Saturday, March 31, 2007

Australia Post Billpay

I have had an Australia Post PO Box for 15 years or so. I had an Australia Post mail redirection service for several years but since they failed consistently to redirect my mail I let that lapse because it was a waste of money.

The only online way to pay Australia Post for their PO Box service is to use Australia Post's own Post Billpay service. The only way.

I hate using this service. The only bill I want to pay with this service is the only bill I have to pay with this service. Australia Post's own goddamn bill.

As a result, every 12 months I have to get my password reset because I can't remember what it was 12 months before.

This year, the user id and password lookup function failed. I tried all 4 post codes that it could have been, different spellings of my mother's maiden name and different ways of writing my birth date. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that their system had actually forgotten about me. So, I created a new account, I registered my payment details (again) and I attempted to make my payment to Australia Post.

No can do. Error message: Australia Post requires payment by 31 March 2007.

I check the time: 22:30, 31 March 2007.


So, I find a complaints form and vent my spleen for the umpteenth time about having to use this useless service.

I have to say though, at least the complaints system worked.

I hadn't even finished writing up this blog post when I received a call from Australia Post's payment processing service offering to take my payment over the phone. Given the completely obnoxious nature of the rest of the service, that is nothing short of astonishing.

Postscript: On April 10, I received a final notice from Australia Post, dated April 1, demanding payment of the bill that I actually paid on March 31. D'oh.

Earth Hour

I wandered down to the harbour to see what happened when "Earth Hour" kicked in.

It was kind of a fizzer, really.

Most office buildings had already turned off most of their lighting before 7:30, so there wasn't a sudden dimming of lights, which somewhat diminished the effect. Also, the street lighting stayed on so, locally, there was not much difference.

That said, most office buildings did actually turn of their illuminated signs. Notable exceptions were Mulpha in the city and Samsung in North Sydney.

Presumably the marketing geniuses at Samsung will use the publicity generated by their defiant bucking of the consensus to put a green spin on their own lighting products. On the other hand, perhaps I should credit them for a lack of hypocrisy. How many corporations are actually willing to back up this gesture by permanently switching off all non-essential lighting. Not many, I bet.

The most convincing realisation of the sentiment I observed was the Harlequin Hotel. They dimmed their house lights so that patrons had to find their way around in the glow of large flat screen TVs.

Given the unlikely chain of coincidences that seem to keep cropping up in this blog, what's the bet that those flat screen TVs were manufactured by, um, Samsung?

Update: would seem Samsung can't be cleared of hypocrisy - apparently they were quite willing to sign up to Earth Hour. Just not committed enough to actually switch off their lights. Oops.

On the Hicks sentence

John Howard must be pleased. His commitment to George W. Bush's fiasco in Iraq has paid off handsomely. Hicks home before the election, Hicks' admission of guilt, Hicks' denial of mistreatment and torture, Hicks gagged from media appearances. Meanwhile Messrs Howard, Downer and Ruddock can continue to spin the news however they like, secure in the knowledge that Hicks is unable to put forward his version of the truth.

Every aspect of this outcome reeks of the political expediency which defines John Howard as Prime Minister, politician and man.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A definition of tragedy

This passed through my e-mail box but deserves a much wider audience - even if it is an old one...

Prime Minister John Howard was visiting a primary school and he visited one of the classes. They were in the middle of a discussion related to words and their meanings. The teacher asked the Prime Minister if he would like to lead the discussion on the word "tragedy".

So the illustrious leader asked the class for an example of a "tragedy".

One little boy stood up and offered: "If my best friend, who lives on a farm, is playing in the field and a tractor runs over him and kills him. That would be a 'tragedy'. "No," said Howard, "that would be an accident."

A little girl raised her hand: "If a school bus carrying fifty children drove over a cliff, killing everyone inside, that would be a tragedy." "I'm afraid not," explained the Prime Minister "That's what we would call a great loss."

The room went silent. No other children volunteered. John searched the room. "Isn't there someone here who can give me an example of tragedy?"

Finally, at the back of the room, little Johnny raised his hand...

In a quiet voice he said: "If the aeroplane carrying you and Mrs Howard was struck by a "friendly fire" missile and blown to smithereens, that would be a tragedy. "Fantastic!" exclaimed John Howard. "That's right. And can you tell me why that would be a tragedy?"

"Well," says Johnny, "It has to be a tragedy, because it certainly wouldn't be a great loss and it probably wouldn't be a f***ing accident either."

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Yet another meaningless coincidence

I glanced at my bookshelf today. My copy of that silly book called "The Celestine Prophecy" is one book away from the box of a computer game called "Exile".

If you have read yesterday's posts, you may exclaim as I did: "Hah!"

This just goes to show that you can find spurious connections between anything if you look at enough stuff and have a defective trivia filter.

As further proof of the ease with which spurious connections can be made, I offer this: on the other side of that silly book is a book called "Against the wall" which is the book that inspired me, in part, to take up indoor climbing. That book has a title which is contained in the title of a song that I mentioned in a post about invisible walls. Next to that book is a book of Australian short stories called "Strange Attractors". Strange? If one chooses to think so.

The funny thing is, being of a somewhat mystical bent, she might impute significance to these connections.

I, of course, do not.

All these connections prove is how trivial it is for me to link anything, anything at all, back to her.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Speaking of hippy dippy sh*t....

This morning, I was amused to realise that I had formed a reasonably strong, if somewhat irrational, belief that she is back in Australia now.

This belief is, of course, unsupported by (if not completely inconsistent with) any facts as I know them. It is just a feeling.

If this belief is true, it is a slightly spooky coincidence. If not, it is just silly confabulation.

Come to think of it - it is just silly confabulation, either way.

Hang On St. Christopher

Thorough readers of this blog will no doubt have noticed that I exhibit a rather perplexing tendency to take notice of, and sometimes act on, meaningless coincidences. Perplexing because, on the surface at least, I value rationalist modes of thought.

I am not sure why I am drawn to coincidences, though perhaps it has something to do with the circumstances surrounding my discovery of a silly book called "The Celestine Prophecy" while browsing in a Melbourne bookstore a long time ago. The book caught my eye because its cover made mention of travels to Peru. Coincidentally, of course, I was just at that time developing an interest in a certain someone who was born there.

So, I bought the book and started to read it. If nothing else, I rationalised, the specious connection to Peru it contained would provide me with something to talk to her about.

Man. What a load of hippy, dippy, shit.

It turns out, though, that she quite liked the book and thought it had something useful to say about the meaning of coincidences.


On his trip to Peru, the narrator of the book met a woman whom he falls deeply for. Then she tells him that there was a reason she appeared in his life, but it was not to be his life-time companion and with that she disappears from his life. Ah, the bittersweet irony.

But back to the subject of this post which is a mildly amusing but trivial coincidence that occurred today ...

Several times over the last few weeks I have happened to be at the Hoey while a band called "The Exiles" were playing. A 5-piece fronted by the entrancing Kym-Louise Barton, they play an interesting mix of country and rock. The final 2 or 3 songs of their set are really strong. The last is a tune called "Hang On St. Christopher" where Fiona, the bass guitarist, picks up a sax and Danny, the drummer, plays the trumpet with one hand while continuing to bang drums with the other. It is a rollicking good cover of a Tom Waits song.

Anyway, I popped in to Red Eye Records this afternoon hoping to pick up a copy of "The Exiles" album which turns out to be not quite finished yet and so decided instead to purchase a copy of "Franks Wild Years" which is the Tom Waits album which originally featured "Hang On St. Christopher".

At the counter, I realised that the guy serving me was the other guitarist, Matt, from "The Exiles". Fancy that! In talking to him, I learnt that this tune will make it onto their album when it finally gets released -in April, they hope.

As I close this post I feel compelled to note that if the one who is not has a favourite saint, then perhaps that saint would be the patron saint of travel - one St. Christopher. Hang on...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Suddenly the Howard government is placing a premium on ministerial responsibility. Not one minister resigned over the various immigration scandals, the unjust detention of David Hicks, children overboard, the Iraq debacle, the AWB scandal or any matter of actual substance. Now Ian Campbell takes it upon himself to resign because of a 20 minute meeting with Brian Burke. Poppycock.

Page 4, SMH 5/3/2007.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

I've never seen so many Australian flags...

To set the scene...

In December 2005, the Cronulla riots occurred, ostensibly a conflict between Anglo Australians and Lebanese Australians. At the Big Day Out in January 2006, overt displays of the Australian flag seemed to cause outbreaks of violence. In 2007, the organizers of the Big Day Out announced that, in the interests of public safety, display of the Australian flag would be banned. There was widespread outrage from all and sundry and the organisers were forced to back down. Needless to say at the Big Day out on January 25, 2007 Australian flags were everywhere to be seen. Likewise, the same was true everywhere else on the next day - Australia Day.

Yet, I don't think I have seen as many Australian flags as I did tonight.

The twist is this: tonight was Mardi Gras. And all the flags -- and I really mean all -- were pink.


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Leadership. By example.

Wandering through the city this afternoon, I passed by a flock of people milling about the entrance to the State Theatre in Market Street. Clearly conference goers of some sort, since they were all wearing name badges. Some were dressed in business suits. The title on each name badge read: "Sydney Leadership Certification Conference".

Interesting concept. Multitudes of people spending their Saturday to be lectured about leadership. The crowd scene from the "Life of Brian" sprung to mind:

BRIAN: Look. You've got it all wrong. You don't need to follow me. You don't need to follow anybody! You've got to think for yourselves. You're all individuals!
FOLLOWERS: Yes, we're all individuals!
BRIAN: You're all different!
FOLLOWERS: Yes, we are all different!
DENNIS: I'm not.

It struck me that these people were sheep being led to some kind of metaphorical slaughter, but this wasn't confirmed until I got back home and had a chance to Google the title of the conference.

As I paused to cross at the lights at George St, I noticed two earnest young men dressed in suits, sitting on their haunches in front of a homeless man. The homeless man was also, as it happens, dressed in a suit.

Had he fallen? No, he was just sitting there, begging for cash from passers by with a handwritten cardboard sign. One of the men in suits (one of the younger, clean shaven ones) had some issue with the quality of the man's advertising. He picked up the cardboard sign and waved it about so as to emphasise his point, whatever that was.

Satisfied that they had done their best to impart their wisdom to a fellow businessman, the young men got up and rejoined their admiring girlfriends.

As I walked past, I couldn't help but notice that these people were also wearing the conference badge.

Ah, leadership. By example.