Tag Archives: 2016

Office #Word 2016 really is a piece of…

Shyte.

What follows is a raged induced rant so look away now.

-breathe-

I’ve just wasted an hour trying to fix the Word 2016 dictionary. It started with ‘Mira Than‘.

No, actually, it started with the combination of two big episodes of Innerscape into one very BIG Word 16 document. How big? 375 pages. Apparently, Word still has issues with very big files. That’s the reason I originally migrated my writing to a dedicated writing package [StoryBox]. Unfortunately, to publish a print version of Innerscape, I have to go Word >>PDF>>Createspace.

Anyway, after spending hours wrestling with Word’s section breaks [more on that in another post], I began doing a this-is-absolutely-the-last edit, when I realised that every time I typed in Miira Tahn, Word would ‘correct’ it to ‘Mira Than’ as soon as my attention moved elsewhere.

I tried getting Word to ‘Ignore All’, but it wouldn’t – and no, it wasn’t just variations on the name, like ‘Miira Tahn‘s‘ etc. And then it began throwing up other ‘errors’, all to do with US spelling. So, naturally, I used the nifty option at the bottom of the Spell Check pane to change the dictionary back to UK spelling:

My efforts obviously confused Word because it suddenly switched to the French dictionary. -growls in rage-

The French dictionary finds every word written in English to be incorrect…

I changed the dictionary back to English UK.

Nope…Word now wants to stay in French.

I look up fixes to the problem. I attempt to reset my language preferences. I restart Word…

Now Word wants to use the US dictionary again BUT the page full of French ‘errors’ is still set to the French dictionary. And then Word stopped working.

It’s back now, but I haven’t been game to check my document in case I end up throwing the monitor across the room. There are many basic, useful formatting functions in Word, and it works well for short-ish, business type documents, but the more Microsoft tries to automate the process, the more mangled and unstable it becomes. Especially with big documents.

I hate to think how convoluted the Word code must be because Microsoft almost never delete anything. They just keep adding to it, and adding to it, and adding to it…

Sadly, while this rant did make me feel a little less homicidal, it’s only a temporary distraction from the main event. I have to get this stupid piece of shit to play nice or I may never get my hands on those lovely, shiny books. 😦

Thanks for letting me vent,

Meeks

 

 

Advertisements

Carrie Fisher – October 21, 1956 – December 27, 2016

If ever I doubted my own mortality, the death of Carrie Fisher has brought it home to me.

She was only 60, and like George Michael, Prince, David Bowie, Alan Rickman and so many other icons from my youth, she died too soon.

2016 has been a cruel year in so many ways. Nevertheless, I draw comfort from one thought – all those creative people will be remembered because they were creative. In particular, I know that long after Princess Leia is a dim and distant memory, Postcards from the Edge will live on, and with it, the book’s author, Carrie Fisher.

I read Postcards from the Edge many years ago, and the writing stayed with me when so many other works became mere footnotes to other memories. That is why I know that Carrie Fisher the writer will live on. It’s the only kind of immortality I believe in so I’ll end this post with:

Carrie Fisher, Remembered In Peace.

Meeks

 


Christmas 2016 – Hope not Hate

meeka-thinking

The lead up to Christmas 2016 has been grim, but I hope that from here on in, a little of humanity’s brighter side can shine through.

I don’t believe in any religion, but on a good day, I still believe in humanity. Let’s show that the Naked Ape is capable of more than just hate. Hate destroys. Only Hope has to power to build a better future.

May this Holiday Season be full of Hope, Charity and most of all, Joy.

love

Meeks


Berlin, 2016

How can you tell an act of terror? It is a violent, deadly effect without a cause.

My heart goes out the the people of Berlin who must face Christmas without loved ones whose only mistake was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. 😦

Andrea Flory

Australia, 2016


New #music – Valkyrie by Jo Blankenburg

Valkyrie is big, epic music but with Blankenburg’s iconic melodies woven through each track. This Youtube link is to a 20 minute collection and well worth the listen:

Jo Blankenburg and Thomas Bergersen [Two Steps From Hell] both have the ability to write achingly beautiful melodies. I love these guys. Great music to edit by. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


To the mothers of Yarra Warra Pre-school in #Warrandyte [1]

warrandyte mist at dawnLadies, I know you have small children, and I know you’re run off your feet. You never have a minute to yourself, and sometimes you can’t even go to the loo on your own.

Am I right? I know I am. Nevertheless, as a mother too, albeit a very old one, I ask that you have a look at the questions below:

  1. Do you live on a bush block – i.e. a block with a lot of native vegetation, including eucalyptus trees?
  2. Can you see dead fall [broken branches] in your garden?
  3. Has the wind blown eucalyptus leaves up against the house and fence?
  4. Does your partner work during the week – i.e. is your partner away from the house from Monday to Friday?
  5. Is your bushfire plan to leave?
  6. Have you ever tried to reach the bridge over the Yarra during peak hour traffic?

The more times you answered ‘yes’ to these six questions, the more this post relates to you.

Questions 1 – 3 relate to how bushfire prone your house and land may be.

Questions 4 – 6 relate to what you intend to do if a bushfire threatens. In a best case scenario, the bushfire strikes during the weekend when your partner is home. You all evacuate early and the traffic moves in an orderly fashion. The fire has been an inconvenience, but it never even got close to the house so after a couple of hours, life continues as normal.

But fires do not respect human schedules, so it is far more likely that a bushfire will threaten you on the five days of the week your partner is not at home. You still plan to leave with your children, but you get stuck in the bottleneck around the bridge, along with all the others planning to leave. What then?

Or in an even worse case scenario, what if you’re human like most people, and decide to ‘wait and see’ whether it’s worthwhile packing grumpy kids into the car along with even grumpier pets. By the time you do decide to leave, getting stuck in the bottleneck over the bridge may be a million times more dangerous than staying put.

But…you always planned on leaving so neither you nor your partner bothered reducing the fuel load around your house. Now you’re stuck. You can’t leave and you can’t stay. To my mind, this is the worst possible scenario and it happened, on Black Saturday.

I’m not trying to be a scaremonger, but I am trying to burst the ‘she’ll be right’ bubble. If you want to live in Warrandyte you must plan for the worst case scenario, not the best.

And that brings me back to questions 1 – 3. Even if you plan on leaving very early on every single high fire danger day over summer, you must make sure you have a fighting chance in case things go pear-shaped and you can’t leave.

In order to have that fighting chance, you must make time to:

  1. gather deadfall into heaps – in clearings, not under trees, and
  2. burn the piles off while the weather is cool, damp and NOT WINDY!

Yes, ladies, I’m using the word ‘you’ for one, very good reason – no matter how conscientious your partner may be, he is only going to be available on weekends. That’s 2 days out of 7. What’s the chance that the wind is not going to blow on the day he has free? This year? Less than 50/50.

I don’t know what’s happened to the weather this year but it seems to have been blowing a gale every second day. That, or it’s pouring with rain. Clear, calm days on which it’s safe to burn off have been rare, so it’s become vital that burning off happens whenever the weather allows. Sadly that may only be during the week…when your partner is at work.

What? You expect me to light fires with tiny children hanging around my feet? Are you crazy? Not possible!

Sadly, I’m not crazy, and it is necessary. It is also possible, but not without effort.

I don’t have a small child anymore, but at 63, I know exactly how tiring this job can be because I’m the Mama-Papa in our family. In your family, you may need to ask slightly older children to help Mummy pick up sticks and put them in lots of little piles. You may have to light those tiny piles while the kids are having a nap, or are at pre-school, or with Grandma. You may have to form groups with other pre-school Mums and help each other with child minding while the rest of you do the burning off.

However you do it, though, reducing the fuel load is a must because Warrandyte is a tinderbox waiting to burn. Most of the area is densely covered in Red Box and we are only allowed to clear trees in a ten metre radius around the house. To clear any further out, we have to apply to Nillumbik council for a permit and those permits are never granted.

Red Box are eucalypt trees, and like most gums, their leaves contain volatile oils that burn exceedingly well. The idea behind this evolutionary development is that the oils help the fire sweep through quickly, burning the branches and leaves but leaving the trunk intact. Once the fire is over, eucalypts can re-grow from the trunk, not just the roots. Great for the trees, not so great for us.

The following excerpt is taken from gardening advice developed for NSW but is appropriate for Victoria as well:

Plants in the Myrtaceae family, such as Eucalyptus, Melaleuca and Leptospermum, contain oil glands in the leaves and are more inclined to burn and to spread fire. Plants such as these should be well away from houses. Tall trees, at an appropriate distance from a house can make good barriers to ember attack. The key is to not plant a grove of the same species, but to have trees such as a gum tree or tea-tree in isolation with a well-cleared area below.

Here in Warrandyte, we don’t have the option of not planting ‘a grove of the same species’. For this reason, clearing the fuel load beneath the trees becomes vitally important. If we can stop a fire from getting up into the canopy, we have a fighting chance.

In the next article in this series, I’m going to assume that many women with pre-school children are as clueless about burning off [safely] as I was. I’ll explain about the best weather conditions in which to do domestic burning off, and I’ll detail how I do things.

cheers

Meeks

 


#gene editing vs #GMOs

I just read an article about a scientist at Umea university in Sweden who was given permission to grow ‘gene edited’ cabbage in his own garden because…gene editing is not the same as genetic modification.

The regulations around genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food products have been tricky to navigate, and plants that fall within the definition of a GMO effectively can’t be grown in the field in Europe.

To overcome this, the team at Umea University appealed to the Swedish Board of Agriculture to allow its particular strain of cabbage to fall outside the definition of a GMO. And it worked: since the mutation that causes a lack of the PsbS protein is naturally occurring in some cases, simply intervening to deliberately switch it off is acceptable, as long as no foreign DNA is introduced.

And therein lies the supposed difference between edited and modified genes:

  • modified genes have something added,
  • edited genes merely have something turned off.

The fact that both techniques produce a change in the DNA of the organism is, apparently, ‘a mere technicality, Mr dear Watson’.

I am no geneticist, but I am interested in the field and I can remember when it was thought that genes were all that mattered. In fact, large sections of DNA were considered to be ‘junk’ because they did not ‘do’ anything. Then, as years went by, scientists discovered that this ‘junk’ DNA wasn’t junk at all. They also discovered that genes can be turned on and off and that it is this malleability that is important. Then they discovered that groups of genes, turned on and off, had an effect in combination…

My point in all of this is that genetics is still an evolving science. Geneticists do not know all there is to know about DNA. At best, given the current state of knowledge, they can make educated guesses, but following through with those guesses involves an element of risk. That risk is recognized in the creation of new medicines which must go through years of clinical trials to reduce the likelihood of adverse reactions amongst those who will take those medicines.

With food plants, however, slippery language has allowed geneticists to alter the DNA of plants without having to subject them to the same rigorous testing as medicines. Monsanto began the ‘spin’ by convincing the FDA that genetically altered plants were ‘substantially equivalent’ to their commercially grown cousins, and therefore did not require the same degree of testing.

The argument behind ‘substantial equivalence’ is that farmers have been breeding – i.e. changing the DNA of – plants for millenia and genetic modication is no different, just a bit…faster. The fact that back then, genetic modification was a shotgun approach, literally, by scientists who knew a whole lot less than they do now, did not seem to bother anyone, least of all the FDA. And the fact that US consumers were given no choice in the matter still doesn’t bother the US authorities.

Now, Umea university is playing fast and loose with language again. Why? In order to get around the law as it stands in Europe. New tool, new language, same old spin, same old lie.

The following is an email I sent off just before writing this post:

genetic-editing-email

I don’t expect to receive a response, other than perhaps something derogatory, but I had to make the effort because we in the West are dying of spin, dying of lies, dying of hypocrisy.

Is it really so much to ask that our leaders, and the most emminent minds of our scientists act with integrity?

We are not children, and we are not stupid. If the only way you can get what you want is by trying to fool us, then what you want is not worth having.

Meeks

 


Stolen Dropbox passwords are circulating online. Here’s how to check if your account’s compromised — Quartz

If you got an email from Dropbox asking you to reset your password earlier this week, it’s a good idea to do it. Nearly 70 million stolen Dropbox passwords are circulating online, according to Motherboard, which obtained the data. The file-sharing service has confirmed the passwords are linked to a breach that took place in…

via Stolen Dropbox passwords are circulating online. Here’s how to check if your account’s compromised — Quartz

In view of my recent post about Cloud storage, this article from Quartz is super important…whether you use Dropbox or not.


#Nice – truck attack, 80 killed

I’ve just learned that there’s been a new terrorist attack in France – in the southern city of Nice. Details are still sketch, but it seems that a man driving a truck ploughed into as many people on the road as he could, shooting at the same time. The crowds were there to celebrate Bastille Day and were caught completely unawares.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2016/jul/14/nice-bastille-day-france-attack-promenade-des-anglais-vehicle

I don’t know how accurate the death toll is, but even one person is too many. My thoughts are with the people of France.

Meeks


Australian #politics – the bad, the bad and the ugly

rip 2016On Saturday, July 1, 2016, Australia voted in a double dissolution election [for House of Representatives and Senate at the same time], but five days later we still don’t know which party will govern.

Nevertheless, we can safely say that Malcolm Turnbull has lost. If the Liberals remain in power, Turnbull may remain as Prime Minister, but his effectiveness will be severely compromised, as will his legacy.

So how did Malcolm Turnbull, one of the most respected and admired politicians in recent history, manage to lose his appeal in such a spectacular fashion?

The answer, I believe, is very simple, Malcolm was not allowed to be Malcolm and voters punished the party for it. To understand this, it’s important to understand the right wing, conservative, faceless, faction heavy weights of the Liberal party. They :

  1. loved Tony Abbott,
  2. hated Malcolm Turnbull [they still do]
  3. had to acknowledge that Tony Abbott was almost universally hated by voters,
  4. had to acknowledge that Malcolm Turnbull was liked and respected by voters on both sides of the Liberal/Labor divide

[confession: I liked him too and I’m a Labor voter],

Taking points 3 and 4 into consideration, it eventually became obvious that the party would suffer a landslide loss if Abbott stayed as Prime Minister. Worse still, only the hated Malcolm Turnbull would have any traction with voters. So after much gnashing of teeth, the conservatives gave in and offered Turnbull a deal: they would support his coup against Tony Abbott, but only if he [Turnbull] continued to toe the party line established by Abbott.

In hindsight, this seems rather crazy until you consider that the right wing has never had any time for Climate Change, or marriage equality or even that pesky NBN. So they were prepared to use the Turnbull popularity with the electorate but without all that small ‘l’ liberal nonsense.

What is less clear is why Malcolm Turnbull and his supporters accepted such a backhanded and hamstrung endorsement.

My personal guess is that Turnbull et al., must have seen the writing on the wall and grabbed what they could, believing [probably accurately] that he would never have a better chance of becoming Prime Minister.

So Malcolm and the conservatives struck a deal and for a while, the strategy appeared to work. Liberal popularity in the polls went up as Malcolm rode a wave of public hope.

We believed in Malcolm. Wasn’t he the man who lost the leadership of the Liberal party because he stuck to his principles on climate change? What greater sacrifice could a politician make? And wasn’t he also the man who openly supported gay marriage? And in a way, despite selling out on the full glory of the NBN, he at least managed to stop Abbott from scuttling it completely.

So Malcolm was our hero, and we believed that finally we would get a government that most of the country could swing behind. He might be a Liberal, but he was a good Liberal. Maybe even another Menzies [arguably the ‘best’ Prime Minister in Australia’s political history].

But then the winds of change began to blow a little cold. Week followed week and nothing we’d hoped for eventuated. Nothing on Climate Change. Nothing on marriage equality. Nothing on Refugees. Nothing on anything that any of us plebs actually cared about. What was going on?

In time, some of us began to think that Malcolm was playing a long game. Yes, he was under the conservative thumb now, but after the next election he’d be so successful that the conservatives would have to crawl back into their holes and finally, finally Malcolm could be himself.

I truly believe this was a part of the PM’s strategy when he called a double dissolution on an issue that no one seemed to care about, including him.

The trouble with this strategy was that Malcolm’s popularity declined in direct proportion to the release of policy after policy that favoured the big end of town while asking us to accept all the sacrifices required to balance the budget [at some point in the future].

Australians pride themselves on giving everyone a ‘fair go’, and we’ll happily dig deep to help those laid low by disaster [witness the 30 plus million dollars raised by public donations after the Black Saturday bushfires here in Victoria]. But Australians also have a history of distrusting the super rich and the big end of town. If the Liberals had offered genuine support to small business, we might well have tightened our belts and got on with it, but they offered incentives to companies and corporations that did not need the help. And they were going to pay for it by making us do without.

That major miscalculation was rooted in the conservative concept of the ‘trickle down’ effect. In essence, it means that if government supports big business, big business will generate growth which will lead to jobs which will lead to greater prosperity for all.

Sadly, most people in the Western world have now had first hand experience of the trickle down effect and they know it doesn’t work. So when Malcolm and the rest of the Liberals bleated about jobs and growth, we weren’t listening. Added to this disinterest was a great disappointment – we’d had such high hopes for Malcolm and he hadn’t lived up to our expectations. Malcolm wasn’t Malcolm. Had he changed his mind about all the things we thought he cared about? Or had he sold us out just to be PM?

I think we might still have voted for Malcolm if not for the brilliant campaign run by Bill Shorten. I personally dislike the man and can’t see myself trusting someone who stabbed two Labor Prime Ministers in the back in order to be given the job of opposition leader. Nevertheless, despite all expectations to the contrary, Bill Shorten ran an inspired campaign. He picked up on all the disenchantment of ordinary voters – including their fears for Medicare – and hammered them home.

In the final analysis, however, Shorten’s campaign would not have been as effective if the right wing conservatives had allowed Malcolm to be Malcolm. Instead, they muzzled the goose that might have laid their golden egg, and now they’re spinning all sorts of ‘reasons’ to explain its failure to deliver.

I feel sorry for Malcolm Turnbull because I can understand his desperation to finally wear the mantle of PM. But the truth is, when he sold out to the conservative right, he lost the perceived integrity that made him popular in the first place, and with that, he lost the very thing he wanted most – validation.

In my last post I talked about the disaffection of Western voters, and how this might lead to a change in how we ‘do’ democracy but in the meantime, we are protesting about the lack of integrity of our politicians in the only way we can – by kicking them out. This, too, is democracy.

cheers

Meeks

 


%d bloggers like this: