Toxic #nanoparticles in baby formula?

I was first introduced to the idea of very small, man-made ‘objects’ by the 1966 sci-fi movie ‘The Fantastic Voyage’:

The story was fanciful in the extreme – science will never be able to shrink humans to the size of atoms – but the concept of building a microscopic sized machine was not that far off the mark. These days, you can find nanoparticles in ‘…scratchproof eyeglasses, crack- resistant paints, anti-graffiti coatings for walls, transparent sunscreens, stain-repellent fabrics, self-cleaning windows and ceramic coatings for solar cells.¹

Unfortunately, the one place you do not want to find nanoparticles is in infant formula, so I was shocked when I read this article from Friends of the Earth:

http://emergingtech.foe.org.au/illegal-and-potentially-toxic-nanoparticles-found-in-baby-formula/

In a quick summary, Friends of the Earth commissioned the Arizona State University to test seven samples of baby formula on sale here in Australia. The test results showed that five of the seven contained nanoparticles that are specifically prohibited in baby food. Despite this, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand [FSANZ] dismissed the concerns raised by these results without even running tests of their own.

Friends of the Earth believe that FSANZ is overly influenced by large multinational corporations and is calling for the body to be investigated. I don’t know whether their claims are justified or not. All I know is that if I had a baby, I’d be switching brands until these allegations are either proved by more testing…or disproved by more testing. Either way, the tests must be done.

The following table is taken from the Friends of the Earth article. The yellow highlight at the bottom is mine.

 

If this information proves to be alarmist, then I apologise in advance but when it comes to health, especially the health of babies, I believe the precautionary principle should trump every other consideration. As mothers, we have the right to choose what food we put into the mouths of our children.

Meeks

¹ http://ec.europa.eu/health/scientific_committees/opinions_layman/en/nanotechnologies/l-3/5-nanoparticles-consumer-products.htm


…an eCar for car lovers :)

I’m not exactly a petrol head, but I do love beautiful cars, and the new EMotion by Fisker is extraordinarily sexy:

According to futurism.com:

‘The car will, reportedly, have a range of over 643 km (400 miles), a top speed of 260 km/h (161 m/h), a charge time of nine minutes for 100 km (62 miles), and utilizes the wonder material graphene in its battery, which was developed in collaboration with Nanotech Energy Inc.’

You can read the full article on:

https://futurism.com/heres-a-first-ever-look-at-the-new-electric-vehicle-that-charges-in-9-minutes/

As for me, I’m very happy because this news drives another nail into the coffin of the polluting technology of the past. Electric cars now have range, speed and sexy. All they lack is a pricepoint suitable for the average driver, but with competition, the prices will drop. And guess what? Tesla now has competition.

I won’t be driving one of these beauties any time soon, but I predict that by the late 2020s, electric cars will be as popular as the SUV is now.

Have a great weekend,

cheers

Meeks


Corel X8 tips for beginners – moving objects precisely

I have to start this post by saying I am not an expert in Corel X8, but I have been using vector graphics for a very long time, and there are some labour-saving tips I’ve learned along the way that I’d like to share. The first of these involves a basic feature called ‘Object position’:

The ‘X’ and ‘Y’ numbers describe the left/right and up/down position of the object on the page. But they’re more than just co-ordinates – they can also be used to change the position of the object on the page, precisely. So precisely in fact, that you can use ‘Object position’ to move your shapes one pixel at a time.

What’s a pixel?

If you zoom in on a digital image far enough, you will eventually see a grid of coloured squares. Each one of those squares is a pixel, and they are the building blocks of the most common digital images:

In the screenshot above, the image has been magnified to over 3000%. Despite this extreme magnification, however, small errors of alignment can and do show up in much large images. In the following screenshot I created two, almost identical pairs of shapes. The pair on the left is just one pixel shy of being aligned perfectly. The pair on the right is aligned perfectly. When you place the images against a contrasting background, the small imperfection in pair A can be seen as the hint of a ‘bump’:

The next screenshot is a super closeup of that one pixel difference:

 

In bitmap images [the kind you get from photographs], there are so many shades of pixels that you would never notice such a tiny imperfection. In vector drawings, however, especially of objects with straight lines, one pixel can make a difference.

The magnitude of the difference one pixel can make was brought home to me over the last few months as I’ve been working on the covers to my books. Like most people, I began by eyeballing the position of the shapes and moving them around manually. If I’m careful, I can line them up perfectly, most of the time. But if I have a lot of shapes, and they all have to be aligned perfectly, the strain on my eyes, neck and shoulders can become intense. That’s where the ‘Object position’ comes in. Instead of relying on hand-eye co-ordination, I simply type in co-ordinates, and X8 does the work for me.

So how do you use ‘Oject position’?

The first step is to ensure that your ‘Object position’ is counting pixels not milimetres etc. To change your page setup to pixels, click on the Layout tab and select ‘Page setup’ from the drop down menu as shown:

Next, select ‘Pixels’ from the drop down list and click ‘OK’:

 

The next step is to learn what those X and Y numbers actually mean.The X numbers show the object’s position from left to right, and increasing the number moves the object further to the right. For example, if the object’s starting position is 50, changing that number to 60 will move the object 10 pixels to the right. By the same token, changing the number from 50 to 40 will move the object 10 pixels to the left.

The following is a before-and-after screenshot of a real project I’m working on:

The X position of the shape in the pic on the left is 2266. The X position of the shape on the right is 2273. In other words, the shape moved 7 pixels to the right.

Unfortunately, using the Y numbers is not so intuitive. For reasons I will never understand, you have to decrease the number to move the object down and increase it to move the object up. In the following before-and-after shot, I increased the Y number from 406 to 411 in order to move the object up into alignment:

Using the Y position, in particular, is a bit hard to get used to, but once you do, a combination of up/down and left/right adjustment will ensure that your objects align with each other perfectly, every time.

The mantra to remember is:

  • Left = less
  • Right = more
  • Up = more
  • Down = less

In the next post, I’ll be talking about converting shapes to curves, adding and deleting nodes via the right click menu, and how to create a ‘mitred’ joint between two shapes.

cheers

Meeks

 

 


Food #gardening in mini greenhouses

The weather here in Melbourne is bleak and blustery, but we had a few minutes of sunshine earlier on so I raced out with my trusty phone to take these:

The pictures show the mini greenhouses I bought from Bunnings. They come in a flat pack -shiver- but everything fits together quite easily for a change, including the clear plastic ‘cover’ that fits over the frame. The covers go all the way to the floor [but do not ‘seal’ completely]. Access to the inside is via heavy duty zips.

I was skeptical, at first, but I quickly noticed that the interior of the greenhouses is noticeably warmer than the outside air, and visibility is usually low due to condensation on the plastic. I’m not sure how the plants will go in summer conditions, but at the moment I’m only watering a tiny bit, once every 2 weeks or so.

Wind is a bit of a problem here, but by positioning the mini greenhouses up against the wall, and anchoring them with big, earth filled ‘tubs’ [see below], both structures have survived the north winds we get up here, so far at least.

I don’t usually do product endorsements, but I liked the first mini greenhouse so much, I went back and bought a second one. The original contains some very happy lettuce and continental parsley while the new one contains BokChoy [?] also grown from seed.

If anyone is interested in growing some winter vegetables, here are the salient facts:

Position:

North facing deck, up against the brick wall of the house for both extra warmth and protection from the wind.

Supplier:

Bunnings in Eltham

Form:

Flat pack. No issues with putting it together.

Cost:

I think each mini greenhouse was around $29, so they were very cheap.

Tubs:

I found some ordinary, plastic storage tubs, the kind you can buy at the supermarket, and drilled holes through the bottom of each one. Then I placed the tubs on top of their own lids to catch excess water and provide a ‘well’ of water to draw on.

Cost:

The tubs were on special and again, at roughly $10 per tub, they were much cheaper than an equivalent plant pot. Another important point was that they fit very neatly inside the bottom of each mini greenhouse, thereby acting as a kind of ‘anchor’ against the wind.

I know the tubs won’t last for very long because of the UV etc, but when they disintegrate, I’ll simply buy new ones. In the meantime, I have lovely, lush lettuce almost ready to harvest and some Chinese vegetables coming on. Colour me happy. 😀

cheers

Meeks


Botanic art – the Beckler Project

I’ve been a fan of Anne Lawson’s work for a long time now – I’m the proud owner of one of her garlics – but I didn’t realise that the work she and her colleagues do is real ‘citizen scientist’ stuff that will help in the longitudinal study of Australia native plants in the Minindee area. The following is a small snippet from her post:

‘If you have been following my blog for a while you will remember the annual trips that the Fella and I make up to Menindee, a little country town about an hour out of Broken Hill. If you are new to the blog, or have forgotten let me briefly explain.

I am part of a group of botanic artists who go up to the semi-arid area of Outback New South Wales to collect and paint the plants that were found on the Burke and Wills Expedition of 1860. Dr Hermann Beckler was the collector as well as the doctor on the Expedition. Our Project began in 2010, and the Fella and I have gone up since 2011.’

You can follow the link below to read more about the project and admire some of Anne’s work:

https://annelawson.wordpress.com/2017/06/23/an-update-on-the-becklers-botanical-bounty-project/

cheers

Meeks

 


The Godsend – Innerscape, book 2 cover

Just a quick update to show you what I’ve been obsessing about while I should have been writing blog posts. 🙂

This is just a mockup as the ‘spine’ will be wider in the final – I haven’t worked out the total pages in book 2 yet but it will be a lot wider than the one for book 1.

Okay, that’s it. No comments on this one.

cheers

Meeks


Using the Createspace cover template with Corel X8

This post is a bit premature as I haven’t yet shown you how to find the exact number of pages of your manuscript, but…I’ll do it now while it’s fresh in my mind. So, here goes. To create the cover, you will need:

  • the trim size of your finished book – i.e. the finished size you want the book to be. Mine is 5.5 x 8.5. You’ll find info. on trim sizes here.
  • the number of pages you end up with when you pour your manuscript into the appropriate trim size template – i.e. with the margins, etc., preset by the template.
  • and some kind of graphics package. The one I use is Corel Draw X8.

Finally, you will need the Createspace cover template for the trim size of your choice:

You can find the ‘Build Template’ here:

https://www.createspace.com/Help/Book/Artwork.do;jsessionid=5C5EE350ED4B426685472D15E9996AB3.2129a643a7ae5ba6aeba4b626969fb21

To use the Build Template, simply select the trim size of your book from the drop down list like so:

Then type the total number of pages into the box for ‘Number of Pages’ and click the ‘Build Template’ button. The little app. does its thing, and in a moment you should be looking at something like this:

Click the ‘Click here to begin Download’ button and save the file to your computer. As the file is a compressed zip file, you will need a program to unzip it. Most people use Winzip. I prefer a non-Microsoft product called PowerArchiver. Whichever product you use, the file will be unzipped to look like this:

5.5×8.5_BW_230 is the name of the unzipped cover template and it comes in two versions – pdf or png. As I don’t have an app that works with pdf files, I imported the png version of the file into Corel X8.

This is what it looks like:

 

The instructions for using the template start with ‘Create a new layer in your image editing software. This layer will serve as the design layer.’ In other words, keep the cover guide separate from the graphic you build on top of it.

This is good advice as you don’t want to accidently meld the guide and your cover, with potentially drastic results. Nevertheless, I didn’t use the layers in that way. After tracing the dimensions of the cover template, I superimposed the tracing over my background image and worked with the tracing on the same layer as everything else. That’s what the faint white line is on the cover:

 

I could have used the guidelines in X8, but at one point I had so many of them all over the place, it would have been impossible to see what I was doing. Now I just have to remember to delete the guidelines before I send the image off to Createspace. [And boy do I hope I haven’t just jinxed myself!]

I hope you’ve all had a pleasant weekend,

cheers

Meeks


Corel Draw X8 – Miira cover final

I thought that X8 would be X6 with a slightly different interface, but it does actually have some nice features that I wasn’t expecting – like links to some very sophisticated fountain fills and a much improved transparency feature. Those features may have influenced the rather radical changes I’ve made to the cover of the first book:

Unfortunately, the image doesn’t quite show the depth of colour in the cover as the CMYK black has come through as a rather washed out charcoal in RGB [for web display]. Once the cover is printed it will be much sharper and the silvers will ‘pop’ more…I hope. Anyway, I’ll probably fiddle with the balance a bit longer, especially if you guys point out things I’m too blind to see, but this is basically the front and back cover spread that will go to Createspace for the print version.

One of the hardest things to figure out was what to put on the spine. Once I’d worked out the total number of pages for Miira, including copyright, Afterword, etc., I plugged the number into Createspace’s calculator, and it spat out the exact size the spine must be. Unfortunately, as the first book is quite ‘slim’ there’s not that much real-estate to work with.

I experimented with a number of fonts, but none gave me the crisp look I was after. And then, as I looked at the circuit board, I suddenly realised that I had all the components from which to make my own ‘font’, one that would mimic the wiring of the circuit board. Thank goodness, the end result didn’t turn out to be too kitsch. The new look circuit board also gave me the pattern for the back cover blurb. Making the text fit, however, was another exercise in patience.

And finally, a word about the new background photo. I was all set to use the bush sunset photo I’ve shown you before when I found a pic I’d taken ages ago of my own backyard:

 

I was trying to capture the amazing play of light through the trees and fluked it. The shot is nowhere near perfect, and I haven’t touched it up in any way – I don’t know how – but I instantly knew it would give me the feel I’d been searching for. Pretty happy with the result but annoyed at myself for wasting time and money on the bush sunset pic. Ah well…

I promise to do a how-to post about the Createspace calculator as soon as my eyes uncross. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

 


Flow #batteries for electric cars are coming!

In a previous post I talked about possible innovations that might make electric cars more convenient in the future. Well here’s another one, and it could be the most effective of the lot:

https://futurism.com/new-instantly-rechargeable-battery-deals-a-fatal-blow-to-fossil-fuels/

In a nutshell, these batteries can be instantly recharged by replacing the fluid electrolytes. Thus, instead of topping ‘er up, you’d drain out the old and replace it with new. The ‘stale’ fluid electrolytes could then be taken away and recharged using one of the renewable energy sources. Or maybe recharged at the service station itself.

Flow batteries aren’t new, but until now, they haven’t been efficient enough for commercial use. The Ifbattery avoids most of the problems of the old technology while being cheap to make and safe to use. And just think of all the new jobs that will mushroom from this renewable technology!

cheers

Meeks


Circuit board vectoring, version xxxx….

I’ve deliberately turned comments off this time as the graphic isn’t done…I just wanted to share what I’ve done so far:

505 separate objects, no background as yet so the silver effect isn’t that obvious, and the edges have to be trimmed blah blah, but I think the circuit board will look good in print and reasonable in thumbnail. That’s what I’ll be testing out next but for now I feel as if my eyes will never uncross!

I hope you’ve all had/are having a great weekend,

cheers

Meeks


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