Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category
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.
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.
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.
Firstly, apologies for the lack of posts over the last six weeks.
I won’t bore you by explaining what the problem was. Let’s just hope that 2011 is more restful year!
I have been thinking lately about the seven virtues, and in particular, the first of the cardinal virtues, prudence.
Prudence is sometimes portrayed as having three faces. This is because prudence learns from the past, and thinks about consequences in the future, in order to act rightly in the present.
Prudence does not mean refusing to take risks. Prudence is not fear, but a careful regard for right outcomes.
Prudence is a quality leftist politicians lack.
They do not learn from the past. They do not think about consequences in the future. Consequently they act in the present in ways that, however well intentioned, will not bring about desireable results.
The Clinton administration’s pressure on the banks to increase home lending to under-represented groups in the housing market effectively forced banks to make loans to people who could not afford to repay them.
The intention was good – more members of minority ethnic groups owning their homes. This would, if successful, have been a good thing. People are more careful of what they own, and have a greater stake in maintaining their local community and environment.
But it didn’t work. People who had been given loans they couldn’t afford, well, couldn’t afford them. So they didn’t pay them. So they lost their homes.
The people targetted to be helped were made worse off, because they lost the money they had put into their homes, and were now less likely to get a loan in the future, even one they could afford.
All this was easily predictable.
Consequences for the banks, and therefore the economy in general, and therefore people in general, were also dire.
That was also predictable.
The intention was good, but there was no prudence – no learning from the past, no thinking through of consequences in the future.
In Australia, refugees and the NBN are two obvious examples of a lack of prudence in government action.
Intending to be kind, the Labor party implemented policies which lead to a dramatic increase in the number of illegal immigrants arriving by boat.
‘We will be nicer to you,’ they said. ‘We will welcome you.’ We are not nasty like John Howard.
People who would not have made the journey to Australia except for these changed policies, and for their belief that things were different in Australia now, have died.
That is a bad, and foreseeable outcome.
Large numbers of people (from three boats a year to 2-3 boats a week) arriving in Australia without proper identification need to be accommodated at taxpayer expense, either in detention or in local communities. This stressful for the immigrants, stressful for workers and communities, and means money has to be diverted from other projects – roads and hospitals, for example.
That is a bad, and foreseeable outcome.
When people who arrive illegally are accepted as refugees, the number of those people accepted as residents is deducted from the number of people who will be accepted from refugee camps. People who are the poorest and most in need, who have provided identification and waited for processes to run their course, lose their places to those who have the money to bypass the safeguards and make their own way to Australia.
That is a bad, and foreseeable outcome.
Planning for the proposed National Broadband Network demonstrates a similar lack of prudence – of willingness to learn from the past and to think carefully about consequences in the future.
The NBN will cost a vast amount of money. At the planned cost of $43 billion, over $6,000 per household, plus the cost of connection and in-home cabling, plus of course, ongoing plan costs.
Even now it is clear that the NBN offers little advantage over cable or ADSL2+ to people living in metropolitan areas. Those are current technologies.
Two things we learn from the past are that new technologies double the speed of internet access every five years, and that large projects are almost always slower and more expensive to implement than first thought.
On present planning/costing, the NBN will make back the taxpayer’s investment if 70% of people take it up.
In Tasmania, where need was considered significant, the take-up rate has been about 1%.
So the NBN is needed, and will succeed, only if there are no developments in internet technology over the next five years, if competition is stifled, if the price of constructing it does not increase, and if people are coerced into paying more for internet plans that are only marginally faster.
In effect, the government is spending over $6,000 of your money on a plan that will deliver no improvement over likely commercial plans which would have cost the taxpayer nothing.
There is an argument for government subsidy of better satellite based internet access for people in remote areas where commerical provision of fast internet is not viable.
That would be prudent. The NBN is not. Nor are our current policies on illegal immigration.
95% of my customers are great – patient, considerate, etc.
And then there’s the other 5%.
Just two examples.
It is time to close. I have swept the floor, closed all the photo processing equipment down, and am tallying up the till.
A woman comes in. ‘I need some photos done,’ she says.
‘Sorry, we close at 12. I have turned all the machines off.’
‘But I need these done today.’
‘We’ll be here at 8.30 on Monday. If you come in then we’ll do them for you straight away.’
‘That’s no good to me. I need these this afternoon.’
‘I’m sorry. I can’t help you. Even if I turned the machines on again, it would take at least half an hour to process, and I have appointments after work.’
What I felt like saying, of course, was that if it was that important to her that her photos be done that day, she should have made sure she got to the shop before closing time.
It’s the same with those airport documentaries showing people having hissy fits because they are late for their planes.
If it is that important that you get on your plane, make sure you get there on time, for heaven’s sake. And if you don’t, it’s your fault, not the airline staff’s. Grow up and take some responsibility.
Sleazy, smelly guy with bits of food crusted around his mouth, married to attractive and intelligent woman 25 years younger than him. Has got several nasty viruses on his wife’s computer because he has been using it to look at porn while she is away. Has to be fixed before she gets back.
OK, whatever. I fix the thing. He takes it home. Three days later he rings again.
‘This computer is infected again.’
‘OK. How did that happen?’
‘I don’t know. I was just looking at some websites and these warnings started coming up.’
‘Ah. All right. Well bring it in to me, and I’ll clean it off again.’
‘You’ll do it free this time, right? This is follow-up service.’
This was a customer I wasn’t anxious to please anyway, but even if it had been someone I liked, the answer would have been the same.
It would be like someone driving thier car into a tree, taking it to the panel beater and getting it repaired, then driving into the same tree again and demanding the panel beater fix it free the second time.
And it comes down to the same thing – people not taking responsibility for their actions.
It is a disease our governments encourage.
I am starting to feel something akin to outrage at the way Kangaroo Island’s doctors continue to hold medical services on the island to ransom.
See my earlier post for more details about the background.
Briefly, after a long period of negotiation between government and doctors’ organisations, a contract was offered to rural doctors under which they would provide medical services through local hospitals.
Doctors were under no pressure to accept the contract. If individual doctors or practices believed they could not take responsibility for providing the specified services, or that the remuneration offered was insufficient, they could decline CHSA’s offer.
Country Health SA would still have a responsibility to provide those services, and would then need to set up their own clinics, or supply visiting doctors. Obviously, local GPs would hardly then be in a position to complain about unfair competition!
The contract was designed to provide consistent services in rural and remote SA, at a fair cost to the taxpayer, and with fair remuneration to local GPs.
The Rural Doctors Association of SA recommended doctors accept the contract, although not perfect, as the best possible outcome for a first attempt at a uniform contract.
Although some practitioners believed that the amount offered as an on call allowance was inadequate to cover the costs of disruption to practice, the vast majority of doctors accepted the contract, knowing that it was essentially a ‘trial run’ that would only last for eighteen months, while further fine tuning was done.
The amount of the on call allowance is $135,000 per annum, or approximately $370 per day. It is the highest rate of on call allowance paid to doctors in any state in Australia. It is a payment simply for being available. If a doctor is actually called out to the hospital both travelling allowances and normal fee for service rates are paid.
Doctors on KI have said they are willing to accept the contract except for the on call services, or that they will agree to provide those services if more money is offered.
CHSA has said said right from the beginning that neither of these are options. One of the reasons for the negotiation of a new contract was to break the old system which was inconsistent, unfair to taxpayers and the majority of rural doctors, and frequently offered higher pay to doctors in monopoly practices for no other reason than that they were willing to blackmail the health department by refusing to provide services until their pay demands were met.
Everyone agreed that this was unfair and had to change. Again, see my previous post for more detail on this. It would simply be wrong for CHSA to agree to a special deal for KI doctors. There is nothing to justify treating KI as different from any other remote SA community.
Sadly, despite the fact that CHSA has been perfectly consistent in its message, KI doctors continue to represent themselves as victims of some sort of government conspiracy.
Claims are made that CHSA has acted in bad faith. It hasn’t. That locums have provided sub standard services. They haven’t. That CHSA has issued threats. It hasn’t.
What CHSA has said is that doctors are free to accept the contract or not. If they do not, then those services have to be provided in some other way.
I am pleased to see that CHSA has finally bitten the bullet on this.
After nearly a year of waiting, discussions, and disruption to local medical services, they have given doctors a deadline, the 12th of November, by which the contract must be signed. If doctors do not agree, then CHSA will begin to consider other means by which services may be provided.
The doctors will say that the island doesn’t need this, and doesn’t need another clinic. That is debatable. What is not debatable is that the people of Kangaroo Island have a right to reliable medical services.
If local doctors choose not to provide those services, they can hardly complain when Health SA does.
Darn good advice.
From The Mercury:
A well known Hobart psychologist has got some advice for those people still consumed with grief for Packed to the Rafters character Mel Rafter – get real.
Dr Harry Stanton said people still feeling sad over the TV death were likely to be bored with their own lives, and therefore identifying with people who are more exciting even if they are not real.
So basically – ‘Get a life.’
It sounds a bit harsh, but the opposite (which is the more common practice), of encouraging people to think about their feelings, to go over what has upset them, and worst of all ‘to try to remember’ past traumatic incidents, does more harm than good.
If you are feeling down, get some sunshine, go for a walk, do something nice for your neighbour. You may not have a choice about how you feel, but you always have a choice about what you do about it.
It was perfectly innocent. It was.
I was in a shop in Kingscote (where my shop is, just by the way, on Dauncey St, opposite the cafe/newsagency) and the lady behind the counter asked me to sign a petition for state funds to build a skate park in town.
I said no. Well, what I actually said was that I was happy to, but I would wait until local young people had done some work, and raised a reasonable part of the cost.
The woman almost turned purple. ‘B, b, but the kids have nothing to do. They need this.’
Neither of those things is true. There is plenty to do on Kangaroo Island, including active sporting clubs of almost every description. There are several different art groups, a drama club, a writers’ group, craft groups, walking and hunting clubs, etc, etc. And even if those facilities did not exist, young people hardly ‘need’ a skate park.
But if they want one, I am more than happy to support them by signing a petition, writing letters, making a donation, even coming and helping to build it, as I did for the playground at American River.
But why should I put time and money into it, or ask other tax payers to do so, if the people who will benefit won’t?
I ended my post featuring Morgan Freeman with the suggestion: ‘if you don’t think race should make a difference, stop acting like race makes a difference.’
So I was interested to read in Qantas’ in flight magazine about how jolly well some of those indigenous football players are doing.
Qantas even has a program to help them along, poor dears. Because, you know, of the extra help they need.
The whole tenor of the article was ‘Oh. you’re black, and you’re good at something. Gosh. Well done!’
This is a perfect example of Ayaan Hirsi Ali calls ‘the racism of low expectations.’
It is promoted by race relations commissioners, social workers and the media. It is applied to Australia’s indigenous peoples and to non-white immigrants.
It is insidious, insulting and destructive.