The main street of our nearest town Picton is going underwater again currently, the second "1 in 200 year" flood since 2016.
 
Many shops took a year or two to re-open, and I like many others spent a day down helping strip soaked shops into skips, their devastated owners unable to fully comprehend the scale of their losses.
 
With our government doing very close to nothing to help slow down the changing climate (our state MP Nathaniel Smith MP has posted encouraging everyone to "pray for the rain to slow down", a month or so after various fellow conservative politicians were asking us to "pray for rain" to put out the bushfires), the most sensible suggestion I have seen thus far is to consider moving these shops to other nearby centers on higher grounds, like Thirlmere. Abandon at least parts of this historic town and become climate refugees on the outskirts of Sydney, as a pragmatic response to government inaction.
 
But tonight I'm worried about our friends and local shopkeepers in Picton who are anxiously watching the water rise.
 
(We have a few drips in our house, and the animals are pretty miserable but still undercover in the stables, so nothing compared to what's happening down the hill)

At a medical imaging place, and they asked me to review and then sign their updated "privacy agreement". This entitles them to share our records with, among other entities, any random offshore subcontractors they choose to engage with.

Politely declining, they wrote Declined on the agreement, and proceeded to inform me that even our referring doctor could then not access the images online.

Thinking this would mean we wouldn't have any images to show the doctor at the upcoming appointment, imagine my surprise when we were instead handed the hard copy images less than 3 minutes after they were taken.

Pro-tip: actually read privacy agreements, decline anything you aren't comfortable with, and you may end up getting even BETTER service than the default few hours we were told we'd have to wait for hard copies if accepting the agreement.

The recent apocalyptic weather seems as good a time as any to sweep away bad ways of doing things, and move to a new publishing model. Well, actually an old way, as I ran a blog from around 1999 onwards until Facebook made it difficult to get externally-hosted content into their platform.

Several sessions I attended at linux.conf.au 2020 in Brisbane reminded me just how terrible the large internet companies really are. They allow us to access their massive platform for free, and yet make billions of dollars. How, exactly? Well, we aren't the customers - advertisers are. We are the products being sold. Don't get me wrong - the reason I've moved away from the blogging I did in the past was the same as everyone else - it's easy and social to just use their platform. But then there's the ads. The fact that anything you have searched recently suddenly appears as ads. Perhaps (not conclusive) even things you have said around your phone. And I've become complacent.

Of course we can put photos up there and anyone can see them, be tagged in them, and even facial recognition software can scan and store that you were in them, where and when. Still convenient, but at what cost. I already knew all this, but had just used their closed-source code that does random things I can't audit anyway.

So I'm moving back to the POSSE model - Publish on your Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere. This means I'll be posting here on a server I pay for and administer, and then linking into Twitter (@FemmeOnAFarm) and - for a while at least - Facebook as well. I'm working on scripts to move all my old content out of various old blogging software and Facebook, just so everything is in one place, and I can control it. The backlog is considerable, so this will take some time.

It is un-doubtably ugly (I'm not a web designer). It will be somewhat less convenient, and more clunky. But I can't keep selling myself out for less than I'm worth, and just like everything else in life, I'm going to lead by example (both failures and triumphs), and work out how to make this simpler for everyone to control their own content, and take back their privacy.

We had planned a school holiday trip away in our caravan for mid-January, to coincide with me attending linux.conf.au. All went well for the length of the conference, until the following morning when Liz and I were awake early, and noticed two things after the utterly insane rain we had had overnight:

  • We weren't wet! Well done squashy the wind-up caravan!
  • Lots of people seemed to be moving around the caravan park very early, very quickly.

Turns out that the approximately 300ml of rain overnight was considerably more than the river could hold, so it happily broke its banks and started flooding campsites. It's far from unusual for caravan parks to be built on flood plains. Since they are temporary dwellings then they can be moved with enough warning away from the danger zone far easier than a house or cabin could be. That part of the logic is sound, however it relies on that warning part.

And the warnings never came. Some people closest to the river had flooded already by 4am, however as of 5am the water was still rising and most people were still asleep. About that time people started leaving in a rush, tearing out power cables, destroying parts of their vans like stabilisers and awnings that hadn't been retracted properly. We looked at each other and decided to act.

Luckily for us, we had booked one of the highest sites in the area. When we turned up they had actually moved us to another much lower site, presumably so a group could be together. But I insisted on getting the site we asked for, as we had stayed there before and knew it worked well for our five humans and two dogs. So they agreed to move us back, and we were set up on a hill of sorts.

We first tried to pack the van up (not a fast action with the style of van we have, unfortunately) so that we could drive through a small amount of water, but between 5am and 6am the water apparently rose about 4 feet, and there was no chance of us driving out. Instead, we moved the car and van as high as we could get them, and put the two youngest kids on other helpful camper's shoulders, took one bag of valuables, and waded through the water. I carried one dog, and the other swam the best swim of his life. Liz had our son on her back.

It actually didn't occur to me until afterwards that the power that runs to a box on every site that vans plug into and lights sit on top of was on the entire time. It would only have taken one dodgy cable in one van (a very common occurance) for the water to go live. We wandered up to the office, only to find nobody but other cold and wet campers there. After some time staff arrived and appeared to start some basic steps like opening the common room, finding some food and beverages, etc.

So, to recap - we had 400 people camping in a flood plain, a predicted epic downpour, no warnings, no water level alarm (I have these on my property and they cost <$100!), no evacuation procedure to wake campers and take basic steps like switching off power, no staff visible on site for hours after the event started, and, rumour has it, this isn't the first time it has flooded so reporters were kicked out by security lest they ask questions.

After that we elected to leave the park a day earlier than planned, and head towards home. A holiday cut short, but one that could have had a far worse outcome.

I finally realised I wasn't a baby cow, weaned and stopped drinking their milk two years ago.

If you'd like support to do the same in the wake of fires killing millions of cows, and avoid supporting millions more being bred into slavery, check out https://uk.veganuary.com/blog/calcium-from-dairy/

 

If we were to get what so many of us want - the sacking of SmoKo, David Elliot and maybe even Gladys for spending so much money on stadiums and cutting firefighting budgets even though she's doing sort of ok now - what happens next?

We get Dutton? Some other NSW emergency services minister from the LNP's right wing to keep them appeased enough to let Gladys stay? And who might replace Gladys herself?

No. These failed excuses for leaders took the jobs and the salaries, so now they can actually DO their jobs, rather than retire off to their parliamentary benefits in peace, while another muppet gets installed and the rest of us see no practical difference.

The LNP were once again selected only last year by a majority of Australians and NSW folks (*) as our collective leaders. The LNP is the political wing of Murdoch and the IPA, so until their classist, nepotistic, holier-than-thou views change (ie. never), or we stop voting for them and their ideology, little will change.

Until Australia wakes up properly, these people have jobs and should do them. I don't believe they should be let off the hook.

(*) not me, but I do place faith in our democracy. I vote for my views but accept I'm in a minority when it comes to actually voting progressively in this country.