Archive for the ‘Comment’ Category

The Slovakian and Polish national summer pastime.

Sunday, July 30th, 2017

P7252885

We have just spent about three weeks in Slovakia and Poland, travelling to both the big cities and out-of-the-way places.

One thing that struck us was the amount of ice cream that’s consumed in both these countries.

Eating ice cream is gender and age neutral and seems to happen at anytime of the day or night.

Families do it, teenagers do it, older people, office workers and even tradies do it.

Here are some of the people I snapped – doing it.

Whatever happened to service?

Friday, June 30th, 2017

This is where the service has gone

Ever since the post Second World War boom in consumerism, the customer has always been placed first in the US.

“The customer is always right”, was the catchphrase

Now, “Put profit first”, takes that mantle.

Auto manufacturers lost the plot in Detroit during the 80s by building cars they wanted, and ignored their customers needs. Now the service industry has done the same.

Service appears top of mind when you are in restaurants and hotels but it’s very far from reality.

Everything is done for the convenience, and profit, of the establishment, not for the benefit of the customer.

If you don’t order enough you’re frowned upon. At the Biltmore Estate we were literally scowled at for not ordering a full meal each. Thea had a side-salad and soft drink and I had a coffee, as I don’t usually eat lunch.

Their issue was the bigger the bill the greater the tip and we therefore didn’t warrant the effort.

In most Brewpubs we visited in the eastern US, you couldn’t carry your bill from the bar to the restaurant. Why? Both the bar staff and the ‘wait staff’ need to have their separate tips.

The same happens at the end of a shift. You are rushed to finish your meal so the staff can close your account and get the tips earned during their shift.

This isn’t about you, but all about the staff making tips and the restauranteur making profit.

The tipping regime is out of control.

Most ‘wait staff’ get the standard rate of $2.13 per hour – this is below the poverty line. They ultimately hope to make about $25 per hour, which comes from tips.

In effect you are paying their wage, not their employer.

Most restaurants include a ‘suggested tip’ on your bill this starts at 18% and goes as high as 35%.

Then taxes are included before the tip is calculated.

Your hotel room won’t get serviced, unless you ask. There are no longer, ‘Please clean my room’ hangers to put on the door.

The excellent concept of not changing sheets and towels every day has been extended to no service at all. Beds aren’t made, floors aren’t vacuumed, even the bathroom isn’t cleaned.

This has nothing to do with the environment, they do this to cut down on staff.

Everything is plastic and disposable.

Most cafés don’t offer anything but disposable cups, plates and cutlery, which you are expected to clear away when you are finished. However the counter staff still expect a tip.

The cost of the disposable crockery and cutlery is offset by not having to employ staff to clear tables and wash dishes, at $2.13 per hour.

Again the customer loses out.

At breakfast, In most hotels and motels, even the milk for your coffee only comes in half pint (236ml) containers.

Most people only use a fraction of the contents, the rest goes in the bin.

In effect service has gone into the trash, along with everything else.

Graduation Day.

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“There’s a time a for joy

A time for tears

A time we’ll treasure through the years

We’ll remember always

Graduation day”

‘Graduation Day’ was a hit single for the Four Freshmen in 1956 and then covered by the Beach Boys in 1964.

The version by the Beach Boys is the one I remember best.

We had come to New York for Steph’s graduation and had no idea what to expect.

Graduations aren’t that big a deal in Australia and both Hayden and Even had missed theirs entirely.

Steph had just completed a two years Masters at Columbia University Teachers College (TC).

My vision, probably developed from 1960s US sitcoms, was of students, dressed in black academic gowns, throwing their mortar boards in the air at the conclusion of the ceremony.

There was much more to it than that.

My first big surprise was that the Columbia graduates didn’t wear a black gown, but sky blue.

The celebrations and presentations went on for three days. There were welcome drinks for the International Students and their families and friends on one night. This was followed the next day by the Masters presentation, called the Convocational, at St John the Divine. It was preceded by a light lunch and followed by a dessert of strawberries dunked in chocolate and chocolate chip cookies.

The following day was the ‘big one’.

It was called the ‘Commencement of 2017′ celebrations, however it was really the conclusion of the 2017 academic year.

It was attended by a crowd of over 30,000 guests and students, sitting in the hot sun, with most having no shade, not even a hat. That is apart from those clever people who improvised with headwear made from the Columbia newspaper.

It was huge.

It took close to two hours for everyone to be seated and the academic staff to parade in.

The speeches, awards and confirmation of degrees took another few hours.

Finally, when it was all over, I waited for the mass mortar board toss.

It didn’t really happen.

The biggest surprise to me was the tone of the speakers.

Without every mentioning his name ‘The Donald’ and his administration was put down in every conceivable way.

The President of Columbia, Lee C Bollinger, led the charge by reminding the graduates that they would always remember the graduation of 2017 as a dark year in the history of the US.

Another fascinating part of the event was discovering the history, and culture, of the Teachers College.

The Teachers College was founded in 1887 by Grace Hoadley Dodge. Today it has over 90,000 alumni in 30 countries.

It was the world’s first Teachers College and incorporated the study of educational psychology and educational sociology. It was also mindful of the vast number of immigrants entering the US and tried to incorporate their special needs in the teacher training. The founders insisted that ethics and the nature of ‘good society’ should also be a part of the curriculum.

No wonder both the college and the university are at odds with the Washington administration.

Know your market. 

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

Swan_Hill_RSL_duo

We have recently travelled by road to Brisbane and back.

Travelling north was via the coast and the return journey was on the inland route, passing through Goondiwindi, Lighting Ridge, Bourke and Griffith.

For many evenings meals we availed ourselves of the various clubs, especially in NSW. These are reasonably priced, centrally located and offer some surprisingly good food.

In Swan Hill, Victoria, we had a meal at the RSL, which was next door to our motel.  It was a Sunday night and the only patrons were people of our vintage and many who were a lot older.

The bar and waiting staff were at least two generations younger and this was reflected in the music that was being played.

While the older generation were enjoying their Grilled Barramundi, Reef n’ Beef and Parmi, they were subjected to a medley of Chicago House, Rap and Detroit Techno.

Fortunately most of them could block out the music by turning down the volume on their hearing aids.

Is the truth really out there?

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

X_files

Recently I watched six new episodes of the very successful science fiction TV series, ‘The X-Files’.

The original series ran from September 1993 to May 2002. Written by Chris Carter and staring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, there were 202 episodes and two feature films. The second film was released in 2008.

It was the longest running science fiction series in US history.

I think that this latest 6 episode series is a fishing expedition by 20th Century Fox Television. Each episode was so completely different that I can’t help but feel they are all part of an elaborate market research program.

Some episodes were verging on ‘slap-stick’ while others continued with the old protagonists and conspiracy theories.

The producers even introduced Fox and Scully clones.

Its been 8 years since the last film and 14 years since since the last series, so the market’s attitudes towards the characters and plots may well have shifted.

Will there be more X-Files and what will be the theme?

The truth is probably out there, or at least buried in the market research.

All’s not well in the Spamasphere. 

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Disaster_strikes

There has been a strategy shift in the spam I get – it’s moved from greed to fear.

I receive up to six spam emails a day, and until recently they have all played on the greed factor to try and get me to respond.

I have won competitions, had thousands of dollars put into my account and been offered amazing money-making schemes.

All I have to do to unlock this wealth is to ‘Click here’

I know that they more than likely contain malware or are using ‘phishing’ to get personal information – I have therefore never clicked on anything to find out.

They seem to get around the text-based junk mail filters by disguising the content using numerals instead of letters and inserting punctuation in the middle a word.

‘The first thing you need to do is c0llect your c0mmissi0n ch.eck of 6,492.94. Set up your details here:

This has suddenly all changed.

I am now getting, with equally annoying regularity, a different form of spam. These all relate to impending disasters that will be unleashed on the USA, changing the American way of life forever.

And I don’t think they are referring to Donald Trump.

Subjects like: ‘The Imminent Danger From Within Our Borders’ and ‘The Worst Crisis Within US History is Almost Here’ now grace my inbox.

The ‘Click here’ relates to viewing secret reports or videos that will reveal these dastardly plots.

Conspiracy is now the new reason to ‘Click here’

Also to be found at the base of these emails is another link:

‘If you want to unsubscribe from our list. Click here

By clicking to unsubscribe you are actually verifying your email address.

Of course the spam will continue – that’s unless disaster strikes first.

Casting. 

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Lee_Lin_Chin

The latest installment of the long running Australia Day Lamb Campaign has been released.

This highly regarded series of ads started in 2005 and stars Sam Kekovich. Sam has always been very forthright in his approach to eating lamb, especially on Australia Day, and he castigates anyone as being un-Australian if they disagreed.

In this day of inclusiveness Sam’s brutal approach could be misconstrued as being overtly nationalistic.

Enter Lee Lin Chin, the legendary newsreader for SBS.

This is an inspired piece of casting, that brings a new face to the Australian Meat and Livestock campaign. It proves once and for all that you don’t need to be a white Australian male to enjoy a lamb chop.

Not surprisingly the latest commercial has still received a number of complaints, this time from the vegan community. They believe that the torching of the kale, by the commandos, borders on violence towards those; “…soap avoiding, hippy, vegetarians” as Sam described them in the original ad.

Good ads stand out by being controversial – this one is no different.

The sales figures also back up the success of the campaign, with butchers reporting that lamb sales skyrocket by 35% around January 26th.

Watch the Australia Day Lamb 2016 ad here.

There is a Doctor in the house. 

Friday, December 12th, 2014

Dr. Stainsby

Last night Hayden defended his PhD thesis to an adjudication panel at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

His paper was titled, ‘Triangular Basis of Integral Closures’ 

I didn’t understand a word, however the panel seemed to, and now Hayden has a Doctorate in Mathematics.

Needless to say we are very proud of him.

I want to ride my bicycle.
I want to ride it where I like.

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Over the course of our travels in Asia, North Africa, the Middle East and Europe, I have come across bikes in all sorts of environments.

Being relatively cheap to buy, easy to maintain and requiring no fuel, except the rider’s sweat, they are the the world’s most popular mode of transport.

These bikes aren’t owned by lycra wearing, latte drinking, road racing followers of the Tour de France, but simple people who need their bikes for everyday living.

There are over a billion bikes in the world – here are a few of them.

Sapa, Vietnam

Same, same but very different.

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Automobiles really haven’t changed much in the last 100 years.

A box on 4 wheels with seats, lights, windows and something to steer the whole thing with.

It’s what the designer does with those elements that sets each car apart.

Take these two for example.

On the surface they look very similar. It’s only when you look closely that the quality of the design shows through.

The designer of Hyundai has integrated all the elements – the curve of the lights blends into the boot and bumper.

While the same features in the Lexus seem to be thrown together, with little regard for harmony or aesthetics.

Admittedly I am only looking at the surface features and not the build quality or engineering.

On face value the Hyundai, at $36,390, is better value, at least visually, than the Lexus at $91,138.

Automotive design