Category Archives: My soap box

#Australia – everything you never wanted to know about the IPA

Apologies to my international friends, this rant is predominantly for Australians.

The IPA has been on the news a lot lately, but I didn’t really know what the hell it was. Until just now. IPA stands for ‘Institute of Public Affairs’.

Sounds kind of official, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. The IPA is a Liberal Right Wing think tank/lobby group that believes it knows what’s best for Australia. Those views are set out in a boring document called ‘Be Like Gough’:

https://ipa.org.au/publications-ipa/ipa-review-articles/be-like-gough-75-radical-ideas-to-transform-australia

Right at the end, however, are 75 suggestions for how Australia should be changed. I have not altered those 75 suggestions in any way. I have simply highlighted the ones that shocked me the most. Read them for yourself:

1 Repeal the carbon tax, and don’t replace it. It will be one thing to remove the burden of the carbon tax from the Australian economy. But if it is just replaced by another costly scheme, most of the benefits will be undone.

2 Abolish the Department of Climate Change

3 Abolish the Clean Energy Fund

4 Repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act

5 Abandon Australia’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council

6 Repeal the renewable energy target

7 Return income taxing powers to the states

8 Abolish the Commonwealth Grants Commission

9 Abolish the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

10 Withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol

11 Introduce fee competition to Australian universities

12 Repeal the National Curriculum

13 Introduce competing private secondary school curriculums

14 Abolish the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)

15 Eliminate laws that require radio and television broadcasters to be ‘balanced’

16 Abolish television spectrum licensing and devolve spectrum management to the common law

17 End local content requirements for Australian television stations

18 Eliminate family tax benefits

19 Abandon the paid parental leave scheme

20 Means-test Medicare

21 End all corporate welfare and subsidies by closing the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education

22 Introduce voluntary voting

23 End mandatory disclosures on political donations

24 End media blackout in final days of election campaigns

25 End public funding to political parties

26 Remove anti-dumping laws

27 Eliminate media ownership restrictions

28 Abolish the Foreign Investment Review Board

29 Eliminate the National Preventative Health Agency

30 Cease subsidising the car industry

31 Formalise a one-in, one-out approach to regulatory reduction

32 Rule out federal funding for 2018 Commonwealth Games

33 Deregulate the parallel importation of books

34 End preferences for Industry Super Funds in workplace relations laws

35 Legislate a cap on government spending and tax as a percentage of GDP

36 Legislate a balanced budget amendment which strictly limits the size of budget deficits and the period the federal government can be in deficit

37 Force government agencies to put all of their spending online in a searchable database

38 Repeal plain packaging for cigarettes and rule it out for all other products, including alcohol and fast food

39 Reintroduce voluntary student unionism at universities

40 Introduce a voucher scheme for secondary schools

41 Repeal the alcopops tax

42 Introduce a special economic zone in the north of Australia including:
a) Lower personal income tax for residents
b) Significantly expanded 457 Visa programs for workers
c) Encourage the construction of dams

43 Repeal the mining tax

44 Devolve environmental approvals for major projects to the states

45 Introduce a single rate of income tax with a generous tax-free threshold

46 Cut company tax to an internationally competitive rate of 25 per cent

47 Cease funding the Australia Network

48 Privatise Australia Post

49 Privatise Medibank

50 Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function

51 Privatise SBS

52 Reduce the size of the public service from current levels of more than 260,000 to at least the 2001 low of 212,784

53 Repeal the Fair Work Act

54 Allow individuals and employers to negotiate directly terms of employment that suit them

55 Encourage independent contracting by overturning new regulations designed to punish contractors

56 Abolish the Baby Bonus

57 Abolish the First Home Owners’ Grant

58 Allow the Northern Territory to become a state

59 Halve the size of the Coalition front bench from 32 to 16

60 Remove all remaining tariff and non-tariff barriers to international trade

61 Slash top public servant salaries to much lower international standards, like in the United States

62 End all public subsidies to sport and the arts

63 Privatise the Australian Institute of Sport

64 End all hidden protectionist measures, such as preferences for local manufacturers in government tendering

65 Abolish the Office for Film and Literature Classification

66 Rule out any government-supported or mandated internet censorship

67 Means test tertiary student loans

68 Allow people to opt out of superannuation in exchange for promising to forgo any government income support in retirement

69 Immediately halt construction of the National Broadband Network and privatise any sections that have already been built

70 End all government funded Nanny State advertising

71 Reject proposals for compulsory food and alcohol labelling

72 Privatise the CSIRO

73 Defund Harmony Day

74 Close the Office for Youth

75 Privatise the Snowy-Hydro Scheme

As you read through these 75 points, you may recognize some that have been accomplished already, while others, like the privatisation of the ABC, have only just been aired in public. Taken as whole, however, these suggestions are aimed at two things:

  1. reducing or repealing anything that provides help or support to individuals, and
  2. promoting changes that will allow private industry to do whatever the hell it wants.

That, my friends, is not, and never has been, the Australian way. We don’t let people sink or swim on their own. We don’t put shareholder dividends above the well-being of the people, and we don’t believe corporations will do the right thing out of the goodness of their hearts. We made it through the Global Financial Crisis [GFC]so well precisely because our financial institutions were regulated and couldn’t do whatever they wanted.

This all boils down to trust. The IPA seems to trust the Robber Barons. Who do you trust?

Meeka

 


Tech woes…

You know how sometimes a great idea turns out to be bloody awful? Welcome to my day.

I now, officially, only have a $hitty Outlook365 webmail client to work with. What’s worse, I’ve lost all the emails that used to live on my Opera Mail client. So if any of you emailed me in the last 12 hours, sorry, it’s all gone. Every. Last. One.

The one good thing out of today’s disaster is that I managed to export my Contact list before everything fell apart. The bad thing is that the Contact list only works with Opera Mail so unless I can get Opera Mail back up and running, I’ll have to re-enter the contact list manually. I don’t like my chances because apparently, few email clients like playing with Outlook365 email. The reason is something called ‘Exchange’. Exchange plays nice with the crap that is Outlook. It does not play nice with much else.

So, I have three options:

  1. Reinstall Outlook from Office 16
  2. Continue to use the shitty webmail client for Outlook365 email
  3. Keep searching for a non-Microsoft email client that works with Exchange

I’ve read about some workarounds including, Davmail & Thunderbird, Thunderbird & Exquilla, and eM mail [$49]. The first two will probably send my hair white, not grey. The last I refuse to even consider because saving money was what got me into this mess in the first place. And not even that much money…

Less that $100 AUD. That’s what I saved today by deleting my hosting account with GoDaddy.

“What with what?” you say.

In order to have your own website, you need a) a domain and b) a web host for that domain. There are lots of webhosts but I was using GoDaddy. Domains are peanuts – about $20 per year – but the web hosting can really mount up, especially when you have to pay a lump sum for the whole year.

That’s what I was facing this morning, so I rang Godaddy and asked if I could ditch the webhosting but keep my email addresses. The answer was yes, but the implementation did not turn out to be as easy, or cheap, as expected. For starters, the email addresses were linked to the hosting, but wait! For just $50 per year, I could get a plan that would allow me to keep both emails going.

“Great!” said I. “Let’s do it.”

That is the point at which I should have asked for ‘more information’, hung up and done some research. Clearly I didn’t, but that decision was at least partly due to phone fatigue. I’d waited 15 minutes to speak to a person in the first place, so by the time this plan was offered, I just wanted to get it done

I think you can probably guess the rest, not the nitty gritty details, but the general gist. I was committed, the process began, it was too late to turn back, things went wrong. And then things went even more wrong. 😦

Now here I sit, scratching my head and wondering how on earth I’m going to get myself out of this one. I do still have my email addresses, and they do sort of work, so if you write to me I ‘should’ be able to answer, but for the moment, that’s it. And I’ve wasted the best part of the day digging this particular hole.

So, the moral of this story is that Outlook365 is not great unless you’re committed to using Microsoft’s Outlook as well. Given how much I love Micro$oft, I’m feeling kind of sick at the moment.

Not happy,

Meeks


Intergenerational care – the way of the future, I hope

At 65, I have no intention of shuffling off to an aged-care facility any time soon, but the mere threat of ending my days in one makes me shiver. You see, I’ve visited a few, and even the best are waiting rooms for the last train.

Here in Australia, in-home care is becoming a buzz word, but even if the idea gets the funding it needs and actually takes off, it won’t solve the problem of loneliness. And it won’t solve the problem of the frail, not-so-very-old who need the kind of care that only a nursing home can provide.

I was chatting with online friend, Sue Vincent, about the prospect of robots being used in aged care when Sue pointed me to this link:

http://theconversation.com/combining-daycare-for-children-and-elderly-people-benefits-all-generations-70724

The article opened my eyes to research that’s being done into how best to combine care for the bookend generations – i.e. the very young and the very old.

This is the bit that did it for me:

‘After we filmed our documentary, one lady who attended the care facility told me that you don’t think about your age when you are in the company of young children. The little ones brought a new sense of vibrancy and fun to the centre, and the focus was no longer on watching time pass but on living in the moment.’ [emphasis is mine].

Not every older person is going to want to have direct contact with young children – all mothers know how tiring toddlers can be – but there are so many other things an older person could do behind the scenes to make together-time fun.

I know because I do some of this behind the scenes stuff at one of the community houses at which I volunteer. They have a small day care centre run by dedicated staff who never have enough hours in the day to prepare all the little things needed for the childrens’ activities. I’ve made countless lumps of playdoh, cut out pictures, squeezed easter eggs into tiny knitted ‘chickens’ [created by yet more volunteers], wrapped Christmas presents, helped with fund-raising raffles…the list goes on and on.

My point is that helping behind the scenes, at one’s own pace, can be just as satisfying as doing one-on-one with the kids themselves. Why? Because it gives older people a sense of purpose, a reason to ‘get up in the morning’.

In my humble opinion, having a sense of purpose is what we all need to ‘live in the moment’.

-hugs-

Meeks


Online Privacy, Security and Newsletters

I’ve just come from Indies Unlimited, one of my favourite websites because of all the free information they provide to Indie authors. The article that prompted this post concerns the new EU regulations and how they relate to newsletters. One of the key facts in the article is that people who use newsletter companies, such as Mailchimp, will have to ask their European subscribers to formally ‘opt in’.

I strongly recommend that everyone who uses a newsletter to communicate with subscribers take a close look at this article:

https://www.indiesunlimited.com/2018/05/14/authors-with-newsletters-must-get-subscribers-to-opt-in-again-per-eu-regulations/comment-page-1/#comment-3488092908471512056

After reading the article, I was curious to see what Mailchimp had to say about the new EU regulations. What I found was not really a surprise, but it did concern me enough to write the following comment:

Great post, RJ and something all Indies have to look at very seriously, because very few know exactly what the Newsletter companies are doing with their own data and the data of their /subscribers/. This ignorance, and the responsibility that goes with it, will not disappear with a simple opt-in form.
I don’t use a newsletter service but I decided to check out your link to Mailchimp, as it’s a very popular one. The following quotes are taken straight from their various pages:
INFO COLLECTED
‘That information may include your IP address….and other information about how you interacted with our Websites or other websites.’
[the important bit is ‘or OTHER websites]

TRACKING DEVICES & PERSONAL INFO
‘In some cases we may use cookies and other tracking technologies described in this Cookie Statement to collect Personal Information, or to collect information that becomes Personal Information if we combine it with other information.’
[the important bit is ‘that becomes Personal Information if we combine it with other information’]

THIRD PARTIES
‘The third parties that set these third party cookies can /recognise/ your computer both when it visits the website or service in question and also when it visits /certain other websites or services/.’
[the important bit is that Third Parties can include every tech company on the internet including Facebook, Google, Amazon and countless others. Seriously].

TRACKING SUBSCRIBERS
We also enable our users [that’s people who use Mailchimp for newsletters] to employ cookies and similar tracking technologies in connection with their use of our Services in order to allow us and our users to track their subscribers.
[the important bit is ‘to track their subscribers’].

“Do Not Track” or “DNT” signals. Since uniform standards for “DNT” signals have not been adopted, our Websites do not currently process or respond to “DNT” signals. MailChimp takes privacy and meaningful choice seriously and will make efforts to continue to monitor developments around DNT browser technology and the implementation of a standard.
[the important bit is that Mailchimp IGNORES do not track requests. In other words, until they’re forced to obey, your choices don’t matter doodly squat to them].

Now that the EU is bringing in such strong regulations [and other countries may follow], we all have to make choices about how we treat other people’s privacy and security [because data gathered by ad companies can be hacked and used by anybody with the technical skills].

I don’t use any of the newsletter companies, but I know that in the past I’ve signed up for newsletters from online friends and colleagues. Now I’m quietly seething because I am very concerned about my privacy and online security. That’s why I deleted my Facebook account AND deleted everything to do with Google. To learn that I’ve been spied on like this is…not pleasant.

I know that most of you don’t see the privacy/security issue the same way that I do, but I’m asking you to please consider those who get caught up in it without any idea that it’s happening to them.

Not happy,

Meeks

 


Twitter users! Change your password, now

I subscribe to an Australian government website called ‘Stay Smart Online’. The site sends me notifications of current security alerts, and this is the latest:

‘As a precaution, Twitter is urging more than 330 million users to change their password after a glitch left log-in details exposed in the company’s internal computer system.

When you set a password for your account, Twitter uses technology that masks it, so no one can see your password.

The company recently identified a bug that stored unmasked passwords in an internal log. Twitter found this error itself, removed the passwords and is now looking at how it can prevent this from happening again.

Twitter has advised it has fixed the bug, and has no reason to believe the passwords left Twitter’s systems or were misused by anyone.’

Despite these assurances, however, you really should change your Twitter password now. More importantly, you should also change your password on any other sites where you used the same password.

I know you’re not supposed to ‘re-use’ passwords, but I’m just as guilty as everyone else because my memory is simply incapable of storing hundreds of passwords. I have special passwords for my banking accounts, or accounts that deal with money, that don’t get shared, but for the main social media accounts that I log in and out of multiple times a day, well….:(

Anyway, I’ve just gone through and changed mine, so I’m a good girl now. 🙂 Are you?

Please don’t ignore these warnings off as you never know when they’ll come back and bite you on the bum.

Meeks


Yes…but why bother?

This is not one of my stereotypical technology posts because instead of exciting me, it simply makes me uneasy. Before I explain why, have a look at this video clip. Go on, it won’t take long:

You can also read the article that goes with the video here:

https://futurism.com/smart-walls/

Now, here’s the thing. I can see the wall sensors becoming a part of the building process, just like light switches and plumbing, but I must have missed the bit that says why you would want to have them in your wall in the first place?

I mean, yes, walls probably should be multipurpose, but aren’t they already?

I don’t have a single wall that’s ‘naked’. I like putting up prints, clocks, the odd real painting to personalise my space. In fact, that’s one of the big disadvantages of renting – you can’t do any of that in case you damage the walls.

Nevertheless, assuming there are naked walls that should be doing something other than forming rooms, I can’t think of a single good reason to have sensors track me from room to room?

“Mum! Where are you?”

Okay, that’s a possibility, but do you really want the wall monitor to display a pixelated image of you sitting on the loo?

To be fair, I suspect the engineers who put this video clip together probably haven’t gotten past the point of making wall angels with their invention. They are probably just in love with the idea that they can put sensors in the walls. In fact, they probably haven’t given much thought to what actual problem the sensors are supposed to solve. But…

If these sensors have to phone home to Amazon, or Google or some other giant tech company to do their smart processing, then this invention goes beyond “gee whiz, look how much fun this is” to “bloody hell, I can’t even have any privacy in my own home????”

I love tech, but only when I own and control it…all of it. My home is my castle, and I don’t want an internet-of-things spying on me. Ever.

Meeks


Aussie Authors! Don’t pay for an ABN!

I can’t name any names as I’m still hoping I’ll receive the promised refund, but I couldn’t let this go without sounding some kind of a warning. 😦

So here it is. If you want or need an Australian Business Number [ABN], do NOT be fooled by any internet companies that charge for this service.

The only place to get an ABN is the official government website:

https://abr.gov.au/

Unfortunately this website is not the first one that comes up on an internet search. Chances are, you’ll see something that looks official, but in the fine print you’ll find that the company is actually a tax agent and the fee is for their services, not for the ABN.

I know this because I paid my money despite feeling uneasy. Only afterwards did I look up the real government agency. I rang and asked if there is a fee for reactivating an ABN. They said no…

I haven’t been ‘scammed’ exactly. I’ve been mislead. Don’t let the same thing happen to you. 😦

Meeks

 


How Social Media misuses Behaviour Modification techniques

I’ve just read an article that is so important, I’m posting about it here and on Medium. The article is entitled:

How Technology is Hijacking Your Mind — from a Magician and Google Design Ethicist

Oddly enough, it wasn’t the bit about the writer being a magician that caught my attention, it was the label of ‘Google Design Ethicist’ that made me start reading. Having just learned how Google invades our privacy, I was primed to be interested.

Almost immediately, I recognized the term ‘intermittent rewards’ as one of the  ‘behaviour mod[ification]’ techniques I’d studied at university. The course was Behavioural Sciences, and back then I’d wanted to become a psychologist.

In a nutshell, behaviour mod. started out as a therapy for:

Inducing positive change in an individual’s behavior through such techniques as positive and negative reinforcement, or punishment for poor behavior. This therapy method is based off of the experiments by B.F. Skinner and his theory of operant conditioning.

https://psychcentral.com/encyclopedia/behavior-modification/

My interest in psychology was sidelined by my introduction to computers, so I never ‘used’ my studies for anything, but apparently industry had. Intermittent rewards are used to make people addicted to all sorts of things, including slot machines and…social media. When you see people obsessively checking their phones, or computers, for messages, emails, or ‘Likes’ on social media platforms like Facebook, it’s because they’ve been conditioned to do so by the technique of intermittent rewards.

You can see exactly how intermittent rewards work on social media by reading the article:

https://journal.thriveglobal.com/how-technology-hijacks-peoples-minds-from-a-magician-and-google-s-design-ethicist-56d62ef5edf3

We’ve been turned into Pavlov’s Dogs by ‘social engineers’ who either never question the ethics of what they’re doing, or simply don’t care. The only way to turn social media into something that benefits us is to:

a) become aware of how we’re being manipulated and

b) kick up such a stink that companies benefiting from this manipulation are forced to change, or go under.

I’m so angry, I’d be happy to see them all crash and burn.

Meeks

 


The price of integrity

I’ve been thinking about this all day, trying to find a way of doing the right thing without sticking my neck out. But there isn’t one. I can’t stay silent and not feel ashamed of myself.

So here is the response I received this morning from the WordPress/Automatic representative:

‘….For your site the ads placement is correct for the double sidebar option you have enabled under Settings > Theme options
There is an issue I see though where the the first ad in the sidebar is appearing blank. I have reported this to our ads team as well as the “asian girl chat” ad.
I will remove the ads from your site for the above reasons. Like I mentioned though, the ads do appear in their expected places on the site.
Write back to me here with any further questions/concerns about this. I will not be able to disable ads for every report in that forum thread. The thread will be closed once I’ve reached everyone by email.
Take care,
Liz
Happiness Engineer
WordPress.com’

If you stop receiving notifications of blog posts from me, it may be because Meeka’s Mind is no longer here. Should that happen, I would dearly love to hear from all of you on my gmail email:

meekasmind@gmail.com

-massive hugs-

Meeks


#WordPress – do you know what your blog really looks like to visitors?

When the ongoing saga of the sidebar adverts. began [here, here and here], I started a thread about it on the WordPress forum. In the days since then, more and more WordPress bloggers have left comments about the same thing happening to their own blogs. This is what one of the commenters said today:

‘I only by chance even found this out by going to my blog on another browser that I wasn’t logged into at the time. Many (most) bloggers have no idea that these new and multiple ads are on their blogs. If they were aware, there would be far more outrage on the Forums. ‘

That got me thinking. Many of my blogging friends can’t see the ad at all because they run adblocker software, but what of everyone else on WordPress? Surely we are not the only ones being targetted by these ads?

And then the penny dropped: the reason more bloggers aren’t screaming is because they only ever see their blogs from the inside, and from there, everything looks fine. What the…?

When I’m logged in to WordPress and click the button to ‘view my site’, I only ever see what’s meant to be there. I never see the ads so if I didn’t have my blog set as the home page of my Firefox browser, I probably wouldn’t know what visitors are seeing either.

But wait…it gets worse. When I write a post and preview it, the ads don’t show. I know because I just checked the preview for this post – no ad. Then I hopped on Chrome and checked my site – ADVERTISEMENT! So the ‘Preview’ function doesn’t show your blog from the outside either.

So how could this happen? Do the ‘view site’ and ‘preview’ functions only display setup choices, not real time information? Or is there a deliberate deception going on?

I hope I’m wrong. I hope it’s just one of those programming over-sights and not an attempt to hide the ads, but I’m asking all WordPress bloggers who don’t have adblocker active to check their blogs from the outside. To see how their blog appears to a stranger. And don’t just use your normal browser. If at all possible, use a variety of browsers to see exactly what kind of ads are being displayed on your blog.

These two screenshots were taken within moments of each other. The first one shows what appears on the IE browser. The second displays the ad. on the Chrome browser:

Yes, that Chrome ad is all about chatting…right…and that pretty young thing is showing all that boob because it’s a hot day…of course. No way is this an ad. for a dating site. And of course it isn’t an ad. for a porn site. Silly me.

Even if you think I’m a crazy old prude, check your blog from the outside just in case all your free content is being used to advertise something you really, really don’t like.

If you see your blog from the outside and don’t like what you see, please join the discussion here:

https://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/expoitative-advertising/page/2?replies=36#post-3073849

The forum thread is on to its second page so click on page 1 to get a complete picture of what’s been happening. If you’re logged into your WordPress blog you will be able to add a comment without the need to register or sign up for the forum.

Not happy,

Meeks

 

 

 

 

 


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