Author Archives: acflory

About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes...

Essays on America: The Game

I’m taking the unprecedented step of reblogging a post from a complete stranger, because it is so chilling.

The stranger is Peter Ironswood, and his essay is about the 1% who are so powerful, they could be demigods in our supposedly enlightened world.

This is a must read.

petersironwood

The Game

man in gray suit playing chess Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

The Game has no rules. Not really. I suppose you could say that the one rule is that there are no rules. 

Not everyone can play The Game. So, that might count as a rule about entering and leaving The Game.

To Enter the Game, you need to be a Player. 

And, to Leave the Game, you need to die. (You can’t “quit.”)

dog and house toy on monopoly board game Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Those are the two rules about whether you can play, but there are no rules within The Game. 

But how does one become a Player? 

Fame is not enough. Wealth is not enough. Good looks, or sharp wits, or intelligence, or encyclopedic knowledge, or special talents? No, that is not enough. 

What is important is that you have Power and that you will execute your Power without regard to…

View original post 1,178 more words


Generating power at night, the flip side to solar

Nuclear energy has been in the news lately, and its proponents have once again cited the intermittent nature of renewables as a compelling reason to embrace nuclear. They say that only nuclear can wean us off fossil fuels fast enough given the imminent climate crisis.

My argument has always been that renewable technology is still in its infancy and that the sector will explode with new tech in the near future. This post is about one such possible ‘new tech’ – thermoelectric generation.

I can’t explain the science, but I can say that this new direction in power generation would work at night, while solar is unavailable. You can read the complete article here:

https://newatlas.com/energy/thermoelectric-generator-renewable-energy-cold-space/

The amount of power generated was miniscule, but this experiment sought only to prove that the principle was sound. Scaling up the process and making it robust enough for commercial applications will take a while, but then so does setting up a nuclear power plant.

My money’s on the new tech rather than the old.

cheers

Meeks

 


American politics, Australian echo

The structure of US politics is very different to what we know in Australia, but I read something today that really struck a chord:

If a party stands for nothing but reelection, it indeed stands for nothing.

That quote comes from a joint editorial published in The Washington Post. It was written by three Republican contenders for the Presidential nomination. They put aside their own personal ambitions and political differences, to protest what they see as the sabotaging of democracy in America.

For Australians who are not familiar with the American system, candidates within each political party compete publicly with each other to determine who will be the best candidate to fight the actual presidential election. Usually this is done via state primaries.

But not this time. Four US states have cancelled their primaries on the basis that Donald Trump ‘will’ win in a landslide so why waste the money? But it’s not about the money. Each of those states will vote for Trump to be the presidential candidate without consulting any of the voters in that state. As primaries are a core step in the US electoral process, this is a massive departure from normal democracy.

You can, and should, read the entire post by Jill Dennison to understand how truly disruptive this development is:

https://jilldennison.com/2019/09/14/three-republicans-speak-up/

Sadly, the Australian experience of politics has been echoing that of the US since the sacking of Kevin Rudd in 2010. Our political system is very different, but almost everything that’s happened in the last decade has been about one party or the other giving democracy the finger in order to be re-elected.

  • Rudd sacked in favour of Gillard
  • Gillard sacked in favour of Rudd
  • Tony Abbot sacked in favour of Malcolm Turnbull
  • Turnbull sacked in favour of Scott Morrison

To be fair, in the Australia system, parties choose who will lead them into an election. Parties also have the right to choose someone else to lead them, even in the middle of an election cycle, so the revolving door of Prime Ministers is ‘legal’:

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

But is the letter of the law abusing the spirit of the law?

Much of the nitty gritty of Australian politics is ruled by convention rather than laws laid down by the Constitution. As such, our Prime Minister is important to the voting public, but isn’t actually granted special status in the Constitution. That said, convention or perhaps the rule of common courtesy has meant that once elected, a sitting Prime Minister is not ousted by his own party [note: I’m no historian so I’d welcome clarification of this].

When Kevin Rudd was replaced by Julia Gillard – to win the looming election – many voters who liked Rudd and voted him in, felt they had been robbed. In the interests of honesty, I have to say that I’m one of them. Whatever the constitution may say, the Prime Minister who leads his [or her] party into an election is seen by the electorate as having their vote. Ousting that leader may be legal, but it takes something fundamental away from voters. And it undermines the concept of 1 person, 1 vote. Of course that concept has been undermined in a great many other ways, but this post is about the machinations within parties.

Personality politics is not a good thing, in my humble opinion, but once a political party is voted in because of the popularity of its chosen ‘face’, that face should remain until voted out in the next election. The only exception to that is if the ‘face’ commits an actual crime. In the wake of all this political turmoil, both major parties have created rules of their own that prohibit the sacking of a sitting Prime Minister. It should be noted, however, that these new rules apply only to the party concerned. The constitution has not been amended.

Constitution aside, I believe that having a revolving door of Prime Minsters for the sake of political expediency – i.e. just to get re-elected – is cynical and undermines democracy. More importantly, it raises the perception of popularity above the facts of policy.

Sadly, this seems to be the way Western democracy is headed. I hope I don’t live to see democracy wither and die completely.

Meeks


Bathing in a bucket…

And no, this is not research for some scene in a story. This was me, after I discovered that we had no hot water…

not. I wasn’t smiling at all.

As usual, Murphy’s Law was working overtime in Warrandyte this morning. For starters, it’s been damn cold the last couple of days, cold, rainy and overcast. The worst possible weather for my solar hotwater system.

Me: Not a problem. The instant, gas hot water booster will kick in…any second now…hello?

Except that the instant, gas hot water booster did not kick in. Went out to check, and I see a cryptic machine message blinking in red on the display. Panic? No, ring the manufacturer.

“Have you tried to reset the system?”

Me: “Um…no. How?”

I now know how to reset the system but…it didn’t work, did it?

“Let me check the plumbers in your area. I’ll get back to you shortly.”

Me: still waiting…

In the meantime, I had to go out so a clean up of some sort was absolutely necessary.

Me: cold shower? Not on your nelly…that water is effing freezing!

Thank god the kettle still works. Boiled up about 2 litres of water. Poured it into a bucket in the shower. Added a bit of cold…and got to work.

In case there are any time and motion experts out there, I can now say with absolute certainty that it is possible to bathe in a bucket. Not pleasant, but doable. Start at the top and finish with the feet.

And on that note, I’ll quit while I’m a head.

Meeks


How to unblock a toilet…with a mop

Okay, this is not one of my usual how-to posts, but I’m so proud of myself I just had to crow a little. 😀

Yes, the toilet in my late father’s area was blocked, and no, I didn’t invent the mop method. A friendly plumber told me how to fix a simple blockage years ago, but this is the first time I’ve actually had to put the theory to the test…and it works!

Basically what you need is a soft mop like this:

or like one of these:

A bucket and a pair of rubber gloves is also advisable.

Then you shove the head of the mop into the toilet, as far down as you can and kind of…pump it?

When you pull the mop head out, the level of water in the toilet will be much lower than its ‘normal’ level.

Flush, and the water should drain normally again.

I wish I could tell you why this works, but I can’t remember what that very nice plumber told me. If by some weird chance you read this, Mr Nice Plumber, please accept my heartfelt thanks, and that of my purse. 😀

The very small downside to using this method is that you have to sacrifice a mop to the toilet. The one I used is about to go under the house where it will stay until the next blockage. As for me, I’m going to be whistling happily as I go to the supermarket to buy a new mop.

$20 vs $100? No contest.

Cheers from a very happy Meeka. 🙂


Blender 2.8 for Absolute Beginners [1]

There are a lot of excellent video tutorials out there, but…none of them allow you watch in slow motion. That means you have to stop, rewind, play, rinse and repeat, until you see that one, teeny thing that a beginner doesn’t know and the presenter takes for granted.

As an absolute beginner myself, I’m writing this series of posts to save other absolute beginners from the hours of frustration and research that went into learning the teeny things everyone else takes for granted. Each post will be step-by-step with screenshots, and I welcome comments that point out things I’ve missed or taken for granted. So, let’s begin!

What is Blender 2.8?

Blender 2.8 is open source, 3D graphics software.

Translation: Blender 2.8 is a free app that produces models of ‘things’ that can be viewed from all angles – i.e. in 3D.

Where can you download Blender 2.8?

You can download the app from here:

https://www.blender.org/download/releases/2-80/

As with all software downloaded from the internet, you should save the file to your computer and scan it with your anti-virus software before installing it.

Getting Started

Once Blender 2.8 is installed, this is what you will see:

The colourful bit in the middle is like a temporary shortcut menu. Common functions are on the left, and recently used files are on the right. Left click on the dark grey grid in the background to make it disappear.

You will now be looking at the Layout workspace. It contains all the tools and options you will need to create and edit a 3D model. As a beginner, this is where you will spend most of your time.

Before starting to explore the workspace, however, I need to address the elephant in the room – Blender keyboard shortcuts.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Most software programs allow the use of keyboard shortcuts – e.g. Ctrl C for Copy and Ctrl V for Paste [in Microsoft Office programs] – but these shortcuts are an added extra for those who already know the software and want to work faster. In Blender, this process is reversed – i.e. shortcuts first and menus second.

Even as recently as Blender version 2.79, the menus were all over the place, and learning how to find functions in them required as much memory as learning how to use the shortcuts themselves. I started with 2.79. It was hard, very hard.

Enter Blender 2.8. The core functions remain the same, but the interface and the menu system have been rationalized from the ground up, making the learning process much easier. Navigation functions are grouped together as are the creating and editing functions you will use the most. Better still, when you can’t find/remember a less used function, there is a fairly logical and consistent way of finding it. And finally, if all else fails, you can press F3 on the keyboard and search for the function by name.

I had to smile as I wrote about F3. Search is a core function in any software, yet even in 2.8, it’s accessed by a keyboard shortcut and requires you to remember which key it is hidden behind! Blender 2.8 may have emancipated the menu, but shortcuts are still more…equal. 🙂

Irony aside, there is a compelling reason why the experts use the Blender shortcuts; they’d go insane selecting millions of small, repetitive functions from the menus! And you will too.

To give you a simple example, you can use this navigation key to zoom in and out of your model:

Left click the zoom icon [circled in red] and hold the mouse button down as you move the mouse towards you or away from you. Moving the mouse towards you zooms the scene out – i.e. it gets further away. Moving the mouse away from you zooms the scene in – i.e. it gets closer to you.

Or you could simply use the scroll wheel on the mouse to zoom in and out.

So which keyboard shortcuts should you learn off by heart?

Opinions will differ, but I found the navigation ones a must:

Zoom in and out

Move the scroll wheel on the mouse to zoom in or out.

Free move around the scene

This allows you to view the scene from all angles. Hold down the scroll wheel on the mouse as you move the mouse around. [The pundits talk about holding down the 3rd mouse button, but if you’re like me and don’t have one, holding down the scroll wheel works just as well.]

Move the object in the scene
  1. Click the object to select it.
  2. Press ‘G’ on the keyboard [‘G’ for ‘grab’].
  3. Do NOT click the object again [this is not like the click-and-drag you are used to]. Simply move the mouse and the object will follow like a dog on a leash.
  4. When the object reaches its new location, left click the mouse to lock it in place. [If you want to move the object again, you will have to press the G key again.]
Move the object in just one direction

To understand this shortcut, imagine that you have positioned an object in just the right place and you don’t want to accidentally mess it up. But…it could do with being just a tiny bit higher [or lower or left or right or backwards or forwards]. How do you make that small adjustment without messing it all up?

The answer is by constraining [locking] movement to either the X, Y or Z axis:

Unlike the graphs you probably learnt as a child, in 3D, up and down is known as the ‘Z’ axis. In Blender, the Z axis is shown in blue, the X in red and the Y in green. The orientation of ‘X’ and ‘Y’ will depend upon how you are viewing the object. In the example shown below, I want to move the object to the right:

As you can see from the screenshot, left and right are on the X axis [the red line on the grid]. To move the object precisely to the right:

  1. Click the object to select it.
  2. Press ‘G’ [for ‘grab’] followed by ‘X’ [for the X axis]
  3. Move the mouse to the right.
  4. Left click the mouse button to lock the object in place.

If you want to move the object up or down, the shortcut is ‘G’ and ‘Z’. In the screenshot above, moving the object backwards and forwards would be ‘G’ and ‘Y’.

If you want to use the menus you will have to start by opening the toolbar on the left. To do this, point the mouse at the right edge of the toolbar. When the mouse pointer changes to a double headed white arrow, click-hold-and-drag to the right:

Keep dragging until the toolbar is open and shows the label for each icon. Click the ‘Move’ option as shown:

You should now see a kind of 3D compass in the middle of the object. Click-hold-and-drag the blue arrow to move the object up or down on the Z axis. Click-hold-and-drag the red and green arrows to move the object in the direction of the lines on the grid [red for X, green for Y].

I admit I found the whole  X,Y and Z spatial awareness thing a bit hard at first but, as with most things, the more I had to move objects around, the easier it all became. And as I learned more advanced processes, I realised that X, Y and Z are absolutely fundamental to using Blender. I suspect they’re fundamental to learning any 3D software.

Ultimately, you will learn the shortcuts that make your life and work easier. For me, one shortcut I simply couldn’t live without is Ctrl Z. It’s standard for ‘Undo’ and will save you millions of clicks as you work in Blender.

Undo

Hold the Ctrl key down while you press the letter Z. This will undo the last thing you did. You can repeat Ctrl Z up to about 30 times, or until you run out of steps to undo.

Alternately, you can click ‘Undo’ on the Edit menu [top left of the screen]:

I’ll finish this first post off with a beginners tutorial that was quite good. It takes you through the basics of navigating the viewport using both the navigation icons and the keyboard shortcuts that go with them. The ‘viewport’ is just the name given to the dark grey grid.

Whether you use the menus or the shortcut keys, I hope you have fun and enjoy the learning process.

cheers

Meeks


Posing…with attitude. :D

I think I’m coming down with something, so I’ve done precious little all day. But sitting doing nothing does have its advantages. I finally managed to rig my little man, and that meant I could pose him. 😀

-grin-

Night night!


In-bloody-credible!

Apologies for the flurry of posts, but the diamonds are jumping out at me this week. Even if you don’t like ballet, please watch this:

Ignore the hype and just watch what the human body, and spirit, can do.

Meeks

 


Siberian Husky On A Frozen Lake — SCOPIC IMPULSE

Update August 31, 2019: I’ve had to remove the picture because of a request from Scopic Impulse. Apparently the way WordPress does an automated reblog is not acceptable:

‘VIA IS NOT PERMITTED. WE PLANED WARNING.

RESPECT FOR THE AUTHOR WHO IS NOT MENTIONED AND ONLY REPRESENTED BY ONE PICTURE; PLEASE REMOVE THIS “PIECE” OF PUBLICATION! THANK YOU
@scopicimpulse’
I’m confused by the reasons given as the photographer was clearly named [see below], and I wanted his work to become more widely seen, but I can’t argue with a take down request. Speaking of the photographer though, I’m leaving the link because I believe the photos truly are spectacular.

Siberian Husky On A Frozen Lake. Fox Grom is a Russian photographer born in Kirovsk. It’s a magical scene—a couple of beautiful huskies inquisitively wander over the mirror-like surface of a frozen lake in northern Russia. The world seems so still, so completely calm in the photographs that you could almost be forgiven for thinking […]

via Siberian Husky On A Frozen Lake — SCOPIC IMPULSE

My first thought was ‘oh my god, it’s walking on water!’. Then I read the title. Then I looked past the beautiful Huskies and saw the lake and its surroundings. That’s when my jaw truly dropped. Whether there are a million Earth-like planets or just this one, beauty like this deserves to be preserved.

We are already in heaven, my friends. Let’s not turn it into  hell.


Poor sleep is NOT inevitable [with ageing]

I’ve been a night owl for most of my life, but once asleep, I’d sleep for a solid eight hours and wake refreshed. In recent years, however, my sleep has become progressively worse, with eight hours becoming six and much of that ‘broken’.

Me…without the spots

I thought, “Well, I am in my sixties…”

That resigned thought joined a host of others as more physical niggles set in. Arthritis in my big toes? Check. The beginnings of arthritis in my right thumb? Check. Deteriorating eyesight? Check. Reduced energy? Check. Reduced ability to think? Kinda. I can still do mental gymnastics first thing in the morning, but by late afternoon my mind and body cries out for a nana nap… -sigh-

I solved the problem of the arthritis [at least for now] by eating a bowl of Morello cherries with plain yoghurt for breakfast every day. The Morello cherries [also called ‘black cherries’] contain ‘…anthocyanins – plant pigments that have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

The Morello cherries don’t cure the arthritis, they simply reduce the inflammation. And they do it without destroying the lining of your stomach like most chemical anti-inflammatories. Most importantly, they will keep you pain free if you keep eating them. Plus they are delicious.

I owe the late Bob Hawke for the tip about the Morello cherries. And no, I’ve never had a direct line to Bob Hawke. 🙂 Like many others, I  watched an interview in which he mentions that he controls his arthritis with Black Cherries. I did my research and discovered that Black Cherries = Morello Cherries and they really do work.

[Note: you can find Morello Cherries in glass jars at most Coles, Woolworths and IGA supermarkets. The cost is about $4 per jar.]

The eyesight is still a problem as I need three hands and a strong magnifying glass to thread a needle…BUT, I think I’ve solved the sleep, energy and brain power problems. And they all boil down to one thing – avoiding ‘blue light’ for a couple of hours before bed!

“Blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood—seem to be the most disruptive at night. And the proliferation of electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting, is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown.”

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side

If you go to the Harvard Health website [see link above] you’ll see a picture of someone lying in bed, reading from an electronic device. That used to be me. I’d hop into bed, get comfy, turn on my Kindle Fire and read for half an hour or so.

Reading in bed is a habit I’ve followed since I was about eight years old. It never occurred to me that changing my reading material from books to the Fire would have any negative effects. After all, I’d spent years reading my ordinary Kindle without any ill effects. Trouble is, I didn’t realise that the Kindle Fire screen is back lit with blue light while the ordinary Kindle has no back lighting.

I’d still be struggling with poor sleep, and all the ills that flow from it if not for Navigator, an online friend with life long sleep problems. His problems are slowly disappearing thanks to a simple change of routine and some Melatonin tablets. I figured if the ‘cure’ works for him, it might work for me too. I don’t take the Melatonin [yet], but I have been turning off the pc, a bit earlier and reading an old fashioned book for the last couple of weeks. And it’s working. Honest!

My next step will be to get a special filter for my pc. Apparently you can set it to change the backlighting from blue to a kind of sepia at sundown. You can also get prescription glasses made up with an inbuilt blue light filter, but as you’d expect, they’re kind of expensive.

Anyway, if poor sleep is something you’ve been living with for a while, try to reduce the amount of blue light from electronic devices, especially in the evening. You may find that poor sleep is not a function of your age at all.

Cheers

Meeks


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