Tag Archives: tips

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

 

 


#FFXIV – The Vault

I’ve always believed that the definition of true courage is not a lack of fear but the exact opposite – lots of fear but the courage to push ahead anyway. Sadly, I’ve been less than courageous the last six [?] months, putting off doing The Vault dungeon until I’d literally run out of anything more interesting to do. ūüė¶

Well, my Summoner, Meeka Thara, has finally done The Vault. Twas not glorious. I died at the three quarter mark of the third boss, but luckily the rest of the party finished him off while I lay ignobly dead at their feet. -sigh- I did learn a few things that may help others though. What follows is for newbies, and is only a kind of overview and tips type thing. You should still watch videos of the fight and read up on it for the complete mechanics.

So, to the overview and tips:

  1. Unless you’re incredibly overpowered, the trash mobs are actually quite hard. Not Limit Break type hard, but hard, and they aggro from quite a distance. Party members who run ahead of the tank are stupid, plain and simple.
  2. The first two bosses [Ser Adelphel and Ser Grinnaux] start out almost easy, but when you get them down to about 20% HP they morph into much harder creatures, so don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.
  3. As per usual, the 2nd boss [Ser Grinnaux] is harder than the first and uses some mechanics that can trap the unwary. One of them is the aetherial tear [or void gate]. The Boss throws these void gates around the outer edge of the circular arena. Standing near a void gate will cause boss 2 void gatesome damage and stacks of vulnerability. Unfortunately, it’s not just a case of avoiding these gates. Every so often, the boss does an aoe knockback that sends everyone to the wall. If you get knocked back into a void gate it’s not good. As much as possible, try to position yourself so your back always faces an undamaged section of wall. I did read one forum post that advocated stacking the void gates all in one place to make it easier to avoid them but…I don’t know how you’re supposed to do that.
  4. The third and most powerful Boss [Ser Charibert] is hard right from the beginning. His mechanics include:
    1. Heavens Flames – these are circular fire aoes that target each, individual player – i.e. you will always have to be on the lookout for them,
    2. Chains – this mechanic chains two players together and keeps doing damage until the chain is snapped. If the two players are standing fairly close together when they are chained, they just have to run a short distance away from each other to snap it. If, however, the players are a long way apart when they are chained, they may not be able to put enough distance between each other to snap the chain.
    3. Knights – look like huge chess pieces and march in a row from the north of the arena to the south. Contact with one of theseboss 3 knights Knights causes damage AND a powerful Attack Speed Slow. This is not the kind of debuff you want when fighting a boss. The good thing, however, is that the Knights can be avoided, at least in the early part of the fight because they’re fairly slow and always keep to a straight line [think of them as moving line aoes].
  5. One strategy I read which worked really well during the early part of the fight is illustrated in the follow graphic: boss 3 schematicThe idea of stacking on the tank is that you automatically avoid the lines of Knights. You also have heaps more room to move if you get chained. It does work so long as you keep track of where the boss and tank are. ūüôā
  6. At about 60% health, the boss disappears and returns with 2 adds – both Knights, but these ones can do line aoes. He also casts Holy Flames. There are about 6 [?] of these positioned around the outer perimeter and DPS have to kill them asap. Holy Flames are¬†boss 3 at 60 percent holy flames followed by a room wide aoe called Pure of Heart. Now I’ve read that Pure of Heart can be followed by Sacred Flame, which is another room wide aoe. Apparently Sacred Flame depends upon whether the Holy Flames were all extinguished prior to Pure of Heart going off. We got all the Flames so I didn’t actually see this for myself. I assume it would have been bad though.
  7. In all the videos and guides, they say that after the Holy Flames/Pure of Heart sequence, everything else is ‘just’ more of the same but ‘a bit faster’ until the boss dies. Hmm….
  8. The reality is that phase 2 of the fight is when the boss throws everything at you at top speed, again and again and again. Knights charge down, chains happen along with fire aoes, and it’s all happening at once and OVERLAPS. Dodging the Knights was easy in the beginning but now with everything hitting you at once, moving and fighting at the same time becomes problematic, at least it did for me. boss 3 phase 2As you can see, a new line of Knights is forming in the top of the screen before the first lot have even passed. It’s rather chaotic and unless you’ve got your camera pulled out as far as it will go, seeing what’s happening [so you can avoid it] is difficult. This is around about where I died, probably because I was just too slow.

Given my lightning fast reflexes – chokes laughing – I should have just focused on my feet and forgotten about everything else. After all, the rest of the party managed just fine without me. Instead I tried to dodge while casting like the healer – awesome healer, by the way – and I failed.

So there you have it. Another dungeon, and a morning wasted on gated content that I hate, and no writing done, but at least I now have something more to do until the next trial in the game [Bismarck]. At this point, all I want to do is get past the gated content and reach the Dravinian Hinterlands for the crafting. After that, who knows.

cheers

Meeks

p.s. if you click on the screenshots, you should be taken to the Youtube video from which they were taken.


Preserved #apricots and a #W√ľsthof to grind

After the sadness of the Rickman and Bowie posts, I thought it would be nice to talk about joyful things for a change, and what could be more joyful than food and gadgets?

Before I begin though, let me tell you a little story. Back in the mists of time when The Offspring was but a twig, we lived in a leafy suburb of Melbourne called Heathmont. There I planted an apricot tree which flowered, fruited [abundantly] and sprouted a baby apricot tree of its own. When we sold the house, I potted up the baby apricot tree and it travelled with us for over fifteen years before we finally settled again in Warrandyte.

How that small, stunted apricot tree survived for so long in a pot I’ll never know, but it did, and more amazing still, it’s managed to survive and thrive in the not-so-welcoming soil of Warrandyte. But the proof of how special it is lies, as they say, in the eating, and boy are these apricots amazing. Store bought apricots may look luscious but the flavour is generally tart and ‘bland’. By contrast, the sun-warmed, sun-sweetened apricots from my little tree are incredibly sweet, even when they’re not completely ripe, and I’ve been eating them until they’re coming out of my ears!

Sadly, even my stomach has limits so this morning I stared long and hard at the 20 or so apricots left from the harvest. I tried drying the surplus last year, without much success, so what should I do with them this year?

I dismissed the idea of apricot jam without any hesitation; even I am not stupid enough to make that much of a mess for just 20 apricots. But what about compote? That would be quick and easy with minimal clean-up.

True, I thought, but compote will only last a couple of days in the fridge and I’m really sick of apricots….

Ah! But what about preserves? a sly little voice whispered in my ear.

Are you crazy? I scoffed. What do I know about preserving?

Nevertheless, a few minutes later I found myself typing ‘preserving apricots’ in Papa Google’s search box. That, eventually led to this:

apricot preserves

I’d like to say the process was simple and painless, but that would be a lie and I’m a nice girl. For starters, only one of the guides I read mentioned that it might be a good idea to have a specialist jar lifter on hand. For those not as au fait with this topic as moi -cough- a jar lifter looks like this:

jar lifter

As you can see, this nifty tool allows you to grip the lid of the boiling hot jar without burning yourself. The padded black bits on the feet [for want of a more technical term] stop the boiling hot glass from exploding when touched by a cold, metal implement.

Of course, I did not have a specialist jar lifter on hand, but I did know about hot glass and cold things, so I improvised with oven mitts like so:

apricots and oven mitts

[Don’t even think about doing this with multiple jars of preserves!]

I did manage to get the jar out of the boiling hot water without damaging it, or myself, but if I ever do this again, I will definitely invest in a jar lifter.

Another thing I might invest in is some proper, preserving equipment – like jars and lids. The jar I used originally contained Morello cherries, and I have no way of knowing if the seal still works. It looks as if it has worked as the lid has ‘sucked in’ a bit, but I still think we’ll be eating the apricots sooner rather than later. Just in case.

Once the jar was safely out of the pot, I wrapped it in a clean tea towel because another guide said to let the preserves cool down in a draft free place – again, to stop the temperature differences from damaging the jar…the kitchen…the cook….

And finally a word about the syrup. The first recipe I read called for a ratio of half-and-half for the syrup, i.e. half sugar, half water. Now to me, that would be unbearably sweet, and totally unnecessary as my home grown apricots are/were beautifully sweet already. That said, I wasn’t quite game to use plain water for the syrup, so I heated up 1/4 cup of organic demerara sugar with 2 cups of filtered water and let it boil for about a minute before taking it off the heat. As I was only preserving one jar of fruit, I ended up with about 1/3 of the syrup left over. I’ll update this post with the taste test once we’ve actually tried the preserves.:)

And now, as I’m still in a kitcheny mood, here’s an extra little bit about a wonderful gadget I was given as a gift by a foodie friend:

wusthof knife sharpener

Sorry to make you wait so long for an explanation of the title but I’m in a playful mood.

So. A knife sharpener, a German knife sharpener. What’s the big deal?

Let me start by saying that I have been sharpening kitchen knives since the days of the Wiltshire Staysharp scabbard – you know, the one where you sharpen the knife every time you push it into the scabbard, at least in theory. I also own one of those sharpening tools that butchers use. It looks good, but I’ve never used it because I don’t know how. More recently, The Offspring bought me a handy sharpener that actually does work, but I’m a little scared of sharpening myself with it so it doesn’t get used as often as it should. Net result: my knives spend most of their working lives being blunt.

Enter the W√ľsthof.

I swear, I am not getting a commission or any kickbacks for this, but I have never used anything that worked as quickly and easily as this little beauty. The two grinding ‘wheels’ are labelled ‘coarse’ and ‘fine’ so I tried one of my kitchen knives on the coarse one first. I could feel the sharpener biting into the edge of the blade. After a couple of swipes I switched to the ‘fine’ grinding wheel and gave the knife a few more swipes. Then I tested it on a raw chicken drumstick.

Now I don’t know if any of you have ever tried to fillet a chicken drumstick, but it’s not easy. The shape is awkward and the meat lies snugly along the bone, making knife work difficult. But you should see how easy it is when you have a truly sharp knife! I’m just grateful I have a knife block in which to store my newly sharpened knife because I wouldn’t trust it loose in a drawer. Honestly, this thing is like a razor blade now!

So there you have it, some tips on preserving home-grown apricots [from a complete novice] and two gadgets that would be a welcome addition to any kitchen.

Enjoy!

Meeks

 

 


Working with Children Check – step-by-step

Most community based learning centres have some programs for children, so most community centres require volunteers [and paid staff] to be cleared for working with children. Given the horrific tales of child abuse all over the media, I agree that vetting adults who work with children is a good idea. Unfortunately the implementation of that good idea is a bureaucratic nightmare.

Having just struggled with this nightmare myself, I thought a step-by-step walkthrough of the process might be useful to others. So here it is.

Step 1 Go to the Working with Children home page :

http://www.workingwithchildren.vic.gov.au/utility/home/

Step 2 Ignore the animated prompt to register and click on the big, blue ‘Apply for a check’ button on the right of the page :

working with children home page

Step 3 You should now be looking at a page full of information about who should apply, etc etc. Ignore all that, and scroll down to the bottom of the page where you will find some more big, blue buttons. Right at the very bottom¬†you will see a slightly smaller, blue button called ‘Start Application’. Click it as shown :

working with children app page2

Step 4 You should now be looking at another long page of information. Scroll down until you reach the bottom of that page. There you will find this :

working with children app page4The first text box asks if you’ve applied for a check before. Click on the small arrow next to the question and select either yes or no. I selected no.

The second text box is only for those who have applied for the check before and already have some documentation. For newbies like us, ignore.

The third text box requires that you choose between a check for an employee, or a volunteer. If you select ’employee’ it is assumed that you will be paid for your work and/or that the employer will pay for your check. The fee for an employee check is $102. If you select ‘volunteer’ there is no fee, but you will not be able to work with children in a paid capacity.

To select either employee or volunteer, click the small arrow to the right of the text box and make your selection. To continue, click ‘Next’.

 

Step 5 At last, the contact details form. This should have been very straight forward, but it wasn’t. You start by filling in your current, residential address details. Then you get to the bit shown in red below :

working with children app page7

This is for your postal address, and includes a little checkbox that you can click if your postal address is the same as your residential address. This is what happened when I clicked the checkbox and ‘Next’ :

working with children app page7 errorThe address details aren’t real, but you can see that they were carried over quite nicely to the postal address fields… except for the state. For some reason the application doesn’t recognize its own data.

The only way to get around this error is to uncheck the checkbox and manually type your postal details in again. Then hit ‘Next’ and everything is fine. -face palm-

Step 6 The next page asks for ‘Organisation details’:

working with children app page8

The organisations in question are the companies for which you are volunteering. Now despite the fact that I am volunteering to work with adults, not children, I may¬†be asked¬†to do something with children in the future – e.g. take a class, or take over for 5 minutes while the assigned carer goes to the loo – so I need to have the checks in place ahead of time…

– click ‘yes’

– click the small arrow next to ‘Occupational Work Codes’ and select the option that best describes what you will be required to do with children.

Step 7 ¬†Then you click ‘Next’ and get this :

working with children app page8 error

Luckily, this error is actually not a real error at all. What’s happened is that when you clicked ‘yes’ under ¬†Organisation details, the system did not allow you to specify the names¬†of those organisations. This form is a kind of catch-up [and something you should have seen all along]. Click in each box and fill in the relevant details. Finally click ‘Add organisation to list’ as shown :

 

working with children app page9 error

Step 8 If you need to add multiple organisations, click ‘Add another organisation’ as shown :

working with children app page10 error

Step 9 Almost done. You should now be looking at a legal looking page. Right down the bottom you should see this :

working with children app page11

– Click the small checkbox [small red circle] and then,

– Click on ‘Sign and Submit’

What this does is send a sort of electronic ‘intent to apply’. But…. YOU STILL HAVE TO SEND IN THE PAPER APPLICATION!

Step 10 The Confirmation page. This is actually rather important:

working with children app page12 print

You now have to print off the form you have just filled in by clicking ‘Print or Save’. It will have a box for signing… BUT DO NOT SIGN IT! Take the unsigned form, along with a passport photo and suitable ID – e.g. passport, driver’s license, Medicare card etc – to an Australia Post office*. The Australia Post employee will then watch¬†you sign the printed form [and date it]. They will then certify that the ID you have shown and your signature all match.

Then, they will take your application and do whatever it is they do with it. In return, you will receive a receipt to show that you have applied. However you will not, legally, be authorized to work with children until your application is¬†accepted. Not sure how long the acceptance part will take but I’d guess at least two working weeks.

* You will not be able to find a list of ‘participating Australia Post offices‘ by clicking the link on the Confirmation page. That link only takes you to the main Australia Post page. Where you go from there I have no idea. I’d suggest ringing up one of the larger Australia Post offices instead.

And there, at last, you have it, how to navigate one of the worst interfaces I have ever had the misfortune to use. Good luck, and now I’m off for a much needed coffee.

cheers

Meeks

p.s. My application is in! I went to the Australia Post office in Eltham and everything went smoothly.

 

 

 


The saga of the flat pack bicycle

Back in January of this year I mentioned that The Daughter had given me an exercise bike for my birthday. And then there was silence.

The reason you heard nothing more about my exercise bike was because it sat in its box, unopened, for a month before I found the courage to unpack it. Then it sat for another week or so, in pieces large and small while I tried to decipher the instructions that came with it.

Exhibit A – the diagram for Step 1.

bike instructions 2

Exhibit B – the instructions for Step 1.

bike instructions 1

Getting the two pedals on took ages because I had to screw them in counterclockwise. Yes.

Now, before you start thinking I’m some helpless female who doesn’t know one end of a spanner from the other – no! My Dad was an engineer and a hobby carpenter, so I grew up as more of a handyman than most boys. Not an expert, mind you, but not a neophyte either.

The problem with flat packs is that they usually come with the most useless tools imaginable – allen keys, and these toy spanners.

Exhibit C – the ‘spanner’

bike spanner

Exhibit D – the allen key

bike allen key

I circled the allen key in red in case you men didn’t recognize the sewing tools also scattered about. For the ladies, an allen key is a six-sided piece of bent metal with flat ends. The flat ends exactly fit six-sided metal ‘holes’. Think screwdriver with a different shaped tip, and no comfy handle.

You insert the allen key snuggly into the hole and then turn it to tighten up the bolt. It should work, so long as the allen key doesn’t shred your hands first. I’m sure allen keys would be a great addition to a Swiss Army Knife, however they suck as a general purpose tool. Unfortunately ALL flat packs are designed around them.

My biggest problem with flat packs, however, is that they are designed for your average sized man. At something under 5’4″, I do not have the same musculature as the average man. This means that tightening screws and bolts to a safe degree – i.e. so the bicycle or bookshelf or table or whatever doesn’t wobble and collapse – requires enough effort to make me¬†want to collapse! But where there’s a will there’s a way.

After struggling with the flat pack’s dinky tools for two days I finally went out and got – tah dah – a real tool!

Exhibit E – an adjustable wrench

bike the wrench

The beauty of this lovely tool is that it will grip anything. You can adjust it to grip bolt heads [so you can tighten them]. You can even adjust it to grip allen keys so leverage takes the place of big, strong, man-sized hands! My new, favourite tool.

Even with the adjustable wrench, however, I still took another day to finish the job, but as you can see, it’s done.

Exhibit F – The Bike

bike finished

That big bag of rubbish in the foreground is bits of packaging that came with the bike. Weren’t we supposed to be reducing the rubbish we throw into landfill? I guess they didn’t get that memo.

Snark aside, I have now been using this masterpiece of flat pack engineering every second day for a few weeks, and it still doesn’t wobble! I wish I could say the same for my legs, but Rome wasn’t built in a day so I retain the hope that one day I’ll run a marathon… or maybe just sprint to the letter box and back. ūüėČ

So ladies, don’t despair. If you’re the one cursed with putting a flat pack item together, just march down to the hardware store and invest in an adjustable wrench. Once you have one, you’ll never look back!

cheers

Meeks


Bushfire awareness tips – know your wind

After the near-debacle of the other day, I realised I didn’t know anywhere near as much about bushfires as I thought I did. So I asked for some help from those who do. The following tips are ‘rule of thumb’ only, but so much better than nothing.

1. Know your wind

Any wind will push the bushfire in front of it, so knowing where the wind is coming¬†from tells you where it’s going to, roughly. In the graphics below, the blue arrows show wind direction. The red arrows show where the wind will push the fire from the point of ignition – i.e. from the point at which the fire starts.

– A north wind will push the fire to the SOUTH. [i.e. the wind is coming from the north so the fire is pushed to the south]

bushfire wind 1

A north westerly wind will push the fire in a SOUTH EASTERLY direction. [i.e. the wind is coming from the north west so the fire is pushed to the south east]

bushfire wind 2

A north easterly wind will push the fire in a SOUTH WESTERLY direction. [i.e. the wind is coming from the north east so the fire is pushed to the south west].

bushfire wind 3

The Bureau of Meteorology posts forecasts for heat and wind on its website every day. This is the forecast wind for today, January 16, 2014 :

“Winds northerly 15 to 20 km/h tending northwesterly in the early afternoon then becoming light in the late afternoon.”

I’ve just been outside [11.15am] and didn’t notice a wind…yet. Once it starts however, I’ll be keeping an even more wary eye on the Kangaroo Ground fire. It’s contained at the moment, but if it breaks out it will be heading south towards North Warrandyte.

“This is obvious, get to the point!”

-bites lip-

“This stuff¬†isn’t obvious to everyone, so shut be patient!”

2. Know your fire

On a day with no wind, a bushfire will spread out in all directions as it follows the terrain. It will spread, but it won’t spread quickly because it’s burning under its own steam, so to speak.

bushfire no wind

The graphic shows a very theoretical spread across flat ground – e.g. a field of grass. It’s always the outer edge that’s actively burning because the bit in the middle has already been burned, and fire needs fresh fuel to continue.

[Note: You will never see that neat bulls eye pattern in real life so take this graphic with a huge grain of salt.]

Once you add wind to a fire, however, the pattern of spread changes to a cone.

bushfire cones

The milder the wind, the wider the cone. The stronger the wind the narrower the cone.

“But what does this have to do with me?”

-rolls eyes-

“The point is that you can now be proactive! Oh don’t give me that look…”

Okay, what this all means is that you don’t have to sit staring at the CFA website, waiting for warnings and advice. You can grab your street directory, check the Bureau of Meteorology website, plot the direction of all fires within a twenty minute driving radius of your house, and either leave, or start getting ready to defend.

For me, defending my house involves running the pumps and sprinklers for 5 minutes [to make sure everything is working], closing up the house [with the shutters] and wetting down the area directly around the house – with mains water while it’s still available.

You do know that the water is likely to stop flowing if a fire hits your area…right? There won’t be anything wrong with the pipes, it’s just that everyone will be trying to do the same thing as you, and only so much water can come through the pipes at any one time.

If nothing happens, and the fire goes away, then you’ve lost nothing by being proactive. However, if something bad does happen, then being proactive could well save your life. Think about it.

In the next post I’ll try and explain why the wind change is the most dangerous point in any bushfire.

Stay safe, and drink lots of fluids.

Meeks

 


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