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Friday, July 23, 2010

Don't ask Borders for anything!

It is a general occurrence in business that if a store does not have a particular stock item available, said store will make at least some attempt to order it in. That is, unless it is the Borders chain.

A while ago I made inquiries about a particular title listed in their database. By pure chance, it was that store's manager who assisted me at that time. He confirmed that they did not have it in stock, despite it being a recent release by a major publisher. However he assured me that they could order it in for me when I was ready and gave me a coded discount card towards the purchase as an apology for not having it in stock. Because he made the attempt and offered me a discount, I did not go looking for it anywhere else.

Today I attempted to redeem that discount voucher in ordering said title. Only now I was told that Borders do not order anything from anyone, but only move stock between stores. Obviously that is a load of codswallop else they would soon have quite empty stores. Or do they have fairies in the bottom of the garden who magic stock in at night while everyone is asleep? Perhaps they rely on publishers and distributors being psychic?

I was momentarily dumbfounded. You DON'T order stock for customers???

The 'assistant' (what an oxymoron as they did anything but assist me) confirmed it - no, they do not order anything for anyone. I was instead basically told to go online and sort it out for myself.

Was I trying to order a rare seventeenth century manuscript or a copy of Mein Kampf, translated into Swahili and printed on elephant hide? Nope, just an anthology from a major publisher that is already in their database.

A few minutes ago I lodged a complaint about this experience on their website. An automated response came rocketing back, thanking me for my inquiry and informing me that my nearest store could assist with information about pricing and availability. Uh uh - no they don't. Because that means actually looking it up and they no longer provide such an exotic service.

A book store that refuses to help a customer obtain a book? Have you ever heard of such a thing?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What's the deal, Danny?

I have a confession to make. I am a fan of boxing. I freely admit that it speaks to something primeval in me, not to mention admiring the skill, strength, guts and stamina that make up a successful fighter. However boxing has long had a reputation of shady dealings, arising from dodgy things in the past like fixed matches.

The future of boxing in Australia, at least, has been dealt a telling blow.

Last night saw a title fight between IBO cruiserweight title holder, Danny Green and Paul Briggs. The fight was mired in controversy from the outset with it being banned in New South Wales. Briggs was returning to the ring after a three year layoff and NSW authorities deemed him medically unfit to take part. Authorities in Western Australia took a different view, claiming that the medical scans they viewed show no reason to disallow the fight.

Less than thirty seconds in to the fight, Green’s glove little more than brushed Briggs’s head. But Briggs went staggering down, to be counted out with the win on a Technical Knock Out going to Green.

The crowd present were far from impressed, pelting Briggs and his minders with pretty much everything they could lay their hands on. Back in the ring, Green took the microphone amidst loud boos from the crowd. But Green got them somewhat back onside by shouting defiance in the ring, describing Briggs as ‘less than a canine’. He seemed genuine in his anger.

Things have taken a decidedly murky turn today.

For a start, after his apparent anger in the ring last night against Briggs, today Green has come out claiming that he did strike a blow that legitimately hurt Briggs. Having repeatedly seen the blow in slow motion, I find that decidedly hard to believe.

The really concerning thing however, is what has now been revealed by sports betting agencies. A sudden major betting splurge came out on a first round knockout. TAB Sportsbet smelled a rat and suspended betting. Today, that agency announced that it will be refunding money to people who lost on the fight. That is the first time I have ever heard of bookies refunding money like that!

There is yet another issue. This was a title fight for an international title belt. So just how does someone who has not fought for over three years, get a first-up crack at a title shot? What was this – a bad (worse?) version of Rocky?

The evening’s fights were put together and promoted by Green’s own promotion company which makes things look even more suspect.

Some big names from Australia’s boxing past have made some telling comments today. Legendary trainer, Johnny Lewis, described Australian boxing as being ‘raped’ last night, saying the punch that put Briggs down, wouldn’t have dented a Sao (a brittle Australian dry biscuit/cookie). Multiple title holder, Jeff Fenech, was similarly unimpressed, saying it was shameful and describing Green as getting what he paid for. “He paid for a knock-out win.”

The final, telling word for the moment came from Johnny Lewis. This stalwart of Australian boxing now says he would rather encourage youngsters to go and play football instead.

To butcher Shakespeare, something stinks in Denmark, my friends – worse than my socks in summertime.

Abbott losing race to a non-starter?

My oh my. How interesting and embarressing are the latest polls in the Australian election race.

Firstly, new Prime Minister Julie Gillard has an approval rating of 52% over the man she deposed, Kevin Rudd (21%). That was a surprise.

How much would Opposition leader, Tony Abbott, like to have a lead like that? But the same poll showed that Abbott, with an approval rating of only 24% is actually less popular than the man he knifed in the back, Malcolm Turnbull with 29%. Abbott ties for second place with the man that I confidently expect will eventually be putting himself forward as the ‘saviour’ of the Liberal Party, Joe Hockey.

This is simply priceless – Tony Abbott is coming second to a man who, when he was leader, ran the approval ratings down practically into negative figures!

The Mad Monk clearly is the Weakest Link, so get off our fecking island!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chuck ruins Fromelles ceremony for me

I began drafting this post while watching 'Remembering Fromelles'. For those outside Australia and England, Fromelles was the first action that Australian troops took part in on the Western Front, World War 1, accompanied by a lesser force of British troops.

I have previously posted about the events of Fromelles.

Many of the dead were not recovered, being left behind in the German lines after the attack failed. The Germans, on re-taking their lines, buried the Allied soldiers they found there, in a mass grave.

The location of that grave was missed in the years after the War when the War Graves Commission were relocating other such remains to War Graves Cemeteries. It remained unknown until the efforts of amateur Australian archaeologists, particularly those of Lambis Englezos, who would not rest until the site was researched and excavated. Many of those remains were now identified and moved to a newly commissioned War Cemetary.

The last set of remains to be interred were those of an unknown soldier on the 94th anniversary of that disastrous battle (the brainchild of a British General who was as happy to slaughter 'colonial' troops as he was his own). That single coffin was placed on a restored WW1 horse-drawn carriage and moved on its last short journey to the new cemetery.

Along that short trip, groups of soldiers fell in behind the carriage, forming a procession.

Now here is where I get cranky. Near the eventual head of that procession was Prince Charles, his chest resplendent with all his medals for doing nothing during a brief peacetime service in the forces. I said the procession fell into step behind the carriage - all except Charlie Boy that is. He managed to be entirely out-of-step with everyone else. Striding out next to him was Australia's Governor General and she had no difficulty managing to march in step, but not our Chaz. Then the procession moved into slow-time, admittedly not always the easiest pace to do. But by now Prince Pratt looked like he was stoned while on a country ramble, gawking at the scenery, his hat flopping around in his hand.

Frankly, Chuck, if you couldn't be arsed even pretending to show a modicum of respect to both your countrymen and mine, then, please, just fuck off (yep - I am seriously pissed off).

And that, ladies and gents, is theoretically our next head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, blah blah blah. If ever there was a need for an argument for an Australian Republic, look no further than the heir to the throne: all the brains of a maggot but not nearly as good looking.

reality elections

Time check please: 9:37 pm Australian Eastern Standard Time.

Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, called an election on the weekend. Most pundits were suggesting it would be August 28 which would permit some days for those not currently on the electoral role to get on there. Instead, the poll has been called for August 21. To help those not on the electoral roll a chance to get that sorted, offices of the Australian Electoral Commission were open until 8pm.

So perhaps someone could tell me why, more than an hour-and-a-half after the AEC offices had closed the doors on those extended hours, television stations are still advertising those extended hours. Now unless commercial television stations have suddenly turned into charities, this extra television advertising isn't being provided for nothing. Just what is being gained by paying for television advertising that informs people that they have actually missed their chance for that last minute registering on the electoral roll?

On the subject of the election, rather than the usual boredom of interminable advertisments, telling us how wonderful one party is and how terrible the others all are, accompanied by footage of smiling pollies wandering the streets, shaking hands with the elderly, kissing babies and all the other stuff that they wouldn't be caught dead doing any other time, how about we spice things up for a change. Let's run our election like a reality television program.

Sorry contestants - this week Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and Wayne Swan - you're all in the elimination round. Your task will be to produce a convincing line of spin about why politicians do not get enough allowances, while baking a souffle and changing the baby's nappies. Whoops - sorry Tony - your souffle is as flat as your policies, wearing Speedos detracted from your presentation and you ended up with baby shit all over your face. You ARE the weakest link, you're fired, leave the fecking island right now, do not pass Go and do not collect $200.

Surely that would be an improvement on the usual?

UPDATE - Just to make me look like a total dick, their hours have now been extended to Thursday.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Live longer? Or help us all live better?

Today I heard an interview with one of the founders of the Methuselah Foundation.

I had never heard of this foundation before and was surprised to learn that their interest is in extending human life spans.

It was admittedly interesting to hear that their research has produced mice with lifespans increased by 20 percent and more. However consider that in human terms. With average western lifespans in the region of 72 years (it varies from country to country and by gender) that means an increased lifespan of at least 14 years. Multiply that across an entire population, even one as relatively small as Australia's (21 million) and you have a recipe for a major disaster.

Think about this for a moment. Is there going to be a corresponding fall in birthrates? Pretty unlikely. Yet with a fall in death rates as a result of across-the-board extension in lifespans, the current world problem of over-population is only going to continue to worsen. That means a huge economic impact on ever increasing number of older people on welfare through aged pensions etc. In a country like Australia with an aging population, this would be economic bad news to put it mildly.

An even greater concern is that of the impact on our environment. Despite all the awareness being raised about the severe impact humanity has had on our world environment, extending lifespans along with the current ever-increasing birthrates of a continually expanding means a disastrous increased demand on not just scarce resources but reducing resources.

Bear in mind, we are not talking about research to combat disease but simply to straight out extend lifespans beyond what we currently enjoy.

Now let us consider the practicalities of such a research outcome. Are the results going to be readily available to those in poorer and less-developed countries? Or is it the more affluent countries that are going to be able to reap the benefits? I think it rather obvious that it will be the latter thus driving that gap between affluence and poverty even wider.

Is there anything really wrong with accepting that eventually all of us come to the end of the road? Why not instead devote that research effort to solving the problems of health, environment, over-population and poverty?