Pay Today Or Go Away

Every so often the internet gives us a simple lesson in life.

Either it shows us simpletons at large – like the current crop of cultists – or it reminds us of the basic principles of social commerce.

I’ve been watching a website for a year now – an advertising vlog produced by a very pleasant fellow in the UK. He deals in the hobby of building plastic models and has done so on a professional basis for decades. He’s part of a small company that manufactures accessories for the hobby and is part owner of a hobby shop. He’s also a very entertaining and knowledgable speaker – his daily shows are a lot of fun to see.

However, he’s adopted the business model of a subscription for the show – some 40 British Pounds per annum. I daresay it is a small fee for some in the UK, but amounts to the same price here in Western Australia as the annual fee for our own modelling club. That’s a hands-on social group that can entertain us 3 days out of 7 every week. Real participation without advertising.

This last year has seen innumerable changes in the presentation of the English chap’s vlog programs, but the latest one is to remove most of them to a paid-only status…leaving just a few crumbs of free viewing. He wishes us to subscribe, and probably needs the money from the subscriptions. But most of us also need it, and simply won’t pay.

It means we won’t be watching…and over time we will forget that we wanted to. We will go off to other – free – experts on the internet for our entertainment. Or we will entertain ourselves in our local clubs.

Monetising something is a temptation for every internet presenter. You see it with news services and the internet versions of some prestigious journals. But it don’t work. We can get much the same for free, and we go for that.

Entice us with bargains for actual goods. Sell hobby supplies, books, decals, or anything else you make. If the goods are valuable we’ll pay to have ’em shipped. But don’t provide free tasters and then a bill for something that is just talk – we can talk amongst ourselves.

Sad to think that we might have become such misers, but there it is.

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Riding The Horse – Part Two – Lifting The Lid

The Business Of The Hobby Explained

The need for a hobby is felt by many in the community – they are the lucky ones amongst us. Those who have no need are generally in that position through overwork, impecuniosity, or cultural pressure.

If you have literally no time left out of a day that sees you scrabble for food, shelter, security, or health, you are a poor, unfortunate creature. If you have enough of the basic needs but cannot stop yourself grinding for more, you are a rich, unfortunate creature. If you are prohibited from seeking any pleasure outside of the grind, you are a slave. The fortunate thing about these three observations is that the poor may become rich, the rich may become wise, and the slave may become free.

In all three cases a hobby can alleviate many of the pains of life. The first person may feel harried by need – the second by greed – and the third by oppression. If these states are not addressed by fortune, the person needs an ally, and the hobby can be just that. Hobbies can be secret or public, cheap or expensive, long lasting or transient. They can be taken up with the minimum of equipment or pursued with every accessory and machine that science can make. They are truly flexible things.

Benefits of a hobby? Well, the hobbyist can always retire into the sanctum of their pursuit and place the distressing world at a distance. Their sanctum may be a place, a group, or just a series of thoughts. Hobbies are portable things, and the mind of the hobbyist can carry them into business meetings, waiting rooms, and dungeons with equal facility. It costs you nothing but attention to open the internal hobby library door, sit down at the mental desk, and review the plans for your next project. Caution – do not do it while driving.

A hobby can make you a calmer person – and in some cases a more considered one. This may be possible even in the more bellicose pursuits like martial arts. A person in control of themselves is more likely to be able to control the situation that they are in. If you have confronted problems in your hobby – and surmounted them – you are much more likely to be able to do the same with other troubles.

A hobby can lead to increased self-esteem. While self-esteem taken to the extreme makes for Idi Amin, lower levels of it are good. When you succeed in your hobby – even by a small amount – you feel better in yourself. Others may not care whether your model airplane flew and landed perfectly, but you’ll be admiring your skill for years to come…and rightly so.

A hobby can make you more observant. Very much more so…ask any scratch-builder and you’ll find that they look at everything…everywhere. Shapes and materials that escape others come under keen appraisal for use in their model building. That means they look at the whole world more sharply – a good thing. Their minds speed up.

But you get no crops without manure. There are down sides to hobbies that we will discuss in the next essay.

The Superstore With No Staff

I rather like superstores. They are impersonal, but if they are big enough you can find all sorts of things to occupy your mind as you search for whatever it was you actually came in for. This is the principle of the giant size – you are forced to search and to be tempted all along the way.

I’m strong – I did not succumb to the plastic flamingos or the in-floor safe. The three hose clamps and spare toilet roll holder – it cost $ 1 – were all that drew money from me. But I was a little nonplussed at the end of the shopping experience to see that the entire row of cashier’s tills had no staff members serving them.

You could go through a cashless self-serve checkout if you wished – thereby saving the hardware firm the price of a person’s wages – or you could go to the trade desk and pay over the counter there. A trade desk that was swamped with people trying to pay money.

Some accountant has thought this staff scheduling up, and probably gloats over it at the end of the month…but if you were in a hurry or wanted to buy an expensive item, you would feel somewhat underserved by it all. Makes you wonder if this sort of thing was part of the reason this chain of stores failed in the UK. They might have been open all hours, but if there was no Arkwright to man the till, no money would have lodged in the shop.

Granville! Ffetch a cloth…

Free Food

No, I’m not going to tell you where I live or what time dinner is served. I’ve done that before and the results weren’t pretty. 32 people turned up expecting to get fed because the food was free.

But I’m perfectly happy to feed one person for free – as along as that one person is me.

I come home from a lot of events that happen through meal times; dance shows, weddings, club meetings, etc. and I’ve frequently been too busy to grab a bite at the regular time. No problems – I just set my clock back a bit and figure to eat later. After all, there are plenty of fast food outlets clustered around my house – all I have to do is call in and get dinner, right?

Wrong. The fast food outlets may sell fast food, all right  – but it is food that encourages you to fast. Greasy, sugary, bland, and tasteless – and that’s only the soda pop. The semi-solid stuff is worse. Plus they charge multiples of $ 5.00 bills for everything. I have a loving relationship with my $ 5.00 bills and I grieve to see them go.

So I come home, rather than go out, and cook here. There is nearly always an alternative dish here that can be up and running within a half hour. My go-to meals include:

  1. The cheese toastie. With garlic and herb sprinkle and some cracked black pepper, a properly made Australian cheese toastie can stand in any culinary company. If I include sliced tomato I can even count it as healthy despite the fact that it will burn the roof of my mouth. Burns are a small price.
  2. Staggs chili. Canned, admittedly, and probably made of recycled Mexicans, but a delight nevertheless. One bowl will fill you for half a day. Let’s not wall it off…
  3. Sardines on toast. You have to make an extra slice as someone always drifts by and takes it. Use lots of salt and pepper and some seafood sauce and it becomes a world-famous savoury.
  4. 2-minute Indonesian noodles with added extras. The extras can be anything that has not yet escaped from the ice box; green pepper slices, chicken meat, bacon, sun-dried tomato slices, dubious mushrooms. You can 2-minute boil ’em in a wok and then throw the water out and spend another 2 minutes stir-frying in whatever you have found to make a real dish. Get yer Asian on.
  5. Onions, peppers, tomatoes, garlic; fry ’em up, and then all you need is a couple of slices of toast upon which to heap it. Oregano and basil are nice too. No meat? No matter.

Note that for all these good things you pay nothing – because the wife has already stocked them in the pantry or they are leftovers in the ice box. You keep your $ 5.00 bills safe and comfortable in your wallet. And you eat well.

The Centrelink Visit

Note for Out-Of-Australia readers: Centrelink is the Australian federal government office that dispenses welfare payments to many people for many reasons. Much of what it does is possibly duplicated or overborne by the Repatriation Department and the Native Welfare Department, but it still has the bulk of the administrative tasks.

It has a spotted name amongst the people who access its services – some of them want more help than they get and more money than they receive. Some complain of long delays and administrative cock-ups. Others find that it is very helpful. The prospect of approaching it can be daunting – there are horror stories of what seems to be enmity between this office and the needy.

This year I experienced my first contact with it. Heretofore I have never interacted much with our federal government – I was not judged eligible for any student loans nor wanted for the navy. I paid taxes regularly but received no pension at all. But this time I was prompted to apply for a senior’s health card as an assistance to general living. It won’t mean too much – a few dollars off medicines – and I don’t take many medicines. A few dollars off a driver’s license. Perhaps a few more marginal perks. But I was terrified at the possible bureaucracy that might be entailed…Like I say, you hear stories.

The approach to the counter was normal – the ID procedure quite sensible with my Medicare card and a driver’s license – and the waiting room chairs in the big centre quite comfy. Lots of people and an hour’s wait, but no real hardship for a man with a book to read.

The one real hiccup was the procedure of calling my name – instead of using a tannoy or notice board, the staff member who was to deal with me came out the front and called it out. If they had a soft voice or my earwax was bad, I could have missed the chance.

As it was, the young woman dealt with the form work very efficiently  and with good humour. We awaitd the outcome of the application for a few weeks, but the experience of the federal department interface was quite positive. Perhaps Centrelink does not deserve the bad rap.

Addendum: The health card came through on schedule and has been invoked to deal with some of the rates on the house and part of the car insurance. I may not need to pay for my next driver’s licence. I am as happy as I can be.

This Is Red Green Day

Everyone has their heroes – football players or actors or politicians. I’m no different – in fact I’ve even got a little list of people outside my family who I admire and seek to emulate:

George Washington

Benjamin Franklin

Thomas Paine

Steve Smith

The last one may not be as readily recognisable  – but if you remember the Canadian television series ” The Red Green Show ” you’ll get him in a flash. It is as Red that I take to him – because I have seen any number of people very much like him. Including myself in my better moments.

One of those moments happened this weekend when the faucet in the bathroom broke off. it is some 35 years old and has evidently been corroding away for the past couple of decades. Someone leaned on it and away it went. This is not a new thing – the same breakage occurred in the front bathroom and we discovered that the particular plumbing fitments put in when the house was built are not made anymore. So the whole basin had to be replaced. I was not pleased with the thought of a $ 400 plumbing bill for the back one – particularly as we are going to remodel the bathroom in about three years. Talk about money down the drain…

All you need is time and coffee – eventually you have a Red Green moment. Off to Bunnings for some PVC pipe fittings and then a half hour sawing and gluing. A spray of undercoat and then a lacquer finish from paint that was at hand. a mix of epoxy and three S/S screws…and after a day it was ready to go. Cost? $ 15.

If they don’t find you handsome, they should find you handy.

Imported Beer

Australians run on beer.

From the little toddlers clasping their cans of Fosters with the rubber nipple on the top to the octogenarians sitting at the bus stop with their yards of ale and matchlock pistols, the whole nation is permanently on the grog. Morning recess at the primary school means collecting a bin full of empty cans and even the WCTU Prawn and Piss Night is renowned for the spectacular fist fights after 10:00 o’clock.

This has been made possible by the establishment in every town and city of some sort of a brewery. Many large cities have multiple breweries and there is a constant trade across state lines of container trucks and trainloads of beer. But one part of the trade has become a puzzle in the last few years – the imported beer market. I cannot figure out why it has arisen.

Oh, I realise that there are different tastes in beer from different traditions. And some people genuinely like one thing over another. But that may also have been the case in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s…and no-one died of beer drought when there was no import trade. People drank what was brewed locally – and the growers of the ingredients prospered along with the bottlers. Now I cannot see that they might – if everything that is bottled comes in on a container ship and the trade is conducted to enrich only the middle man and the shipper.

How much cheaper might we get our beer, in spite of local taxes,  if the cost of the importation and all the overseas transportation were to be removed from the brewery’s balance sheet? Trust me – the beer would be just as cold and just as tasty if it were all made here by Australian firms.