Skinner Boxes: Reviews from a Pigeon
For those who are confused about the title, a Skinner Box is a piece of behavioural psychology experimental equipment - basically it's a box with a button (or lever), and slot by which a reward is delivered (usually food). You put an animal such as a pigeon or a rat in there, and the original experiment was to find out what worked to get the animal to push the button on a consistent basis. Turns out inconsistent reward is the secret to getting the most consistent button pushing.
This knowledge has been put to good use by the designers of various flash-based and mobile games (not to mention the designers of slot machines and other such gambling games) for human use. You keep the pigeon pushing the button, and hint the frequency of the reward might be greater if they, for example, prime the pump by contributing a few extra dollars, and voila! You have a money-making machine right there.
I decided in a fit of boredom to get involved with a couple of different Skinner box style games over the course of the Easter weekend. One of them I'm still playing, the other I've largely left alone. The games were the Android version of Marvel Avengers Academy (AA), and the browser game GoodGame Big Farm (BF).
Now, both of these games require you to click on things and set events in motion, and then wait a certain amount of time for those events to complete, then collect your reward. Some events are fairly fast - two to three minutes. Others can be eight to ten hours long. In both cases, you can speed up the progress of whatever you're doing by purchasing the in-game premium currency (Infinity Shards in AA, Gold in BF) and using that to fast-forward through things. Of course, in both games, the premium currency is given out in dribs and drabs as a reward for gaining enough experience to go up a level (about 4 shards per level in AA, about 50 gold per level for BF) but you can get access to more by spending real-world currency to purchase the premium currency through their store.
(The stores largely sell this currency for round amounts of US dollars. I'm not in the USA, and the Australian dollar is not doing too well against the US dollar at present. Plus I'm on the dole, which means my spare income is not so much minimal as non-existent. I haven't been seriously tempted by either of them).
The reward for completing tasks is usually the in-game standard currency (or something you can sell to receive the in-game standard currency in BF), and possibly a few collectible bibs and bobs which go toward helping your heroes get some special character or perform some special action. In AA, you can get textbooks (which help you acquire new characters) or Pym Particles (which help you clean up the debris on new areas so you can place more buildings and create more facilities), as well as whichever bits of tat (I've seen Jetpack upgrades and Asgardian jewellery so far) are required to get your new character on side. In BF, you get various collectible bits and pieces which can help with generating collective missions, or earning various bits and pieces to decorate your farm. The rate at which you get these things is inconsistent and hard to predict (although the tasks which take longer will tend to drop more), and there's the "inconsistent reward" part of the Skinner box.
Now, of the two, I find I'm much more comfortable with AA - I can set my characters to doing something that will take 30 minutes, 2 hours, 4 hours, 8 hours, and just switch the tablet off (or set it to charge, which takes about 5 hours) or go to sleep, and check back in again when I have a bit of a break and pick up my rewards. There's only been one time-limited task (recruiting Pepper Potts as Rescue - and for that one, you pretty much had to spend real cash to buy shards, because the in-game time limits weren't achievable) in the game so far, and that means there's no pressure to be constantly checking every few hours. It isn't anxiety-making, and for me, that's a good thing.
BF, by contrast, is one time-limited short-term task after another after another, and to meet the goals for those tasks, you pretty much have to be sitting and watching your farm constantly, and calculating whether or not you're going to be able to meet the goals they're setting. I got to the point where my mood was suffering (I have depression with co-morbid anxiety, which means anything which makes me anxious triggers the depression) and where I was starting to feel stressed out by the pressure of keeping up with the game. To the point where I wound up making a folder specifically for the bookmark for the game so it wasn't sitting there in my "visited often" list reproaching me. I'm tempted to head back to it today, but I doubt I will. The game is, for me at least, a worse time-sink than TV Tropes,
Cracked.com and RationalWiki combined, and it doesn't leave much time around the edges of things for doing anything else. I don't know about other people, but I have a life outside my web browser.
The other big difference for me is AA has another source of inconsistent reinforcement - it has an interesting storyline, which gets advanced when you perform certain tasks, and which acts as the equivalent of an ongoing serial. So I find it's easy to get into a routine with that game - log in, collect the rewards from the last lot of tasks, catch up with whichever new bits of story have been generated by those, do the easy (short-term) tasks for each character (and pick up rewards as available), then get them going on the longer-term stuff (prioritising who gets to do what if there's a clash). It's also worth noting if you have the same activity on multiple quests, you only have to do it once - so if, for example, I have Tony Stark required to get in repulsor practice on the firing range for two different quests, provided I've opened both quests, one fifteen-minute bout of repulsor practice will get the job crossed off on both. So if, for example, I have Black Widow required to research at the Archives for two hours for three different quests, while Tony Stark is required to do archive research for eight hours for one, Black Widow gets priority.
So, of the two games, I'd argue for me, Avenger's Academy is the more successful Skinner Box, in that it'll keep me coming back in the long term. I don't mind the long waits between each activity, and I also don't mind the slow pace. The storyline is enough to keep me going for now. Big Farm, by contrast, is a bit too frenetic and busy for my liking - the rewards aren't worth the stress of constantly pushing the buttons.
 Once I realised this, I stopped worrying. Establishing a task as impossible always makes things a lot easier.
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Scam Alert - "Job" scam - "The Brit Method"
From: Eliza Wilson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: [Bulk] We are looking for [my email address here]
Reply-To: [none listed]
Addressed to Me: yes
( scam body under fold )
Okay, as per usual the standard "job" scam flags are flying with this one - contacting me out of the blue in a declining economy, promising large sums of money for very little work.
Googling "the Brit Method" comes up with a whole page basically saying it's a stock market scam. I'm not going to be duplicating someone else's efforts here, but be aware, anything which is selling itself as a "method" for playing the stock market is about as reliable as any other "method" for making heaps of money by gambling (horses, poker, casinos, you name it - the stock market is just another gambling venue). That is to say, the most reliable way to make money from such things is to be the person selling the "method" to gullible suckers.
If you've received one of these, just delete it. Don't click on the links, and don't believe the promises of lots of money. The only people making money out of this scheme are the people selling it.
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Scam Alert - 419 Type - Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, Nana Owusu Addo
From: Nana Owusu Addo (admin@GOODONATES.COM)
Subject: [Bulk] IT MIGHT INTEREST YOU...
Addressed to: Recipients (admin@GOODONATES.COM)
( Scam body below fold )
Another invitation to commit fraud from complete strangers. How wonderful.
The most obvious plot hole in this whole thing is the whole "as civil servants, we are forbidden to operate a foreign account" - I suspect if they look closely at their contracts, they'll also find as civil servants they're forbidden to defraud the taxpayers of Ghana. This doesn't appear to be stopping them from doing so.
As always, it's a scam, a fraud, and if you let these people have access to your bank account, they'll either a) use it as an invitation to vaccuum all the money out of it; or b) ask you to forward "small sums" to be used to pay administration fees, bank charges, etc etc etc. I'd be suspecting the first, since their breakdown of the "payout" involves a certain amount put aside to cover costs (although I still wouldn't rule out the second, since scammers gonna scam). Asking for three working weeks (15 working days) is just giving them lots of time to get away after they've finished extracting the money from your bank account(s).
If you are going to succumb to this damn silly fraud, might I suggest going to a bank you don't usually do business with, opening a throw-away account with a balance of maybe $10, and giving those details to the scammers? That way, if they ARE up to no good (and let's be realistic here - anyone who asks you on no acquaintance whatsoever to help them commit massive fraud against the people of their own country isn't really on the side of the angels) the most you're going to be out is the $10 you've sacrificed on the throw-away account.
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Job/Make Money Fast Scammer - Zxinfra.org, Samuel Adams
From: Samuel@zxinfra.org (Samuel Adams)
Subject: [Bulk] This will BLOW YOUR MIND
Addressed to me: Yes.
( Message body below fold )
Okay, to start with this snaps out the big scam flag of "trying to hook me through greed". $4115.75 per day is over $514 per hour (which is a ridiculous hourly rate for ANYTHING) or over $20,000 per week, and it sounds frankly unrealistic no matter which way you try to slice it. For zero experience or expertise? Nope, that definitely reads like someone is trying to trick me.
So I went digging around on the web. All the links in the original (which I haven't reproduced here) lead to a domain called zxinfra.org - and strangely enough, there's not much information around about them. They've only been registered since 01 FEB 2016, and are apparently hosted in Pasadena, California (the address in New York state is for the company they got their mailing list from - NationWideMediaInteractive.com). What little information I can find points possibly to them being about distributing malware, and/or phishing.
Have to admit, it doesn't tempt me to click on those links. If you get one of these (or anything else from zxinfra.org) I'd suggest dropping it straight into the bit-bucket.
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Scam Alert - 419 "Abandoned Package" scam - Mr James Dee, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport A
From: Mr James Dee (email@example.com)
Subject: [Bulk] WE NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU2
Addressed to me: No
( Scam body under fold )
As with the previous example of this particular genre, I'll note this even at its most straightforward, this email contains an invitation to commit a crime (namely, bribery of an official - Mr Dee is asking for a share of the money in order to "assist" you. Presumably if you don't, he'll find a few dozen obstacles to place in your way). Nice people don't generally ask you to do things on first acquaintance that could result in jail time.
There are still all the same plot-holes in the story as there were in the previous example - why would a UN diplomat based in the UK be sending large sums of money to an insignificant housewife in Australia? Why, if the consignment note has my name and details on it, was the package not just forwarded to me C.O.D? Why has this been shipped from JFK airport in New York to an airport warehouse in Atlanta, for crying out loud? And given Mr Dee apparently knows the contents of the containers aren't what's on the declaration label, how do I know he hasn't already gone in there and taken what he considers to be "his share" of the money before even contacting me? (Oh, and why, if he's working for a government organisation, is he trying to get me to reply to him via a throw-away gmail address?)
The containers don't exist (or if they do, they're filled with blank paper, old newsprint, or at best Monopoly money). Don't send this scammer any of your details, or any of your money.
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Scam - 419 Type - "Mrs Connie Dutton"
My junk mail folder is filling up with scams again. Oh darn, I shall just have to start writing about them once more.
Oh the hardship.
Today's candidate is a pretty bog-standard 419 scam.
From: MOTHER CONNIE DUTTON (BCNMVM@tntn.jp.tn)
Subject: [Bulk] Hoping to hearing from you soon
Addressed to me: Nope!
( Scam content under fold )
Okay, scam markers:
1) Long, involved sob story, written in ungrammatical English, and poorly proof-read.
2) Large sum of money (although in these days of low inflation and low investment returns, eight million is pretty small beer).
3) If this woman is such a devoted Christian, why isn't she giving the money to her church? Doesn't she trust her pastor? Why isn't she donating the money (off her own bat) to the various charities which already exist now to serve the causes she's listing? Why isn't she taking this through a professional financial planner or investment adviser, rather than a random chump on the internet?
4) Different addresses in the reply-to field of the sent email, and the body text.
The most sensible option is not to reply to these people at all. This email is basically setting up the sucker for the next move in several con games - and the most likely is the advance fee fraud, where you'll be asked to send an "administration fee" to the scammer (just so they can pass it on to their bank, to get the money to you, you understand). Of course, this first fee won't be enough, and you'll have to send more money to the scammer to cover other fees and charges; and of course, "Mrs Dutton" will probably wind up needing help with her medical costs, because she won't have planned for those; then there's the inevitable point in the whole thing where she dies, and you'll need to pay "funeral expenses" or "death duties" on the money you still won't have received...
As always, these things are designed to hook you through a combination of greed and arrogance. The way to win is not to play. So, don't reply, and pass the message about it being a scam on to all your friends.
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On Working For the Dole.
So, I've been unemployed for six months (according to Centrelink, anyway). Which means, lucky me, I'm due to start my "Work For The Dole Phase" of the whole glorious process of being unemployed in Australia in the 21st century.
For those not in the know, "work for the dole" was an idea conceived back in the era of John Howard, by Liberal Party policy-makers who wanted to bring back the workhouses, but who didn't fancy the idea of having to shell out money to feed, house and clothe the undeserving poor (i.e. anyone on an activity-tested Centrelink payment). Basically, in order to impress on the long-term unemployed how important it is they find paying work, they're required to perform up to twenty-five hours a week of compulsory, unpaid volunteer work in order to be able to continue receiving their dole payment. I suspect whoever came up with this one must have woken up in the night and hugged themselves with glee.
Luckily for me, I'm on a part-time activity test (mental illness, such fun). I only have to do sixteen hours a fortnight worth of whatever the current equivalent of picking oakum, washing bottles, pasting labels or sorting rags is. Normally, the requirement is for fifteen hours a week for someone my age, twenty-five for someone younger. In my case, I'm going to be transcribing old (hand-written) court records from turn-of-the-century-NSW (i.e. early 1900s). Years of translating my mother's appalling medical handwriting into something legible has finally come in useful.
Basically, this sort of thing is supposed to... well, I have no idea what it's supposed to do. Punish me for the sin of not being in employment, one presumes. I have the site induction on Thursday, I suppose I get to find out then whether I'm supposed to be wearing sackcloth and rubbing ashes into my hair to show repentance, flagellating myself with a cat-o'-nine-tails, or whether just walking around wearing a sandwich board that says "I'm SO FUCKING SORRY" will do.
Yes, I am a bit cranky about this.
I'm cranky about it, because it's a bit of deliberate humiliation on the part of a government which has an ideological agenda, and will do anything in its power to get that agenda implemented. I'm cranky about it because I'm being forced into performing unpaid labour in order to ensure wage earners are frightened into accepting lower wages and lower conditions in order to avoid being put into this situation. I'm cranky about it because the penalties for missing work, or not being able to perform whatever work I'm supposed to be doing on the day I'm supposed to be doing it, are all on me (yes, even if my erstwhile "employer" doesn't have enough work for me to be doing, or the computers are down, or the office gets hit by a meteor falling from the sky).
Oh, and I still have to keep looking for 20 jobs a month, same as before. That doesn't change, either. About the only positive thing to note about the whole mess is that since the place I'm going to be physically doing my Work for the Dole placement is the offices of my JobActive provider, I'll be able to drop off my monthly lists with a lot less carry-on.
 Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment, and Special Benefit.
 If your "volunteering" is organised through your JobActive provider, you get an extra $20 per fortnight on your dole payment to cover costs incurred (transport, lunches etc). If it isn't, you don't. There's a LOT of encouragement to find your own "volunteer work".
 A bit of googling reveals it was the brain-child of Tony Abbott. I must remember to write him a thank-you note.
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The Daftness of the "Toilet" Argument
The "toilet" argument is the one which says "of course trans* and gender-queer people shouldn't be allowed to use the lavatories appropriate to their preferred gender presentation" because somehow women will get their modesty affronted by having a person with a penis in the ladies room. I always get stunned by this argument, mostly because it shows a degree of wilful blindness to some necessary differences between masculine and feminine public hygiene set-ups which really needs to be addressed.
So, for the benefit of all those guys who haven't been in the ladies' lavs since they were tiny tackers escorted there by their mums, here is a description of the average set-up of every single women's public toilet block I've ever been in for as long as I can remember:
( Long and involved description under the fold )
So, to be honest, I absolutely fail to see how anyone's modesty is going to be affronted by someone who is trans-female, or female-identifying-today gender-queer, getting into the queue to use the stalls in the ladies. No matter what their (or your) individual plumbing hook-up appears to be, nobody else is going to be able to see it in use, or be offended by its presence.
I mean, on the other hand, if the people who are worried about the prospect of trans* or gender-queer people using the appropriate lavatories for their identifying gender are men worrying a trans-man or a male-identifying-today gender-queer person is going to go into the gentlemen's lavs and snigger at the willies on display at the urinals... well, just say so, guys. (And maybe use the stalls to pee). But please, don't push the whole mess over onto the women and feminine modesty.
(Oh, and if anyone who is trans-negative and female-identifying wants to explain to me either: a) exactly why and how their modesty is/would be affronted by a trans* or gender-queer person using the ladies' lavs at the same time as them; or b) how they'd know if a person in one of the other stalls was a trans* or gender-queer person; or even c) why they can't just deal with their problem by waiting for the trans* or gender-queer person to finish their business and leave; then feel free to do so in the comments.)
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Job Seeker Advice: Polite Firms - Month ending 03 FEB 2016
This is going to be a regular thing, I think. These are the employers who have bothered to contact me to let me know I wasn't successful in obtaining work with them. I figure they're the polite sorts, so I want to give them a bit of free advertising to encourage this kind of behaviour a bit more widely.
- Golden Egg Farms (egg suppliers)
- Fleetcare (corporate/government fleet management & maintenance)
- Practice Insight Pty Ltd (medical services)
- Rockingham Psychology (psychological services)
If you have need of any of the services listed above, and you're in the Perth metro area, why not give those businesses a try?This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/63496.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
I Can Just *Tell* It's Going To Be One Of Those Days...
Had a very poor night's sleep last night (had trouble going to sleep due to the heat; woke up during the night overheated and dehydrated, and couldn't get back to sleep for over an hour; got jolted awake again by leg cramps about a half an hour before my alarm was due to go off). I'm currently sitting here experiencing one of my warning signs for gastro-intestinal distress (burping up gas which sort of tastes like bacon as it passes over my tongue). I have an appointment with my Job Active provider at 9am (which I am NOT looking forward to, because they're about as useless as tits on a bull, and they're intended to be this useless as a point of government policy). Oh, and I got another letter in my email from the nice people at Moton Group "offering" me a "job", as well as two email letters from the latest iteration of the "LKT Company" scam (the company has changed its name and now calls itself "Nocturne", and refers to itself as "fast-growing", but the other particulars are pretty much the same).
The signs are not positive. Unfortunately my preferred remedy (going back to bed, pulling the sheet over my head and pretending today doesn't exist) is not available (see: appointment at 9am). So I'll need to head to plan B - bull through things.
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Cheeky Fuckers! (The Employment Scammers Strike Again) - "LKT Company"
The fake job scammers are at it again. This time, they're sending stuff out under my email address! How do I know this? Well, I woke up this morning to discover I had an inbox full of delivery failure notices.
So here's the ad body:
( scam body )
The bits in square brackets are where the script which sends these things out picks from a list of options to "personalise" the emails. Essentially, one of those options is chosen for each version of the mail at random (where there's only one option, the text itself is optional), in order to bypass spam filters on the servers they're hijacking to get their "message" out (the spam filters are looking for large amounts of similar text; the programs which generate these emails are evolving in lock-step with the filtering programs. If you're ever looking for a good locus for emergent AI, consider the possibilities of email filtering and spam blocking software, and the stuff designed to get around it!).
Now, the email address to check for "more details" varies with each of the letters - here's a list of the selection I have, if you're wanting to know what to beware of:
( List below fold )
The Subject lines also vary. Again, here are the ones I have available from the sample of delivery failure notices.
( List below fold )
(Incidentally - this is why keeping track of the subject lines and body text of these emails is a bit of a waste of time. The body text is boilerplate, the subject line is randomised.)
On to the scam flags flying:
1) They're offering too much. For full-time work, they're offering "up to" $5900AUD per month, which is $295 per day, or $36.88 per hour, plus bonuses, for largely unskilled admin work. Note the "up to" there - that's the theoretical maximum you could earn in a month. The actual amount you'll be paid is probably much lower, if, indeed,you're likely to be paid at all, rather than having your accounts hoovered out.
2) A lot of the details essential to a standard job ad are missing or skimped. There's no mention of who the company is in quite a lot of the ads (because it doesn't exist), there's no listing of what kinds of skills and experience they're looking for (because the main skill or quality they're after is gullibility). The contact address is a hotmail throw-away account with no reference to the name of the company either (which is a rather severe mismatch to the story of a company which is big enough to be trading with clients in the USA, Europe and Asia, especially given the comparatively low cost of domain names and domain hosting).
3) The economy world-wide is largely contracting. You can hear the economic gloom and doom forecasts any time you turn on the TV or radio, or any time you look at a news article online or in a newspaper. In that kind of economic environment, employment becomes harder to get - there is a surplus of people looking for work, and a deficit of available employment for them to participate in. In such an economy, there is no need for a legitimate employer to reach out to random people on the internet if they're seeking employees. Indeed, most job ads I'm looking at these days say they're only going to be contacting the successful candidates for interviews, due to the sheer volume of replies.
4) Googling "LKT Company" brings up at least two scam warnings already. This is always something of a hint. About the only difference between the current "jobs" being offered and the previous scam is that the amount of money has been increased by $100AUD on each level.
5) They hijacked my flippin' email account to send these things out! (I grant you, that one's a bit of a personal thing). Needless to say I've altered my password. But if you EVER receive a job offer purporting to be sent from megpie71 at yahoo dot com dot ay you, it's guaranteed to be a scam. I don't do HR, and if I did do HR, I would be sending things out under a corporate email address, not from my private email.
There isn't a job open, the money doesn't exist, and if they had anything decent to offer they wouldn't need to be hijacking other people's email addresses in order to pass the message on.
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Vale David Bowie
I have a ... complicated relationship with the music of David Bowie. For one thing, I'm about ten years too young to remember him at his best. I was too young for Ziggy Stardust, and the one song of his that stuck with me from that period was "A Space Oddity", which to be honest, freaked me out (and still does - I mean, it's a song about a man dying in space, it's terrifying!). So the music of his I remember best is the stuff from his "Thin White Duke" period, which was, unfortunately, his period of proving (as so many people did back then) that while cocaine gives you heaps of energy and drive, it doesn't do shit for your creativity. The eighties had a lot of that, unfortunately. The few songs which stick with me from that period ("Ashes to Ashes", "Blue Jean" and "China Girl") all had the same quality of pretty much weirding me out, while I felt the video clips were a bit overly pretentious in their level of theatrics. By the time I was old enough to really be paying attention to Bowie, he'd already passed his prime and moved into "pop music icon" territory, performing duets of cover versions of sixties pop songs with Mick Jagger and so on. So I think I really missed a lot of what he was "about", so to speak.
As I got older, I could admire a lot of what he was doing in his earlier stuff from a more detached, intellectual fashion - he did some interesting things with theatricality and the concepts of theatre, gender, identity, stardom and so on. Indeed, I tend, these days, to regard a lot of his stuff as almost Brechtian - he made people question concepts which had seemed rock-solid, and showed alternative ways of looking at various ideas which hadn't been previously considered. But I wasn't "there", so to speak, and I really didn't have the same sort of connections to his work that a lot of other people did.
I can admire him as a cultural icon - he was the most successful of the "glam" rockers long-term, and his ability to re-invent his public persona was unparalleled. Indeed, his abilty to re-invent his public persona was arguably a major factor in his long-term success - by the time the public was starting to get bored with a particular persona, he'd already done so, and moved on to something else. To me, in a lot of ways, he fits in the same cultural "box" as Spike Milligan - never quite comfortable with the world as it existed, and always seeking to try and find a way of explaining the way he saw it to people who weren't him.
He was fascinating, but I never really "got" him. I'm sad he's died, but the sadness is like the admiration - detatched, impersonal, and if I'm mourning at all, it's for the loss of another cultural icon, rather than for the loss of a person. My sympathies to his family, and may they find peace.
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Job Seeker Advice: Polite Firms and Recruiters to Avoid
This is me summarising a certain amount of information from looking for work. One of the things I keep track of is whether a company gets back to me to let me know I've been unsuccessful in my application for a job at their firm (which, to me, seems only polite), or indeed whether I get any acknowledgement of my application at all. So, the following firms are ones I've applied to in the past three months, which got back in touch with me (even if only via a very generic email) to let me know I'd been unsuccessful.
- WFI / Insurance Australia Group - insurance
- Choice One recruiters - personnel
- Diametech Pty Ltd (trading as Autobahn Spearwood) - car parts and servicing
- Designtec Commercial Furniture - Commercial furniture
- Chellingworth (Osborne Park Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge) - car sales
- Fantastic Furniture - home furniture (largely flat-packs)
- AMP Services Ltd (AMP Capital Investors) - shopping centre administration
- Beacon Lighting, Myaree - light fittings
- Roleystone Real Estate - real estate services
- Practice Insight Pty Ltd - software development
- Rockingham Psychology - psychological services
All of the above-named firms have been polite enough to advise me I wasn't successful in my application, which I appreciate, since it takes a lot of the fuss and bother out of jobsearch to know one way or t'other. If you have need of any of the services they provide, you could probably do worse than visit these particular companies.
(To all the other employers I applied to and didn't get a job with: even a generic Seek email saying "sorry, not this time" would be enough to let me know. That you can't be bothered to do something as minor as that... well, it doesn't say much about your attitude toward people who aren't directly handing you money right this moment. I'm posting the names of the ones who do in order to encourage good behaviour.)
One of the other things I track is whether I got a receipt of some kind to let me know the resume I sent off has been received. Mostly, I use Seek.com.au, which provides one of these as a matter of course. Occasionally, however, I have to look elsewhere (sometimes there aren't enough recent jobs on Seek) and hope for the best. I prefer to get the little email of acknowledgement, since it lets me know I haven't just dropped my details into an informational black hole. The following firm does not provide them.
- OpenRecruiting.com.au - recruiting/personnel
Indeed, OpenRecruiting.com.au purports to be a job board, but they won't let you see the jobs they have on offer unless you have signed up with them. I found a couple of jobs with them through jobsearch.gov.au, and applied via their linked online form (and really, the details of the jobs and the employers were minuscule - no employer name, no real details regarding the position etc) and didn't hear a single thing back. If you're looking for work, well, it's up to you, but I'd advise not bothering with them.
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Employment Scam: Moton Group - Kevin K Elmore
This one comes via a slightly unusual route, since I actually applied for the thing directly! Here's the basics: the scammer behind this particular mess decided to take out a total of six ads on the Australian Job Search site (jobsearch.gov.au) - six identical ads, each with the following text:
( Ad copy below the fold )
That was the entire ad. They were "offering" a total of
24 21 positions as "Accounts Assistant" - 3 each in Helena Valley, East Perth, Rockingham, Bedfordale, Cottesloe, Madora Bay and Mosman Park (an unusual spread of suburbs - see the digression below). Now, the combination of six identical ads each offering three positions with a completely vague description of what the position entailed, and absolutely no description of what skills you'd actually need to be doing the job triggered my "scam" flags even then, but hey, I had to apply for two jobs that day due to government requirements (it was the week between Christmas and New Year - as you might imagine, the job ads were a little thin on the ground) so I decided to send my resume in.
( Perth-specific digression )
Yesterday, an email arrived at my job search address, with the following text:
( Email text below fold )
Now, the thing which stuck out for me about all of this is that so far, nowhere along the way have they actually mentioned anything about what the job would entail, or what kind of skills you'd require in order to be able to perform it - this is a regular trait of job scams. I decided to do two things - the first was actually look up Moton Group on google, and the second was to look at their job description.
The google search started the scam radar pinging good and hard, because all the listings for Moton Group are in the USA (Colorado and New Jersey being the two locations which showed up on the first page of results), with nothing showing up in Australia. So I took a look at the job description. And immediately started singing "scam, scam, scammity, scam", because here it is in all its glory:
( Job description )
So, we have all the classic scam flags flying in this "job description":
1) They're paying too much for what they're asking for. $40 per hour is very good money. It's very good money for a fully-fledged accountant or business professional. For someone who's supposed to be an Accounts Assistant, dealing with the bookkeeping paperwork (as per the original job ad)? It's almost double the accepted hourly rate for an experienced, qualified bookkeeper - which, you'll note, they're not asking for. For someone whose only qualification for the job is completing high school? It's about double the maximum hourly rate you'd expect.
2) Gratuitous errors in grammar and sentence construction. The job description reads as though it were written by someone who has English as about their third language, and neither of the other two were from the same families. It's sloppy and poorly done - and to a large degree this is deliberate. It's intended to make the reader feel they're pulling one over the scammer, make them feel superior, and make them lower their guard.
3) It doesn't describe the duties or the job skills required. If you've read a job ad recently (and I've read a lot of them) you'll find most of them list fairly specific duties (preparing BAS, drawing up invoices and receipts, reception duties, operating switchboard, etc) and they will almost certainly be asking for specific abilities, qualities, skills and qualifications. By contrast, the job details in this "job description" are vaguer than a lot of political promises.
There's also the "Why do we need Accounts Assistants" and "Why do we not us[sic] a direct account?" sections, which are pretty much direct quotes of other versions of this particular scam I've seen elsewhere. If nothing else, those sections of the job description would have set my scam alarms blasting. If an employer is offering a genuine job, they won't feel the need to justify it, or explain why they're doing things in a particular way. I suspect if I decided to chase up on this job further, I'd find myself being asked to "process" payments via my bank account. Or in other words "open your wallet and repeat after me: 'help yourself'", in a less straightforward format. I think not.
( Improper use of Australian Coat of Arms )
( Further dodginess )
All in all, if you're looking at an "offer" of a "job" from Moton Group, I'd decline. The only job they're offering in all seriousness is "sucker". (It goes without saying that I'm not going to be filling in their application form myself).
EDITED 10 JAN - Correcting the number of positions offered. Seven times three is 21.
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Unending Domestic Upheaval and Horrible Weather
So in the ongoing saga of things going wrong that require workmen, the latest instalment is that part of the ceiling of our garage came loose and fell in. As in, the plasterboard ceiling and attached cornices basically dropped about 2 feet in one corner, breaking the plasterboard, and pretty much putting the structural integrity of the rest of the ceiling at risk (according to the workman who came around yesterday to have a look at the extent of the problem - he was expecting maybe a 2 inch drop, apparently). This means we're getting more workmen in today, arriving at about 8.30am.
Fortunately, my being up and dressed to deal with them is not going to be a problem, mostly because for the past few days we've had stinking hot humid weather (high thirties, low forties C and humid with it), and last night I doubt it got much below about 30C. There was a bit of rain at about 4.30am here (I know this because I spent a ruddy awful night tossing and turning trying to keep cool and get some sleep and I was awake at the time) but it wasn't much more than the humidity finally reaching the point of "well, bugger" and condensing out of sheer inertia. Big splats of raindrops, but not enough to seriously wet the paving. We spent most of yesterday with the air-conditioner on, and a fair chunk of the day before, and today is currently looking like more of the same, so it looks like our next power bill (due around the beginning of February) is going to be a hefty one.
I wound up getting up at about 5.30am after a night of attempting fitfully to sleep, so I'm well and truly awake by now, and I've just let the nice man from the ceiling repair firm in to start working (at 8am). They're talking about having to come in tomorrow as well, to finish sanding things down. Yay.
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Update on The Washing Machine
We were in luck on Thursday, and managed to get hold of a repairman who came out and fixed all the various problems with our machine. Now, said machine is about 15 years old (I know we got it while we were living in Canbrrra, and brought it back with us when we moved back here) so I wasn't surprised that some of the problems turned out to be purely about age and wear.
So, the reason the machine was spraying water all over the floor was the water valve for the drum had a perished diaphragm. One replacement later, and I have a laundry floor which stays dry (although it still needs cleaning). The reason the drum wasn't turning was that the brushes on the motor which turned it had worn down to about 1/3 their original length. Replaced them, and the motor works fine. The other thing he fixed was the dodgy powder dispenser drawer, which had stopped working months ago. Turns out that one was because we'd inadvertently left one of the transit spacers for the machine (which are supposed to stop the drum from moving about too much while it's in transit for moves) in place after the last move, and that had been banging up against the edge of the tray, and snapped off a crucial little plastic dooverlacky that triggered the machine to recognise the powder drawer was shut or some such. So he replaced that with a bit of putty, and after we waited about 24 hours for it to cure properly (or in other words, no washing on Friday, what a pity, oh my) the whole thing appears to be working just fine.
So we're in a position to get another few years of use out of our fifteen year old machine, and we'll use that to save up a bit more money toward the cost of a new one.
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My partner wound up with an unexpected windfall. He spoke about it too often where our appliances could hear him. The washing machine has now sprung a leak somewhere in its innards.
Which I wouldn't mind so much, except there's two and a half loads of washing left to go, and neither of them are large enough that I'd be willing to trust them to a laundromat machine. I can't call my mother and ask to use her machine, because hers just sprang a leak earlier this week, while I suspect my partner would have Views about me asking his mother whether it would be okay for us to run them through her machine (of the "oh gods, anything but that" variety).
Either way, the earliest we're going to be able to get the wretched thing repaired is some time next year...
(I told him he was talking about that windfall too loudly and too often!).
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In Response to the Furore re: Clementine Ford
What happened in the Clementine Ford case was this: a bloke said something abusive about her on the internet, in such a way that it could be linked back to his employer. Namely, he had his employer details on his Facebook profile, and Ms Ford brought his online behaviour to his employer's attention. He got sacked as a result of his actions, because his employers didn't want to deal with the negative publicity involved.
Or in other words, this bloke did the online equivalent of yelling abuse at her on public transport while wearing his workplace uniform, getting snapped while doing so, and reported to his employers.
Now, we'd all agree that if someone did something like the second example above, should they get sacked, it was their own silly fault, and they should have behaved civilly in a public setting. We'd agree if a guy yelled abuse at a woman in a public hotel, or a shopping mall while wearing anything with their employer's logo (such as a uniform shirt or similar), the woman they yelled at would be within her rights to report it to their employer, and the employer would be within their rights to sack the damn fool for being too daft to work there any more. We'd agree that if a guy launched into a tirade of abuse at a woman for talking to her friends in the pub, he'd be due at the very least to be barred from being served any more alcohol, and more likely, kicked out by the management.
We readily agree that unprovoked personal abuse in a public context is unacceptable when it's in a face-to-face context, and that if someone does it while being able to be clearly linked to an employer, a professional organisation, a particular religion, or family or so on, then they should bear the social consequences of their actions being reported to those groups. We agree that doing such things while being able to be linked to employers, professional organisations, religions, disapproving family members or similar is something which is likely to fall under the parameters of the Being Bloody Stupid Act - not only do you wear the consequences, but it's expected you're going to wear them politely, suck it up and bloody well deal!
Yet somehow, the apparent expectation is that this bloke (and the many others who do similar things, such as sending abusive and/or harassing emails from their work email accounts), who has done something Bloody Stupid (and Bloody Rude, while we're at it) should be allowed to not only get away with his actions, but that it's positively unfair of Ms Ford to have pointed them out to his employer. That this was somehow an over-reaction, and a vindictive act. That he should not have been forced to deal with the consequences of his behaviour (a behaviour he chose to carry out of his own free will, and which he wasn't, to the best of anyone's knowledge, coerced into by any other person) in an adult fashion.
To be honest, I'm with Ms Ford on this. He brought his problems on himself, and my sympathy is strictly limited.
(PS: Guys, women across the world have already learned this: on the internet, you have precisely as much privacy and anonymity as you can be bothered to carve out. If you can't be arsed to keep your online life strictly segregated from your offline life, then the only damn solution is to ensure your online behaviour is either beyond reproach, or something you would feel positive about defending to your employers, your spouse, your mates, your girlfriend, your mother, your grandmother, your kids, your work colleagues, and anyone else in your offline life who asks about it. Because otherwise, sure as eggs are eggs, your online sins will find you out, eventually).
 Strangely enough, not many women feel it's appropriate to have such details publicly available online. The main reason why not starts with "bl" and rhymes with "folks".
 Ankh-Morpork legal code.
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About "Should" and Mental Health
In the interests of my continuing mental health, I've had to banish a few words and phrases from my vocabulary. One of them is "should".
"Should" is a word which has disappointment built-in from the start. It's a word used to talk about ideal situations, ideal results, ideal worlds. As such, to someone like me with an anxiety disorder, it's essentially poison for the psyche. Because, you see, one of the things at the core of any anxiety disorder is this: we want the world to be perfect. Perfection implies control.
So to someone with an anxiety disorder (and this also includes the vast majority of people with depression, since the two conditions tend to be co-morbid to an astounding degree) a "should" is not a vague ideal to be used as a general directional indicator. Instead, it is a definite goal, which needs to be achieved (in order that the world be perfect). So phrases like "you should know better" or "you should be able to do better than that" or "I shouldn't need to tell you" and so on aren't just expressions of regret for one single instance - they are clear indicators that we have failed on a comprehensive level to achieve the goals set for us. The world is imperfect and it's All Our Fault.
As you can guess, that kind of feeling doesn't do much for anyone's anxiety levels.
Then there's the other kind of "should" - the ones we tell ourselves, the ones which come with the invisible tag of "but I won't". "I should stay on this diet... but I won't". "I should Clean All The Things... but I won't". "I should do this disagreeable task... but I'm not gonna!". Again, not only is the world imperfect, and not only is this All Our Fault, but we're also unable to even rely on ourselves to do things. How hopeless are we?
(Something else which doesn't do much for anyone's anxiety levels).
However, banishing "should" (and its close cousin, "ought to") from your mental vocabulary is a hard thing to do at times. For a start, there's all the externally imposed "shoulds" - the expectations of parents, partners, friends, children, teachers, employers, co-workers, advertisers, marketers, manufacturers and so on. ("You should buy $PRODUCTNAME!") Plus there's all the internal ones, yelled at us by our jerk!brains on constant loop - including the ones which come up as part of the memory tapes bringing up old humiliations to dance on the stage of the Grand Olde Embarrassing Recollection to remind us of what we "should" and "shouldn't" be doing, or have done.
What's the solution to all of this? Well, the one which worked for me was basically stepping back from what I "should" be doing, and asking myself "what, realistically, can I do?" This one works particularly well for the memory tapes. Asking myself "okay, what am I able to do about this problem/issue, right here, right now?" tends to make the tapes suddenly grind to a glitching halt - because usually the answer is "nothing". I can't fix past mistakes from the present. I can make an effort to alter future behaviour, but other than that? There is literally nothing I can do.
This works well for other people's expectations of you as well. I have a lovely little icon (created by Copperbadge a while ago) which reads "Impossibility established early takes the sting out of the rest of the obstacles". If other people want you to do something, if they think you "should" be able to do it, ask yourself: "can I do this?" Are you physically, socially, mentally capable of performing the task they're asking? (This includes such things as "do I have the skills needed?", "do I have the available spare capacity?", "do I have the available spare time?" and, of course, "do I actually want to do this?"). If the answer is "yes", then perform the task. If the answer is "no", then tell them so - give reasons if the person asking is a reasonable person (unreasonable people don't deserve reasons for your answers, because unreasonable people can't or won't be reasoned with).
By bringing things back from the ideal world of "should" to the actual world of "can I, am I, do I, is this" you wind up being a lot more realistic about your own capabilities, and a lot less prone to stressing yourself out over things which are outside your own control.
 You'll note one of the apparent "goals" being set there is fully functional human telepathy. Nobody said the goals of a "should" were ever either realistic or achievable.
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Employment Scammer: "Alex Brook", Brook Construction Company
Apparently-From: Alex Brook (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject Line: [Bulk] Personal Assistant Needed (part time job)
Addressed to me: No
( Scam body under fold )
This is a scam.
Firstly: "Brook Construction Company" doesn't appear to exist - there's quite a few entries in Google for "Brooks Construction Company" in the USA (all in Indiana, according to the map on Google), and one entry for Brook Construction (no "company") in Canada (Newfoundland and Labrador regions).
Secondly: The role of PA is not usually a "work from home" role - or at least, not "work from your own home". "Work from the boss's home", yeah, sure I can see that happening, but it's more likely to be an in-office role. Which means even if this were legit, and even if this were a genuine offer, you'd need to know where the company is based in order to take on the job. (At the very least, you'd need to know the time zone the company is based in - if this were genuinely a US company, as someone in zone GMT+8, I'd need to be working some very unusual hours indeed in order to hold down the job).
Thirdly: If this were a legitimate job offer, it would be on a legitimate job search website. It would not be sent out as a bulk email to random people on a spam mailing list. As always, in situations where economies have contracted and unemployment is high, the power is on the side of the employer - candidates go looking for them, they don't come looking for you unless you have some VERY specialised skill sets, or unless they know you personally and are aware you'd be a good fit.
Legitimate offers of employment generally come from people who have interviewed you - legitimate employers want to make sure you'd be a good fit in their corporate culture, and for a job such as Personal Assistant, there's the need to ensure you're not going to be a poor fit with that particular boss, too.
Fourthly: For a job opportunity, there's remarkably little information about what you're going to be required to do, and how many hours a week you're going to be required to do it. The weekly salary of $350 translates to $8.75 per hour for a standard 40 hour work week (which is, I think, slightly above US minimum wage, but well below the minimum wage here in Australia). So you'd need to know how many hours per week you're expected to work for that $350.
They also don't ask for any skills, and don't ask you to send in a resume. Why, it's almost as though they aren't interested in your skills at all. Which means there must be something else they're after.
Finally: The email addresses don't match up to the offer. The email address this is apparently from is the domain for a psychologist in Germany (and I suspect she's more than a little annoyed about having her email hijacked by spammers). The reply-to address is an AOL throw-away address. If you're dealing with a company large enough for the CEO to need a personal assistant (and let's be honest - the CEO's personal assistant would be a full-time role, not a part-time one) then you'd also expect to be dealing with a company large enough to handle having its own web presence, internal email, and domain.
Don't respond, don't apply, and don't expect to be seeing that $350 per week, either.
(I find with these sorts of things it helps to think of any monetary amounts as the scammer's minimum goal).
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