Saturday, January 31, 2009

antidote to the heat # 1 (Flight of the Conchords - Sugar Lumps)

Am distracting myself to find if there is any of season 2 FOC (currently screening in the USA) to be found on the net.

If this is a taste of things to come from the boys second two..then I will be having two complimentary after dinner mints with that!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

so who doesn't believe in global warming now?

Just in case you don't live in Victoria or South Australia or haven't seen enough other blogs banging on about it...



6.30 pm Melbourne, Australia.

Though the silly little yahoo weather feature on the iphone got tomorrow's temperature wrong as it should be 43 again, making it three days in a row at 43c or above.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I guess it is my fault for using telstra

Every aspect of my relationship with this country's largest telco in fraught at the moment.

I have spent over 2 hours being transfered from person to person, being put on hold and generally being shafted After 20 minutes of the merry-go-round today I ended up in what I am guessing is India and while that particular operator put me on hold a second time - I was cut off.

And that is just for a landline problem.

Don't get me started on the outstanding complaints I have with bigpond.*

Ok this post needs a video of me banging my head against a brick wall. Repeatedly.

It's personal. I know they are just making it as hard as possible to try to make a complaint. You can't email them about non-internet problems and they don't seem to want snail mail either. They just enjoy torturing us by playing the hold and pass game. I guess most people give up after the second call (rather than the fourth).

So if you are choosing a new telco and have any degree of real choice, take it from me - AVOID TELSTRA LIKE THE PLAGUE.

In the end the only option you have is to whine about the on a blog. So feel free, comments is open to share your worst (or best) I HATE TELSTRA story :)

* I resent giving so much money to telstra bloody bigpond but it is to do with exchange capacities and broadband speeds - basically a monopoly issue in my quirky corner of melbourne (optus not cabled, the exchange hamstrung by one large customer and a whole heap of other issues that make it difficult for ISPs to compete). It comes down to this - if I want 25 gb** of downloads a month at a half reasonable price at high speed - they've got the market sewn up.

** Obviously someone in the house watches a lot of porn movies and we often go over 25 gb. Maybe one or both of us need to be more gainfully employed?

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

ticking the boxes

While I didn’t join the middle of the night lovefest and opted for sleep over watching the historic inauguration of the USA’s first black president this week, I am following the decrees of his first days in office with avid interest.

It has been an action packed journey from winning the election, to being sworn into office. While I have been low key in my enthusiasm for the guy (after all, as brilliant as he is it is a massive job for a relatively inexperienced person to take on at one of the worst times in the country’s history), he keeps ticking the boxes to earn my respect.

Firstly in his acceptance speech, that cold November night in Chicago, third paragraph in he acknowledged the “gay, straight, disabled and not disabled” – which warmed the cockles of many of the hearts I know, having been invisible politically for far too long.

A shiver ran down my own spine during his inauguration when my own “minority” got a mention, “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers”. Well, I am not American and there are some things I do believe in (like chocolate) but for atheism to be acknowledged and respected in the land of god certainly ticked a big box for me.

Broad campaign promises and clever speechwriting aside, I was still feeling a bit nervous about his ability to deliver the goods. In the months following his electoral win I’ve listened avidly to Bruce Shapiro's week-by-week guide to the members of Team Obama on Late Night Live. His choices seem based on people with actual merit, rather than just cronies or those selected solely to make him look good. A refreshing change from the last administration.

So with less than a week in office, the guy is kicking goals.

Gitmo to close – tick. Though what happens to the remaining inmates in a year’s time when that awful place is decommissioned remains a mystery along with confessions obtained by “harsh interrogation techniques”.

But the biggest tick thus far goes to his swift reversal of Bush’s cessation of funds to US agencies working outside the country that supported abortion in any way. To prioritize this in the first 100 hours was especially sweet, even more so the date that I am sure was not lost on some, the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Sweet timing indeed.

Of course one “Sorry”, or humanist executive order, does not a great leader make but even I have to admit it is a damn good start.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

word perfect

In the sticky, windy, sweaty mess that is this summer's day in downtown Melbourne, I stumbled on this link.

Just as I suspected, I pay about as much attention to detail in my reading as I do my writing. Followed it word perfect!

PS: Tardy and belated thanks to the lovely Ann oDyne for arranging a blogmeet with a twist at the Bendigo Art Gallery last Sunday. A picnic, an illicit drink (who'd have thought it was illegal to drink in public spaces in a regional city?), bloggers from far and wide (if I didn't want to risk a howler for spending time blogging while I should be writing loftier things I could spend half an hour linking them all in a clever fashion but you know who you are and that's what matters :), as well as a most informative commentary on far ranging matters from gossip about the manager of an American band that got one of my travelers into hot water, to the history of the golden delicious apple. Fabulous!

Now, for those who couldn't be arsed following the link, here's the bit of reading practice I mentioned above.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

a picture paints... four words

War criminals congratulate themselves.


Photo source The Age

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

789 and counting*

I have felt like a failed blogger, these last couple of weeks, while the senseless Israeli bombardment of Palestinians in Gaza continues. It is just wrong to stay silent while bullying on any scale occurs.

In the past when I have tried to discuss these wars in terms of a power struggle with anyone who is Jewish I have been accused of anti-Semitism and made to feel that by voicing an opinion in favour of those that I perceive as being the victims in this situation I am committing some kind of hate crime.

A friend posted a great link today via Facebook. Perhaps it takes someone who has served in the Israeli army to be able to write such a piece. Avi Shlain’s commentary in the Guardian provides a crash course in the history and a deeper understanding of this conflict. I urge everyone to read it.

As always, mighty Israel claims to be the victim of Palestinian aggression but the sheer asymmetry of power between the two sides leaves little room for doubt as to who is the real victim. This is indeed a conflict between David and Goliath but the Biblical image has been inverted - a small and defenceless Palestinian David faces a heavily armed, merciless and overbearing Israeli Goliath. The resort to brute military force is accompanied, as always, by the shrill rhetoric of victimhood and a farrago of self-pity overlaid with self-righteousness. In Hebrew this is known as the syndrome of bokhim ve-yorim, "crying and shooting".


The Guardian has comprehensive coverage of the current war on this page.

Al Jazeera's coverage of the war on Gaza.

* As of the 9th of January 2009 the body count is 789 and rising

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

perils of inner city living

Coming home from holiday there was the inevitable pile of envelopes with the telltale window. Bills, like Christmas, arrive with alarming regularity. My new year’s financial slap in the face is always the annual house and contents insurance renewal.

Reluctantly I opened the bill and the four digit quote confused me. While I couldn’t recall the exact cost of the previous years insurance it was certainly under $1,000. My 2009 quote came in at a whopping 115% increase. With no claims, ever, on the property I was a little mystified but a note on the bottom of the page was even more confounding “Our research indicates that your area can be prone to flooding in some parts”.

Many phone calls later it appears our policy now has flood cover as standard. You can not have home and contents insurance with this company without it and it seems our little inner city home is now included in a flood plan zone according to GIO. The supervisor I spoke to couldn’t believe it either. She lives around the corner and like me can recall no flooding in the neighbourhood. Of course, inner Melbourne is barely above sea level so perhaps this is a pre-emptive strike in anticipation of global warming, maybe that explains it?

After an hour on the computer searching flood zones to no avail I called my local council. The person in the building section was very helpful, got my property details up on their 100 year flood plan and assured me we were not on it. Widening the search to my postcode, it did appear some properties in a parallel street were at risk but only the front of their houses, not the rear or anywhere near my own.

So it appears if there is some dodgy storm water drains anywhere in your postcode, regardless of the status of your own property an insurer can jack up the cost of your policy by over 100%,

The council is mystified.

Melbourne water can’t explain it.

Nice work GIO*.

But sorry, we are not going to fall for it.

This is a dastardly stunt of the highest order one we are not going to take lying down.




Inner Melbourne - full of bushlands and waterways (Google Maps)

But it gets worse. After further investigation into the pricing of our policy, according to GIO, being “near” Edinburgh Gardens (so far away that even a real estate agent wouldn't dare mention it) puts us in a bush fire zone, which also increases our premium. I live in a double brick terrace house with the city at the end of my street but having trees in the neighbourhood and a park kind of nearby we now need a bushfire action plan, though strangely once more such a risk only exists in GIO’s plans not our actual council.

We are taking this further and want to know what the company is basing its information on. From a consumer point of view it appears to be a desperate money grab not substantiated with current data used by official sources.

Is this an "A Current Affair" issue? Anyone else getting some ludicrous rises in their insurance quotes that need further investigation?


* I would like to say the supervisor who looked into this, once we talked her through her initial insistence that nothing could be done, has in fact been very helpful and eventually requoted us. Then again, a minor miracle in itself considering centralised call centres, she is a local resident herself and has reasons to be concerned about her next premium in light of new found “risks”.

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