Tag Archives: how-to

7 things I learned about the ATO

I’m going to start this post by sending my heartfelt thanks to the wonderful woman from the Bendigo Bank who went above-and-beyond to help me find deposit information – from an account that was closed a year ago! At the end of this post you’ll find a quick how-to about finding specific names on the statements available via online banking with the Bendigo. But first, I need to explain why my deposit information is so important. It starts with Newstart.

I went on Newstart back in 2013 and found a couple of casual tutoring positions in 2014. Like a good girl, I reported every cent I earned to Centrelink and did all the right things, except for one – apparently I should have lodged a tax return.

I should have lodged a tax return in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 as well.

Why didn’t I lodge tax returns for any of those years?

Because no one told me I had to, and I assumed that my earnings were well below the tax free threshold. As it turned out, they were [and are], but apparently I should have lodged a return anyway…

I rang the ATO, and after a two hour conversation, I learned 7 things:

  1. People who are on some kind of pension and don’t earn an outside income must lodge a ‘non-lodgement’ form for the relevant years.
  2. People who are on some kind of pension and do earn an outside income must lodge an actual tax return, no matter how little they earn.
  3. Individuals and Sole Traders [such as Indie authors and tradies] can lodge a tax return through a tax agent [$$$] or online at the ATO. Those are the only two options. I’ve already complained to the ATO in writing. Nothing will change and pensioners like me will continue to struggle because of the following:
  4. To lodge a tax return online, you must have the ATO linked to your MyGov account.
  5. You can link the ATO to your MyGov account via a Bank Account or a Centrelink payment summary but…the Bank Account has to be the same bank account you used the last time you lodged a tax return. For some of us that could be decades ago. As for the Centrelink payment summary, it only seems to work if you haven’t received any outside income – e.g. from casual work.
  6. The only option that worked for me was to ring up and ask for a linking code. Frankly, that was the only easy part of the entire two hour conversation.
  7. If your tax return is at all out of the ordinary – e.g. if you’re on an age pension and run a small business as a Sole Trader – and you can’t afford a tax agent – you’ll be told to go to Tax Help. Tax Help is basically a group of volunteers who can help you fill out the online forms. Maybe. Given that a paid employee of the ATO couldn’t help me, I can’t help feeling just a tiny bit sceptical.

Before I do anything else, however, I need to go back and find out how much I earned above and beyond the Newstart allowance for the years 2014 – 2019. This year is fine, but the information from the previous years must have been thrown out when I did one of my rare ‘clean ups’. That left me with 3 casual employers to worry about.

This is where the Bendigo Bank rode into my life on a white charger. As I was pulling my hair and wondering what to do, I remembered that all of my casual pay would have been paid into a bank account. Eureka! All I needed to do was go back through all that old information and I’d find how much I’d earned.

I was right, except for one thing. I’d nominated an unused ‘cheque account’ for my pay. When I reached retirement age last year, I decided to get rid of the cheque account as I never used it. Another disastrous clean out.

This led to my final phone call of the day – to the Bendigo Bank. The lady I spoke to was so nice, so understanding, so bloody patient she deserves a medal. She found the cancelled account and went through it, transaction by transaction, looking for the three employers I’d named. And she found them.

There are literally no words to describe my relief. Now I can give the ATO the exact information they need so I can avoid any possibility of becoming a ‘Robodebt’ victim. Anyone living in Australia knows the horror stories circulating about Robodebt victims. I was honestly terrified that I’d end up as one of them. And I owe it all to one, nice lady at the Bendigo Bank. So here’s that quick how-to I mentioned:

How to search online statements via the Bendigo Bank.

For starters, login to your Bendigo Bank account and click on the account you want to check.

Next, at the top of the account transactions you’ll see four options. The one on the far right is ‘Statements’.

Click Statements and specify the year or time period you’re interested in [card accounts allow you to go back for many years, easy saver accounts only go back 2 years].

Open the statement of your choice. It’ll open as a PDF document. To save yourself a lot of time and eye-strain, hover the mouse over www.bendigobank.com.au as shown below:

Now, press Ctrl f on your keyboard.

This will cause a ‘Find on page’ box to display at the top of the screen. Start typing the name of the company or person you’re looking for.

If it’s found, the statement will automatically move to the appropriate page and the item will be shown with a small highlight. If it’s not found, you’ll see a message to that effect next to the search box.

I hope you never have to go back over years of transactions, but if you do, this neat trick will make it a lot less painful.

Okay, my brain hurts. I’m going to go do something mindless now.

cheers

Meeks

 

 


How to save $$ in Victoria [Australia]

This post is for Victorians on a tight budget – i.e. people on Newstart, the Age Pension, Disability Pension or young people working in the GIG economy – and concerns energy bills such as gas and electricity.

The first, critical step to saving on your energy bills is to understand that utility companies bank on us being too busy to go out and actively look for better deals. The new initiative by the Victorian government only means that energy retailers have to inform you of their best deals. But those best deals could still be very expensive when compared to the rest of the marketplace.

To give you an example, I changed my gas supplier about a year and a half ago. At the time, my new gas supplier offered the best deal according to the Victorian government’s own comparison website:

https://compare.energy.vic.gov.au

This morning, when I did a fresh comparison, my existing gas supplier was close to the bottom of the list, and their best deal was over $400 more expensive [per year] than the new ‘best deal’. As a result, I got on the phone [contact details supplied by the government website], made sure the quote was still accurate and…signed up:

When AGL’s best is no longer the best, I’ll move my gas account again.

Gamers would recognize this as ‘churn’. The term refers to how gamers move from one ISP to another to get the best deal. I don’t ‘churn’ often, but since I became an age pensioner, I’ve learned that loyalty simply doesn’t pay. These days I ‘churn’ my gas, electricity and comms suppliers on a regular basis.

So what’s involved in comparing prices?

Once you land on the government’s comparison website, you’ll be asked a series of questions about how you use your gas [or electricity]. It pays to make your answers as accurate as possible so dig out your most recent bill and keep it handy. After you’ve completed all the relevant questions, the website will do some kind of general comparison and present you with a list of the best matches for your circumstances.

Gas pricing is a mess with about five different rates in both the ‘peak’ and ‘off peak’ categories, but don’t let it scare you. One easy thing to compare is the daily supply charge. Essentially this is the amount you pay for the privilege of having a gas connection. In other words, even if you don’t turn the gas on at all, you’ll still be charged that daily supply charge.

All retailers charge you for supply, but the amount varies. AGL’s daily supply charge is 62 cents. Another retailer I looked at [not one of the most expensive ones] was charging 83 cents. Assuming the rates don’t change for 365 days, that’s $226 vs $303 per year [or a saving of $77 per year].

When the cost of living means you have to think twice about buying that latte, a saving of $77 is nothing to be sneezed at. And when you add that small saving to the actual cost of using the energy, the savings really do add up.

So please, bookmark that government comparison website and check it out, at least once a year. Doing your homework and making a change will probably take an hour, all up, but the way I see it, I’ve just earned over $400 for that hour. Not a bad hourly rate, don’t you think?

And finally a word about keeping all your eggs in one basket. Energy retailers that supply both gas and electricity will try to convince you to move both utilities to them. Doing so may be more convenient. It may also be cheaper, sometimes. But…a cheap gas price does not automatically mean the electricity price will be the best available price as well.

Remember, the best price a retailer offers is not necessarily the best price from all retailers. Compare…and save.

cheers

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

 

 


How to disable Quick Access in Windows 10

I have to use Windows 10 when I’m teaching, and I’ve found that the new Quick Access option in File Explorer is confusing the hell out of my students.

Quick Access is like the old ‘Recent Places’ in Windows 7, except that in Windows 7, you control whether you see those recently accessed files and folders or not. In Windows 10, the ‘Quick Access’ function displays recent places by default, and they always appear at the top of the navigation tree. Essentially they are duplicating some of the files and folders shown under ‘This PC’, making my students wonder:

  • Which version of a file or folder should they use?
  • And if they do use the handy Quick Access area, why doesn’t it show ALL of their files and folders?
  • Have those other files and folders been lost?

For beginners, this duplication only leads to confusion and makes understanding how to save and retrieve their work even harder. For this reason, I told them to ignore Quick Access and go straight to ‘This PC’.

Why? Because only in ‘This PC’ will you find all the files and folders stored on your computer.

Sadly, it’s hard to ignore Quick Access when it’s the first thing you see and you have to scroll way down the screen before you can even see ‘This PC’. To solve this problem, I went searching for a way to tame Quick Access without requiring the powers of a super geek to do it. And here it is:

Step 1

Open File Explorer.

Step 2

Click the File button [or tab] on the File Explorer toolbar as shown:

Step 3

You should now see a menu of options. Click ‘Change Folder and search options’ as shown:

 

Step 4

You should now be looking at a popup menu of Folder options. The first option on the General tab is ‘Open File Explorer to:’ Quick access’. To change this option, click the small arrow next to ‘Quick access’ as shown:

Step 5

You should now be looking at the two available options – Quick access and This PC. Click the option for ‘This PC’ as shown:

Now, File Explorer will automatically go down to ‘This PC’ whenever you open it.

But…

Quick Access is still there, and it’s still saving a ‘history’ of every folder you’ve opened and every file you’ve created or edited. In other words, the confusion continues.

Step 6

To stop Quick Access from continuing to duplicate your movements, you’ll have to stop it from saving that history. With Folder options still open, go down to ‘Privacy’ and untick the two options shown there:

 

Step 7

File Explorer will no longer track what you do on your computer, but your past movements are still there, in Quick Access. To clear everything out of Quick Access you have to clear out the history as shown below:

Once you click the ‘OK’ button, all of the File Explorer history will be gone from Quick Access, and it won’t come back!

There doesn’t appear to be any way of getting rid of the Quick Access option entirely, but at least now it won’t duplicate every thing you do on your computer, and you will be in control of what you see on File Explorer. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

 

 


Lefties – how to adjust the mouse buttons in Windows 10

I wrote up a quick how-to for a student of mine and thought it might be useful for other left handers out there.

Step 1

Click the START button [circled in red] to display the Start Menu. On the Start Menu, click ‘Settings’[shown in green] :

Step 2

With the Settings dialog box displayed, click ‘Devices’ [shown in green] :

Step 3

With the Devices dialog box displayed, click ‘Mouse & touchpad’ [shown in green]:

Step 4

With the ‘Mouse & touchpad’ dialog box displayed, click ‘Left’.

The option for ‘Right’ will now be displayed.

Click ‘Right’ as shown:

Left handers should now be able to mouse click using the index finger of their left hand and the right button of the mouse. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


More research – sky diving!

I’m terrified of heights so just watching this made me queasy, but…Kaati has to fall backwards from a height and somehow flip right way up so it can fly instead of splatter. Yeah…

I tried springboard diving, gymnastics diving, even looked at some jetman videos but this one gave me exactly what I needed. Watch!

Okay, that was very quick so let me break it down for you. He starts with his back to the fall and does a swan dive away from the plane, but not straight back. He’s leading with his left arm and twisting his body to the left as soon as he’s airborne [keep your eye on that watch on his left wrist]:

Can you see how he turns on his vertical axis until he’s belly down towards the ground? Now he can do acrobatics or open his parachute because he’s facing the right way. Same with Kaati; even iVokh can’t flight ‘inverted’. 🙂

You’re probably wondering why such a small point should matter…but you see it’s these small points that make sci-fi or even fantasy feel real. Plus I am anal. Thank god for DuckduckduckGo and youtube. 😀

Have a great Sunday!

Meeks


Self-publishing a paperback – trim size and bleed

The following extract is taken from my how-to books and explains about two key printing terms: ‘trim size’ and ‘bleed’.

Trim Size

The term ‘trim size’ refers to the finished size of your book – i.e. after the pages have been glued inside the cover and trimmed off neatly.

There are many trim sizes available, but the most popular sizes for non-fiction are shown in Table 1 below:

As even the largest of those trim sizes is slightly smaller than a normal A4 page, the trim size you choose will inevitably change the total page count of your book.

Note: the size of a default Word document is A4, and A4 is 8.27” x 11.69” in size.

This change in page size will have consequences in terms of layout. For example, you may find large gaps on pages where the graphics no longer fit. As a result, some re-formatting will be required. Furthermore, as the spine of the cover depends upon the number of pages in the book, trim size will indirectly affect the width of the spine as well.

You can see a complete table of trim sizes available in KDP – in both inches and cm – at the web address below:

https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G201834180#trim

Bleed

Although selecting the right trim size is the first critical step in printing your book, ‘bleed’ can be the second.

To illustrate the concept of ‘bleed’, consider the two pages below:

Note: the dotted green line represents the trim line.

The image on the left extends past the trim line into the ‘bleed’. When the page is trimmed, the image will have a crisp, clean edge with no white showing. By contrast, the image on the right does not extend into the ‘bleed’ and will have a thin white edge after it is trimmed:

Although most novels do not contain photographs, some do include maps and illustrations, and for them, bleed may be an issue.

If those images sit within the normal margins of the page, the book will not need bleed, but if they extend to the very edge of the page, the book will need bleed. This point is highlighted in the two pages below:

So keep ‘bleed’ in mind when you select the trim size of your book.

Another factor to consider is the length of your book.

A short book printed in a large trim size may end up looking too thin. A long book printed in a small trim size may end up looking too ‘fat’. More importantly, the spine may not be wide enough to allow for the printing of the title.

Note: KDP requires a minimum of 100 pages to print the title on the spine.

And finally, there’s the question of genre. Books are tactile objects and readers get used to a certain size in their favourite reading material.

Note: books that are either too big or too small for their genre may not be as ‘visible’ to a reader intent on buying a book.

Table of trim sizes – with and without bleed

The following is a table of trim sizes available with KDP:

I hope this proves to be useful. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

 


Schnitzel – tips & tricks

I rarely order schnitzel in restaurants because it’s almost always awful – thin, dry and tasteless. If you dislike conventional schnitzel as well, this recipe is for you.

SCHNITZEL from Meeka’s Mum

Moist, tender schnitzel begins with good meat:

  • Pale, young veal,
  • Yearling beef,
  • Chicken thigh fillets [not breast!],
  • Pork [lean].

Next, the meat should not be ‘tenderised’. You want it thick so it doesn’t dry out into a nasty piece of crumbed leather.

To begin, sprinkle a little table salt over the meat and pop it back in the fridge until you’re ready to start preparing the schnitzel. Minimum resting time is half an hour but you can leave it overnight if necessary. [The salt will give the meat just the right amount of ‘tenderising’].

Next I prepare three bowls, 2 small, one large:

Once the meat has tenderised enough, dip the first piece into the flour and pat off the excess. Next, dip the floured meat into the beaten egg and allow the excess to drain off [just hold it on the end of a fork]. Finally, bury the meat in the breadcrumbs. This is why you need a big bowel. Press down on the meat with your knuckles to force lots of breadcrumbs into the meat. Turn, cover with more breadcrumbs and press down hard again. You should end up with a nice thick crust of breadcrumbs. Set aside.

Repeat the crumbing process until all the meat is ready to be cooked.

The final trick to perfect, tender, crunchy schnitzel is the cooking. You will pan fry it. You will not deep fry it.

I use a heavy cast iron frying pan on a medium gas burner. Adjust the heat to suit your frying pan/stove.

Pour just enough peanut oil into the bottom of the pan to cover to about 1/8th of an inch. [I always use peanut oil for frying because it works well with high heat and has a mild, pleasant flavour that doesn’t interfere with the flavour of the actual food].

The oil has to get hot but not to smoking temperature! To test the temperature, drop a breadcrumb into the middle of the hot oil. If the crumb immediately sizzles, the oil is ready.

When the oil is hot enough, gently place a couple of pieces of schnitzel in the pan, taking care to leave enough room around each piece so they all cook evenly. Now comes the critical step!

Turn the heat down as low as it will go and put a big lid over the top.

[The lid keeps the meat cooking at just the right temperature so it becomes tender but not dry and chewy].

When you hear activity from beneath the lid [5-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the meat and the heat of the oil], lift the lid and have a look. If the bottom of the meat is golden brown, flip each piece over and fry them for a few minutes more, without the lid, to make the second side crisp and crunchy.

 

[I did make schnitzel last night, but I forgot to take photos so this one is from freeimages.com. The shallow frying technique is exactly the same though.]

When frying the second side, be careful not to burn it. [The meat is already cooked so it browns much faster than the first side!]

Once both sides are golden brown, remove the meat from the pan and drain on absorbent paper or a few slices of bread.

Repeat the exact same cooking process until all the meat is cooked. [You may have to add a little extra oil between batches]. The schnitzel will be tender and juicy on the inside and crunchy on the outside.

 

Bon appetit!

Meeks


Celebrate Nanowrimo 2018 with a free how-to ebook

Here in Australia it’s December 1 already, so Nanowrimo is over for another year. I didn’t even come close to winning Nano this year, but my heartfelt congratulations to all those who did. 50,000 words in 30 days is a great accomplishment, so well done. 🙂

For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, Nano is still in its final hours, and I imagine a lot of you will be furiously writing to catch that November 30 deadline. I congratulate all of you as well. No one can ever take this achievement away from you, but memories fade, so I suggest that you print the page that contains your 50,000th word and frame it. I did that with my first Nano; the word was ‘gut’. Not exactly poetic but hey…-shrug-

And finally, a word for those who didn’t make it. I know you’re probably feeling pretty disappointed at the moment, but you have to remember that winning Nano is not the end, it’s just the beginning. Your writing doesn’t have to end on November 30. Use what you started as the jumping off point for the story you’ll write all through 2019.

Win or lose, this next bit is for everyone. When your Nano story is polished to perfection, you will probably want to publish it. If you decide to self-publish your work, you will have a number of options:

  1. publish as an ebook
  2. publish as a paperback
  3. publish as both an ebook and a paperback

If you decide to go with options 2 and 3, then I can help. ‘How to Print your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing‘ is my step-by-step guide to publishing a paperback with KDP. In it you will find information about trim sizes, bleed, PDFs, formatting, Amazon distribution, royalties and heaps more. Each step is illustrated with screenshots and examples, close to 150 of them so even complete beginners can follow the instructions.

To celebrate the end of Nano 2018, I’ve made the ebook version of ‘How to Print your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing’ free for one day on December 1, 2018. [Click the link to be taken to the Amazon page or click the image of the book on the sidebar].

Due to timezone differences, the guide will become free on Amazon at about 6:00 pm, Australian Eastern time. For Northern Hemisphere writers, it will be free from midnight.

This is what the guide looks like on the Kindle Fire 6:

 

Because the ebook is in colour, and fixed format [so the layout of each page is controlled], you will only be able to use it on the following devices:

If you need the free Kindle Reading app., you can get it from here:

Clicking that link will open the following popup:

From this popup, you can select the device on which you want to use the app. I’ve only done it for the PC, but I think it should be fairly easy for all devices.

So there you have it, my free guide to printing your finished Nano Novel. Even if you don’t intend to publish for some time, download the guide now and save yourself some money. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

 

 

 

 

 

 


2 free days for the KDP how-to books

I should probably stretch these promotions out but…meh, let’s have some fun. 🙂

Okay, from October 23 to 24 [2 days], the ebook version of How to Print Your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing and How to Print Non-Fiction with Kindle Direct Publishing will be free on Amazon:

The difference between the two books is that the How to…Novel is pitched at absolute beginners while the How to Non-Fiction is for self-publishers who have to deal with lots of graphics. Oh and the How to Non-Fiction has a new Index of Links at the very back. You can find it by looking at the bottom of the Table of Contents.

If you’re just interested in the KDP side of the equation, both books cover the same information. This includes three appendices that contain information specifically for Aussie authors.

Both how-to books are in colour and fixed layout:

Although you can pinch-and-zoom with fixed format ebooks, you can’t change the font size to suit your comfort zone. That’s why I made the font size 24. On my Kindle Fire, that size is like a normal size 12 font in a paperback. I also made the pictures as ‘visible’ as possible so you wouldn’t have to keep zooming in and out all the time. I haven’t tried either book on a phone so if anyone gives it a try I’d love to know how well [or badly] it works.

Fixed format ebooks can only be read on one of the Kindle Fires or via the free Kindle app.  You can get the app. for a variety of devices at this web address:

https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/fd/kcp

The free promotion should start at midnight tomorrow for the Northern hemisphere. For us Aussies, it will begin at about 6 pm tomorrow.  I genuinely hope lots of people download the books, and I would really, really appreciate the odd review. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


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