The Old Coot Network

The Old Coot Network is different from the Old Boy Network in several ways – and is probably similar to the relationship between the Old Dear Network and the Old Girl Network. I’m not sure if the differences are based upon nationality  but I’ll bet they have something to do with class.

Old Boys and Old Girls are traditionally former classmates at a private school. The Old Coots and Old Dears are from further down the market. But it does not stop them from being equally useful.

Take this week – I was concerned about the health and safety of this computer and called at the local Apple store to discuss it. I was handed from the greeter to a very attractive young woman with startling eyelashes and given time to ask my questions…but was immediately assured that they were groundless fears and that I really should toddle off. To help me toddle I was given the telephone number of the Apple Care help desk.

My net investigations then suggested that the Apple Care desk probably wouldn’t – at least not until I paid them some undetermined fee.

So it was on to the Old Coot Network – the people in my former trade that actually deal in and with Apple products for photographers’ use. They were more than happy to discuss my worries and to provide guidance toward a couple of anti-virus and anti-malware programs – the same ones they use for their photographic business. I came home, did as I was bid, and finally got the reassurance that all was well.

I am now curious to see whether it was beyond the policy of the Apple store to make the same recommendation or to tell me of their own, similar, product. I shall call at another store in their chain before I make any further judgement.



” This One Is Named Henry…”

I stood behind myself in Bunnings today and I am very proud to say that I did not kick myself in the arse. The fact that I was wearing thongs would not have made a difference – for a while there I was prepared to break a toe if need be.

It was the oak strip and mdf board aisle – the one down the back near the waste bins. I rounded the corner at a fast lope looking for two sheets of 3mm 1200 x 900 mdf to make an airport hard stand ( As you do…) and was brought to screeching halt by me. I was blocking the aisle with a Bunnings trolley and carefully selecting the most suitable oak strips and mdf boards for my project. I have no idea what my project is.

In case this all sounds too mysterious for words, consider that we all have a doppelganger somewhere – that we generally never meet. In most cases the doppelganger looks like us, and all who see them can recognise the fact. I my case the chap picking out the wood was nothing like me in appearance, but exactly like me in actions.

I could see him eyeing every piece of wood to find out whether it was straight or twisted – not really a thing with short lengths of oak and flat sheets of mdf. Then scanning each piece from either end about half a dozen times and then going back to consult a paper list pulled from his pocket. This went on for a dozen bits of wood, and the list went back into the pocket and came out again a dozen times.

I was surprised that he did not pull out a carpenter’s square and/or ruler to check whether the dimensions listed on the price tag were accurate.

I just sat on the big stack of marine ply and watched…and waited. I kept a pleasant smile upon my face and thought about happy things. For what seemed like 12 hours. When he finally decided that he had enough wood, he slowly pushed the trolley away. I brushed off  the spider webs and lichen that had been growing on me, dived for the mdf shelf and grabbed two pieces.

I’m not a vindictive man. Or a rude one. But I could see what was going to happen if he hit the cash register before me…so I literally flew down the side aisles to beat him to it. I may have been a bit precipitate, as I could hear an avalanche of hammers and wood clamps falling behind in my wake, but I made it in time. I got through the till before he arrived with his list.

I cannot say whether I will be a different shopper in the future, but I will at least look over my shoulder and let other foursomes play through while I consider the fall of the green.

The Bunnings Phenomenon

I’ve written of Bunnings before – the local Australian version of the DIY shop or Home Depot. It is undoubtedly like other shops in other countries in that it sells nails and plumbing fittings, but in other respects it is wholly our own.

The first time I cottoned on to this was on World Talk Like A Pirate Day. All the staff dressed up as pirates – and we’re talking about senior citizen employees as well as junior staff – and talked like pirates. It was a bit disconcerting, when all I went in for was a can of spray paint, to see hardware clerks rolling their Rrrrrr’ses early in the morning…

Today they supplemented the standard sausage sizzle stand that parks out front of the place with Christmas cupcakes. I have no idea whether these are a commercial product or fundraiser’s specials, but I do salute the imagination that used a pretzel for the reindeer horns…

One cake is missing. Not my fault.



IKEA Are Doing Something Right In A Wrong World

IKEA – the Swedish meatball and MDF shelving kings – are doing something right, and it is heartening to see it. I would wish that other retailers might follow suit.

I visited their premises today to replace a floor lamp that I had destroyed. That’s not the sort of thing that you often write, but I’m sure the readers have had similar experiences; you set out to do a simple repair and you end up throwing something in the bin and going to buy a new one. In the case of the IKEA lamp, I got away easy – if it had been a motor car or something complex it would have been much more traumatic.

Retail trade in Perth is in a slow period – notwithstanding the Christmas season. Oh, there are sales and promotions galore – the post box is full of flyers – but the shops can be light-on as far as paying customers. There is a lot of stock in the camera shop I write for, and there’s only a week until Christmas to clean it out. In fact, it won’t get cleaned out, and there will have to be a series of excruciating sales in the new year to get back shelf space.

But in IKEA, they are lined up at the tills three-deep. Why? What is there about the place that encourages us to go out there. How many bedside tables or jars of marinated herring can we use? When is our capacity for roll-around steel trolleys filled?

Well, I think I’ve got some of the reasons:

a. The stuff they sell is cheap enough that you do not need to be a mining magnate to buy it. They can still sell things for under $ 10, under $ 50, under $ 100. Try getting that at the trendy shops in the richer suburbs…

b. The stuff is reasonably good. Not everything is European-nobility-exclusive quality. Neither are the customers…even if they pretend to be. But there are few outright duds in the range and if anything proves to be really awful, they take it back without question.

c. If you make a wrong choice, they’ll still take it back. This is a massive safety net under your shopping confidence and makes you bolder to try new things.

d. The staff members are pleasant – sometimes thin on the floor, and sometimes overworked, but always kindly. And the fact that the firm hires a wide variety of people means that you get the feeling that they’ll take care of you.

e. The goods are interesting shapes – even when they are plain. You might not get exactly the style that was in your mind, but you can find something that is pretty close to it. You’ll not be overburdened by ethnic furniture choices that clash with the rest of the house – it can all pretty much fit in.

f. The stuff works. If you buy a bookshelf you can keep books on it and if you buy a bed you can sleep on it. Their ovens cook. Don’t laugh – you can go elsewhere and buy trouble  and failure at higher prices.

g. They have a cafeteria with food that you don’t make for yourself at home. And that does not cost $ 29 a plate.

h. They have parking. Parking that you can go to directly, that is free, and that is secure. You can load up your purchases at an easy bay. Heck, you can pay a very modest fee and they’ll deliver the entire store to your house next day. We know – we bought a kitchen that came to us just that way.

i. Their online catalog is accurate. Oh, Lordy, do I know the perils of the on-line catalogue in other trades. I know that there can be wild inaccuracies that do not communicate themselves to either the management nor the customers…until someone tries to buy what they think they want from a place that thinks it has it…and both parties to the transaction discover that it is all just a shambles.

I looked today at the online catalogue…because I couldn’t find the big free paper one in the spare room. It was clear and organised and I saw exactly what I needed. The department in the IKEA store had the items stacked neatly and labeled clearly, and my money came out in a flash. Good business all round.

Do I have shares in the company? No. Do I get free furniture for writing this? No. But I do get good stuff and good service each time I go there, and a sense of accomplishment when I turn one of their flat cardboard packs into a real piece of furniture.

Every Man To His Trade

And every woman too, for that matter. When someone is good at something – trained, certificated, experienced, quiet, calm, efficient, and covered in healed scars…it is the height of folly to interfere with them as they do a job.

Even if you, too, have all the qualifications…you will always promote a better result if you stop away and let the worker you have employed to do the work get on with it.

Oh, occasionally you get a poor result – some workers are not as careful as others and some are not as diligent…but problems can be rectified  if you have not been the one to cause them.

Case in point: the new kitchen that went into our house this week. It involved 6 skilled tradespeople and a deal of to-ing and fro-ing to the IKEA warehouse. Some minor parts were missing, a custom part had to be made, accessories had to be gathered. And one major error occurred that needed an overnight fix.

No-one was flustered about it. No-one went snarly or desperate. The old kitchen was broken up and tossed in the skip bin – the new one was installed and completed in three days. We still need to look at fresh vinyl floor covering but I’ll bet that will be done just as neatly. And already we have disposed the pots, pans, dishes, and cutlery in the new drawers and the kitchen is workable again.

I must record my admiration for the planner, installer, and tradesmen, and praise the IKEA problem solving office for the speedy way that they turned panic into relief.

We tested out the family cookware on the new hob – The frying pans are fine but all the saucepans and soup pots are useless with induction heating. So I guess IKEA will score a few more dollars from us in the Market Hall, and I do not begrudge them a penny.

Heading picture is the dreadful blue kitchen. That’s protective film over the cabinet fronts until the floor man has come and gone. Then the reveal. The ovens are burning off their coatings right now and I will try them out during the week with the first roast.


The Little World – How To Survive A Hobby Shop

We are all in danger at some time in the day. We drive a car, fly in an airplane, eat servo sandwiches, tell our spouse that they are wrong…and for the most part we get away with it. No-one hits us on the road or in the kitchen, we do not get food poisoning, we do not crash. We have learned that the dangers are manageable.

Such is not the case for the hobbyist who goes to the hobby shop. There the dangers are multiplied a thousand-fold…few escape. Wallets and credit cards are seen crashed and burning everywhere you look. Survivors are staggering out of the wrecks with armloads of kits. Painters lie in the aisles overcome by fumes – their partners beside them, overcome by the prices of the paint. It is not a pretty sight.

Shoppers in Bunnings, Home Depot, and Spotlight will also know these distressing sights…with the additional horror in the gardening section of bodies sticking up out of the loam. Whatever can be done to arrest the carnage?

Here is a list of precautions:

a. Do not take more than you can afford to lose. Like the casino, the hobby hell will consume every bit of funding that you can find. Leave your credit and debit cards at home. And don’t go to the counter with a child’s piggy bank and a hammer – it just looks pathetic.

b. Wear dark sunglasses in the shop. Hobby goods are marketed on bright colours – particularly the toy cars and R/C aircraft. If you can’t see them very well you won’t be tempted. You might pick up some dodgy paint choices in the finishing aisle if you’re wearing sunnies but use it up anyway and tell people that it is a special camo scheme.

c. Do not sniff the glues. They are addictive. Likewise, do not sniff the kits. If you have to sniff anything, sniff the owner of the shop. They get little enough love as it is.

d. Learn to make a specific list of what you need and go directly to the place it is stored. Select only as much as you need, pay for it at the counter, and run. Do not browse the cabinets. That way madness lies.

Once you are outside you have proved to yourself that you are strong, moral, and not self-indulgent. Celebrate the fact with a double martini and a glazed doughnut.

e. Never give in to the temptation to stock up on anything. If you add just that extra kit or bag of parts you are starting down the slippery pathway that will lead eventually to an intervention. No-one wants to be the person on television with the garage full of Airfix Spitfires and a sneering relative.

f. Know the signs of addiction before you get there. Is the grocery store refusing to exchange balsa wood strips for bread? Has your bank cut up your credit card, ATM card, cheque book, statement, and half the teatowels in the house? Is the bathtub full of glue? You are in need of treatment. You can get a 1:35th scale treatment kit by Trumpeter for a little under $ 40. Where’s the piggy bank and the hammer?

g. Do not sneak kits into the house. Do not sneak empty boxes up into the attic space. One day the plasterwork on the ceiling will give way and your secret will be out.

h. Do not lie to your spouse. Don’t say that you will be going off to have a night of squalid sex with your lover and then sneak around to the workshop and glue things. The plastic smell and the dried glue on your fingers will give you away, no matter how much you douse yourself in perfume.

Imagine My Initial Surprise

I have always been intrigued by the use of initials as a brand name – ever since I looked at USAF on the side of aircraft and fantasized that it meant Uncle Sam’s Air Force I have decided that some things – including 500 pounder GP bombs – could be more fun to sell if you just had the right name behind the product. Uncle Sam’s sounds way friendlier than plain old United States. Has sort of a down-home ring about it, even as the ring of the Norden zeros in on your home from 8000 feet.

To this end I have considered a number of firms who use initials to make their name and have done some preliminary planning:

DAF –  the Dutch car makers – the first two words are ” Dodgey As ” and the last word got me ejected from the Methodist Bingo Night.

IKEA – Swedish makers of little metal socket spanners – ” Imperial Kings of Evasive Accounting “. I have no idea why someone suggested this…

FIAT – easy – ” Fix It Again, Tony “. This is not my invention – it has been going around for years. Unlike some of the FIAT crankshafts.

SEATAPFEIAIAECBBC – A French firm that makes subsidized zippers. Responsible for the Zipper Mountain in the CE.

CE – ” Cut England “. Except they Cut Europe first. No-one is talking to anyone and there is an eerie silence. Glorious, isn’t it?

USSR – Uncle Stalin’s Still ‘Round.

CBC – Camrose Bare Cows – A speciallized strip joint for prairie entertainment.

NBC – Nearly Bare Cows – The less controversial version.