I went into Dan Murphy's today to buy a few things. One was Henkel Trocken. I could not find it anywhere. So I asked. It was in the Australian sparkling wine section. It is in fact produced in Germany.
Thursday, February 23, 2017
Monday, February 20, 2017
Jill and I normally help celebrate one another's birthdays. Usually I shout a dinner in February for Jill's birthday and she cooks me a dinner in July for my birthday. Somehow or other, however, we got it the other way around this year, with Jill cooking Anne and me a dinner in connection with her birthday.
We have something of a tradition that Jill cooks us pasta with seafood and a creamy sauce. She does it well and I always look forward to it. This year the seafood consisted of lots of small prawns, which went down well. I get a bit freaked if I have to peel large prawns. I generally get someone else to do it for me. The pasta was either tagliatelle or fettucine. I can't tell the difference between those two.
Jill and Lewis go on a lot of cruises and Anne does too so most of the conversation revolved around foreign parts, particularly South America. Mr Trump however did of course get a mention. Can any dinner conversations avoid a mention of Mr Trump these days? Jill noted that on one of her recent cruises most of the American passengers were very enthusiastic about Mr Trump.
From the Pharaohs to Mohammed to Hitler, Jews have certainly not has it easy, to put it mildly. Among both religious Jews and Christians there is a view that the long survival of Jews against all odds is a sign of divine intervention. I can see the logic of that.
In recent years Anne and I have got rather bushed in driving to and from Jill's place. Anne drives and the GPS system that came with her Toyota is a bit brain-damaged. So this year she turned it off and let me give directions. There have however been a lot of changes in the roads since I used to drive out that way so I feared that I would misdirect us. As it happened, however, we got it all right both going and coming back. It was actually pretty simple.
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Joe and I usually have a late and relaxed breakfast together at a certain pie shop on Sunday morning. Today Kate came along, looking very mysterious behind "navigator" dark glasses. The glasses did highlight her alabaster skin, though. See how sexist I am, talking only about her appearance? But most ladies, including Kate, take great care over their appearance so to notice it is, in my old-fashioned view, merely gallant. But I suppose gallantry is bad these days too.
We talked a bit about diet as Joe announced that he has recently lost 5 kilos. He came back from holidays with a distinct "spare tyre" so that was an achievement.
We also of course mentioned Mr Trump and I pointed out that his rather confused speech delivery may be no bad thing. It is eerily reminiscent of "Sir Joh", a distinguished Queenslander but a very small footnote in the history of the world. But it is a very informative footnote. Sir Joh also had a messy speech delivery that the elite all dismissed as being beyond comprehension. Journalists and others claimed it was just impossible to understand what he was saying. But Joh was a farmer and he spoke like a farmer, not like an educated man. And ordinary farmers and working people generally understood him just fine. He kept getting their vote and ended up running Queensland for nearly 20 years -- from 1968 to 1987. So who was the fool?
The Honourable Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, KCMG
So he really does sound a lot like Sir Joh so should easily get a second term in office. I don't think Kate had ever heard of Sir Joh and Joe would not have known much either so I was glad to give them a bit of fun history. In the day I was myself a member of Joh's political party and always voted for him. So I am a sort of living political antique. These days I vote for Pauline. In the circumstances I am sure that many Leftists would conclude that I must have got my Ph.D. out of a cornflakes packet.
Another thing we talked about over breakfast was the similarities between Joe and myself. Joe is a very different person from me but the fact that we share 50% of our genes does make itself known at times. It is perhaps most notable in the similarity of our political views. We both rather like Mr Trump, for instance. NO-ONE upsets applecarts like Mr Trump! He is a true radical. Mr Trump is so entertaining that if he didn't exist we would have had to invent him.
Another similarity is that Joe and I both tend to sit down in something of a yoga position. We do it unconsciously. It just seems most comfortable.
The similarity I mentioned today is how both of us are "no fuss" people. We don't sweat the small things. When things go wrong we just carry on regardless without swearing and cursing and leaping about. I gave a couple of recent instances of Joe being Mr. Cool in that way.
Another similarity is that we both like the complex music of J.S. Bach. As it happens, the Bach Klavier concerto was playing on the car radio as we drove to breakfast and we both enjoyed it greatly. I suggested that a liking for Bach might be related to a liking for order, as Bach's music is very orderly with its fugues and counterpoint generally.
And I extended that to being good at computer programming. Computer code is VERY orderly. Just get one comma out of place and the program bombs. And I was very good at FORTRAN coding in my day. I used to say that I could write FORTRAN in my sleep. It was not a literal claim but my dreams would sometimes feature FORTRAN code. Joe trumped that, however, by claiming that he really CAN write "C" in his sleep. He writes a lot of it so maybe he can.
Because Kate has recently taken her honours degree in psychology, I went on to talk to her a little about a liking for order. Traditionally in personality psychology it is deplored as being "Fascist", with tolerance of ambiguity being praised in its stead. I pointed out that seeking for order in the universe it what scientists do so deploring that is a bit nutty. Some people (e.g. autistics) have an excessive need for order but to condemn a liking for order generally is incoherent.
A degree of orderliness that Joe and I share is great punctuality but I noted that I saw punctuality as being mainly a courtesy and Joe agreed with that.
And our bacon and eggs was good too.
Friday, February 17, 2017
Valentine's day was on Tuesday this week but Anne had choir practice on both Tuesday and Wednesady so observances were postponed until Friday. Flowers, funny card, chocolates and a dinner were all delivered. We went to the Kafe Meze for Greek food. It was a while since we had been there so we were a bit put out to find that the easy parking over the road had been abolished. But we did find a spot round the corner near a supermarket car park. The supermarket used to be Jack the Slasher many moons ago but I am not sure what it is now. Coles, I think.
Below is the docket showing what we had. We could have given the Pastourma a miss but the rest was as good as usual.
Thursday, February 16, 2017
I have always found it easy to write and as a result I write a lot of letters, mostly by snail mail. So when I see something happening that I don't like, I don't just bitch about it. I send a letter to whomever is likely to be able to fix it. And it will be no surprise that I have written to the big bosses of banks quite a lot. As I think everyone reading this will know, banks can be very frustrating
One thing that has been bothering me a bit lately is the way Australian banks keep closing branches or downgrading the services that they offer from a branch.
For a while there was a sort of mini-branch of the Commonwealth babnk right next to where I often go for brunch so that was very convenient. I rather liked the looks of one of the female tellers they had there too. Even we oldies can admire from afar.
But it was of course too good to last. The tellers were abolished and you were expected to do everything through a sort of super-ATM they had installed. There were however still some staff there to help people who could not do what they wanted with the ATMs.
So recently I walked in with a big cheque that I wanted to deposit. But the place was full of customers waiting for personal service. So I decided to give up and visit a real branch the next day. But where was there a real branch? It is not easy to look up. They have a list of branches online but some of them have been abolished and there is no way of knowing what services the remaining ones offer. In a couple of cases there were phone numbers I could ring but when I rang I got only an answering machine that had no answers that I wanted to hear.
What to do? I also have an account at the Bank of Qld. and I have never had to wait long there. So I went in to my nearest branch, found two tellers behind the desk and only one person ahead of me. So I deposited my cheque, was given a printed receipt and walked out happy. Because of their poor services, the Commonwealth missed out on getting my money despite considerable efforts on my part to give it to them. Amazing.
So I wrote a letter. Here it is:
28 December, 2016
Dear Mr. Narev,
As a CBA shareholder and a customer I am appalled at how your standards of customer service have slipped.
I went into your recently downgraded Buranda branch today and found a big queue-up of people waiting for personal service. I had a big cheque to deposit that I was not willing to entrust to your machines. I left rather than wait. Please reinstate its former status
I then went online to find an alternative branch near me. I wanted to find one that had full service. There were several possibilities. But the phone nos. for them were not provided. So I went through the rigamarole of calling your general number. When I was eventually put through to the branches, however, all I got were answering machines that were as uninformative as your website.
After all the hassle I deposited my cheque with another bank.
Why can't you have more contact details available online? Are you afraid your customers might talk to you? Can't you get it into your bald head that customer service matters?
In the absence of an accommodating reply from you, I will raise the matter at the next AGM.
I got a reply from someone called Emma Taylor who did little more than restate her bank's policies. So I wrote another letter. Here it is:
Dear Ms Taylor
Thank you for your letter of 19th.
I am disappointed that Mr Narev did not see fit to reply to my letter in person. A year or so ago I wrote to Richard Goyder of Wesfarmers and got back from him a courteous handwritten note. Perhaps Mr Narev has more dissatisfied customers than Mr Goyder has.
I have found your reply in which you do little more than restate the bank's policies quite unsatisfactory. So I still have comments that I wish to address to Mr. Narev. The following is for Mr Narev's eyes only:
Dear Mr Narev,
I am sure you find as revolting as I do the old stereotype of the fat Jewish banker smoking a cigar, wearing a top hat and looking contemptuously down his long nose at the simple people whom he exploits.
So why in G-d's name are you doing your best to validate that image? You are Jewish, you are head of Australia's largest bank and you treat your customers with contempt by making it as hard as possible for them to contact you and your officers.
WHY do you not have on your website a phone number for each branch? You are constantly changing your branches and what each branch does, so people need to enquire in advance to ascertain what services are available at a branch they intend to visit.
I myself some months ago was going to be in the Stone's Corner area so looked up your webpage and found the Stones Corner branch listed as fully functional. It was not. I made the trip there to find it closed down.
So if it is such an enormous problem to provide phone nos., could you at least keep your website up to date with the level of service offered at each branch? It is surely an elementary courtesy.
And it might even be good business to upgrade your services. The extra costs could result in happier customers who do more business with your bank.
In the absence of a reply from you, I am inclined to post a copy of this letter on the net.
Dr John Ray
There was no reply. BUT, today I had another large refund cheque to deposit. So after my brunch I wandered in to the nearby Commonwealth branch that had given me problems previously. Hey Presto! Big change! A teller's counter had sprung up again, everybody in the branch was being helped and there was a lady standing at the teller's counter waiting to help me. Very different! Exactly what I had asked for! Even though Mr Narev was too grand to reply to me, someone somewhere in the bank must have sprung into action. My letters got results.
A Leftist would of course have found my reference to Mr Narev's origins to be RACIST! Even though I was writing with the intention of helping Jews. I have in fact been a great supporter of Israel since I was a kid. My immersion in the Bible made it permanently clear to me that Israel is the proper home of the Jews.
Some extended background on my thinking about that is here
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Joe got back from overseas yesterday (Saturday) and took the airtrain straight to my place. We didn't talk much as he was jetlagged and had a lot to do but he arranged for us to resume our customary Sunday brunches at the pie shop. We both like the bacon & egg breakfast there.
So we had that this morning and, as usual, had quite a long chat. This time substantially about Mr Trump. Mr Trump must be the world's most discussed person at the moment. Joe and I both like Mr Trump though we can of course understand the reasons why many people do not. Regardless of his hair and other personal flaws, we think his policies are mostly about right.
Trump is certainly the most amazing politician in that he is doing exactly what he said he would do and what he was voted in to do. Has there ever been another politician like that?
We also talked about Real Estate. Joe wants to get his name on something as soon as possible and both he and Kate are saving up at a good rate so should be able to buy jointly a Brisbane house in the not too distant future. As I know Brisbane Real Estate very well I was able to help Joe think through the various options involved. He is pretty firm that he wants to buy a house and not an apartment. I agreed with him on that. I nearly always bought houses before I went into the stockmarket instead.
Joe's idea is to continue living at my place and let his house out. He gets free accommodation and utilities at my place and he now has a small one bedroom apartment for himself and Kate so he can save money in comfort that way. I am of course pleased to have him under my roof as long as he wants.
And I know that just about every spare penny will go into savings. Joe has a very Scottish attitude to money. He makes sure he gets best value from everything he buys. But what he regards as good value can be surprising.
In Edinburgh he spent about $100 on two big and HEAVY books he saw in a book shop. They were a detailed history of a computer game company. Joe has been big on computer games since he was 2 so the purchase was not entirely surprising. The surprising thing is that, rather than mailing such heavy things back to Australia, he carted them all around Europe with him and has already read every page of them: A true eccentric. But since I too have many eccentricities I am delighted to have an eccentric son. I have a large brass Hindu idol in the entryway to my house so that is a warning of eccentricity ahead.
As we were finishing up breakfast, Joe mentioned that Kate had not had a chance to talk to me since they got back to Brisbane and suggested that the three of us might have dinner together. So this evening we did that. We went to the Memorized Place, a strangely-named Chinese restaurant that has excellent Szechuan food -- and waiters with a very limited comprehension of English. So ordering is always quite a trial but the food is worth it.
I had satay lamb and Kate had BBQ Pork with plum sauce. I forget what Joe had. The food was good as usual. We talked again about Real Estate and the future generally. We avoided talking about the entertaining Mr Trump as Kate is still in the grip of a university education.
I was told of a forthcoming event that I am not allowed to mention yet but it involves the Eiffel Tower. Gustave Eiffel can have had no idea of how entertaining his tower would be. It's basically a bridge turned on its ear.