Search This Blog

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Handy Windows Shortcuts

I guess you already know that if you hit CTRL + F you will get a little search box in the top righthand corner of your screen, and that the whole page -- or document -- will be conscientiously searched for the word or phrase you type into it.

There are other handy shortcuts.

Want to hurry up the YouTube video you are watching?  Or pause it?  Use the numbers on your keyboard.  Pressing 5 will take you halfway, and 9 will take you to the end.  To get to the start, press 0.  Pressing j and l will send it back and forth in ten-second bits. The "seagull" arrows (< and >) will shift it frame by frame.  

Want to lock your computer while you head off for coffee or a comfort stop?  Press the Windows key + L   This prevents malicious use of your computer while you are away, as your password is needed to get it going again.

Are you one of those people who like to liven up everything with emojis?  Pressing Windows + fullstop will bring up the emoji screen.

Want to minimize all screens at once?  Windows + M will shrink most of them.

Doing some large-scale internet browsing?  CTRL + T will bring up a new tab without the bother of moving your mouse.

A quick way to rename a file is to press F2 after clicking on the file.  Again, it saves you shifting the mouse, and is easier on the wrist.

And this is a beauty.  The print screen function can often save part of the screen that you don't want to keep.  In the past, I used to copy it to powerpoint and crop the unwanted bits.  An easier way is to press Windows + shift + S.  This creates a rectangle, which allows you take a screen shot of just the desired area.

To delete whole words, press CTRL + Backspace.

To add the date to a manuscript, press Shift + Alt + D

To add the time, press Shift + Alt + T 

Friday, January 18, 2019

Cruising on the SCARLET LADY

From Forbes Magazine

At each trumpeted reveal of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Voyagesship — Scarlet Lady, set for a splashy 2020 launch in Miami — buzz builds and thrills. From the start, blueprints for this adults-only, 2,700-passenger brainstorm-at-sea have navigated a stylish vision toward playful vibes and youthful edginess. Today's announcement delivers much-anticipated news about what some of the staterooms will look like. And, at least for the roomiest suites, the word rockstar is involved.
The RockStar Suites are located top of ship.© VIRGIN VOYAGES
Says Branson, founder of the Virgin Group: "Virgin has always avoided stuffy formalities and brought a lot of excitement and a bit of rebelliousness to our customer experiences."

Among the 78 suites total, 15 are categorized as MegaRockStar (further differentiated into Massive Suite, Fab Suite, Posh Suite and Gorgeous Suite) and the remaining 63 expansive spaces are RockStar level (again divided into Brilliant Suite, Cheeky Corner Suite, Seriously Suite and Sweet Aft Suite). Master-minded by Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studio in London, the decor embraces a retro-futurism look with Dixon's iconic architectural accents, such as iridescent dichroic glass.

A picture worth a thousand words? Check out these images:

The 570-square-foot Gorgeous Suite.© VIRGIN VOYAGES

RockStar Suites spotlight a full bar and cocktail kit — with round one complimentary. There's a vinyl turntable and premium bed linens. Plus, mood lighting, because...of course.

The suite deals feature VIP RockStar perks: a personal assistant called a RockStar Coordinator; a wardrobe team to help passengers pack and unpack; complimentary clothes pressing and nightly swimsuit-drying service; and early access to onboard entertainment and restaurants. 

The Massive Suite heralds its own music room, stocked with guitars and amplifier.© VIRGIN VOYAGES
Head even higher to the drumroll-wannabe spot: Richard’s Rooftop – a secluded, members-only club for RockStar Suites passengers.
The Massive Suite's terrace.© VIRGIN VOYAGES

The party continues al fresco on the terrace with an outdoor shower, hot tub, hammocks, circular conversation pit and step-up table in case passengers are inclined to dance atop it. (Something Branson likes to do.)

The 833-square-foot Posh Suite.© VIRGIN VOYAGES
Explains Virgin Voyages' CEO Tom McAlpin about the company's vision: "...Rebellious Luxe, which is at the intersection of luxury and a rebellious attitude that makes everything we do different, indulgent and meaningfully relevant."
The Gorgeous Suite.© VIRGIN VOYAGES

Anticipate a lot of champagne sipping, hammock hanging and dreamscape gazing.

The Cheeky Corner Suite varies in size.© VIRGIN VOYAGES
For many passengers (also known in Virgin Voyages' vernacular as sailors), nighttime will be the right time.
The 352-square-foot Seriously Suite.© VIRGIN VOYAGES

All RockStar Suites feature a European-style king bed.

The Massive Suite's marble-lavished bathroom.© VIRGIN VOYAGES
Well, would I ever want to sail on a ship like this?  Dancing on tables does not appeal, I must confess, as I would wonder about food contamination.
But then, if Mike Oldfield or Phil Collins were fellow passengers ....

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Magnetic north is moving 40km a year

From Radio New Zealand

From time immemorial, man has navigated by the stars.  Then, over two thousand years ago, someone in China discovered the lodestone, naturally magnetized iron ore.  Oddly, its north-south orientation was not used at first by seamen, but instead by builders and architects, to place buildings according to feng shui.  But then seafarers realized that if a lodestone was hung from a string, its natural orientation was a great aid for navigation.  

About 1300, compass needles -- made by striking iron needles with a lodestone -- appeared in Europe, probably adopted by Crusader sea-captains, who noticed them being used by their Islamic foes.  And so the discovery of new routes and new lands accelerated, as navigators had a means of telling the position of north.

But now, according to a RNZ report, that position is moving, rather rapidly.  The north magnetic pole has crept unpredictably from the coast of northern Canada a century ago to the middle of the Arctic Ocean, moving towards Russia.
"It's moving at about 50km a year. It didn't move much between 1900 and 1980 but it's really accelerated in the past 40 years," Ciaran Beggan, of the British Geological Survey (BGS) in Edinburgh, said.
A five-year update of the World Magnetic Model was due in 2020 but the US military requested an unprecedented early review, he said.
The BGS runs the model with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
An update will be released on 30 January, the journal Nature said, delayed from 15 January because of the US government shutdown.
Dr Beggan said the moving pole affected navigation, mainly in the Arctic Ocean north of Canada. NATO and the US and British militaries are among those using the magnetic model, as well as civilian navigators.
The wandering pole is driven by unpredictable changes in liquid iron deep inside the Earth.
"The fact that the pole is going fast makes this region more prone to large errors," said Arnaud Chulliat, a geomagnetist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and NOAA's National Centres for Environmental Information.
But Dr Beggan said the recent shifts in the north magnetic pole would be unnoticed by most people outside the Arctic, for instance those using smartphones in New York, Beijing or London.
Navigation systems in cars or phones rely on radio waves from satellites high above the Earth to pinpoint their position on the ground.
"It doesn't really affect mid or low latitudes," Dr Beggan said. "It wouldn't really affect anyone driving a car."
Many smartphones have inbuilt compasses to help to orientate maps or games such as Pokemon Go.
In most places, however, the compass would be pointing fractionally wrong, within errors allowed in the five-year models, Dr Beggan said.
- Reuters

Sunday, January 13, 2019

German WW1 submarine on French coast

From the BBC 

The wreck of a World War One German submarine is gradually resurfacing on a beach in northern France after decades of being buried in the sand.
Shifting sand off Wissant, near Calais, is exposing the remains of the UC-61 which was stranded there in July 1917.
The crew flooded the vessel and abandoned it and by the 1930s the submarine had largely been buried.
It is now becoming a tourist attraction again, although the local mayor warns it may only be a fleeting visit.
Since December, two sections of the submarine have been visible at low tide about 330ft (100m) from the dunes.
"The wreck is visible briefly every two to three years, depending on the tides and the wind that leads to sand movements, but a good gust of wind and the wreck will disappear again," said Mayor of Wissant Bernard Bracq.
However, local tour guide Vincent Schmitt believes the winds and tides could lead to even more of the UC-61 being exposed.
Wreckage of a German submarine which ran aground off the coast of Wissant in July 1917 and has resurfaced due to to sand movementsImage copyrightAFP
"All the residents of Wissant knew there was a submarine here, but the wreck is mostly silted and therefore invisible," he said.
"Pieces reappear from time to time, but this is the first time we discover so much."
German submarines, known as U-boats, targeted Allied shipping during World War One, sinking hundreds of vessels.
Historians say the UC-61 was credited with sinking at least 11 ships, either by laying mines or by firing torpedoes.
On its last journey, the submarine had left Zeebrugge in Belgium and was heading to Boulogne-sur-Mer and Le Havre to lay mines when it ran aground.
The 26 crewmen surrendered to French authorities.

The unicorn horn of the narwhal

A marvelous essay by Katherine Rundell, published in the London Review of Books

In 1584, as Ivan the Terrible lay dying, he called from his bed for his unicorn horn, a royal staff ‘garnished with verie fare diamondes, rubies, saphiers, emeralls’. Unicorn horns were believed throughout Europe to have magical curative properties; as late as 1789, a unicorn drinking horn was used to protect the French court, where it was said to sweat and change colour in the presence of poison. To prove the horn’s efficacy, Ivan ordered his physician to scratch a circle on the table with the tip of the horn, and to ‘seeke owt for som spiders’. The spiders placed within the circle curled up and died; spiders placed outside it ran away and survived. The dead spiders, though, could not console Ivan. ‘It is too laite,’ he said, ‘it will not preserve me,’ whereupon, soon afterwards, he died.
The unicorn horn was, of course, a narwhal tusk: the tooth of a small Arctic whale, which grows out through the upper lip, twisting counter-clockwise for up to 2.5 metres. Named rather ungallantly for the Old Norse word nar, meaning ‘corpse’, and hvalr, ‘whale’, after their mottled grey markings, narwhals are unicorn-like not just in their appendages, but in their elusiveness; they are one of the mammals about which we know least. They spend the winter months dodging dense pack ice, where humans cannot follow, and can swim a mile deep, twisting upside-down as they descend into pitch-black water.
A Narwhal
The great mystery of the narwhal is the purpose of its tusk. Appearing in males of about a year old, as short and thin as a little finger, it grows for nearly ten years until it’s as wide as 25 cm at the base. Herman Melville writes of the ‘nostril whale’ in Moby-Dick: ‘Some sailors tell me that the Narwhale employs it for a rake in turning over the bottom of the sea for food. Charley Coffin said it was used for an ice-piercer … But you cannot prove either of these surmises to be correct.’ He ends by suggesting it would make an excellent letter opener. Because less than 15 per cent of female narwhals have the tusk, it can’t be necessary for survival, and so, when male narwhals were observed clashing tusks it was often interpreted as rivalrous jousting. Recently, though, scientists have found that the tusk is shot through with around ten million nerve endings, and by rubbing tusks on meeting, the narwhals may be passing on information about the salinity (and therefore propensity to freeze) of the water through which they have just passed; not aggressors, then, but Mercators. The horns may also be an aid to courtship; a positive correlation has been discovered between testicle size and horn length, and the tusk may be a way for the most fertile male narwhals to advertise themselves.
The narwhal is exquisitely formed. To conserve heat, the surface area of its skin is as streamlined as possible: no ears, no lips, no eyelashes, no inconveniently extruding sexual organs; nothing to hold back the swift passage through water. As much as 40 per cent of the narwhal’s body mass can be made up of blubber, allowing it to keep a warm mammalian body temperature amid the dark floating ice. Narwhals mate in a kind of ballet; a pair will swim alongside each other for hours, skins touching, until the female twists belly up to press her body against the male. Later, when the female narwhal gives birth, an adolescent female from the pod will frequently act as nursemaid, swimming beside the mother with the calf between them to create a current that sweeps the baby along, the whale equivalent of a papoose.
The legend of the narwhal is not a gentle one. The Danish ethnologist Knud Rasmussen recorded the myths of the Inuit of Greenland’s northwestern coast in the late 19th century. In the narwhal origin myth, the cruel mother of a blind son tricks him out of his fair share of bear meat. The mother plaits and twists her hair into a long braid and the two go out to harvest passing white whales; the son binds her with ropes to one of the whales, and it drags her into the sea. According to Rasmussen, ‘she did not come back, and was changed into a narwhal … and from her the narwhals are descended.’
One of the earliest written accounts of the narwhal dates from 1577. Martin Frobisher, seaman and privateer, led an expedition to Baffin Island, where his men discovered a dead narwhal on the beach. They tested it for magic, using the same method as Ivan the Terrible:
On this West shoare we found a dead fishe floating, whiche had in his nose a horne streight and torquet, of lengthe two yardes lacking two ynches, being broken in the top, where we might perceiue it hollowe, into which some of our Saylers putting Spiders, they presently dyed. I sawe not the tryall hereof, but it was reported vnto me of a trueth: by the vertue whereof, we supposed it to be a sea Unicorne.
Triumphantly, they took the horn. They also forcibly took three Inuit from their homes: a man, Calichough; a woman, Egnock; and her child, Nutioc. All of them died soon after arriving in England. According to Moby-Dick, ‘when Sir Martin returned from that voyage … he presented to her highness a prodigious long horn of the Narwhale, which for a long period after hung in the castle at Windsor.’
This was not Elizabeth I’s only narwhal tusk. Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Walter Raleigh’s half-brother, presented her with a gem-encrusted narwhal tusk worth £10,000 (enough, at the time, to buy and staff a small castle). It was, he told her, a ‘sea-unicorn’. Gilbert’s Latin motto was Quid Non (‘Why not?’) but in this instance he probably believed himself to be truthful; unicorns, after all, appear nine times in the Bible.
Narwhals are designated ‘near threatened’. The greatest threat to their survival is climate change, which is shrinking the ice cover too quickly for them to adapt; without ice cover they will have nowhere to hide from killer whales, nowhere to feed. Narwhals communicate via a series of clicks and buzzes (higher in pitch than a humpback whale’s, less shrill than a dolphin’s); with increased shipping and industrial extraction in the Arctic, noise pollution risks rendering them inaudible and effectively mute, and thereby unable to protect and teach their young. For now, though, there are perhaps eighty thousand in existence. The Arctic is currently in its polar night. In some corner of the sunless sea, passing through waters cold and dark enough to keep us at bay, there is beauty and strangeness that rivals the unicorn.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Port Chalmers Maritime Museum

We recently went on a cruise around New Zealand.  Well, I guess it was time we saw our country from the outside, but it did mean that we knew most of the ports already.  However, we had never explored Port Chalmers, the port for the city of Dunedin, so we left the ship eager to see what we could find.

And we were immediately rewarded by the clean, charming, and very comprehensive Port Chalmers Maritime Museum, just a short walk from the wharf.

For a start, it is unique, in that it is surrounded on three sides by a working container port, Port Otago.   The building is historic in itself, being the original post office, which dates back to 1877.  And it is sited where the sailing ship John Wickliffe landed the first settlers, on 23 March 1848.

Though small, the building offers a surprising amount for the maritime enthusiast.  Immediately striking is the number of very good ship models that are grouped near the entrance.

A connecting door leads to the Pioneer Room -- originally the dining and living rooms of the resident postmaster -- which is devoted to local history, and tells some fascinating stories.

Above, is the Port Otago Gallery, housed in the mezzanine floor, which documents the history of the very busy port.

For researchers, there is the Ian Church Archives, lovingly collated by my late friend, and maritime historian, Ian Church.

As well as a collection of ships' registers, it includes family and oral histories, shipping indexes, and school and cemetery records.  There is also an electronic database. Access is by prior arrangement, by contacting one of the volunteer curators, at to make an appointment.

So it is worth visiting Port Chalmers just for the museum.  But we enjoyed exploring the picturesque village, too. 

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Helga's Cruise Ship Diary


All packed for the cruise ship - all my nicest dresses, swimsuits, short sets. Really, really exciting. Our local Ladies Bowls Club, 'The Late Bloomers' decided on this "all-girls" trip. It will be my first one - and I can't wait!


Entire day at sea, so beautiful. Saw whales and dolphins. Met the Captain today, seems like a very nice man.


At the pool today. Did some shuffleboard, hit golf balls off  the deck. The Captain invited me to join him at his table for dinner. Felt honored and had a wonderful time. He is very attractive and attentive.


Won $500 in the ship's Casino. The Captain asked me to have dinner with him in his own cabin. Had a scrumptious meal complete with caviar and champagne. He asked me to stay the night, but I declined. Told him I could not be unfaithful to my husband.


Pool again today. Got really sunburned, and I went inside for a drink at the piano-bar and to cool down; stayed there for rest of day. The Captain saw me, bought me several large drinks. He really is quite charming. Again asked me to visit his cabin for the night. Again, I declined. He told me, if I did not let him have his way with me, he would sink the ship… I was shocked.  


Today I saved 2600 lives.

Twice ...  

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Vekselburg, the Trump campaign, and a super yacht

Just over a year ago, the luxury yacht Tango, rated as #14 in its class,  slipped into Auckland, and caused whispers in the port.

As the New Zealand Herald reported, its oligarch owner, Vicktor Vekselberg, had a reputation for trying to influence American politics.  According to a story by Grant Bradley, the superyacht was understood to be owned by a Russian tycoon who once paid $100 million for the world's greatest collection of Faberge Eggs, and who has been linked to fallout in the United States presidential election.

Seventy-eight meters long, and with a crew of twenty-two, it is capable of carrying fourteen pampered guests in seven cabins, and is valued at $150,000,000 USD.  According to, The yacht Tango was built at the famous Feadship Van Lent shipyard, designed by Eidsgaard Design, and has a top speed of 22 knots. She was delivered to her owner Viktor Vekselberg  -- one of the richest men in Russia, who made a huge fortune from aluminium and oil -- in 2011.

Well, it was November 2017 when she glided into Auckland with no fanfare at all, having motored there from Fiji.  And at once the whispers began.  As the news story continued, ABC News in the US had quoted one expert on oligarchs as saying there was good reason to probe the role Vekselberg and another billionaire may have played in the 2016 election, given what he says was "a continuous relationship of these oligarchs with Kremlin and security services".

Vekselberg also reportedly donated to Hillary Clinton's election campaign.  It was boasting about his ties to Trump, however, that proved his downfall, costing him billions.
As Bloomberg reveals,  "Not long after Michael Cohen stopped pursuing a Trump-branded property project in Moscow, another Russian connection to the future U.S. president’s entourage started to form.
"Like the real estate plan, it didn’t end well—particularly for Russian tycoon Viktor Vekselberg. His effort to engage in statecraft at the highest level unraveled spectacularly, costing him billions, cleaving his family and severing the extensive ties to the U.S. elite that turned him into what one Moscow newspaper called the “most American” of Vladimir Putin’s plutocrats.
"This saga, much of it previously unreported, began with a chance encounter between Cohen, Trump’s now-disgraced former lawyer, and Vekselberg’s American cousin, Andrew Intrater, in the fall of 2016. Soon, Trump would be in the White House and Vekselberg would be privately boasting of having the pull needed to help achieve the sanctions relief the Kremlin was craving, people familiar with the matter said. Instead, he became the richest victim of the most dangerous standoff between the U.S. and Russia since the Cold War.
"The story of Vekselberg’s fall from grace in the U.S., where his American grandchildren, Yale-educated children and wife all live, is based on interviews with more than a dozen people in the billionaire’s orbit in both countries. The optimism about the future of bilateral relations that the one-time oil magnate expressed as recently as a year ago has given way to bouts of occasional public melancholy.
"Through much of 2017, as the nascent Trump administration navigated controversies of its own making, Vekselberg was giving Russian officials and fellow businessmen vague yet certain assurances about his influence in the White House, according to six people who interacted with him at the time. He’d attended Trump’s swearing-in ceremony in Washington as a guest of Intrater, who’d donated $250,000 to the inaugural committee, and come back with a newfound sense of clout, they said.
"Vekselberg’s spokesman in Moscow, Andrey Shtorkh,said the billionaire never tried to be a go-between on the sanctions issue. “Vekselberg has not and could not have offered anyone his help to resolve sanctions,” he said by email late Thursday. “He has no ability to do so.”
 "Shortly after being grilled in New York in March as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s election-meddling probe, Vekselberg and the younger, brasher aluminum baron Oleg Deripaska (owner of super-yacht Queen K) were slapped with sanctions over Putin’s “malign activities.” Vekselberg has since lost about $3 billion of his-now $13.4 billion fortune, mainly due to declines in the market values of his minority stakes in Swiss industrial companies and Deripaska’s Rusal. And that doesn’t count the estimated $2 billion or more of stocks and cash that have been frozen or tied up in banks as a result of the U.S. penalties...."