Saturday, 15 July 2017

My Adventures With An Old Samsung S4 Mini lte, a Custom Lineage Rom & GApps



How I Restarted the gapps Wizard (or side stepped him at least) & Honoured Dead Monkeys 


Disclaimer
This is only for Techie Geeks & specifically Android Geeks. If Google brought you here to find a possible solution to "Unfortunately Setup Wizard has stopped working" or "gapps setup wizard has stopped" then just read the last couple of paragraphs. The stuff inbetween is just me ranting.


Installing ROMS is Fun. When it Works



After 3 days of insanity and madness I have finally & successfully installed the latest Lineage Nougat rom on an old Samsung S4 mini (GT-I9195T) including and this is the amazing part the gapps pico package. Dun dun durrrrrn!

HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!


No, no, no, I am not going to list every download and instruction as to how I did it (there are thousands of such pages already), I am, however, going to tell you the hurdle(s) I hit and how I eventually solved it(them)

Now remember, if this helps you then I have saved you about 3 days of frustration, self doubt and sunlight, so please leave a comment and say thanks :-) Be nice.

Let Me Set The Scene


Rather than spend $100 on a basic GPS unit with speed alerts I want to use an old phone with a next to free Sygic speed app to tell me to slow down so I stop getting speeding tickets. As you may know I covered this here: How To Avoid Speeding Tickets.

Specifically I want to use an old Samsung Mini S4 I have lying around doing nothing. Suspecting many monkeys died in the building of the phone I figure it best to recycle and reuse. Also the phone is small which means it will work very well with my Heads Up Display attachment I have in the car (I know I haven't mentioned this yet!!! Relax, it will come soon)

Also, the S4 currently has the original Telstra/Samsung android version on it. I will get enormous satisfaction from removing it. More reward than is perhaps reasonable. However, the world doesn't need botched & vandalised android systems like this, and one less in the world will make everyone just a bit happier. The monkeys deserve to have proper software on the hardware they died for.

The Easier Part: Installing the ROM


I've now managed to install quite a few roms on a number of different phones and it's never been an issue. I started off with cyanogenmod on my Oneplus One (having bought a chinese grey version since Oneplus didn't, and still don't, sell in my country! installed with a undecipherable Chinese OS) and was so impressed it became a bit of a norm.

So after installing the TRWP recovery and the latest 7.1.2 lineage rom onto the S4 Iwas all optimistic and excitedly looking forward to imently heating the speed warnings blurting from my cars bluetooth speakers again.

The Hard Part: gapps


I then installed gapps. This is where the issues started. This was the beginning of the 3 days that I lost and will never get back. I would like to take this chance to apologise to family and friends for ignoring them. I didn't ignore you purposely. It was because I was busy. I was always 10 seconds away from finishing. It just so happened the 10 seconds didn't get any shorter. For three days.

But I did it in the end!

Unfortunately Setup Wizard has stopped working


SO I flashed gapps, rebooted and after waiting for longer than expected arrived at an alert:

"Unfortunately Setup Wizard has stopped working"

or was it this one?:

"gapps setup wizard has stopped"

Even though I spent 3 days staring at them I couldn't tell you which one displayed when. I just know they both haunted me.

No matter how many times I wiped the dalvik cache.
No matter which order I installed the zips.
No matter how many times I did or did not reboot inbetween steps

I could not get passed these errors.

I must have read every god dam post on how to solve this issue all to no avail. I even learnt how to run bash scripts on the phone from my pc to apply Android permissions to Google Services. It was very impressive and made me feel wholly enlightened. It did nothing the stop the errors though. Nada, nyet, zilch.

Until I Tried Something Different


As randomly as a monkey with a 1000 years to spare, I tried something a little different. Something I haven't done before. Something so cunning you could brush your teeth with it.

Actually it was fairly straight forward and I should I thought of it earlier.

I checked the internet so see if a later version of TRWP existed. It did. So I downloaded it, installed it, re-installed the lineage rom, re-installed gapps and everything worked as it should have 3 days ago.

Dam!

Summary


To install
[Official] Download LineageOS Galaxy S4 Mini (Intl) (Serranoltexx) Marshmallow
on a
Samsung S4 Mini lte GT-I9195T
with gapps
ARM 7.1 pico

Ensure you are using TRWP version
3.0.2-1 
(I got mine from here androidfilehost)
and not
2.8.3



I learnt tons of crap I wish I didn't have to in order to get this to work. So if you have any questions please feel free to ask and I would love to help if I can......

Also maybe read this twrp 3 has arrived

Friday, 14 July 2017

Proofide: Protect your ID when using Android Pay

"Apart from the mess it will make in my handbag I want some!"

Recently bought some proofide (Proof-ID-e) for my new leather bike seat (helps with the spondylosis). The Mrs was quite interested when it arrived and wanted to know what it was and whether she needed it too.

You won't believe what I told her, although she did!!!!!

OMG! I actually believed him! Although I was concerned about the mess it would make in my handbag!

Posted by Bernadette Vella on Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Psoriatic Arthritis: To You I Look Normal


relaxing female in water


A look of puzzlement
For my whingy life
Far less patience
For self made strife

The look is daily
From Christmas to next
Why is it you ask
Why I am so vexed

Judged as normal
Through those"expert" eyes
The wonder is what has made me
Come out with all my lies

Judgments are daily
Friends and strangers tease
Sticks and stones wont hurt me
Unlike my invisible disease

The ding of a hammer
King hit on my toe
The pain sings loudly
I wish it would go

The hammer hits daily
From dawn till dusk
I don't greet it kindly
I wish for mere brusk

The end of a run
A marathon this time
My ankles throb painfully
I so wish they weren't mine

I run these jaunts daily
Each and every day
It should make me healthy
But health is at bay

The sound of a drill
Attacking my knee
Spinning metal on bone
The pain make me pee

My drilling is daily
It's not going to stop
My knee complains loudly
I'm gonna give it the chop

A fall from a ledge
Concrete meets bum
I've only just sat down
I wish it were numb

I fall almost daily
It's just what I do
My bum gets weary
Yours would too

The door slams shut
My fingers scream loud
All this as I type 
I hope you are proud

The doors slam daily
You'd know this by now
I wish this on noone
Even on thou

I hang for my life
Aching arms can not hold
Apparently it's normal
I'm not quite so sold

Hanging is daily
From impossible places
No logic or reason
There is no real basis

The furnace roars brightly
And continues to burn
No water can stop this
A freezer I yearn

The furnace burns daily
Without it we'd die
But for me and my pains
I wish it were a lie

I've been awake for a week
Or so I often think
It's only just morning
Already on the brink

The napping is daily
Ever so formal
But what would you know
To you I look normal



Thank you for reading.


Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Life & Chronic Pain Recipe







This family mix creates a painful, thick gravy that's fun-free. Perfect for a quick end to the night where you don't have any choice or fun.


INGREDIENTS:

  • Loving partner
  • House in the city
  • Kids
  • Couple of K9s
  • Well paid Job
  • Netflix
  • Nice car
  • Any chronic pain disease


METHOD
Step 1
Combine some teenage years, innocence and a mix of random best friends in a medium sized High School. Slowly stir in 1⁄2 cup, maybe even 1/4 cup, of curriculum until a smooth further education forms.

Step 2
Heat the brain gently and add any first job you can find over medium-low heat. Add some new friends and a really old boss. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 2 years. 

Step 3
Now stir in at least one partner, or as many as you can handle, and leave for another 5 years or so. Once its cooked down to a single partner add some spice and turn up the heat for a further 1 to 2 years, or until new 'yous' have formed. Quickly add a K9 and any car you can find so long as it's a station wagon.

Step 4
Now wait for your pain disease, if any to form...

Step 5
Depending on the wind and the stars, you may have to add some medicine to combat any pain that may have formed. You'll know if it appears because you'll be withdrawn, uninterested and different.

Step 6 
Invite some experts to add to the pot. At this point you'll have to walk away from the kitchen all together and trust the new cooks. Your guests wont mind as they have probably left.

Step 7
Return to the kitchen and remove the lid. Your dish will look different, however it should be a flat, luke warm, with an inquisitive yet foul aroma of old people and a faint whiff of death. The heat should have been removed years ago so feel confident it will soon be permanently cold.

Step 8
Serve your dish to any remaining guests with a blank stare and a faint memory of hope.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Football In Cider

There's a new blog in town!

Football In Cider

It seems to be betting Dumplings on football matches from around the world. I wonder why?

Actually, it's my new blog. I'm resurrecting an old computer program I wrote to predict football matches. I thought I might see if I can get a result, pun intended.

It's early days, but the plan is to have a dam good crack at predicting a football match by using all the free information from the internet. I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Crucial Conversations

Crucial Conversations

I recently read a book called crucial conversations

This was the first time I realised I could use a simple strategy in conversations to get results. 

I loved it. 

The impact was immediate. My confidence grew overnight. What were once locked up frustrations quickly became excellent ideas resulting in pats on the back. The positive changes were at work and at home.

This book is a must read for everyone. 

I mentioned all this to a friend at work. He asked me to present my enthusiasm at one of our xTalks. xTalk is our company equiavelent to TED talks. I was flattered and obviously took him up on the offer.

In the talk I used freemind (a mind map tool) and Visual Studio Workflow to help demonstrate how the book's strategies helps with the dynamics of a crucial conversation.

I hope you enjoy it!


The cover of the book Crucial Conversations
p.s. I have no commercial interest in the book btw, but I must credit the authors and the training company that helps people worldwide to use this invaluable skills. Check out their web site here https://www.vitalsmarts.com/











Sunday, 20 March 2016

Metropolitan Division Toastmasters 2015-2016 Conference

Today was my first Division Toastmasters Conference. I had no idea what to expect. If I am truly honest I hadn't really thought about it too much. I wasn't competing. I wasn't helping. I was simply going because life has taught me to say "Yes" before engaging brain. A practice that has resulted in so much fun, and today proved to be up there with the best of them!


Metropolitan 2015 2016 Division Toastmasters Conference
Metropolitan 2015 2016 Division Toastmasters Conference
An 8:30 am start on a Saturday morning made me rethink my life lessons. Fortunately for my brain I only had to be there physically and not cognitively. Others will testify, my brain was still fast asleep on arrival, blissfully unaware I had scheduled in a serious conversation about adding a 'Get Out' clause for any activity beginning before noon on a weekend.

A conversation that was quickly kicked off the agenda by the big mighty boots of our friends Inspiration, Courage and Wisdom. Where else can you get so close to so many amazingly skilled people who face fear in the eye, stand up as tall as a poppy and put their hearts and souls on the line for all of us to do with as we please? In return, we, the collective audience of so many wonderful individuals, put out our caring, helping hands to support and nurture everyone and anyone. Inspiration. Courage. Wisdom! 

Having just read the book Crucial Conversations, which declares 9 out of 10 issues in your life at home or at work can be resolved by a crucial conversation, I was all the more aware of the challenges, choices & courage everyone was willingly putting themselves up against in order to better themselves. I take my hat off to you all.

By learning to listen & speak to one or many people with thought, skill and patience we can all get better at achieving our desired results in life. It's as simple as that. I haven't met anyone who still doesn't have a lot to learn. I have however, at today's wonderful Conference met many good people who are putting their everything to do exactly this. People who want to be better leaders, better spouses, better business people, better volunteers. Being better at communicating under pressure is the best thing anyone can to do to be better at everything else.

I spent from 8:30 am until 5 pm listening to speeches on a Saturday. Let's be honest, on paper this appears painful, mundane and something to avoid at all costs! How so very wrong paper can be! The day was inspiring, educating & rewarding.

Towards the end of the day I found myself wondering why every man and his dog wasn't queuing to be in attendance.  Not just to the Conference, but to Toastmasters in general. It costs me $55 every 6 months, plus $5 each time I attend. For this I get skilled help, support and all the positive encouragement I need to overcome some very personal challenges. I get to make mistakes with no consequence. I get to practice skills I didn't know existed. I get to learn that I can succeed despite once 'knowing' I could only fail.

I left with an overwhelming desire to bring my family and friends along to the next Conference. Come and see how to be happy! However, I am all too aware that everyone must decide for themselves. The people at this conference were there because they wanted to be there. None were there because their friend wanted them to be there. It is for this reason that I found myself overwhelmed with inspiration, courage and wisdom.

Thank you to all the volunteers and to each and everyone involved!

What a fun and rewarding day!


The best of the best!


This article first appeared here: Boyd Park Toastmasters Club

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Surface Pro 4 Versus $99 Pendo Tablet

A picture of a Pendo Tablet
Pendo Tablet
A picture of a surface pro 4 with its keyboard
Surface Pro 4


In the red corner we have a brand new $2750 Surface Pro 4. In the blue corner we have a brand new $99 Pendo 10" tablet. In this David versus Goliath battle can a tablet nearly 30 times cheaper really compete?







Acquired for very different purposes we realised there was in fact an overlap of uses and we wanted to see which one was best.

The SP4's main use was for Photo Shop & Illustrator. It is a (very nearly) top of the range i7 with 8Mb RAM. It handles Photo Shop with ease and has helped produce some pretty dam awesome drawings & photos.

The Pendo was intended use for browsing the internet, checking emails and watching TV shows on Netflix.

Both do their respective jobs well.

At first glance the SP4 does everything the Pendo does but better. No argument there. But the Pendo has one major card up its sleeve; Could it be the Ace of Spades!

Do you remember when you had your first car? After the initial honeymoon period, once the adoration had settled, you drove that car everywhere & anywhere. You were able to park that car outside your friends house, have more drinks than humanely possibly, somehow avoid being arrested and wake up on a sofa belonging to a strange bearded man claiming to be your soul mate. All this without giving one thought to your poor car left behind in the dodgy area of town displaying a virtual sign reading "Please take me! I'm abandoned and lonely".

But no one took your car.

Why not? It worked. It did its job as well as any other car. The reason no one took your car was because it had the sex appeal of dead rat. You had to drive that thing the long way around hills as to avoid being overtaken by a cluster of sloths.

But let's not get too hard on the old banger. Did it get you to your mates house most times? Yes. Did it give you independence from your parents? Yes. Did it give you a worry free night? Of course, and your new soul mate agreed whole-heartedly.

Now imagine your same teenage self driving a Ferrari, or a new Porsche. You drive to your friends house, in the dodgy area of town. Seriously, are you really going to leave it there? Overnight!!! No way!!!!! It wont be there when you get back. It wouldn't be there if you turned away for 5 minutes! Your friend is now upset with you because you are focused on the car and not the night ahead. Truth is, you are so worried about your car that the last thing you want to do is relax and have fun. You decide not to drink, you know you will be stopped and breathalyzed later; who would be driving a Ferrari in that part of town. Dam! You just remembered you left it under a tree. Bird droppings! Acidic bird droppings! Can you take a Ferrari through a car wash? Now you know how Ferris Bueller felt!

There is a place for the Pendo. It's not quite disposable, but not far from it. It does it's job like a "trusty" old Ford Fiesta. There's absolutely nothing sexy about it, but on most occasions it will get you from A to B, and you can park it at B without the slightest of concern. The chances are, if it's not there when you get back, someone will lend you their old one anyway, and they probably wont want it back.

When you are travelling, in unfamiliar public areas, on public transport, at the pub or in a taxi and you have other things on your mind, which tablet do you reach for?

More often than you would think, the winner is the $99 Pendo.

Yes. We used the Pendo rather than the SP4 on many occasions. We have used it a lot. Not only that, we have enjoyed using it. Some may complain it is slow. Some may say it has pixels bigger than an Elf in Lapland, but the Pendo has a place in our hearts and in our bags.

The big discovery and realisation to surface from this unlikely battle however, was not that the Pendo could replace an SP4, but that it was used so often at the same time as the SP4. Often we had both devices in front of us, plus a phone (or 2). Photo Shop running like a dream on the SP4, Tidal on the Pendo doing a sterling job bluetoothed to the amp. Business app on one, Social on the other. One device can do it all, but two devices, two screens, makes it so much less fuss.

We are so glad we invested the $99 on a cheap tablet. It was worth every dollar and then some. The only question that remains is, should we invest again!


Sunday, 14 February 2016

Returning to Work: 3 Week Review

Back to Work


So I have had some time off work due to sickness. I wrote about my return here. Well that was my first day. I thought it would be helpful to share my thoughts now that it has been 3 weeks.

A picture of an arm wrestle representing the challenges of getting back to work
Challenges Of Work

Back to Work Plan

I have only returned part time. This is part of my Back To Work Plan that was set up by myself, my doctor, my works HR department and a representative from my insurance company.

The Back To Work Plan is quite simple. It states that I will return on a 3 day a week basis for 4 weeks and then be reviewed to see if we can up the time to 4 or maybe 5 days a week. The plan can also include any ergonomic requirements I have.

Fortunately the company I work for are very helpful. I hope this is because they appreciate that, although I have been sick, my main purpose for being at work is the same as the companies, which is to ensure the customers get the best product they could wish for whilst making a tidy profit at the same time.

Long Lunch Breaks At The Gym


I asked work if I could take a longer lunch break so I could go to the gym every day. Absolutely was the answer, providing I still work my hours and do not impact a client. Working my hours and not impacting a client is not going to be a problem, so 120 minute lunch time gym sessions are on the agenda!

120 minutes the Gym! How long do you need! Ok, here is the breakdown, as advised and agreed upon by my Physio Therapist, my Exercise Therapist and my Psychologist

Daily Gym Routine


  • 20 Minute Meditation
  • 5 Minute Warm Up on Cyclic Trainer
  • Alternate daily between:
    • 30 to 45 minute Interval Training (Cardio)
    • 40 Minute Weights (Following the personalised and regularly updated plan)
  • 40 minute Stretching
With 15 minutes to get there and back and get changed the 2 hours is quickly all gone.

So this fits in perfectly with my new life managing my arthritis, but how doe it affect the company I work for?

If I have a meeting or any work commitment in the 2 hour lunch time, I either move my gym time or I do not go. Not going simply means I have to make time in the evening.

When I get back from the Gym I am excited, keen, happy and raring to go. I'm on a high. I am ready to face the world and win.

Gym Results


I have managed to go to the gym 3 times so far (having worked 8 days). On these 3 days I achieved more after lunch on the days I didn't go. Do I have evidence to back this up? Of course not! I am too busy working. Do my colleagues and bosses agree that a 2 hour gym session is in their interest? I think they do. I think they realise that I still work my hours and that I am far less tired during those hours.

Returning To Work Issues


Returning to work wasn't totally a breeze though. On my first day, when I got home I fell asleep in the hallway. I was mentally exhausted. The nerves of the first day, the anticipation of colleagues reactions and a desire to impress all took its toll on me. 

The days that followed were no different. I was exhausted. Really exhausted. Some days I was asleep by 7 pm having not eaten dinner and leaving my kids to fend for themselves.

It wasn't helped that I caught a cold within days of returning too. Fortunately I managed not to take any time off sick as I was at my worst on a very long weekend. Panadol, Lemsips and Strepsols to the rescue.

I am very wary of this exhaustion. It may sound feeble to those that work hard without hitting these walls, however, to me I am not imagining them, and because I am pushing myself so hard I am bound to hit them. What is important is how I respond and pace myself so that I maintain the strength to keep climbing them rather than collapsing at the bottom and never moving again.

Pain


My pain was also initially worse and it seems to go in fortnightly cycles these days. The first week was terrible, but I have been ok since. Cross fingers it will remain ok for a lot longer. I am hoping pain is a past problem.

Returning to Work Summary


So all in all a success. I am enjoying work immensely. I am tired, very tired and I feel stretched to my limits emotionally, however with the help of the doctors and specialist and a company that is willing fit around me to a large extent, I think the future looks good. 

I am actually glad to be back at work!




TrackR Review

TrackR To The Rescue!


Update 14/3/2017 Unfortunately I have to admit I haven't been using any of my TrackRs. First if all I had trouble connecting using Bluetooth. I had a oneplus one and maybe the compatibility wasn't tested with this phone. Either way the result was that I never used TrackR to find anything. After 6 months the battery's all died. I did replace them, but with the connection issues it all fizzled out. I so wish they worked.

I finally had to buy some TrackR devices. I was forced to simply because my memory isn't what it use to be. Quite what it use to be I can't fully remember, but I'm sure it used to be fine without the help of TrackR.

This is an image of a TrackR device.
A TrackR

What Is A TrackR You Ask? 

A TrackR is a device the size of a large coin that allows you to locate it with your phone. How it works is actually quite simple: The TrackR constantly tries to connect to any smartphone that has the TrackR app running. If it connects then it updates its location to the TrackR servers on the internet. As the owner of the TrackR device you can then look up its last known location at any time.

Also, if your TrackR app is connected via Bluetooth to your registered TrackR then you receive a rough gauge of how near it is.

Make sense? I hope so.

Why Did I Choose TrackR? 

Simple. It has a replaceable battery. The main alternative to TrackR has an un-replaceable battery meaning you have to buy a new device every year. It's a cunning subscription model to keep you coming back with your money every year. I'd prefer to pay a one off charge and have a lifetime usage. Also, TrackR is pushing hard to sell its products knowing that market dominance is worth everything in what will prove to be another Betamax versus VHS battle where critical mass beats all others before it, including technical competence.

I was asked by TrackR to write a quick review on Amazon in return for a free device. However it hasn't been published as yet and I also haven't received a parcel on the post. Early days.

From memory I titled the review "Not Perfect But A Must Have". This still seems to be an appropriate summation.

So What Does The TrackR Do Well?

TrackR's tracks your belongings! Attach it to your keyring and you will know where your keyring was, when it last connected to a smartphone running the TrackR app. A tricky concept to understand?It is important you do understand this so you know what you are, and what you are not, buying. Reading reviews on Amazon it appears many customers did not appreciate the subtle workings of TrackR before they bought, so let's make it clear:

How Does a TrackR Work?

Let's make this clear. TrackR devices do not have a connection to the internet. They can not communicate with you without help. That help comes in the form of a Smartphone. For a TrackR to talk to you, it must connect to a Smartphone running the TrackR app via Bluetooth.

I'm not sure it can be put any simpler than that. If you still don't get it, then maybe wait another year or two until 'connected' devices are available.

So what else do they do well other than  (sort of) track your belongings? Lets be as brief as possible here and have a list so we can keep this as succinct as possible:

  • They have a simple and easy to use app (to a degree)
  • They work even when they get wet (to a degree)
  • They attach to your property well (to a degree)
  • They are reliable (to a degree)
  • They have a long battery life (to a degree)
Why all the " (to a degree)"'s? Well, it is very subjective. I think TrackR's are reliable, however I bought 10 and one of them keeps randomly sounding its alarm. Am I bothered? (bovered!) not really as I haven't had time to figure out whether it is me or the device playing up. Maybe I have set it up incorrectly? Should I have to find time to do this for a simple product? No I shouldn't! However when I contacted support they were very helpful and honest, which calmed me down and gave us all time to concentrate on the working 9 rather than the bad apple demanding all the attention!

It is easy to see that using a tracking device is not as simple as one may think. All of a sudden there are requirements coming out of every nook and cranny! 
  • What happens to my TrackR in the wet? 
  • Will my TrackR get too hot in the car? 
  • Will my TrackR fall off the device I attached it to? 
  • Can I hide my TrackR so it wont get taken off and used by someone else? 
  • Will my TrackR work in the snow? 
  • Does my TrackR have an alarm on it? 
  • Can I swim with my TrackR?
  • Is the alarm loud enough? 
  • Will the alarm go off randomly?
  • Can I get a TrackR in pink? 
  • What happens if my dog sits on my TrackR? 
  • Will my baby swallow my TrackR and die? ... .... ..... 

Everyone will have different needs. 

TrackR Location Accuracy


One last point, one last very important point actually,  the accuracy and granularity of the TrackR reported location is rough. It uses Bluetooth so the accuracy is limited to the ability of a smartphone to detect the strength of a Bluetooth signal. Currently this is about 5 m to 10 m. A good way to put this is that you will know that your lost item is in your house, but you wont know which room it is in.

TrackR Atlas


TrackR are bring out a solution to help with the accuracy: TrackR Atlas. Atlas is a device you can plug into a room which will let you know whether or not your lost device is in that room. Currently in the pre-order stage we are yet to get hands on.

My Initial feelings is that many customers already expect this functionality before having to fork out for another product. With the additional cost, and complications of an additional product I think most people will be exhausted and frustrated before they consider forking out even more for Atlas.

My personal view is that there mus be a simpler solution out there somewhere and if TrackR don't discover it someone else will. Maybe there's a gap in the market to be exploited here!

All in all the TrackR is not perfect but it is still a must have.

Thank you for reading.

Friday, 29 January 2016

First Day Back At Work After A Year Off Sick



Having been off work sick for nearly a year I had been rather anxious about returning. What would my colleagues say? What would they think of me having time off whist they worked? Would I suffer from missing out on recent work? Would I be demoted?

The ultimate question I was worried about was: Would my desk be in urinal number 3, the one that everyone avoids for unspeakable reasons?

It came to that time when I found myself waiting at the elevator to take me up to the office. I was about to step into the unknown.

A large open plan office stretching out for a long way
Walk of Shame


Wondering into an open plan office where you have no desk, no meeting location and no knowledge of where anyone sits is always going to be a little bit awkward. There wasn't a receptionist to greet me. I just had to slowly meander pretending I had somewhere to go. I was very conscious that I was neither new nor old, just totally clueless. Fortunately for me, everyone in the office was extremely busy, which allowed me an uneventful entrance. No staring. No sudden silence. No heads turning in surprise. I just walked slowly but purposely until I saw a familiar face.

A woman working in an office
Back to Work

Awkward? Yes, However, after 15 minutes I was chatting to old friends as if I had only seen them yesterday. It turns out people are much too busy to waste time thinking about my time off. Some colleagues were so busy they weren't even sure if I had been away! They suspected something was different, but they weren't too sure. "Oh you've had sick leave, are you feeling better now? Splendid".

There is currently a costly government advert (below) on television showing an injured tradesman returning to work after a period of absence. We see his work mates patting him on the back and welcoming him with smiles form ear to ear. It is major cringe material and I can't imagine for one second it will motivate a single sick person to return a day earlier. However, I have to admit my back to work day was similar in concept (minus big cheesy smiles)



For the record I was given a desk a good distance from the latrines








Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Google Nexus 6P (Huawei Nexus 6P)

Google Nexus 6P (Huawei Nexus 6P)

Question: Guess what Costco had on sale for $800 AUD?

Answer: Nexus 6P (64 Gb Unlocked!)


Bought and unboxed in a flash! 

Here is a quick 6 minute video showing:
  • Unboxing
  • All box contents
  • Finding Sim Card
  • Setting up Marshmallow
  • Setting up accounts copying from old phone
  • Upgrading to Android Marshmallow 6.0.1

In my opinion the Nexus 6P is currently the best phone on the market. However the price has always been a show stopper. However at $800 for the 64Gb version it has to be worth considering.

Shot using KineMaster on a OnePlus 2, I hope you enjoy it!





Here is a quick run down of the specs for the Nexus 6P:

Display          Size 5.7 inches (~71.4% screen-to-body ratio)
Display          AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Resolution 1440 x 2560 pixels (~518 ppi pixel density)
Protection Corning Gorilla Glass 4, oleophobic coating
OS     Android OS, v6.0 (Marshmallow)
Chipset Qualcomm MSM8994 Snapdragon 810
CPU   Quad-core 1.55 GHz Cortex-A53 & Quad-core 2.0 GHz Cortex-A57
GPU   Adreno 430
Memory        32/64/128 GB, 3 GB RAM
Camera         12.3 MP, f/2.0, laser autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash
Video 2160p@30fps, 720p@240fps
Camera front 8 MP, f/2.4, 1080p@30fps
Battery          Non-removable Li-Po 3450 mAh battery
Features       Fingerprint, accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer
WLan   Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, hotspot
Bluetooth  v4.2, A2DP, LE
GPS Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS
NFC Yes
USB v2.0, Type-C 1.0 reversible connector
Colors Aluminium, Graphite, Frost


Saturday, 26 December 2015

What is it with Teenagers?



Teenagers. Often thought of as:
Threatening
Evil
Eejits
Non compos mentis
Abusive
Gruff
Edgy
Rude
Strange

However, after writing this The best ever Christmas present and it cost nothing
And reading this Inspirational Irish teens STUN homeless people with wonderful Christmas gifts
It turns out Teenagers have a heart to help:
Team Players
Enthusiastic
Ernest
Nice
Altruistic
Gifting
Eleemosynary
Responsible
Supportive

Teenagers on the Town


BTW: What a great word eleemosynary is. Check it out on our big words page.

Friday, 25 December 2015

The best ever Christmas present and it cost nothing

Do you remember about the Christmas hamper volunteering? Well we spent the last two days packing and delivering hampers to those that currently are in need of a bit of help.

I say 'we' because I went with my son. I originally only volunteered myself as I thought the kids would be with the Ex, however, when I was about to go it so happened my son was tucked away in his room for what was maybe his 20th consecutive hour of gaming on his computer.

I thought I would interupt and ask if he would like to join me.


My son has the kindest of hearts, but he is the laziest 14 year old you have ever met. Did you read my Guinea pig post? He struggles occasionally with motivation and was recently suspended from school ultimately because he was bored and started causing mischief. So I wasn't expecting much of a conversation. Anything more than a grunt would be a bonus.

"Hey I'm going now,  to the hamper homeless place. Do you want to come with me,  and help?  We'll have fun. "

Eye contact was yet to happen. He was wearing headphones and still moving his character on whatever game he was playing. I had at least been graced with the muting of his microphone ensuring his friends wouldn't be entertained by hearing his embarrassing parent.

After a thoughtful pause he replied

"no. "

Well I wasn't expecting any other answer to be honest.

So I thought I would try one last attempt. I was running late,  as always, so I couldn't spend too long trying.

In short I told him that he could play games all holidays. He could talk to his friends at any time. However he has only one chance a year to help people that have not had the best of luck and would appreciate some true Christmas spirit.

To my surprise he said "Ok then. " and then got up and got into the car.

Wow.

I know that volunteering your time gives back more than money could ever buy. I have volunteered a few times in my life and I still get benefit from the eternal proper good volunteering vibes you get for free. Yet  it was still with surprise that I had just received the best Christmas present I could ever ever wish for. It wasn't even yet Christmas, I hadn't even left to do the volunteering and yet this present from my son was the best!

My, what I thought was a,  lazy son that barely manages to mutter more than a grunt to me in most conversations, and has a bedroom messier than a Neighbours love plot was actually giving up his gaming time to help unknown homeless people for absolutely nothing in return.

Thank you son.

When you push yourself to do things outside your comfort zone that are aligned with your own values you will be rewarded in the most unlikely of ways.

Summing up, we had a great couple of days. A mini Road trip with lots of bonding and an abundance of feel good Christmas vibes. I hope the recipients of the hampers got at least a hundredth of the happiness we got from giving them.

Here are some pictures of us packing hampers, at Micah Projects in action.








Monday, 21 December 2015

Child Support Agency (CSA) Empirical Financial Facts


Calling All P*ssed Off Child Support Payers


Do you pay CSA? Does it make you fume? Does it really p*ss you off?

I have had many different custody arrangements over the last 16 years. I have never received any CSA payments. Sometimes I have had to pay around $1100 a month whilst having 50/50 care. Sometimes I have had full time custody and received nothing. I've been through the lot and I would like to share some of my financial details to show just how expensive it is to raise kids.

I want to appeal to CSA paying parents that find it difficult to come to terms with the "non user pays" system that is CSA. I am not going to talk or comment about CSA. It is what it is, However what I am going to do is point out how much children cost by using records from my own budget.

Paying CSA is not pleasant


When I was paying $1100 a month to CSA I also had 50/50 care of my kids. I was paying this amount because I was earning a reasonable amount more than the Ex. Lucky me. In my opinion, and I know its not the Ex's opinion, I was not only paying CSA, but in addition I was also paying the bulk of the kids expenses.

(If you are reading this dear Ex, it's just a blog, and it was a long time ago, my opinion matters for nothing)

Paying CSA Brings You Down


I was pretty miffed. Actually I was quite emotional about it all. I couldn't really accept that it was so unfair. I had to pay, often twice in my opinion, and the kids sometimes still went without! However, looking back, I was lucky that I didn't react on this emotion. Unfortunately I would sometimes lose some control when talking to the Ex and I regret this, however generally I continued to ensure that the kids were put first. Looking back now I get so much reward knowing I did my best to sincerely put the kids before myself.

It's important to put the kids first.

Sometimes we all struggle to realise what putting the kids first means. All of us are essentially trying to do our best to survive in what can be a very challenging environment.


Finance Facts


In an attempt to help reduce angst for other CSA paying parents and help everyone to put their kids first I would like to reveal how much money I have spent on my kids. Please note that I am one of the most frugal people you have ever met (this is why I have records of all my expenditure going back 20 years!). I do not like wasting money. However, I do believe I have always ensured my kids have received everything they have needed.

Lets cut to the facts of finance:

Below you will find two pictures of my kids specific budgets for 2005 and 2015.

These budgets cover the expenses I paid for 2 children whilst attending state schools in Australia. To cover myself I have changed and swapped some figures and details so that if you happen to know me you won't have any evidence to frame me. Revealing financial details on the internet isn't a good idea, however the fundamentals remain intact.

All items have been adjusted to be specific to kids costs only. E.g the Petrol cost is only the petrol spent taking kids to and from kids events.

I am only including monthly cash items in the budgets. There are a few one off items missing. For example, mortgage or rent, but also smaller things like braces. Braces will cost anywhere from $7,000 to $15,000. Some holidays are missing too, such as trips to Perth & Darwin for the kids inter state sport events. This budget only includes regular month to month expenses.


2005 Budget


During the 2005 period I had 50/50 shared custody of two young kids. I was not paying CSA however I was informally responsible for the kids expenses mainly because I was the only one working. The Ex did however pay half for many items.

After School Care Baby Sitting Birthday Clothing Doctors Entertainment Food Gifts Holiday small Holiday big Daycare Pharmacy Petrol School Extras Sundries Xmas
Kids Budget 2005

In 2005 you can see I was spending nearly $1500 a month. 


2015 Budget

During the 2015 period I actually had sole custody of two teenage kids and again I was not paying CSA. I was formally responsible to pay for the kids expenses.



Medical Health Insurance Food Misc Kids Entert Petrol School Hols June Hols Xmas Pkt Mon Extra Act Uniform Camp Book Hire Staionery Mobile Bus Xmas Pkt Mon Extra Act Uniform Camp Book Hire Stationery Mobile Bus Xmas
Kids Budget 2015



In 2015 I was investing nearly $1,800 a month on my 2 kids. In fact, regardless of care arrangements, or CSA payments, throughout all my budgeting accounts I can see I was spending up to $2,000 a month on my 2 kids (give or take a couple of hundred).


Conclusions


From this retrospective analysis of my kids budget we can see that each kid cost me about $1,000 each in cash every month. We can see what this money was spent on and how there were many small expenses that added up to a lot.

Therefore based on my very frugal personal experience, regardless of your care arrangements, if you are paying less than $1,000 a month per a child in monthly expenses then you should probably be paying more. You can take this one of two ways:

You can think: Wow aren't I lucky, my CSA is only $1000 a month for my two kids and I only spend $400 a month so I'm going to spend the extra $600 on my kids from now on.

Or, you can think: Wow, aren't I lucky, my CSA is only $1000 a month for my two kids and I only spend $400 a month so I'm $600 better off!

Although you should put your kids first (option 1 above), it really doesn't matter which option you take as long as you realise that to bring kids up properly you need to be spending bucket loads of cash.

Your kids are only children once. You only get one chance. They only get one chance. A child's job is to learn and transform into an honest and wise adult. If you don't give them every opportunity they deserve then they will suffer forever, and more to the point, SO WILL YOU.

When you get to my age and your kids are leaving home you will only remember your kids being kids. You won't and shouldn't remember the money.

If you do pay CSA and you do fume and you do get down then try to genuinely realise the huge sums of money that needs to be spent on your child to give them the best chance in life.


Give your children a starting chance in life


Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Psoriatic Arthritis Acceptance

Previously....

In previous articles I wrote about:

How I found out I had psoriatic arthritis 
How I originally didn't realise the scale of the issue.
How I decided I could take control of arthritis through diet

Accepting Psoriatic Arthritis

In this article I am going to write about Acceptance and how long it takes for some people, namely me, to truly accept that our life has changed forever.

So I was somewhere between the 3 and 4 year point after being diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis. I had been through an 'Ignorance Phase', then a 'Denial Phase' and now I was about to enter the Acceptance Phase.

Up until this point I could only imagine life without Psoriatic Arthritis. Everything I did regarding my health was in someway an attempt to cure myself. I had tried a sugar free diet, a gluten free diet, a paleo diet. I had tried prescribed drugs. I had tried meditation and many many other attempts to irradicate this persistent, painful and pointless disease from my body.

Yet it was only now, after many years of ignorance and denial, that I actually began to accept that the rest of my life would have to take into account the many struggles of arthritis.


A photo of a coloured persons hand holding a white person hand

Accpetance 


Amputation


I remember my Doctor, Dr Francis, refusing my request to amputate my foot. I wasn't totally serious, but I did want to consider it. If he had agreed that an amputation would fix the Psoriatic Arthritis once and for all and that I would never suffer from it again then I was genuinely at the point where I would have signed on the dotted line. (Not the dotted line on my ankle saying 'cut here'!) However, he simply told me that if I left with one less foot, then the arthritis would quickly appear somewhere else.

Eeeeeuuuuuuureeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeka!!!!

It turned out that this simple, half serious, half joking conversation was my last known contrived plan to beat the disease. Having had it dismissed, and with no more items on my solutions agenda, I was forced to realise, once and for all, that this stupid, mutant and pointless right royal pain in the arse, sorry foot, disease wasn't going away.

Divine Intervention


No diet, no drugs, no divine intervention was going to happen.
I didn't have a cold,
I didn't have a broken bone.
I couldn't even cut my stupid foot off to solve it!

Plain and simple, it wasn't going away.

Arthritis Anonymous


My name is NakedMidLife and I have Psoriatic Arthritis, an incurable condition where my immune system continually attacks my joints and wont ever stop. I do not have any control over this condition. I have made many past errors and I would welcome the chance to make amends for them. I look forward to a new life where I can live harmoniously with this condition and I look forward to helping others overcome their own struggles with Psoriatic Arthritis.

(I've never been to an AA meeting as I don't drink very often, but I imagine this is what it would be like if it was for arthritis)



F&*( off 


"Will it ever f&*( off ?" I asked Dr Francis staring blankly through his face.

"Well in some cases it disappears at 65 years, or thereabouts." answered Dr Francis causally politely ignoring my sudden lack of formality.

"Well lets sit and wait then." I said stubbornly.

We both knew that wishing the next twenty something years away was by no means any way to live ones life.

Is Acceptance a Good Thing?


My eureka moment had arrived. I had turned the corner. I was resigned to being a Psoriatic Arthritis sufferer. It had taken nearly 4 years, but I was there.

Now, you may think that my acceptance of Psoriatic Arthritis was a good thing, and you are somewhat correct, After my eureka moment I was able to refocus my efforts on drugs, medications and exercises which would make my life better. I am looking forward to an upcoming article on Biologics for example.

Facing Fears


However acceptance of a debilitating disease can not simply be described with a eureka moment. The eureka moment is just the start of a journey. A long, lengthy and difficult journey. A journey where I was challenged at every corner. A journey where I was forced to face my darkest fears.......

To be continued....




Saturday, 12 December 2015

Psoriatic Arthritis. Get Help Early

Previously....


In my previous two articles I mentioned how I found out I had psoriatic arthritis and how I originally didn't realise the scale of the issue.

A persons hands that have deformed because of Arthritis
Arthritis

Arthritis: I Can Beat This!


In this next post I am going to explain how I didn't accept what my doctors told me and insisted I was better than this disease.

Arthritis: The Never Ending Battle


After about 12 months having been diagnosed the pain had spread from my toe to the balls of my foot. This resulted in a noticeable limp. Each and every step required effort, stamina & perseverance. My leg always ached, day and night, morning to dusk, and it throbbed as if I had just climbed Mt Everest. Each and every day was the same. Slowly, like a rock being dripped on in a cave, my tolerance eroded. I didn't notice the change, I certainly wouldn't have expected anyone else to. After a few months, possibly longer, I began to get desperate.

Arthritis: Relentless

It wasn't the pain I couldn't cope with. It was the relentlessness of the pain. Quite a different beast. Simple tasks became an effort. I know that we all get tired. We all get drained. But everyday, without fail, to have your leg throb with tiredness, with pain, sending messages to your brain such as

  • "Hey, lie down"
  • "Hey, there's damage down here!"
  • "Hey, this leg can't do much more!" 
  • "Hey, get some help, go to the doctors"
  • "Hey, stop working and rest"
  • "Hey, this is serious!"
  •  on and on and on...

Arthritis: Seclusion


Mostly you can ignore such signals, not through skill or because you were once trained to be a Green Beret, but because you have no choice. If you did listen, then that would be the end:
  • No work
  • No social life
  • No friends
  • No hobbies
  • Nothing

So instead you push through it.

We all push through pain and suffering at times, Sometimes it goes on for years before you get help. With arthritis it won't stop until you die. It's like the Energex Bunny, it goes on and on and on. Possibly anyway. The doctor told me often it disappears when you get to 65. Only 20 something years to go then.

Arthritis: Take Control!


So with this gloomy state of mind I decided to take control. The drugs weren't doing much, or so I thought. The doctors didn't realise how mentally low I was. The only person to help me was me. So I setup a plan:

1. No negativity
2. You can do anything if you put your mind to it
3. Acquire knowledge: Read books on psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis

So I read a few books including but not limited to:

  1. Healing Psoriasis : The Natural Alternative By John O. A. Pagano
  2. One Cause, Many Ailments: Leaky Gut Syndrome: What It Is and How It May Be Affecting Your Health By John O. A. Pagano
  3. Sweet Poison by David Gillespie

Arthritis: Leaky Gut Syndrome


With all this knowledge I decided to:
  • Quit drugs (as they were ruining my immune system) 
  • Quit sugar (ditto)
  • Quit gluten (ditto)
  • Quit processed food (ditto)
And I started to
  • Meditate
  • Walk daily (limping)
  • Cycle
  • Eat yoghurt
  • Have colonic irrigation!

When I do something I do it properly. There's no point putting in effort unless you aim to hit the bullseye.

I kept this diet and lifestyle up for 12 months.

a chopping board with food on it and writing that says "No Gluten"
No Gluten


I lost a lot of weight. I also had hope. I believed totally that I was going to beat this. I knew I could do it. My mental state improved. I had a certain bounce in my limp. It was going to be alright. I knew it was.


The Results of My Plan to Beat Arthritis


After 12 months my arthritis had got worse. The pain was spreading, gaining intensity and the swelling was getting bigger and bigger.

I decided to go back and see the doctor. I went in with my tail between my legs. I had tried to take control and I had lost. I needed help.

I had an x-ray of my foot. It showed that I had sever bone damage. I was at a loss.

It was time to go back on the drugs. I had achieved nothing other than serious, permanent, damage to my bones.

My plan had failed. I was at the mercy of this disease. It was doing it's thing regardless of my efforts. For the first time in my life, I was not in control of my destiny. My mid life crisis had begun.

Time for Plan B: Drugs.

To be continued....


Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Supermarkets Giving Free Food To Customers

You may recall this previous post about Tesco's in the UK offering free healthy banana's to kids so their parents can shop in peace.

Well it looks like Woolworths has taken notice. I saw this today!

Free Fruit! 

Hooray for the internet!




Monday, 7 December 2015

Psoriatic Arthritis: Initial Stage - The Phoney War


Psoriatic Arthritis: Initial Stage - The Phoney War

After being diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis I had a twelve month period where I was oblivious to the seriousness and extent this disease would effect my life. It was my phoney war. The war before the real causalities started to come home.

Previously I wrote about my Introduction to Psoriatic Arthritis. In summary I had just been diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis. It was occupying my toe. In response I had made a new friend, Dr Francis, an arthritis specialist. Together we had declared war on the Arthritis.

A picture of a lady walking along the beach. She is walking away and leaving footprints. The title soul has a double meaning
A Journey Of The Soul

Sickness Life Cycle

I was just beginning stage 5 of the "Sickness Life Cycle":
  1. Feel sick
  2. Enjoy sympathy if available (sometimes there isn't any. if not,  see Mum)
  3. Visit doctor
  4. Get drugs 
  5. Feel better (or die. Game over)   <<<<<  I was just starting here (or so I thought!)

As I was in stage 5, it was just a matter of time until this sorry affair would be over and forgotten. Yeah right! I wasn't aware yet, but this new enemy cared nothing for my sickness life cycle. It was playing a new and different game.


A Quick Review of Stage 2: Sympathy

Let me indulge myself in some self pity, just for one paragraph.

The pain initially led me to incorrectly believe I had a broken toe. My toe was swollen. My foot was swollen.  Some days I couldn't even put my shoe on. Some nights I had to crawl to the bathroom. The sheet touching my toe would wake me up in pain. During the day I walked with a limp. I was in constant pain. Not a pretty picture, but I always kept a smile on my dial!

Biding Our Time


With Dr Francis on board I just had to wait and let the drugs build up in my system and soon, I believed, it would all be over.

I was slowly working my way up to 6 tablets of Sulfasalazine a day. If you take too many at once to begin with your body gets confused and you can get nauseous. Dr Francis advised we needed 6 to 8 weeks before they would become effective and in the meantime to enjoy some relief from our good friend Naproxen.

Propaganda

Naproxen was a bit like dropping harmless propaganda leaflets directly onto the occupied toe. It sent a message to the Arthritis saying "look how easy it is to reduce your swelling" in the hope that the arthritis would realise we had a direct, unimpeded, path to the source and proper bombs were on the way.

I didn't know it then, but the arthritis didn't give a rats about the Naproxen. Yes it reduced the swelling temporarily, but the arthritis didn't care about swelling. It was busy in the joints, gnawing away bit by bit. Some said the Naproxen was possibly doing more harm than good. Stomach bleeding can result in death after all, so the stories go.

From my point of view however, I liked the Naproxen. It did the job.

Without Naproxen? I limped my way along in pain. If I had to walk more than 100 meters my hobbling body would tire and wilt. With Naproxen? I could play golf (9 holes not 18!). It still hurt, but it was in the background.

A Strange Time


This is how it stayed for about 12 months. Sulfasalazine & Naproxen. Building up, waiting and lots of hot air propaganda.

It was a strange time. All I knew about arthritis was the pain. Pain was something I didn't enjoy, but it was manageable. I was yet to come across the real weapons of this unknown evil.

Me, Dr Francis, and his drugs were friends. We lived in hope, yet as time ticked on I was all too aware that I had been in stage 5 for nearly 12 months. To assume nothing was happening in this time would have be wrong. There was plenty of action going on inside my foot, however the action was all internal and unknown to me. Was it good action? I didn't know. I just hoped the drugs, which obviously started a considerable time after the initial invasion, were building up slowly getting ready to take on the enemy when the time came.

A point of view shot dome a man standing on a cliff looking out over the sea
Trouble in the Distance?

The End Of The Phoney War


One day everything changed.

Unexpectedly the pain made a move. In an instant, like a hot knife through butter, it marched on in and spread itself to the balls of my feet.

The phoney war was over. It was a bald, audacious and foolhardy move that Dr Francis and I could not ignore. We needed to step things up immediately. The arthritis was now well and truly marching into our land and we knew it wouldn't stop. Where next? The knee? The hip?

It Gets Worse Before It Gets Worse


My reaction ended up failing so badly I would lose contact with Dr Francis for a long period of time and end up with permanent pains that would last a lifetime. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, but the truth was that I was clueless and facing an enemy that had experience and had only know success. I was to be outclassed and out witted.


To be continued.......