This title is secret

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Everyone has secrets. Even a hermit in a cell has secrets, not the least of which is what made him become a hermit. His overt reasons may be plausible, but it is likely that for most persons his overt reasons would not be quite enough to drive them into seclusion.

I don’t believe that anyone can be completely open and still be sane. It may be that a person, while being non-racist in actions and philosophy sometimes has thought that is racially biassed. The person will probably then suppress those thoughts as wrong or unnatural.

Thoughts in the Night, Dreams During the Day
Thoughts in the Night, Dreams During the Day (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Couples often claim to be one hundred percent open with each other, but this is unlikely to be true. One person may have eaten the last chocolate, and remains strategically silent when the other partner remarks that they thought that there was one more left.

One partner may prefer Indian cuisine but may silently go along with the other partners desire for Thai or Japanese if he or she has no strong feelings about the matter on a particular occasion. Over time however partners will know one another’s preferences and a compromise will be reached.

Pad Thai at Sarah's restaurant in Toronto, Canada.
Pad Thai at Sarah’s restaurant in Toronto, Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Families may have secrets – the skeletons in the cupboards. Very often the emergence of such secrets may be disturbing or traumatic and may shake the family to the core. The secret may be something that the family knows but which is get from outsiders, or one or two family members may keep from the rest : “Well, Aunty P and Uncle Q were never formally married, you know.”

Firms often have secrets. A firm may fail, and few people outside the firm may have seen it coming. Either the firm purposefully has been optimistic in its accounts and its presentation to the outside world, or the accounts may have been in a mess and the warning signs missed both internally and externally.

Intellectual Property Owners Association
Intellectual Property Owners Association (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Firms have other secrets, such as the exact processes that are used to produce their product. Such secrets are believed by the firm to give them an advantage over their competitors, so they do all that they can to prevent the competitors from learning their secrets.

Often a firm will keep a yet to be launched product a secret, again so that competitors can’t steal the ideas. This has led to big launches and product announcements that are covered by the media, often for products which are not significantly different from previous products already released.

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Of course, one firm will know that another firm has secrets, and so firms will spy on one another, there will be leaks of information, and all sorts of skullduggery will ensue!

There will be political secrets too, and a great deal of energy is put into uncovering such secrets and exposing them for political gain. The media are always searching for political secrets, simply to sell more publications.

World wide governments spy on each other. While this information can be used to find out if another government has hostile intentions, it can also be used to assess the threat that the other government poses.

The 33 convicted members of the Duquesne spy r...
The 33 convicted members of the Duquesne spy ring (FBI print). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An example of this was spying on Iraq gave the United State government an excuse to invade Iraq, because spying had been said to have revealed that “Weapons of Mass Destruction” had been developed in Iraq. This turned out to be untrue, and whether or not spying had really erroneously indicated that such weapons had been developed has been a topic of debate ever since.

Governments routinely spy on their own citizens too. If a government suspects that certain of its citizens are secretly planning revolt they may keep a close watch on them. Also, governments may take an interest in someone if they are suspected of planning to commit a crime. In many cities around the world it is almost impossible to walk down the street without passing a number of surveillance cameras.

Shot of the perpetrator by a surveillance came...
Shot of the perpetrator by a surveillance camera in the lobby of the Serena Hotel in Kabul. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Indeed such surveillance cameras are common these days. People have been accustomed to seeing them on the roads and in shops, and most are accepting of them. The argument is that if you have no secret to hide, then the cameras are not a concern, and people believe that if there is a camera, then this will frequently deter people from misbehaving.

This is more or less true, though there are enough videos on YouTube of idiots doing silly things in front of security cameras. Those people don’t have any secrets from them!

English: A payload surveillance camera made by...
English: A payload surveillance camera made by Controp and distributed to the U.S Government by ADI Technologies. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes secrets are good. You would not set a password and then tell everyone about it, of course, and your password keeps your stuff secret from any possible attackers. Before the rise of Internet banking things were kept secret by locking them up in a box or safe. These days your password might be what is kept in the safe!

Cryptography is looked after by Alice and Bob and friends. These characters, invented by cryptographers, are forever exchanging secret messages, which are usually something like “This is Alice”. They use various cryptographical messages means to keep their secret information secret, usually using things like “private keys” and “public keys”.

Public key making
Public key making (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cryptography has arisen as a result of the Internet’s total lack of security or secrecy. When the Internet was built no one could have predicted the need for security. After all, it was only a tiny network connecting a few research and educational institutions and joining it was by invitation. Everyone knew everyone else.

Pretty soon, though, the Internet grew too large for everyone to know everyone else and security was needed. At first login accounts were all that way necessary, but soon that was insufficient. Black Hat hackers joined the Internet, and they were interested in breaking into your account to read your emails to your girlfriend, your mother, or your cannabis dealer.

English: A stereotypical caricature of a villa...
English: A stereotypical caricature of a villain (i.e. generic melodrama villain stock character, with handlebar moustache and black top-hat). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Password requirements got stricter and stricter as the Black Hats got cleverer and cleverer at breaking password security but people still use passwords like “password” and “12345”. There are now so many people connected to the Internet that there is a certain safety in numbers. Just like birds flock together so that an individual’s chances of becoming prey are small, so an individual’s private information is probably safe, unless by chance, they are the one in the millions who is picked on by the Black Hatter.

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Spring is in the Air

English: Graeme Crosby at Pukekohe race track ...
English: Graeme Crosby at Pukekohe race track in New Zealand on 17 April 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the race track of the year, spring is the bendy bit just before the long fast straight of summer. You have left the tedious long drag of the back straight of winter and you are looking forward to being able to blithely put the foot down before, eventually braking for the twists and turn of autumn.

Spring promises a lot, daffodils, apple and cherry blossom, even the first flush of grass that requires you to dig the mower out of the shed or garage. It carefully doesn’t promise sudden drops to what feels like arctic temperatures and gales that knock trees over! One term for spring weather is “changeable”. It doesn’t promise equinoctial gales, though apparently there is no real evidence for any such thing.

English: Beautiful yellow Hibiscus flower 'Gol...
English: Beautiful yellow Hibiscus flower ‘Gold Blush’? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When we pass the magic date of September 1, it becomes officially spring, but no one told the weather. We try and persuade ourselves that the weather this week is better than the weather last week, and sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.

As spring wears on the signs of the approach of summer start to appear. The length of the day increases, and spring flowers start to blossom. I like to watch the deciduous trees come into leaf. First the buds swell, and then they burst into vivid green clusters of leaves, firstly quite pale as the leaf’s internal factories start manufacturing chlorophyll, and then darker green as the chlorophyll builds up in the leaves.

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Some trees, like the cherry and apple trees seem to favour blossom over leaves at the start of the blossoming season. The little new leaves are there, on the apple trees, but they are overshadowed by the mass of blossom. Cherry trees appear to be all blossom. They are not the only ones – magnolias trees blossom before bearing leaves. The rather showy magnolia flowers appear before the leaves and quickly fall apart to carpet the ground with rapidly btowning petals.

Daffodils spring up, again promising better weather to come, and temperatures do start to slowly rise, but not without a few cooler spells as a nod back to winter. On the warmer days, I’ve seen Monarch butterflies tempted out of hibernation, but it’s a dangerous time for Monarchs. I seen those that failed because they are caught by a cold snap or because they have exhausted the reserve built up in the autumn, lying dead on the grass.

English: Ice in the dunes At the end of a bitt...
English: Ice in the dunes At the end of a bitterly cold snap the pools above the tideline were all frozen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Other birds and animals become more active, like the Tuis brawling in the trees like a bunch of youths fuelled by testosterone. Moreporks become more active in the night, though their calls never really stop the whole year round. All birds ramp up their activities.

Spring is a time for lambs. Usually they will have been born for a month or more when spring starts, but late comers will still be found and the early comers are still quite small, leaving them very vulnerable to a late cold snap.

English: Spring Lambs Signs of Spring in the f...
English: Spring Lambs Signs of Spring in the fields (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If I’ve made Spring appear bleak, it isn’t really. The lengthening of the days as well as the increases in temperature make the nicer days very pleasant, and one can slowly, layer by later, reduce the stifling amounts of winter clothing, with the prospect, round the corner, of the much lighter styles of summer.

With food being shipped around the world these days, the so-called summer vegetables can be purchased the year round, though in the depths of winter some vegetables attract premium prices, and out of season produce can be somewhat lacking in flavour. But soon enough more local vegetables come into season and prices fall and flavour improves.

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I just noticed that the Vernal (spring) Equinox is nearly here. It will be on September 23 at 8:22pm NZST. This of course means that the day and the night will be approximately the same length, 12 hours, on that day, and from then on until the Autumnal Equinox in March days will be longer than the nights. Nights will shrink to 8 hours and 50 minutes at the Summer Solstice.

We move to daylight saving time (NZDT) at the end of the month. The clocks go forward so we lose an hour in bed! Never mind, it’s another sign that summer is on its way. The dog will enjoy getting his food an hour earlier too.

English: Raw feeding: Golden Retriever eating ...
English: Raw feeding: Golden Retriever eating raw pig foot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the autumn we expected the temperatures to start to fall, but if they don’t for a day or two, and summer temperatures persist, we sometimes call this an “Indian Summer”. I don’t think that there is a similar term for a late cold period except perhaps a “cold snap”. Of course, there may well be an unseasonably warm period in early spring, which causes plants to bloom or animals to come out of hibernation early. Hopefully this would not be followed by deep cold, which would spell disaster for the animals and plants.

English: Indian Summer
English: Indian Summer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Weather forecasting is not capable of predicting the onset of cold or warm periods, but long term trends are able to be predicted, though only in terms of probability. One such prediction involves something called the El Niño Southern Oscillation, and the effect leads to changes to the patterns of  weather over the country. The western areas tend to get more rainfall and the eastern areas tend get less, to the extent that drought conditions ensue. It is likely according to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology that the current El Niño effect may continue into next year.

While this promises a golden summer in the east of the country and a wetter time in the west, this is not good news for dairy farmers, who have been struggling as a result of the global downturn in dairy prices. Farmers who plant crops will also be hit, as they will need to provide water from other sources, such as bores, irrigation schemes, or they may even have to truck water in. Lack of water will also affect power generation, and also tap water.

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It seems strange writing that, since at the moment we are experiencing a period of wet weather over much of the country as a low pressure weather system has stalled over the country, becoming disconnected from the systems that move lows and highs across the country. So we are stuck with wet weather for the next few days.

Never mind. This may, hopefully, be winter’s last gasp. We are probably tracking through the first chicane of spring, and the rest of the season will see a general improvement until we turn the final corner and accelerate into summer.

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