Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ironman Nearly Drowns And Google News Considers This To Be Entertainment

It amuses me to see a news story relating to Joe Hockey, shadow treasurer, to be put away in the sports section of Google News. OK, that's just the name confusing the issue. It worries me, slightly, to see a story with the headline "Ironman nearly drowns at Coolangatta Gold" and it is considered to be entertainment. At least it should have been in the sports section, methinks. Are we that interested in blood sports today?

News Stories

Here's a few news stories I saw during the week that I found to be interesting.

Sydney man stabs and kills intruder armed with stun gun

- It's time the government realised that anti-gun laws are having a detrimental affect on the lifespan of robbers. I thought that this country stood for a fair go for all.

Faster than light particles found, claim scientists

- Particles faster than light? Are they sure it's not a daylight savings error and that they didn't synchronise their watches?

'Decamillionaires' on the rise in Asia as wealth shifts away from Western nations

- Dammit, one list I wouldn't mind being on.

Julia Gillard TV sex scene causes outrage in Oz

- I hear that the diggers aren't happy at the image portrayed in the show, At Home With Julia, as thousands of men have died under that flag. I wouldn't be surprised if the guy playing her partner, Tim Mathieson, "died" also.

Amorous Squid Seeks Partner: Any Sex Will Do

- And to think they just spit in our eyes. It could be worse.

UK’s slowest broadband street revealed

- Sounds like snail mail is faster than broadband in West Sussex and Hampshire.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Farewell Russell Woolf - Former ABC Weatherman

Russell Woolf has been axed as the Perth ABC weatherman. I'm deeply saddened to see him go as I've very much enjoyed his humour and down-to-earth demeanour over the last five years. He's never been full of his own self importance, take note other stations, nor has he been the best looking weatherman (weatherperson for you PC types), but it didn't make any difference. Hardly a weather report would go by without him fluffing his lines and reading the wrong value. But he would correct the mistake and not try to cover up and pretend to be perfect.

Farewell Russell Woolf. You have my respect.

Nicole Kidman Heading To Jail?

When I first saw the picture associated with this news article I thought perhaps Nicole Kidman was heading to jail. Then I read the article headline, entitled "Actor Jailed" and I realised that there was no possibility that it was her. She's not an actor. She was previously married to a guy who wasn't an actor either.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The US Department of Defence Needs to Join the 21st Century

Our national radio broadcaster, ABC News Radio, has content agreements with other radio stations around the world including Deutsche Welle, the BBC, Radio Netherlands Worldwide and NPR (National Public Radio - US). From Radio Netherlands yesterday on their The Shape We're In program they interviewed retired Leiutenant Colonel Anthony Schaffer and he spoke about his book, Operation Dark Heart, and his work in Afghanistan as a spook - an undercover operative which is much like James Bond 007. Listen to the interview here.

The US Department of Defence censored the book and then bought all 9,500 copies from the first edition and destroyed them even though Shaffer had obtained clearance for the manuscript from the US Army. When are they going to join the 21st century? What if he publishes it in an online form - PDF, e-book, etc? Then what are they going to do? I don't think that they had very good intelligence on how to deal with this situation. So, of course the book becomes a New York Times non fiction & political books best seller. He must have felt a bit empty about that honour as no-one had read it still.

Shaffer has a story to tell that the US military doesn't want you to hear. I found the interview to be quite interesting and it makes you take a step back and look at what is really going on in the world. Who is good and who is bad when it comes to terrorism?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Challenge – Make $50 This Week

I've joined a financial blogging community - Finance Community - that has just been created. I'd like to use some of my creativity and thoughts regarding finance and share them with a wider audience than I currently reach. One feature of this blog is a weekly challenge. And the challenge this week is:

Make $50 This Week

Well, the rules aren't that rigid. I shall explore a couple of ideas.

Charity - raising $50 for the MS Readathon is not too difficult, if you have a reasonable network of family, friends or know your neighbours quite well. It's great for young people to raise money for this worthy charity and the benefits of reading are wide reaching. Of course, this week would require the readathon to be active and in Western Australia it starts in December.

Personal - gardening for the neighbours.
- collecting cans and bottles for the refund money (might take more than one week though).
- doing odd jobs around the house, like cleaning the pantry or the container cupboards, cleaning the shed, washing and vacuuming the car, etc (more age dependent and aimed at the younger generation).
- delivery of brochures and local newspapers (I understand that the pay rate is closer to $1/hr and not a real earner).

Committing yourself to working overtime is too dependent upon the boss to make it a reliable money-making method. And it's not an option if you are a salaried employee. I think the older you get the more difficult it is to actually make more money outside of your usual employment. That $50 is more attainable by spending less than normal.

Frugal Bastard's Challenge to Make $50 This Week

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Amazing Customer Service - From A Telco No Less!

My missus lost her pre-paid mobile phone recently. As she doesn't use it much it took a few days to notice. The usual trick is to call the mobile and then find it pretty easily. Didn't work on this occasion. Maybe the battery was already dead. Searching the car, house, shopping centre, etc, failed to turn it up.

I did something unexpected. I called the customer service on my mobile account. Surprisingly there was an option not too deep within the menu to talk to a customer service person and I didn't have to wait very long. As I didn't have the password/code for the wife's account they needed to speak to her for verification. I asked if they were able to pinpoint the phone's whereabouts, from the triangulation with the towers that happens constantly but the customer service rep informed me that only iPhones have that tracking ability. She started up an online account for the mobile, after trying to call it herself, and that would enable us to check the last 60 calls and SMSs from the phone. Lastly she put a block on the phone so that no outgoing calls were possible but incoming calls could still be received.

Two separate emails provided the username and a temporary password to this online account. I did make an error using the password, as it contained a "," as a special character at the end of the code and I didn't notice it. Quite frustrating and I made another call to customer service who quickly put me back on track. Few minutes later and I have a complete list of the last 60 calls/messages and the phone numbers that they related to. Brilliant - as the SIM wasn't backed up that meant that all of the contacts had been lost.

Next weekend the wife remembered that she had an old phone, and it turns out that she liked that one better than the newer one, and so we took it down to the Optus store. Before we got there we had a bit of shopping to do and noticed at Woolies that they were selling Optus SIM cards for only $2. Still, I wanted to talk to the Optus people first. It turned out that they were selling SIM cards for $2 as well. The guy, a trainee, even deactivated the old SIM card and reactivated the new one. As my wife had credit left we didn't need to top it up. It certainly cost more than two dollars of his time.

Back home and the phone wasn't charging properly. That was until I rummaged through one of my drawers and found the original battery charger. That was bound to happen as I'm a hoarder and never throw anything away. Few hours later and one perfectly working mobile phone without any contacts. Only cost a phone that the owner wasn't happy with and two bucks for a new SIM card.

Can't believe the trouble that Optus went to to provide customer service. They were so helpful in the store and on the phone. Being pre-paid customers we certainly aren't high revenue by any means. But we are happy Optus pre-paid customers and not afraid to say so. Who would have thought that in this day and age a telco was capable of providing outstanding customer service? Thanks Optus.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pretty Successful Weekend - Includes Taekwondo Grading

The weekend just past was pretty good. Friday night kicked off with taekwondo and the first of the AFL finals for the year. Great game between Geelong and Hawthorn. Finals footy is the way it should be played and the way it should be umpired.

On the Saturday I did my normal taekwondo trainng and shopping. Watched a bit of footy as well.

Sunday morning I had taekwondo grading. I'd have to say that it was the most fulfilling grading I've done and I reached red belt three (1st geup). Pretty pleased with my performance but still have quite a bit of improvement to do to prepare for my black belt grading. Practice, practice, practice!

Back home in time for meat pies and potato chips and the start of the blockbuster 1st elimination final between Essendon and Carlton. Almost all over by the end of the first quarter and certainly over by half time. Those damn Blues blew away my Bombers. Bastards!! They played much better and deserved the win.

Full time in the footy meant time to mow the back lawn and do some edging followed by cutting up of the palm trees that I chopped down two weekends ago. My blisters had healed enough for me to make another attempt at cleaning up the front yard before the greens collection in a few weeks time. I spent two hours cutting up the trees but it was worth the effort as the front yard looks much better.

After a wash up, well, a shower, we went out for tea to Phill Bean in Shelley. It's a newish Korean restaurant. Man, I tell you, the food is great. It's not expensive but it is very cosy so I can see why you generally need to book. Loved the food and will definitely return.

If it hadn't been for my footy team losing it would have been close to a perfect weekend.

Friday, September 09, 2011

New Zealand Have No Hope in the IRB 2011 Rugby World Cup

Mark my words - the All Blacks have absolutely no chance of winning the IRB 2011 Rugby World Cup.  Why, I hear you ask? Let me explain.

New Zealand are hosting the World Cup.
New Zealand are the No. 1 ranked team playing rugby union.
New Zealand, being the hosts, have the most favourable fixture.
I picked New Zealand in the sweepstake at work today.

There you have it. No hope for the Kiwis. I was asked to run a sweepstake only three and a half hours before the opening match of the World Cup. I even had to ask when it started as I'm not into rugby too much. The only games I take any interest in are World Cup matches. So, I emailed my colleagues and managed to sell the 20 places in three hours. We like a bet, we do. I had two ladies conduct the draw, and they hadn't joined in and were therefore impartial, but as soon as my name and that of New Zealand was drawn out I knew fingers would be pointed at me.

And that has certainly put the mozz on the Kiwis. Anybody remember the FIFA World Cup sweepstake where I picked Brazil and got nothing?

IRB 2011 Rubgy World Cup Odds

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Article Proclaiming That Living Standards In Australia Have Risen

If you, living in Australia, thought that living standards had dropped between 2003-4 and 2009-10, then, according to this article, you'd be wrong. In that timeframe household spend has increased by 38% but the CPI (Consumer Price Index) has only risen 19%. Therefore, we're spending more of our money enjoying ourselves. Or so they tell us.

I'm concerned by CommSec chief economist Craig James's quote - "Australians have continued to get richer over time and thus are spending a greater proportion of their incomes on non-essential goods and services like pay TV connections and the internet." Since when was the Internet non-essential? If that is the case why must we have a A$43b NBN (National Broadband Network) so that everyman and his dog in this country has access to expensive, fast broadband? I find it difficult to remember how I paid all the bills prior to the Internet coming along and being a part of my everyday life so I pretty much consider it to be essential.

Some of the figures in the article, results from a conducted survey, raise concern.

- We're paying 68% more on rent payments. I don't see how that means our standard of living has increased. We're very unlikely to be living in a penthouse and more likely to be living in the same box we were back then. It's just that the landlord is creaming more from his investment.

- We're paying 95% more on pay TV. Doesn't this mean that the pay TV operators have become much better at offering introductory packages that don't show you what you really want to see, such as the EPL or quality documentaries/movies, and more of us are forking out more dosh for the few programs that are really worth seeing? I'm certainly not rich enough to hand over $50/mth for some basic TV and, I dunno, $70~$100/mth for only a couple of programs actually worth watching.

- We're paying 50% more on fast food and meals out. Maybe that's because we're too busy working hard to pay all of these bills or just don't know how to cook anymore. Anyone with a bit of sense knows that it's cheaper to make a healthy meal than to buy takeaway. Are we just buying less at restaurants and have downgraded our eating out?

- We're paying 84% on childcare payments. How does that equate with a rise in the standard of living? Childcare workers now require better training and a lower ratio of carer:child therefore of course it's going to cost more for this facility. The article also states that the average household size increased from 2.53 to 2.57 people. Quite obviously we have more of the little tackers to send to childcare in the first place.

Sorry, I don't quite read the same obvious standard of living rises that this article wants us to believe.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

How Does Yahoo! Search For A New CEO?

Yahoo! fired their CEO over the phone. It got me thinking. Normally when a company loses their CEO they spout some claptrap about searching the globe for the most suitable person to replace them with. How does Yahoo! go about searching for a new CEO? Can I make a suggestion?

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Teacher Laptops Should Be Deemed As Essential Tools And Supplied

I wasn't too pleased to read the other day that teachers in Victoria were being forced to enter lease agreements for outdated Apple computers and that the lease would lock them in until 2016. Their students would have far better computers, probably paid for by taxpayer dollars, as opposed to the computers that the teachers would use (and pay for).

I don't fancy being locked into anything especially if I have no choice in the matter. If a laptop is deemed by the government to be an essential tool for all teachers then surely the relevant education department should be responsible for providing them. I don't get this. In this country if a uniform is required then the company has to issue it. If personal protective equipment is necessary then the company has a duty to supply it.

How can we be in a situation whereby the teachers have inferior products to the generation that they are supposed to be teaching? It's like having a university lecturer whose experience is dated and irrelevant. Oh, wait....

Aren't the youth of today supposed to be tomorrow's leaders? What happened to the Education Revolution from the Australian Labor Party? Ha, I like the reference to "in a Rudd Labor Government" throughout the linked document. That didn't last long. I guess now that KRudd is no longer in charge the Labor Party doesn't have to honour those particular promises.

Get your act together, the Australian Government, and provide for education outcomes that are necessary in this country.

Friday, September 02, 2011

What's Julia Gillard's New Slogan?

Before the last federal election Julia Gillard had the slogan "Moving Forward". Whenever she was asked a question relating to policy and mistakes made by the Labor Party the answer was always the same - "We're moving forward".

Now that Labor is floundering in the polls and there is some talk from her party that has reached the media, with the possibility that she will be replaced, she doesn't seem to be moving forward anymore. Now she's stated "I'm not going anywhere".

I think this is the point where Gillard has gone as forward as she's going and has stopped just prior to moving backwards. It's as though she hasn't felt the knives in the back yet, perhaps they're still being cleaned after deposing Kevin Rudd, but they are certainly out. I said at the end of last year that she would lose her position before the next election and be replaced by Stephen Smith, the current minister for defence, and he has been very quiet of late. Strange, that.

Let's see how long Gillard runs with her new slogan.