Friday, 27 March 2009

Newsletter Issue 163, March 2009

Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 163, March 2009
Hi guys,
Time for a bit of a laugh from a great humorist - read Douglas Adams' View of Australia below.
Learn an easy way to Split Excel Data Columns when importing data. 
Don't forget, if you want to be taken off my mailing list, click here to send me a reply e-mail and I will remove your name.

Douglas Adams' View of Australia

For your edification and elucidation, this delightful piece of writing by Douglas Adams (he of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy fame) is provided courtesy of the Sydney Mineral Exploration Discussion Group at
Australia is a very confusing place, taking up a large amount of the Bottom half of the planet. It is recognisable from orbit because of many unusual features, including what at first looks like an enormous bite taken out of its southern edge; a wall of sheer cliffs which plunge deep into the girting sea. Geologists assure us that this is simply an accident of geomorphology and plate tectonics, but they still call it the "Great Australian Bight" proving that not only are they covering up a more frightening theory, but they can't spell either.
The first of the confusing things about Australia is the status of the place. Where other land masses and sovereign lands are classified as either continent, island, or country, Australia is considered all three.
Typically, it is unique in this.
The second confusing thing about Australia are the animals. They can be divided into three categories: Poisonous, Odd, and Sheep.
It is true that of the 10 most poisonous arachnids on the planet, Australia has 9 of them. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that of the 9 most poisonous arachnids, Australia has all of them. However, there are curiously few snakes, possibly because the spiders have killed them all. But even the spiders won't go near the sea.
Any visitors should be careful to check inside boots (before putting them on), under toilet seats (before sitting down) and generally everywhere else. A stick is very useful for this task.
Strangely, it tends to be the second class of animals (the Odd) that are more dangerous. The creature that kills the most people each year is the common Wombat. It is nearly as ridiculous as its name, and spends its life digging holes in the ground, in which it hides. During the night it comes out to eat worms and grubs.
The wombat kills people in two ways: First, the animal is indestructible. Digging holes in the hard Australian clay builds muscles that outclass Olympic weight lifters. At night, they often wander the roads. Semi-trailers (Road Trains) have hit them at high speed, with all 9 wheels on one side, and this merely makes them very annoyed. They express this by snorting, glaring, and walking away. Alas, to smaller cars, the wombat becomes a symmetrical launching pad, with results that can be imagined, but not adequately described.
The second way the wombat kills people relates to its burrowing behaviour. If a person happens to put their hand down a Wombat hole, the Wombat will feel the disturbance and think "Ho! My hole is collapsing!" at which it will brace its muscled legs and push up against the roof of its burrow with incredible force, to prevent its collapse. Any unfortunate hand will be crushed, and attempts to withdraw will cause the Wombat to simply bear down harder. The unfortunate will then bleed to death through their crushed hand as the wombat prevents him from seeking assistance. This is considered the third most embarrassing known way to die, and Australians don't talk about it much.
At this point, we would like to mention the Platypus, estranged relative of the mammal, which has a duck-bill, otter's tail, webbed feet, lays eggs, detects its aquatic prey in the same way as the electric eel, and has venomous barbs attached to its hind legs, thus combining all 'typical' Australian attributes into a single improbable creature.
The last confusing thing about Australia is the inhabitants. First, a short history: Some time around 40,000 years ago, some people arrived in boats from the north. They ate all the available food, and lot of them died. The ones that survived learned respect for the balance of nature, man's proper place in the scheme of things, and spiders. They settled in, and spent a lot of the intervening time making up strange stories. Then, around 200 years ago, Europeans arrived in boats from the north. More accurately, European convicts were sent, with a few deranged and stupid people in charge. They tried to plant their crops in Autumn (failing to take account of the reversal of the seasons when moving from the top half of the planet to the bottom), ate all their food, and a lot of them died.
About then the sheep arrived, and have been treasured ever since. It is interesting to note here that the Europeans always consider themselves vastly superior to any other race they encounter, since they can lie, cheat, steal, and litigate (marks of a civilised culture they say) - whereas all the Aboriginals can do is happily survive being left in the middle of a vast red-hot desert, equipped with a stick. Eventually, the new lot of people stopped being Europeans on Extended Holiday and became Australians.
The changes are subtle, but deep, caused by the mind-stretching expanses of nothingness and eerie quiet, where a person can sit perfectly still and look deep inside themselves to the core of their essence, their reasons for being, and the necessity of checking inside your boots every morning for fatal surprises. They also picked up the most finely tuned sense of irony in the world, and the Aboriginal gift for making up stories.
Be warned. There is also the matter of the beaches. Australian beaches are simply the nicest and best in the entire world. Although anyone actually venturing into the sea will have to contend with sharks, stinging jellyfish, stonefish (a fish which sits on the bottom of the sea, pretends to be a rock, and has venomous barbs sticking out of its back that will kill just from the pain) and surfboarders. However, watching a beach sunset is worth the risk.
As a result of all this hardship, dirt, thirst, and wombats, you would expect Australians to be a dour lot. Instead, they are genial, jolly, cheerful, and always willing to share a kind word with a stranger, unless they are an American.
Faced with insurmountable odds and impossible problems, they smile disarmingly and look for a stick. Major engineering feats have been performed with sheets of corrugated iron, string, and mud.
Alone of all the races on earth, they seem to be free from the 'Grass is Greener on the other side of the fence' syndrome, and roundly proclaim that Australia is, in fact, the other side of that fence. They call the land "Oz", "Godzone" (a verbal contraction of "God's Own Country") and "Best bloody place on earth, bar none, strewth." The irritating thing about this is they may be right.
There are some traps for the unsuspecting traveller, though. Do not under any circumstances suggest that the beer is imperfect, unless you are comparing it to another kind of Australian beer. Do not wear a Hawaiian shirt. Religion and Politics are safe topics of conversation (Australians don't care too much about either) but Sport is a minefield. The only correct answer to "So, howdya' like our country, eh?" is "Best {insert your own regional swear word here} country in the world!".
It is very likely that, on arriving, some cheerful Australians will 'adopt' you on your first night, and take you to a pub where Australian Beer is served. Despite the obvious danger, do not refuse. It is a form of initiation rite. You will wake up late the next day with an astonishing hangover, a foul-taste in your mouth, and wearing strange clothes. Your hosts will usually make sure you get home, and waive off any legal difficulties with "It's his first time in Australia, so we took him to the pub.", to which the policeman will sagely nod and close his notebook.
Be sure to tell the story of these events to every other Australian you encounter, adding new embellishments at every stage, and noting how strong the beer was. Thus you will be accepted into this unique culture.
Most Australians are now urban dwellers, having discovered the primary use of electricity, which is air-conditioning and refrigerators.
Typical Australian sayings:
  • "G'Day!"
  • "It's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick."
  • "She'll be right."
  • "And down from Kosciusko, where the pine clad ridges raise their torn and rugged battlements on high, where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze at midnight in the cold and frosty sky.
    And where, around the Overflow, the reed beds sweep and sway to the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide. The Man from Snowy River is a household word today, and the stockmen tell the story of his ride."
Tips to Surviving Australia:
  • Don't ever put your hand down a hole for any reason whatsoever. We mean it.
  • The beer is stronger than you think, regardless of how strong you think it is.
  • Always carry a stick.
  • Air-conditioning.
  • Do not attempt to use Australian slang, unless you are a trained linguist and good in a fist fight.
  • Thick socks.
  • Take good maps. Stopping to ask directions only works when there are people nearby.
  • If you leave the urban areas, carry several litres of water with you at all times, or you will die.
  • Even in the most embellished stories told by Australians, there is always a core of truth that it is unwise to ignore.
See Also: "Deserts: How to die in them", "The Stick: Second most useful thing ever" and "Poisonous and Venomous arachnids, insects, animals, trees, shrubs, fish and sheep of Australia, volumes 1-42"

Splitting Excel Data Columns

When importing data into a worksheet, sometimes you want to split the contents of a single cell into two cells.
For example, say you’ve imported a list of names into a new sheet, and you have a column titled "Name" with data showing as "Doe, John". You want to have two columns; one titled "First Name" with "John" and the other titled "Surname" with "Doe".
The steps to do this:
  1. Select the column you wish to split.
  2. Go to the Data menu and select Text To Columns
  3. Under Step 1 of the Convert Text To Columns Wizard, click Delimited
  4. Click Next to advance to Step 2 of the wizard, then tick the Comma tick box and the Space tick box and untick the Tab tick box in the Delimiters section
  5. Click Next to advance to Step 3, then click 'Text' under Column Data Format
  6. Click on the second column in the Data Preview window and then click 'Text' under Column Data Format
  7. Enter your destination column address in the Destination text box and click Finish
  8. Now change the titles on your two new columns from 'Name" and blank to "First Name" and "Surname".
All done!

Backing up Firefox

If you are accustomed to backing up your bookmarks from Mozilla Firefox using bookmarks.html, you need to rethink your strategy.
Version 3 and above of Firefox no longer use bookmarks.html. The file doesn't get deleted when you upgrade, but once the bookmarks are imported into the new storage file, the old bookmarks.html file is ignored.
Bookmarks are now stored in your profile folder in a file named places.sqlite. Other sqlite files contain your cookies, permissions, preferences, and more. Rather than just backing up your bookmarks, you should really back up the entire Profiles folder and its subfolders, or you'll miss a lot.
To get Firefox 3 to start using bookmarks.html again (in conjunction with places.sqlite, not instead of it), start Firefox and press Alt+D, or click [in] the address bar. Delete the text that appears there, type about:config, and press Enter. The Filter control will be active; start typing autoexport until you see browser.bookmarks.autoExportHTML appear under Preference Name.
Double-click it to change the value from false to true; the entire line of text will become bold. Press Alt & Home or click the Home button to navigate away from this page.
There are also a lot of other settings revealed when you use about:config in Firefox. You can seriously mess up your installation if you start playing with items to see what they do. Don't do that. You have been warned.
To find your mail folders in Thunderbird, [click] Tools, Account Settings. If you have more than one e-mail account, you'll see them listed in the left panel; one account will usually be named Local Folders.
Click Local Folders [to] see the location of that e-mail store under Local directory.
If you have other accounts, they will normally be expanded so that you can see the Server Settings item under the name of each account. Click Server Settings and at the bottom of the dialog box you'll see the Local directory for that account.
Normally, unless you've really customized your system, all accounts will share a path to the unique storage folder; that is, if you set up Thunderbird to store your e-mail in D:\Thunderbird\E-mail\Storage [for example], you'll see that each account is stored in a subfolder of Storage.
If you have specified a custom folder for your Thunderbird e-mail stores, then you'll need to remember to back up both the profile folder and the e-mail folder(s).
Thanks to Windows Secrets newsletter for this tip at
TLAs for SMEs

Here are this newsletter's TLAs for you:
  • 3G, third generation [of mobile telephony]. Cellular technology. The first generation (1G) began in the early 80's with commercial deployment of Advanced Mobile Phone Service (AMPS) cellular networks. The second generation (2G) emerged in the 90's when mobile operators deployed two competing digital voice standards, Code Division Multiple Access and Time Division Multiple Access.
  • 4G, fourth generation [of mobile telephony]. We are about to head into 4G; fourth generation wireless networks, likely to use a combination of WiMAX and WiFi & have a LOT of data capability - however, protocols are yet to be agreed for this & release is likely to be postponed until we are through the worst of the recession.
Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Tips, Short+Hot Keys
In this newsletter, we are going to look at those odd little symbols which have a fairly obscure hot key code:
  • Approximately Equal to (≈) - 2248, then Alt & X
  • Not equal to (≠) - 2260, then Alt + X
  • Less than or equal to (≤) - 2264, then Alt + X
  • Greater than or equal to (≥) - 2265, then Alt + X
  • Numero (№) - 2116, then Alt + X
  • Copyright symbol (©) - Alt & 0169
  • Registered Trademark symbol (®) - Alt & 0174
  • Trademark symbol (™) - 2122, then Alt + X
  • Infinity symbol (∞) - 221E, then Alt & X
  • Care of (℅) - 2105, then Alt & X
  • Degree (°) - Alt & 176

Hot Linx
Those of you who are interested in all sorts of Kiwi music, head over to and check out the artists, the up & coming gigs, music, video and news. A very interesting website!
And a little something for those who have more of a classical bent, take a look at for classical Kiwis such as John Psathas, Richard Nunns and Michael Houstoun.
Want to reformat your PC but you have lost a product key for a piece of software you have installed? I have a solution for you with a lovely little piece of open source freeware called the Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder at
For all the latest news about NZ tax, you can go straight to the IRD website and get all the information you ever wanted to know at

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here


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