically means that the fully vaccinated could well end up infecting the unvaccinated themselves…which means:

There will be NO herd immunity.

In a year or two, there may well be vaccines that protect us from serious disease AND from infection. Only then will we finally achieve herd immunity.

Getting back to the Doherty report, their modelling included a number of assumptions based on data from March this year. Back in March, there was very little Delta circulating. Now, it’s running wild. Back in March, we were also delighted to discover that the vaccines provided good protection from transmission. Now we know that protection is short-lived.

Things have changed, but our politicians are still flogging the same plan. Living with Covid is smoke and mirrors with a generous dash of tricky numbers.

Meeks


Friendly Jordies – Blood water

This should be a must-watch video for every Australian because Australia is the driest continent on Earth, and water is life, our life:

Illegal harvesting of flood plain water in the northern part of the country is killing off the food production located in the south. And who benefits? A few very rich individuals and some multinationals that play with our water as if it were the stock market:

I knew some of this from the Four Corners report that aired in 2017:

https://www.abc.net.au/4corners/pumped/8727826

But Four Corners had to be a little…circumspect. The people in the Friendly Jordie documentary pull no punches. Our water is being stolen to enrich a few people and organisations. The theft of our water is being facilitated by politicians in the National Party, which is part of the Coalition currently in charge of politics at the national level.

Think this only affects a few small communities in the back of whoop whoop? Wrong. All of us city people will be affected too…when food becomes more and more expensive. By then though, it will be much too late.

Please! Watch this video and pass it on to others. The corruption has to be stopped, and we’re the only ones who can ultimately stop it.

My thanks to @RonniSalt from Twitter for pointing me at this Friendly Jordies video.

Cheers
Meeks


What is wrong with us?

This is the sentence that horrified me just moments ago:

Iowa Woman Admits to Hitting Children With Car Because of Their Ethnicity

It’s not click-bait. It’s real, and that makes it a million times worse.

The article is written by online blogging friend, Jill Dennison. You can find the full details, including the official statement by authorities, here https://jilldennison.com/2021/04/24/71725/

Be warned though, the account is chilling because the ‘Iowa Woman’ deliberately targeted two separate kids at two separate locations.

As a mother, I cannot conceive of any act more brutal, more evil. But the aftermath, sickened me almost as much:

‘What I don’t understand … this woman who attempted to murder children because she didn’t like the colour of their skin … is handled by law enforcement with kid gloves, while in North Carolina, a 68-year-old Black grandmother was dragged out of her car by her hair, slammed to the ground by police, stepped on, treated so brutally that she suffered a torn rotator cuff (part of the shoulder joint) … for exceeding the speed limit.’

And similar acts of brutality are being carried out, by police, right here in Australia. Against people whose

skin.

is.

not.

white.

What is wrong with us?

Meeks


Bushfire funding rort?

Australia’s Black Summer of 2019/20 shocked the world. Scott Morrison’s Hawaiian holiday in the middle of the fires shocked Australians. But then Covid happened, and we just assumed that all the money promised to bushfire victims would be distributed.

Now, it appears that even this emergency relief has been rorted.

First we learned that the Blue Mountains area of NSW received next to no community funding at all. Then we learned that a sky diving complex [not in the Blue Mountains area] was not only approved, it was given roughly four million dollars more than requested.

The shock value of these funding inequalities lasted for about a day before it faded into obscurity, at least in the main stream media. Not so on Twitter. There, independent journalists, such as Matt Lloyd-Cape have been trying to get to the bottom of the bushfire funding. What they found was that matching promised funding to actual funding was not so easy because of the lack of transparency in the process.

‘Not easy’ and ‘impossible’ are not the same though. This is some of what they found:

‘Of the $566 million promised in emergency support to people whose homes and /or businesses were burned by the fires, only 43% had been spent by the end of October 2020.’

https://www.michaelwest.com.au/bushfire-money-mystery-recovery-funds-withheld-to-fight-the-election/

This is the funding allocated for immediate emergency relief, for people who lost their homes or businesses in the fires. Let me repeat that. The funding was supposed to be for the most destitute of victims.

Or how about this:

‘Of the $228 million released by the Morrison Government under this program so far, more than 77% went to NSW, 8.75% to South Australia, 7.5% to Queensland and just 6.4% to Victoria. While this split seems to disproportionately favour Coalition controlled states, there still may be good reasons – it could be a matter of different reporting schedules among states, or that the states have agreed to such a division for federal resources – but without better publicly available information there is no way of knowing.

https://www.michaelwest.com.au/bushfire-money-mystery-recovery-funds-withheld-to-fight-the-election/

There’s more, of course, and I strongly recommend that all Australians read the entire article: https://www.michaelwest.com.au/bushfire-money-mystery-recovery-funds-withheld-to-fight-the-election/

I think you’ll be shocked to learn how much news you have not been getting. I know I was.

The disruptions caused by the internet are still rumbling through the news media, and traditional news suppliers have either been forced out, or forced to toe the funding line just to stay in business. As for the journalists employed by those suppliers, their jobs have never been more precarious.

Hmm…. I wonder what that sort of financial pressure does to a journalist’s ability to report the news, without fear or favour?

I recently read about a media company that supplied a list of politicians that new, young, female journalists should stay away from. Yet not a word leaked to the general public because those journalists live or die by their ‘access’ to sources within the Canberra bubble.

On Twitter, these news suppliers are known as the MSM – main stream media. They include #Newscorpse [Rupert Murdoch’s News Corps], the Fairfax press, what’s left of it, commercial TV news, and…the Australia Broadcasting Corporation.

‘…the ABC was originally financed by consumer licence fees on broadcast receivers. Licence fees were abolished in 1973 and replaced principally by direct government grants,…’

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Broadcasting_Corporation

I stopped watching commercial TV when I realised how biased ‘Sixty Minutes’ was in its presentation of genetically modified organisms [GMOs] and genetic engineering in general. I switched to the ABC because I grew up thinking the ABC was stodgy but accurate. I’ve recently had to revise even that article of faith. The ABC may not lie, but all the funding cuts have forced it to be very…selective…in the news it presents.

In my world, you’re judged not just by what you do say but by what you don’t say, and the ABC has been not-saying a lot lately.

I stopped watching the 7:30 Report a couple of years after Kerry O’Brien left. I stopped watching The Drum about a week ago when it became obvious that the discussion about Victoria’s recent 5 day lockdown would become a Daniel Andrews bash-fest. What else can you expect when the only Victorian on the panel was an ex Liberal politician?

Why was he an ex Liberal? Because we voted him out at the last election. Did he agree with our elected State Government’s strategy on Covid? Of course not. Yet the 5 day lockdown worked, just as our months long, hard lockdown worked.

It’s possible that someone else on The Drum disagreed with the bash-fest, but I didn’t see it because I stopped watching and haven’t watched since.

So why the heck am I writing all this now? I’m writing because I know that most people of my generation:

  • still believe that the news media ‘can’t’ lie.
  • still have faith in the ABC,
  • and don’t use Twitter, or watch podcasts by The Friendly Jordies, or seek out independent news sources etc etc.

Why do I know this? Because that was me just a short while ago. 😦

The Fourth Estate has changed, and the old guard are dying out. A new generation of fearless journalists are rising up to fill the void, but thus far it’s mostly the young who know about them. Those young people will be our movers and shakers very soon, but they’re not there yet. That’s why it’s up to us, the over 50s to start asking questions too. And if we don’t like the answers, we have to make ourselves heard.

I do not like learning that emergency funding for the most desperate of bushfire victims has been withheld, for any reason whatsoever. This is not only morally wrong, it’s obscene.

The rort we ignore is the rort we condone.

Meeks


What, Where, When, How…and Why?

What, where, when, how and why are the necessary elements of every great story, but in my not-so-humble opinion, the ‘why’ is the key. Without it, the event [what], its setting [the where and when], and the mechanics of how it happened are like the dry pages of a history book – factual but boring. Only the why brings the story to life because the why is always about people.

We are eternally fascinated by ourselves, but most of us are small, insignificant motes living small, insignificant lives. Only in fiction can we become something more. Only in fiction can we live bigger lives…from the safety of our armchairs.

In The Game, a six-part drama produced by the BBC, we are taken back in time to the Cold War when the Western democracies were pitted against the Soviet Union in an undeclared, covert war fought by spies, assassins, traitors, and information gatherers. Both sides had developed nuclear weapons post World War II, so if either side started a physical war, the result would be mutual destruction, many times over. It would be the end of everything.

I grew up in Australia during the Cold War, and although we felt very distant from all the pushing and shoving in the northern hemisphere, the possibility of being wiped off the face of the planet was very real. I remember reading Nevil Shute’s On the Beach and wondering how I would spend my last hours of life. Trust me when I say that the fear was real, as was the threat.

That is the ‘where’ and ‘when’ in which The Game unfolds. The ‘what’ is Operation Glass. No one in the UK’s MI5 know what Operation Glass is about, but they all know there might not be a UK if the Soviet plot is allowed to succeed. The following is a short trailer from Episode 2:

All of the people shown in that scene are key players in MI5, and you automatically relate to them as the ‘good guys’, but are they? Bit by bit as the six episodes unfold, we learn snippets from the past of each player, but these snippets are not just nice to know background fluff, they are the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Put the pieces together correctly and you discover how Operation Glass took MI5 by surprise.

If you know anything about that period of UK history, you’ll know that deep cover traitors were discovered. To say more would be to spoil a part of the story. Suffice to say that the ‘why’ of each character in The Game is vital to the story.

If I were doing a movie review, I’d give The Game 5 stars along with a recommendations that you watch it on ABC iView [for Australians]. But I’m a writer, and I have to say something more, something about balance. The ‘why’ may be key to any story, but it has to be balanced by all the other elements.

Frankly, nothing bores me more than a work of fiction that reads like a therapy session using fictional characters as the medium. Yes, the deep hurts of our lives are necessary if we want to write strong, believable characters, but great stories require that we sublimate those hurts. Great stories require that we find the universal in the personal. We have to find the elements that are common to us all. Only then can we write three dimensional characters that all of us can relate to.

And then we have to place those characters in terrible situations from which they will emerge stronger, braver, better…or dead. Okay, not always dead, but you know what I mean. πŸ™‚

May your stories grab readers by the short and curlies, and may your characters display motivation we can all recognize! Write well, all you wonderful Indies out there, and may 2021 see you all gain the recognition you deserve.

love
Meeks


Christmas, Downunder style

Our cousins, the Kiwis, actually came up with this perfect Antipodean Christmas Carol but…it’s all in the family so I’m claiming it for Australia too! Mwahahaha…-cough-

My thanks to Carol of Carol Cooks, for introducing me to the Summer Wonderland video, and some fantastic foodie delights during the year. Apart from being a great cook, Carol also has a wicked sense of humour which is why I believe she should be an honorary Antipodean. Welcome to the Downunders, Carol!

As for everyone else, wherever you are, and whatever you plan to cook for your <<insert name of holiday here>> I hope you have a safe holiday even if it isn’t the most joyous one. Next year will be better, and next holiday will make up for this one.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay well.

Massive hugs
Meeks


Retail therapy at last!

Yes! I went shopping today. For the first time in over eight months. And yes, it was exhilarating. πŸ˜€

My little shopping expedition was also hot and sweaty because I decided to be daring and go for a walk first. Bad move. I parked at Bunnings and walked to Autobarn, a short hop…by car. What I’d forgotten was that most of the way to Autobarn was uphill, and guess who’s a wee bit out of shape?

By the time I’d walked back to Bunnings [wearing my surgical mask and one glove], I was literally dripping with sweat, and the inside of the mask felt like a wet towel. That said, the outside of the mask was quite dry, proving that it really does catch all those potentially toxic exhalations.

Anyway…one of the first things I saw inside Bunnings was a customer with his mask down under his chin, mooching around with a takeaway cup of coffee in his hand. After all the fear and stress of the last eight months, I totally lost it and told him off. He came back with ‘oh but you’re allowed to not wear a mask if your eating or drinking’. I politely suggested that he ‘eat or drink’ outside.

I know the restrictions have been eased, but this prick was deliberately abusing the privileges we’ve been given. I am so sick of selfish morons trying to find loop holes in rules designed to protect everyone. We’re virus free for the moment, but as South Australia discovered, all it takes is ONE idiot. Ahem…

Smarmy piece of shit aside, the whole setup at Bunnings was brilliant. One door to go in, a different door to go out, physical distancing lines painted on the floor leading to the checkouts. Staff all wearing masks and directing ‘traffic’. I felt quite safe, which is saying something. And I loved being able to select things for myself again. Online shopping is okay, but unless and until they make online shopping a virtual experience, it’s just not the same as being there.

Oh, and in case you’re all wondering what I actually bought? Well…I bought a trickle charger for the batteries that drive my fire-fighting pumps, a new 30 metre garden hose, a timer-tap so I can’t forget to turn off the tap, and a small sprinkler head to water the new veggie box.

Nothing exciting, I know, but I feel great anyway, and in a day or two I’m going to go out again to buy…bread. A beautiful Vienna with a crisp crust and a fluffy white interior:

The vienna has to be unsliced, of course, so we can pop it into a hot oven for a minute [to decontaminate] before slicing and smothering with fresh, cold butter….

Sometimes it’s the smallest things that make us happy. πŸ™‚

cheers
Meeks


Vaccines – some real data on efficacy

This is an important video for everyone to watch as Dr John Campbell explains about the adverse reactions recorded for the Pfizer vaccine. He then goes through the first peer reviewed paper published for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

As Australia has aligned itself heavily with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, it’s very reassuring to know that it is both safe and efficacious! Just as a matter of interest, Australians won’t be getting any vaccines until some time in March, 2021. As we have the virus under control [knock on wood], we can afford to wait.

Feels great to get some good news on the virus front for a change. πŸ™‚

cheers
Meeks


Step back in time…

I want to start this post by thanking Sandra, a real world friend and email correspondent for sending me these incredible, historical artifacts. Thank you!

Now, take my hand and let’s start with something all Australians will recognize – the Sydney Harbour Bridge:

Building the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Historians will love this old black and white news footage, but baby techies like me will be astounded to learn exactly how such a huge, single span was built. I literally could not believe my eyes. [If you don’t want to watch the entire eight minute video, click the red ‘play’ line at about 75%].

The next few images prove that history is cyclical. Or perhaps they just prove that humans never change:

Noses exposed? Really?
Now that’s what I call serious protection!
Everything closed until further notice…
See the modern tech?
Old school social media…
The bullet Australia has missed…so far.

I decided to include the following, more recent image because I wish we had something like it today:

Circa the 1950s?

Imagine if, instead of having to order online and get someone else to pick your produce for you, mobile shops would drive through the suburbs, ringing a bell or something, like the old Mr Whippy icecream vans.

Remember them?

For those who don’t know who or what Mr Whippy was, you can see pics and read all about it on Woorillacaught’s blog: https://www.woorillacaught.com/mr-whippy/

We’d still have to wear masks and gloves, and keep 2 metres apart, but wouldn’t it be nice to be able to pick your own fruit and veg? Maybe have the baker’s van bring fresh, crusty Vienna’s to the corner of your street. And ice cream! I do miss the Mr Whippy van. πŸ™‚

The past was anything but a golden age and yet, there are things from my childhood that I really do miss. What about you?

cheers
Meeks


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