WordPress Reader and the invisible Blogs

angryOkay, this post is going to start with a question: why is my WordPress Reader filled with just 7 bloggers?

I know this can’t be some kind of weird timezone difference because Saturday morning here is still Friday in the Northern hemisphere. So how is it possible that out of all the people I follow, only 7 are active?

Fortified by a large mug of caffeine, I trolled through my Reader and came up with the following numbers:

Dream Big: 2

RGS: 26

The Mighty Mumford: 5

Venturebeat: 2

Wildsound: 2

Annas Art: 1

Christian Mihai: 1

I didn’t get to the absolute bottom of the list because…I lost interest, but the numbers are still significant in a ‘what the…?’ kind of way.

I do love tech related stuff, and there was a time when I’d look forward to seeing Venturebeat posts in my Reader. Now I rarely see them at all. Instead, I seem to have an overwhelming number of RGS posts. The RGS posts are mostly tech related too, but unlike the Venturebeat articles, RGS merely reblogs from other sites. So if this is an either or situation I’d rather have Venturebeat. Please.

But this odd imbalance in my Reader goes way beyond which brand of tech articles I get to see, it screams a deeper question – ‘Where are all my other blogger friends, and who gets to choose what I see in my Reader?’

I know my invisible blogger friends are posting because I get notifications about their posts via email, but I almost never see their posts in the Reader. Why not? Has the purpose of the Reader changed whilst I had my back turned? Isn’t it meant to be about all the bloggers I follow?

Math is not my strong suit, but this odd pattern in my Reader has been growing for some time, and it’s really starting to annoy the fecal matter out of me. Why can’t my Reader truly represent all the blogs I follow?

If anyone has an answer that doesn’t involved PhD level arithmetic, I’d really love to know.



Fire season 2015, Warrandyte – it begins

The authorities have not yet declared fire season open for 2015, but the weather is thumbing its nose at our attempts to tame it with calendars and calculations.

ENSO status graph

We are in the grip of a strong El Nino and it is bringing unseasonal hot spells, dry spells and fire.

Looking out over my property, and Warrandyte in general, I see mostly green, but there is not as much of it as there was last year – i.e. the grass is not knee high and heading for Everest – and the alpacas are having no trouble keeping it manicured.

The downside of this is that I’ll have to give my four-footed lawnmowers some supplementary feed much sooner than I’d like. The upside is that there ‘may’ be less to burn once everything turns summer-brown.

One thing is for sure, we are having a heat-wave in the first week of October. The temperature is forecast to hit 35, which is not that bad, but it will be accompanied by strong north winds.Those winds are the real danger, plus the pattern of north wind turning to southwesterly as the cool change comes through. Any fires still going at the time of the wind change can easily get out of control.

I don’t really believe today will be a super bad day because the ground is still fairly moist. Nevertheless, we’ve already had one 20 minute power outage from a tree down which shows how strong the wind is. It’s really howling. I’m glad I did these jobs early this year:

  • Burning off. I did the worst of my burning off during the cold, damp days of the last two weeks. There’s still quite a bit to do, but the area around the house is clear.
  • I also had the area just outside my fire-fighting pumps concreted so I can sweep or blower-vac the leaves away.
  • The pumps themselves survived the flood I caused during winter and have been checked and topped up. They are ready to go.

fireseason 2015 1

Speaking of that flood, you might like to see the landscaping that was inspired by it:

fireseason 2015 2

Once I found where the agricultural pipe from the pump housing area came out, it seemed silly to have all that potential water go to waste so I dug a lateral channel with a shallow-ish pit up above the quince tree [top third of the picture]. The original channel I turned into a pretend creek bed.

Then I thought, why not extend the creek bed down into the orchard area?

The spindly looking trunks [mid picture] belong to the two feijoa trees. Now half of the ground beneath them is kept cool by the big river pebbles and the other half can be mulched with heaps of mushroom compost. And it looks rather pretty, imho. :D

And just because I am paranoid, I dug two more pits and filled them with pebbles. Both are deep enough so that I can fill them with water if need be. The seepage will keep the ground moist and the trees happy.

Right. -cough- Fire season jobs still to be completed are :

  • Some mechanical mowing using my electric lawn mower. I only have a few smallish spots to do [where there are weeds that the alpacas can’t eat], but it’s still not something I look forward to. I’m obsessively careful with the electric cord attached to the lawnmower, but that necessary care does slow the job down just a tad.
  • Fixing of one fire-resistant shutter. The cable has become ‘stuck’ so I can’t lower it past the half-way point. Not great as the window it’s meant to protect faces north. Not being able to close the shutter completely also means my poor little office heats up quick smart [it faces north too]. Luckily a nice man is coming out from Eurotec on Thursday.
  • Last on my to-do-list will be a complete test run of all sections of the roof sprinklers.

After all that, the Daughter and I will be back to ‘practising’ our fire-plan. We both have to be competent at getting the pumps started and the sprinklers turned on otherwise what’s the point?

Well, that’s it for now, Warrandyte. If you haven’t already started your preparations for this year, I strongly suggest you get off your butt and do so.




Self-Publishing with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Laurie Boris


Laurie Boris should be no stranger to anyone who reads Meeka’s Mind, but for my new friends, Laurie is the editor of Vokhtah. She is also the writer I’d like to be if I didn’t like sci-fi so much. In a word, she’s brilliant and this interview provides some interesting background to her career. Enjoy!

Originally posted on Layered Pages:

Laurie Boris BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Laurie Boris back to Layered Pages to talk with me about her experiences with self-publishing. Laurie has been writing fiction for over twenty-five years and is the award-winning author of five novels. Her sixth, A Sudden Gust of Gravity, will be published in November. When not playing with the universe of imaginary people in her head, she’s a freelance copyeditor and enjoys baseball, reading, and avoiding housework. You can learn more about her at website.

Laurie, when did you decide you were going to self-publish?

My first novel, The Joke’s on Me, was published in 2011 by 4RV, a small press in Oklahoma. I really appreciate that they gave me a chance, but as I completed my second novel later that year, I knew I needed to do things differently. Drawing Breath is based on a friend who died…

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FFXIV, Steps of Faith – Summoner

Steps of Faith is the final trial in FFXIV, version 2.X. It came out in early 2015 and was obviously designed to be the Grand Finale for this part of the storyline. As such, it was hellishly hard, especially for those just wanting to finish the story so they could play the up coming expansion.

For the expansion – Heavensward – the Steps of Faith was nerfed. [Nerf=the weakening of a game element for some reason]. Nevertheless, the trial is still hard, and I will never, ever, EVER put up with this much pain for a game. I got through it, on the 3rd try, and I scored another commendation, but it was real skin-of-the-teeth stuff, and the stress was not at all pleasurable. The following are a few things Summoners won’t find in the guides, but they are critical:

a) Your pet is going to be next to useless – it dies with monotonous regularity,

b) You CANNOT use the cannons while your pet is out. The hotbar of the pet stops the hotbar of the cannons from displaying. You will not even see the cannon weapon skills much less use them. I don’t know if this is a glitch or what but it was extremely embarrassing to find out the hard way. Thanks, SE.

c) You will be doing very little damage as a Summoner

d) BUT – you can be vital to the group by manning the Dragonslayer harpoon up on the towers.

I cannot stress this enough. Use the mechanics. Brute force may work if it’s a very well geared group who all know what they’re doing, but Duty Finder will not give you that group. If you go through Duty Finder as I did, you will need the mechanics.

Our group of 8 comprised 3 n00bs, including me, and we wiped on our first attempt because yours truly couldn’t use the cannons [had my pet out] and the attack was generally disorganized.

We didn’t wipe on the second attempt, but we did fail. Vishap [the Boss] had something like 50% health left by the last barrier.

Why? Because no one was using the Dragonslayer harpoons, that’s why. Either everyone forgot about them, or thought they could just burn their way through by brute force. Wrong.

On the third attempt, I decided I was next to useless anyway so I might as well give the Dragonslayer harpoon a try. If I messed up we’d be no worse off. I didn’t bother with my pet, just cast all my debuffs on Vishap before running for the tower.

I don’t know whether I got the first harpoon off or not because one of the mini-bosses followed me up the tower and killed me just as I clicked the harpoon. I rezzed [came back to life] and ran back to the fight.

My timing was out with the second harpoon but I know I got the third one. It took a nice big chunk of life from Vishap and also made the difference between success and failure as we only took the Boss down at the very last possible moment. It was so close I thought we’d failed again. Without the harpoon damage, we would have failed for sure.

So let’s look at the mechanics. The graphic below shows the basic structure of the fight:

ffxiv SoF map

Apologies for the amateurish graphic but it gets the job done. As you can see, the trial is in 4 parts, each part separated by a glowing blue barrier [it represents a magic ward]. The first part contains:

  • 2 pairs of cannon
  • 1 tower with the Dragonslayer harpoon on top

The purpose of the cannon is to kill the adds so the group can dps the Boss without getting killed.

The purpose of the Dragonslayer harpoon is to take a big chunk of the Boss’ life. The harpoon looks like this:

harpoon target zone

The harpoon gun is to your right as you go up the stairs of the tower. Do NOT interact with it until the Boss is more or less over the big orange circle on the ground. The harpoon has no hotbar button. As soon as you click on it, the gun will fire. It hits just the one spot and cannot be aimed

In the remaining sections, you must not fire the harpoon gun until the Boss is in position AND the players on the cannons have triggered the snares.

The snares, [shown below] look a bit like orange crystals, or lamps. The cue to trigger the snares is when the Boss uses his big, rectangular AOE. Once triggered, the snares throw chains over the Boss so the harpoon can hit it. Without the chains, the Boss will dodge the harpoon.


Once the Boss destroys the last pair of cannons in a section, everyone, including healers, should be dpsing the Boss with everything they have. You won’t stop him destroying the barrier, but you can reduce his life quite a bit.

[Note: if you die, don’t wait to be rezzed. Go back to the beginning and use the shortcut portal to get back into the fight]

The final mechanic is the pile of explosive barrels. They are there as a last ditch boost to your group’s damage. But there is also one last harpoon gun available. You can see one of the snares circled in yellow in the screenshot below.

last phase

The players on the cannons have to stop the adds from destroying the barrels. Then, when the Boss gets there, they hit the remaining barrels with weapon skill 1 on the cannon hotbar.

I haven’t mentioned any of the mini-bosses that spawn because lots of guides talk about those, and you can find a good one here:


You can also find MrHappy’s walkthrough video guide here:

[Note: all screenshots are taken from MrHappy’s video guide]

Well, that’s it. The last game how-to. Now I can give Square Enix some more money to buy and play the expansion. It better be worth it because I haven’t had any fun doing this.






Death of Choice – Ilil Arbel

Well over a year ago, my friend Ilil Arbel brought out a delightful detective story set in the flapper era. That story was called Madame Koska and the Imperial Brooch, and you can read my 5 star review here.

I wish I could tell you that Ilil has brought out a second volume in the adventures of Madame Koska, but I can’t. However I can tell you that she has contributed a story to the anthology called ‘Death of Choice’.

Ilil Arbel anthology

If you click on the picture it should take you to the Amazon page where you can do the ‘look inside’ thing.:) To be honest, I didn’t look inside because I know how good Ilil’s writing is, but don’t take my word for it. Look inside and enjoy!



FFXIV – the Chrysalis

Okay, first up, I did get through this trial, and I even managed to get a commendation, so this is not sour grapes but… the Chrysalis was nasty. Part of the reason for that was social and part was due to the mechanics of the actual trial.


This is not a walkthrough so I won’t go into every skill Nabriales [the Boss] uses. Instead I want to talk about the two major mechanics – orbs and meteors. And I want to show you what all the important things look like because recognizing what’s what is often the difference between a successful run and a disaster.


In the first phase of the trial, Nabriales will call forth two kinds of orbs to buff himself. One is physical, the other magical and they look like this:

chrysalis black and red orb

Screenshot taken from MrHappy’s video guide

The orbs start at the outer perimeter of the arena and slowly drift into the centre where Nabriales waits. Your job is to stop the orbs from reaching him. Every orb that does reach him applies a buff that will increase the damage of the big AOE he unleashes at the end of this stage. Nabriales will call the orbs twice.

How to stop the orbs

To stop an orb you have to run through it. When you do, the orb explodes and is gone. Unfortunately getting it to explode is not as easy as it sounds. Whether it was a glitch or some odd lag effect, I found that I could not seem to ‘connect’ with some of the orbs. In fact there was one that I ran through about 4 times before it finally exploded.That was not fun.

Alternating orbs

To make dealing with the orbs harder, you will have to alternate red and black orbs because connecting with 2 or god forbid 3 of the same kind would be bad, very bad.

The glitch and the alternating requirement meant that 8 people were running around, not doing a very good job of stopping these orbs from reaching Nabriales. And when he did his AOE we wiped.

At our next attempt, we survived the first round of orbs only to be felled by the second round.

I think it was about this time that someone from the group ranted about ‘stupid people’. I became a little heated and said we were not stupid, just new. When we had a show of hands, 3 of the 8 admitted to being new to the trial.

Anyway, we kept going which was good as some of the group would have preferred to rage quit.

Then, after 2 lots of orbs and Quake, Nabriales cast Blight and disappeared, leaving a portal in the middle of the arena.

Blight and the portal

Blight is a DoT AOE [damage over time area of effect] that lasts for quite some time and reduces your health the whole time.Blight cannot be avoided and neither can the portal.The problem is they happen at the same time.

If you get sucked into the portal while Blight is still active, the effect will last X amount of time longer so you do NOT want to get sucked in straight away. But how do you avoid getting sucked in too soon?

Simple – you run towards the outer perimeter of the arena, and you watch this little icon count down to zero:

Screenshot taken from MrHappy's video clip.

Screenshot taken from MrHappy’s video clip.

All the guides say to keep running until Blight wears off then pop your buffs just before being sucked into the portal. The reason for popping the buffs is that they are extended on the other side of the portal as well.

I happened to be right next to the portal when it opened the first time and couldn’t even take a step before I was sucked in. Lesson: stay away from the centre. :(

The next time we faced Blight, I managed to run towards the outer edge of the arena long enough for it to wear off but I could not run and pop my buffs at the same time. You see that pull is damn strong.

This is what the portal looks like:

Screenshot taken from MrHappy's video guide

Screenshot taken from MrHappy’s video guide


Once on the other side of the portal, you will see a series of circles on the ground:

Screenshot taken from MrHappy's video guide

Screenshot taken from MrHappy’s video guide

These circles show where the meteors will land. The landing spot of the BIG meteor is circled in red while the smaller ones are circled in yellow. The small meteors come down fast, and if they hit the ground they turn into a ‘tear’.

The way to stop the tears from forming in the first place is to put a tank underneath each small meteor. Of course you will get more small meteors than tanks so eventually a ‘tear’ will form:

Screenshot taken from MrHappy's video guide

Screenshot taken from MrHappy’s video guide

This ‘tear’ has to be destroyed before the big meteor strikes or it’s an instant wipe. If at all possible, save the level 3 Limit Break for the tear.

We also had trouble with this bit because at least one of the tanks had no idea what to do. Instant wipe.

Sadly it was not the experienced players who explained what needed to be done but someone who had only studied the video guides. Any way you look at it, that’s a ridiculous situation, yet it happens time and time again. Information is not gold. You don’t lose anything by giving it away.

The one positive thing I can say is that I got to practise my Swiftcast-Resurrection about five times. :(

If anyone is interested in seeing MrHappy’s complete video guide, you can find it here:



p.s. For my non-gamer friends – just one more to go. :)

Mutawintji National Park


If you’ve ever wanted to see photos of Australia off-the-beaten-track then you’ll find some lovely ones in Anne Lawson’s post. You’ve also discover some interesting history about the place and botanical drawing. Win/win!

Originally posted on Anne Lawson:

I have just come back to Menindee after spending a few days in Mutawintji National Park. It is a couple of hours north east of Broken Hill.

Have you ever seen the movie “Priscilla Queen of the Desert”? It was filmed in Broken Hill. So if you have seen it you can visualise the landscape we were travelling through. If you haven’t seen it, make sure you do, as it is a fabulous film!

We were following in the footsteps of Burke and Wills. Our guide was Garry, a member of the Burke and Wills Society who had been this way a few years ago. He was so knowledgeable about the area, even arranging for us to go onto private land to see where some of the paintings from the expedition were painted.

I have mentioned that I am up here, with other botanic artists to paint the plants collected…

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Neural ‘cap’ and computer helps a man walk again

I just saw this on TV and  almost fell over as I honestly thought this technology would not be available for decades yet.

This technology offers real hope for thousands of paraplegics all around the world. Go the Naked Ape! For all our faults, we produce some wonderful, dedicated, compassionate human beings as well.



Publishing – is the Big Five cabal really so…inept?

My most recent article on the writing game just went up on Indies Unlimited:


I intended it to spark a discussion, and its happening. Come join the fun. :)



p.s. sorry for the flurry of posts. I’ve had a bit of a rest and my brain has woken up again. :D

CGI Silly Putty

Technophile or technophobe, everyone should have a look at this video clip!

It shows computer generated shapes squidging up and splaying out, and generally behaving like real world ‘wet’ things.

The animation is great fun to watch, but what really blew my mind was that none of it is real. Every last bend, twist and splodge is created by a computer graphics program simulating the real world… and doing it well.

And because more is better than less, here are some more fluid simulations:

Final Fantasy XIV has some amazing looking ‘water’ but still nothing that looks and acts like real water.

The following 3 pics were taken at a game location called ‘Mist’ and show the waves coming in and going out. [note to self – really must download a video capture app again].

Look at the waves….

mist ocean 1

mist ocean 2

mist ocean 3

The waves don’t ‘interact’ with objects terribly well, but one day they will. One day, the simulated world will look as real as the real one. And from there, Innerscape is just a hop, skip and a jump away.




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