Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Why is it so hard to get a good tradie?

September 29, 2017

Letter to a roofing company, after quoted $495 to fix leaking flume and $3003 to fix badly-designed clear-roofed enclosed patio / sunroom area
Thank you for the quote.

I have delayed responding because I wished to consider my response.

As the property (a family home temporarily a rental) has several problems, and I wanted to get urgent ones sorted and budget for the others, I asked for someone to inspect the property to estimate both for the items you quoted and for other work – including things of which I might not be aware.

I was told that the inspection might be on the following week’s Thursday or Friday, and that I would be called so I could be there. Late in the next week I was doing a minor repair there, and one of the tenants told me that workmen had been “seeing to the roof” on the Monday – no card had been left, so I was unsure what had happened. I called your office, and was told that a quote had been sent (I check my spam, and had not seen it. I ran a search over our email in case it was in deleted or junk, and it was not.) I was sent a copy of the quote and was told that I had been called on the Monday but not responded – I did not remember a missed call, but had I had 2 from the same number I would have remembered. There was no text or voice message. In any case, it would not have been convenient for me to attend that day.

Your office put me in touch with the tradesman, whose manner left me feeling both that he was certain that I was silly and that he was unwilling to consider that I needed to be present for the quote process “as I had been quite detailed about what I needed.” As one of the details was that I wanted to talk about work needed later, this was irritating; as one of the items I wanted to talk about for the quote was whether there should be sarking with the tiles, and as another was to find out exactly what changes would be recommended to the back room’s roof and gutters, I was beyond doing more than politely ending the conversation. I cannot agree to $3003 for work without a detailed explanation of the proposed changes and the reasons for them.

I have had a tiler visit, who said that the rear room and the longer-term items were better discussed with a business dealing in more roof plumbing and reroofing, but for $80 changed the way the leaking flume was collared and flashed – and lowered its hood, so that rain could no longer blow in sideways. Since then, there has been no water ingress in the room beneath. What happens with the next pounding storm remains to be seen.

I understand that the difficult weather will have put your company into a stressful period, and so have delayed responding – giving time for your work and my temper to calm a little. If you are interested in trying again to quote on the longer term problems, on changes (if any) the flume area might need to make it permanently watertight, on stopping another leak found the weekend before your inspection, and can provide a more detailed description of the proposed changes to the back room roof and gutters, I am interested in considering your itemised quote.

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Literacy and maths geek : QED

September 30, 2016

maths-shirt-edited-slogan

What future for the average intelligence student? The problem with education “for employment”

July 10, 2016

Both our major political parties are talking about education to fit students for jobs in “the new economy.”  At the same time  Our Coalition Government wants to give Company Tax reductions to large businesses.  However, for large companies,  increased company profits invested in expansion tend to lead to job losses.

Not just from offshore subcontracting of labour to exploited workers with no leave entitlements, OH&S rights,  or superannuation. Consider  http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-36376966

It includes a quote from a former McDonald’s senior staffer : “It’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who is inefficient, making $15 an hour bagging French fries.”

The main item in the article is that 60 000 (probably OH&S nightmare) jobs have gone because Chinese factories invested in technology not humans – even at their pay rates the robots are cheaper.

These job losses are not just the semi-literate jobs.  Consider the rise in expert systems, even self-reprogramming learning systems: the first white-collar job robots are already here, even doing work for lawyers: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2016/05/16/meet-ross-the-newly-hired-legal-robot/

The students know about this.  They know that machine intelligence researchers are even starting to find ways to program the machines for creativity.
(see John Gero on Creativity emergence and evolution in design concepts and framework
and  https://www.jwtintelligence.com/2016/06/cannes-2016-creativity-and-machine-learning/  )

So why should the less bright and less creative struggle to learn the basics, if they are told education is “to get a job” and they know they are headed for love on the dole?   (Read Greenwood’s book, or at least a detailed review, if you haven’t come across a film or play adaptation yet )

It is time for the meme of “education to be fit for work” to die.  Move to “education to get tools to make more fun and happiness, or dodge trouble.”  Start classes in “Learning something new without a teacher’s help, and demonstrating it to others,” “Comparing and testing health benefit claims,”  “Bullshit detection,” “website reliability testing,” “effective complaints,” “Dealing with Bureaucracy 1:  Completing a basic tax return so you don’t pay your refund to an accountant,” and  “Dealing with Bureaucracy 2:  Complying with Dole paperwork requirements.”

Of course, you may end up with a lot of activists trying to improve the Nation because they realise that the  current socio-economic system is the source of much unhappiness.  They may even realise that money is just another social construct – and not a good one – and demand a world run on social obligation instead.
Would that be so bad?

Too many Sodomites in politics nowadays…

February 19, 2016

“Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. ” (King James version)

 

For the less literate – New Living Translation
Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door.

  http://biblehub.com/ezekiel/16-49.htm

Just sayin’ .

How to reduce crystal meth use in Australia (and elsewhere) in the longer term.

December 8, 2015

Our Noble Leaders have started talking about “Australia’s Ice pandemic”.

I don’t think that word means what they think it means. I believe the internationally accepted definition of a pandemic  is : ‘an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of  people’.  (Last, J. A Dictionary of Epidemiology (4th Edition) Oxford University Press 2001)

Not crossing international boundaries.   I think they could call it an epidemic – but not a very big one.

Then they talk about stopping it by “talking to young people about risks” and by law enforcement action.  Not about changing the education system from “learn this stuff to get a job” to “learn this stuff to find and make fun and beauty you couldn’t understand without it, and so you will never be bored even if locked in an empty room.”  Not about making risky activities like adult-sized versions of adventure playgrounds available in all suburbs.  Not about social support (guaranteed shelter, food, health care, and safety needs in exchange for the dole cheque?)  for the desperate.  Even though these would mean that people would (like the rats in enriched cages) be less inclined to seek escape through crystal meth, alcohol, and other drugs.

I expect that the right-wing parties in Oz won’t  talk that way, not for the next 20 years.  After all, we know the source of their “Scientific” theories on how the world works.  They don’t care about accuracy, and not just in abusing the word “pandemic.”  For example our Federal Government’s Minister for resources and energy pronounces “nuclear” as “newcewlar.”   Rational action to reduce the risk of youth turning to drugs?   5 years after the Republicans give it the OK they’ll consider it.  Sigh.

What I wrote and what they printed 09 Nov 14

November 9, 2014

Mind you, I didn’t mind all their changes.  A few were good.  Guess which ones I would accept …

What I wrote:

Is terrorism the right word?

In response to the abuse of Muslim people and vandalism of places seen as mosques:

In my time, Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians have oppressed and killed people for having the wrong religion – or the wrong branch of a religion.  Israeli soldiers stood by while Christians came and slaughtered mostly Moslem refugees in a refugee camp. The USA will not accept a non-Christian president, and say that atheists cannot be trusted. Should they be abused and their holy places vandalised?

Every belief system has extremists who (often from deep belief) attempt to force their beliefs on others.  Most religion have aspects of the holy texts and related traditions which evil can use to lead others to horrible action. Catholics and Protestants burned each other at the stake, remember.  Every religion also has people who use only the parts of the creed which lead to tolerance and the best human actions.

I think we could adopt the word “daeshi” to mean “bigot who imposes their views on others.”  (It helps that the Islamic extremists hate the word.) I think that the current “anti-terrorism” actions should be reworded to be “anti-daeshi”, thus making the offence one of promoting the denial of freedom of belief for those one disagrees with, not one of planning violence.  (Yes, a limitation – with criminal penalty – on freedom of religion and cultural tradition.)

Similarly, I think that members of any sect which oppresses others when in power, or which state that they will do so, should be denied refugee status unless they abjure the part of their creed which denies others equal rights regardless of religious belief.

What they printed:

changes in red

Every religion has its oppressors and bigots.

In response to the abuse of Muslim people and vandalism of places seen as mosques, in my time Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians have oppressed and killed people for having the wrong religion – or the wrong branch of a particular religion.

NP Israeli soldiers stood by while Christians came and slaughtered mostly Moslem refugees in a refugee camp.

NP The USA will not accept a non-Christian president, and say that atheists cannot be trusted. Should they be abused and their holy places vandalised?

Every belief system has extremists who (deleted: often from deep belief) attempt to force their beliefs on others.

NP Most religions have aspects of the (was “their”) holy texts and related traditions that (was “which” ) evil can use to lead others to horrible actions.

NP Catholics and Protestants burned each other at the stake, remember.

NP Every religion also has people who use only the parts of the creed which lead to tolerance and the best human actions.

Deleted all of para: I think we could adopt the word “daeshi” to mean “bigot who imposes their views on others.”  (It helps that the Islamic extremists hate the word.) I think that the current “anti-terrorism” actions should be reworded to be “anti-daeshi”, thus making the offence one of promoting the denial of  freedom of belief for those one disagrees with, not one of planning violence.  (Yes, a limitation – with criminal penalty – on freedom of religion and cultural tradition.)

Deleted:  Similarly, I think that) members of any sect who oppress (was:  which oppresses) others when in power (deleted: , or which state that they will do so) ,  should be denied refugee status unless they abjure the part of their creed which denies others equal rights regardless of religious belief.

 

This example free for use in discussion of style, Newspaper editing,  and the politics of free speech.

A quote that got me wondering – and where I went from there.

October 14, 2014

The quote:

I decided to track down the source of an often quoted bit of “Children of Dune” by Frank Herbert:
When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles.
 “Quand je suis le plus faible, je vous demande la liberté parce que tel est votre principe; mais quand je suis le plus fort, je vous l’ôte, parce que tel est le mien.”
Conversation avec Augustin Cochin.
but in French Wikipedia it says
Pierre Pierrard explique que cette phrase a été mise dans la bouche de Louis Veuillot par Montalembert sous la forme « Quand les libéraux sont au pouvoir, nous leur demandons la liberté, parce que c’est leur principe, et, quand nous sommes au pouvoir, nous la leur refusons, parce que c’est le nôtre.»  et citée le 3 juin 1876 à l’Assemblée nationale par Jules Ferry.  Elle a depuis, sous des formes changeantes, été constamment r.épétée bien que dès le 6 juin suivant Veuillot eût protesté et affirmé que cette phrase n’était pas de lui.
– that is, he probably didn’t say it.  But people in 1876 thought it was worth having him say it.

 Where I went from there

 Many countries have signed the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees

the term “refugees” applies to any person who:

“Owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

I know that most –isms and religions have some extreme adherents, who honestly believe that the rest of the world should  follow their beliefs.  Some of these form groups devoted to achieving this.   Some of these groups believe that failing to follow their beliefs makes one less than human, and that non-believers should not have equal rights with believers – for instance,  it may be that atheists, agnostics, and miscellaneous pagans cannot get employment documents.  Some go further and believe that force should be used to make some others comply – for example, live peacefully with “People of the book” but use threat of death to convert everyone else.   Some go further still, and wish to kill  even those who hold to  a  different interpretation of their holy books while  following the same version of the divine, or whatever other social belief is important to them.

Being a devout agnostic, I am deeply aware of these groups. I have met people who assume that I am worse than untrustworthy because I don’t claim to have a god I believe in, even though those who lie about their beliefs or ignore their religions’ rules are much less trustworthy (Seen the statistics on child abuse?)  I avoid going to certain countries because  I don’t want to have to lie about beliefs in order to travel safely.  I worry about their spread.  Especially the extremists who believe that abortion clinics should be bombed, and that no non-christian should ever be President,

 I suggest that all members of the United Nations publicly state the following: 

We will only give refuge to those who commit to reciprocal tolerance of others’ belief and lack of belief,  and to recognition of all human rights.

The extreme case

Where people are  of a social or religious or political group that believes that unbelievers / some other group should be oppressed,  unless they will commit to leaving that group, they should be treated as they would treat others.    If their group generally  say that those who convert from their belief should be killed, they  must not be given refugee status unless they renounce that aspect of the belief, and if they later recant the death penalty should, logically, apply.  If they deny others’ evidence equal weight before the law, their evidence should so be discounted in the country of refuge.   If they would tax unbelievers more heavily than their own, they shall be taxed heavily in the country of refuge.

The moderate case – or is it?

Where people are  of a social or religious or political group that believes that unbelievers / some other group should be oppressed,  unless they will commit to leaving that group, they should be  denied refugee status.  If they are refugees from another such group of differing belief – well, that is fair exchange of oppression.

The interaction of this with overseas oppression

Where a government oppresses others in such a way as to make people become refugees, that government should not generally be assisted if another oppressive group attempts their overthrow.  Intervention should only be on a humanitarian basis. Refugees should not be sent back to an oppressive regime, as they have renounced the oppressive culture and will therefore be liable to greater risk.

If a self-proclaimed government attempts to invade other nations and enforces oppressive beliefs,  that requires immediate and forceful response from the United Nations – Peace Makers, not Peace Keepers.  The attempted invasion  is not just a war, it is a denial of human rights extending across borders, which is a much more serious and urgent matter.  If we stand idly waiting for someone else to fix it, we encourage all extreme belief groups to try their hand at the same game.

And that, I would pay higher tax to avoid.  I would travel to be a “grumpy old pensioner” on the battlefront, to embarrass the invaders until they stop that so that my grandchildren will be safe.   (Besides, it beats relying on the social system in old age, now that the illiberal and small-hearted are running the county.

 

Barley Grass: disambiguation

October 9, 2014

I am sensitive to barley grass in all forms – touch of the leaves is enough to make me itch.  This is  (Hordeum. glaucum and H. leporinum.    http://archive.agric.wa.gov.au/objtwr/imported_images/barleygrass%201.jpg from http://archive.agric.wa.gov.au/pc_93448.html?s=1001)

and was surprised by the number of places advertising barley grass as a strengthening drink good for controlling allergies.

 

Turns out the health fooders are talking about the leaves of young barley plants.  (Hordeum vulgare, Hordeum distichon)

!  Why not call it barley leaves, then?

 

I am sure someone will think “I can blend my own barley grass drink to reduce my allergies” and end up with allergic swelling of the throat – not safe.

If you know someone thinking of making their own, make sure they start with safe barley seed.

 

Stupid deaths, stupid deaths, hope next time it’s not you!

April 29, 2014

I always hesitate to press “Like” when items like the one below are posted.  I feel for the grief of their families, though there is a touch of “Evolution in action” there too.

Idea for an advertising campaign:  Introduce each of  a set of news items like this with “Use your phone while driving?” and end with the tag “…and, all over the world, people will talk about how stupid you were.”

(Thanks to Horrible Histories TV series for the heading.)  The linked HH video is flickery, but the end-pun bites.

“Just cats and porno…” Pfui! My internet is different.

March 25, 2014

The internet one sees depends on the links one follows, and the same applies to its famous subset, facebook.

I get a few cute cats via facebook – and yes, I have shared some – but I ee a range of things that the popular media do not have in the public image of the net.  Spotted on facebook:  in a discussion of

‘The mindblowing issue that Weber raised: Beruf cannot be worship….but yet it IS somehow. Ever wondered if the world would be different without the Reformation?”

( beruf : calling, duty, task)   – (link to see a translation of  Politik als Beruf, part of the background to the discussion.)

one post:

“The Protestant work ethic in Weber’s time

By the time Weber wrote his essay, he believed that the religious underpinnings of the Protestant ethic had largely gone from society. He cited the writings of Benjamin Franklin, which emphasized frugality, hard work and thrift, but were mostly free of spiritual content. Weber also attributed the success of mass production partly to the Protestant ethic. Only after expensive luxuries were disdained, could individuals accept the uniform products, such as clothes and furniture, that industrialization offered.

In his remarkably prescient conclusion to the book, Weber lamented that the loss of religious underpinning to capitalism’s spirit has led to a kind of involuntary servitude to mechanized industry.

“ The Puritan wanted to work in calling; we are forced to do so. For when asceticism was carried out of monastic cells into everyday life, and began to dominate worldly morality, it did its part in building the tremendous cosmos of the modern economic order. This order is now bound to the technical and economic conditions of machine production which today determine the lives of all the individuals who are born into this mechanism, not only those directly concerned with economic acquisition, with irresistible force. Perhaps it will so determine them until the last ton of fossilized coal is burnt. In Baxter’s view the care for external goods should only lie on the shoulders of the ‘saint like a light cloak, which can be thrown aside at any moment.’ But fate decreed that the cloak should become an iron cage. (Page 181, 1953 Scribner’s edition.) ”

Weber maintained that while Puritan religious ideas had significantly impacted the development of economic system in Europe and United States, there were other factors in play, as well. They included a closer relationship between mathematics and observation, the enhanced value of scholarship, rational systematization of government administration, and an increase in entrepreneurship ventures. In the end, the study of Protestant ethic, according to Weber, investigated a part of the detachment from magic, that disenchantment of the world that could be seen as a unique characteristic of Western culture.[5]:60

And among the responses:

Weber was desperate to conceal the labour theory of value; he thus places the foundation for capitalism in the ‘work ethic’ falling back on the old moralism of Adam Smith that wealth comes from the ‘hard work’ of an individual. Nonsense. Wealth is accumulated from the surplus value (unpaid labour) of the workers put to work by the capitalist. And why are these people available to be put to work? Because their birthrights in the common lands were stolen by a previous generation of emerging capitalists.

These are just adults talking about ideas that interest them in light of current events and a fair knowledge of history and sociological/political/economic theory, in geographically separate lives.   I know that some of them have read and understood Weber’s works in the context of the time in which they were  written.

I am glad that they have the opportunity to chat this way, and that I can read  the conversation the next day.   I have the opportunity to think about it, find further resources, and decide whether to join in – and in the process, question my own assumptions about the society in which I live.

I love this application of technology.