Pratchett in retrospect - a personal story
It was 1989. I was going to university for the first time, deeply depressed (although I didn't know it then) and on the constant look-out for something to distract me from being who I was. A friend recommended the works of Terry Pratchett to me.
I don't know whether Fiona ever realised what she started. It was a love-affair that still endures even today. I got a copy of "The Light Fantastic" out of the library, and started reading it.
Now, one of the things you have to realise, for context, is that as a lifelong depressive, I don't laugh too much. I smile a lot, because I'm female and I've been socialised to do so, but laughter was fairly rare. I'm also not one of those people who can pull all-nighters with any degree of success - I start conking out around 10pm, and I'm usually dead to the world by midnight.
"The Light Fantastic" had me giggling hysterically at 3am on a weeknight. Out loud, even. I was hooked.
I've read all of the Discworld novels, most of the subsiduary products (diaries, maps, spin-off books) as well as the "Johnny Maxwell" books, and the first of the Bromeliad (it was hard to find here in Perth). I was a regular on alt.fan.pratchett for a while there, until the decline of newsgroups and the rise of the web splintered everyone off in their different directions. I still miss afp at times. I've lost touch with most of the people it put me in contact with - the first group of folks I ever really "clicked" with in my life.
I met my partner through a shared interest in Pratchett's work (or, to be precise, he used a paraphrase of a Pratchett quote - from "Reaper Man", if you must know - and I leapt on it as proof positive of a kindred spirit. I was right, as it turned out). I'm not the only person out there who can say this - if you go on the assumption a shared sense of humour is a more useful indicator of long-term compatibility than anything else, there's probably more than a few couples who can say they met through Pterry's work.
At least part of the rather complicated bundle of grief I'm sitting with at the moment is due to having lost, in a way, the person who was responsible for the two of us getting together.
I loved his books. I enjoyed the references, the puns, the really groan-worthy puns, the jokes culled straight from the British Heritage Joke Foundation's joke-book, the character names (especially some of the more obscure ones, such as Yodel Lightly), but above all I loved the way his books made me think about things. Even something as simple as a joke about wizards getting groin strains from using seven-league boots could turn around the way I looked at the tropes of fiction. The question of "what happens if the anonymous alien hordes in a video game turn out to be just as human as the player?" was a beautiful one in "Only You Can Save Mankind" (and the subtitle of that book: "if not you, who else?" was another thing which turned things around in my head, too).
In the end, the ultimate message of a lot of Pterry's work was that we are all as human as each other - even if we're a dwarf, or a troll, or an orc, or a goblin, we're still human. We have our dreams, our goals, our hopes and our fears, and we're all capable of being petty and small-minded, or of being so open-hearted it hurts. No matter how strange someone else may seem to you, they're still a human being, and at the base of it all, they're a lot like you - they just want to survive from day to day, and they'd prefer it if tomorrow was as much like today as possible. The differences are just labels.
He reached so many people. That's what I'm learning again today - he reached so many people, and so profoundly. I hope he had even the smallest glimpse of how much he changed so many people, how many lives he made brighter.
[I'm going to be seeing about digging out the Discworld books from storage, and re-reading them. Again. I feel it's the least I could do in tribute]
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[Inspired by: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-03-11/abbott-defends-indigenous-communities-lifestyle-choice/6300218 - particularly the comment thread]
I was born in Western Australia, and I lived most of my life until I was about 27 in the south-eastern suburbs of Perth. I then moved to Canberra, in the ACT, and lived there until about mid-2006, when my partner and I moved back to Perth.
I hated it in Canberra. The land wasn't right. The way the sun rose wasn't right. The way the sun set wasn't right. The water wasn't the same. The seasons were all wrong. The city was put together strangely. I never felt settled, never felt "at home". I felt displaced.
I went to London for a month in August 2002, on holiday. I felt more "at home" in London during that one month than I had in three years living in the ACT, despite the different hemisphere, different latitudes, different everything.
I went back to the ACT, and lived for another four years in exile, before returning to Perth, Western Australia. Since then, I have come to wonder whether the profound feeling of "home" I feel living here is akin to the Indigenous notion of "country". Whether that horrible feeling of being displaced, of being exiled, is what they feel when they're forced by circumstance or government policy to move away from their country. I know that for me, songs like "My Island Home" now have a whole new meaning, because I hear them through the filter of my experience living in Canberra.
This is part of why I feel angry and upset about the WA state government's decision to close a number of remote communities. I would not want to push that feeling of displacement, of always being in the wrong place, on anyone else. It would be a wrongness, an evil, a wicked thing to do. I am angry the government of Western Australia is doing this in my name. I am upset the Premier, Colin Barnett, is implicitly claiming he has the support of white Western Australians to do this. His government does not have my support, or my consent.
These days I'm living in the south-western corridor of suburban Perth. The sun rises in the correct way, over the right hills. The sun sets properly, over the ocean. The ocean is there, within reach - I'm about twenty minutes drive from the beach, if that. The seasons flow correctly, from dry heat, to stormy heat, to gradually cooling dry, to cold and wet, to gradually warming and drying, to dry heat again. The city is the way it should be, the right mix of architectural styles and geographic features. I'm home. I would say I'm in my country, and I would challenge anyone to uproot me from it.
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New Fic up on AO3
Yup, I got writing last night. Just a short one.
Fandom: Kingdom Hearts
Rating: Teen and up (humorous allusion to minor drug use, over-caffeination)
Summary: Yuffie already knew she was in trouble good and deep when Leon turned to her, and very calmly, very quietly asked her, "Yuffie, did you leave the lid off the coffee pot?"
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An Update on RLB Solution
So, since I posted my original scam post about RLB solution, I've been getting a lot of responses from people who have also been contacted by this company. Most are saying "thanks for the warning", which is nice, because I'm glad I've been able to help people avoid being hit by this scam. A few have been along the lines of "oh god, I said yes to the job, and now what do I do?"
Tackling this last first: what to do if you've said "yes" to the job offer by RLB Solution, and have just realised what a mistake that might have been.
1) If you're in Australia, get in touch with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). They're the ones who are responsible for penalising scammers, as well as the main regulatory body in this area.
2) Contact your bank and get them to "hold" any transactions coming in to or out of your account from RLB Solution.
3) If you have had money go missing from your account, you should go to the police. Take with you as much documentary evidence as you can about the company (print out emails, preferably with full headers; take screenshots of web pages you're asked to use; write out as much as you can about what the company expected you to do, and when things happened). The more information you can provide, the better.
4) Whatever you do, don't continue working for them!
Next up, I've had a couple of people forward me the text of the latest email they're sending around, so I'm going to be pulling that to pieces and pointing out what's fishy about it:
( Letter and analysis under the fold )
One final note: I am not affiliated with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the trade union movement in Australia, the Australian Federal police, the police force in any state in Australia or any other body with the formal ability to do anything about this situation. I am also not an employment lawyer, and any statements I make regarding the applicability of various laws is purely hearsay. I am a person who primarily works as a housewife at present, is without paid employment, and who put the original warning up as a public service because I was annoyed at the scammers for targeting me. So while it's sort of nice that people want to ask me for help in this matter, I have to point out: I've already done everything I can in this case by putting up the information in the first place.
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Why Meg is Ms Grumpy-Pants Bitchyface Today
Some necessary background:
* I tend to leave the front door open (with the security door locked) overnight in summer, because it's a quieter and cheaper way of getting cool air to circulate through the place than running the air-conditioner all night.
* Our place backs onto a rather busy roadway, which has heavy trucks running up and down it starting at a very early hour of the morning and continuing until rather late at night.
* If we leave the back door of our place open, the traffic noise from the road out back is overwhelming.
* Noise is a significant stressor for me, because due to some peculiarities of my brain, I have trouble with "tuning out" background noise.
* In hot, humid weather, it takes me longer to get to sleep, and I find it harder to sleep soundly, than in hot, dry weather.
* The past week or so has been hot and humid here in Perth.
* I react poorly to sleep deprivation over the long term. The principal symptom is that my temper becomes a lot shorter, and my reaction to negative stressors becomes more pronounced.
* My mother smoked, and I grew to strongly dislike the smell of stale cigarette smoke, or indeed stale smoke of any kind.
* I'm still in the process of recovering from a nasty summer flu that came through a few weeks back, and one of the side effects of this is when I wake up in the morning, my throat is scratchy and sore.
Last night it rained. Also, at some stage last night, after it rained, something within smoke range of us caught fire. The house consequently smells of stale smoke, and I'm finding myself waiting optimistically for the washing machine to finish its cycle in the hopes that while I'm out hanging out the washing in the back yard, enough clean air will circulate through the house to push out the smoke smell.
Waking up this morning felt rather like climbing out of a coffin in terms of effort, and I did wind up zombie-ing through the first few stages of my morning routine. I have one of my standard symptoms of extreme tiredness, which is that my eyes are tending to cross if I'm not paying attention (as a kid I used to have a squint) and the visual problems I have are more acute (for example, the astigmatism was such this morning that I had trouble distinguishing between the '-' and '=' keys on my keyboard). On top of this, I'm about five times more sensitive to noise at the moment than I have been previously.
The traffic noise from the road out back seems about ten times worse than it was on Friday. The toilet has started dripping again (after about a month or two where it didn't) and I've had to start turning down the water pressure and closing the door on the lav so I don't get driven out of my mind by the dripping. Which means the lav is going to smell of smoke for longer.
So I'm taking steps to deal with things - I've accepted it's going to be a grumpy day, and I'm not expecting much of myself (I'm still going to try and meet all my daily expectations in Habit RPG, but I'm not going to attempt anything particularly social or challenging). I've set the oil burner (a little teapot-shaped one - it seems to be a bit more subtle than most) going with my favourite blend of lavender and rosemary oils, and I'm going to see whether I can air out the house while I'm hanging out the laundry. Fortunately, it being a Monday, I'm going to find it easier to complete my obligations than not, because Mondays typically have a couple of extra tasks involved in them just by the nature of the routine. I've also put on some music, because music seems to be able to distract me from noise overload if I apply it early enough.
Lunch today is going to be comfort food, methinks. Oh, and no reading political news or political articles.
Other than that, it's a case of brace and endure.
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I snagged this particular meme from raisedbymoogles
You know that meme that goes around sometimes where you post your five favourite kinks and then five favourite couples, and it's like a wish into the universe to see if anybody will write it for you? Let's make it a little more interactive.
Comment here if you want to play, and I will give you 3-6 couples that I associate with you, and you make an entry in your journal talking about those couples and fics that you wish the universe would write for you.
She prompted me with three individuals, since, as she said, "I'm not sure what pairings you're into."
( So here goes: )
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I am currently running on about four hours sleep, if that. It's been hot and sticky for the past two days over here (it actually hit 40C on Tuesday, yesterday wasn't as hot, but it was muggy as well) and overcast to boot, which means the night doesn't cool down as far as it could. Which, in turn, means it's harder for me to get to sleep, because I'm feeling all hot and horrible. I tried switching on the fan, but that means I'm trying to sleep over the noise of the fan, which in turn means I don't get all the way down into sleep - I sort of bomb out at the sort of doze where one's peripheral awareness is still "on", and thus any strange noise, strange light, or unexpected whatever is enough to jerk one out of sleep.
Last night came with a doozy.
I was attempting to sleep by about 11pm, because I hadn't had the best night on Tuesday night either. Around about midnight, the thunderstorm which had been forecast for the past two days hit. It continued on until about three AM. It also apparently passed if not dead over our suburb, at least fairly close to it (close enough that some of the thundercracks required me to shield my ears to mute the volume of them). It is *still* going even now (at 6.26am as I'm writing this), but by about 3am or thereabouts the combination of exhaustion, the cooling effect of the storm on the weather, and the reduction in volume caused by the storm moving on a little made it so I could zonk out for a bit until my alarm went off at 5.30am.
Today is definitely going to be one of those days where I have a nap.
But either way, it sounded like we had about three or four thunder deities up there having a competition about who could make the most fsckin' noise. Definitely a case of "do not want" in every single way, shape and form. No incense for the thunder gods today - they don't deserve people believing in them.
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26 JAN 2015
Two hundred and twenty-seven years ago, a fleet of eleven vessels illegally made land on the eastern shores of this continent. Approximately 1480 people landed in the area now known as Sydney Cove, along with an additional cargo of livestock (horses, sheep, cattle, pigs and rabbits - these last two are now known feral pests) without permission from the traditional owners of the area, and without consultation with their elders. This group of illegal immigrants proceeded to make camp, and to occupy the lands of the Eora people without permission.
They were the first of many. Battles between the illegal arrivals and the original inhabitants were inevitable. Who won? Well, whose language am I using to write this?
This story provides a lesson for people seeking to enter this country by sea. Stop meekly presenting yourselves to the customs cutters, stop meekly surrendering to the Navy vessels. Come in force, well armed. Dodge the patrols, and set up camp on the mainland, raise the flag of your past homeland, and refuse to acknowledge the government in Canberra. Claim the land was empty when you arrived.
It's already worked once. Who's to say it won't work again?
I recognise the house I am living in is built on land once part of the traditional lands of the Beeliar group of the Whadjuk Nyungar peoples. The name of the suburb I live in is a word from their language. Their land was taken from them without compensation, without recognition of their ownership, and without recognition of their essential humanity. This was wrong when it happened, and it is still wrong now. My direct ancestors did not necessarily take part in the actions of dispossession, but they benefited from them indirectly by being of the same racial and ethnic group as the dispossessors (three out of my four grandparents were born in England, and emigrated here at the invitation of the Australian government in Canberra).
Australia Day commemorates the day a bunch of thugs sanctioned by the government of a foreign power started a campaign of robbery with violence. What is there in that to be proud of? I stand with the dispossessed, and hang my head in shame at the lack of action from successive generations of Australian political "leaders" towards a realistic acknowledgement of the wrongs done to the indigenous peoples of this country, and the lack of work toward a treaty.
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Scammer: Global Area Gargo Ltd
I'm almost hesitant to put this one up, since it's not quite as subtle a scam as the other ones I've listed - this one is pretty blatant, and tends to get automatically sorted into the "bulk mail" section of my email for me. But hey, just in case anyone out there needs it, here it goes.
It's another employment scam, but this one varies from my previous listings by telling you there's a job opportunity, rather than strongly implying you have a job offer. However the first and foremost caution on employment scams always applies: employers will not be contacting you telling you about job opportunities or job offers out of the blue. Unless you've left your details with them previously, and asked them to contact you when jobs become available, an employer won't bother seeking you out with that information.
(Another strong hint, and the one which decided me about putting this up: I got three of them at once in a single day's email. Someone really wants a bite from this one).
The job title is "Operations Controller", and they don't list a wage. It's only supposed to require a couple of hours each day, and "no practice is required in financial services" (which should trigger scam flag two: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is).
If you want the job, you're supposed to reply to the email, at which point they'll probably either ask for your resume, or they'll send you out an application form asking for all sorts of personal details (I suspect this mob are mostly in the identity theft business). If they're going the full monty, and adding in the "hoover out the bank account" section of the game, they'll offer you a job, give you the two weeks probation period they're offering in the "ad", and then at the end of those two weeks, they'll tell you you're not quite what they're looking for, so sorry. By which time the damage will be done.
In my three different emails regarding this "job", I was contacted by three different people using three different throw-away email accounts, and given two different reply-to addresses.
Dalton Herbert (apparently-from email@example.com), reply to firstname.lastname@example.org
Cameran Munoz (apparently-from email@example.com), reply to firstname.lastname@example.org
Nolan Cherry (apparently-from email@example.com), reply to firstname.lastname@example.org
Note the reply-to addresses are all gmail addresses (or in other words, throwaway email) as well. This is the low rent version of the scam, where they're not even going to bother spending the time and money on acquiring a web domain.
Needless to say googling on "global area gargo" gets no results which even look vaguely like a company website - google does the nice thing and redirects you to "global area cargo", which gets lots of results for shipping firms. If you insist on "global area gargo", you get a list of personal web pages which contain the misspelling requested - none of them company sites.
To be honest, this is such a blatant scam it isn't funny. If you wind up with one of these "job offers" showing up in your junk mail filters, leave it there. If it shows up in your main inbox, might I suggest investing in a decent spam blocker? Whatever you do, don't reply to it. The only job they have available is "sucker".
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A Small Update
Just to bring people up to speed on what's happening in my life and what I've been up to.
The good news:
1) I have a new smartphone! I've been saving up for this for most of the last couple of years, and the Telstra shop had a fortuitous sale. My old mobile phone was a little Nokia handset which had been a bit dodgy from the word go - one of its little quirks was that whenever I used it for phone calls, the "6" key somehow kept being pressed. No, I don't know how. Either way, calls were constantly interrupted by beeping and at the end of the call I'd have a page of 6's to delete. Plus it only had text entry from the keypad, which meant it was slow and fiddly to use, and meant I didn't really get much use out of the non-phone functions.
My new phone is a Samsung Galaxy Trend, and it seems to be a lot closer to what I was actually wanting (which was a replacement for my old Palm m515 which could also make phone calls). Certainly it's far easier to use the calendar, note-taking and contacts features than it was on the Nokia. I don't think I'm likely to be using the web-based features of it all that much, though - while I'm at home, I'll use my computer for web browsing, and while I'm out, I'll either be driving, or if I'm on public transport, I'll be working on crochet.
2) I've started to work seriously on improving my performance as a housekeeper. I'm using a combination of Chorewars (to track what I've done, and how much I've "earned" for it - at a rate of 10c per chore) and Habit RPG (to keep up with the weekly and monthly chores and try to keep me up to a couple of daily targets). I'm trying to do 20 "chores" per day on weekdays, and 15 per day on weekends (which, at 10c per chore, means I'd be earning about $13 per week for the housework. Given that by setting my own pace previously I was averaging about $10 per 8 days, this means I'll be saving up for things off my wishlist a bit faster than I was before).
The not-so-good news:
1) Himself was home earlier in the week with a nasty cold/cough combination which I appear to have caught off him. Woke up this morning with a scratchy sore throat, and I'm feeling a bit flattened and dull. Hopefully it will burn through in the next couple of days. In the meantime, lots of peppermint tea, and maybe some lemon and honey later on. Oh, and lots of feeling very sorry for myself, always an essential part of being unwell.
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Apparently, I am Useful...
It appears one of the employment scammers I've written about is trying their tricks again. I got a whole heap of comments just today from people thanking me for putting up something warning about RLB Solution and their Hiring Coordinator, Anna Stern.
To be honest, I'm glad it's been helpful to other people - this was what I wrote the piece for in the first place. I wish it wasn't necessary (and if "Ms Stern" decides to stop attempting to exploit job seekers, that suits me just fine too), but I'm glad it helps.
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On Waking Very Early
I could wish Dawn didn't bother prodding me with her rosy fingers at 4.14 in the morning. They're forecasting 39C today for Perth, and I think I see how it's going to get there - the thing which woke me was a combination of needing to pee, and being too warm to sleep properly (despite sleeping on top of my covers rather than under them). It's still somewhere around the mid to high twenties, by the feel of things.
(Actually, a quick check of Meteye on the weather bureau site shows the temperature at the site nearest to us (Jandakot) is currently about 26C. Which does explain why I woke up so damn early).
So, rather than lie about feeling grumpy because I couldn't sleep, I decided to get up and get the laundry on so I can get it out and onto the line before the weather really starts getting horrible. Actually, now there's enough light to see by, I might shift on to the next part of my routine (watering the plants, then having a shower and getting dressed). If I can get the worst of the housework done by about 10am (about the time the weather really starts hitting the high notes) I can spend the rest of the day sitting around under the air-conditioning playing some (more) of the new games I bought through Steam.
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Drabble set: Grunt/ICBW
Cloud looked dubiously at the outfit he was handed. It was skin-tight blue lycra, the helmet was more face-obscuring than the infantry mask, and the weird gun fitted around the end of his right hand. He was told it was "point and shoot - even a space-case like you couldn't fuck that up, Strife."
Okay, so it apparently contained shielding so they didn't wind up getting their balls zapped by whatever nasties came out of the mako reactors, but really...
He suspected the reason every unit got rotated to Reactor duty was to stop the grumbles about the infantry uniform.
"It could be worse," Dawlish told him.
Cloud looked down at his scrawny form in the reactor Grunt uniform. He looked back up and raised his eyebrows.
Dawlish grinned. "Some of the other options? The stuff you have to wear if you're on tower security? Skin-suit like this, rollerskates for mobility. Then layer on big bulky armour. Or there's Aero Combatant gear - helipack in one hand, sword in the other. Nine times outta ten, you wind up hitting the target with the wrong one."
"So how do I avoid that?" Cloud asked.
"Practice your throwing arm, kid," Dawlish said.
* Inspired by a day of playing FFVII, and thinking about the absolutely awful excuses for uniforms Shinra force a lot of the troops you wind up facing in the early stages of the game into (Grunts, Special Combatants, Aero Combatants and Mighty Grunts). I suspect someone in either Weapons Development or Public Safety was having a bit of a laugh at their expense.
* The last line of the second one is a pointer to the outfits worn by the Grenade Combatants - they wear the standard uniform, much like the MPs. Why yes, I do suspect there are a lot of decisions about military specialisation made in the Shinra military on grounds of "at least I won't look a complete dork in the uniform".
* Needless to say, I don't own FFVII - if I did, the uniforms would be far more practical, and there'd be at least one shrink on the SOLDIER payroll from the start.
(I'll post these over at AO3 tomorrow).
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The SIWOTI Fund
As some of you may know, over the past year, I've been dropping small change into a jar (well, a yoghurt container these days - the jar got broken some time earlier in the year) when faced with egregious stupidity online. Essentially, the rule of the SIWOTI fund is either 5c per comment which gets moderated down by moderators, OR a minimum of 10c per article which raises my blood pressure or makes me stressed. Yesterday was the maturation date for the end of the fund's "year", and I totalled up how much it came to.
The SIWOTI fund this year came to $128.85 AUD. $64.85 of this is going to buying booze, probably a bottle of rum for the household "liquor cabinet" and a bottle of wine for my parents' Christmas present. The other $64 of it is going toward games.
The main thing which contributed to the fund's size this year was the bountiful harvest of stupidity, daftness, and sheer WRONG from the Australian Federal Government. Their antics proved the leading contributors to the fund, and I'd like to thank our Prime Minister and his cabinet for providing such a wide range of things that annoyed me. Other big contributors included #gamergate, and various other MRAs online.
The SIWOTI fund re-starts today, and will get closed again on 21 DEC 2015.
 Someone Is Wrong On The Internet
 The small, reachable space behind the microwave where I store the bottles of cooking brandy and cooking sherry.
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Have Another Employment Scammer: Gerosys Group
If you get a job offer purporting to be from the Gerosys Group, treat it with caution. It flies the "scam" flag good and hard.
Let's start with the basics: this mob contacted me out of the blue offering a job. I didn't contact them. One BIG red flag to begin with.
Second red flag: I have no memory of ever being contacted by this group for an interview. Generally, this is a pretty important step toward getting a job.
Third red flag: the job description offers $2600 per month for 20 - 25 hours work, recording financial payment information and processing payments. That's at least $26 per hour for what doesn't seem to be much actual effort. Or in other words, they're paying too much for the work they're asking. This means someone is trying to hook me through my greed.
Fourth red flag: These two paragraphs from their Job Description form:
We sometimes have customers that owe us funds and pay us in financial instruments cashable only in the local area. Since we work all over the world, it is much easier for our customers to transfer money to our Assistant Clerk who are in the same area. After receiving funds Assistant Clerk must record information about transfer and report. Then send money to one of our branches.
WHY DO WE NEED ASSISTANT CLERK? WHAT DOES IT GIVE US?
Reduces % of taxes (avoiding double taxation);
Reduces expenses for offices maintenance (as Assistant Clerk is an official company's representative, so the construction and maintenance of the office is not required);
Number of clients is increased (as many customers can't make an international money transfer);
Our service is increased (as the international transfer needs about 5 days to reach our central office and then a couple of days to reach the performers branch. Consequently, it slows down our work significantly. It'd be much faster if Assistant Clerk receives the money and directs them to the appropriate department/branch. This is how we reduce terms of payments expectation and can provide a service to the customer more promptly)."
This mob purport to have a branch office in Sydney. So why would they need me, living in Western Australia, to process payments in Australian currency?
Let's not forget, this whole "we need you to process payments into the appropriate currency" business is generally the mask for a scam wherein the scammers gain access to your bank account and vacuum out all the contents.
Fifth red flag: They're asking me to scan a copy of my passport, driver's license or other ID and send this in.
Can we say "identity theft", kiddies? I knew we could!
All of the above are enough to hoist the Scam flag high. The whole thing stinks of scam. The following are the little garnishes which just add grace notes to the smell.
* The person who purported to send me the letter (Alexis Poulson) doesn't appear to exist, and particularly not in Sydney, Australia. Nothing on Facebook, nothing on LinkedIn.
* The name of the "HR manager" on the employment agreement form doesn't show up in Sydney either, and it's a particularly common name.
* Their domain is registered to a Russian domain registry, rather than one in the USA (the website appears to be for a company based in Boston) or Australia (given their Australian branch office).
* There's a "news" item on the bottom of the front page of their website which links straight to the job description I quoted above, apparently soliciting new staff in Australia and Canada.
* The job, as described, needs only high school graduation level education (they actually say "high school diploma or GED", which is a very US-centric description of the whole business).
* The "Company seal" on the employment application firm lists the company as a "limited liability company" (which isn't a company description we have here - we're more likely to go with proprietary limited companies instead), and doesn't have an ABN (Australian business number - a REQUIREMENT for doing business in Australia for GST purposes). So either they're not a genuine company, or they're busy evading tax here in Australia.
I've reported them to the ACCC here in Australia, but I'd urge anyone who gets a job offer from this mob anywhere in the world to be extremely wary. As always, the marks of a genuine job offer are these:
* You go looking for them, they don't go looking for you (particularly at the lower rungs of the ladder; particularly if the unemployment rate is higher than 1%)
* A genuine job offer will come with a request for an interview first, because a genuine employer wants to keep you on in their company for a long time. They will therefore want to find out whether or not you're a "good fit" for their company in the first place.
* The wages won't be massively out of line with the industry standard for the sort of work they're asking for. If your highest educational qualification in this day and age is a high school graduation, you're looking at minimum wage work, not the sort of stuff that pays $26 per hour.
* They won't be asking you to perform duties the banking system is actually perfectly capable of doing (eg international money transfers or currency changing).
 100 Walker St, North Sydney, for the interested. From google maps, it looks like an office complex. If anyone wants to visit and take a dekko at their directory, I'd be overwhelmingly interested in finding out whether they're registered on the directory.
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On Command Decisions and Backseat Driving
In the hours following the cessation of the siege in Sydney, there's been a number of people crawling out of the woodwork wondering why the police didn't bring in a sniper to shoot the hostage-taker and bring the thing to an early end. The plaints tend to go along the lines of "if a television camera can get a good shot, so can a sniper rifle; why didn't they get a sniper in?". Unfortunately, the police aren't allowed to respond to such asinine comments with the equivalent of a good solid clip around the ear, due to reasons of public relations and all. So I've decided to do it for them.
(If you're one of the people who has been making such remarks, please read the following very carefully, using the "speaking to the hard-of-thinking" voice in your head.)
1) A sniper rifle and a television camera look very different.
Googling the terms "image television camera" and "image sniper rifle" will bring up galleries of pictures of each of those. Each search takes about 0.3 of a second to complete. Given a hostage-taking gunman wants to cultivate the press, but discourage police snipers, it's likely even the most daft example of the breed in this day and age will probably try to familiarise themselves with the differences between the two - you could call it a necessary job skill. Seeing television cameras is a cue to pull out your list of demands and make it clear the hostages aren't dead yet. Seeing a sniper rifle is a cue to start really threatening the hostages. It's important not to muddle the two up.
2) A sniper rifle and a television camera have different fields of view.
Television cameras tend to work best at medium to close range. Sniper rifles are designed to work best at long range. So the position a television camera operator is occupying in order to obtain a decent shot (even through a zoom lens) is likely to be a lot closer than the position a sniper would need to be occupying in order to obtain a decent shot. Indeed, the television camera operator might well be blocking the field of view for the sniper.
3) Television cameras and sniper rifles are affected differently by weather conditions.
Television pictures tend not to be blown off course by strong or irregular winds. Sniper bullets, on the other hand, do. A television camera can get pictures in conditions where a sniper wouldn't be able to get a shot. Contrariwise, a sniper is capable of getting a shot off in conditions where the television camera is useless.
4) Real life is not like video games.
In video games, if your sniper misses a shot, you can always have another try, or go back to your last save point if you got killed. In real life, death is for keeps. In video games, the aim is usually to kill as many enemy combatants as possible, and never mind the collateral damage or the civilian casualties. In real life, the aim of the police in such situations is generally to try and keep the death count down - I have no doubt the NSW police were hoping to keep the death count in this particular case down to zero.
5) Real life is not like movies.
In the movies, snipers never miss the crucial shot. In real life, they can and do. In real life, the target of a sniper drops to the floor, dead, before they know they've been hit. In real life, even a bullet fired from a gun fitted with a noise suppressor is loud, and gives at least some warning. In the movies, accidents don't happen to disrupt that crucial shot - civilians don't walk into the path of a sniper's bullet at exactly the wrong moment, the target doesn't move, and the whole thing goes perfectly. In real life, accidents can and do happen. In the movies, there's always a crucial shot to take. In real life, there may not be.
Incidentally, the reason both movies and video games are so different from real life is because both of these media are constructed stories, following a set narrative which was created by humans to be culturally satisfying. Real life runs on different rails, and doesn't have to satisfy anyone.
6) At the time the most-used television shot was taken, the siege was barely begun.
The passing shots of the gunman in the cafe were taken very early on in the siege. They were the first visuals the wider public had of the situation. The fact they were widely circulated is actually a marker of how unusual they were - if there'd been more shots, we would have seen more pictures of the gunman. As it was, we got that one rather blurry image of the gunman, positioned behind his hostages, which was repeated regularly throughout the day. It wasn't replaced. It wasn't superseded by something new throughout the course of the sixteen hours of the siege. So it's likely that shot was the ONLY shot the television cameras got of the gunman (and once he realised television cameras could see him, he made damn certain he wasn't in view of them again, because he's just as capable of doing the "if the cameras can see me, so can a sniper" math as anyone else).
7) How do you know they didn't call a sniper in?
It seems highly likely to me that the NSW police (who strike me as a competent force on the whole) would have called in at least one sniper to get a look at things and see firstly whether there was a suitable vantage for them to be working from, and secondly, whether they were likely to get a decent shot at the gunman without risking the hostages. If a sniper wasn't used, it was probably because in the professional judgement of both the sniper(s) themselves, and of the person in charge of the operation, the risks of using a sniper outweighed the potential benefits.
Essentially, my point is this: the people who are wondering about the snipers, or wondering why things were done thus rather than so weren't there and weren't responsible for making the decisions. Things turned out poorly in one respect - three people died, and another eight were injured or treated in hospital. However, in another respect, things turned out surprisingly well - only three people died, one of whom was the gunman; the majority of the injured were mainly taken to hospital for observation and monitoring; and at least five of the hostages escaped completely unscathed. It could have been better, and it could have been much, much worse.
We in the general public cannot possibly wish to find out what went wrong more than the police do. We aren't the ones who will have to live with the knowledge we were supposed to save the lives of the three people who died, and yet we couldn't. The police on scene did the best job they could. The back-seat driving and "Monday's Expert" commentary from various members of the general public most definitely isn't helping. If you think you could have done better, go speak with your local police force, and offer them your expertise for the next time (gods forbid) this happens. Or, alternatively, go join your local police force yourself. Put your life on the line, put your precious skin at risk, and put your money where your damn-fool mouth is. Otherwise, shut the merry hells up and stop second-guessing the people who do this for a living.
PS: For those bitching about the fact the gunman was out on bail - that's a problem for the justice system, not the police force. For those whining about the way ASIO didn't spot this guy as a threat - I suspect they're looking for people who are going to group together to create terrorist cells and undertake complicated plots. This siege, while it had some of the trappings of terrorist activity (the calls for the IS flag etc) was actually something which has more in common with the sorts of "lone gunman" attacks which are so common in the USA, and was probably undertaken for similar reasons to those. Namely, one over-entitled man decided other people ought to die or be terrified in the service of boosting his ego.
EDITED TO ADD (19 DEC 2014): One other little wrinkle about why the NSW police might have decided a sniper was a Bad Move - it's an extra-judicial killing, or to put it in more blunt terms, deliberate murder. We don't have the death penalty here in Australia; if the police kill someone, there's usually an enquiry into the matter (which is, in fact, the process which is being started in NSW now) and charges can and will be laid against the officer responsible. It can be a career-limiting move.
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The Sydney Siege
The siege is over, three people (including the original hostage-taker) are dead, and the dust is starting to settle. Including, one must point out, the rather colossal amount of bulldust stirred up by the whole business in the media.
When I first heard about the siege, my first thought was "well, this is convenient, isn't it?".
Why was it convenient? Well, to start with it completely buried the MYEFO statement, something the Abbott government must be sighing with relief over (for our "the dog ate my homework" government, this must have seemed like the equivalent of Teacher calling in sick!). For seconds, it gives our PM a chance to look all concerned and serious on the telly, making statements about how the besieger had "a political motivation" and so on. For thirds, it gives the tabloidosphere something to really chew on for the next few months (anyone want to bet we're going to be hearing a lot about Islamic "terrists" from the shock-jocks, the talk-back tabloids, and the Murdoch media? No takers?). For fourths, it neatly justifies all that extra money the government was handing ASIO a few months back. For fifths, it also neatly justifies any amount of crackdowns on public speech critical of the government, "undesirables", public protest and so on. The sixth useful thing it does is justifies increases to police funding (especially "elite" "counter-terrorism" units).
I can't help but think of the last time we were put under an increased security regime (under the Howard government, in the years following the September 11 2001 attack in the USA). At the time, one of the things people were saying was that there was no evidence of terrorist activity in Australia, and all this extra security theatre was a waste of money. People were saying the same things earlier this year when the government effectively doubled ASIO's budget. Will they be saying it now? Probably not as loudly...
And the MYEFO is still buried deeper than a dead thing.
The man who took the hostages, Man Haron Monis, is being demonised in the press. He's already being labelled as being mentally ill. He had a history of violence and imprisonment (according to his lawyer, he was harassed and bullied in prison) as well as a string of charges against him. He also had a history of extreme ideology, but there's a strong thread running through things that this man was acting alone. He wasn't likely to have been part of an organised terrorist cell - indeed, he's just the sort of person a serious organised terrorist movement wouldn't want within a thousand miles of their active cells. But do you want to bet we're still going to see an increase in security theatre to prevent organised terrorist activity - one which will, purely coincidentally, result in a crackdown on "undesirables" (including the mentally ill) and public speech criticising the government?
It seems this siege was the action of one deeply troubled man with a history of violence. But it was still incredibly convenient for a lot of people, and I have no doubt they're going to be exploiting it to the fullest.
 I'm sorry, but I wouldn't trust the PM telling me the sky was blue without looking out a window to make sure, or to tell me water was wet without turning on a tap to check - to put it at its most charitable, his perception of reality is so very different to the consensus one it seems sensible to ensure his statements are well benchmarked against checkable data.
 To be less charitable, the man is a lying liar who lies and who wouldn't recognise the truth if it bit him on the bum.
 I'm mentally ill myself. The majority of mentally ill people are no more likely to commit violent acts than the rest of the population. Instead, they're more likely to be victims of violence.
 What I'm really disliking in seeing a lot of comments about this story in a number of places is the strong link being made between mental illness and any form of socially unacceptable or merely disliked behaviours. You don't have to be mentally ill in order to be an arsehole, and gods above the people making such comments are proving this in spades!
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Finding Me Elsewhere
I've just started up a Steam account (had to get one in order to be able to download and play Final Fantasy VIII on PC, otherwise I wouldn't have bothered). I'm Megpie71 over there.
I'm also Megpie71 on Tumblr, Megpie71 on Twitter (although I only use it about once in a blue moon), and Megpie71 on either Livejournal or Insanejournal. I'm registered on Disqus as Megpie71 too.
Actually, if it comes right down to it, if you see a Megpie71 anywhere around, it's probably me. If you're not sure, ask.
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An Overdue Update
Since the beginning of November (or thereabouts) I've been undergoing one of my periodic mood downswings. Which is why things have dropped off somewhat. Essentially, I've been spending just about every day for the past forty days waking up, realising I'm not dead (and cursing when I realise this, because it's been a massive disappointment at times) and working my way through life as though I'm walking through chest-high treacle in a cold climate. On top of this, I've had an impromptu rent inspection (sprung on us with about 7 days verbal notice - the real-estate agent decided to take advantage of an opportunity and get a look at the place to make sure we're not destroying the joint) which has necessitated cleaning the place to inspection-ready standards, and also a minor meltdown over my partner hiring someone to get the windows done. Currently I have a knee-rug to assemble before Saturday (7x9, I have 4 of the 7 strips already joined up; I'm finishing assembling the final one of the remaining 3 this morning. Then it's just tidying up ends, which is long and fiddly and takes forever; joining them to the main rug; and making a border for the whole thing) as a Christmas present for my father-in-law, as well as a batch or two of biscuits for my mother-in-law.
Fortunately, I managed to beg off going to my parents' place for the evening meal on Christmas day (I've been doing a lot of therapy lately, which has stirred up one heck of a lot of unresolved anger at the 'rents) and will instead be just knocking it down to a quick trip to drop off their presents and pick up ours. But that means at least another two or three batches of biscuits to bake next week (in time for Christmas) to cover my parents, my brother, and my two nieces; not to mention a quick plunge into the joys of the local shopping mall at Christmas time in order to purchase something fancy to pack them all into.
All of this while, as mentioned previously, feeling as though I'm doing everything through chest-high treacle in the middle of winter.
To add to all of this, the depression makes me as irritable as all get-out, so I currently have a temper shorter than a wet cowpat, and a fuse which is best measured in micrometres. I've been taking care of myself by avoiding the political news and the political blogs as much as possible, as well as walking away from a lot of stuff that I'd otherwise be wading into.
So, that's why I've been fairly quiet (for me) this past month or so.
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About the "Requires Hate" thing
[WTF are you on about?]
( Under fold for length )
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