Dreaming of a Long Time Ago

April 11, 2016 § Leave a comment

There was a time not so long ago when things were easier. There was a rhythm in the flow and ebb of Australian life that saw time to come together, to walk along the beach, to kick a footy, have a swim at Maroubra and then a bacon and egg roll with a few mates before we all went to work. Fortunately for me that time is coming closer again. A time when I have that last juggle trying to get my safety glasses off and sunnies on as I exit the hole into the bright light of the day for the last time. Yes….retirement.  Actually, it’s not such a big deal, I’ve retired before, I was back at work within a week. But that’s not the point.

Yes, old people say that life was easier years ago and we all think they say that because their brains are fading and they can’t keep up with modern technology. Yes, I am getting older and maybe I am falling into that trap. But what if they were right? What if life was actually easier in the older days? I remember lecturing a first year mining engineering subject when I was doing my PhD (yes, a hard rock miner with a PhD…..Dr Rock). I asked that class to name a single field of human endeavour where computers had helped mankind.

“That’s Easy”, said one pimply faced graduate of a north shore private school. “What about banking?”. I explained that before computers you had to go into the bank, they had LOTS of banks EVERYWHERE and they had a crapload of counters and tellers. Those tellers could do anything. They could arrange cards, give you money, do your insurance, book a holiday, open accounts, close accounts, etc. The bank provided a service to everyone and they made a profit. These days, the bank just makes profit. What little service they offer is purely driven by profit. Look at the Commonwealth bank financial advisory debarkle and their latest insurance scandal…..in any other industry people would be facing gaol time. But the banks are almost an arm of the government these days and they can do whatever they want. And this is my point…..things were easier in the old days because companies offered a service. Now, they just want your money and they are prepared to lie and cheat to get it.

In everyday life, we are all now constantly under threat from the mercenary strategies of every colour of government and private organisation. For example; in the old days you used to be able to walk into a travel agent and book a flight knowing exactly what you are getting. These days, you have to be a forensic expert simply to work out if your ticket includes baggage. Are you allowed one bag or 2? Does the total add up to 20kg or is it 20kg per bag? If you buy allowance for an extra bag, how much are you allowed to carry in that bag? Let’s ring the airline….good luck with that!

My eldest is off to cairns next week with Jetfail and we have no idea what we have actually bought in terms of luggage allowance. The risk is on us and you pay extra to minimise the risk. Remember the old days when the risk was on the airline? Everyone had a big bag allowance and the airline had to hope they had space. Now, the airline oversells its baggage allowance by charging everyone for their baggage and having everyone pay for more than they need because they are wearing the risk.

Same with Telstra. In the old days you paid for what you used. Now you have to take the risk that you will have enough call time and data each month, so you buy more than you need. Everyone buys more than they need so the carrier is able to oversell its products.

The one I love is the NRMA. You pay for insurance for your car, but they never tell you what they are going to pay you if have an accident. So, in effect, what you are buying is not insurance, you are buying the right to argue with them about what your car is worth if you have an accident. The risk is on you. They can decide your car is worth whatever they want it to be worth. Every year your premiums go up, even though your cars is worth less.

“But parts become more expensive”, they say on the phone reading from the scripts they have been given for when customers complain they are getting less and being charged more. Let’s not even talk about petrol prices.

So, dear friends, we all now live in a society where everyone is out to get you, even the damn police hide behind bus stops so they can CATCH you speeding as opposed to trying to STOP you speeding. We are in constant battle with corporate and government Australia who are trying to screw us, instead of trying to offer us a service. We are under constant threat and I believe that constant threat takes up our time and adds to the anxiety and pressure of life. All of these companies would tell us that they are making changes to help serve us better….spin, spin, blah, blah.

It WAS easier a few years ago. There was an expectation and a sense of fair play. Now, it’s every man for himself.

Dog eat dog.

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Suunto….You Muppets!

October 7, 2015 § Leave a comment

I may be an old hardrock miner, but that doesn’t mean I don’t try to keep up with a bit of technology.

suunto

It’s not like we wander around with candles on our heads pulling donkeys and carts in mines these days, our tunnels are filled with wireless networks, enough optic fibre to run a small city, and everything is run by computer. Even your average exploration driller is running around with a toughbook and can diagnose a network connection (most of them will walk off the job if they can’t access their portfolio to do a bit of day trading while the rods are spinning).

I recently had the opportunity to visit Finland to see a bloke about some mine trucks (don’t get me started on Finnair!). I’m a bit of an outdoorsy kind of person and was very excited to see the full range of Suunto GPS watches….they’re made in Finland..and bought one of their top models.

I read the instructions and was able to connect, calibrate, go for a paddle around a lake in Tampere and upload the excersise to my laptop.

Anyway, I went out to dinner that night to a charming restaurant which served a quaint little South American Pinot Noir and a wonderful Atlantic Samon with a cheeky pesto sauce. I returned to my hotel room at around 11:00pm set the alarm on my watch, plugged it into my computer to charge and went to bed.

I was a little groggy when the alarm went off and was a little suprised to find that I had slept until 1:00pm in the afternoon. I had planned to do some work and had now lost most of the day. Putting it all down to Jetlag, I thought a run would do me the world of good and clear my head. So, off I went jogging around said lake in Tampere.

Perhaps I should have realised that there was something wrong when I noticed that there was no one about. I did think that it was a little strange that the streets were deserted at 2pm in the afternoon.

I was now desperate for a coffee, but all of the coffee shops were closed. The day was overcast, but the sun up high and it wasn’t that cold, so there should have been hundreds of people in the streets and the cafes should have been busy.

I got back to my hotel room, showered and started some work. A short time later I realised it was 4:30pm. I was due to meet for dinner drinks at 4pm. When I rang my collegue and appologised for being late, he thought I must have been on drugs. The conversation went something like this;

Ring, Ring. ring, Ring.

Him: Mate, what’s up?

Me: Sorry mate, I’m running late for dinner. I’ll be down soon.

Silence

Him: Are you OK?

Me: Yeah, just running late, drinks were at 4, weren’t they.

Him: Are you on drugs?

Me: What do you mean?

Him: It’s 5:30 in the morning you idiot?

WHAT MUPPET THOUGHT IT WAS A GOOD IDEA TO SYNC THE WATCH’S TIME TO THAT OF THE COMPUTER BY DEFAULT???

The watch HAS A GPS BUILT INTO IT. It already knows what timezone it is in.

Tell me it didn’t occur to the 20 year old boffin that wrote the software that changing the time on a watch without telling anyone might carry an element of risk. Think about it….the only way you know the time is by the position of the sun and by your watch. Finland….. Summer.

If someone has set an alarm on a watch and you decide to change the time automatically and by default, you might flash up a big red screen that says;

“Warning – your day is about to be ruined. Press OK to continue”

It’s a GPS watch you goat herders! If you must have a default sync, it should ask you whether you want to sync to your PC or to GPS.

No one has ever crossed a timezone with one of your watches?

The worst thing is that even after changing the setting, it still occasionally syncs to my PC.

No, this is not the case where the user is technically challenged, I have a PhD in Computer Science FFS, so don’t even think of going down that path. This is a classic example of ill-conceived, poorly contrived, ludicrously delivered functionality that someone thought was a good idea at the time.

Well, IT WASN’T A GOOD IDEA. IT WAS STUPID IDEA!

I would appreciate it if someone could track down the boffin who decided this would be a good idea and read him this email. Then, wake him up at 3am in the morning with no coffee and slap him around the head with a large pickled herring.

Gen Z. Bloody Hell

You have to stand for something.

October 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

You are defined by what you stand for.

Call me old fashioned, call me a dinosaur if you want, but I come out of a generation that believes in things.

ISIS believes in things……things they are prepared to die for. Things they are prepared to persecute unfathomable evil to achieve.

In 1915, twenty six men (led by the local rifle club president) left Gilgandra to join the Australian Imperial Force and  to fight the great war. By the time they had marched through Dubbo and Orange and the 320 miles to Sydney, their ranks had grown tenfold. They were clothed and fed by the crowds that cheered them on their way. These were men who, like ISIS, were prepared to die for what they believed in. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowball_marches

Anyway you look at it, war is about right and wrong and what you believe in and what you are prepared to stand up for….and what you are prepared to die for. While any side would make the claim that they fight for right and for justice, the extent of evil perpetrated by ISIS is beyond rationality, is beyond logic and is so far beyond any natural or human norm that any civilised nation has a moral right to wipe them off the face of the planet.

So what do we believe in? In Australia? Now?

You all know how much I love the Greens, God bless ’em, but have a look at their response to the unspeakable terror that ISIS brings to communities. http://greens.org.au/search/node/isis

  1. They question and hamper the elected government’s undertaking to send troops to Syria
  2. They want an apology from Jackie Lambie – get in line.
  3. They want everyone in Australia to hold hands, close their eyes, and wish evil terrorism away.

I’m sorry Dr Di Natale, but the fairies at the bottom of the garden are not going to stop this scourge. This guy sums up the problem well;

I watched four corners last night (for those of you who have read my previous posts, the local publican has again allowed me to turn the TV to the ABC as long as it is off before Q&A, or I am tied to my bar stool). I had tears streaming down my cheeks by the end of it. What Edward Watts presented to us was a bunch of people who absolutely stood up for what they believed in and who were prepared to die a horrible death for what they believed in.

Here is a man, Khaleel, who has more courage, more good in him and more commitment than I’ll ever have. Read his story and then look at our society and the issues we argue over, that dominate Australian politics. Watch the program. Watch it again and again and think about the life we have here, and then think about the life they have there. Do you think these people give a rat’s arse about climate change?

We need to stand up for what we believe in, we must help these people. This means guns and war and horrible, terrible things. It means death and destruction in the name of good and right and justice and praying like hell that when we meet St Peter we got it right. It means putting aside petty arguments and getting your hands bloody. I’m an old bugger, but if me over there with a rifle would help, then so be it.

You gotta stand up.

Where’s My Damn Invitation Malcolm?

September 29, 2015 § Leave a comment

I’m Stuffed. In fact…I am Doomed.

Like the Javan Rhinoceros, the Vaquita (Google it) and the Cross River Gorilla, my time for extinction has come. I am the last of my species. The environment has changed, the climate has changed and I can not survive.

Who am I?

I am a high earning Hard Rock Miner who has busted a gut for over a quarter of a century to build a couple of homes, raise and educate four children, put away a nest egg for retirement and have the temerity to suggest that I should be allowed to enjoy the benefits of my labour in a capitalist country.

But…No!, No!, No! There are a bunch of people who are about to get together to tax me out of existence.

Malcolm has called a snap summit of “Business, Community and Union” leaders to seek economic reform.

Where’s my God damn invitation????

I am one of the 20% of households that actually pay tax. I am one of the heavy lifters. Not only do I clothe, house and educate my own children, I do the same for the 80% of the population that don’t pay any net tax. You would all be aware of the recent Australian Bureau of Statistic survey that found that;

  1. 20% of t families fund the other 80% of families.
  2. The average family receives $2.70 from the government for every $1 they pay in tax. What? You didn’t know that? Here’s a couple of leads;

http://thoughthub.com.au/2014/05/21/who-really-does-the-heavy-lifting-in-australia/

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/opinion/no-the-rich-dont-pay-a-fair-share-of-tax-they-pay-all-of-it/story-e6frgd0x-1226841174461

Well…not this little black bunny. I actually pay tax. I paid over $120,000 last year.

“Jehova! Jehova!”,  I hear you say…”Stone Him! Stone Him! He’s rich! Stone Him! If he’s paying that much tax, he’s earning millions!!!!”

Unfortunately not. I am a PAYE employee, with no tax minimisation available. I’m one of the poor bastards that pays a crapload of tax. I am a rare breed. I am a “heavy lifter”.

So who is getting together for this little soirée?

  • The Business Council of Australia – They want me to pay more tax, because they want business to pay less tax.
  • The ACTU – They want me to pay more tax because I’m a rich bastard and should pay my fair share – see above.
  • The Australian Council for Social Services – They want me to pay more tax so that they can give it away
  • The Australian Industry Group – They want me to pay more tax so that their members don’t have to
  • The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry – Ditto
  • Council of The Ageing – They want me to pay for everyone else’s retirement
  • Australian Youth Affairs Coalition – They want me to pay them not to work – see “Income Support”

So who represents me? Given all of the above organisations either;

A) Want to pay less tax

or

B) Want more money without paying any more tax

Where’s the money coming from??

Me! Bugalugs here! Moi! Where else can it possibly come from? If you are getting together to gain consensus on tax reform, then the bloke who is not at the table is going to end up copping it from behind.

My voice will not be heard. Oh, but the BCA and ACCI and AIG will all look after my interests……crap! No one will look after my interests because there are so few of us left and we are not swinging voters. Well, we are now Mr Turnbull. The word around the mining camp is that WE WANT YOU GONE! You lefty, back-stabbing bastard! You just want Malcolm to be the hero…at any cost.

Can I just highlight a couple of thoughts for this get together;

  1. You can’t make a nation rich by taxing the hell out of those who work and giving the money to those that don’t.
  2. Bar Stool Economics – People do have the ability to cut and run if the tax burden exceeds the pain of packing up and moving. Canada, here I come….they love Miners over there.

So… what can I look forward to?

  1. Land Tax – I should be punished for owning a home I paid for with income I have already paid tax on.
  2. Superannuation – Yes, I should provide for my own welfare and be punished for doing so.
  3. Negative Gearing – Mmmmm see what happens when you stuff with that.

Politics has become religion ….belief without fact. We like to create villains and demons and then blame the for the world’s woes….Climate Deniers, Big Polluters, Greedy Multinationals….The Rich.

Well, I am one of the rich and I’ve worked damn hard to get there. I’ve always paid my fare share of tax and have contributed to the economy. I have educated four children who are now themselves paying tax and creating jobs. However, I am now the target of scorn and the target of a greedy alliance between Malcolm and Bill Shorten. I must be taxed out of existence and cast to the memories of a land long forgotten.

A land where;

  1.  A decent day’s work meant a decent day’s pay.
  2. Successful people who worked hard were respected, not scorned.
  3. It was acceptable to build wealth for the next generation.
  4. You paid your own way.
  5. The family home was sacrosanct.
  6. The country was successful.

We built a nation on that basis.

VW…..Whoops!

September 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

Remember the days when you took your car to a “Mechanic” instead of an “Automotive Technician” ?

Those were the days when you could just go to the garage, buy a 20 cent light bulb and replace the blown one in your internal light. These days…..you have to take your vehicle to the dealership where some bloke with a bit of factory training plugs it into the “diagnostic unit” and tells you that the Pulse Width Modulation module that allows your internal light to dim (instead of just turn off) has blown. It will take a week to get a new module from Melbourne and half a day to fit and will cost $585. “Would you like to book a detail for when you bring your car in?”

They call this progress.

So…how the hell did Volkswagen end up in this mess? How did it all go so horribly wrong?

Quite easily.

Having had a bit of software and technology development experience (yes, we even have computers underground), I can tell you how it happens. See…when you start introducing computers and software to stuff, you have an enormous amount of flexibility. Things aren’t so black and white anymore. I would doubt that anyone actually set out to defraud the public.

The reliability and power of microprocessors has increased exponentially over the last couple of decades. As we all know, the little buggers have found their way into our cars and are used for everything from saving your life to dimming the internal light. Microprocessors greatly reduce the amount of wiring in cars as you can have little ones distributed everywhere through the vehicle rather than having all of the wires going back to one point.

The very second that you put software into anything is the point in time that you can change things quickly, easily and cheaply. And… because you can…..you do.

So why do the VWs have a “Dyno Mode” ? Because on a dyno, you may only have your front or back wheels driving. The others are completely stationary and often strapped down. This is a completely alien situation for a stability control computer that is sitting there trying to detect abnormalities in the driving dynamics of the vehicles. This is a real pain when you are doing something a little different.

Honda Hairpin at Phillip Island is the classic example….when you are cruising in there at a couple of hundred K and there is a car braking in front of you, the computer in my Merc assumes that I am about to have a massive prang and wrenches the crap out of the seatbelt to try to save my life. It hurts!. The car doesn’t know you are racing and that it is perfectly normal to have another car just in front of you at that speed. I’d love to have that function turned off in “Race Mode”, but the boys at AMG won’t let that happen.

Given that you have to have a “Dyno Mode”, you suddenly know when the vehicle is on the test stand. There is nothing wrong, unethical or illegal about this. It’s just a fact of life for modern cars. So, because you are already changing a few settings for “Dyno Mode” , it doesn’t take much to change a few other settings……like the engine mapping.

This idea could have started with just a programmer or two and gradually ballooned thinking they weren’t doing anything wrong. Change a parameter from .57 to .58 here, .78 to .79 there….not much.  What they had discovered was an ability to meet the emissions standards while also increasing economy and power a bit. At some stage (and this is pure speculation) someone higher up found out about this ability and went completely overboard. At that stage, they had crossed the line between a “tweak” and fraud….a  system that is so far from the original mapping that it produces vastly different emissions between the “Dyno Modes” and normal modes…..and you know it’s happening.  It is entirely possible that only a group of three or four people ever knew about this. The fact that there were so many vehicles out there with this software mod would indicate that it was almost impossible to pick up without sensitive instruments and a stringent test regime.

Here’s where things get interesting…..

An organisation know as “The international Council on Clean Transportation” funded some Uni students to measure the highway emissions of a BMW and a couple of VWs and gave them the sensitive instrumentation required to catch VW out. Why did they choose these cars??? Who knows. They had some pretty hi-tech gear to do the testing…

VW

They found that the VWs were emitting higher than stated emissions…..and the world fell apart for VW.

Who is The international Council on Clean Transportation ? They are group principally funded by Climate Works who are a climate change mob who themselves are funded by a bunch of foundations including those of Mr Hewlett and Mr Packard.

Did they know what they were going to find? I don’t know, but I have a feeling they did. No doubt, there are a bunch of European car manufacturers checking their software tonight.

Whoops.

The ABC…Australia’s Third Biggest Political Party

September 15, 2015 § Leave a comment

I hate politics….I just want to get on with business.

I never started out to make this a political blog, but with events of recent days, it’s hard not to throw in my two bob’s worth.

The ABC has always pretended to love Malcolm. They laugh and giggle with him and treat him like the grand old statesman of Australian politics. Compare the way the ABC’s chief attack agent, Leigh Sales, treats Malcolm as opposed to Tony. The following clip shows her allowing Malcolm to finish his responses without interruption;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-exLPA3lZ84

On the other hand….her interview with Tony;

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=leigh+sales+tony+abbott+interview&FORM=VIRE3#view=detail&mid=645028504925375878E2645028504925375878E2

The ABC elevated Malcolm because they hated Tony and his old school values. In his role as a beaten leader who had been offered the olive branch of communications minister, Malcolm could afford to sit back, be middle road, and be everyone’s friend as he didn’t actually have to achieve anything. He offered a reasonable approach that didn’t have to fight unions, didn’t have to defend a budget, didn’t have to deal with anything of substance. He could be mister nice guy and slid easily into the alternative prime minister slot that the ABC created for him. Sure enough, between the ABC and Malcolm chipping away at Tony, Malcolm is now prime minister.

What’s changed. While the ABC and others would have you believe that there is dancing in the streets….what’s changed? I defy any one of those celebrating to tell me what the difference is between Tony Abbott’s policies and those of Malcolm Turnbull. I felt very sad for Tony yesterday as the media stuck the knife in and twisted it by highlighting those few tweets that mocked our prime minister’s term in office (Put out your onions, Tony’s biggest gaffs).

The instant gratification generation have been rewarded for the superficial view of the future and of Australian politics. They always say it takes three generations……one to create wealth, one to build it and one to lose it. Welcome to the third stage!

Well Malcolm, things are about to change old boy! Your agreement with the ABC has now been torn up. Having knocked off Tony Abbott, the ABC will now focus on knocking you off so that Bill Shorten can take your place.

Watch this space.

A Brief Stopover on the way to Greece

September 14, 2015 § Leave a comment

Jeff Kennett could not have summed it up better;

“This has nothing to do with the governing of Australia. This is the promotion of Malcolm Turnbull. He couldn’t work with the team.”

It was only a few weeks ago that I blogged this;

Political Sabotage – The National Sport of Australia

The biggest loser in this whole debacle is Australia. The media have another assassination that they can write about for the next few months, ruminating over why Tony had to go and the disintegration of the Liberal Party. Malcolm has his chance of being the first President of the Australian republic. But worse, much, much, much worse…Bill Shorten has his reprieve, he can step down from the gallows…reinvigorated, reborn…no one will ever raise in parliament again the fact that he was involved in the political assassination of an elected prime minister as both sides now have blood on their hands.

There is no honour. There is no loyalty.

This type of politics puts the individual first and the country last. Behind every great strategy from every great nation, there was the political will to act as a team. Be this driven by the fact that a country was at war, or be it driven by great leaders who could pull a team together and motivate alignment to achieve the common good.

Jeff Kennett again;

“I took on government in Victoria under difficult circumstances, my popularity was down to nine per cent and we won the next election,”

With the selfishness we have seen in Australian politics and the media always ready to drive a wedge into the slightest crack caused by recalcitrant back-benchers, Australia will not have the determination, the willpower, the dedication of purpose required to avoid the train wreck that is coming.

Malcolm: “We need to have in this country — and we will have now — an economic vision, a leadership, that explains the great challenges and opportunities that we face,” 

Malcolm, how do you explain to the 80% of families in Australia who pay less tax than they receive in welfare payments that they are going to receive less? This is not a matter of complexity. Every family know that if you spend more than you are earning, you’re going out the back door.

Malcolm will not win that battle. The only place he can go is;

  1. Superannuation – Which invests in Australian industry. Changing Super will cut the guts out of this investment.
  2. Negative Gearing – Watch the building industry fall off a cliff when you stuff with this
  3. Income Tax – We are already one of the highest taxed nations in the world

We’ve lost our income. We’re still spending like there was no tomorrow and no one is prepared to make a sacrifice.

Greece, here we come.