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Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

I just finished the author website for Wynford Wilde. This is the place to go for news on upcoming adventures in the Jennifer Jones series, starting with Dark Turnings, which is now available for Kindle or in paperback.

Describing myself as a best selling writer was just wishful thinking a week ago, but within three days of being launched my short story Encomium had shot to number two on the bestseller list in its number one Amazon category, and the top ten in two others:

Wynford Wilde’s sci-fi adventure Encomium hits number two on Amazon’s bestseller lists after only three days

My new book was released today, 5th of May 2017.

I like it, but more importantly, people who have read it tell me they enjoyed it too.

A fast-moving fantasy adventure for young adults. In the tradition of The Hobbit, it has the same moral heart as The lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Every time there is a major Christian festival, someone pops up with the claim that of course, this was really a pagan festival that Christians appropriated. And then the rest of the herd pass on whatever silly graphic has been created this time around to make the same claim.

Every single one of these claims is silly, tedious and ignorant. Not to mention intrinsically unlikely, given the determined opposition by Christian leaders East and West to any watering down or mixing of the Gospel message with local culture or religion.

Take the graphic going around FB over the last few days showing a statue of Ishtar, with the claim her name is pronounced Easter, and that, like obviously dude, that’s where Christians got the whole idea of Easter from.

There is not a single thing in that post/graphic which is true. Not even the statue – a statue of the queen of the night from the Old Babylonian period – some 2,000 to 1500 years before Christ. It could later, in the neo-Babylonian period (c600 to 500BC) – have been thought to be an image of Ishtar (pronounced Ishtar, as it is spelled, not Easter). But there are other possibilities, and archaeology is uncertain.

Ishtar was a minor goddess in the Akkadian/Assyrian/Babylonian pantheon. The Babylonians were defeated by the Persian Cyrus the Great in about 550BC, and the few temples dedicated to Ishtar fell into desuetude or were converted for use by Achaemenid deities. The Achaemenids then underwent a religious revolution of their own with the rapid growth of Zoroastrianism, before being defeated by the Greeks led by Alexander the Great at Gaugamela in about 331BC.

At Alexander’s death, the Eastern part of his empire was taken over by his general Seleucus Nicator. His dynasty, the Seleucids, maintained control over a large but declining empire that included most of the Middle-East until being defeated by the Roman general Pompey in 63BC.

By the time we get to 1st Century Judea we are more than 500 years from the time anyone had any serious interest in Ishtar, and 1400 kilometres away by normal trade routes.

There are no references to Ishtar in 1st Century Greek or Roman literature, and it is unlikely anyone living in Judea or Galilee or Samaria had ever even heard of her. Suggesting that because Ishtar and Easter sound vaguely alike they must mean the same thing makes as much sense as saying chocolate and choo-choo train sound alike so they must mean the same thing. It is just silly.

Quite apart from this, the word “Easter” was not used to describe the celebration of the Lord’s passion until over five hundred later, in England. Everywhere else, even today, the word for that celebration is Pascha, derived from the Hebrew word pesach, meaning Passover. It very early became a custom for Christians to give each other gifts of red-dyed eggs on the morning of Pascha, partly because they had been fasting from eggs and meat for the last forty days, and this was time for celebration, but more importantly, to symbolise passing over into new life won through the blood of Christ.

The Venerable Bede, the great historian of the early English Church, offered an explanation for the use of the term Easter in chapter fifteen of De Ratione Temporum (On the reckoning of Time), written about 725 AD:

“Nor is it irrelevant if we take the time to translate the names of the other months. … Hrethmonath is named for their goddess Hretha, to whom they sacrificed at this time. Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated “Paschal month”, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.”

In other words, Bede says that the name of the month of April, when the Pascha normally occurs, was Eosturmonath, and gradually Christians in England began to call the Paschal feast by the name of the month in which it occurred, so it became the feast of Easter.

However, careful as Bede usually is, this sounds like a “just-so” story; an explanation invented after the fact, and without any evidence. Kipling’s delightful Just-so stories were amongst my favourites as a child, and I can still tell you how the camel got its humph.

Bede is the only person to refer to a goddess by the name of Eostre. All later references to Eostre, or Ostara, or whatever other transliteration is given, including works by the Brothers Grimm, are based on this single sentence. It is likely that Bede simply assumed that because other Saxon months were named after gods and goddesses, Eosturmonath must have been too, so he deduced the existence of a goddess Eostre.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica has another explanation:

“There is now widespread consensus that the word derives from the Christian designation of Easter week as in albis, a Latin phrase that was understood as the plural of alba (“dawn”) and became eostarum in Old High German, the precursor of the modern German and English term.”

In other words, the Christian use of the phrase “In albis” – “at the dawn” (of new life, new beginnings, new hope) became in Old German “eostarum” dawning. Eosturmonath was named after the Paschal celebration. The word Easter ultimately derives from Christian use of the Old High German word eostarum, meaning dawn.

Whether Bede was right, or modern scholarship and the Encyclopaedia Britannica are right, the Pascha was well-established throughout the empire and beyond, long before a small group of Christians in England began using the name of the month to refer to the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.

Visit Blissyoo.

Don’t let Facebook decide what you see and what you can post.

Blissyoo means no censorship of posts, freedom of speech, videos, music, groups, pages, news, and soon, revenue sharing.

Visit, join, invite your friends.

Happiness-Comics-2014

A bird watching spot across the road from my work in American River on Kangaroo Island.

Bird hide

A photo of the War Memorial in Adelaide, taken by my friend the Honourable Peter Lewis, former Speaker of the South Australian House of Assembly. The description is Peter’s words.

angel
“An amazing moment when it is possible to see the brilliance of the Designer & Creator of such wondrous things. The Grand Geometrician of the Universe inspired the designing architect to make this amazing sight possible twice a year for ~8 days, just after the March equinox & ~8 days just before the September equinox at about the same time every day  ~16:15hrs plus or minus a minute or two, depending on where you stand & how high you hold the camera hand piece.

The Vision of Glory is made possible by placing the Memorial on the site at 45° to due North (or due West) & far enough back from the northwest Corner of Kintore Ave/Gawler Plc with North Terrace, such that you can stand on/near the footpath and look at the head of the Angel to see the glorious energy of the beams of sunlight coming through the the sculpted open space around the Head, as though to give us a message from God that all things are noticed & known to the Almighty who provides understanding, succour & compassion to those prepared to make the effort to fight for righteousness, freedom & responsibility and whose choice in Service was to take the risk of having to make the Supreme Sacrifice, just as did the Son of God for us.

This was taken on my Samsung Galaxy 4. Notice that when you zoom in you can see the Angel’s head & how clear the image is of the scholar, farmer &  nurse are, as they heed the responsibility confronting them.”

Just a little comment on Peter’s words. In most cases the farmers and nurses are still taking their responsibility seriously. I am not so sure about the scholars.

I think this guy needs a friend.

smile_8

Now that is a lesson I should have learned long ago; don’t run for long distances in wet bathers. Some bits of me are feeling sharply uncomfortable.

It was a nice run though. From Min Oil Beach, run, paddle, climb, jump, around to Redbanks.

This is a photo I took a few years ago. Kathy walking Hannibal along Min Oil Beach in the direction of Redbanks, the reddish sandstone cliffs in the distance.

Kathybeach

Not waited? Called the police? Done something to help? Rescued the girls? Saved the planet?

The need to believe ourselves morally superior to others has impacts on our understanding of history, the way we respond to calls for social or environmental action, and the way we interpret current events. The story of the story of Kitty Genovese is instructive. Thirty-eight neighbours watched the assault and did nothing? No. Thirty-eight neighbours were interviewed by police. Most of them heard and saw nothing, because they were inside with their families.

The rape and murder of Kitty Genovese was sad, horrific. There are lessons to be learned. But the story of Kitty Genovese does not say anything about the willingness of “other people” to stand by idly or curiously and watch a neighbour being stabbed and raped. That is not what happened.

“At 3:15 on the morning of March 13, 1964, a 28-year-old bar manager named Kitty Genovese drove her red Fiat into the parking lot of the LIRR station by her Kew Gardens home.

As she walked home — she was only about “a hundred paces away” from the apartment she shared with her girlfriend, Mary Ann Zielonko — she heard a man’s footsteps close behind her. She ran, but the man, Winston Moseley, was too quick. He caught her, slammed her to the ground and stabbed her twice in the back. She screamed twice, once yelling, “Oh, God! I’ve been stabbed!”

Across the street, a man named Robert Mozer heard Genovese from his apartment. Looking out his seventh-floor window, he saw a man and a woman, sensed an ­altercation — he couldn’t see exactly what was happening — and yelled out his window, “Leave that girl alone!”

Moseley later testified that Mozer’s action “frightened” him, sending him back to his car. At this point, Genovese was still alive, her wounds nonfatal.

Fourteen-year-old Michael Hoffman, who lived in the same building as Mozer, also heard the commotion. He looked out his window and told his father, Samuel, what he saw. Samuel called the police, and after three or four minutes on hold, he reached a police dispatcher. He related that a woman “got beat up and was staggering around,” and gave them the location.

Other neighbors heard something as well, but it wasn’t always clear what. Some looked out the window to see Moseley scurrying away, or Genovese, having stood up, now walking slowly down the block, leaning against a building. From their vantage point, it wasn’t obvious that she was wounded. Others who looked didn’t see her at all, as Genovese walked around a corner, trying to make her way home at 82-70 Austin St.

But the police did not respond to Samuel Hoffman’s call …

Word of the attack spread though the building. A woman named Sophie Farrar, all of 4-foot-11, rushed to the vestibule, risking her life in the process. For all she knew, the attacker might have still been there. As luck would have it, he was not, and Farrar hugged and cradled the bloodied Genovese, who was struggling for breath.

Despite the attempts of various neighbors to help, Moseley’s final stab wounds proved fatal, and Farrar did her best to comfort Genovese in the nightmarish ­final minutes of her life.

..  Instead of a narrative of apathy, the media could have told instead of the people who tried to help, and of the complex circumstances — many boiling down to a lack not of compassion, but of information — that prevented some ­others from calling for aid.”

Yes, but telling the truth, the whole truth,  is not what the lamestream media does.

I have written a few times about these scammers. See here and here, for example.

CFS-Live and ESL Trader are a simple but very slick share trading software scam. The pattern is that they cold call to test interest, send a polished looking brochure, make follow-up calls, give you a few websites (all fakes) to check to confirm their stories, tell you there only a couple of licences left for your state, that because of the demand they can only hold one for you for a day or two. If you still hesitate they will give you a directors’ guarantee that you will make back the cost of the programme within the first twelve months or they will refund your money.

But you won’t make any money, and they won’t refund your payment.

I rarely write negatively about any person or company. When I do I am careful to be fair and factual. I always allow people to respond and will make changes if they can show I was wrong. All the CFS ESL crowd needed to do was demonstrate that their products really do work, and that they treat people who are unhappy fairly and honestly, and I would have been delighted to have said so.

Instead, they responded with threatening phone calls, abusive emails, and numerous vicious and misleading comments to the posts about JBC, CFS and ESL.

More recently, they have set up a couple of websites or blogs making vile allegations about me and my family, or pretending to be people who have shopped with me and are dissatisfied. It is silly, childish and nasty. I am not bothered by them, because no-one who knows me or my business would believe them for a moment.

In the last few days someone has attempted to organise an attack on this website. Again, silly and shortsighted. Everything is backed up, and even if the attack was successful and the site went down, it would be up again the next day

By doing these things, Rhys, Phil and co have confirmed what I have heard from the hundreds of people who have contacted me or made comments on the various earlier posts – that they are not only dishonest, but vicious and vindictive. Not the kind of people you want to be doing business with.

In 2007 Kathy and I needed to buy a new home. We had banked with the National Australia Bank for over fifteen years, so it never occurred to us to go anywhere else. This would be our fourth home loan with the NAB. All of our previous loans had been at the variable rate, or with very short fixed terms. This time we had no idea how long it would be before we needed to move again, so the flexibility of a variable rate loan was even more important.

We met with bank staff twice, and explained our needs. We were especially careful to make it clear that we did not know how long it would be before we needed to sell, and that we needed as much flexibility as possible. We finally agreed to a fixed term of one year, then moving to the standard variable rate.

Documents were given to us to sign with representations that they expressed the agreement we had made. Because we had banked with the NAB for so long we had no reason to doubt what we were told. But six weeks ago, we found that the documents we had been given did not express the agreement we had made. Instead of a loan with maximum flexibility, we had been signed up for the exact opposite; a loan with a higher interest rate, for a fixed term of ten years.

When we discovered this, we assumed it had been an honest mistake, and that the bank would be anxious to fix it. We could not have been more wrong. The reaction to our concerns was hostility, delays, and finally an outright refusal to consider anything we said. We even told them we did not want back the extra interest they had charged us, we just wanted the mistake, their mistake, to be fixed, now that it had been discovered.

We have been defrauded of between $3000 and $4000 over the last four years. The National Bank also tells us that instead of being able to pay out the loan or refinance with minimal costs, they will charge us nearly $8000 to make any changes, on a loan of just over $100,000.

We should have done more homework before going to the National Bank. In 2003 popular independent consumer website notgoodenough.org noted that the NAB was the most complained about of any Australian company. Not just the banks. The National Bank was the most complained about of any Australian company.

Ten years later, nothing much has changed. There have been media reports of NAB staff making statutory declarations they knew to be false, of falsifying loan documents, and of a pattern of complete disregard for the rights of their clients. See, for example, the website ihatethenab.com, or Bruce Ford’s bankdispute.com.au

This is not just one or two disgruntled customers. As this graph from businessday.com.au shows, the National Bank continues to lead the industry in the number of complaints. The majority of those complaints relate to housing finance.

National Australia Bank Tops List Of Customer Complaints

The National Bank can get away with treating its customers poorly, even dishonestly,  because it knows that small customers like us do not have the funds to pursue justice through the courts.

What we can do, though, is to warn our family and friends. And that includes you.

If you bank with the NAB, for your own sake, change now.

A few grammatical points.

1. Comprise means ‘is made up of.’ Comprise should not be followed by ‘of.’ Comprise includes the ‘of.’

This is a frequent error in real estate agents’ descriptions of their properties. ‘This house comprises of four bedrooms, three bathrooms … ‘ No it doesn’t. It comprises four bedrooms, three bathrooms, etc. Writing ‘comprises of’ or  ‘comprised of’ makes you look like an idiot.

2. It’s always means ‘it is.’ Always. If you mean its coat, its temperature, etc., you do not need an apostrophe. The possessive pronouns ‘his,’ ‘hers,’ ‘its,’ etc., do not take an apostrophe.

Real estate agents seem to have difficulty with this one too, as do signwriters. ‘It’s bathroom is tiled in blue.’ No it isn’t. What that sentence means is ‘It is bathroom is tiled in blue.’

3. Plurals do not take an apostrophe. I don’t know why this is so difficult to understand. If you want to say there is more than one of something, you do not need an apostrophe. More than one tomato is tomatoes, not tomato’s. More than one CD is CDs, not CD’s.

4. Unique means ‘one of a kind.’ Whatever it is, it cannot be ‘very unique,’ or ‘quite unique.’ It is either one of a kind or not. It is either unique or not. Nothing can be partly unique.

5. To beg the question means to avoid the question, to answer without answering. For example, if Mr Obama was asked ‘Has unemployment risen during your presidency?’ and he answered ‘Our policies are designed to ensure ongoing economic growth,’ he would be begging the question.

If a statement makes you want to ask another question, or leads naturally to a question, that is not ‘begging the question.’ For example, it is not correct to say the statement ‘Black men suffer higher rates of imprisonment than white men,’ begs the question ‘Are the courts biased in their sentencing?’ It might invite the question, or lead to the question. It does not ‘beg the question.’

You could use any one of a dozen expressions to mean that a statement leads naturally to another question. If that is what you mean, use one of them.

What you should not say is, it ‘begs the question.’ It doesn’t. That has a specific meaning, which is to avoid answering a question by giving an answer unrelated to what has been asked. It is a useful expression, and worth preserving.

I rarely do product reviews, and even more rarely write anything negative about something we have sold in the shop, but my experience with OKI has really been something special.

We have mostly sold Canon and Epson inkjets, and HP, Brother and Fuji/Xerox laser printers. Occasionally we have had a dud, and when we have had a problem the manufacturers have generally been helpful, replacing failed product or arranging for repairs. Then there is OKI.

I wanted something at a lower price point to offer as a special. Synnex (national IT wholesalers) had the OKI B2520 multi-function printer with an RRP of $299 for sale at $159. You have to add GST and freight to that, but even so, I thought we could sell these at $249, have some happy customers who had got a good deal, and still make a few dollars. So I bought four to see how they would go.

They all sold. But three out of four came back with problems.

First customer back – there are no Windows 7 drivers. Windows 7 has been out for over two years, so this is simply inexcusable for a ‘current’ product. You can get the B2520 MFP to run under Windows 7, but it constantly reports that it needs troubleshooting, and the bundled ‘software suite’ will not run at all. I can put up with the trouble-shooting requests, and I would not have used the suite anyway, so I gave the customer a new Fuji printer and took the OKI home, where it replaced my older but Win 7 compatible, cheap to run and super reliable Sharp MFP.

Next customer, annoyed for two reasons. First, I had sold her the OKI as a budget printer. But the RRP on cartridges is over $250. My reaction to this when I first tried to order some was WTF!? I would not have ordered the printers if I had known this. How can I tell a customer I am selling her a good value printer if the cartridges cost more than the printer, and twice as much as comparable cartridges for Canon or HP printers?

Anyway, I ordered three OKI toner cartridges, and sold one to my client at cost. She was back two days later. The ‘reset card’ that comes with the cartridge had not worked, and having just installed a cartridge that cost her $200, the printer was still telling her she needed to replace the toner. I went to her home and checked. She was right. The card simply would not reset the printer.

Efforts to contact OKI and ask for a replacement card were unsuccessful. The only possible purpose for a ‘reset card’ is to force consumers to buy the exorbitantly priced OKI toner cartridges instead of generics, and to stop people refilling them. Greed, in other words.

So I gave her a Samsung MFP, and found a place in Hong Kong where I could order a replacement reset card for the B2520 for about $30. The OKI went into my office, where it replaced an older, but Win 7 compatible and reliable HP printer.

Third customer. He had the same problem as customer number one – no Win7 drivers – but like me was willing to put up with this as long as the OKI B2520 actually printed.

His wasn’t printing any more. Instead there was a message on the printer LCD screen saying ‘No printer.’ Yep. the printer was saying ‘No printer.’ Nothing would print from the computer, and if you tried to use any of the stand-alone functions – copy or fax, for example, you got a message saying ‘Printer busy’ for a few seconds, before it went back to saying ‘No printer.’ Great.

OKI B2520 Printer 'No Printer' Message

I definitely did not need or want another OKI printer, so I told the client I would contact OKI and try to arrange repairs under warranty. After some to-ing and fro-ing, a representative confirmed it would be repaired under their ‘return to base’ warranty. I have no idea how long that might take, and my client needs a printer for his small office. I gave him a new Fuji printer. Gol darn it. So now this dud OKI is mine again.

But at least I can get it repaired for free, right? Well, yes. But the nearest OKI repair centre is 200 kilometres away, and I live on a island. Cost to get it there, about $50 in each direction, plus packing materials and time. So I will get it back having cost me an additional $100 on top of what I paid for it in the first place.

But I can’t sell it as new now. It isn’t new. It has to be a secondhand or demo model. So the absolute most I can hope to sell it for is $200. And I would need to give the new buyer a warranty, and put a new cartridge in it. So on top of the $190 or so it cost me in the first place, I would be spending an additional $100 in transport costs plus $200 on a new cartridge, to be able to sell the printer for $200 at most, and have to offer a warranty, which given the odds, well you get the picture.

So the latest OKI B2520 to come back to me is not going back to OKI, it is going to the dump, and I will never sell another OKI product again.

My advice to anyone thinking of buying an OKI printer? Don’t.

So that he can ask her in person, ‘Why is assisted suicide banned in Australia?’

To save you the trouble of talking to Julia, I’ll tell you Terry.

Assisted suicide is banned in Australia because it is wrong, and Australia is a civilised nation, where doing wrong is discouraged.

Terry says this is about seriously ill people being allowed to die with dignity.

No it isn’t.

Diginity is not about avoiding difficulty, pain, dependence on others. We might wish to avoid those things, and it is not wrong to do so when we reasonably can.

But they are part of life, and we do not and cannot know either what it means to be human, or who and what we are, without them.

What a bizarre notion of humanity it is that claims dignity is about remaining free of the very things that teach us to be humble, thankful, patient.

Diginity is not about avoiding pain, but bearing it with courage. Not about being independent of others – we can never be that in any case – but about being so strong in our weakness and dependence, that even in our darkest times we can still be an inspiration to others.

No man is an island, and no woman either. Despite ‘my rights,’ my life does not entirely belong to me.

I do not ask to avoid pain or loneliness or even fear – all those things will come to me no matter how vigorous my asking that they may not. I cannot avoid them without avoiding humanity.

I do ask that when I face those things, I do so with such courage and gentleness that I inspire courage and hope and gentleness in others.

That is dignity. That is what it means to be human.