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More leisure time. That’s what they promised us. A future filled with time and space-saving devices, such as clothes that clean themselves, cars that park themselves and appliances that can make our lives so much easier. Well, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad, but the thing is, these inventions don’t actually make our lives easier. Take the self-parking car for example, what insurance company worth its AAA rating is going to insure someone that lets a 1.5 tonne heap of metal park itself? And how does it know which space it will fit in? I have been driving since I was 17 and I still can’t judge which spaces I can fit into; its only after a couple of circuits of the block and careful consideration that I am confident that I can squeeze my 2-tonne tractor into that space outside my front door. The issue is that it doesn’t make our lives easier because we would constantly worry that the computer would throw a wobbly and suddenly go psycho and smash into anything it sees with its glowing robotic eyes (have you seen the episode of The Simpsons, when the robots at the Itchy and Scratchy Land go berserk?). Its got group class action written all over it. Heavens forbid what it will be like when cars can actually drive themselves.

Robot vacuum cleaners are another invention that is supposed to save us time. Except that it can’t climb stairs or put chairs up or get into corners. So, in effect, it can only do about 70% of the work required to vacuum a house. By the time you have set up sensors to stop it falling down steps and committing Roomba suicide, or moved all your precious furniture out of the way, you may as well have done it yourself (or called in the cleaners). And can it empty itself? Oh no, you still have to wipe its arse.

My theory is that there will never be machines that will make our lives easier because if there were ever such things in existence, we would never need anything else and these companies would be redundant. So they make appliances that are almostĀ indispensable, just reliable enough to get your through the first 2 years of leisure-enhancing nirvana until it breaks down. And not just slightly fail, but catastrophic failure. All those old-world appliances that you threw away because now that you have this one thing to replace them all are now just relics on some scrap heap on the outskirts of Blacktown. Of course, you can’t exactly get them back now so you have to walk up to the TV and change the channel manually, except that there are no longer any buttons to change the channels on the TV as they were deemed redundant when TVs were controlled remotely.

Why am I ranting on about this you ask? Well, I have to come clean and admit that I have an agenda here. You see, about 2 months ago my universal remote ceased to charge itself, so I asked the manufacturer if they could send me a new battery (which I would gladly pay for). Not as easy as it sounds. Firstly, they would need photo proof that the battery is not charging. How on earth, I hear you ask, do you show that a battery is no longer charging? No matter, I take some nice photos of my remote, the battery that no longer wants to play ball, my invoice (as proof of purchase), and the serial number. I am tempted to take one of me holding the device to prove that I am in fact a real person and not some cyber weirdo that likes to annoy tech companies.

Another 5 weeks pass and by now its nearly Christmas and the thought of not having my beloved remote throughout the busiest thumb pressing season of the year is almost unbearable. Luckily, I have a newborn daughter to keep me amused for the festive season. So whilst embarking on a Sleepless in Seattle type relationship with a Filipino call centre lady, my quest for a life of leisurely couch time goes on. Now I have 3 remotes to contend with. Was life ever really that complicated before we needed all these gadgets that save us, on average, 38 seconds a day?

Two and a half months later I finally get my replacement handset after much photoshopping and frustration. What they didn’t tell me when I bought the thing was that after about 2 years the battery starts to swell up and becomes stuck in the battery compartment, thus rendering it useless in terms of being able to recharge it. But now that I have my new remote I now also have to re-programme it. These so-called smart gadgets are about as smart as a dog with a new trick – you still have to remind it how to perform basic functions like ‘turn on TV’ or ‘turn off TV’ and not switch on microwave when I want to watch Murder She Wrote. Again, if such as gadget existed that could learn all my commands and be smart enough to realise that if I wanted to listen to CDs on high volume at 2am I would have told it to do so, we would never need to buy any of their products again, or need to talk to call centre staff in the Phillippines.

Clothes that clean themselves, however…

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Definition: The act of pushing an adversary or colleague to the limit of what is believable bullshit, in order to win advantage over them. This is particularly amusing when sitting in a meeting and you have no idea what everyone else is talking about but rather than losing face and admitting that you must have zoned out at some point of the conversation, you engage in the risky act of brinkmanshit to prove to your enemies or work colleagues that you can BS with the best of them. The height of brinkmanshit is when you all look at each other, puzzled, as if someone has just defecated in the middle of the room and set fire to.

Obituary:
Australian retail (b.1947 – d.2012)
The Australian retail sector, formerly Australia’s largest industry, died suddenly on December 2, 2012 due to complications with understanding consumer sentiment and demand.
Born after WW2, the sector was once famous for bringing us the infamous Ugg Boot, Ron Bennett suits, Harvey Norman and Dollar Dazzlers. It outlived its elder sibling, Manufacturing, by 20 years.
After a successful career spanning some 60 years, Retail struggled to keep up with the changing buying patterns of its customer base. Many of them had discovered the Internet, an invention that had become de rigueur in the 1990s in Europe and the US, and from then on retail in the 21st century changed forever.
Retail giant guru Harvey Norman adamantly declared in the late 90s that the Internet would be a flash in the pan and the thought of customers using it to buy goods was preposterous. Norman would later go on to expand his electronics and white goods empire to prime markets, such as Ireland, Slovenia and Malaysia. Harvey Norman continues to struggle today but has, at least an online presence after much hesitation and head scratching. He concedes that he did not see Retail’s impending death coming: “I only created our website in 2010, after those bloody commie pinko politicians who think they run the country would not tax consumers on goods under $1000 that were imported. Honestly, I dont like it – we should be able to screw competitors and consumers alike and the government should help us do that. So now I source my goods from China and sell them to Aussie customers so that I can bankroll my expansion plans in the Cook Islands.”
After investing heavily in bricks and mortar stores, many retailers failed to comprehend consumer reluctance to spend money on goods that were up to 70% cheaper overseas or online. Even as late as 2011, Retail introduced heavily discounted stocktake clearance sales every 20 minutes. One store was even rumoured to be having sales on stocktake sale items.
By the summer of 2010 staff to customer ratios reached unprecedented levels, by Q3 2010, analysts predicted this to reach 1278:1.
Even at prestigious labels’ flagship stores customer service was at an all time low. Louis Vuitton, who had previously trained their store staff at the largest customer service centre in Latvia, could not prevent weak sales, eventually pulling out of the Australian market and opening up stores in Slovenia and Ireland.
Industry experts pointed to 2 key shortcomings in the retail sector: out-of-date products (David Jones were still selling powdered eggs in their upmarket foodhall in 2009) and a lack of customer service. The prevailing philosophy was that if a customer wasn’t wearing Gucci and draped in expensive jewels, they weren’t going to spend thousands of dollars at their stores. Hence, Russell Crowe doesn’t get a look in when he is in Sydney.
Retail leaves behind a wife and 2 children: Mining and Education (from a previous marriage).

So I went for my follow up gastroscopy yesterday, which, for those that don’t know, entails sticking a tube with a camera on the end of it down your throat and presumably into the gut to see what is going on down there. My previous encounter with this procedure was to diagnose my gastric ulcer and this one was to see if it had healed. The good news is that it has healed and aside from a tiny scar I should be ulcer-free and able to eat anything (this is what the specialist said) I want.
Now I have never been under general anaesthetic before and the first time it was a rather nice feeling being put to sleep (I wonder if that is what its like when they give Death Row inmates the lethal injection), but even better coming round. When I woke up the first time I recall saying to the recovery nurse that she reminded me of my late mother, which is totally absurd as my mother was a 5ft 6 Asian woman and this nurse was a dyed-in-the-wool Aussie with a lovely bedside manner but actually reminded me of a cleaning lady rather than my dear mother. Suffice to say that after that initial comment, more drivel came out of my mouth, some of which I am to embarrassed to recall. No one told me that one of the side effects of being under a general is that when you wake up you say the first thing that comes into your head. Not the first sensible thing that comes into your head, but the first senseless thought that you can think of (or not as the case may be).
Second time around I wake up in the usual marijuana-induced stupor and I quickly think to myself: “Don’t say anything stupid.” Especially as it is the same nurse. So, with a few weeks of broken sleep under my belt from having a newborn, I figure I will wake up and my commando-like instinct will kick in and I will be able to refrain from saying something that I might regret. I end up sounding quite coherent and joke to the nurse that I would have liked to have stayed asleep for a few more hours now that we have a 6 week old baby. I look quickly at the nurse expecting a sympathetic smile, but all I get is a look to say: “Just another stoned patient talking out of his arse.”
So I feel quite confident that I have come out of this unscathed, and as I sit down to enjoy my tea and biscuits and some morning TV, out come a couple of other ‘out’ patients, who clearly are doing this for the first time. One of them sits down and tries to make some polite conversation with the other patient and myself and he ends up giggling to himself and commenting how 3 grown men are sitting in some slumber chairs watching an infomercial on the Aghhh Bra (which is the most comfortable cross-weave bra a woman can wear). Pitying the man for such an inane comment I reply by saying: “Yeah, that’s equality for you!”
He shoots, he scores.

The reticence with which I approach blogging is comparable with getting up on stage in a school play at age 11 and playing Prince Charming in our rendition of Cinderella (a role I would end up playing numerous times as a dad). I only had one line but the fear of no one laughing or enjoying my thespian abilities almost made me crap my pants. Its not the fear of failure but rather the fear of no one being interested – a blight that has paralysed me in many abandoned or aborted attempts in my search for my own 12 seconds of fame (I say 12 seconds because that is the amount of time it takes for the eyes to send a message to the cerebral cortex that in turn activates the bullshit receptor, which, funnily enough, is suppressed when high on marijuana).
Some of you will no doubt be unimpressed with my lack of cool cultural references and phraseology, but this was never intended to a too-cool-for-skool blog, just an honest, politically incorrect forum for me and others to share thoughts and stories and what its like to be a new parent, a passenger on the train of life, or grumpy old person (delete as applicable).
So there it is, my first post on my first blog. I hope that some of you will take the time to read some of this, but I also hope that many of you will contribute to it. As I write this I wonder how many people will be thinking: “Who wants to read this shit – its just about some guy who thinks people want to read his shit.” Perez Hilton it ain’t, but if a 13-year old girl can write about what she ate for lunch at school, then dang!, I think I have more interesting things to talk about (what I ate for lunch for example).