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The BBC has a couple of articles today about designing cities from scratch.  If you had no restrictions caused by existing buildings, what would you do?  Many opinions are expressed in this article, from “build it with all possible technology integrated fully” to “don’t do it at all”.  Personally I like the ideas in the last segment.  This one has pictures that some artist’s impressions.

So what would I do?

The things that spring immediately to mind (in no particular order) are:

  • Wide streets, with separate cycle lanes, bus lanes, and car lanes.  The car lanes would only exist on the outskirts.  In the city centre everyone needs to walk or use public transport.
  • All car parks would be underground, with parks built on top.  They would have good bus links.
  • It should never be more than a ten minute walk to the nearest park.
  • There should be trees everywhere.
  • Free wi-fi throughout the whole of the city.
  • Residential buildings and offices would be in separate areas (who wants to live right next to the office?) but would be very closely interlinked, perhaps in some kind of chess-board pattern.
  • Residential areas would have different characters – there would be a Georgian area, with large terraced houses and sweeping parks, and a more modern area with little detatched red-brick houses with nice gardens, and many others.  This would ensure that the city had some soul.
  • There would be plenty of buildings which could be used for many things, so that people can decide that that street needs a hairdresser, or a butcher, or a bookshop, and make it happen.
  • Rivers and parks.
  • Streets which are mostly-pedestrianised, so children can play.
  • The streets wouldn’t necessarily all be straight or form squares (how dull) but definitely no triangles.  Triangles are very confusing!
  • Solar panels on all roof space would be compulsory.  Perhaps those clever ones that look like roof tiles.
  • All buildings would be built in an eco-friendly way.
A (bad) artist's impression.

A (bad) artist’s impression.

What else would you add?  Is there anything in my list that you disagree with?


At work today, my colleague Lucy* turned to me and said,

“Which part of this spreadsheet am I supposed to be looking at?”

“Which spreadsheet?”  I asked, slightly puzzled.

“The one you sent me and John a link to just now.”

I paused for a moment.  I had sent a fair number of emails in the past few minutes, it being the time of the month for bullying other people into doing their jobs correctly, but I thought I knew the one she was referring to.

“You mean the one that begins with the sentence ‘Look at the sheet titled LookAtThisOne in this spreadsheet.’?”

“I didn’t read the email, I just clicked on the link.”

I rolled my eyes.  She didn’t even have the grace to look embarrassed by that confession.  The entire email was only three sentences long, and that was if you counted the link to the spreadsheet as its own sentence.  It was very hard not to say something particularly scathing, but I limited myself to a mild “You didn’t read the first sentence in the email?” and let it go.  After all, I can’t very well tell my boss she’s a fool, now can I?


Does this happen to you?  How often do people come asking you for information you have given them already?


* Names have been changed to protect the foolish.

James glared at the computer.  How could he possibly have got an F for that essay?  His argument was well structured and logical, his work was neatly sectioned into manageable chunks of similar size and he’d even included lots of examples to prove his point.  The word count was within 20 words of the requested 4,000.  What else could he have done?

He checked the marking schedule again.  “Spring Term Final Essay – F – Click here for more”.  He clicked on the link.  A little pop-up appeared in the centre of his screen.

This essay was auto-marked by AI56923.

The following apply: 
– Structure: 87% 
– Content: 92% 
– Word Count: 99% 
– Spelling: 5% 
– Grammar: 5%

Overall Score: 46% 
Grade: F

James scratched his head.  Was there a glitch in the marking software?  He knew his spelling wasn’t that bad – in all of his previous essays he had scored over 95%.


Groaning, he flicked back to the title of the essay.  The decline of spelling and grammar in the modern world: a comparative study of literature from three centuries 1900-2153.

Perhaps he shouldn’t have included quite so many examples.

I have been deemed a suitable place to sit.Jasper

This is exciting, because Jasper has known me for less than four weeks, and in a past life he was not treated well by humans.

Unfortunately, the first two times he decided to sit on me moments before I wanted to go to bed.  Not wanting to scare him off, I put off going to bed and spent the rest of the week very tired.

Today, however (it being Sunday when I wrote this post), he chose a much more reasonable 3pm, and remained happily in place through cups of tea, hoovering, and typing.  All except the last one, by the way, were done by someone else.  It’s now 7pm, and he’s still there.

This has several side effects, other than my happiness.

Firstly, as fortunately my laptop was within reach, I have managed to get a lot of things done.  I’ve planned the Pack Holiday my Brownies are going on, done some writing, added lots of past books to Goodreads, caught up on the Brownie accounts, and read some blog posts I’ve been a little behind on.

Secondly, I could really do with stretching my legs a little.

Half an hour of Crazy Time appears to be mandatory just before dinner, so I suspect he’ll be off soon.  It’s been a productive afternoon, thank you Jasper!

On Silver Wings is a fairly traditional space adventure story.  There are colonists on a far flung world, alien invaders, and a rescue attempt from Earth’s space fleet.

The problem, of course, is the aliens have some pretty impressive technology.  Impressive enough that they manage to destroy all but one of the special operations unit sent in to assess the situation before they reach the ground, despite being heavily stealthed.

Enter Sergeant Sorilla Aida, sole survivor, well equipped, well trained and willing to stop at almost nothing to protect the remaining colonists and chase the aliens off the planet.  She’s got battle armour and military rifles, she’s got local help to show her around, she’s even got some AI-augmented battle robots courtesy of the Solari Fleet Task Force.

What she doesn’t have is any aliens to fight.

Since the day the colony was all but obliterated and the colonists sent running to the jungle to hide, there have been no sightings of the aliens.  How do you fight an enemy you can’t find?

I enjoyed this book immensely.  Evan Currie started life as a (very very prolific) fanfiction author, and when he made the transition to original works I immediately added his work to my to read list.  I wasn’t disappointed.

The action is fast paced, the balance between the action on the ground and the maneuvers of the space fleet was well maintained.  The science was believable (though physics is not my strong suit, so I have no idea whether it was right or not).  The only thing that bothered me was that I didn’t really care about whether the military spacecraft lived or died, except in a roundabout way because of their impact on Sorilla and her band of plucky colonists.  I cared about them quite a lot.

All in all, a good read for those who enjoy adventure stories, space stories, or both.

The Author

Nicola Higgins is a 30-something martial artist who runs two Brownie packs and works full time. She somehow still finds time to write.

Her favourite genres are near-future and alternate world science fiction and fantasy.

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