Stihl frustration fixed

OWK’s home tip for the day

A reminder that despite the lunacy emanating from Washington D.C., there really are smart people in the United States of America.

Stihl make great tools, but replacing the cutting line in my domestic weedeater (aka line trimmer) is irritatingly tricky.

Steve from the Small Engine Saloon has a the solution.

Thanks Steve, you’re a genius

Wake up time

insanity defined

A short history of tomorrow

Guest post from Ken Sayers

The American people are experiencing existential crises on many levels simultaneously. It is little wonder that the N Y Times reports that suicides are up. For the most part, many of those crises are “self-made” by a government that no longer cares for its people, and one looming crisis in the world, brought about by the insatiable greed of those same people who are causing all of the other problems~ namely Climate Change.

Climate Change is the primary crisis because it not only exacerbates or drives our other problems, but it also puts a clock on the time we have to get it together as a race to save our own and all the other species on this planet.

If we are unable to halt the increase in greenhouse gasses, our planet will no longer be able to support us. The first and simplest reason is that our temperatures will increase to the point that we will be unable to go outside. The heat index yesterday, in one Texas town, was 117°F. The actual temperature was near 100°F on June 23. At that temperature, it is dangerous for man to work outside. But, man is not the only organism affected. Plants shut down at 85°F. That means crops will fail. At some point we lose the natural pollinators and then we can forget feeding our roughly 8 billion people.

Photo by Forrest Cavale on Unsplash
Photo by FORREST CAVALE on Unsplash

In addition to hunger, the ocean levels will rise and the world will experience coastal flooding. This, in a sense, will help because 60% of the world’s population lives within 60 miles of a coastline. We are already experiencing sunny day flooding in south Florida and it will only get worse. This will create climate refugees the world over. To what country will the folk living on the south sea islands flee. Australia is already balking. To what part of Florida or the United states will the people along our coasts flee. Who will give them a place to live? In its current state, do not look to the Federal Government for help. And, the “State of Florida” is not even allowed to mention the words, “Climate Change.”

In addition to widespread drought, increased flooding, and crop failures, the natural disasters like wildfires, tornados, and hurricanes are increasing in actual numbers as well as strength. Even a simple thing like snow has become a major problem.

These are not problems that will appear at the end of the century when sea level will rise by 6’ or so. These are problems that will occur much sooner.

We are not ready and our government shows no inclination to prepare. Our electrical grid is a patchwork of greed and neglect. We are not employing near enough renewable resources. We still use coal and our transmission lines are woefully inadequate and vulnerable to hacking. These were problems pointed out in the first Bush Administration.

Our Trans-continental Highway System was built roughly 62 years ago. Traveling cross country today, you must pay attention to closures, as bridges are collapsing. When I went to California 3 years ago, we had to avoid the southern route because Interstate 10 was shut down. When I went a couple months ago, my GPS routed me up HWY 99 because Interstate 5 was too dangerous. Besides the gut wrenching potholes, the highway surface was so slick, an 18-wheeler tried to stop and even the barricade between on-coming lanes of traffic didn’t stop it. Interstate 5 is a MAJOR north/south transportation route in one of the busiest states in the nation and California is not the Lone Ranger.

Worst of all is our potable water situation. Do not even get me started on our own avoidable blunders, as occurred in Flint Michigan. There are other problems. Nestle Corporation is pumping millions of gallons of water a minute across the entire country and putting it into plastic, single use bottles. Petrochemical companies are fracking across the entire country, poisoning our aquifers with chemicals so bad that the companies got a law passed that they do not have to even tell us what they are. Add to that, the Trump administration has removed all regulations that were prohibiting corporations from poisoning our waterways.

Just two more items in the water category of which I am aware. The infrastructure that delivers fresh water from Hetch Hetchy, in Yosemite, to the San Francisco Bay Area is in serious need of repair. It leaks like a sieve. The other is the Colorado River that supplies drinking water and electricity to the Southwestern United States, namely Arizona, New Mexico, Southern Nevada, and Southern California. It is drying up.

We need to fix these things, but our government is dumbing us down in a serious way. States, across the entire country are rewriting history books and science texts, math, and even the way English is taught.

The development of language of a country determines that country’s productivity. The vocabulary of today’s children is half of what it was when I went to school. When I was 45, I had occasion to go back to school, from which I graduated 27 years ago.

A new graduation requirement was added since I had originally graduated in 1968. It was called the “English Proficiency Exam.” It is just a simple test where you are given 3 controversial topics about which you are to choose one and write a paper. It can be as short as 4 paragraphs long. You need only have a thesis statement, an enlargement of your statement, its support, and the conclusion. It must have proper grammar, spelling and punctuation. Even if you didn’t know these things when you got to college, you had to pass a course in “English Composition,” so you could write your papers for your other classes as you progress to a degree. You might well ask, how could anyone get to graduation without knowing those things, but they do. More than 50% of graduating Seniors have to take that test 3-4 times before they pass. There are even refresher classes to teach you how to pass. The English Comp class, that I took 30 years before, stood me well. The Trump/DeVoss team is doing all it can to destroy education as we knew it.

Add to all this, the monumental problem of the stranglehold the corporations have on our government and it is easy to see why suicides are up. Our younger people are saddled with unbelievably huge college debt (to our own government I might add) that they cannot afford to make a living if they even find a job. Our even younger people will not even be intelligent enough to get into college. We will have a country that is breaking apart and no one intelligent enough to put it back together.

And what happens when the shit hits the fan? Well, the only thing in this country of ours that has any resources at all is our military. You tell me. I don’t know if we are past that tipping point or not. If not, I know we are dangerously close to it. What are your plans? If we make it another 20 years, 60 or 70% of the careers that people will have, do not even exist today. Will your children survive. Are you going to even leave them a world in which survival is possible? Yes, we are Smack in the middle of existential crises.

The thing with the children is grave, of course, but I believe it is just to provoke a reaction serious enough that the “government” can declare martial law and suspend the constitution.

Confessions of an Apple nut

I’ve been immersed in the Windows world for 30 years: top 1% of Windows experts at the Experts Exchange last time I checked, a SeniorNet PC tutor, a web programmer, and in a reversal of the usual scenario, my grandchildren treat me as the family IT guru. Despite that investment, a limited retirement income, and the Apple “hardware tax” barrier, I’ve migrated to the Apple universe, and I won’t be going back any time soon.

Why? Apple get away with overcharging for their hardware because they can, users like me keep coming back. The alternative might be cheaper, but for millions of us, it isn’t worth the sacrifice. 

It all started in 2010 when I succumbed to the hype and bought an iPhone 4. I was smitten in milliseconds. Before I knew it, I’d ponied up for an iPad and a MacBook Air.

iOS: Apple’s phone and tablet operating system.

The phones

Notwithstanding the outrageously overpriced iPhone X with its irksome notch and which I wouldn’t have a bar of, I can still buy a new iPhone 6S, 7, or 8 for a reasonable price. They leave the competition for dead. It’s not the hardware, it’s the operating system, its interface, its applications, and its seamless integration with other Apple devices.

The tablets

My iPad Pro 12.9” is beautiful. With the improvements to already good usability made with iOS 11, including split screen multitasking, and with a Magic Keyboard or Smart Keyboard Cover, at a pinch it can replace my mobile computer. iOS is more intuitive than the competition, it looks better, and there’s a better range of apps available. It just works.


The same usability standard applies to Mac computers: everything just works. iMacs and MacBooks aren’t cheap, and the Mac Pro cost is eye-watering, but if you look at Windows machines with comparable specs and build quality, they’re not cheap either.

Continue reading

Writing software comparison

Note taking apps

It’s all about me

I’ve made these notes to clarify for myself which apps I most need. It’s not an unbiased opinion. Your mileage may vary. Some people love OneNote for instance; I don’t get it at all.

I’ve evolved into an Apple ecosystem fanatic, so this is biased. Having said that, the choice of note-taking apps for Windows isn’t great and is one of the  reasons I’m an Apple nut. Typora for Windows is the only one I’ve found that comes close to Ulysses or Bear Notes.


In case you don’t know:


A lot of writing apps use Markdown. Many writers love it. It’s a shorthand way of formatting text styles. Its advantages:

  • When a Markdown document is exported to—for instance—Word format, or HTML, or PDF, or all of the above, the formatting is automagically converted to suit the new document.
  • Proponents point out that you can apply formatting without your fingers leaving the keyboard.
    • OK, true; but if you know your formatting keyboard shortcuts you can do that in almost any text editor or word processor.

This screenshot shows the markdown formatting symbols on a heading and an italicised word in Bear Notes:

Dark mode

Some writing apps, like most web browsers, allow you to switch to “dark mode”; i.e. light coloured text on a dark background. Many writers find it easy on the eyes and that it reduces eye strain.

Continue reading

It’s not just Facebook

Deactivating or deleting Facebook accounts is all the rage.

If you’re considering abandoning Mr Zuckerberg’s money machine for security reasons, perhaps you should broaden your target. After killing Facebook, you’d better review the other organisations that are tracking you, selling their data about you, and controlling what information you receive and what you don’t..

Here are a few

  • facebook-banYour credit card company. Most of us pay our balance in full and incur no interest. How do you think the banks make it worth their while?
  • Charge cards. Same deal.
  • Your hire-purchase financers and other creditors.
  • Your supermarket or department store loyalty card.  Do you think they really want to give you a discount for nothing in return.
  • Google Search, Google Mail, and most other “free” search and mail facilities.
  • Apps on your phone and tablet, especially the free ones.
  • Computer programs.
  • Your online, newspaper, and magazine subscriptions.
  • Your web browser. You really need to know about “cookies”, and how to counter them. I’ve explained about them here.
  • Your frequent flyer program.

Delete Facebook if you feel so inclined, but remember that despite Mr Zuckerberg’s assurances, all your previous ravings on and embarrassing photos are still there and anybody with the right skills or contacts can find them until the end of time. Or nearly.

There’s a nuisance value in dumping Facebook; info on your favourite café, for instance, may be only available on Facebook. I have a very useful local residents’ group with thousands of members which is excellent for finding local services.

You can remain on Facebook until something better comes along without bringing on Armageddon. Just be careful about what you post. Bear in mind that it’s there forever, that your granny and your potential employers can see it, and that smart algorithms on powerful computers are figuring out everything about you: your food preferences, your wealth (or lack of it), your racial, religious, and cultural biases, and your political leanings.

The bottom line

  • If it’s a free service, ask yourself how they make money. Usually, lots of money.
  • If you wouldn’t put your writing or image on an open postcard, don’t post it online. Don’t even type it into a keyboard for that matter.
  • Nothing stored digitally is guaranteed to be private forever.
  • Be careful what you click on.
  • I repeat, follow the money.

If I delete my Facebook account, it won’t be because of security worries, but because nobody give’s a rat’s arse about what I have to say.

Online Privacy

Postcards from the edge

When you enter any data onto any device which will be connected to the Internet, that information becomes public knowledge. If you wouldn’t put it on a postcard, don’t put it on a computer, phone, or tablet.

Big brother is watching

And if he’s not reading your stuff right now, he’s keeping it for later. The 2018 Facebook fiasco revealed to the world what was actually no secret; Facebook, Google, YouTube, Amazon, and many other organisations are monitoring you, and they’re selling what they know.

Over to techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci


You are the product

You are not a customer of Google or Facebook, you are their product. they sell access to your data to businesses, political organisations, governments, Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all.

That is how Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page became billionaires. They make money from adverts, and the more information about you that they can supply to their advertisers, the better they can target the ads, and the more money they make.

But it’s not just about people trying to sell you stuff. It’s also about people choosing who rules the world, who leaves the EEC, whether Scotland leaves the United Kingdom, and what you believe about climate change.

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica

Here, an Al Jazeera report explains how personal data harvested from people like you an me was used to influence the US presidential election, Brexit, and who knows what else.

These were close political polls, so it’s probable that Cambridge Analytica, and the people who hired them, decided the final result.

And here’s the brains behind the data harvesting explaining the deal.

This Land is Our Land

Will we ever learn?

Probably not

War does not determine who is right – only who is left.

Bertrand Russell

At the time of the 1967 Six Day War, I was one of many with little real understanding of the complex Middle East history who were cheering for the Israelis; the perennial underdog fighting overwhelming odds.

Nina Paley
The amazing Nina Paley

The complex situation in Israel has been confounding us all ever since. Then I watched Nina Paley‘s brief video (see below) and realised that it’s really quite simple.

I’ve also been around long enough to realise that many things I thought I knew were wrong. The corporate-controlled news media bear a lot of the blame for my ignorance.

In the midst of the 6 Day War reportage, for instance, there was scant reference to the culpability of the West, particularly the British, who’d made promises to the Palestinians earlier in the 20th Century, and then stabbed them in the back.

No wonder the Palestinians were, and still are, mightily pissed off.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

If any question why we died, tell them that our fathers lied

Rudyard Kipling

Along came Viet Nam

In my naïvety and ignorance, I swallowed the Domino Theory peddled by the politicians and the media. If we let the evil commies get away with taking over Vietnam, they’ll take over the world. I was in the Navy then, and fully prepared if called upon to charge off to South East Asia and deal to those evildoers in North Vietnam.

Years later I learned that there was another version of the truth.

We caused the mess in the first place.

We’ve got your back Uncle Ho

During World War II we swore to Ho Chi Minh that if he helped us boot the Japanese out of South East Asia, we’d protect his people from French domination when the war was over.

The Vietnamese communists did their bit, and when it was over their reward was to be dropped right back into the hands of Charles de Gaulle and the Foreign Legion.

Not surprisingly, they too were a little annoyed.

And on it goes…

We’ve been at it ever since: Iraq, Iran, Latin American countries by the iron fistful, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria… and on, and on, and on…

Click here to see the impressive list of US invasions…

dummy line break

[vimeo 50531435 w=500 h=281]

This Land Is Mine from Nina Paley on Vimeo.

Homeopathy, con or cure?

  • On the one hand, the overwhelming majority of qualified medical folk and scientists tell us that homeopathy treatments are diluted to the equivalent of a molecule of medicine in a volume the size of the planet Jupiter, and it’s the biggest con job since the Ponzi scheme.
  • On the other hand, homeopathy’s supporters regale us with stories of major success and minor miracles.


Who wins?

The good guys at Kurzgesagt have done their homework.

Their conclusion? Sorry to weasel out on you, but it depends:

Are both sides right?

An interesting video, with a well-reasoned conclusion:

The tail’s preparing to wag the dog

Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMP) is a vast improvement over our old First Past the Post voting system. Sections of the community who were marginalised under First Past the Post now have a voice. That’s certainly true of Maori, the Greens, and Winston First’s indefatigable blue rinse brigade.
To a degree it’s a good thing.

How long before it becomes an anchor around the legislative neck and makes government impossible?

Where will it all end?

Somebody tell me what to do

I’d like a Gray Power Party to boost my New Zealand Superannuation. What about a Kate Sheppard Ladies’ Party with a persondate to banish manholes to Personchuria. Can we do without a Jockstrap Party to declare the Rugby World Cup ours as of right? There’s definitely a need for a Petrolheads’ Party for the promotion of phallic exhaust pipes for the under-endowed, and a Wouldn’t Work in an Iron Lung Party for the equitable redistribution of filthy capitalistic gains.

Continue reading

Check your prejudices

ballot box

People don’t vote for policies

In the UK a couple of elections back, the website Vote For Polices showed that when asked to chose their preferred policies without knowing which party’s policies they were, voters preferred the Green Party. The Conservatives fared badly.

vote for policies choices

For whom did they vote in the real world? Yep; the Conservatives, who should have been fourth choice.

Now it’s your turn

Here are two websites where you can check your actual preferences for the imminent New Zealand election. I think “I Side With” is the most realistic:

Please check them out. You will be surprised. For me, I Side With produced a more credible result than Vote Compass; they allow users more sensible fine-tuning of the alternatives. Even so, I was surprised to find that New Zealand First came high on my list.

That led me to check New Zealand First’s policies, and another surprise – despite Winston Peters’ devious, opportunistic, and waka-jumping ways – his party’s policies are, mostly, surprisingly sensible.

Not enough to encourage me to vote for him though.

Sorry Winnie.

Here is my result from “I Side With”

Some of my old friends will be horrified, but my swing to the left has been on-going since waking up to the total failure of neo-liberal policies.

Here are my results from “Vote Compass”

Mana’s position was a surprise too, but despite Hone Harawera’s radical activist past, his policies too are generally sensible. I’d like to see him make his peace with the Maori Party and avoid splitting their vote.