Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Goons

Yeah, I'm a fan of the Goons.

To some that makes me an instant old fogie. That's thought to be a bad thing.

To others it makes me an honourary old fogie. That's thought to be a good thing.

To still others it just makes me a complete bore, because anything they say I can immediately follow with "And a merry needle nardle noo to you too" and they have no idea what I mean.

If you, dear listener, are interested in the goons the chances are there's nothing I can tell you in the way of lines to or anything like that so I won't bother.

But it does rather look as if BitTorrent is the Place to Be for anyone with an MP3 player. /me decides to spend a LOT of time there some time soon...

Also, Audacity is a great tool for extracting clips. My phone is full of things like this:

Yes, the Lost Year, the greatest motion picture of all time! You will want to see this film the moment you see the "X" certificate! Made at a cost of $33 billion and filmed on the very spot in Spain Madrid Africa Jersey Guernsey and Socks! A cast of thousands, ten years in the making!
See handsome midget Harry Secombe with the signing voice of Mario Lanser, and the body of Owen Bowles! See the voluptuous Minnie Bannister dance the sensuous, sinful Knees Up Mother Brown! See the famous Eccles in his greatest role to date - his only role to date! See it all on the new insanitary stethoscope four-sided screen, made in glorious three-dimensional hysterical gorilla colour, with the new explodable multi-gringe sound process!
You saw them in 'Dustbins at Dawn' - you saw 'The Son of Lassie's Owner' - you saw 'They Died with their Boots Reversed'. Then see them in 'The Lost Year' and prove you're still an idiot when it comes to pictures!

Just one thing more - there ARE young goonatics around. In the cast of my recent "Pirates of Penzance" I was amazed to find THREE very attractive female goonatics under the age of 25. Happy times.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Wayne Swan is a moron!

I've been fairly sure of this for some time. But today (or rather last night after midnight) I heard the clincher. Four investment houses have been forced to suspend withdrawls because there's been the start of a run. I needn't say that this is a BAD THING. A fairly substantial loss of confidence which says that the economy is in bad shape.

What caused them to panic so? Why the government's promise to underwrite the banks of course. Whowhatwhenwherewhyhow??? Let's take a step back.

Step 1, which I read about in the London papers back when I was over there in mid-2007: it seems there's a bit of a financial crisis in the USA. A few people have lent money to people who couldn't pay it back, and can't cover the fact up any longer. I read an opinion column in the financials section which said "Yes the stock market is in a bit of upheaval at the moment, but you only make a loss when you SELL at a lower price. Ride it out and the economy will recover." So I thought "Storm in a teacup" and turned to the comics.

Step 2: It didn't stop there. "A few people" were followed by a few more, then a lot more. Eventually the market panicked, loans became unserviceable and people declared bankruptcy. Now we have a real problem, it's not just paper losses any more because the employees of those bankrupt companies don't have a salary and are cutting back on spending. So the USA (which was already in dodgy territory because it was spending heaps of money on a war or two) started to edge towards a recession.

Step 3: It didn't stop there either. Our economy is based on our coal and iron ore exports, mainly to China. That doesn't stop just because the USA is in financial trouble. But the finance industry doesn't work to normal rules! Any hint of panic and everyone goes down.

Step 4: Mr Rudd and Mr Swan saw the terrible hardships being suffered by the American people. "How terrible!" they thought. "We must stop things like this from happening in Australia! Our people elected us to protect them, we need to do something!" So instead of letting the robust economy (which they'd been all over the papers about just a few days earlier) sort itself out, they decided to meddle. "What would we do if one of the big four banks went belly-up?" they asked each other. "Why we'd have to bail them out so the Working Families of Australia don't suffer!"

So they passed a law that said that if ever an Australian owned bank went under, the government would pay the bills. Of course if they'd asked Glenn Stevens first he would have told them that the reserve bank is ALREADY the final port of call for loans for Australian banks! But no, they had to be seen to be doing something to look after people.

The next day they probably woke up in eager anticipation of the financial press being full of praise for the masterly way they had headed off the dire possibilities of the fallout of the financial crisis. But no, instead they found angry statements from the foreign-owned banks which had Australian branches saying that they were suffering from a lack of confidence - and that many people were closing their accounts and moving to Australian-owned banks! Oh dear, when we said "only Australian banks" in that draft bill we never saw this coming.

And today we have a similar statement from non-bank investment houses! Oh dear, what can we do?

So Mr Swan, in trying to bolster up confidence and prevent a run on the banks, has instead triggered that very thing. A master stroke Wayne. You're so clever.

As for the finance industry... I wish it'd just curl up and die. I'm not against banks taking our savings and investing them to get a return. I'm not against long term loans to allow a business to operate before it has money of its own. I'm not even against personal loans, even though a lot of people take them to excesses and make a millstone for their own necks. But all this fiddling around on the stock market, over-inflating the price of a company which has no real value to it, and basically creating a big bubble made of nothing but people's expectation that they can sell it at a higher price later (ie that someone else is more of a sucker than they are), is not only a great way of making people believe they can get something for nothing (never a good thing) but is incredibly damaging to the economy.

This is why, when I was searching for a job for two years straight, I didn't even apply for any in finance. Keep your $45k salary and work-life balance, I'll do something which involves real achievement.

Anyway Wayne, I hope this will be a lesson to you in future to hold your tongue sir. "Prosperity cannot be restored by raids on the public treasury" said President Hoover in the 1930s. When I want to live in a socialist country I'll tell you. Until then, hands OFF - or change your surname to Kerr.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Grand opera sucks

I am in the same room with a video of Lucia di Lammermoor by Australian Opera, starring Joan Sutherland.

Now I thought I had a vague idea that I'm in the same basic industry - with a slight difference of scale of course, like a Diamond Valley Railway air brake techie looking up to George Westinghouse.

But I'm NOT. Or if I am, please shoot me now.

Seriously, if any daughter of mine made the sounds Joan is squealing out the speakers right now, I'd have her over my knee and lay into her with a strap. And if any son of mine made the gurglings her brother is making, I'd tell him to sit up for goodness sake and open his mouth properly when he's talking.

It's not even as if they were trained in the Josephine style of singing (which consists in la-la-ing all the vowels and allowing the consonants to take care of themselves) and are making a nice vowel sound. That would be OK, I can appreciate a good sweet voice even when it's singing rubbish. (Hey, I even enjoyed Orpheus and the Merry Widow...) A good sweet face helps too. ;) But the voices and faces in our recent Pirates (eugh, how quaint! You do comic opera! I am so sympathetic...) or even our slightly less recent Iolanthe were so completely superior to this as to be beyond comparison.

And they keep dropping out of character! How many bloody curtain calls do you need? Every second song seems to get one! For goodness sake stay in character until the END of the show! If you want to do a concert version go ahead, but don't mix concert and performance, it's very unprofessional.

Not that the curtain calls are badly rewarded. If AO had a dollar for each clap they wouldn't be losing money. If we had as many for Pirates we would have encored With Cat-Like Tread no matter what James and Martin thought. So what exactly are the audience applauding? Not her clear diction. Not her dramatic acting. Not the composer's skill in putting together a catchy tune either. It must be that they felt that they'd paid a lot for their ticket and sore hands at the end of the show is part of the value they get from it...

Or else it's a big claque.

The future of Microsoft

It's good fun googling for "When will Microsoft die?". Lots of articles. Lots of opinions. Some incredibly amusing.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cycling can be dangerous...

Damn, have to go to work on my day off, to argue about my shifts. They put me on weekends, and my weekends are sacred. Might be a while arguing, don't want to miss the bus - better take the bike.

Argued for half an hour. Argh, it's 3:30pm and I said I'd be home by then! And I've got a day's work to do there! Time to turn on the afterburners.

Downhill section. Shove it into fifth gear and try to match speeds with the cars. BLAST YOU inconsiderate car drivers, can't you give me a bit of clearance? Stop pushing me into the blinking gutter! Those black holes in the gutter aren't painted on, they're DRAINS. You with your tyres might be able to go over them just fine but I CAN'T! Do you want to see me splattered all over your radiator grill? Because that's where I'll be if I hit one of those drains as you go past. Hope you have a strong stomach and a REALLY good excuse to give the coroner.

Uphill section. Take it back to second. The cars are even worse here because they can just plant the boot and go past me. Trouble is they don't wait until their rear end is past me before getting their wheels back into the ruts in the road so I'm constantly shying away from a rear bumper bar, to say nothing of smelling their exhaust. Blow this for a joke, I'm taking the footpath. Nobody around, let's go.

Remember how the tram tracks were covered up during the Commonwealth Games cycling events? Well tram tracks have nothing on lawn edgers. I can cycle over tram tracks at 45km/h with no ill effects at all, they're shiny and stand out on the road. But an edged lawn, with a deep rut between the concrete footpath and the dirt and a thin layer of grass to hide it, is a perfect death trap.

When my front wheel dropped in, I knew I was coming off, no doubt about it. Luckily I managed to aim myself away from the road. But there was a fence on the other side, with a nice gate all ready to catch my pedal. Straight over the handlebars I went. My water bottle flew out of the pocket of my backpack and landed 2m ahead of me.

Luckily I got away with a few minor abrasions. But just imagine if there had been a pedestrian around - just getting hit with a water bottle would have been enough, but if they'd been close enough to get the full force of a Midga in the sternum there would have been bones broken.

We need cycle paths! And we need car drivers to be more considerate!

When I was working for FCL Transport I had to interview truckies. The #1 most common thing they said was "Put people in a truck as part of learning to drive, and tell them to bring it to a stop from 60km/h". I'll add to that: "Put them on a bike and tell them to take a 10km ride on a major road".

And for goodness sake, learn how big your vehicle is!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Debt collection

I'm doing debt collection for my family business. It's not fun but it has to be done.

It's not like I'm nervous on the phone, or hate talking to customers, or anything - I absolutely LOVE ringing people to say that their order is now available for shipping and could I have a new expiry date for their credit card. How beautiful are the feet of those that bring good news, and all that. (Incidentally how can feet be better or worse? They just do the propulsion, it's the letter itself that can be better or worse looking!)

But somehow I get the idea that people aren't going to be too happy when they get a letter telling them to pay up. They're probably a Ruddism aka a Working Family with not much money to spare. They probably feel guilty for not having paid it already. They might even feel helpless with not enough cash in the bank at the moment because of the price of petrol.

And now I've sent them a THIRD nice letter and had no response. Will they be happy to hear from me on the phone? I think quite possibly NOT.

So I fire up the database. Get the phone number. Psych myself up for this harrowing ordeal. Oops, get the invoice record up too just in case they ask me what it was they bought. Take a deep breath. Dial.

"Optus advises that the number you called is disconnected. This has been a free call."


So now I have to go to White Pages online, find the right number, and then go through all that again.

It's really amazing how many important and urgent things crop up when I'm in the middle of a list of debt collection jobs. The phone has a voicemail message, it tells me when I pick it up to dial. That might be a customer wanting to place an order, quick, play the message! My water bottle is empty, quick, refill it! If my throat gets too dry while I'm on the phone it sounds very unprofessional. An email comes in, it might be a reply to one of the letters which would save me making a phone call! A thought comes to my head, quick, blog it! Log on to Facebook! Take an extended lunch break! PROCRASTINATE AT ALL COSTS!

Running a small business really is a LOT of fun.

Well, here it is.

Yeah, I've joined the rest of the free-speaking world (the ones that make speaking free because supply exceeds demand) in having nothing to say and a forum to say it on.

People who like my sense of humour, read on. People who don't, go elsewhere.