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megpie71

December 2014

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megpie71: Animated "tea" icon popular after London bombing. (Default)
Thursday, December 18th, 2014 08:02 am
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:

"JOB ACTIVITIES
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[1]. 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).

[1] 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.
megpie71: Sephiroth holding Masamune ready to strike (BFS)
Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 06:45 am
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.
megpie71: Vincent Valentine pointing Cerberus toward the camera (BFG)
Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 08:35 am
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"[1] 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[3][4]. 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.


[1] 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[2].
[2] 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.
[3] 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.
[4] 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!
megpie71: AC Cloud Strife looking toward camera in Sleeping Forest (Cloud 2)
Friday, December 12th, 2014 08:48 am
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.
megpie71: AC Tifa Lockheart looking at camera, very determined (Give me the chocolate & nobody dies)
Tuesday, December 9th, 2014 09:37 am
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.
megpie71: Slave computer, captioned "My most humble apologies, master" (computer troubles)
Tuesday, November 11th, 2014 01:13 pm
There was a thunderstorm yesterday morning. Which I don't mind - I'm not one of those people who gets freaked by thunderstorms (the ones which are more likely to worry me at the moment are hailstorms accompanied by heavy wind - our place has no eaves, so the windows are vulnerable). I lit some incense for the thunder gods, and got on with the day.

Unfortunately, however, the router for our home interwebs decided to die, which may or may not have been connected to the thunderstorm (we're dealing with a lot of second-hand tech here - it may have decided to die for Reasons of its own). However the nyetwork card for our gateway box died at the same time, so it's more than likely to have been a consequence of the thunder gods having their fun and games.

At present, I am on the internet via a rather ancient router (found in Steve's Collection Of Assorted Tech Bits And Pieces He's Never Thrown Out Because We Might Need Them Some Day) and my errand for the day is to find a computer shop and see whether I can get hold of a PCI network card (preferably the oldest and cheapest of their stock, since that means it has more of a chance of fitting into our rather ancient gateway box).

So there's another thing to add to my long-term goals and plans... get enough money together that we can afford to replace all the various discards and spares we're calling our network infrastructure.

Updated later: Apparently PCI network cards are a thing of the past. I managed to get one by heading all the way out to Cannington (from Yangebup) after calling around all over the place to try and find a supplier. Eventually I wound up giving up, phoning the local Dick Smith and asking if they had the part, and when they said "nope", asking if they knew anyone who did. So they referred me to one firm, who referred me on to another group, who referred me on to a third, who wound up having the part. Austin Computers, in Cannington, if anyone's interested.

Doesn't help that putting "computer parts" into the Yellow Pages brings up a thousand and one entries for "Geeks 2 U". Geeks 2 U are a mobile computer service franchise, and the bane of my job-seeking life. When I go searching for part-time work in IT on Seek, about once a month their ad trying to recruit more consultants shows up (they aren't looking for staff, they're looking for sub-contractors with an existing IT repair business to glomp under the umbrella of their franchise). So I start off averse to them to begin with - and I wasn't particularly happy to have them showing up as the major listing for the whole damn category.

It annoys me, because if we want computer parts, we want the actual *parts*. Himself is perfectly capable of wielding his own screwdriver, thanks very much. We don't need to pay someone else a ghastly hourly rate just to drive out here and wave a rubber chicken over the carcass of the gateway box while they plug in a new card. But I couldn't find the place that sold the parts, because it was buried under all these listings (suburb by suburb) for people who'll come and install the wretched things.
megpie71: Simplified Bishie Sephiroth says "Neat!" (Enthuse)
Thursday, November 6th, 2014 12:22 pm
The name is something of a misnomer, as fried rice is definitely easy in all its incarnations. This is the version I make when I have a bit of leftover rice as a result of overdoing the cooking in the week previous.

I tend to start with steamed rice, and if I have two takeaway food containers worth (or about four serves, in other words) then I have enough for frying up.

My usual ingredients for fried rice:

2 - 3 eggs, made up into a bit of an omelette (slice the omelette thinly once it's had a few minutes to cool - I'll generally make it first out of everything).
250g bacon rashers, rind removed and chopped up.
1 onion, diced finely
1 - 2 sticks celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed or very finely chopped
1 tablespoon or so crushed ginger (as in, the stuff you get in a jar)
2 cups frozen peas, corn and carrot mix
approx 1/4 cup soy sauce
approx 4 cups chilled steamed rice

Optional extra ingredients:

* Tinned champignon mushrooms (either whole or sliced)
* Chopped cooked chicken, beef, lamb, pork etc
* 1 tablespoon or so crushed/chopped lemon grass (the stuff you get in a tube)
* 3 spring onions (green onions), sliced
* Chopped chives
* Chopped coriander (cilantro, for our American friends)
* 1 - 3 tablespoons lime juice

Start by making up your omelette - break the eggs into a bowl, mix them up together and add about 1 tablespoon or so of water per egg. Mix together a bit more, then pour into the bottom of a greased frypan or wok (I don't own a wok, so I use a frypan) over a low heat. Slosh the egg around so it covers as much of the surface as possible, then scrape the cooked bits into the middle until you run out of runny egg (tilt the frypan to ensure the runny stuff doesn't clump into the middle of the omelette). Let it sit until the top looks mostly solid, then flip and cook the other side. Don't worry if your omelette breaks up at this stage, because it's only going to get chopped up anyway. Flip all the bits over, cook for about 1 minute on the other side, or until you're pretty sure it's cooked through, then pull it out of the frypan and put it into a spare bowl to cool.

Now, put the chopped up bacon into the frypan, and cook over low heat until it's starting to render up its fat. This is a good way of using up cheap, fatty bacon, because the grease gets used to cook everything else, and the meat just melds into things nicely.

Next, add the onion. If you're doing this like me, and prepping things as you go, you'll be chopping the onion as the bacon is rendering, and lo and behold, just as you've got the first half of the onion chopped, the bacon will have yielded enough grease to ensure the onion doesn't stick to the pan! If you're prepping things first, cook the onion until it's starting to turn transparent before adding the next ingredient.

Next up is the celery. Again, if you're prepping as you go, the onion will be just starting to get transparent as you add it. You want this to cook until it's just starting to soften a bit, so about 3 minutes.

Next, add the garlic and the ginger together. If you're adding lemon grass and/or meat, now is the time to put them in as well. Stir well to make sure everything is blended together.

Next, stir in the frozen vegetables. If you're adding champignon mushrooms, make sure you quarter the whole ones, and throw the liquid in as well. This stage is going to take about 5 minutes, because you're wanting to make certain the vegetables are all cooked (as well as breaking up any frozen lumps of them that have slipped in).

While the veges are cooking, start looking at the rice. If, like me, you don't rinse your rice before cooking it by the absorption method, what you'll have is a bunch of solid lumps of starchy rice sitting in your containers. The easiest way to deal with this, and get the grains separated is to rinse the whole lot under HOT running water in a sieve, breaking up the lumps by hand if necessary (just squeeze gently under the water and they'll fall apart). Also, take a few seconds to slice your omelette (thought we'd forgotten that, hadn't you?) reasonably thinly. Basically, you're looking at bits of egg about the size of everything else.

Add the soy sauce to the frypan now, and stir well. Yes, it looks like a lot of soy sauce, but don't worry, the rice will soak it all up.

Speaking of which, now is the time to dump in the rice. If you want to be careful, add it in spoonful by spoonful. If you don't mind wiping down the stove later (who am I fooling? You'll be wiping down the stove even if you are careful), just dump it all in at once. Stir well to combine and heat through. You'll notice the rice goes a nice brown colour, which it's supposed to.

This is the point where you add the omelette (as well as the sliced green onions, the chives, the coriander and the lime juice if you're using those). Stir briefly to combine and heat everything through, then turn off the heat and serve. The recipe I've listed makes about four to six servings, and keeps well in the fridge overnight if you want some for lunch tomorrow. (I've no idea whether it lasts longer than that, because it usually doesn't in our household!).

The frypan you use for this recipe needs to be BIG, and even with a large frypan, you'll still probably wind up wiping rice off the stove and its surroundings - this is a recipe which gets everywhere. But it's fun to make, and it's a useful way of using up leftovers. (Incidentally, my other favourite for using up leftover rice is kedgeree, but it requires me to have some smoked cod on hand in the freezer, and also Steve doesn't particularly like it. Fried rice he likes).
megpie71: Vincent Valentine pointing Cerberus toward the camera (BFG)
Tuesday, November 4th, 2014 04:37 pm
To all the Americans who read my blog: It’s already Tuesday here in Australia. It’s voting day. Democracy is a participatory system of government. You owe it to yourselves and everyone else around you to get out there and vote.

Yes, even if you don’t like any of the available candidates. One of those people on the ballot is going to be representing YOU for the next however many years, whether you like them or not. So get out there and vote for the one you dislike least. If you don’t vote, you don't get a say in whoever represents you.

Yes, even if you’re in a gerrymandered district where there’s no chance the incumbent is going to lose. The more people go out and vote, the more votes the incumbent needs to win the election, and the bigger the chance they can lose. If 100% of eligible voters vote, the winning candidate needs to have the support of at least 50% of the people. If only 50% of eligible voters in an electorate vote, the winning candidate only has to be supported by 25% of the population. If only 20% of the voters get out there and vote, the candidate needs 10% of the population voting for them to win. The more people get out there and vote, the higher the bar the candidates have to get over in order to win. Even if you’re in a gerrymandered district, and the incumbent is going to get over the bar anyway, you can at least hope they sprain their back doing so!

ESPECIALLY if you’re in a state which has voter ID restrictions, and you have the right ID. Voter ID is essentially an effort to restrict the voting population to those people who will support the status quo. As per my paragraph above, the fewer people are eligible to vote in a district, the fewer people the candidate has to appeal to in order to win the district. Voter ID laws try to restrict the population and knock down the difficulty level for the big candidates.

Even if you “don’t care about politics”. Politics is all around you. It’s in the air you breathe (whether that air is breathable is a political decision); it’s in the water you drink (whether you’re able to drink the water or not is a political decision); it’s in the food you eat; the job you work at; whether you can find a job or not. Politics is in everything, because politics is about power. The one guaranteed, non-criminal way you can affect things in the current system is by voting. So get out there and vote, and start regaining a bit of control over the world.

Even if you don’t think it matters. It matters, because you are taking back the power the politicians are given. Even if you don’t believe your vote will accomplish anything. Your vote on its own will not make much of a change, this is true. But it will accomplish more than not voting will.

Find your nearest polling place. Get out there and vote. The big boys with the big bucks don’t ask your opinion very often, but when they do you’re a fool to yourself and a menace to others if you let the chance go by without taking it.
megpie71: Kerr Avon quote: Don't philosophise at me you electronic moron; answer the question (don't philosophise)
Monday, November 3rd, 2014 06:28 am
Game Genre: Hidden Object
Story Genre: Science Fiction/Steampunk/Time Travel
Developers: Lazy Turtle Games
Cost: 4 WildCoins to rent; 20 WildCoins to buy

Game Play: This one varied wildly between "oh good grief, I should have put my brain in a bucket before starting" and "oh good grief, just give me a useful hint, drat you!".

I found I consistently needed hints in hidden object scenes. I also found I was consistently needing hints in the main game itself, and the game hints are ... less than helpful. I certainly didn't find them very useful in most cases.

The game itself is pretty straightforward, and if you know the conventions of the hidden object genre, it's all pretty self-explanatory. There are a limited number of scenes in each "area", so to speak, and you can't leave an area until you've completed its objective. You can't complete the objective without clearing the area in each of the scenes you're looking at, and the in-game "map" (you can select the scenes from a maximum of about five in a rotating wheel) is very easy to master, and shows clearly which areas you've cleared.

The non-hidden object puzzles are a nice mixed bunch, including one "Tower of Hanoi" and a few interesting "match three" style puzzles.

Plot/Tropes: Simple almost to the point of absence, the storyline can be summarised as "complete tasks at various improbable points throughout fictional history in order to obtain clues regarding the location of your eccentric inventor grandfather".

I think my biggest "grr" about it is the description on the Wild Tangent site lists it as being "historical". The "history" in this story is fictionalised and bland to the point of ridicule - about the only genuinely historical figures you meet are Christopher Columbus (who is depicted as being greedy for gold) and Pharaoh Amenhotep (building a pyramid). You meet both Perseus and Theseus out of Greek myth, a stereotypical Mayan shaman wanting you to conceal their secret knowledge and become The One, a stereotypical Viking raider, Robin Hood and King Arthur, D'Artagnan of the Three Musketeers and the Compte de Monte Cristo, not to mention one of Jules Verne's characters and a stereotypical caveman. Each of these "historical" interludes is shallower than the average puddle, and anyone with any historical knowledge whatsoever will tend to cringe rather thoroughly.

Effects: Not much by way of animation (what there is tends to be paper doll style) and no voice acting (all text based). I'm willing to give them a pass on this because they clearly knew their limits and didn't try to go much beyond them. The majority of the animation budget is spent on the front "attract mode" screen.

Overall: Four out of ten for game play (I would have marked it higher, but the wildly inconsistent difficulty told against it); two out of ten for storyline (sorry guys, I'm a history buff and anachronisms make me itch), and six out of ten for effects (because they knew their limits and stuck within them). I'd suggest this one for kids more than adults - it certainly isn't aimed at adult plot level. If you have some nine-year-olds you want to keep busy on a wet Sunday afternoon, this game might be fun for them.
megpie71: 9th Doctor resting head against TARDIS with repeated *thunk* text (frustration)
Friday, October 31st, 2014 12:43 pm
Producers/Creators: Brave Giant Studio
Cost: 4 WildCoins per play
Game Genre: Hidden Object/Puzzle
Plot Genre: Fairytale/Fantasy

Game Play: The hidden object genre tends toward two extremes - either fiendishly difficult, or pathetically straightforward. This game is the latter. The hidden objects aren't particularly well hidden, the puzzles are largely solvable through brute force and ignorance (really guys, one sequence-themed puzzle per game is plenty - having one after another after another really takes the gilt off the gingerbread), and the collectable elements are less than apparent.

I should explain. The hidden object scenes are generally pretty simple to find everything (to the point where I frequently didn't need to use the hint at all, and I'd pretty much given up on this game and put my brain in a bucket after seeing the opening animation). The puzzle mini-games tend toward toward 6-component "do things in the correct sequence" types, which means you need a maximum of 15 attempts to solve things (at 1 attempt per second, this means you're finishing most of the puzzles before your 30 second wait time for skipping them is completed). About the only challenging part is the "collectables" mini-game, where you have to collect four different types of object (one for each zone of the game, not that anything really clarifies this for you) in order to furnish a "throne room" area.

Plot and Tropes: The player character is a queen who has married her handsome prince and is just about to get her little baby daughter blessed by the court wizard. There's an evil wizard, a steampunk-styled dragon, a kraken and a gryphon to battle. This is a fairy-tale themed fantasy so generic it's ridiculous.

It also has one of my LEAST favourite game plot tropes - the "you have to hurry" plot, with no actual time limitation. Seriously, designers, if your plot is telling me to rush to save the baby or the world or whatever, you need to actually find a way of injecting this urgency into the game play. Telling me "X will happen if you don't hurry" when I know full well I could walk away from the game (while leaving it running on my system) for an hour or two, or even a week, and nothing will advance until I get back... well, it loses all impact. I know I'm going to be able to complete the challenge in time, so having the villain repeatedly tell me I won't isn't really cutting it as a threat, or even a realistic plot device. Why not go with "you'll never stop my fiendish plan" instead? At least that has the advantage of being plot relevant.

Aside from that the plot is so linear you can clearly see the end from the beginning, and there aren't even any interesting twists or bends along the way. The resolution of the main plot is vastly unsatisfying, and really did not enthuse me to play the "bonus" chapter (during which you presumably work to resolve the biggest dangling plot thread).

Effects: Imagine the cheapest paper doll animation you've ever seen. This is the standard this game uses. Very pretty pictures from magazines, cut out and moved in rather jerky stop-motion fashion. To be honest, if you're going to use such good visuals and such poor animation, I'd prefer if the animation wasn't going to be played "straight", as this was.

There's voice overs which die out about a quarter of the way through the game, and they're never in synch with the actual mouth movements (which may have been an English-language localisation issue, but is still rather annoying to view). The maps are primitive, but then, they aren't really needed from one scene to the next.

The voice acting is okay, but it loses a lot from the poor quality of the animation. Again, if you're going to have very poor animation, the least that could be done with it is making it into a feature rather than a bug - put a lampshade on it, play around with the whole business.

Overall: I gave this game 2/10 for game play, 1/10 for plot, and 1/10 for effects. Very poor, positively enjoyed deleting it off my system.
megpie71: 9th Doctor resting head against TARDIS with repeated *thunk* text (thunk)
Thursday, October 30th, 2014 07:12 am
Found here on the ABC

As a Western Australian, I would like to take this opportunity to call on the Minister for Education to amend the religious education curriculum as follows:

Taking the following set of religions -

* Christianity
* Judaism
* Islam
* Hinduism
* Sikhism
* Buddhism

Cover the following topics:

* Key theological and doctrinal concepts (eg major deity/deities, major prophets/philosophers/theorists, major holidays and the story behind them)
* Key internal splits (for example, in Christianity you'd be looking the difference between Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Christianity; in Judaism, between Reform and Orthodox Judaism; in Islam, the differences between the Sunni and the Shia; etc etc etc) and the reasons given for these splits.
* Worship practices past and present.
* Conversion and Exit practices (is it possible to convert to the religion; if so how; is it possible to leave the religion; if so how; what penalties exist for leaving the religion; etc)
* Places of worship, and iconography (How to spot a place of worship for $FAITH from the outside, if you're so daft you can't read the signs at the front gate).

Hopefully such changes to the curriculum would at least ensure future generations of bigoted nincompoops will be able to target the correct places of worship with their idiotic scrawl. This will prevent us all from being embarrassed by their combination of both bigotry and ignorance.

(One or the other of bigotry or ignorance I can handle. Both at once... well, there's something which needs addressing there).

EDITED 7.35am 30 OCT 2014 - post in haste, edit at leisure.
megpie71: Avon standing in front of Zen's dome, caption "Confirmed" (confirmed)
Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 08:36 am
Okay, so Marvel have announced that CA3 is going to be "Civil War". Given I wrote out an 800-word plus screed about why I don't think the Civil War plotline would work in the MCU yesterday, my first thought here was "Curse you, Marvel Studios!".

So, here's the core reason why I didn't think it would work: the Civil War storyline in the comics was built on over thirty years of context wherein Tony Stark and Steve Rogers have a strong friendship. That was part of what helped make the Civil War storyline into the tragedy it was. We don't have that context in the MCU. Instead, the only context we have so far is Steve and Tony arguing fairly persistently all the way through "Avengers", and being shown as being pretty solidly coming from completely different perspectives all the way along. Yes, they manage to work together to fix the helicarrier and to fight the Chitauri, but we don't know how much of that is Steve and how much Tony - there are still hints of very deep ideological differences which aren't really explored in their discussion of Coulson's death. There are NO hints toward any further contact in any of the other films - no phone calls in Iron Man 3 or Captain America 2 (the nearest we get to the hint of a link is Tony Stark being targeted by the Insight helicarriers in CA2, but he would have been targeted by HYDRA because of his intelligence and his "loose cannon" attitude anyway, no matter whether or not he had a relationship with the Captain). We don't know what's going to be happening in Age of Ultron yet, but I suspect they're going to be arguing there, too - we certainly don't see any signs of them working together in the one trailer which has been released.

So the Civil War plotline as it was being used in the comics isn't going to be feasible, because there just isn't the emotional context for it.

This means the Civil War plotline has to be rethought, which I know is going to get a lot of the fanbois up in arms. Hey, Kevin Feige has actually said it isn't going to be like the Civil War plotline in the comics (for which I am devoutly thankful). Fortunately, they're handing it to the Russos, who have shown they can handle tricky material (Captain America 2 in the wrong hands could have been terrible - instead it worked brilliantly).

I suspect it's going to be building on the events of Captain America 2, and on official unease about and distrust of Steve Rogers as Captain America. After all, if you look at the storyline of CA2 from the outside, there's a LOT to be uneasy about. The man was declared a fugitive by a trusted bureaucrat and the head at the time of the agency he was working for; he vanished off the radar for two days, re-appears to assault another agent of the same agency, killing him (this is how they're going to push away Sitwell's murder by the Winter Soldier) and vanishes again[1]. The next day, he's responsible for a terrorist attack on a major government agency, massive property destruction and the effective destruction of the entire US intelligence community - and he's vanished off the map once more and is apparently being PROTECTED by other so-called superheroes! The HYDRA sympathisers (not the outright members; there was evidence in the wrap-up of CA2 they were being purged) in the government will be wanting his head.

(Let's make it clear here: at least part of the point of CA2 was that the aims of HYDRA, and of the Nazis, were always congruent with the aims of the upper echelons of any society - eternal glorification and privileging of their own, and suppression of dissent within the lower orders. This is why HYDRA was able to snuggle itself inside SHIELD - because the aims of SHIELD were essentially to preserve the status quo, and to suppress dissent within the lower orders. HYDRA wasn't a parasite inside SHIELD - it was a symbiote.)

Anything which happens in Age of Ultron will merely confirm the doubts of the doubters about the sanity and motivations of Steve Rogers.

So I suspect the Civil War will be run very much along the lines of "is this so-called Captain America a terrorist threat to America?" or "Has Cap gone crazy?" If the whole thing is run along those lines, I suspect the end of the Civil War plotline may wind up largely paralleling the "Nomad" storyline of the 1970s - Steve Rogers resigns the role of Captain America, and goes off to look for America and see whether he can find himself fitting in anywhere.

[1] In this version, the Winter Soldier's appearance and attack is written off as "the Winter Soldier was Barnes, his best friend! Obviously they set it up to throw off suspicion!" conspiracy stuff.
megpie71: Simplified Bishie Sephiroth says "Neat!" (Enthuse)
Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 10:40 am
(Because I like this one and want to share it with people).

Take a mug, and put in two generous teaspoons of Nutella or equivalent choc-hazelnut spread. Add milk (I use full cream milk, because if I'm going to have an indulgence, it's going to be an indulgence, godsdamnit!) to the point where it just covers the spread at the bottom of the mug (so your mug is going to be at most 1/4 full).

Stir until smooth. Add more cold milk to the halfway mark. Stir again until combined. Now fill the mug to the top and stir again. You'll probably have small lumps of chocolate-hazelnut spread here and there, and you'll almost certainly have some smears of it along the edges of the mug as well as all the stuff which was on the spoon which hasn't combined into things. Don't worry.

Put the mug into the microwave, and heat on high for 1 minute. Take it out and stir again - this time, stir until all the chocolate hazelnut spread on the spoon melts and dissolves into the milk.

Put the mug back into the microwave and heat on high for another minute. Stir again to combine, and drink. If you're really feeling indulgent, and have the appropriate bits and pieces, you can top it with whipped cream and maybe some drinking chocolate dusted on top, but it's lovely just the way it is now. Enjoy.

(If you don't have a microwave, you can probably make it on the stovetop, but you'll need to watch it like a hawk - milk tends to scorch easily.)
megpie71: Slave computer, captioned "My most humble apologies, master" (computer troubles)
Monday, October 27th, 2014 08:28 am
Game Genre: Hidden Object
Plot Genre: Fantasy
Producers/Creators: Wild Tangent Games, Little Gaming Company
Cost: 4 WildCoins to play (68c Australian based on 50 WildCoins for $8.50)

Gameplay: The "hidden object" genre of games tends toward two extremes of gameplay. On the one hand, there's the games where you're going to be led by the nose from plot point to plot point, with very clear instructions all along the way. On the other hand, there's the games where "what should I do next" is as obscure as all get-out, and where the gamer spends a lot of time clicking wildly on just about anything in frame in the optimistic hope of finding out what they should be doing now. "Mysteries and Nightmares: Morgiana" fits itself extremely firmly into the latter category.

You're given a couple of general hints on whether there's something you need to be doing in a particular scene in the gargoyles which support either side of your inventory tray - if their eyes are glowing, there's something you can do here. Trust me, you will NEED those gargoyle hints, because the actual "hint" hint itself is about as vague as a political promise from a candidate who is seeking broad-base support from a rather apathetic electorate[1]. The "map" function also proves helpful here - learn to love the map, you're going to be referring to it a lot.

Why are you going to be referring to the map a lot? Well, unlike other games of this type, if you're in a room where you can't do anything at the moment, clicking on the hint will merely get you the information either that you can't do anything at present, or you've completed all the tasks in that room. Given you get that information from the gargoyles, this is no help whatsoever (other games of this type will at least let the hint button point you backwards out of the room). On the map, however, you are able to discover that a room you entered about five, ten, or fifteen pages back has something you can complete (and it allows you to jump directly to that room, rather than walking there the long way) which will, hopefully, trigger other options elsewhere. Or at least let you complete a hidden object puzzle to find the mcguffin which will allow you to move on to the next plot point.

Your tasks and notes are kept in the notebook, accessible through clicking on your heroine's portrait in the upper left corner of the screen - the number below the portrait is the number of outstanding tasks you have waiting to be completed. As per genre rules, the resolution of one or more of these tasks is tied up together. Unlike other examples of this genre, you aren't able to access your previously completed tasks, or your notes on previous sections of the plot.

In the actual hidden object sections, there's a pleasing lack of the "disguise things as other things" visual trope which tends to bedevil some examples of the genre[2] - instead all the player has to contend with is the challenge of knowing what to look for. For example, when the list of objects says "bow", do they mean "bow as in Hawkeye or Green Arrow's weapon-of-choice (longbow)" or do they mean "bow as in loopy knot (bow tie/ribbon bow)"? This is a pretty common thing in the genre, and is (for me) the cause of at least some swearing when, after spending ages chasing down everything else on the list, I eventually click on a hint and get taken to something I've been looking right at, but know by a different name. This is basically the developers exploiting a bug (or possibly a feature) of the English language, and it's pretty genre-typical.

Plot and Tropes: Okay, we have an amnesiac heroine who has been captured from their home and dumped down in a decrepit castle and has to figure out who she is, what she's supposed to do, and how to get home. There are magical talking animals (well, one talking mouse), magical wands, and whole heaps of creepy statues, skeletons, and torn tapestries all over the place. The furniture doesn't talk, fortunately.

Essentially, it's a story which is about sisterhood and rivalry. The female characters are so generic they just about come plain wrapped (one dark haired, red-eyed, pale-skinned evil princess who wears dark red; one blonde-haired, blue-eyed, pale-skinned good ditto, wearing pink), there's only one masculine speaking role (the aforementioned talking mouse) and the resolution of this plot is rather hackneyed and hasty - it's as though the writers basically got told "we need a four hour storyline - no more, no less" and when they reached the four hour mark, it got chopped off short. It's a pity, in some ways, because there were some interesting plot hooks which could have yielded some fascinating developments had they been further examined (for example: we're told using magic sends the users insane; one of the things the player character is required to do on a regular basis is to use magic to achieve certain effects...).

Effects: There were some animated cut-scenes, and some reasonable voice acting, although the accent tended to wander around a bit (trying for English, occasionally drifting to northern USA). The voice actors at least did appear to be acting, rather than reciting things blankly off the page, so that was a nice change; also the CGI scenes didn't veer too far into the uncanny valley space.

Overall: It was interesting, but not that interesting, and the frustratingly opaque nature of the gameplay really did decrease my enjoyment of the game. Compared against other games of the genre, I'd give it three out of ten for gameplay, six out of ten for plot, and five out of ten for effects.


[1] You know the ones - "We may well do some unspecified thing at some unspecified time provided it doesn't annoy anyone too much".
[2] If you've ever played a hidden object game where the ruler or pencil you're supposed to find is disguised as part of a ceiling beam, you know sort of stuff I'm referrring to here.
megpie71: Vincent Valentine pointing Cerberus toward the camera (BFG)
Friday, October 24th, 2014 07:16 am
When I bought this laptop (say "hi", Orac) it came with a program for "Wild Tangent Games" on it and some games pre-loaded. I was sorta interested, so I took a look, and it turned out to be quite rewarding.

For those not in the know, Wild Tangent are basically a "small games" (what the industry calls "casual games"[1]) publishing and distribution house. They provide marketing opportunities for small games, and offer them on a try-rent-buy basis to people like you and me who can't be arsed chasing things around Steam or Origin or whatever. They're the ones who introduced me to Bejewelled and Plants vs Zombies, so they're not all bad, and every week their little launch application updates with a new selection of games to choose from, as well as links to various MMO flash games out there on the web.

If you download a game from their "store", you get one free play (so you can decide whether or not you like it) and then subsequent plays are on a rental basis, paid for with "WildCoins" - you get 50 WildCoins for about $8.50 Australian, and a typical game use costs between 4 and 6 coins, usually about 5. Lately, they're offering the "buy for WildCoins" option as well - pay about 20 WildCoins, and you get to have the game for unlimited use. It probably isn't the best bargain for the developers, but for an unemployed person like me, it's pretty damn great.

Lately I've been downloading a lot of Hidden Object games. The basic thing about hidden object games is they're built around the old "find the objects listed below we've hidden in this picture" puzzles, and they're often quite challenging. There seem to be a few separate sub-genres - one in which you're participating in an interactive storyline (where one of the objects you're finding is going to be useful to you in overcoming the next set of puzzles you're going to be facing); another in which you're given a reward for finding the objects (points or money) and you "spend" your reward on improving a scenario (renovating a mansion, updating a farm, decorating a garden, updating a room etc); and a third where the object is basically just to complete all the puzzles and have done with it. I'm fondest of the "interactive storyline" games, because they're usually fairly interesting, and I've always been a plot junkie.

The thing I find about these games as well is they're generally pretty good for sitting down and ploughing through in one sustained burst (which means I can download an "interactive-storyline" hidden object game, and play it all through in one day) and they have (for me) very low re-playability (which means I can do that one burst as the "free try" play through, and then delete the game). If I have to split the game into a couple of play throughs (say if I start one in the evening after dinner but before I go to bed) then I'll usually get about half to three-quarters of the way through before I need to stop.

So this is how I'm doing most of my gaming these days - I download games from Wild Tangent, play them through, and then delete them off the hard drive.

Why am I stepping up to mention this, and starting to review these games? Well, blame the charming young fools from #gamergate for that. I'm female, I'm forty-three, and I've been playing one form or another of electronic game since I was about twelve. I have been an electronic game player for over thirty years now, and I'm annoyed at these nincompoops trying to claim MY identity as being either inferior to their own, or disclaiming it entirely, or trying to claim I stand with them. So I'm going to be looking at games with a mind to reviewing them in future, as a woman, as an older woman, and as a person who isn't socially permitted to claim the label of "gamer" without getting pilloried for it. Just so these little darlings can see they aren't the only fish in the pond, and that there's more to gaming than buying what's latest and greatest on the X-box or Playstation. Hey, if it helps some developers get an idea of what I'm looking for, and what does and doesn't work for people like me, all the better.

[1] I don't like the term "casual gamer" because of the implication it carries that someone who sinks multiple hours into playing Bejewelled or Chuzzles on the "infinite play" levels as part of their daily commuting routine, spends ages trying to get each level of a time management game completed to "gold" standard, and goes through a couple of different hidden object games every month across PC, console and smartphone platforms is somehow inherently not as committed to playing electronic games as someone who only sinks their hours into playing FPPPMSEU[2] on their console on Saturday nights. So I use "small games" instead - because they only ask for a small block of contiguous time, rather than the multi-hour chunks required by the larger games.
[2] First Person Perspective Pseudo-Military Shoot-'Em-Ups.
megpie71: Vincent Valentine pointing Cerberus toward the camera (Bang)
Friday, October 10th, 2014 06:08 am
One of the unfortunate hazards for the modern job seeker is the presence of scammers in the job market. These are people who have the nerve to be sending out emails purporting to be job offers, but which are actually offers to open your bank account to these people for cleaning out. I've received a couple of these, and given I'm unemployed and don't have that many assets to start with, I tend to take it a bit personally. So here's how to spot a scam.

The first big hint is you're receiving a job offer out of the blue from a company you've never applied to. The two companies I've received out of the blue offers from are RLB Solution Company, and Constellation Travels. I know I've never applied to these companies, because I keep track of where I'm sending my applications (I'm required to in order to get unemployment benefit). Genuine employers wait for you to contact them. Genuine employers aren't trawling for employees, because employment in the current economy is a buyer's market - there are more people looking for work than there are jobs available.

(Yes, there is such a thing as the head-hunter, who is seeking to get people to move from one employer to another. The thing about head-hunters, though, is they're hunting up at the top end of the market, for people with highly specialised skill sets. They aren't looking around the bottom of the market for lowly Administrative Assistants and Sales Assistants).

The second big hint is when you receive a job offer with no other contact whatsoever. No interview, no preliminary contact, nothing except the job offer showing up in your email box.

A genuine employer will want to interview you. They're wanting to make you a part of their workforce, which means they're going to be looking for the signs of both psychological and literal bad breath or poor hygiene, or anything else which might make for problems in fitting you into their team. Scammers, on the other hand, are looking to find their victim and bleed them dry with the minimum amount of effort, and keep things as impersonal and distanced as possible along the way.

Third big hint is that the job appears to involve a lot of money for not very much work. One of the primary rules for avoiding scammers of all persuasions is this: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Again, the current economy is a buyer's market for employers. So they're not going to be offering you high wages to try and get you started in a low-skilled position. Instead, they're more likely to be low-balling you. A scammer, by contrast, wants to use your greed to hook you in and get you interested, so they're going to be offering lots of money for not much actual work.

Now, some little things which also contribute to the setting off of the "scam" flag. The first is the employer doesn't appear to be located in your country. Now, both of my out-of-the-blue offers ping this one good and hard. RLB Solution turns out to be a firm which appears to be based in Germany (so why are they looking to hire someone in Australia if they don't have an Australian office?). Constellation Travels is based in the Philippines, and also don't have an Australian office (although they say they're going to be opening one in September 2014... pity it's already October).

(If you aren't an actual, established business broker, why would a company be contacting you in order to set up a new office in a country they don't currently do business with? Again, see the "too good to be true" clause).

The second is the company doesn't appear to have a serious web presence. RLB Solution has a website which appears to consist of one page, in German, plus a PDF file (http://rlbsolution.com/vacansy%28eng%29.pdf) detailing the job they have open[1]. The job description is the only part of the site which is actually in English, and they don't offer an English-language translation.

Constellation Travels, by contrast, has a website which is all about offering bespoke Asian tours to rich customers, mostly in the USA and Europe. They don't have a careers page, and they don't appear to be recruiting. Also their news highlights stop at February 2011.

The third one is the people who are contacting you appear not to have a web presence either. Or rather, their web presence is rather insubstantial. For example, the person contacting me from RLB Solution purports to be Anna Stern, their Hiring Coordinator, Human Resources. Except... she isn't mentioned on their website. She doesn't appear to exist on LinkedIn. The nearest Facebook has for her is Anne Stern. The same goes for the person who's supposed to be contacting me from Constellation Travels, Adrian Forlan. He isn't mentioned on their website. He doesn't appear to exist on LinkedIn. He isn't available on Facebook.

What's even more interesting - neither of them appear to have an online presence anywhere else, either. I'm not on Facebook or LinkedIn myself, but I have a fairly wide-ranging history online.

None of these minor things are really key indicators on their own. It's the combination of all of them which sets my "scam" flag to snapping in the metaphorical breeze.

But of course, the real indicator is in the job descriptions, once you finally access them. If anyone is offering you money to "process online transactions" or "process transactions via Western Union", it's a pretty good warning they're not planning to actually give you money. They're planning to take all of yours. Most banks in most countries these days will deal quite successfully in currency exchange - it's not like it's a huge issue. So what would they need you for? Why would they need access to your bank account to "process transactions"?

They don't. The reason they need access to your bank account is so they can take all your money instead.

So, if any of you out there are getting emails from Anna Stern of rlbsolution.com, or Adrian Forlan of constellationtravels.com, offering jobs you can't remember applying for, just hit delete.


[1] Incidentally, this pings off another warning - the job offers payment in $NZ, not $AU. If they're not even offering payment in my currency, why do they need an Australian representative again?
megpie71: Simplified bishie Rufus Shinra says "Heee!" (Ha ha only serious)
Thursday, October 9th, 2014 07:45 am
(I'm having one of my periodic fits of "I should try and post something every day to get into the habit again". So this is something I've had sitting around on the hard drive for a while now. Enjoy).

Take a mug. Into it put 2 teaspoons of drinking chocolate powder. Add 1 teaspoon of Moccona Hazelnut flavoured instant coffee, 1 teaspoon of Moccona Classic medium roast instant coffee, and 2 teaspoons of coffee crystals (large crystal form raw sugar - you could substitute raw or brown sugar to taste, but white sugar doesn't quite taste right[2]). Add about 2 tablespoons boiling water - enough to basically cover the bottom 1/5 of the mug, in other words. Stir until everything is pretty much dissolved (it won't be, and you'll find this out later, but it'll all look dissolved anyway).

Now top it up with milk. Whole milk, for preference (I figure if I'm going to have myself an indulgence, it's going to be a proper indulgence, thank you very much). If you have one of those fancy coffee makers which can froth the milk, top with hot milk[3]. For the rest of us, use cold milk. This is the point where you'll discover your components haven't properly dissolved. Stir well, until things are pretty well combined, anyway.

If you've used cold milk, you now turn to the miracle of modern engineering which is the microwave. Put the mug in there for one minute at standard temperature. Take it out. Stir some more. Put it back in for another minute. Stir again. By this time, the coffee is hot, smells wonderful, and tastes great when you drink it. If it isn't hot enough, you probably need maybe another thirty seconds or more in the microwave. Stir after each cooking period.

Drink, and enjoy. Limit yourself to one per day, lest the caffiend visit his hallmark of the withdrawal headache on you the following morning (also, it's hard to get people to take you seriously when you're bouncing off the walls).

(The big secret here is making the coffee with milk rather than water. The milk smooths out a lot of the bitterness, and it adds a bit of extra sugar of its own. This is another reason for using whole milk. This is also at least part of why the coffee you get from a coffee shop tastes better than the stuff you make at home - watch the baristas sometime, and you'll see they tend to be making the coffees mostly with milk rather than water).

[1] In my opinion, anyway.
[2] Coffee tastes better with the touch of molasses in either raw or brown sugar - it seems to smooth out a bit of the bitterness. White sugar adds sweetness without the smoothing effect of the molasses.
[3] Although, if you have one of those fancy coffee makers which can froth the milk, you're probably not going to be faffing around with instant coffee in the first place. In which case, mine's a hazelnut mocha with two sugars.
megpie71: Avon looking unimpressed, caption "Bite Me" (bite me)
Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 08:33 am
The Abbott government has decided they're going to back down on their proposals to get jobseekers to look for up to forty jobs per month (10 jobs per week, double the current maximum). This is being greeted with sighs of relief in some quarters, and in others by comments along the line of "drop the other shoe, why don't you?". I'm one of the latter.

I'm one of the latter because, as I mentioned on the ABC's comments on the article yesterday, I remember the sighs of relief which accompanied their late-April announcement they weren't going to be seeking a $5 co-payment for GP visits... which turned to shrieks of outrage when they brought in plans for a $7 co-payment for GP visits instead. Now, the word is they've taken this step on receipt of community feedback, but the strong impression is the majority of the feedback they're listening to is from the business community - and the business community basically screamed blue murder about it because it would have meant they'd be inundated with job applications from people who were essentially seeking to meet their weekly targets, whether or not they were eligible for the jobs in question.

So let's be clear on this: the Abbott Liberal Government has not given up on plans to punish the unemployed for being unemployed, and they have not given up on the notion of making all forms of welfare more onerous and unpleasant than they already are - they are neo-liberal ideologues to a man (and woman), and they strongly believe being poor is something which intrinsically deserves punishment. There's already talk of extending income management, and making it a compulsory requirement for receiving welfare - or in other words, your welfare payment will come on a specified card, rather than being deposited into your bank account; it will only be able to be spent on certain things, and you will only be able to buy these things in certain locations; and if you aren't on state housing, it's unlikely your landlord is going to accept it as payment for your rent. They haven't backed down on the six month waiting period for people under the age of thirty, and they certainly haven't backed down on the notion of extending work for the dole.

Quite frankly, I'm still waiting on them bringing back the notion of workhouses.
megpie71: Impossibility established early takes the sting out of the rest of the obstacles (Impossibility)
Monday, July 28th, 2014 08:43 pm
The latest bit of brilliance[1] on the part of our glorious[1] elected leaders is to continue doubling down on the unemployed. In the next edition of "the floggings will continue until unemployment decreases" thinking, there's a brilliant plan in the works to have the unemployed required to submit up to forty applications for jobs per month (ten applications per week), starting in July next year.

The current maximum rate is ten applications per fortnight, or one application per day.

On top of this, if you're between the ages of 18 and 30, you'll be required to sign up for 25 hours per week of work for the dole; if you're between 30 and 49, you'll be required to put in 15 hours a week; if you're over 50, you get to volunteer for it if you want to.

Have some references:

Unemployed to be forced to apply for 40 jobs a month as part of $5 billion dole overhaul

Industry concerned about Coalition's 40-job-applications-a month plan

Work for dole program to be expanded to include almost all jobseekers

Work For The Dole Doesn't Work And Never Has

Now, as I mentioned in my post of 25 JUN 2014, we're already seeing an increase in the experience required in order to get a job - it's gone up to an average of 2 - 5 years recent experience in role (or equivalent) since the budget in early May. I have a suspicion by July next year, we might be looking at a minimum of five to seven years recent experience in role to be considered. Or in other words "so much for working your way up the ranks".

The business community has already spoken up about this one, concerned they're going to be flooded with applications from people who are mainly concerned with getting together their numbers and meeting their targets. Already, employers have largely ceased replying to application letters unless you're a successfully short-listed candidate - a number of ads are saying explicitly that only short-listed candidates will be contacted. Or in other words, applying for these jobs is a bit like Don Marquis' lovely metaphor regarding publishing poetry in the US market - he compared that to dropping a rose petal into the Grand Canyon, and listening for the echo of it hitting bottom.

I find this depressing enough when I'm only required to apply for five jobs a fortnight.

One of the more interesting snarky suggestions on the Guardian's comments is sending regular applications and query letters to the offices of Liberal Party MPs and Senators. I'm strongly tempted, I must admit. Just write up a form letter, put together a brief database of names and addresses, and set the silly thing going on a weekly basis. I'd need fifteen candidates a week to bring me up to the level required for forty a month, and it'd be almost cathartic after another week of combing through jobs databases trying to find something suitable to apply for. Oh, and just think, they could bask in the warm glow of helping another Australian do their share of the "lifting" for the economy. What a pity I'm on the wrong side of the country to realistically send applications or query letters to Messrs Abbott, Hockey and Abetz[2].


[1] Yes, I'm being sarcastic.
[2] No, I'm not being sarcastic. I'd love to try out applying for a job in their offices anyway - and see how fast I get sacked for having left-wing political opinions. Maybe I could try a spin on the US Religious Right trick of suing them for discrimination, the same way anti-abortion types are trying to sue for the right to work in family planning organisations...