Letting The Hooks Do Their Work

We often read about how complex things should be to work well. The endless choice of fashion and fad –  together with tech and toy – will have us doing 5 procedures to maximise our pleasure, safety, or monetary return…and in many cases we will have wasted all the effort. A simpler solution was there on the counter, or in the drawer all the time.

No sphere of activity sees this more than the photographic world – except the self-publishing weblog one. We are continually being bombarded with must-do extra steps. We are looked upon as fools and dinosaurs if we do not do them. I saw one instance yesterday of this sort of built-in confusion but I saw that it has been disabled – and by the people who set it up in the first place. This gives me hope that there may be light at the end of the tunnel and that it is not an oil fire…

The car parks of Perth that are run by Wilson Parking have had a variety of operational systems over the years – from grumpy old men in little hutches beside the gate to massive ticket machines in the multi-storey parks. These machines started out simple, got complex, then more complex…then I stopped going to the multi-storeys because I feared for my sanity. The outside parks got a new wrinkle a few years back – a machine that demanded your license plate registration before it would accept your cash or credit card entry for parking.

I was always having to restart the procedure to key it in as I either forgot a number or hit the wrong key. You could see lines of people doing the same thing and getting frustrated and angry. Added to this the practice of wheel clamping to extort money and the whole idea of going into entertainment or city areas became untenable. I stayed out and so did others.

Yesterday the Wilson outside machine was one of those license plate jobs but they had disabled the function and turned on one that just issued you a ticket based on the time you paid for. The charges weren’t excessive and as it was a pay-wave job your card stayed in your hand. Finally the automatic features were allowed to run unhindered and the experience was good.

Either someone came to their senses or the machine was broken…

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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.

Quiz NIght In The Trenches

You’ve all been to quiz nights in your countries, right? You make up a table of friends and buy a ticket for about 80 questions with intervals of raffles and light entertainment. There are silent auctions and door prizes and it’s generally in aid of a good cause – cat homes or cadets or general charity. You either bring grog or – if the venue is a good one – buy it there. People bring snacks and generally have a good time.

Or…

I did have a pretty good time at a recent quiz night with a table of dancers. We knew a lot of the answers, but did not finish in the money…there were too many obscure ones thrown in there  to reward the diligent. I suspect some of the diligent are either quiz-night junkies or frank professionals, but I don’t begrudge them the win. The whole process stimulates the mind and a group of friends on a Saturday night is fine. However, I have been looking at the events and have a few recommendations for the organisers:

  1. Do not pack the tables too closely. I know you want to get as many spending bodies in for the grog sales and the raffles, but give people room to move their chairs back.
  2. Get a professional quizmaster to run the thing – or at least an experienced enthusiast. Pick a person with a clear voice and get them a good sound system. Do a test to see that they can, indeed, be heard clearly at the back of the room. If the audience is not hearing the questions and answers well, they are bound to be disappointed…and disappointed people sit on their wallets.
  3. Raffle off whatever you wish – but make sure that the whole of the audience gets a chance at all the tickets. If you only sell to certain tables it starts to look as if there is a fiddle being played.
  4. Sell coffee and tea as well as grog.
  5. Don’t make all the hand-out sheets and puzzles so complex that Mensa members are reduced to tears. People want to have some fun for their dough.

The length of time that people are prepared to sit in constant noise is limited. Do your business in 2 1/2 or 3 hours max. Do not let the MC rabbit on and try to be clever at the expense of the actual quiz. Leave ’em admiring you and wanting more. They’ll come back if it’s fun.

” How Do You Know That I Don’t Know What You Ought To Know That I Found Out? “

” There. Hah ! You can’t answer that, can you? ”

Well, no I can’t. I don’t even understand the question, let alone any answer. I lost traction at the second ” Don’t ” and slid off the road. As it is, I don’t think I’ll get back up – just let me lie here for a awhile.

This sort of rhetoric is all too common in the criminal worlds of marriage, CNN news reports, and Senate Enquiries. It starts off with the determination to accuse, then confuse, and then finishes by refusing to be defused. It’s like a German bomb at the bottom of the garden – you know it’s deadly and you don’t want to go anywhere near it – but the privy is right next door and eventually you’re going to have to pee…

As a younger person I was fearful – and when I was a student, a junior practitioner, or a shop employee, I always felt at such a social disadvantage that any sort of bullying like this always succeeded. I was always flustered. I was always defensive. I played right into the hands and wandered right across the sights of anyone who wanted to set one of these things up.

Now I am older, retired, and irresponsible. You may think that I should have phrased that last bit differently – that I should have written something about having fewer responsibilities. Possibly. That, too, But I’ll stick with irresponsible because I know me very well.

However you phrase it, I am a different creature. I still fluster, but only in traffic jams, and even then not so much. I have traded defensiveness for offensiveness and find I like it far better. And if you essay to bully me I regard it as an invitation to a fine day’s sport. I am retired and I can play all day.

I also have the advantage that I laugh at myself and suggest to others that they do so as well. This removes the weapon of scorn from the bully’s hand. I am financially independent, which takes the whip away from the boss. I’ve done my time on the gurney and the operating table and have lost a lot of fear of the physical thereby. And I have all day to play.

Ask me a bullying question, Mr. De Mille. I’m ready for my close-up…

The Pea And Shell Game Vs Three-Card Monte

Which to choose when you want to fleece the rubes – it can be a vital business decision.

The simple pea and shell game ( variation for industrial towns – pea and thimble ) is fast, cheap, and always effective for an operator who can palm effectively. It is the sort of thing that can be easily mounted on a bar table and doesn’t need a portable stand. The betting can be as simple as needed for the intelligence of the crowd, and like many bilks, it is perfectly suited to a con and shill team as well as a single operator.

It does fall down a little in states where they regularly carry sidearms. A pistol can make operation awkward – the wise worker carefully gauges the time to pocket the shells and fade  – five minutes more has been a fatal temptation for many a Texas grifter.

The Three Card Monte table seems more suited to the city alley than to the county fair. Urban rubes always fancy they know cards better than their country cousins – and perhaps the taint of sin doesn’t enter into it as much for the towns. You need a folding table that will come up to waist height for a good monte and wise operators know that occasionally you’ll have to abandon a setup – so don’t buy an expensive table.

On the other hand, buy the best cards you can find and monitor them for wear. Replace them at regular intervals or when any form of scuffing starts to show. There is nothing worse than a palm shift being stopped by a card that sticks – people have been detected and knifed because of it. Moral: buy good cards.

Of course neither of these two cons should ever be attempted by someone who is not perfect in the art. There is nothing at all, save a jail term or a slug, to be gained by trying to train on the job. If you wish to enter the pea or monte industry, set aside enough time and money to train yourself properly and practise in every spare moment. After all Heifetz or Paderewski did not play scales to their audiences on the stage of Carnegie Hall.

We’re Closed

  • We don’t open until later.
  • We don’t open on Public Holidays.
  • We don’t accept Masterdinersamericanexpressvisa card. And the till doesn’t have change. Exact money or go away.
  • No dogs allowed.
  • No children allowed.
  • No coaches.
  • No split bills.
  • No thongs or singlets.
  • No seat without a reservation.
  • No reservations.
  • No seats.
  • No parking on the verge.
  • No parking in staff bays.
  • No parking.

” I don’t know what it is about the people in this town, Maurice. We open a world-class art gallery and poetry slam café at the edge of an outer suburb on a main trucking road and they just refuse to come. I mean, we have artefacts and avocados, for Christ’s sake. What more do they want? Philistines, the lot of ’em…”

 

The Start Of Experiment Two

This last month I experimented upon the friends in my Facebook connection – this month I experiment on me.

July I refrained from turning anything off – I let it all hit me and carefully noted what that was like. I looked at who posted what, and how their writings or shares affected me. I mentally separated the wheat from the chaff and then the chaff from the horse shit. I now have a darned good idea who deals in these undesirables.

I also noted who wrote or shared happier things. I was alert to actual intelligence as it manifested itself, and again now know who is cheerful and smart.

This month -August – I am going to find out what being without this daily feed of social information is really like. And what the time normally spent scrolling through it would yield if I used it for other purposes. The discipline is simple:

I will link over my own WordPress columns as usual, but I will not scroll or read the rest of the feed. I will read the Messenger section each day and use this as per normal…but no kitten videos or political rants or advertisements will take up my day. I won’t de-friend or unfollow anyone in the next month – i’ll just keep my eyes off what they write.

This’ll be a good chance for those people who want to traduce, insult, or cajole me to get in there and give it a good month-long kick. I won’t be reviewing the posts of August when September rolls around – whatever goes through there will be a train of thought that has vanished into the night.

When September comes I’ll reopen my eyes and analyse what a month Facebook-free meant. I’ve no idea whether it will be wonderful or horrible, but here’s to 30 days of experimentation to find out.