A handy solution to a disarming problem

The puns may get me some w(r)istful looks, but after Simone took a 9-year old kamikaze pilot to the pedal bike, we’re in dire need of some light-hearted humour to lift our spirits…

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That ‘sprained’ wrist turned out to be broken. In two places, in fact, the radius and the tricky scaphoid. So that cast will stay on for six weeks minimum, and hopefully no more than that.

Of course, typing is a real pain with this whole situation, even though she’s lucky that it’s her left hand and not her right (mouse) hand. We immediately scoured the net for some easy solutions for one-handed typing, but most relied on dodgy software or text-prediction with half-assed dictionaries.

Luckily, Max Baker, back in 2008, had the same idea and scrounged up a super-useful AutoHotKey script for one-handed typing by a forum user known as ‘mbirth’. I have found AutoHotKey to be one of the most generally useful pieces of utility-software on the planet anyway, and it did not disappoint on this account either.

The script causes keys on the keyboard to be mirrored onto the same position on the other hand (if you’re a standard blind-typist).

Max needed something for the left hand (a nice solution if you don’t want to let go of your mouse), but of course Simone needed a right-handed solution. The script is well-written though, so it was as easy as flipping the original and mirrored key definitions around. I then figured a one-size-fits-all solution would include both left and right hand and would just flip the whole keyboard.

I like Max’ suggestion of flipping the key caps, but it’s less practical on a laptop, so a few dollars spent at a news agent and a Sharpie-scribbling session later, we managed to get around the problem of remembering key positions as well.

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Problem. Solved.

(whole solution for download here, if you need it – get AutoHotKey from their own site)

Australia as you’d imagine it

When talking about our Australian adventure, non-Australian people tend to respond with some envy and tell us how they would love to live in Australia for a while and what a great country it is. I frequently get the sense that when this happens, two things are conveniently forgotten: #1 – Australia is mindbogglingly huge and, as a result, most of it is about as far away as any typical holiday destination in Europe would be. #2 – we’re not actually on an extended holiday here, so most of the time, Australia is just a strange country with a strange culture in which we work and have our daily lives; not the wonderful beach, diving, outback and jungle experience that the word ‘Australia’ evokes in people’s minds.

However, recently we treated ourselves to a bit of exactly that and chose to ignore the distance for a bit. We headed out to the west coast, through Perth and up to Exmouth for a diving and snorkeling trip that turned out so much better than we’d hoped for. And hopes were high, because we weren’t going out there alone. My sister Trudy and her husband Eric were along for the ride – for them, this was the final leg of a long trip that took them up the east coast, including the Great Barrier Reef and this was to be the grand finale.

The Ningaloo Reef is an amazing place. Remote, relatively untouched and fairly close to the West Australia coast. Exmouth is a town of 2,200 people, although at the height of the tourist season, its population will swell to about 6,000. With a few 100 more in Coral Bay, that’s pretty much all the people in an area 200 km long and 50 km wide, with most of the reef just off its coast. Just the flight in offers views of a land that really resonates with that National Geographic stereotype of Australia we’re familiar with.

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We went diving and snorkeling on the Muiron Islands to the north of Exmouth, as well as on the Oyster Stacks to the west and in the Coral Bay, but the absolute highlight of the trip must have been our experience with the humpback whales. This is one of the very few places in the world where you can actually swim with them, something the local diving outfits are trialing for the very first time in West Australia – and we were lucky enough to be on board for a trip that had even the crew jumping for joy at the end of the day. Whales swimming underneath us, next to us and rising to the surface to greet our boat, almost inviting us to swim – we had several opportunities to literally look these wonderful creatures right in the eyes.

After all that, Trudy and Eric left and would soon after return to Europe. Between them and Simone’s parents earlier this year, that was likely the end of family and friends visiting from Europe as well – we’re out here by ourselves and just Australian friends and colleagues for some time now.

Simone and myself weren’t quite done enjoying Ningaloo though – Sail Ningaloo took us on the Shore Thing, a catamaran with a crew of two and up to eight guests. Us and four other guests were taken out onto the Indian Ocean, to parts of the reef that are too far for the day-tripping diving outfits to visit. A diving trip straight out of your dreams, 5 days and nights of every need being taken care of and just great diving on untouched sites with lots of life and variety.

Most days, Australia is just a country, where you need to work, shop for groceries and take care of everyday jobs. But every now and then, we find the time to be reminded why Australia is high on the list of countries people would like to visit. And it can really deliver, if you accept its tremendous size…

Perfect Dark

Sometimes the best things about a place are about what’s *not* there – like light pollution. http://darksitefinder.com/maps/world.html

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St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival Brisbane

It doesn’t quite feel as much like summer without a nice music festival. St. Jerome’s Laneway started out as a Melbourne affair, but has spread to all of the major Australian cities including Brisbane and features a great lineup of promising and established talent with a modern sound.

We got a chance to see Methyl Ethel, Majical Cloudz, Japanese Wallpaper, Diiv, Health, Big Scary, The Internet, Battles, Violent Soho, Grimes, Chvrches and Purity Ring.

It was great getting back (or at least closer) to that old Lowlands vibe (thank the heavens for chips in cups!). From the poppy and booming Grimes to the experimental and attention-demanding Battles. With amazing performances like the drumming in Health, Battles and Big Scary to the promising talent and enthusiasm of young acts like Methyl Ethel. And unlike Lowlands, rain is actually a welcome refresher in the Brisbane weather.

And it’s nice to be able to fit in some personal favorites like Chvrches. More so because they were virtually exploding off of the stage with a performance that takes them from promising indie band to self-assured power act. It’s a rare thing when a concert feels both personal and fun, but also energetic and larger than life.

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What stood out as typically Australian: a smoker’s section (no smoking in the concert tents); no sweets – just deep-fried and BBQ and a bit of ethnic food, but all savory; far less drunkenness, probably because of prohibitive alcohol prices; a distinct lack of weed smells; slightly more polite and generally happy looking audience; horrible Australian fashion sense extending to festival outfits, with many (too?) revealing outfits added on top for women; hotpants are back in full force; Australians clean up after themselves in daylight, but when night falls they make up for it.

Cinematic futurism in games in retrospect – Syria drone footage

The horror of this video is self-evident and though it’s impossible to ignore, it’s not what I wanted to share.

What’s interesting to me is that this montage of drone footage offers a view of an environment that’s reminiscent of video games. Not just because many video games will offer views of devastation and war unlike most of us ever seen in real life. But also because of the camera positions and mobility a drone affords.

In recent years, I sometimes got annoyed at the artificial feel of cinematic sequences in games, because they allowed the camera freedoms that were simply not achievable in reality, not without CGI. They break the suspense of disbelief and certainly don’t work for anything that’s intended to evoke a sense of realism. However, now that sentiment is flipping – some of those cinematic sequences appear simply ‘ahead of their time’, foreshadowing the cinematic acrobatics of drone-borne cameras.

Watching the (very interesting) movie “The Double” (2013) by Richard Ayoade, I got a similar sensation – many camera standpoints and the visual storytelling seem to break away from traditional cinematographic conventions and instead speak the language of the cinematic cut scene in computer games.

Have a watch and let me know what you think, anywhere.

Classic T&T

Now that we’ve had a taste, we can’t wait until it’s 19 October. And we won’t wait until then either before we pour ourselves another G&T, or T&T as the local bottle shop would have it. And thanks to the amazing Hong Lan asian supermarket for the sweet limes.

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An even more belated gin & tonic for a belated birthday party – cheers Cath! Better late than never, right? Right?!

Happy and Successful 2016!

I guess it pays to have good trade relations with the Chinese – that’s some serious fireworks you got going there, Brisbane! Happy New Year to one and all – make this one count!