Tag Archives: Melbourne

3D printing research – here in Melbourne

My thanks to SV3DPRINTER for pointing me to this interesting article from Swinburne University, right here in Melbourne [Australia]:

https://www.swinburne.edu.au/news/latest-news/2018/08/pioneering-housing-construction-with-3d-concrete-printers-at-swinburne.php

Although Professor Jay Sanjayan wasn’t giving away any technical secrets about his new process, the prospect of new materials to use in the printing process is very exciting. Nevertheless, it’s his comments about disruption to the construction industry that really got me thinking. 3D printing in construction makes it possible to automate construction.

But then what happens to the brickies and steel workers and carpenters whose jobs will become redundant?

I’m excited by the possibilities brought about by 3D printing, but also a little apprehensive. I firmly believe that some form of Universal Basic Income [UBI] will become necessary, possibly even in my lifetime. Sobering thought.

cheers

Meeks

 


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


Sakura festival…in Melbourne!

Despite loving all things Japanese, I’ve never been to Japan, but now I can say I’ve been to a Sakura [Cherry Blossom] festival. Ta dah:

[Apologies for the size of the photos. I wanted them to be as lovely as possible]

These are ornamental cherry trees gifted to Melbourne by the government of Japan. The grove was planted in Banksia Park, which is situated on the boundary between the suburbs of Heidelberg and Bulleen.

Not all of the cherry trees survived the harsh, Australian conditions, so the Japanese community in Melbourne took the fledgling grove under its wing, saving as many trees as possible and caring for the whole grove. The photo below shows one of the cherry trees that was saved:

You can see how close this poor tree came to dying.

Thanks to the efforts of the Japanese community, people like me can now enjoy a little taste of Japan without having to leave home.

Arigato gozaimasu!

Meeks

 


Melbourne – wind direction

Just checked the VicEmergency website and took this screenshot of the wind-direction[s] around Melbourne at the moment:

The little arrows indicate where the wind is coming from, and where it’s going to. The bottom of the picture is ‘south’ so you can see that in the lavender coloured areas down the bottom, wind direction is a steady ‘south easterly’ – i.e. coming from the south and east. In the pale areas, however, the wind is all over the place. Literally.

Why bother with wind direction?

Because you need to know whether a bushfire is being blown towards you or away from you.

To see the wind direction overlay on the VicEmergency map, click the Filter option as shown:

This will open a drop down list. Scroll down the list and click ‘wind direction’. This will display the lavender map at the top of this post.

To get rid of the wind direction overlay, open the Filter menu again and select ‘None’.

If you’re looking at the VicEmergency app on your phone, you have to tap your watch zone first. Once it opens, the Filter option is located up the top on the right-hand side of the screen [next to the ?].

Tap Filter and select the option for wind direction as for the website.

Given how dry and horrible this Spring has been, I think I’ll be keeping that wind direction overlay on at all times.

Stay safe,

Meeks


Cigány primás – Zoltán Mága

My Dad has been gone for eight years now, but he returned today, in the music of Zoltán Mága. I recognized the gypsy ‘style’ as soon as the Offspring said, “Mum, you have to hear this!’

This first video clip is a csárdás – the music for a Hungarian folk dance – and Zoltán Mága is what my Dad used to call a ‘Cigány primás’, literally the prime or first violin of a gypsy band.

Dad wasn’t a gypsy primás, but he did learn the violin from one, and that influence stayed with him his entire life. I grew up learning to play from sheet music [on the piano] so I could teach Dad to play songs by ear. One of his favourites was Lara’s Theme from Doctor Zhivago.

My tastes in music ran more to classical music like the Hungarian Rapsody by Franz Liszt or Ferenc Liszt as we Magyar would write it:

But Dad would have absolutely adored this exuberant gypsy music:

Pacsirta is a kind of bird, hence the bit in the middle. 🙂

Dad was a champion gymnast, a mechanical engineer, and in the last third of his life, a busker on the streets of Melbourne. He became quite famous as the man in the tuxedo who played his violin on the trains. He was 87 when he finally stopped playing, 89 when he died.

I miss you Dad.

28/03/1996 NEWS: Violinist ‘Lolly’ with activities support officer Ray Thompson. Busker. Busking. Buskers.


IngramSpark for Australian Authors

Just finished a long conversation with a very nice lady from IngramSpark Australia, and I thought I’d share what I learned with other Australian self-publishers.

First and foremost, IngramSpark have a print facility right here in Australia. That translates to massive savings on shipping costs for Australian authors.

How massive? Roughly $4.90 for 1 to 28 medium sized paperbacks if you live in Melbourne. That’s because the IngramSpark print facility is located in Melbourne. Delivery charges to other states will obviously be higher. Nonetheless, I doubt those charges would come close to the cost of shipping books in from overseas.

Secondly, IngramSpark printing costs are a bit higher than CreateSpace but lower than Lulu. They also have:

  • a full range of trim sizes
  • hardbacks if required
  • global distribution to countries not available through Amazon.

Amazon distribution has become a sore point with Australians as they cannot buy print books on Amazon Australia. In the past, they would have to order print books from Amazon US or UK and pay shipping costs that often doubled or tripled the cost of the book. Now that we’ve been geo-blocked from Amazon international, print books will no longer be available at all. Unless…

And this brings me to my conversation with IngramSpark today. I rang to clarify whether I could use IngramSpark to provide print books to Amazon Australia. The question was complicated by the fact that I wanted non-Australian Amazon markets to continue selling paperbacks printed via CreateSpace and KDP.

Aussie authors will be pleased to know that the answer from IngramSpark was ‘yes’. 🙂

Basically what happens is that my book[s] will be available for world wide distribution – to countries not covered by Amazon as well as markets already covered by Amazon. When someone buys one of my print books from Amazon US, UK or EU, Amazon will fulfil the order from their own ‘feed’. In other words, if they can supply from CreateSpace OR KDP they’ll do so.

But…for markets such as Australia, Amazon will source the print book from IngramSpark. That means my paperback will be available to Australian readers from Amazon.com.au, and it’ll cost readers a heck of a lot less in shipping.

Apart from availability and shipping, there is one more reason to print books with IngramSpark here in Australia, and that harks back to their distribution capabilities. If I can persuade a local bookshop to give my book[s] a try, the bookshop can order direct from IngramSpark at wholesale prices. Wholesale discounts range from 30% to 55%, which puts self-publishers/small publishers on a more even footing with large, traditional publishers.

-dance-

Okay, I’ll stop high-fiving myself now and get serious again because there are also disadvantages to printing with IngramSpark. The two biggest disincentives are:

  • the setup cost of $53 AUD per book, and
  • the need to have an ABN [Australian Business Number].

If you’ve never run a small business before – for example as a sole trader – the idea of getting an ABN can be daunting. The truth, however, is that it’s both free and relatively painfree to apply for one.

For detailed, step-by-step information about getting an ABN see this post. And see this one about why you should NOT pay for that ABN [because it’s free].

Now for a word about the cost. $53 AUD is a steep price to pay when you’ve got more than one book to setup. I have 7 to-date, so that would have been an upfront charge of $371 AUD. Luckily, I managed to setup all 7 books during a free promotion run by IngramSpark.

I’m not sure exactly when or why IngramSpark runs these promotions, but from what I can gather, they seem to happen once, or maybe twice a year. I have two more how-to books in the pipeline, so I’ll have to pay the full setup charge for those, but at least the cost will be staggered for them.

Oh, and one more disadvantage – once a book has been approved [by the author] and is available for sale, any changes will incur a $25 fee. So…be very sure your book is as ready as it’ll ever be before you approve it for publishing/sale.

Okay, that’s it for now. I’ll be ordering proof copies of all 7 books in the next day or three. Once they arrive I’ll take pics and write an update on the quality, timing etc.

cheers

Meeks

 

 


TORUK – Cirque du Soleil

We’re going to the Melbourne show tonight!

I saw the Cirque du Soleil live many years ago and I’m thrilled to be seeing them live again, especially with this Avatar theme [LOVE Avatar].

The tickets weren’t cheap, but this will be my big treat for the year so I’m refusing to count the pennies. 😀

More later,

Meeks


Self-Publishing with IngramSpark…or not

IngramSpark, probably the biggest print-on-demand publisher, has a facility right here in Melbourne [Australia].

“Yay! I can get copies of my books printed locally to save a huge amount on postage!”

That was me yesterday. Today I have steam coming out of my ears because the only way I can use IngramSpark is as a Sole Trader – and that involves getting an ABN. Apparently, IngramSpark does not deal with lowly self-publishers who can’t pretend to be a business.

For those not familiar with the term, ABN stands for Australian Business Number. I used to have one, about 15 years ago when I ran a micro business teaching computer skills one-on-one. In fact, apparently I still have one lurking somewhere, inactive and unusable, but still in the ‘system’. Somewhere.

I could hunt down my old ABN, but I don’t even know where to start and, bureaucracy being what it is, the process could take hours or days out of my life. That’s a lot of effort to go to just for the privilege of printing a few copies of my book here in Australia, especially when the only benefit to me is a saving on postage [Ingram’s printing costs are a lot higher than CreateSpace but postage from the US is the real killer].

Oh, and did I mention that you have to pay IngramSpark $53 AUD for the privilege of using their distribution services, even if you don’t actually intend to use them to distribute your books? Yup, that’s part of the setup process.

So if you’re an Aussie self-publisher, my advice is to give IngramSpark a miss. Unless you already have an active ABN…

-sound of teeth grinding-

Does anyone out there know of a reasonable PoD company here in Melbourne? Maybe a home-grown one that doesn’t charge the earth?

Meeks


Printing Resources for Melbourne Indie Authors

My thanks to Michelle Lovi, David Prosser, and Suzanne Newnham for all the wonderful information they shared with me. Armed with this information, I went researching and found some resources that may be of use to others as well.

The following are by no means all the POD printers there are in Melbourne, but they are the ones that seemed to provide the best match to my needs.

In order of discovery:

Bookpod

http://www.bookpod.com.au/book_printing.html

This printer is based in Melbourne and requires a minimum 10 books.

Print on Demand

http://www.printondemand.net.au/content/books-manuals-reports-training-materials

This printer is based in South Melbourne. No info. on costs or shipping.

Blurb Australia?

http://au.blurb.com/lp/make-a-book?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Google_AU_Printing_NonBrand_DesktopTablet_Beta_G&utm_term=%2Bprint%20%2Bbooks&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI-KLXxMr91QIVxgoqCh0zvAS0EAAYASAAEgJDBvD_BwE

This company rang a bell, but when I investigated further, I discovered that you have to use their own proprietary software and fonts. And they only seem to offer one trim size : 6 x 9

Shipping – Express only. Cost in AUD 14.99 [that was for shipping only; no idea what the print costs would be on top of that].

The shipping cost is pretty much the same as for CreateSpace so I was disappointed. 😦

IngramSpark

http://www.ingramspark.com/

IngramSpark have an Australian print facility but they do not have an Australian website [yet]. This was very confusing and I spent about half an hour following links all over the place, trying to find the Aussie site.

In the end, I rang the Lightning Source phone number and the very nice voice at the other end explained that:

  • Lightning Source is for big print jobs
  • IngramSpark is for small to tiny print jobs
  • One account to bind them all
  • Printing processed according to actual, physical location – i.e. in Australia for Australian Indies.

So, to have your book printed in Australia [with IngramSpark], you have to setup an account via the international website [shown above]. Processing the print order is the same for everyone, everywhere, but if you’re in Australia, the printing and shipping will be done from /here/.

To check the shipping costs, click on the IngramSpark website, then click on Resources followed by Tools.

You will now see a whole range of tools available for selfpublishers – including templates and the shipping calculator. I had a little bit of trouble with the shipping calculator because it didn’t seem to like the page count of 370. -shrug- When I entered 380 instead, everything was fine. This is the info I entered for the calculator [the book is Nabatea]:

I have to say, the results made me very happy. 🙂

The shipping costs for 1 book gave this result:

The per book cost is almost double what the CreateSpace eStore would charge [buying at cost], however the shipping and handling work out to be more than 2/3 less. Thus, printing here works out to be quite a bit cheaper than shipping in 1 book from the US.

When I looked at 10 books, the savings were even greater:

The per book cost remains the same but so does the shipping! This means that each book costs only 44c to ship. Colour me laughing all the way to the bank. 😀

And finally, just out of curiosity, I looked up the cost of 100 books:

Clearly, the economies of scale just don’t stack up with POD as the reduction in per book cost was tiny. Nevertheless, it was heartening to see that the shipping costs worked out to be 25c per book.

So there you have it. The local copies of the Innerscape saga will be printed here in Australia, by IngramSpark. This will mean another learning curve for me, but even that has an upside as I’ll be able to publish a second how-to book titled “How to print your book [using Word and IngramSpark]”. lol

I may even offer workshops as well… Guess who’s going to be a very busy girl? -dance-

Hope this is of use to others out there.

cheers

Meeks

 


A smelly but good news tech post

Apologies if this puts anyone off, but I’m really excited by this innovative way of dealing with sewage. Not only does it make something useful out of a big, smelly problem, it does so in a ‘relatively’ small space. [Conventional sewage works take up acres and acres and acres of land that could be used for other things].

To read how this innovative approach actually works, please read the article on New Atlas:

http://newatlas.com/mimic-nature-sewage-oil/46260/?li_source=LI&li_medium=default-widget

As a sci-fi writer I’m interested in all kinds of futuristic world building and one of my earliest ideas was for an ‘undercity’ built to replace much of Melbourne, post sea level rises that drown the lower reaches. Obviously, the new undercity would have to be built on much higher ground to avoid being drowned as well, but it would have lots of big advantages – temperature would remain more or less constant, bushfires would no longer be a danger and the land above the city could be used for productive agriculture. [At the moment, all Australian cities spread outward and our suburbs are built on land that would be better used for the growing of food].

One major problem with this undercity, however, was the issue of waste. I imagined food waste being ‘eaten’ by the SL’ick [synthetic life chickens that look like huge worms made of chicken breast meat], but I simply could not come up with an innovative way of dealing with the body wastes we humans produce. Until now. One small step for my world of the future, one large step for waste management. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


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