The Spam Queue

This column attracts spam. As do all the others I write. So, I would imagine, would a note left in a bottle for the milkman – given the ever-reaching greed of internet pests.

Fortunately there is a program that drives away most of this traffic, putting it into a bin for me to empty periodically. I have learned to give the contents only the most cursory glance before flushing it. Once, within a space of a decade, there may be a genuine message leaking into the cesspool. More often the seepage is the other way. I am prepared to lose one real comment amongst the dross.

Like the Indian scam phone callers, I am at a loss to think that anyone could ever be interested enough in these fraudulent pests to ever respond to them…and I imagine that it would only spark a greater onslaught. Yet, the fact remains that they keep coming. This suggests some profit from it for the criminals and therefore some engagement by the unwary. If there is a trail of anything, it will be a trail of money and stupidity.

It is tempting to go on the hike as well. If others can pick an occasional drachma from the pockets of the unwary, surely I can put my hand in there too. I have been able to persuade people to all sorts of folly in the past, and I hope my skills are still with me. It’s just thinking how to do it…

Will they fall for sending me money directly? That’s been tried by everyone from Nigeria to Nunawading, and unless you have  dewy-eyed kittens marching on Parliament House, you are unlikely to access the right level of gullibility. I can be dewy-eyed but kitten suits are hot and itchy.

I could threaten. If they are frightened of the Immigration Department there is a chance that they’ll pay to avoid deportation. If the Taxation Department is their nightmare I can put on my best Jobsworth manner and impose fines left, right, and center. But I have no need of iTunes cards or anything else that might be duped out of them. It’d have to be cash or nothing, and that leaves the operational problem of collecting it. I don’t mind the victims being dumb, but I don’t want to join them.

Perhaps cajoling would work. I could try to shame them for eating meat, or vegetables, or sugar, or really anything…with the absolute certainty that they will feel guilty about something. It’s just finding out that secret shame and whacking it with a mallet.

I wish I was better at begging in rags. I’ve got the rags, all right, courtesy of a lifetime of never cleaning the wardrobe out, but the thought of panhandling in shopping centres leaves me cold. I don’t like the places all that much when I’ve got money, so doing the urban poor act would be even worse.  I suppose I could send out invitations for people to visit me here at home and I could do it in the lounge room, but somehow it doesn’t sound all that promising.

 

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Nothing Is Ever All Done

No house is ever all done. It is never all ready, all clean, or all fixed. Nor is it all broken or all dirty.

It is every one of those things, all the time. all together…

I was drawn to this conclusion while surveying the new concrete driveway and car park pad AKA The Hardstand. It was a clean pad of exposed aggregate in a sea of brown dirt. One day the brown dirt would be flower beds, lawn patch, and bushes…but firstly the good thing done was the driveway.

This would be a terrible prospect if all you could thing of was the end of the the endeavour. The journey finished and every part of the house and garden 100% completed – what my wife likes to term ” up to scratch “. Well, since we are not commanding tens of thousands of Hebrew slaves, this pyramid will never be up to scratch. And even if we got close, I’ll bet it’d just get to near Easter time and they’d all piss off east and we’d never see them again…I’ll pass over the consequences of that one.

The back yard, the bathrooms, the carpets, the ceilings…they could all do with attention, and if you wanted to try to bring all to one standard, you would be shovelling money out the front door like coal into a steam engine firebox.

I think the only sensible approach is to take the joys of a new appearance as they come – in spots –  and not look forward to some symphony of renewal.

Renewal, after all eventually gets old.

Debt Now – Pay Later

Some people are forced to go into debt…by health or family crises. By disasters. By any number of disturbing events in the universe. This column is not for them.

It is for the people who are daily being bombarded by the debt industry…the complex mechanism that wishes to enslave you and to wring as much money out of you as it can before you die. In many cases if you take refuge in the grave it will succeed in squeezing your family to get more money…and you will not be able to stop them.

It is for the people who have a vague notion that they are missing out on something if they do not have the shiny new toy in the KB HiFi catalogue – or the new telephone from the Orange store – or the furniture from the giant warehouse. And who are tempted into having now with the idea of paying later.

In some cases the temptation contains a phrase that tells you there is no payment required for six months – or no interest charged for a year. Be sure that this is not altruism or pity for you – the finance companies and the stores will extract the full measure in time. And in the case of some deals that full measure can be payment two or four times the initial price.

The time to avoid this is at the start. By all means read the advertising flyer before you ball it up and start the chip heater with it. But scrunch it all the same. Whenever you are looking at luxury goods you are looking at a wound – not a bandage. If you did not need them before your read the flyer, you do not need them after you’ve read it either. Be happy with the warm water from the chip heater.

No debt is good and having no debt is better. The people who tell you that you need to enter into it to qualify for more of it are the moral equivalent of dynamiters.

Suppose You Were Worth A Million Dollars

If you were me you’d be overjoyed. If you were a billionaire you’d be furious.

That’s what having money does to you.

I’ll amend that statement – that’s what having too much money does to you. Whether it is your own or someone else’s, the stuff will eat into your soul and leave holes. Then other things come and live in those holes, and it is darned hard to get them out.

The trick is having just the right amount. Not too little – so that you are pinched and sad and sick – nor too much so that you are arrogant, anxious, and aggressive. Just enough to eat well, play well, and sleep well. If you get it by working well, so much the better.

If you get it by desperate drudgery, criminality, or vile practices, so much the worse. These will take their toll and eventually the doors to the happier parts of life will close.

I think I have the right amount at present. I can do what I want to do as long as I do not want to do expensive things too often. And I am fortunate in that I honestly don’t want to do expensive things. Though I would like roast beef for dinner.

 

The Utter Joy Of Cheap

Have you always believed that you deserve the best? That the best is the only thing that you should be offered? That you define yourself by the goods and services that you command? Perhaps you are right…after all, you deserve to be compensated for the constant danger in which you live.

Danger?

Yes, danger. The danger that you will perceive some flaw in your goods and services – or that you will see someone else getting more and better than you. If you must always be first, you fear second.

Well, I have passed through that myself. Perhaps I didn’t articulate the words exactly, but I had them inside me somewhere. And they stopped me from appreciating what I had and what I experienced for a long time. No more.

I’ve discovered the joy of cheap. Realistically looking at my life to come, I see it is going to be shorter than the bit already passed – though I would not welcome too short an interval. I’m now at a point where I may indeed get a lifetime of use out of something and it need not be made of cast iron and hickory wood to do it. Plastic might very well be fine. And I need not spend over the odds either – economy models of things fulfil the same functions.

Best of all, when some new product is touted or some hitherto un-needed need is trumpeted, I can frequently say ” Shoot, I got one of them already. “. I may indeed, and it might even be better than the new designer model with the red stripe on one panel and the fake carbon fibre covering.

I must be the advertiser’s nightmare.

The Sheer Joy Of Repair

I am always dismayed when I see something I own that is breaking down. Whether it is clothing, the car, tools and furniture, or the house itself, there is sense of loss to it all.

And yet – then there is a sometimes a spark of happiness to be found:

a. If the thing that is breaking or broken was something that was never used and was just being kept for the sake of appearances, the loss is a great chance to be free.

b. If life continues as comfortably and calmly as before it tells you that whatever it was was superfluous.

c. If you can get the thing repaired economically, you show frugal common sense.

d. If you can repair it yourself, you are Daniel Boone standing on a mountain top – king of all you survey.

Today it was the covering of my iPad – a magnetic case that protects the thing and shuts it off automatically upon closing. My pad keeps a charge far longer this way. It had split the pressed-leather covering away from the framework. Time to go get a new one from Apple…for $ 79.00…

Or time to get out the Weldbond PVA glue, two bits of foamcore board and some clothes pegs as clamps. Glue, clamp, set in the sun to dry. And an hour later pocket a virtual $ 79.00 toward my holiday trip.

On other days it has been shoes, tables, tents and awnings, worn shop tools, and a myriad of broken, fixable items that have been put back into service. Every day after a repair is a day in which the goods pay you – not the other way around.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If it is, do.

Professional Networking

Traditional networking is generally practiced off the Grand Banks of Nova Scotia by smelly old men in schooners. It results in codfish.

The other kind of professional networking is practiced in second-rate hotel conference rooms by smelly young men in suits. It generally results in a loss of money and a rising sense of unease.

The action of getting together with your business peers is marketed as ” networking “, because it is more difficult to sell the word ” conspiring “. The purpose of the conference, the stale biscuits, and the burnt coffee is to allow you to gain an ascendancy over your peers…oops, I used the wrong word again…I meant competitors. It is a combination of industrial espionage and sly browbeating, as you ask questions designed to show how smart you are while discovering where their customers are hiding.

If you are good at it you can appear to be a brilliant friend to all – passing out pearls of wisdom while boosting everyone’s self-esteem. Whilst observing who is in financial trouble and making a mental note to deepen this for them until they are bankrupt. It is the sort of thing that J.P. Morgan and John Rockefeller would have loved to do. Think of it in terms of an adult Monopoly game  – if you get in early you can claim the Scotty dog or the battleship for your token.

The wonderful thing about modern life is that you can do this from your computer screen as well. You can be linked-in to like-minded people with just a click. Before you press the button, though, you might give a thought to whether the people you want to lure into your crab-hole are bigger crabs than you. If in doubt, give a false name. I use Andrew P. Mellon myself, so that’s taken.