The Time Has Come (the Walrus said) Archives

Pommie Place Names

Got a pack of Jelly Beans for Christmas.

The manufacturer is is Snugborough Rd, Dublin.

How about some other names:

Chipping Sodbury
Creech St Michael
East Grinstead
Braintree
Bishops Stortford
Stanstead Mountfitchet
Slubberdike Wood
Draycott in the Moors
Newton-le-Willows
Scunthorpe

We just don’t get names like this in Australia.

I kinda like these English place names. They clearly convey charm, quirkiness, history, and character.

Perhaps the one that is really amusing in a “what exactly do they mean” kind of way is Kingsbog, in Ireland. Exactly what kind of bog????

Glacial

Todays Friday Photo is still from New Zealand South Island – and like last week, this is just around the corner from the eastern side of Mount Cook.

When you make the drive in to the eastern side of Mount Cook, there is a small, unmade (gravel) road. Not especially well sign posted, narrow, and somewhat hair-raising, this eventually leads to a glacial lake.

The day we were there, it was hot – about 35 degrees, dry, very sunny and slightly windy. All in all, not that pleasant. There was about a 1/2 to 3/4 hour walk from the car park to the lake; of course this meant the same duration to get back again. The landscape on the way varies between a strange low wilderness of prickly acacia-like bushes, to a barren lunar landscape. The difference between summer and winter is obviously stark, with only the toughest of plants surviving. The movement over the years of the glacier, and the flowing waters from the lake also take their toll, which is why as you get closer to the lake it looks like some giant god has come along in a fit of anger and thrown handfuls of rock around – some as giant boulders, and a great deal of it crushed to powder.

The lake provides a welcome relief from the heat – the water is full of tiny particles of ground rock; a moving glacier grinds everything in its path, until eventually the particles drop out in the melt water. Of course, the lake is also cold. Perhaps something to do with the lumps of ice floating around in it.

Glacial Lake near Mount Cook

(Click for full size)

Boo hoo for a bunch of bankers

The recent weekend Financial Review reveals that investment bankers are suffering terribly.

The poor folks are not getting paid quite like they used to, and the bonus pools to be shared are shrinking.

Oh noes! The poor dearies!

The same bunch of clever-dicks who were paid in the millions up until about 2008, for coming up with more obscure and creative ways to “manufacture money” and produce new “financial products” (gee how I detest those terms) are now doing it tough.

About time, methinks.

Give it another few years, though. These things go in cycles, and the wheel of finance will eventually turn again. The biggest mess to be sorted out if the Euro-zone. Once that is sorted, which may be some time, I fully expect to have 25 year old whiz kids earning gazillions, living in swish London apartments, consuming the output of Columbia, and guzzling champers.

In the meantime, I rejoice at the hard times befalling the parasites of society.

Defend or flee

While hunting around to find something software and geeky-related, I accidentally came across Sam Harris. And more particularly, an article about self-defence, violence, nicking orf. (Long read but worth it.)

The Chaps have been going to Kung Fu classes for years; there is a strong emphasis on self defence, but the instructor has one overriding piece of advice: all this stuff is very nice, but if you are in a sticky situation the best thing you can do is run like hell. Only if that won’t work do you try and use anything you are taught.

Martial Arts is more about self-discipline than actually to be used in anger, unless of course you are fortunate enough to star in the next Jackie Chan movie.

Friday Photo

Todays Friday Photo continues the NZ trip (which I will describe in excruciating detail in another post).

Today, though, we have Mount Cook.

In the South Island, Mount Cook is the tallest of the mountains, and has permanent snow in a good year. When we were there in early December, there was certainly snow at the top.

Roads in the South Island tend to be a little sparse – vast amounts of NZ simply have no access, except perhaps by a dirt road in summer if you get lucky, or by helicopter. A range of mountains on the western side means that the prevailing winds pick up moisture over the oceans, and rise over the mountains when they hit NZ. The western side of the mountain range is vastly different to the eastern side, simply due to the huge difference in rainfall.

The western side of the South Island has something like 3000 mm of rain per year (some parts are even more!), and a drought is called when there are more than 3 days without rain. The other side of the mountain range is a different matter; the rainfall drops dramatically, and some parts are closer to that of parts of Australia: about 750 mm or less. The arid “bad-lands” in the middle of he South Island are strange, barren, bald-hill places. The difference is chalk-n-cheese.

Mount Cook is one of the few places that can be viewed from both the western and eastern sides.

Here then, is Mount Cook, from the eastern, more arid side.

Mount Cook

(Click for full size)

Dinner!

As I look around amongst the neighbours, and as I hear from colleagues and friends about their eating habits, I wonder more and more what has happened to the world of old.

That’s right, that’s the world where people and families sat at an actual TABLE and ate together.

This strange old habit seems to be dying out: sporting committments, people come and go at all hours, and crap on the TV to watch; all these conspire against the shared table. Last I knew, something like 80% of all households eat dinner in silence whilst watching the goggle box, be that at a dinner table, or mooching around in a lounge room with a big TV going and eating off their lap. [OK I made that number up, but I *did* read something along these lines somewhere, sometime, and the number was large and staggering.]

And we wonder why there are more dysfunctional families?

Even if you gobble and run, eating together at a shared table is a mark of civilisation and respect for one another. For busy people, it can also be one of the few times that a whole family come together and actually have a bit of a chat. Gosh fancy that – 15 minutes in a day to actually be together and talk. Maybe 30 minutes on a good day. Is that too much to ask?

I know firsthand how difficult this can be. Teenagers who are out and about, going to sporting and martial arts classes with early start times (6:30 pm) means that busy parents who might not get home until 6 or 6:30 certainly don’t have time for a civilised sit-down feed beforehand. That means dinner might be on the shared table at 8:00 pm, or later. This is what’s known as a pain in the neck, but the alternatives of eat-on-the-run and never see your family is worse.

Am I the odd one out in feeling the importance of the shared table and the family meal? It’s certainly hard work but I’m sure it is beneficial.

House or Home?

What is a house?

And what is a home?

To my way of thinking, a house is just a building. A structure, made of stuff, for people to live in. Any people, generic, plastic, cardboard cutout people who we don’t know and can’t relate to.

My home, though, is where I live. It’s mine, it’s personal and most of us have an attachment – be that through the vast amounts of money we had to spend or some emotional connection to the things we’ve done there.

Perhaps have make too fine a point on the distinction, but because I do, it rankles when I see real estate agents signs for “Home Sale”. No… its a HOUSE for sale. You BUY a house. You make that into a HOME. You can’t just buy one.

Phriday Photo

Today’s Friday Photo is a trip down memory lane…

A little over a year ago we were in New Zealand, and spent nearly 3 weeks travelling around the South Island. Fortunately for us this was a stable period in between the numerous Christchurch Earthquakes.

Lake Tekapo is one of those mountain lakes (just another, there are rather a lot in NZ) in between bald hills. The hills seem to capture low clouds and slowly release them as the sun goes down. By about 8pm, as the shadows come over, the cloud pokes out of a pass in the mountains like a giant tongue.

Lake Tekapo

Click to embiggerate.

Trippin’

We’ve been watching “The Trip” on ABC.

(FYI this is a BBC production a couple of years back… things take a while to make it to the bottom end of the planet.)

This is one of those TV shows that The Lady Of The House just won’t watch – probably on the grounds that life is too short, or it’s more fun to much on ‘andful of broken glass.

The Chaps and I enjoy it though, in my case in a kind of masochistic and slightly horrified manner. I know it is supposed to be comedy, and some parts are hilarious. But it’s also kind of sad and horrifying – a parable of middle aged men and the things that amuse them. Perhaps that’s how I look to others. ~Shudder~ I still don’t know if the foibles and sadness are intentional or were an accidental consequence of the partly scripted, partly ad-libbed production. Whichever… it provokes a very mixed reaction.

The most amusing part was the Michael Caine impersonation in episode 1 (yours to recap on iView for a little longer) and available from Mr YouTube

The original blowing the doors off.

And just for the curious, Michael Caine impersonating himself.

Brother!

For some reason this just came back to me…

Many years ago I worked at a place where we were writing lots of software. So we had a big tractor-feed sprocket-drive line printer which took fan-fold paper. The kind of thing you never see any more. In spite of this I can still instantly recall that there are 66 lines / page, and 132 columns / page. Why we retain useless facts like this when they are no longer important baffles me.

Anyhow, this was a mechanical pin-style ink-and-ribbon printer. That means that characters were formed by little pins pushing against the ribbon to make an impression on the paper. The correct arrangement of pins, and moving the print head fast means that these thing could work at a fair clip and even though using a ribbon and plain paper they could print almost anything. This particular machine was also extremely noisy, and when placed on a table it would shake that table violently and threaten (like my old washing machine) to walk across the room. The only saving grace with such appliances is that escape is foiled when they pull their power cable from the wall socket.

Anyhow, this printer was made by Brother – at that time not anywhere as well known as they are today. A Brother printer was something of a novelty. What next, Sister Scanners?

Enough of the tangents. I used to always refer to this printer as the Hallelujah Brother.

This used to really annoy one of the other people on the staff who was a very fervent Christian. Of course, such objections never made me stop saying it.

Does this make me bad?

Nothing is permanent

Unions, government ministers, employees – all bemoan the ever falling number of “permanent, full time” positions in the economy. For over 30 years the notion of the traditional 9-5 full-time, permanent (and often male) employee has been slowing going the way of the dinosaur. Somehow, this trend is supposed to lead to the downfall of civilisation, increase school truancy rates, a worse sex life and dental cavities. OK I exaggerate about the cavities but you get the idea – less “permanent” employment is supposed to be B.A.D.

Don’t misunderstand – permanent employment (as opposed to being on some form of limited time or limited scope contract) has a whole stack of benefits. These include employment law favouring the employer for ownership of intellectual property (effectively, crudely, the employee is owned). Likewise for the employee a stack of things become no-worry issues: you get paid, your tax was taken out, your compulsory super contributions were made.

But come the first economic downturn, “permanent employment” is an oxymoron. Redundancy or other means are used to get rid of staff all the time. “Permanent” is not very permanent.

I grappled with this idea for years – the idea was to have a safe job which would pay the wages and allow safety, comfort and security. Eventually, the realisation dawned that this is all a fallacy. After over 20 years in a number of different companies where redundancy rounds were used every time the bottom line looked a little sick, the penny finally dropped: If you are not wanted, you will be gone. Permanent employment be damned. As far as I can tell, the only remaining real benefit of “permanent” employment is that it helps convince a banker to give you a housing loan, and the tax is pretty much automatic. Apart from that, its all an illusion pumped up by vested interest groups.

Safety and comfort come from your wits or intelligence. Security… pretty much likewise. As far as employment goes, there isn’t any.

Since leaving “permanent” employment, I have found a few things – kind of obvious really – that for many would be a put-off: doing invoices is a pain (and it’s done in your own time, no payment for that!). Likewise, doing GST and BAS returns is a pain. And chasing up unpaid invoices is an even bigger pain. It’s all possible, none is very difficult, it just consumes valuable time. Being employed makes all this go away. But being employed is not “permanent”.

Taxing times

The oldest son is now of an age where having a tax file number is pretty much mandatory – when trying for holiday employment this is a kinda obvious thing to have sorted out beforehand. Mind you the chances of actually picking anything up now seems slim.

However this brings me to actually GETTING a tax file number.

Once upon a time (a long time ago…) you called the tax office and they gave you a number and send you a nice form telling you what it is.

Now you need to apply. In order to apply you need a special form. The special form can only be obtained by phoning the document delivery service, or using the internet to order it (whereby you need to create an account, register, blah blah blah). And then the form is posted out.

So far, GETTING THE FORM has been a long and frustrating trial. The first attempt at ordering the form showed (2 weeks later) that it was claimed as shipped. Shame it never arrived. The second attempt saw the form arrive just before Christmas.

Time between trying to get the form and being able to fill it out: just a touch under 4 weeks.

Now the fun beginneth. Having filled out the form, one must lodge it. Doing so requires the production of Identification Documents. These are such things as a Passport, a drivers license, a student ID card, a bank statement and so on. All must be original. Copies – not acceptable. They promise to get these things promptly back to you by registered mail. What does “promptly” mean? If the document delivery service is anything to go by – 2 – 4 weeks should be expected. Suppose one were to send in a drivers license… that would make driving illegal while the license was in the hands of the glorious tax office.

Of course, lodgement need not be via post. One could visit a tax office “shopfront”. So… one asks… where is the nearest such shopfront. Unforunately, the glorious ATO web site shows the shopfront locations as “This document is not available on the ATO web site.”

We think we know where it is, and realistically the only way to get the tax file number processed is to do so in person. Sending in the acceptable document is not really acceptable. Trouble is the ATO won’t tell us where to actually go.

This, and my other dealings with the glorious ATO leave me feeling sullied. A bit like the new CEO of the company I worked for many years ago – after a presentation by him I felt unclean, the desire to have a shower and wash away the bullshit was something I’ll never forget. And dealing with the ATO is similar – every interaction – whether by paperwork (BAS ~shudder~) or by trying to use their web site from hell just leaves me feeling as though I’ve dealt with some incomprehensible monster with 17 heads, 43 tails, and no bloody idea.

The similarities abound, with Arthur Dent’s predicament in The Hitch-hikers Guide to The Universe: The information was in a locked drawer of a filing cabinet in a disused basement behind a door marked “beware of the leopard”. Except Arthur had it easier.

Revived! Back from the dead!

Well… Hi…

After a 2 year holiday, Wally The Walrus has decided to make the occasional come-back appearance.

Because it is nearly 2 years since the last post, and that one was on a hot January day, I had originally thought write about the weather. After all, that’s the topic of conversation when most people meet. And here is little Adelaide we are now into day 3 of the heat-wave, with tomorrow forecast for 35 degrees C – so that will make it 4 in a row of 35 or over. New Years Day at 41 was not a lot of fun.

The trouble with yabbering on about the weather is that it’s a topic which is both boring, and predictable in its permanence: Too cold, too hot, too wet, too dry, or too windy. Throw in the odd “ooh isn’t it a nice day” and you have pretty much exhausted the subject matter.

Strangely though, this brought me to the subject of permanence. More particularly, for employment.

More soon.

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