Wednesday, December 27, 2017

We call her "Ming" ...

.... probably because we didn’t know how to say “Xiaomi” (actually something like “sh-au-mi” but don’t quote me on that). Anyway, Ming arrived in the middle of October this year so she has been with us for two-and-a-half months now and, despite initially being a little sceptical, I am now a total convert.

Our vacuum cleaner had broken and, rather than buy yet another pushy-sucky-thingy (here’s looking at you Electrolux, Dyson, et al.) it seemed time to try a cleaning robot. Ah, a ‘Roomba’ you are thinking -  but no, I baulk at spending over a thousand dollars on a vacuum, even if it is robotic. In any case, too many reviews said that the Xiaomi Mi Robot Vacuum did a better job and was more intelligent than the Roomba. So we got one from Gear Best at less cost than our last pushy-sucky-thingy. We also bought a cheap ‘stick-vac’ for doing the stairs and any awkward places where Ming couldn’t reach.

Ming spoke Mandarin. We didn’t. For the first few weeks, we communicated with Ming by pressing her ‘on’ button and letting her get on with it. When she spoke to us, we smiled and pretended to understand. We didn’t. But the floor was clean, so we didn’t worry. Eventually, though, it occurred to us that Ming could be saying all sorts of unpleasant things, and we would never know. Was she muttering about slave drivers and when to start the revolution? These things tend to be concerning as you get older - are robots into elder abuse?

So we connected Ming to her Chinese server (we couldn’t understand that either) and she downloaded a firmware update and an English language pack. Now we can understand what Ming says, and realise that our fears were foundless. We can now speak to her on the phone and get her to do a cleanup while we are away from home. Ming is currently claiming to have completed 48 cleanups, cleaned 1,180m2 of floor and taken 1,341 minutes. She even leaves us a little map of where she has cleaned each time, in case we might think she is slacking off and missing bits.
One of Ming's maps.

We highly recommend Ming, though if you want one you can buy your own, we keep Ming locked in the spare room and she’s not allowed out the house.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

A festive fractal and a long silence

Christmas Vines (© David Ford 2017)
Nothing posted here since June; that’s six months of silence. During that time, New Zealand has moved into summer, had a general election, and a change of government. I’m generally fairly apolitical, but it was time for a correction. The previous government had nine years in office (three elections) and, given the right-left nature of New Zealand politics, the only way to plot a moderate course is to swerve from one side to the other on a regular basis. And, if you were thinking that there has to be a better way than that, then I can only agree.

Anyway, Bill has given up his seat to Jacinda, so New Zealand now has their third female prime minister and second female Labour leader. Perhaps, I hope, we might see a little more social compassion from our new political leaders. After too many years of favouring the ownership class, New Zealand has become a country of haves and have-nots; far from the equitable society that welcomed our family in 1987.


The winter wasn’t very kind to my health. Nothing dramatic or serious but, starting with a sudden allergic reaction to some medication that I had been taking for years,  I got through winter and spring only by dragging myself forward one day at a time - or so it seemed. The upside is, that having shrugged off the obvious allergic skin problems, I also seem to have got over the constant tiredness that I have lived with for the last seven years. So, here I am at the beginning of summer, feeling much better and enjoying both my three-day working week and four day weekends. Let there be more fractalsđź‘Ť