Archive for March, 2020

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COVID-19 update

March 31, 2020

With all the dramatic changes in the world in the past month as a result of spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), and with the restrictions and lockdowns imposed (either by government mandate or self-imposed), I thought it was time to let you know what I’ve been doing to mitigate risk to myself, my loved ones, and my little company. Here’s a summary:

  • I have worked online from my home office since 2007 (with my husband), so my ability to continue working has not changed. I have speedy internet (for the moment at least), and have no other impingements on my day (e.g. no kids to care for or to homeschool). So for me, it’s ‘same old, same old’ and I haven’t had to change any of my work processes to accommodate the new normal. If you need your corporate documents, reports etc. edited, then I’m still here and still working. You can see the list of editing tasks I typically do here: http://cybertext.com.au/editing_levels.html, and testimonials here: http://cybertext.com.au/testimonials.html.
  • We decided to ‘shelter-in-place’ around 10 March, and except for a single post office run (getting takeout pizza at the same time), I’ve been home the entire time. I’ve been fortunate in being able to get home delivery from one of the main supermarkets.
  • Our health remains good, and I monitor our body temperatures every day (results are pretty constant, but it gives us a baseline in case anything changes), and am awaiting the arrival of a piece of equipment that measures blood oxygen levels (again, I need to know our baseline so that I know if there have been changes that might indicate an issue).
  • I cancelled my round-the-world trip that was to start on 8 April and finish on 16 May, which included a speaking engagement at the ACES Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. As you would expect, the conference was cancelled, and even if it hadn’t been, Australia has now closed its borders, and there are no Qantas international commercial passenger flights in or out of Australia as at the end of March. For the most part, I have received refunds (even for nonrefundable advanced purchases) or partial refunds from most hotels, transport companies etc. (though I’m still waiting on actual refunds from two airlines), and I’m very grateful to those companies for doing so—Hilton Hotels, Rydges Hotel at Sydney Airport, and Ingot Hotel in Perth, you have my business in the future for refunding all my prepaid monies. However, there are no refunds at all from a small, single-person run 5-day residential workshop I was attending as part of the trip (the date has since been moved to October, but I have no intention of being in the US in October), or a 9-day tour in Morocco. The intransigence of the US tour company organising the Morocco tour has been bitterly disappointing and I have no idea if travel insurance will cover the thousands I had to pay by 6 January. That’s a story for another day and in a more personal forum. Suffice to say, they certainly won’t ever get any business from me again. This was my first experience with them and it hasn’t been good.

Stay safe, stay healthy. And wash your hands.

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Word: Select a vertical section

March 31, 2020

Here’s a summary of the problem posted on an editors’ Facebook group I belong to: “I’ve been sent a Word doc that has been [converted] from a PDF. As it’s a doc in the editing stages for an academic journal, it still has the line numbers in the left margin. However, when it was [converted] to Word, these numbers are now part of each line individually (and some of them are images rather than text), meaning I can’t highlight them in one swoop and delete them. The idea of having to individually delete 50 numbers [from each of] 38 pages seems *very* untenable.”

Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, I recall once knowing how to do this—how to select a vertical section in Word and then styling it separately or deleting it. I hunted these blog posts (which are my memory dump), but couldn’t find anything. So I did some testing and found the solution, which is:

  1. Hold down the Alt key.
  2. Use the mouse to click and drag over the section of text you want to delete or restyle.
  3. Once selected, either press Del to delete it, or do something else to restyle it (e.g. make it bold, italics).

And that’s it. Here are a couple of screen shots to show you what this sort of selection looks like—note that you can select ANY part of the text.

Example showing just the first letter of each line selected

Example showing just the first letter of each line selected

Example showing the middle vertical section of a set of paragraphs selected

Example showing the middle vertical section of a set of paragraphs selected

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Word: Ctrl + arrow keys not working as expected

March 24, 2020

Here’s a strange one in Word—all of a sudden I couldn’t use a Ctrl+arrow key to jump from word to word.

I thought about closing Word then trying again, which likely would’ve worked. Then I heard a very faint sound coming from my headphones on the desk next me. Word was reading aloud to me and so was jumping from word to word without me realising it! I must’ve hit some keyboard combination to start it (yes, Alt+Ctrl+Space—I’d been using Ctrl+Space and must’ve accidentally hit Alt as well).

Once I found out where to turn the Read Aloud function off (Review tab), I had full control of my keyboard again.

Hope this helps someone else.

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Think of it as practice for your retirement

March 15, 2020

These are strange and incredibly fast-moving times, and as the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues unabated, many people have been forced to work from home, or have chosen that for themselves. So I’ve been thinking about some silver linings in all this….

If you currently commute to work and now have to work from home (employer or self-imposed), and you’re close-ish to retirement, you have the ideal opportunity to test out some of those “Perhaps I’d like to do this in my retirement” ideas. Not travel at the moment, of course, but if there are hobbies or non-group activities that have crossed your mind, and you have the means to do so, now is a great time to try them out. You’ve probably gained 5 to 20 hours per week of discretionary time without your daily commute. What will you do with it? You can only binge watch TV or read books or go for a walk or run for a while… Think of this enforced extra time as training for retirement!

YouTube has a wealth of videos on how to do almost anything. If you’re thinking more along crafting or baking activities, you can sign up to Bluprint.com (was Craftsy) for around AU$120 a year (often less when they have their regular sales) and get full access to their hundreds of online classes (far more organised and with paid experts than random YouTube videos). If you’re perhaps thinking of tracing your family tree, you can sign up to year’s worth of Ancestry.com for the price of a couple of week’s of gas that you would’ve used if you were commuting by car.

If you’re more into volunteering, there are lots of things you can do online from home. In my case, because I do genealogical stuff and because words are what I’m good at, I edit the OCR text of newspaper articles in the Australian National Library’s Trove database. Ancestry has a World Archives project too, deciphering handwritten immigration and other records. The Australian War Memorial has something similar for transcribing war records. Of course, there’s always Wikipedia article editing, or transcribing the words on headstones in graveyards (BillionGraves.com); yes, that really is a thing! Or you could contribute to various volunteer scientific research projects at Zooniverse.org or any of the projects at https://www.openobjects.org.uk/2015/05/crowdsourcing-world/. Every country will have these.

If you do get into craft activities and need supplies, try to buy them from your local bricks and mortar ‘mom and pop’ store, not the big box retailers or online. These local stores are likely already hurting badly and may never recover from this. If you’re hesitant about going into a store, call them and see if they can mail/deliver to you, or come out to your car if you order and pay by phone and drive in to get them. The worst you can get is ‘no’, so it won’t hurt to call ahead and ask.

And if you find that that all those extra hours are too hard to handle, maybe you need to rethink your retirement plans — those extra 40+ hours per week are your life once you retire.

Any other suggestions?

See also:

[Links last checked March 2020]

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Snagit: Quick way to get text from a PDF etc.

March 5, 2020

I’ve used TechSmith’s Snagit for years for screen captures and for quick image editing, but wasn’t aware of the OCR function that it has to grab the text from PDFs, images etc.

Details are here: https://www.techsmith.com/blog/extract-text-from-image/

I just tested it on a fairly complex bit of text arranged in columns, and while it wasn’t perfect, it worked remarkably well. It was certainly better than other methods I’d tried on this particular test PDF.