Tag Archives: 2019

A Bushfire A.B.C

I wasn’t going to write a bushfire post this year [2019] because I thought there was no need, not with the devastating fires in NSW and QLD to focus everyone’s thoughts. But I’ve just been on Twitter and seen some of the misconceptions about bushfires.

So…here are some basics:

Fire needs just two things to burn: fuel and oxygen. However the size of that fire depends on many things:

  • Dry fuel – makes a fire burn harder and faster. Fuel is made of up dry grass, leaves, small twigs and fallen branches that build up on the ground over time.
  • Low humidity – i.e. moisture in the air and soil – makes a fire burn harder and faster.
  • Strong winds – provide the oxygen to make a fire burn harder and faster. They also transport embers ahead of the main fire.
  • Embers – land on dry fuel and start spot fires.
  • Spot fires act like pre-ignition for the main fire.

So far, these conditions could apply to any fire, in any country of the world. In Australia though, things are a little different. As well as all of the above, we also have to contend with native vegetation that evolved with fire. Some native plants developed ways to keep the species going after a fire. In fact, the seeds of many of our natives need fire to germinate.

In a nutshell, most Australian natives evolved to burn. This includes gum trees [eucalypts].

  • Gum leaves contain eucalyptus oils.
  • When these oils heat up enough, they turn into a volatile gas.
  • Add a spark and this gas goes ‘boom’. It’s an accelerant – like throwing petrol onto a camp fire.
  • Lightning strikes from ‘dry storms’ provide the spark that starts hundreds of fires every year.

So let’s look at a couple of what-ifs. Let’s say a lightning strike starts a fire. If the humidity is high and the fuel is wet – e.g. winter – the fire doesn’t go very far.

But this is what happens in summer:

  • Lightning [or human stupidity via an angle grinder creating a spark, an over-heated car starting to burn, a camp-fire left unattended, blah blah blah] starts a fire in grassland.
  • The grass fire spreads into scrub land.
  • The scrub land fire spreads into native forest.
  • The scrub at the base of the gum trees burns hotter and hotter.
  • The eucalyptus oil in the gum leaves heats up.
  • The volatile oil in the gum leaves becomes a gas and suddenly the whole tree is on fire.
  • As more and more trees burn, and the wind pushes the embers and superheated air ahead of it, the conditions for a ‘crown fire’ emerge.

A crown fire is when the fire jumps from tree top to tree top. This is a fire that nothing can stop – no amount of water bombers, no amount of fire fighters, no amount of chemical retardants. In fact, water bombers can’t even get near this kind of fire because it creates its own weather, crazy weather that makes flying virtually impossible.

In 2009, south eastern Australia was in the grip of the Millenium drought and an El Nino weather event. For those who don’t know, during an El Nino period, south eastern Australia goes through an extended ‘dry’ spell with much less rain than normal.

In February 2009, an extended heatwave of 40+ degree temperatures, extremely low humidity, high fuel loads and a ferocious north wind [bringing even more heat from the Centre] combined to create Black Saturday, the worst bushfire event in modern Australian history. 173 people died.

Now, ten short years later, NSW is likely to have another perfect storm of fire conditions…tomorrow…at the very beginning of summer…with the worst of the fire season still to come.

I’ll be honest, I’m scared. Conditions here in Victoria are cool and wet, for now, but the worst is yet to come. How will Warrandyte fare once the grass browns off and the damp fuel load turns into dry kindling? And even if we squeak through this fire season, what about next year and the one after that?

Some years ago I attend a Climate Change rally in Melbourne, and one of the speakers [from the CFA*] said something I’ll never forget. He said words to the effect that there are no climate change deniers at the end of a fire hose.

Climate Change is not causing bushfires, it’s making them bigger and more frequent. Exactly as the climate scientists predict.

Climate Change is also extending the length of the fire season. When I was a kid, January and February were the bad months. In years to come, fire season may extend from the beginning of Spring [September] through to the end of Autumn [May].

Three people have died in NSW already. How many more have to die before we stop ‘praying’ and start doing something useful?

I hope with all my heart that the legacy of Black Saturday means that Victorians remember how helpless we all felt, and act accordingly. We’ve been there. We know. The only thing we can control, even a little, is the fuel load. Reducing the fuel load won’t stop a fire from starting, and it won’t stop a fire from spreading, but it may reduce the severity of that fire by stopping it from becoming a crown fire. Harm reduction. The life it saves could be your own.

And Warrandyte? If you haven’t cleared your block yet, what the effing hell are you waiting for? NSW and QLD may be the canaries in the coal mine this year, but make no mistake, we’re in that bloody coal mine too.

To EllaD and the GO in Taylors Arms – stay safe.

Meeks

*CFA – Country Fire Authority, the volunteer fire fighting organisation in Victoria.

 

 


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

 


Windows 7 Update – SERIOUS problem

I have my Windows 7 updates set to manual, meaning I get the notification, but the update isn’t installed automatically. If you do the same, and you haven’t already installed update KB4512506, do NOT install it:

The update is called:

2019-08 Security Monthly Quality Rollup for Windows 7 for x64-based Systems (KB4512506)   285.9 MB

That 285.9 MB update size was suspicious, so I tried to get further information, but the links [on the update page] did not work. So I went online and searched for KB4512506. This is what I found on the Microsoft forum:

The critical part here is this:

Further down the Microsoft forum page you can find workarounds that may help you fix the error if it’s already happened to you.

https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/all/security-update-kb4512506-leads-to-bootbcd-error/8f97ba71-6da8-44be-9478-7542312b39bd

If it hasn’t, I strongly recommend ‘hiding’ this update so Windows won’t install it. This is how:

With the update page displayed, right click update KB4512506. You should now see a small popup with just two options:

Click ‘Hide update’.

This will cause the update to be ‘greyed out’. You can now install all the other updates if you wish.

Just a bit of history about this contentious update. The size of the file makes me think it’s an updated version of an earlier update [March? April?] that I refused to install. The reason I refused to install it back then was because under the Support link it stated clearly that installing the update would lead to problems with the Network Card. Thanks but no thanks.

I still don’t know exactly what this update was meant to fix, but I continued to not install it while I waited for Microsoft to fix whatever caused the problems with the Network card. Microsoft never did, through multiple updates. Now, it appears they’ve made it even worse, all without warning ordinary users of the potential harm it can cause.

Curiously, not installing the update allowed nothing ‘bad’ to happen to my pc. I admit that might be because I have one of the best anti-virus software installed, but it does make you think, doesn’t it?

If I were a writing a novel, the cast of characters might include an unscrupulous multinational corporation that deliberately sabotaged its clients just to make them buy its latest product. Luckily, even I’m not that much of a conspiracy theorist. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

 

 


$249 3D printer for kids?!?

You know I love tech, and you know I’ve loved the idea of 3D printers for a long time now. In fact, a future-tech version of the 3D printer appeared in one of the Innerscape books [where Miira prints herself a new outfit as part of a ‘disguise’]. But this?

You can find the full article, including a really good video review, here:

https://sv3dprinter.com/2019/06/23/3d-printing-news-alerttoybox-the-3d-printer-just-for-kid/

This shorter video [just over 1 minute] is an advertising trailer:

Honestly? If I had a grand child, I’d be thinking very seriously of buying this for their birthday, just so I could have a play with it! I particularly like the fact that kids can create their own designs instead of simply using the stock models.

As scary as it may seem, this is the future of tech, and it’s coming at the speed of sound.

cheers

Meeks


Australia voted…

On May 18, 2019, Australia voted in an election that we all thought was in the bag. We all thought Labor would win because their policies would be good for the whole country…and because the hard right conservative government was so on the nose. We were wrong. The hard right conservative government was returned for another three years.

The talking heads on the tv were stunned as the unfolding result went against the last 50 polls. I was stunned because this expletive-deleted government was not only being voted back in, it was being voted back in with an increased margin.

Peter Dutton, the most hated man on #auspol, retained his seat of Dickson…with an increased margin.

George Christensen, a politician who posted a photo of himself shooting a handgun and spent more time in the Philippines than in his own electorate, was returned…with an increased margin.

Why? I still don’t know. The voters of Queensland were certainly sending a message, but they were not alone. Even in Victoria, the state considered the most progressive in Australia, Labor did not make enough gains to make a difference.

For a while, I hoped that the results were skewed out of shape by the huge number of pre-polls, but by the end of the night it became clear that even if the pre-polls all favoured Labor, it still wouldn’t be enough. To put it quite brutally, Australia has done a trump, and we have no excuse. All of us voted. Half of us ignored the scandals, the corruption and the actual economic record of the LNP and voted in favour of fear and self-interest.

I am more shocked than I can say. But. The people have spoken, and that’s what democracy is about. The fact that I don’t like it is neither here nor there.

The only bright spots to come out of this election all centre around Independent women:

  • Zali Steggall beat Tony Abbott in Waringah
  • Helen Haines won the seat of Indi after the former Independent [also a woman] retired from the seat. That’s a first.
  • Dr Kerryn Phelps may, possibly, retain the seat of Wentworth.

Whether these Independents will be able to change things for the better is doubtful. There are just not enough of them, and it doesn’t look as if the conservatives will have a minority government. Ergo, they won’t have to compromise to get the votes of the Independents.

To be honest, at this point I’m pinning all my hopes on people who don’t even have the vote yet. In three years time, the 15, 16 and 17 years olds of today will be eligible to vote. Many of them care about the future. I hope they vote in a government that’s prepared to do something about it.

Meeks

 


An atheist’s Easter

I’ve mentioned before that I’m an atheist, but I probably didn’t mention that I only became one when I was about seventeen. Until then, I was a Catholic.

I ‘came out’ as an atheist during my matriculation year at school. Back then, matric was year twelve, and your matriculation scores determined which university, and course,  you would be offered. I matriculated at an all-girl, Catholic convent school.

The headmistress of the school was an amazing woman called Sister Philomena. She was not a cuddly nun. She was an academic in a wimple, and once she [and the local priest and representatives from the arch diocese] accepted that my claim was genuine, she did two amazing things. First, she allowed me to stay at school and finish my matric. Second, she allowed me to skip religion classes. This amounted to approximately half an hour of free time every day. I spent that time practising the piano in one of the music rooms. I’ve often wondered whether I would have passed matric piano without all that extra practice time.

The reason I’m boring you all with this ancient history is so you’ll understand that I’m still a committed atheist, but my ethics have their roots in the Catholic concepts of sacrifice, charity, compassion and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Those are the concepts I consciously retained after much questioning. I retained them because they gelled with who I was as a person. I still believe in them, especially the ‘do unto others’ bit.

In my not so humble opinion, compassion and empathy are the two greatest human traits. They are the only traits that make us worthwhile as a species. They are the only traits that balance out the greed and selfishness and outright hatred that always lead us to war.

Yet when I look at the world on this Good Friday, 2019, I see nothing but greed and selfishness and outright hatred in the West. The US, the UK, parts of Europe and Australia are all in the grip of a frenzy of ‘us against them’, and I can’t see a way out because each side is convinced they are right.

To be honest, I don’t see how I, personally, can compromise on the issues I believe in when the ‘other side’ is doing such awful things. I won’t name them, not today, but I will ask people on both the Left and the Right to stop for a moment and ask – is this how compassionate people behave? Is this how people who believe in a Christian god treat their fellow man?

I’ve never forgotten the parables I learned in school, and here is the one that I live by:

The Good Samaritan

‘”Love your neighbor as yourself” was part of the Old Testament law (Leviticus 19:18). But the Jewish teachers had often interpreted “neighbor” to include only people of their own nationality and religion. The expert in the law was looking to Jesus for justification for that interpretation, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In response, Jesus told His famous Parable of the Good Samaritan.’

https://www.christianbiblereference.org/jparable.htm

To the Jews, Samaritans were ‘the Other’. The lesson here was, and is, that we are all neighbours, and we all deserve to be helped. It is also a plea for compassion. Sadly compassion is in very short supply at this moment in time. Hypocrisy, however, is everywhere.

Part of the reason I became an atheist was because my youthful self rebelled against the hypocrisy I saw all around me. So called ‘good’ Catholics who went to church every Sunday, said their prayers and left a donation for the ‘poor’ and then went away convinced they had done their bit. Worse, they were convinced that they were so good, they were justified in lying and cheating all week.

Those people did not live their beliefs, they only paid lip service to them. They were also the first to speak out against any ‘other’ who was different. They did not do unto others as they would have wanted to be treated themselves.

Why? Because they were the righteous. They were the saved. They were entitled….

Now, fifty years on, I see the same sense of entitlement in many who consider themselves to be ‘good’ Christians.

This is not a post against religion. It is a post for the principles that religions are meant to be based on.

This Easter, we all need to ask ourselves if we are doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. If the answer is no, let’s do better.

Meeks

 

 


Notre Dame de Paris, 2019

Just logged on and the first thing I see is news that the Notre Dame is burning. Apparently the towers will be saved but the roof and the beautiful spire are gone. God knows what’s left inside, but I fear that the magnificent garouilles [gargoyles] may have been lost with the roof.

I know it’s a strange thing to mourn something so small as a gargoyle, but when I was twenty-one, I visited the Notre Dame, climbed to the top and saw those gargoyles for myself. Touched them. Marvelled at the artistry. Fell in love with them. I even bought a plaster gargoyle from the hawkers down below and kept it for decades until it finally broke.

Love happens because it happens, and I’ve always loved the Notre Dame and those gargoyles.

I know the cathedral will be rebuilt. I know it will be even more beautiful in the end, but…it won’t be my Notre Dame any more. I shudder to think how much pain the people of Paris must be feeling right now.

Je vous aime

 

 

Meeks

 


New Zealand Mosque Attack – the murder of children

I was horrified by the New Zealand Mosque attack yesterday. It touched my head and made me angry.

Today, the first thing I saw on Twitter was a picture of a man. He was shown from the back and in his arms hung the body of a child. A four year old.

That image touched my heart and will haunt me for the rest of my days.

I remember being a young Mum and suddenly being terrified of the world into which my baby was born. My baby is over 30 now. The child in that picture…

I’m only one person, but I have to do what I can to hammer home this simple truth:

people who spew white supremacist/nationalist poison are not exercising their right to free speech, they are pointing psychopaths at a target and inviting them to shoot.

Every single person who excuses, condones or ‘softens’ the reality of white supremacist hatred is just as guilty of murder as the pond scum that finally pulls the trigger.

We cannot continue to accept this upsurge of hatred as part of democracy. We cannot continue to validate it.

The standard you walk by is the standard you accept’

Governor of NSW, David Hurley

We cannot be complicit in the murder of children.

Meeks

 


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