This Call Is Finished

I took a telephone call yesterday from a noisy location. The caller was a young woman who purported to be a student at WA University. And who also purported to be asking questions connected with the alumni association.

Her voice was rapid and her name was somewhat unclear – but her questions were intrusive. Confirming address, etc. I was evasive, stating that the alumni association already had my address. To her questions about my career I also gave vague, but truthful answers.

To her request for $ 50 per month contribution to a scholarship…and then for an immediate $ 100 contribution…I gave a polite but firm refusal.

My daughter, who works in the financial section of a rival university, said that the call was most likely genuine – a result of students assigned to try to get money out of people on an old-student list. Possibly, but it could also have been a number of other things.

I think my best bet in the future is to remind myself not to engage in answering questions on the telephone from someone I have never met. I shall politely decline and civilly press the hang-up button. This will also serve when I receive subcontinental calls.

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I Am Not A Monster

While I admit to being a senior citizen, model maker, and studio photographer – serious charges in themselves – I must deny the assertion that I am a monster of cruelty. I do not mock the afflicted nor harass the indigent. I am kind to animals, with the exception of mosquitos and cockroaches. I obey traffic signs and harsh words from the wife.

Thus, when I receive evidence that a friend has fallen for some sad internet hoax, I do not point the finger of scorn. I take pity upon them and remain silent. This is not the silence of collusion – it is commiseration. I, too, know what it is to be fooled by plausible tricksters…and I’ve lost money to them. The last thing I should want when I finally detect  fraud is to have to bear scorn as well as loss.

Friends – there are any number of trolling, fyshing, scamming productions that can come through your social media or through general searching on the net. Whenever you see something that is either too good or too bad to be true, it is just that. You do not need to fear, nor to react, to any of it. But if it helps to relieve a little of the tension, by all means open up the Snopes website and see if the thing that is troubling you has been debunked there. In most cases you will find that this is so.

Even with the most innocent of enquiries, answers can be harvested that will do you or someone else harm. The best thing to do is not give any answers on the net. Anything that you need to ask or answer can be dealt with between you and your physician, dentist, lawyer, religious adviser, or 6th grade home room school teacher. If it is really heavy-duty stuff you can call in a policeman or a magistrate. These are the individuals who have real power for good in your world. Depend upon them.

The internet has been a blessing for a lot of us – I mean, who wants to go out into the street looking for a cat on a rainy night when you can get a picture of one on Facebook? But it is a cursèd blessing, and the curse is the easy way it makes nonsense sound like truth.

Remember that if you forward this to ten of your friends, nine of them will wind the toilet paper the wrong way on the roll and the tenth will use bunched up newspaper…

SOBCoin…You Knew It Was coming

Now that the Backstabbers Guild Of Australia has launched the BGAcoin it was only a matter of time before it released the next in the series – the Bitscoin. This should be carefully distinguished from Bitcoin by the fact that there is an ” s ” in the middle and by the fact that we only accept cash in a brown paper bag to pay for it. Or chickens. Or S&H coupons.

Let’s face it…we’ll take anything.

And that’s the problem. The cryptocurrency market needs respectability and dignity, and the BGA keeps very little stock of that. So we are going to introduce the ultimate respectable and dignified business scheme that you just read about on our cellphone screen – the Bitscoin.

To help us market this easy passport to financial success ( ours ), we have engaged Sunova Marketing Associates to lay the proposition before the public. They’ve agreed to lend their name to the project – we are proud to announce the Sunova Bitscoin.

There will be several levels of marketing available for this product – all the way from the Simple Sunova Bits to the Complex Sunova Bits. Those of you who have ever taken apart a Holley 4-barrel carburetor will know exactly what we mean. There will be Mean Sunova Bits and Lying Sunova Bits available, too, but only if you are over 18. We anticipate a good market in Canada where this sort of thing has been a long-established tradition, eh?

Remember that you will never forgive yourself if you do not buy Sunova Bitscoins now. Tomorrow will be too late, and it may be difficult to contact our representatives. If we play our cards right…

Security Breaches, Or How To Panic The Game Into Breaking Cover

There are many different techniques for a hunter when they are trying to get the game to show itself – some adopt the sneak-and-creep approach that tries to blend in and give the prey a false sense of security. Others use the big-noise ploy to frighten the animals into leaping from cover. Some just throw out chum – chopped-up whitebait, packets of hot chips, or free tickets to Johnny Farnham concerts.  All three are valid propositions.

One of the best new approaches is for a hacker to tell everyone that they are in terrible danger from hackers, and to direct them to a site that will protect them by harvesting private numbers and passwords. If this sounds a little like the federal government, you have to remember that both the hackers and the politicians learned their trade in the same private schools and may well end up sharing their experiences in the same cell.

The business of computer and internet security is so complex, of course, that it defies normal understanding. Like the mysteries of religion, this creates an opportunity for a priestly caste to step in and control the confused. The fact that the saviours are also the people who invented the danger is sometimes overlooked, in both circumstances.

To some extent this priestcraft is a good thing – if you are prepared to go blindly along with the directions of the experts you will eventually get somewhere – just be careful who you follow. The same principles apply to computer expertise and turf consultancy, and in some cases it seems to be done by the same people. If you are a fan of three-card monte games played in a doorway off a side street you should be perfectly at home.

Where the idea of priestcraft can be seen to be turning to more general benefit is in the fact that there are still several major electronic religions. You need not worship at the same keyboard altar as the person in the next cubicle. The teams can be played one against the other for the benefit of the perplexed. If one discovers a vulnerability of another, they will trumpet it in the mainstream long enough for the guilty party to either slink away or invent a repair for the problem.

You cannot stand firm upon ancient belief when it comes to computers – some prophet is always coming down off a mountain with a shining face and two more tablets of silicon – in many cases the glory turns out to be residual radiation and the wild hair is the result of opening the back of the desk-top a little too early. In any case, you are going to have to adapt, adopt, and update every so often – just do so at the behest of reputable firms and not Flash Harry. As irksome as they can be at times, the major suppliers like Apple and Microsoft really do maintain their own demesnes eventually.

The Machine Gun Belt Of Retirement

We often use the expression ” dodging the bullet ” to celebrate avoiding some horrid fate…and if you have been associated with as many amateur entertainments as I have, you’ll have a fair idea what a horrid fete is…

It is also a way of looking at life in retirement – the situation in which I now find myself. Two years in, and I have learned a few things:

a. You can sleep in, but only to the extent that the sun, the tradespeople, and the cat will permit. One or other of these will have you up to match their schedule.

b. You will get on your wife’s nerves. She will get on your nerves. Designate specific areas of the house where you can go to avoid each other for some portion of the day. The rest of the time will see a much better relationship.

Note: Wire, mines, and machine gun pillboxes are probably going a little overboard – just pick two rooms.

c. Your friends who are still working will be glad to see you, but on their timetable and their terms. They have busy lives to lead and may not appreciate you mooching about when they are exhausted. Be sensible.

d. If you do not need to go to the shops to buy anything, do not go to the shops to fill time. There are better things to do with it.

e. You can get a great deal of pleasure by listening to the morning and afternoon radio reports of traffic jams on the Freeway in peak hour. The best place to do this is at your kitchen table with a cup of fresh coffee.

f. Use the special seating on the trains and buses. If you are a senior, it is there for you.

g. Wear out your old clothes. Wear them out by wearing them – out. No-one is looking and  no-one cares. Just make sure they are clean.

h. Pursue that hobby. You may take it further than it has ever gone.

i. When people are polite and kind to you, be polite and kind in return. When people are not polite and kind to you, still be polite and kind to them. Repeatedly, and in public view. Until they get the message.

If necessary, help them along by explaining how to be polite and kind.

j. Expect some memory glitches. Where is my coffee? I had a cup of it started just before I sat down. No, seriously, I did…

k. As an older person, you may not sleep as well as you used to. Since you do not need to rise at 5:00AM to chop down trees, you needn’t go instantly to sleep at 9:00PM. By all means stay up late and read new books.

l. Expect former work colleagues to forget you. It is not a sign of disrespect – it is just the pressure of new demands that continues to flood into their lives. You are out of that pool and need not re-enter it.

m. ” Annual Holidays ” and ” Vacations ” might seem less valuable now – now that each day is free. This is a perceptual trap.

Certainly, the desperate relief of pressure that you used to feel when you got your annual week or two weeks is gone. But it was never an easy thing – it used up the first three days of any break you had, and there was always the nagging fear that you might be called back into work. And the feeling of impending doom when you thought of the re-start date coming closer.

No more. You cannot be doomed by former workmates and bosses. They are busy dooming each other and you are out of the blast circle. You are, quite simply, free.

Soooo…about the annual vacation business…

Why does it have to be annual? Why can’t it be every 6 months? Why can’t it be three days in the middle of the week now? No reason at all, save the monetary aspect. And does it have to be a big, annual, pressure-relieving, pressure-inducing, official escape? Can it now be a small pleasure jaunt?

Of course it can.

Give up the idea of the ” vacation “. You have nothing to vacate. You have time to spare, and time to fill. Fill it with something good – something new, if you like new, or something old, if that is your comfort.

Go see what you like and do what you like. If you don’t know what these two things are, now is the time to find out – go and do a wide variety of things and see how you feel. You might discover you’re a beach sitter who loves the nothing life. or you might hate it. You might find you are a planned tourist – or you might just like a pub chair and a book. You might find anything, if you go and look.

Be careful. You might find yourself being happy…

n. At the age of retirement, you get to mentally review a lot of things.

No, I still do not know where flies go in winter – I am just content if they stay away from me in summer. But you get to review the people you are in contact with and decide whether you wish to stay in contact with them. You really do have a choice.

I’ve made my own list of people I wish to remain in contact with. I’ve also made another list. Neither require dramatic action – I seek the company of people on one list and avoid that of people on the other. The basic result is an increase of happiness for me. That achieved, I am a better friend and companion. Of course chance may throw me in or out of contact with either lot, but I try to remain calm about it. I am a reader of P.G. Wodehouse and the character of Jeeves is a great assistance in some situations.

m. At the age of retirement, you can eat and drink less than before. Heavy consumption is unpleasant. But you can still appreciate good food and drink, and as you are taking less of it, the little you do have can be of much better quality.

It can be cooked  and served professionally, if you’ve got the money. If not, you can prepare it yourself and enjoy it in your own home. This has many advantages; you need not eat impossible melanges of modern food – you can stick to classics. You can experiment with flavours – with no scowling chef bullying you. You need fear no wait-staff with bad attitudes – you can be smarmy to yourself, and need not leave a tip.

n. The coffee. I found it. It was by the telephone. Why didn’t you tell me it was by the telephone?

o. You will get scam phone calls and computer messages all the time. Of course you will never fall for them, but you can spend some time playing with the criminals who perpetrate them. They regard you as a gullible old fool, who can be cozened and bullied into letting them have access to your financial secrets. They are vogelfrei…

I find it best to be ready – if you’ve a quick wit you can have some marvellous fun. In the past I have sung Broadway songs to one, shamed one with religious sermons, convinced one that they had been patched through to the quarterdeck of a Navy ship docked at Fremantle harbour, and demanded the delivery of white phosphorus howitzer shells from another.

I have refused life insurance upon the grounds that I was a train robber and lived too dangerous a life to get insurance, and kept another going for a half-hour on the basis of being a kindly and bumbling old fellow who was nearly succeeding in doing what they wanted on my computer, but not quite achieving it…

Of course, if I am frying bacon at the time or fresh out of the shower I am brusque. I’m pleased that a workmate was able to teach me a series of Croatian swear words, and I wish that someone could supply me with a similar list in Hindi or Arabic.

p. Speaking of computers, you may find out many new things that you did not know with these. You will also find out that the computer does not know many of the things that YOU know. And much of what you do know, you can recognise as being distorted, false, or foolish when it is spread out on Facebook, Twitter, or innumerable private websites.

The fact that you know better in some instances should give you cause for pause – if the almighty computer got it wrong in something that you know the truth of, you should also suspect that there could be many other instances where it is wrong.

You still have a public library, and you still have your native intelligence. These do not get hacked. Use them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rolls In, Rolls In

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My Gosh, how the money rolls in…

I need a lurk. A dodge. Not a Dodge…I mean I need a scheme. A game. A folding table and three walnut shells. In plain language, I need a semi-fraudulent way of getting access to people’s money  – and I don’t want to be caught by the police and be made to give it back. I have asked a number of local identities what to do and here is a précis of the advice:

a. Find something to make or grow on an industrial scale that is regulated by law. Refuse to obey that law. Make a great deal of public noise about not being able to do as I want to. Then build an enormous shop to sell what I produce using the publicity I got for being poor and downtrodden. Note to self: never appear in public images looking as rich as I am. Keep the old clothes handy in case a camera is near.

b. Offer insurance for things that are not normally insurable; wastepaper, 70’s safari suits, Great Wall 4WD trucks…Base my operation in another state and route my phone calls through another country. Sit and think how much money I would like to have and put that on the insurance quote regardless of the market price or common sense. Fact: there are people out there stupider than me and richer than me. I can adjust one of those characteristics for them…

c. Mentor someone about something. Working on the fact  that if they can be made to think they need help, they can be made to think you can provide it. Even when this proves false, a certain percentage of them can be made to think that you DID help…and they can be used for testimonials.

d. Sell wedding thumbtacks. Get boxes of regular thumbtacks at Office Works for $ 4.99 , re-label them as wedding thumbtacks, and resell them through bridal fairs for $ 129.99 a box.

e. Consulting. It is within two letters of insulting, and in many cases the people who want to be consulted are shaky at spelling anyway. Bawl ’em out. Use vile language. If it works for a cook on television it works for anyone.

f. Find a plan for some form of public work that will be beneficial, extensive, and expensive, and then declare that it will offend the sacred ancestors. Or a mythical creature. Or someone in the United Nations. If you can invent a sacred relative who worked in the UN and who looked like a lizard you are home and hosed – the government will hold the treasury door open and hand you a grain shovel.

g. Festivals do nicely, if you can make the people who put them up pay you to give them permission to put them up. Get anyone who sells anything to pay you for the chance and if their stuff is good – demand a cut of the takings. Not the profit, for that may be small – the takings. Take a good stiff gate fee, break the festival down into divisions that ALL have a gate fee, and don’t overlook the idea of site deposits or key money. Window tax is nice too, but tricky…

h. People are getting wise to fake phone calls from the ATO. But they still trust getting random calls from other public utilities – particularly if it is to warn them that there will be maintenance carried on in the area next week. Ask for a maintenance deposit contingency key start-up fee. You never know…

i. Everybody loves kittens. Everybody loves cheesecake. So – we make kitten-flavoured cheesecake. That was dead simple…

j. Surely there must be someone newer than Che Guevara that we can use to sell Tee shirts? If I can find him I can take his picture then shoot him and sell Tee shirts.