I got my Crystal Ball out, and here are my 6 predictions for 2015

2015 is here, and looks like we are stuck with it for the foreseeable future. Some people like to look back and reminisce, but I prefer to look forward and get ready for what lies ahead.
So what is ahead? I don’t have a crystal ball, and I’m not particularly good at reading tea leaves – some people might say that I’m not particularly good at anything, but I think these people are just mean.
So I’ll have a go at coming up with the list of 6 predictions for the new year, and in a last blog of 2015 I’ll try see how many of my predictions were right.

unemployment

Unemployment to go up in 2015

1. Lets start with the sad and boring: Unemployment in Australia will hit 7.2%

2. With all the Wearables popping up, the time is almost right for this part of the market to explode…. Almost, but not quite. There won’t be any “out of this world” breakthrough in a next 12 months.

3. Speaking of “out of this world” – 2015 is set to be a year when we’ll see the advertising done in space, specifically; it will be placed on the Moon. Can’t wait to see the laser displays to rival the beauty of Aurora Borealis.

4. The sanctions on Russia will be relaxed, or removed completely. In part it will be due to the increased tensions between Turkey and Greece over the Mediterranean gas fields. (and yes, Russia will retain all the territories it “acquired” last year)

Parliament of Australia

Parliament of Australia

5. Closer to home – in September, it will be two interstate AFL teams battling in the Grand Final, but the Port wouldn’t have enough power when it’s needed most, and so it would be the Swans flying back to Sydney with the Cup.

6. Tony Abbot to lose his residence at The Lodge by 30th of April (this one is actually not my prediction, it’s a learned opinion of my friend-blogger Edward from The Mugwump Post )

 

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

There is this Russian saying that goes something like this: The way you’ll start a New Year is the way you’ll finish it. To make sure that I finish 2015 on a high, I better start it right…

Cheers, everyone, Happy New Year!

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Life Without Internet in 21st century? Surely Not!

The other day I overheard a conversation between two young people, both in their 20th. The girl was trying to understand the concept of Facebook, and the guy was trying (without much success) to explain it to her.

You've Got Mail

You’ve Got Mail

I immediately felt the need to bud in on their conversation, and started asking questions of my own. It turns out, that the girl not only has no idea about Facebook, she also doesn’t own a mobile phone, and she doesn’t have an internet connection at home either. I must’ve had a stupid expression on my face, when on my question “How do you pay your bills?” she answered “At the Post Office”.

I must point out here, that the girl is NOT some sort of backwards person, unable to grasp the technology. She is a lovely girl, competent in her job, uses computer and internet at work, knows how to use them, so it’s a matter of personal choice not succumbing to the extra pressure of being on-line and available at all times.

I kept coming back to this conversation for the rest of the day, and I become curious as to how many other people are out there, that do not have internet?

Apparently, quite a lot. According to the Australia Bureau of Statistics, at the end of 2013 there was 12,397,000 internet subscribers, of which, amazingly, over 200,000 were still on Dial-Up connections.  It appears that we are not as technologically advanced as I’ve always thought. Australia is only ranked 25th in a world by internet penetration, having 82.3% of its population on-line.

Some users are still stuck with a snail pace of Dial-Up

Some users are still stuck with a snail pace of Dial-Up

The list of countries and their internet penetration makes for a very interesting read – there are some surprises there.

First, Falkland Islands are ranked Number 1, which must piss Iceland off big time, as that little bit of rock  in South Atlantic is pushing the little bit of rock in a North Atlantic into the Second spot. Our cousins from across the Tasman Sea are doing real good, managing to secure a spot in the top 10. But the biggest surprise for me was Nigeria – I was sure that with the millions of e-mails from millions of relatives of the dead people, all promising me the guaranteed way to get reach, Nigeria would be high up on the list. But no – it only comes at a lowly 128th spot. Those poor scammers must be working overtime, to be able to contact so many unsuspecting winners  🙂

 

 

 

Speed Cameras Save Lives, or Do They?

While checking on some facts for my previous blog, I came across a lot of data related to speed limits and speed laws on our roads, about how speed cameras save lives. What I found strange though, is that there was very little data coming up related to how much safety improvements to the new cars affected road statistics.

If we are to believe our government, “Speed cameras make our roads safer. They’ve reduced crashes at intersections by 47 per cent and have helped cut our road toll by a third”. At first glance, this statement is pretty self-explanatory and non-controversial, right? Wrong!

Speed Cameras - Revenue Raisers

Speed Cameras – Revenue Raisers

Read it again: “and have helped cut our road toll by a third”. Notice – speed cameras didn’t cut road toll by a third, they have helped to cut it. What it really means is that the actual number attributed to speed cameras could be as low as 1%. Just think about it….if speed cameras really saved lives, and our government had the numbers to prove it, they would’ve come up with a statement that reads something like this: “Speed cameras make our roads safer. They’ve reduced crashes at intersections by 47 per cent and 30% of all lives saved is due to speed cameras”. See the difference?

Now that you spotted the difference, let’s see what the original statement actually says. It says that the road toll has been reduced by a third. It has been reduced by COMBINED efforts of car manufacturers making our cars safer, by improvements in road constructions making roads themselves safer, by improved algorithms of traffic management and by constant education campaign.

Improved Car Safety Saves Lives

Improved Car Safety Saves Lives

We all know that European cars have a reputation for being safe. It comes as no surprise than, that the vehicle safety is identified as a key strategy by the European Union towards addressing the EU-wide goal to reduce deaths by 50%. Again, take notice – not by putting more speed cameras on a road, but by improving car safety.

I would like to finish by quoting the boss of Mazda Australia, who has accused road safety authorities of creating a nation of “distracted drivers” by forcing them to watch their car’s speedometer – rather than the traffic ahead – because they’re scared to go 1km/h over the speed limit.”

The Big Bang Theory and Hot Tub Time Machine meet at Australian Synchrotron

For all the nerds, geeks and all the “regular” people who are not afraid to show their “geeky” side, this month’s calendar had one very important and exciting day. I am talking of course, about the Australian Synchrotron Open Day.

Australian Synchrotron opened in 2007 and in what’s becoming a yearly tradition, the scientists and the support staff are opening the doors to this marvel of engineering, volunteering their time and knowledge to bring the science to the masses and give our kids (and there was A LOT of kids) a taste of what science is, and hopefully inspire some of them to become the next Albert Einstein.

Synchrotron Open Day

This is how visitors were greeted

This year I decided to take this opportunity and see what all the excitement is about. Secretly, I was hoping to see Dr. Sheldon Cooper in attendance, or Leonard Hofstadter, or maybe even their girlfriends. Unfortunately, I didn’t see them, but I did see a guy who closely resembled Howard Wolowitz, down to the weird hair and a skivvy. Although, I am absolutely convinced that Penny was there at some point. How else do you explain that many bottles of nail polish?

Penny was here

Penny…..Penny…..Penny….

What I found very intriguing, was the scientists’ fascination with aluminum foil. It was EVERYWHERE! They either treat the whole thing a bit like a primary school science experiment, or they are really paranoid about the government spying on them.

There were dozens of bits of gear, all wrapped in foil

There were dozens of bits of gear, all wrapped in foil

At one stage I even began to wonder if those scientists are really all that smart. I mean, you would have your doubts too, if you found that they need these type of signs to aid them in their work:

Those scientists really worry me...

Those scientists really worry me…

But as I was moving along, I realized that I have little reason to worry. The scientists definitely knew what they were doing. One of the projects I spotted was obviously a robotic can opener; a must-have in every household

Robotic can opener

Robotic can opener

Soon after, I’ve discovered even more amazing project Synchrotronians (is it a word?) were working on. Not sure if the Hollywood producers borrowed their idea for a movie from our scientist, or our scientists drew inspiration form a Hollywood blockbuster, but the fact remains: Time Machine is real, and it is right here, in Melbourne!

Hot Tub Time Machine

Hot Tub Time Machine

Overall, it was a great day, the staff there were very helpful and did their best to explain even the hardest theories and hypothesis in a way that anyone would understand.  They were there on a Sunday, during their time off, away from their families. Yet they made all of us feel like a family, welcoming us to a wonderful world of science.

Managing your own financial affair isn’t a rocket science.

I finally did it. With only 8 days till the deadline, I have submitted my Tax Return.

It was an intense 2 hours, skimming thru ATO’s regulations, digging out 12-months old receipts, generally trying to do the right thing.

Tax Time is the time to get involved

Tax Time is the time to get involved

All this made me remember doing my very first Tax Return, all those years ago. It used to be a very involved process. First, it required a visit to a Newsagency to pick up a copy of the Return, and to get a pack of smokes (I’ll need them). Then I needed to clean up the dining table, so I can spread all the papers out, next step was realising that I don’t have a black ink pen, so back to the Newsagency I go, getting a bottle of vodka from a bottle shop while I’m out (I’ll need it later too). Finally, about an hour after I’ve started filling in the form, I hopelessly stuffed it up. Stuffed it up to a point that I just knew that no amount of Whiteout would fix it. Which only meant one thing – another visit to the Newsagency, to get another blank form.

Back home with the form, thoroughly frustrated, I spend the next few hours doing my best impersonation of an old accountant. I grumble, I argue with the form I’m filling in, I’m yelling at my pen, I admonishing the receipt for deciding to play hide and seek with me.  At long last, it is done. Two sets of forms and a pack of smokes later, I feel totally exhausted, but my Tax Return is done. Now all that’s left to do is to jump in a car and drive to the local Tax Office branch to make sure my forms are there in time. By the end of the day, the place looked a lot like this:

Paperwork during tax time

Paperwork during tax time

 

Looking back at the way I did my first Tax Return, I suddenly realise that today’s tax affair is rather boring, uneventful, even dull.

After having a late breakfast on a Sunday morning, I downloaded eTax software from the ATO website, “digging out 12-months old receipts” in reality only took a couple of minutes, as most of them are electronically stored in my e-mail. No hunting for forms or for pens. No wasting time going to and from Newsagency. If a mistake is made, all it takes is to hit the Back button and correct the mistake. And once all is done, getting the information to the Tax Office is as easy as pressing the Lodgement button.

All this makes me wonder why would people pay hundreds of dollars to have their basic Tax Returns done by accountants? Unless you have a complex financial portfolio consisting of investment properties, shares, running a couple of small businesses, you don’t really need anyone sticking their nose in our financial affairs. Think about it – a lot of people would pay a few hundred dollars to an accountant, just to have a couple of hundred dollars in tax return. next year, why don’t you give it a go and try doing it yourself. After all, if you were smart enough to have finished high school, you are smart enough to manage your own Tax Return.

Global Warming or Global Con?

A couple of days ago I read this story on ABC about new study showing that one of the major influences in climate change debate  –Earth’s oceans, weren’t included as component of the overall theory.

That got me thinking. Someone out there is paying big bucks for all these studies. Studies proving beyond any doubt that our planet’s climate is getting hotter. Studies proving just as convincingly that the Earth is perfectly fine and we are doing great job at looking after our global home.

Global Warming

Image courtesy of nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So apart from all the tree-hugging greenies, who get all warm and fuzzy at the very thought of saving the planet, or the whales, or the orangutans, or the albatross, or the unicorns; apart from them, who benefits from these studies? I mean, if I have a business selling air-conditioners, I would feel inclined to sponsor a study into global warming. Yet, if I were running a business selling fur coats, I would back up a study into the Earth getting cooler.

But the question of financial backing is only part of the mystery here (although I really do want to know “who’s who in the zoo”).

The other burning question is why people who like to present themselves as advocates of the global warming theory are doing their best to produce as much CO2 as possible?

Al Gore

Image courtesy of James Barker/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The few most noticeable are:

  • John Travolta flying his own Boeing 707 – normal occupancy is 150 passengers.
  • Barbra Streisand is too important to fly commercial, so for a short flight Manchester to London, she opts for a private jet.
  • Sting’s band, The Police, labelled by environmental experts as the dirtiest in the world because of the amount of pollution.
  • Attendees of the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009 utilized 1200 limos and 140 private planes.
  • One of the most prominent “activists”, Al Gore is a firm believer in travelling by private jets.

Now, I’m not a whinger, but…. if you feel so strongly about preserving the future of our planet and want to reduce the CO2 footprint, here’s a word of advice: placing a sticker “Save the forests” on a back of your petrol-gushing 4WD is NOT helping your cause.

If you are serious about saving the world, get rid of your 4WD, get rid of your private jet and a stretch limo and try living what your preach.

Super Fast, or Super Stupid?

Over the past few weeks, we were bombarded by a new Optus ad on TV – you know the one, two girlfriends talking on a phone and one of them complains “she is trying to send a photo, but her internet is too slow” and the other one responds “You have buffering issues, but I don’t, I have a 300 Gb plan with Optus”.

Without going into the details of the actual plan, I wonder how much the advertising agency understands what the commercial is about, who in Optus signed off on it, and how stupid do they think the average person is?

The thing is, both women in the ad can be on a “massive 300 Gb” plans, but one of them could be on ADSL1, or Satellite, or even a Dial-up, and the other one on ADSL 2+ or Optus via NBN. Comparing the speed of your internet connection with a download allowance is a typical case of comparing apples and oranges.

To finish it off, I would like to say that I am not a whinger, but…. if you are trying to sell a product, or a service, treat your customers with respect, don’t assume that you have to “dumb down” the advertising in order for it to be understood. Give us some credit.

Note:
The author of this post is a customer, shareholder and employee of Telstra.
The views expressed here are the author’s only and do not represent views of Telstra in any way, shape or form.