oops – speed goeth before a boo boo

I dashed off a quick post this morning, virtually as I ran through the door, and I got it half wrong. Apologies, Scotland! The ‘No’ vote won and I got it very wrong. :(

But I did get the golfing component right. What on earth was I thinking? lol

Meeks-with-egg-on-facesmiley_embarrassed


Independence in Scotland – the real meaning of democracy

I’m just waiting for my class to begin so this will have to be quick, but how could I let such a momentous moment pass without comment?

Congratulations to the people of Scotland. They have achieved a victory that centuries? of bloodshed and discontent could not. This is the power of the pen, and democracy.

But the wonders of today have just begun. The prestigious golf club – St Andrews – has also voted to allow women to play golf on its hallowed greens …for the first time ever!

I’m neither Scottish nor a golfer, but I love the idea that people power really does work. I haven’t felt this positive about humanity since the bloodless end of Apartheid and the fall of the Berlin Wall. We can make the world a better place. We truly can!

-hugs and a big pat on the back to all-

Meeks


RFID technology – aka Tap and Go, Paypass etc – and preventable fraud

RFID technology allows a chip on your credit/debit card to wirelessly communicate with a payment device at the supermarket, petrol station, McDonalds etc, and make a payment without you having to enter a PIN.

The point of this technology is supposed to be two-fold: on the one hand it’s supposed to fix security problems with cards that rely on a signature – because too many retailers don’t actually check the signature. RFID is also meant to make paying for smallish items more convenient for consumers – just wave the card in the air and hey presto, all done.

cat burglar picBy smallish transactions, we’re talking about items up to $100. The idea here is that if your RFID card is stolen, there will be a limit on how much the thief can get away with. Unfortunately, there is no limit on how many times you [or the thief] can use the RFID card in a day.

So what are the ramifications? Well, let’s say your card is stolen in the morning and it has $500 on it. You realise it is stolen at lunch time when you try to pay for your sandwich. You ring the bank, but between breakfast and lunch, the thief has used your stolen card 5 times for a total of… you guessed it, $500.00.

Now the banks say they have algorithms in place to alert them to unusual transactions, and maybe they do, but it will still be up to you to go through the hassle of proving that you did not make any of those transactions. In the meantime, you’ve lost $500. If that was all you had for food etc for that week then you’re in trouble because your money will not be refunded straight away..

Now to be honest, you will have the same hassles any time your card is stolen, that’s just how modern life goes. But what if you don’t know your card has been stolen, because it’s still sitting right there in your wallet?

This is where things get sticky. The credit card companies say it’s not possible to steal your card information without stealing the actual card. The banks, [who have no say in what tech. goes on credit/debit cards] say the same thing, and people like me who don’t believe the assurances are labeled as wackos, dinosaurs or conspiracy theorists.

But seeing is believing. In this first video you will see  how easy, and cheap, it is to steal card and account information. The truly scary part, however, is how easy it is to then clone that information.

The next video shows one of the presenters of the well-known Mythbusters TV show talking about how a proposed segment on RFID technology was gagged by the legal representatives of all the major players – i.e. Mastercard, Visa, etc.

If these two videos have made you concerned, you can find lots more information out on the net, some for, some against the technology, but one thing is consistent throughout – you can’t opt out of it.

I suspect the manufacturers did not put an opt out function on the RFID card technology because:

1) it would cost more to produce, or

2) they were worried too many people would opt out.

Either way, the banks have no say in the matter. If they want to offer their customers credit card facilities, they have to take what the credit card companies give them, and that is RFID technology..

This means no amount of complaints to the banks will do a speck of good. I know because I spent almost two, very frustrating hours on the phone to the Bendigo Bank yesterday. I was trying to work out what was going on, and why I couldn’t just say no. Then I tried to complain. Then I realised that even the Bendigo Bank didn’t give a shit because there was nothing they could do about it. I was told to get an ordinary cashcard if I was so worried.

Apparently these cashcards are debits cards issued by the banks themselves. They can be used at supermarkets, ATMs and all EFTPOS terminals, but they CANNOT be used for, say, online transactions. So if you buy stuff on Ebay you can’t use your cashcard. The same thing applies to PayPal. :(

By this point I was grinding my teeth and yelling at the customer service representative. Think small, grey-haired terrier biting at the ankles of a giant. Yup.

But I would not be writing this post if I did not have a solution, of sorts.

Solution 1

Get a cashcard for all normal, local transactions and keep it in your wallet. Take all the money out of the RFID card and keep the card in a safe place at home. When you need to use it for an online transaction, transfer some money into the card via internet banking.

Doable? Yes. Convenient? Hah

Solution 2

Use your MyKi card to disrupt the RFID card. I found this info. on the internet and haven’t had a chance to try it out yet, but apparently whatever is on the MyKi card messes with the RFID on the credit/debit cards. I’ve also read that you can buy a wallet that stops the wireless transmission. Or you can wrap your card in tin foil. Oh wait, maybe it’s your head that’s meant to be wrapped in tin foil.

-cough-

If the MyKi solution works, you won’t have to worry about being scanned, and scammed, while you travel to work on a crowded train/tram/bus, or wait in line at a supermarket or airport. Of course you will still be a bit exposed when you actually take the card out to use it [via swipe or tap] but at least it would be safer.

The Daughter and I intend to order cashcards on Monday because we can’t afford to lose any money, period. We will also trial the MyKi card solution, and I’ll update you on the results.

In the meantime, if you love the convenience of Tap and Go then at least please be cautious enough not to keep too much money on the card at any one time. It’s just not worth the risk.

Meeks


The Sunshine Award – aussie style

I love the idea of these awards because they allow us netizens to show appreciation for each other, and like the ripples in a pond, that little bit of love can have wide-reaching effects. I, personally, have met some very interesting people via awards.

So I do like awards, especially when they’re given by good friends like Candy Korman – that was a back-handed thank you Candy! – but when I looked at the list of questions that go with the Sunshine Award I literally came up blank:

What is your passion?
Favorite time of the year?
Favorite book?
Favorite movie?
Favorite animal?
Favorite time of the day?
Favorite Flower
Favorite nonalcoholic beverage?
Favorite physical activity?
Favorite vacation?

I could literally name at least 10 things for each and every question. :(

I was just starting to panic when I remembered I’m an aussie. We live upside down to the rest of the world, and we tend to do some other things backwards as well, so why not this?

So instead of telling you about my favourite things I’m going to tell you all the things I absolutely hate!  -evil chuckle-

Pet hate?

For those of us DownUnder, September is Aussie Rules Football Month. You can’t get away from it. Blah blah about the footy is on the news, current affairs, panel shows, radio… ad nauseum. Great for those who live and breathe sport in general and footy in particular. Not so great for people like me. 40 years ago I was dragged to a couple of matches by my then boyfriend and his family, and I’ve hated the sport ever since. So my pet hate at the moment is footy. [I'm bracing for the backlash].

Least favourite time of year?

Summer, hands down. Living on the fringe of Melbourne as I do, summer equates to fire season, and a low grade fear from October to March.

Least favourite book?

Even in reverse, this question is impossible. I have read books I hated, but I can’t remember them precisely because they were so emminently forgetable. Pass.

Least favourite movie?

Easy – Starship Troupers. This was a movie that was just one long gore-fest. Sadly the special effects were so bad, I couldn’t even feel horrified. I only remember it because I couldn’t believe anyone could make such a movie with a straight face.

Least favourite animal?

Another easy one – spiders. -shudder-

Least favourite time of day?

3 – 4:00 pm when your brain tries to tell you it’s nap time. :(

Least favourite flower?

Wattle. I know, I’ve just committed Aussie sacrilege, but wattle causes the most exquisite hay fever imaginable. Sorry.

Least favourite non-alcoholic beverage?

Coca Cola? I don’t mind the taste, but I do hate the whole empty calories thing. Plus I hate the brainwashing that goes with the advertising. When I absolutely have to have a cola drink I’ll buy a chinotto. It’s the Italian version of cola and has a slightly bitter after taste. Real grown-up cola. ;)

Least favourite physical activity?

Vacuuming. Okay, I know vacuum hurling hasn’t made it onto the official list of Olympic sports yet, but honestly, don’t you wish it had?

Least favourite vacation?

Camping. I suspect I’ve just burnt all my bridges with this last answer. Any moment now, our Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, is going to knock on my door to hand deliver my expulsion order, and I’ll probably be banned from all bbq’s for life, but… dammit! I do hate camping. I hate having to squat over a log in the dark, I hate sleeping on groundsheets that feel as if they’re laid on top of boulders, I hate not being able to stand upright in a freakin’ tent, I hate the flies, the mosquitoes, all the other assorted bugs. And I hate not being able to have a shower when I need one.

Now before everyone jumps down my throat, I know you can camp in a camping ground with toilets and showers, but what’s the point of being utterly uncomfortable just so you can be squashed in with hundreds of other, uncomfortable people? ‘Ah, the serenity’ -snort-

Anyway, apologies if I’ve offended anyone, but there you  have it, I’m a failure as an aussie. -glum- I do like the odd bbq-d snag though. Does that count?

Now to nominate my vic other bloggers for this award!

Chazz Writes – for the best zombie story I’ve ever read

EllaDee – because she’s just married, and an aussie, and may not kill me if I’m nice to her… -runs-

Chris James – because he’s a sci-fi writer and NOT an aussie so I’m pretty sure he won’t kill me. :)

Christie Meierz – because she’s a writer of SFR – science fiction romance – and not a camper as far as I know.;)

Pinky [aka The PinkAgendist] – because he writes a fun blog, shares my love of food and speaks French.

Kathryn Chastain Treat – a powerful writer, a generous friend and an incredibly gutsy lady who battles life threatening allergic reactions every day.

Right. I’m done. Now I just have to let all my nominees know that I’ve, um, nominated them.

Anyone seen my hardhat?

Meeks


Cats in Clover – 5/5

I read this little book back in June, and liked it so much I left a glowing review on Amazon, but somehow I neglected to review it on the blog. I meant to, but time slipped away from me. Or perhaps I thought Cats in Clover would be so popular it wouldn’t need any additional help from me.

Sadly, when I stumbled on it again today, I discovered my review is still the one and only. What the hell? If reviews are a measure of the popularity of a book then something is very wrong here. This book deserves better. :(

Why? Because it’s the funniest thing I’ve read since My Barsetshire Diary, that’s why. And oddly enough, My Barsetshire Diary starred a cat as well… Hmm…

Anyway, moving on. Whether you actually like cats or not, you are going to find this story about two middle-aged cat owners laugh out loud funny. Seriously. The cats are gorgeous but the people, the people are hilarious. :D

Buy it! Read it! And if you agree that it’s a fantastic pick-me-up then please leave a review! [And no, I wouldn't know this author from a bar of soap so no kick-backs are coming my way].

cheers

Meeks

 


Paprikás krumpli betataster needed!

Hi guys. I’m just about to race off to work, but I thought I’d throw this at you before I go – can someone betataste this recipe for me please!

Paprikás krumpli [Literally potatoes with paprika]

This is probably one of my favourite examples of poor man’s food because it is so tasty and satisfying – and so cheap to make.
The basic recipe requires only chopped onion, oil [or lard], sweet paprika powder and potatoes. I usually dress it up a little with either bacon or chorizo, or both, but essentially the flavour just gets better the more you add. Just do not add tomatoes. That would take this dish right over into the realms of Italian food.

Basic Ingredients

1 medium onion
1 chorizo [optional]
3 tablespoons of good quality sweet paprika powder
3 large potatoes peeled and cut in 6ths [i.e. big but not too big]
1/2 a teaspoon of salt
3-4 tablespoons of peanut oil [or oil of your choice]
3 cups COI chicken soup [optional] or water

Method

- Chop the onions, and cut the chorizo in bite-sized chunks. Gently saute both in the oil until the onion is translucent.
– Add the paprika powder, mix in and allow to cook for about 1 minute on low heat.

Before the liquid is added

Before the liquid is added

- Add the potatoes, stirring to coat each piece in the paprika mix. Allow to cook very gently for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. This step is important to get the flavour into the potato before it’s diluted with the liquid.
– Sprinkle with salt and add the soup or water. The liquid should just cover the potatoes.
– Stir and bring to the boil, then cover and lower the heat.
– Simmer until the potatoes are tender and the sauce has thickened a little, and is a rich red in colour.

Serve this dish on its own with fresh crusty bread and a simple salad [traditional], or serve as the accompaniment to a ‘dry’, fairly bland meat.

Many thanks

Meeks


The crepe makeover :D

Huge thanks to the Pinkagendist who took a very basic photo and turned it into something with style. 

Pinkys pic crepes

-big hugs-

Meeks


Does my crepe look fat in this?

-grin- Sorry, couldn’t resist. However, I do genuinely want to know which of the following is the best picture of a crepe! I’ve just written up the crepe recipe for ‘How to eat well on $9.04′ and I want to include a picture of how my crepes turn out. And yes, I do apologise for the poor quality of the photos; I’m a cook not a photographer. :(

Picture 1

crepes 1 smallPicture 2

crepes 2 smallPicture 3

crepes 3 small

 

I’m trying to show :

a)  How thin the crepes are,

b)  How you roll them up, and

c)  The ‘golden’ colour

And of course I’m aiming to do all that as clearly as possible. Please tell me which pic you think works best in comments. 

Thanks in advance, guys

Meeks

 

 


Virtual gaming worlds of the future

FFXIV emotes - Meeka is shockedI just went back to Final Fantasy XIV, A Realm Reborn, so it’s not surprising that I dreamt about gaming last night. However what did surprise me was the logic of the dream. I leapt out of bed and immediately wrote it all down, before even putting the kettle on. If you know me you know I can NOT survive without my caffeine hit.

Anyway, before I tell you what my dream was about, let me give you some background on MMOGs of the present. MMOGs – Massively Multiplayer Online Games – come in all shapes and sizes but they all have two things in common:

- the worlds are persistent, – i.e. they continue to exist even if you, the player, are not there to see it, and

- thousands of real people play in them.

These two elements give MMOG worlds a semblance of reality that is very addictive. Unfortunately, the semblance is paper thin. In the real world we have to do things to survive. In the current gaming worlds, survival is a given, and the purpose of ‘doing things’ is to either :

- gain levels

- or gain better gear

Once gamers have achieved the maximum levels and gear the game will allow, they struggle to find exciting things to do.

As someone who loves crafting, I have an added layer of purpose in FFXIV because of the player housing. Crafting things for our group house, and making it look warm and welcoming give me something to do most days. Unfortunately, most of the other endgame activities bore me to tears. Eventually I, and other players like me always leave to find a new gaming world to discover.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. Just as we find a purpose for ourselves in the real world, we could also create a purpose for ourselves in the gaming world …if we were the ones in control instead of the devs [developers].

It can be done because different types of MMOGs are already doing elements of what’s needed. Unfortunately none of them are putting it all together into one coherent whole. In my dream, however, I did.

Part of the plot of Innerscape [the human-centric sci-fi novel I'm working on] takes place in a gaming world of the future. That world will behave something like this :

Meeka’s dream gaming world

The gaming worlds of Innerscape won’t charge a subscription fee. They won’t even charge to download the gaming software [or whatever performs that function by 2100]. But they will charge for in-game necessities such as housing.

Essentially, everyone will pay ‘rent’, and the rent will be on a sliding scale from a few credits a month to hundreds, perhaps even thousands.

Rental of two credits a month will pay for bed and breakfast at a common Inn, or whatever the cheapest form of accommodation is in that world.

For that basic rental, the player will get enough ‘sleep’ and ‘food’ to get them through one gaming day. In fighting worlds, this will mean that players will have a 50/50 chance of winning against non-player foes at their level. Now a 50/50 chance of winning is no better than random chance, so the aim for most players will be to increase that chance of winning as quickly as possible.

How a player increases his or her chances of winning depends on the type of game they are playing, but generally, the process will mimic real life in that there will be two major streams to follow – the hero stream or the villain stream. Or something in between.

Heroes are good guys who earn the respect of the non-player characters [npc] in every city, town and village. This respect translates into increased strength, endurance, agility etc when the hero is fighting a villain in the city, town or village. Not surprisingly, the opposite happens with villains. They lose the respect of the npcs in the city, town or village, which in turn, weakens them in all the important attributes.

As an example, let’s use some numbers to explain the effect of respect. A hero player may have combined attributes worth 100 points. However when this hero enters a city, town or village, the respect factor boosts their combined attributes by a maximum of 50% – e.g. the hero’s attributes go from 100 to 150.

Now lets look at what happens to a villain when he/she enters a town. Out in the wildlands, the villain’s attributes are worth 100. Inside the city, town or village, however, their attributes plummet by 50%, i.e. they drop to 50.

A hero with attributes of 150 can easily beat a villain with attributes of 50, so it makes sense for heroes to gain respect, and for villains to stay away from areas where they are weakened.

Of course gaming is never that straight forward. If a very powerful villain [say one with attributes worth 400], enters a town, his/her attributes will only drop to 200 – i.e. 50% of 400 = 200. 400 – 200 = 200. 200 will beat the local hero who is only at 150.

But what if there are two local heroes in the town when the villain attacks, and they both fight back. The chances are their combined stats will be more than high enough to beat off even a very powerful villain.

Clearly then, towns favour heroes. But what if a group of villains attack? Again, the result will depend on numbers; 3 villains at 50 would have the same ‘power’ as one hero at 150. However if you add one more villain, the balance suddenly changes in their favour – i.e. 4 x 50 = 200 vs the 150 of the hero.

As with all things mathematical, two heroes would again easily beat four villains [of the same level] so the balance of power is constantly in flux and makes for interesting, player initiated events.

One such event will be the capture of a city, town or village. If a large enough group of villains capture a stronghold, and can hold it against the heroes for one week, the npcs in that stronghold will turn neutral. If the villains make an effort not to antagonize the npcs, their ability to hold on to their captured territory becomes easier. If they are ‘cruel’ to the captured npcs, they risk turning the npcs towards the heroes again. And that could lead to the loss of the stronghold when the heroes launch a counter offensive.

But why would the heroes do that? Because their homes and businesses are in the captured stronghold, and while the villains are in control, the heroes can’t access any of their gear. They will literally have nothing but what they stand up in, and carry in their personal inventory. Thus the motivation to recapture a stronghold will be core to the game.

To recapture a stronghold, the heroes will have to begin by winning over the npcs on the outer perimeter of the stronghold. This is effectively like being Robin Hood.

Once enough npcs have been won over, the dispossessed heroes have to form an alliance and then, when their combined respect is high enough, they must launch an attack against the villains holding the stronghold.

Given the tendency of npcs to side with heroes not villains, villains have to expend a lot of energy to take a stronghold, and even more to hold it. This gives the advantage to the heroes, but only in the places where some form of order reigns. Out in the wild lands, both villains and heroes are dependent on their own prowess. Or on their ability to create and hold groups.

Groups of Heroes can tame sections of the wildlands, but here they will suffer the same difficulties as villains do in cities – the terrain is against them, and they must fight twice as hard to achieve anything at all.

Once a slice of the wildlands is captured and held for one week, however, crafter and builder classes can move in to consolidate the taming of the wild. Players can come in and create farms, and lay the foundations for a new village. These players contribute to the well-being of the battling classes that protect them, making them more effective. Sound familiar?

Once the heroes have carved out a certain level of ‘safety’ for the village, npcs will migrate to the village and help make it stronger still. If the heroes can keep the village going for one month, they will gain the respect of their npcs and after that, fighting off the villains will become much easier.

The internal structure of these gaming worlds will go much deeper than simple wars to gain territory. When heroes are not out fighting off villains and imposing order on the wildlands, they can go in search of treasure. Often the treasure will be nothing more than money, [after all, even heroes have to eat]. However, sometimes the heroes will find recipes that crafters can learn.

As everything in the gaming worlds has to be created by the players, such recipes are worth more than gold as they allow new techniques and new gear to enter the economy. This gives heroes an advantage over villains who generally do not craft, and must enter strongholds to buy the gear they need. Or steal it if they believe they are strong enough.

These recipes also give crafters a degree of power and influence they would not otherwise have, making it more logical for heroes of all stripes to work together so everyone can prosper. Those heroes who prove to be overly greedy will slowly lose their respect levels and that will make them more vulnerable when the next villain attack occurs.

Basically, then, the gaming worlds will have in-built structures to act as checks and balances, but how the worlds actually develop will depend largely on the players themselves. They will be the ones who create the society in which they live.

Of course in any world, there has to be some wiggle room for those players who hate to conform in any manner, shape or form. So each world will have the potential for players who fit the nomad category. These players will pay no ‘rent’ and will function as hunter gatherers. They will live  rough, eating only what they can capture/harvest in their weakened state.

Progress for these nomads will depend on how effective they are at surviving in a hostile environment. If they can find enough to eat they can build a humpy [a small shelter made of branches and leaves]. In time they can trade furs or other natural ‘ingredients’ they have gathered to the villagers for money.

That money can then be used to buy a tent and perhaps some cooking implements. In time, such successful nomads might join together to form tribes of hunter gatherers. Of course, whilst living in a tribe would have distinct survival benefits, it would also create its own unique problems, and players would have to create rules that balanced co-operation with freedom.

If you’re still reading this long brain fart, you will have noticed that in my ideal gaming world, every action has consequences. You may also have noticed that the world combines virtually every type of MMOG currently in existence – PVP, PVE, strategy, conquest, social reality, you name it, it’s there because that’s exactly what we have in the real world.

I can’t see such an all encompassing world arriving any time soon, but as a writer I can make the future into anything I want, and this is what I would like to see in the MMOGs I play. If you’d like to see something different, don’t be afraid to say so in comments. I only bite trolls. :)

cheers

Meeks


Music nostaglia – the Indian Love Call

When I was a kid, I was kind of sickly, or at least I convinced my mother that I was, and so I stayed home quite a bit. Thank god I’m too old for truancy officers!

Anyway, what’s a kid to do at home all day but watch TV? This was back in the [19]60’s, and at midday the TV channels always broadcast a midday movie – usually American, and at least 20-30 years old.

The upshot of all those sickies was that I became quite the connoisseur of Hollywood musicals. Top of my list of favourites were the movies starring Jeanette McDonald, a lovely coloratura soprano, and Nelson Edy, a warm tenor. Something about the two of them together was just magical and I still remember those movies with fondness …when I remember them at all.

Lucky for me, my good friend David Prosser is an expert memory-jogger-a, and its him to blame for this post. If he hadn’t mentioned The Indian Love Call in his blog post, I would never have remembered on my own!

So here is a video clip of the Indian Love Call, plus a -cough- few -cough- other childhood favourites. Apologies to the youngies out there. :D

And then I remembered Mario Lanza… wait till you hear the boy soprano!

Oh how could I forget Deanna Durbin?

But for sheer fun, no one beat Doris Day. Here’s a clip  from the her movie Calamity Jane!

And on that note I bid thee all farewell .:D

Meeks


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