Eight long years

Posted: September 25, 2014 in Uncategorized
Photo of a document cover from a bank

A pretty significant photo to me

Being able to take this one photo tonight actually has some pretty significant meaning to me.

That’s how long its taken for me to be considered credit worthy once more.

My signature forged on business loans and credit contracts, a mortgagee repossession of my house (voluntary on my part – explain in a minute), and youthful indiscretions in managing ones own finances….

…to come out the other side, eight long years later, with my credit worthiness restored and back on an even keel.

The repossession of my house is a bit of a story, but a former high school friend and I went into a partnership agreement to own it, with the intent of setting up an investment portfolio of property.

Well, he started screwing up his credit thanks to his lack of self control, and vanished from existence before I could get signatures on the legal documents to get it in my name, and sell the thing.

Long story short, easiest way was to hand it back to the bank, with the bonus that I walked away with some reasonable cash in 09′ after the sale and all the costs paid.

That’s all a long chapter in my life, that I’m glad to have put behind me.

Let’s hope October doesn’t rain on September’s parade…

(…goes off and starts humming the Barbara Streisand performed Don’t Rain On My Parade, from the end of Funny Girl).

You’re a small business. Potential customers call you by phone to ask questions before buying things.

How hard is it to teach your staff basic phone skills that, I don’t know, might help bring customers to your business so they give you their hard earned money!

There are a number of bike shops in Perth, who all either carry, or can order, the bike I am going to buy (in the Radioactive Yellow colour if anyone’s interested).

Of those I called this morning, four  of them lost a guaranteed sale because their staff displayed an embarrassing ignorance towards a customer, terrible phone manner, or communicated with the customer in a way that made them feel like an idiot.

Each time, there was an opportunity for recovery, but none of these staff recognised or took it.

And you wonder why your customers are buying online? The phone manner of your staff is likely a big driver for it.

These stores lost an opportunity for $650 in immediate revenue today, in addition to ongoing income and loyalty from parts, repairs and accessories.

Now that might not seem a lot, especially when these stores have bikes worth $2,000-$4,000 plus sitting on the shop floor. But bikes of that value don’t sell every day, nor do the expensive parts that go with them. So constant sales of smaller price ticket items, like a $550 bike and the accessories the customer initially buys, are what keeps the doors open, the wages paid, money in the bank to buy new stock, and the tax man off your back.

Each and every phone call you receive is an opportunity – one to build your brand reputation, recognition, and most importantly convert callers into money in your bank account.

If you have a phone for your business, make sure you, and your staff, learn how to use it properly.

Some simple tips to do this:

  1. Treat each customer as knowledgeable, and when they don’t know a given answer, empower them the information in a respectful way that will help them answer or set them on the right path.
  2. Don’t have people to answer the phone who aren’t trained to sell, or understand your products.
  3. Don’t use cordless phones, unless they have an actual Hold option (preferably with music so the customer doesn’t think the line has gone dead). Nobody wants to hear Assistant X talking to Assistant Y to get an answer about something, or inane workplace chatter, whilst you’re waiting for information.
  4. Get your friends to visit your home one day, have them make some test calls to your stores. Do it on a speaker phone so you can observe and listen to what your staff say and sound like when talking to regular customers, so you can give your employees specific and actionable feedback to coach them, and drive them to do better.

And please, if one of your staff persistently displays an awful attitude or phone manner – ban them from answering the phones. They are going to be one of the key reasons that your phone calls aren’t converting into sales.

And credit where credit is due – to two Bike Force stores – Gerrard from their Subiaco franchisee, and Joondalup (can’t remember the staff member’s name there sadly. The individual staff who answered the phones at these locations were professional and personable. They knew and understood that phone calls mean sales, and took the time to answer my reasonable questions. If Joondalup wasn’t closer to me, Gerrard and Subiaco would have got the sale.

Memoriam

Posted: July 27, 2014 in life and times

I don’t know how to start, in a way that would adequately convey the emotions and feelings I’ve felt in the last 18 or so hours.

For reasons of personal privacy, there are specifics and details that are best left out of the public sphere.

But the events, and the inescapable questioning of ones self that arise, does give one pause.

It gives the opportunity to breathe, or at the very least try to. To reflect. To review. And most importantly, to grieve.

Ten years ago – 2004 – my year, an unenviable one involving too much shuffling off the mortal coil, could have been best described as an annus horribilis.

In that same year, where a work colleague, in tragic circumstances, committed suicide, I also lost my mother.

I’ve never discussed publicly, until now, some of the circumstances and events that year.

Regarding my mother, not even the family from which I’ve long disassociated, has a clue to how the lead up to, and eventual passing of my mother, made me feel.

And save for my then manager, nobody else knows the circumstances in which I found myself on the day after a colleague committed suicide.

A callous notification, the calls I had to make, the two staff whom I had to ensure kept quiet until news could be called, and having to break the news of his passing to a colleague in another department – his very recently separated, but long time de facto partner – whom my deceased colleagues family didn’t even extend her the professional courtesy of informing of his passing.

After all, I did promise to let her know anything I found out, after reasonably approaching her to try and confirm or deny what had been claimed, in the softest and most gentle way so as not to scare or frighten.

Standing alone, in the middle of campus, propped up against a pine tree, reconciling all of what had happened that day – before walking back to my office, feeling cold, alone, and unable to tell anybody why until we had the support infrastructure ready to help everyone when the news was shared.

I’ve lost count of the number of times where I’ve been the one, standing there to help others in their hours of need. From spending countless hours consoling someone, to just holding their hand, or giving them a hug to say it’s ok and whatever has you feeling down is only temporary, and things someday, if not soon, will get better.

Nobody was, or has been there for me. Except mum.

She was the only person caring enough to be standing right beside me when things went wrong. To protect me from an emotionally and physically abusive father. To shield me from the horrors of the school yard, and the bullies who picked on me because I didn’t want to be like them, or all the other kids. To help me try and feel ok, on the darkest hour, of the darkest day, where you feel that life isn’t worth living any longer.

Yet, she’s not here any more.

Her influence may have rubbed off on me. The strong morals she instilled, the behaviours she encouraged and nurtured, are what has helped me, for better or worse, become the man I am today.

Am I perfect, no. Am I strong, I can be in both emotion and will but not physically. Am I respectful, absolutely.

But, I am alone. Which brings me to today.

For those who know me, or remember the Mallory post, there is someone who has been in my life for a little while – albeit not even close to how I might like them to be, but you take what you can get knowing what’s off the table.

There was some information which came into my possession last night about that individual which gives me serious cause for pause.

It left me speechless.

So much so, it took a 25mg tab of Doxylamine succinate [1] last night to achieve restful sleep – because there was so much running around in my head, so late at night, which it just couldn’t deal with.

As I said earlier, I won’t disclose what the news is, nor will I even hint at it. I’m still processing it, and I’ve not even had a decent and considered conversation with the individual after the shock of the news being confirmed.

Being and feeling alone, there’s really nobody you can lean on for an emotional crutch. There’s a couple of trusted friendship can talk to, strangely one of them has been through a similar situation (twice no less), but that discussion only leaves you with more questions than answers.

With no idea what else I could do to address the talk, and get my brain to quiet down on the news of the previous night – out of the blue, it came to me when out of my first of many walks that day, to go and visit mum’s gravesite.

I’d not been there in nearly ten years, since the very day we carried her coffin out of the funeral car, and lowered her casket into the ground at this her final resting place.

Before she passed, she made it plain she didn’t want us visiting there. Being of a religious background, which I’ve long since disassociated myself from for numerous reasons, her spiritual form isn’t there – just a box of decomposing skin, bone, and also a photographic blanket she was buried with covered in 47 years of pictures and memories representing her life.

Many of those photos were shown on a small screen at her funeral service, and after pressing play on this then vacating the stand to sit in the pews, it was the last time I actually cried.

Until today.

I wish I had some flowers, from a now departed roadside flower stall in North Beach, one my mother would visit frequently when we lived in Gwellup. Something to at least add some colour and life to what was a line of rarely visited graves.

Even whilst typing this, I have tears on the screen of my iPad and inside my glasses. Tears of pain. Tears of frustration. Tears for reasons which I don’t know or haven’t figured out why yet.

I was there for what seemed like forever, but at most was twenty minutes. Even before sitting down, I was already shedding a tear, remembering, passing silent words, thoughts, and rattling through my brain the things I’d want to say and talk about with her, and particually the events of the preceeding 18 hours, in the hope of a sign or at very least some inspiration might come from this rare moment of contemplation and reflection.

As I left, I realised who was buried in the adjacent plot. The plaque of someone whom I also knew through religious circles, an inscription on the plaque quoting part of a hymn [2], that stayed with as I left the memorial park.

Till we meet, till we meet,
Till we meet at Jesus’ feet,
Till we meet, till we meet,
God be with you till we meet again.

 

It stuck with me, also whilst reflecting on my departed colleague, whom despite him being cremated in this place, there’s not even a plaque or small memorial anywhere to stop at and pay my respects to him.

But, at least visiting this place put me, and my mind, at peace. for now.

Even now, some hours later, the talk has stopped. The questions have subsided. And, mercifully, some calm has returned that I may focus my energies and neurones on something else.

I may have only delayed the necessary conversation, but at least I’ll be in a better frame of mind and calm when I do talk about what needs to be discussed and understood.

And of course remembered that I have my mother to thank for the man that I am today.

[1] Restavit, common over-the-counter tablet to aide with insomnia and re-establishing regular sleep patterns.
[2] Yes, I’m a long-lapsed Mormon. My stance of spirtuality and religion isn’t something I openly discuss, apart from the point that there’s likely something, or someone out there – but who or what form they take, or if they have a specific faith beyond the core principals of kindness, love, and respect, remains open for debate.

Mallory O'Brien (Allison Smith)Those who know me, will know just how much I enjoy The West Wing.

No, let’s be honest, I’m a fan. I can quote lines, re-watch episodes often, and can be found occasionally borrowing my oratorical stylings from the show when I decide to get on my high horse about something. Sorkin-esque you might say.

And those who know the show, will hopefully remember Mallory O’Brien (the reoccurring character played by Allison Smith).

The daughter of Leo McGarry (John Spencer) and his former wife, the secondary school teacher was as funny as she was quick witted. As smart as she was stylish. If you didn’t fall in love with her the first time she graced the small screen in this well written show, then something had to be wrong with you.

Mallory is my idea of a perfect women – and I promise you that it isn’t just because of how she looked.

She’s educated, smart, willing to step up to the plate and challenge both misconceptions and the opposite sex, on her way to or has become accomplished in her chosen field, obviously looks after herself, and is aware of her feminine charm that makes the more sophisticated or eloquent of the male species hot under the collar whenever she catches their gaze.

And let’s be honest – her red hair. For me that’s the icing on top of what is seemingly an already perfect cake (yes, I like redheads – but jet black hair does it for me just as well, with blondes next in line).

We then cast our eyes forward in the series to another recurring character, one Jordan Kendall, the attorney at law played by Joanna Gleason.

Jordan, albeit not a redhead, again embodies all those values I see, ageing gracefully to boot. Who wouldn’t want to fall in love with a Mallory who matures into Jordan-type character you want to grow old with, slow dance to the classics of your shared era, and stay up late with sharing all the good memories of times past in the comfort of each others arms.

Ok, so Mallory might be just a character on a long finished TV show you may wonder. Followed by the next obvious thought – being why the fixation, or using her as a reference point for your desires in a women?

It came to me after starting to re-watch Season 2 of the aforementioned TV series for the seven hundred and sixty second time. I always found it difficult to articulate the kind of women I sought. I knew the values I sought; I knew that her already having kids wasn’t going to work for me; drugs, smoking and excessive drinking were always a bridge too far; but I’ve never been able to get that and the rest of it down to a simple elevator pitch.

And here we take a segue into the life of an introvert. I know what I want, I have a good idea of what I’m looking for, but I don’t have the first dammed clue how to get it.

I struggle in conversations with people, regardless of gender, for whom I have no pre-existing basis to make conversation from, let alone be comfortable around. The anonymous nature of social networks such as Twitter has actually allowed me to build some good friendships, especially with those of the fairer sex.

But I’ve never capitalised on them, except once in a moment of honesty and possibly kismet, that has put me in the situation and place I’m in today.

The number of people who know the more intimate details of my life can be counted on one hand. And the specific, more intimate parts of my life which has put me in the head space I’ve been residing for the last week, are details of which I’m not going to discuss in any form or detail, especially in such a public way.

But I will say this – I’m very close to my Mallory, closer than I’ve ever been. And for someone who struggles to date (my last proper date and steady relationship was over 8 years ago), finds it difficult to engage new people in conversation, or make new friends regardless of gender, it’s a good place to be.

I was also going to make a joke about the lack of making friends not being limited to just gender, but also species – due to the inability to have an animal as a pet for some form of companionship… but I think that most of you have dirty minds and you’re going to unwittingly build an awful mental picture that was entirely unintended.

Ahem, I digress.

But this women, despite having all the characteristics I seek, isn’t available to me in the way I’d honestly like her to be.

I have to settle for something much less than what I truly desire, and I sadly don’t see that changing in the foreseeable future. Even then, knowing the limitations of the current paradigm being faced – I still struggle, on a daily basis, to reconcile these limits. I have to balance my desire for some form of limited companionship (if only to get back on the proverbial horse to practice and build skill) against its limitations, if only to avoid this coming to an abrupt, and unwanted halt.

And the way this women makes me feel. To even so much as attempt to describe it, could not come within a thousand miles of giving it the literary justice it so honestly deserves. Just writing this has given me the high of endorphins I get being around her, but not enough to overcome the nervousness of expressing myself and my feelings in this way.

It’s like a high wire balancing act, crossing the deep canyon – where I need to constantly respect the boundaries that are set for fear of falling off in a spectacular fashion, and ultimately being so injured and bruised after the attempt that it’s another 8 years before I try again.

That would be a uncomfortable state of affairs, as I’d be in my 40s by then. May your respective deity help any introvert who’s still trying and struggling to find love at that age.

It’s a sad, difficult situation to be in – when your Mallory, or something very close to it, is so very near – almost in your reach, yet still so very far away.

All hail 2013

Posted: January 8, 2013 in life and times
Tags: , , , , , , ,

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted about what is going on. Let’s give it a bit of a rundown.

Employed, bigger opportunities on horizon: Finally re-entered the workforce in May last year, have just taken a Project role for the next three months with an opportunity on the horizon that I still can’t talk about.

This job is first to give me paid overseas travel: I’m heading to Singapore for a fortnight at the end of next month. Will have three weekends to myself up there which I plan to make bloody good use of. Just have to wait for the travel orders to be approved, but it’s just one final signature on what is pretty much a done deal.

Which means posting in AFF’s who’s travelling threads for the first time in nearly two years: Enough said there, but was starting to get withdrawal symptoms from not travelling. Seriously, it’s been that long and I do miss getting up in the air.

Advice from a friend has helped the relationship front: I seem to be getting somewhere on dating sites for a change, thanks to a small piece of truth one friend imparted on a ride home.

Depression still sucks: Can’t have everything work out as planned, but at least I’m in a better place than this time last year.

Work is going to really test me out: This project for the next three months is going to test every skill I have backwards, sidewards, and upside down. I dare say that there might be a few sleepless nights and some personal angst while it gets going.

So yes, things are really looking up this year. Here’s hoping it stays that way.

So it seems that a tweet I posted earlier tonight really hit a chord with the online zeitgeist.

My tweet specifically called for the sacking of 2DayFM Sydney presenters Mel Greig, Michael Christian & their producers in respect of their impersonating members of the British Royal Family when calling a hospital for the sole purpose of obtaining details about the medical condition of the Dutchess of Cambridge.

For those who don’t know, Jacintha Saldanha – the hospital nurse/receptionist who took this prank call and disclosed information she likely wasn’t supposed to has been found dead this morning UK time, suspected to have committed suicide at a location near her place of employment, King Edward VII’s Hospital.

As of writing, my tweet has reteeted by no less than 296 308 individuals in the space of two 16 hours, with a current estimated combined reach of over 20,000 100,000+ persons. It has been retweeted so many times that Twitter’s own email engine that notifies customers of retweets stopped sending me messages an hour ago. This is not withstanding that my iPad continues to chime every 30-60sec informing of a new retweet.

Anyway, background noise aside – my posting of my thoughts to Facebook lead to some friends raising a couple of interesting points and alternative views in respect of the story. These friends posited views including:

  • “If the nurse followed the rules, it would have never got to this point.”
  • “And she could have been planning to top herself for days or have a history of mental illness.”
  • “Yes it is sad. Yes the prank was in bad taste but you cannot control a persons mental state or predict it. The correlation is very loose.”

Now I don’t disagree with those points one bit – they are perfectly valid views to express, and obviously none of us can even beging to understand if there are any other factors outside of this prank call which could have contibuted to this lady taking her own life.

However, one must look at the flipside of this. While these points of view may centre around the latin falacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc (after it, therefore because of it), one must shine a light directly at all those parties involved in the execution and broadcast of the prank.

The question therefore must be asked: Could a normal person reasonably forsee that the prank would obtain information to which those doing so were not entitled, and could the broadcast of this information have forseeably lead to sustained, significant public embarassment for the nurse in question should their identity be revealled.

My answer to those questions, as a normal person, would be yes – on both counts.

I am firmly of the view that any normal, reasonable person could have forseen this as an outcome. One need only look at the way the British press has operated in recent times – leading to the establishment of a major parlimentary enquiry lead by Lord Justice Leveson that will most likely lead to more stringent press regulation.

Using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence

Anyone with a background in any form of broadcasting knows full well that the prank as conducted was not only a gross invasion of privacy by attempting to impersonate someone – much less members of that countries royal family, but the sheer number of offences the two hosts plus others involved have committed under Australian, UK and EU law.

The first of these that comes to mind Criminal Code (Cwlth) 1995, Section 474.17:

474.17 Using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if:
(a) the person uses a carriage service; and
(b) the person does so in a way (whether by the method of use or the content of a communication, or both) that reasonable persons would regard as being, in all the circumstances, menacing, harassing or offensive.

Penalty: Imprisonment for 3 years.

The call to the hospital in London would have originated from a telephone service operated by, from, or transiting a carriage service within Australia, therefore the placing of that telephone call would fall within the definitions of the act, but also 474.17 and other aspects of the Commonwealth and NSW criminal codes.

And this is before we even consider offences under UK or EU criminal statutes, as the call was terminated in those locales, and therefore such activity also gives rise to criminal liability there. We need not re-visit the outrage uncovered during the Levenson Enquiry of the large scale of ignorance, invasion of privacy and illegal activity conducted by the press solely for the purpose of a story.

The radio codes of practice

We also have to look at that the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice which exist for the industry because of statuatory legislation. These codes are ones which are legally binding tha all broadcasters legally have to follow, and can be enforced by the regulatory agency when breached.

Their existance and legal standing is empowered by Section 43 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.

The Commercial Radio Codes of Practice make a number of statements in respect of this kind of content:

9.1 Subject to Codes 9.2 to 9.3 below, a licensee must not broadcast a program which, in all of the circumstances:
(a) treats participants in live hosted entertainment programs in a highly demeaning or highly exploitative manner;

One could argue that the impersonation of members of the royal family for the sole purpose of gaining information on a member of the royal household would constitute treating a participant, unknowingly, in a “highly exploitative manner“.

Reasonable privacy, and an invalid argument of public interest

One area of the codes that has yet to be legally tested is if programs that would be considered as live entertainment could actually be reclassified as news and current affairs programs – on account that the presenters frequently engage in updating their audience with such information, and they usually broadcast news at frequent intervals.

If this was tested legally, and found that the radio show in question could be treated as news and current affairs programs under the codes of practice, Section 2.1 of same then comes into play. It states:

“2.1 News programs (including news flashes) broadcast by a licensee must:
(d) not use material relating to a person‟s personal or private affairs, or which invades an individual‟s privacy, unless there is a public interest in broadcasting such information.”

On this point, the argument of public interest fails. The official media channel for the party in question, being the Press Office of St James Palace did issue a media release containing reasonable detail in respect of the Dutchess’s hospitalisation. It can be reasonably argued that no more information other than what was contained in that release needed to be made available as there wasn’t a clear public interest reason for doing so.

Having dispensed with the public interest argument, we then must look at if the action was an invasion of an individuals privacy. On that case, the lay person must say yes. Any reasonable person would have known that calling up any such place for information on a patient and impersonating a member of their family to do so was both illegal and improper, and would unreasonably invade the privacy of both the Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge, as well as their extended family and of course the British Monarcy.

Station exhibited poor moral judgement

And then we have to look at the moral aspect of it. You’d have to be a pretty dumb person not to know the undue and unnecessary pressure this would put on the poor women taking the call.

While I grant that she may have not acted within relevant professional standards and requirements in respect of information disclosure, the publication of the prank and the obvious subsequent naming of the poor lady, would forseeably lead to undue emotional stresses which was likely to have either caused, or contributed to, the reasons behind her reported suicide.

2DayFM has not learned its lesson

2DayFM has been frequently critisised by the regulator for its breaches of the codes of practice. Some of the stations more notable breaches in recent times include:

  1. 2006: Broadcasting inappropriate sexual material during Lowie’s Hot 30 Countdown
  2. 2010: Failed to provide protection for children participating in live hosted entertainment programs broadcast by 2DAY-FM, resulting in a license condition being imposed.
  3. May 2012: Comments by Kyle Sandilands breach decency standards, where the station had a second license condition imposed on it after the aforementioned presenter “broadcast[ed] indecent content and content that demeans women or girls“.

The imposing of the May 2012 license condition was also appealed by the station to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, who ruled to uphold ACMA’s decision to impose the condition.

So, where do we go from here?

In the UK, the debate about who is fit and proper to hold licenses or positions that allow them to act as a media outlet is one that continues. It’s also a debate, that whilst not as intense, is being had in Australia.

Should the laws be changed so that repeat offenders can be dealt with more swiftly? Yes.

Should the laws be changed so that media outlets who repeatidly breach the expected standards lose their right to broadcast?
Absolutely.

Would these two outcomes combined force media companies to be more cautious in how they do business to protect their assets, by not allowing presenters like those named above to conduct stupid pranks, if they knew the government could close them down and take everything they own and have built with the stroke of a few pens? I submit they would be more cautious, and put their presenters on much shorter leashes given the financial risk to them if they constantly make missteps – particually ones that lead such tragic circumstances.

Ok, those who know me will know that I’m a Eurovision tragic.

The three nights of the year SBS broadcasts the contest are permanently etched in my diary. Nothing, save the last days or a hot women offering me pleasure, will take me away from these three hilarious nights of terrible costumes, horrible voices, and hilarious snark.

And despite not being a drinker, I think it’s important for others to enjoy Eurovision whilst drunk. Shots, wine, absinthe – skull down whatever you keep as your favourite poison during the show.

To make it fun, here’s my rules for a Eurovision drinking game.

A word of warning. If you’re going to play this properly, please be a responsible host – and make sure you have a spare bed for your guests to sleep in rather than them risking their life on the roads.

Rules

Simple, each time one of these things happen – you have to take a drink.

Entire glass/bottle

  • UK or Ireland win (will be needed to survive their encore performance)
  • Obvious miming

Three shots/Skull

  • Wardrobe malfunction
  • Singing in invented languages
  • French entrant sings in English
  • Use of a water feature in an act

Two shots/Big gulp

  • Fireworks, pyrotechnics
  • Singer who evokes Adele undertones (gender doesn’t matter)
  • Lead singer with tattoos
  • Wind machines
  • Martial arts moves
  • Artists or their backups wearing leather or similar
  • Burlesque outfits
  • Any time Israel is mentioned
  • Strobe lighting

One shot/Sip

  • Buff men sans shirt
  • Anytime the UK is awarded points
  • Use of ethnic instrument
  • Country’s points presenter unnecessarily drags out announcing their votes
  • Any time the audience is heard booing the current act or country’s points announcement

Happy drinking!