Category Archives: Family|Bible|More

Phone Slamming Again

I wrote a couple of months ago about a phone slamming attempt.  I contacted Telstra via Twitter and they responded that they’d follow it up.  Unfortunately, Twitter’s history is a little poor so I cannot find the full conversation now… (Updated: found it in my RSS archives)

Today we got another phone slamming attempt, and I was a bit better prepared.  Again this conversation is not verbatim, but the gist is as follows:

Caller: Natasha from SimplyTel

Natasha: “I’m calling about your Telstra business line.  Can I speak with the account holder please.”
Me: “Are you calling from Telstra?”
Natasha: “I’m calling from Telstra wholesale division.”

I then asked some more questions to collect some more details, including website, and got the actual company name and contact details, before letting her know that I’d be reporting the call because she identified herself as operating on behalf of Telstra.

1 Samuel 4

In 1 Samuel, the Israelites use the ark of the covenant in a futile effort to wield God’s power against their enemies. They’ve just fought a battle against the Philistines, with devastating losses and are desperate for a way to turn the tide. They decide to take the ark into battle, and the high priest Eli does not stop them, though he is anxious about the outcome. But when battle is joined, the Israelites are destroyed: 30,000 of their soldiers are slain, and the ark is captured by the Philistines. How could God let this happen?

I know the idea of “God is on our side” in modern wars is neither new nor unchallenged. I’ve been thinking about a different aspect of this: the difficulty of Christians in power in western democracies. It certainly is the case that Christian morals, ideals and world view do not mesh with the whole electorate. This becomes a problem for the Christian in power as he is a representative for the people, and while he can lead with his Christian beliefs, at some point these will come into conflict with the wishes of “the people.” I think there is a tendency among us to try and elect a Christian because somehow having a Christian in power will further the cause of God. Are our Christian politicians like our Ark of the Covenant being carried into the battle to capture the country for God? What is the cause of God? Does He need earthly leaders to promote it?

And what if the Ark was captured? That is, what if our Christian politicians are compromised? Either by the exercise of power itself or by the insidious nature of compromise required by our modern democratic system?

Just like the Israelites, we need to be looking at our lives. If we are seeing chaos in our society, it’s partly because we haven’t done what we ought to have done. From sexual abuse by clergy, through to divorce in the church, from the politics of the organised church through to my own lacklustre commitment: these are the things that bring down our Christian community, and not the leadership of the country. Time and time again God has shown that he works in ways that are not the world’s ways.

None of this is to say that Christian leadership is wrong, or that we shouldn’t be promoting Christian beliefs and values in our society. But neither of these things in-and-of themselves are going to bring about the change that we are seeking: that change happens in each individual’s heart, and happens only with God’s direct touch. How can a Christian politician help in God’s cause? By being a witness to those around him. By obeying God and leaving the rest up to Him.

Relying on the cloud (aka Google Docs is down)

Just today, Google told me that “Cloud computing is secure, simple, keeps you productiveand saves you money” (http://gmailblog.blogspot.com/)  So…  logged onto Google Docs this morning to retrieve a shared To Do list.  And was greeted with the following screen:

A little research told me I was not the only user with this problem.  No mention of the issue from Google yet (update, 7:28AM, they’ve acknowledged reports of an issue).  If we can’t rely on the biggest and most prevalent of the cloud companies, then really, we can’t rely on the cloud at all.

No doubt they’ll fix the issue, but given that at the time of writing they hadn’t even acknowledged that there was an issue, I don’t think I’ll be continuing to use Google Docs.  (Yes, I get the irony of writing this using Google’s blog product, but I don’t rely on this blog to get my work done).  That may sound like an overreaction, but Google have positioned their product as a viable alternative to Microsoft Office.  Dependability is essential.

What’s the difference between Google Docs being down and Microsoft Word failing to start?  Well, when Word doesn’t start, you can still be in control of the situation, by moving to another computer, or by researching a solution to the problem (my preference).  The lack of control that one has with cloud apps is very frustrating.  Google’s tendency to be difficult to contact exacerbates the helplessness that their customers feel.

St Crispin and His Magical Well

By Hannah Durdin
Once upon a time, there were two girls and their mother and father.  The older sister, Bethany, was trying to make a present for fathers’ day, so Bethany’s father decided to go on an explore-bike-ride with Hannah.  And on the way to Fern Tree they got some chips! 
 
At the Fern Tree Shop
So then the daddy and Hannah went on the bike ride along the Pipeline Track.  It was very bumpy.
Zooming
Hannah hurrahing on the Pipeline Track
Hannah on the bike
And they’d already got a snack, which was some marshmallows.  When they went on the Pipeline Track, Hannah did some picnic wees!  And then, on the Pipeline Track, Hannah and her Dad saw a well, St Crispin’s Well.  They had to walk up a little path to get there.
Hannah is walking up the place where there is a sign saying “10 minutes walk to St Crispin’s Well”
Hannah doing nothing
Hannah walking to the well
Hannah falling over
The view
And then at the well, they saw a mini waterfall, underground.  And then at St Crispin’s Well, there was white water.
At St Crispin’s Well
The sun was setting
St Crispin
The waterfall
St Crispin’s Well
St Crispin’s Well was a lovely place
When Hannah was sitting down
Chips!
This is at St Crispin’s Well
And they went home, and when they got there, Bobonne was still there.  And then they made Spaghetti Bolognese for dinner.
The End

Anatomy of a slamming attempt

I just received a phone call from an unknown Melbourne number.

03 9001 5893

Unfortunately, I couldn’t record the call, but it went something like this.

The caller: “Hi, I’m such and such calling about your Telstra land line. Your account has been flagged for review because you are eligible for a concession which incorrectly has not been applied, because you are spending over a hundred dollars a month your landline.

Me: “Sorry, who is calling? Are you from Telstra?” (I’m already guessing this is not a legitimate Telstra call)

Caller: (very quickly) “Yes, this is a Telstra wholesaler and I’m calling about your land line ending in **** because you are spending over a hundred dollars a month and you are eligible for a concession cap which has not been applied to your account. This will be a monthly cap of $75 per month and includes all STD and long distance calls …

Me: “Huh, I didn’t think we were spending that much.” (Leading them on now)

Caller:What was your last bill for?

Me: “But you can tell what the last bill was for, can’t you?” (Of course they can’t)

Caller:Sure. Well, I can fix that all up for you, and apply the cap to your account.

Me: “What company are you calling from? This isn’t Telstra, is it?” (Time to call them on it?)

Caller: (quickly again) “Our company is Fairtalk Australia and we are an authorised Telstra wholesaler.

Me: “So this is deliberately deceptive, isn’t it? You didn’t identify yourself as Fairtalk, you talked about my Telstra account as if you were from Telstra.”

Caller:Sorry about that.

Me: “I will be reporting this phone call. What was your name again?”

[dial tone]

Well. They were deceptive in their identity initially and even when questioned used misleading terms like ‘Telstra wholesaler’ rather than their company name. When they finally gave their company name, they rushed through it and tried to sound like they were authorised to speak on behalf of Telstra, rather than an independent company.

So, I took a look at their website, and soon thereafter @FrancisChui pointed out their little blurb on misleading sales calls, which I’ll quote:

Misleading Sales

The idea that any of our staff might deceive you with false promises as a method of gaining you as a customer is a horrendous one. At Fairtalk we believe in being as up front and honest with our customers as possible. Because of this we need to be informed if an individual in our sales department has let his team and by extension the whole company down. If it should come to your attention by whatever means that the offer made to you has not been followed through, please let us know immediately.

I note that it doesn’t say anything about misleading identity or pretending to be a Telstra employee – just misleading promises.

As the sales guy hung up on me, rather than take responsibility for the manner in which he conducted his unsolicited phone call to me, I decided to push this a little further.  Hence the blog post, and the follow up with ACCC.  I’m not the first person to have had this misleading conduct.

Be warned.  Always ask for full identity information.  If they are a Telstra representative, then they’ll have the details of your last bill already.  These guys didn’t.

Fun on the mountain

Joey was away over the weekend, so the girls and I drove up Mt Wellington on Sunday afternoon. It was zero Celsius and completely fogged in. They thought it was great!

On the Saturday, Bethany did an epic bike ride with me: 2 bridges in Hobart, with lunch at the Botanic Gardens, and sorbet in Moonah.  Hannah got a ride on the back of my bike.  I underestimated the length and difficulty of the planned route, and Bethany needed a lift from her grandmother for the last 8km back to the car.  Still 15km is an impressive effort for a 7 year old!

The Browser is the Platform.. Welcome back to 1995.

This morning I jumped onto my netbook, and noticed it was running rather sluggishly.  This netbook has only 1.5GB of RAM but normally does fine for web browsing and email.  But this morning it was woeful, taking 45 seconds to open a new mail message.  I fired up Process Explorer to find out what was going on.

Oops, looks like I left Firefox and Internet Explorer running over the weekend.  Big mistake.  Come Monday morning, Firefox had allocated over 1150MB of RAM, and Internet Explorer was not much better on 928MB.  All on a machine with only 1536MB of RAM.  It’s swap time!

What about on my primary development machine.  Firefox is running.  3 pages open, all fairly static.  Should be okay to leave over the weekend, right?

Nope.  Firefox needs a mere gigabyte of RAM to cope with this complex demand.  Firefox suffers the most from the RAM addition, but none of the major browsers are safe.  Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer 9 are all addicted to RAM.

Some web pages tip the browsers over the edge more quickly than others.  Facebook, Google+ and Google Docs are the worst offenders.  Twitter is usually much better: in that first example, the Twitter instance of IE is on 100MB, and Facebook on 928MB.  Firefox was running Google Docs.  Oops.

The browser developers have in the past blamed web page developers.  I guess that’s a bit like blaming buggy applications for platform instability in Windows 95.

If the browser is the platform, then it looks like rebooting the platform is back in style.  Excuse me for a moment after I post this blog: I need to reboot my browser.

Wet and windy

Joey was off at a birth, and so the girls and I were stuck at home on a wild and windy Saturday morning in the middle of winter. It was raining and blowing a gale, but actually not too cold… At least 7 or 8 degrees.

So, perfect weather for a family bike ride, right? I pulled out the trusty “family bike” and the bike trailer, which we hadn’t used for some time. The girls were thrilled! I took the opportunity to swap off the flat pedals and put on some SPDs from my defunct road bike. Pulled on all my winter gear, rugged up the girls, put the lights on, and off we rode.

Got 1km from home and realised that we’d left the girls’ helmets behind! Groan. Funny how one can ride such a long way but turning around and going home is so hard. Still, it didn’t take long so no real harm done 🙂

We rode carefully down the long descent into town, the girls nice and dry, me not so much. First stop, bike shop to pick up a spare part for my roadie. Then the coffee shop.

Jam Packed is a great place to stop and have a coffee — especially if you are on a bike. The atrium has plenty of space to park a bike or 20 and being a big dry open space the smelly, wet bike clothes hopefully don’t bother other patrons as much as in some other coffee shops!

Coffee and mango juice done, it’s time to head off to the library, where we stayed and read books until it closed (unfortunately rather early, 2pm).

The picture shows us parking the bike at the library. We couldn’t help ourselves and borrowed a few books, which we wrapped up well in plastic bags in the boot of the trailer.

Then it was off to Salamanca Fruit Market for lunch stuff. Hannah and I went for sushi, and Beth had a roll. Now for the trek home.

It was still blowing a gale, but the rain had eased for a bit. Riding up Macquarie St, we were heading straight into a block headwind, a real gale! I was struggling along as we hit the real hill past the Cascade Brewery. I read later that wind gusts were up to 80 km/h!

I used the toe-on-the-chain technique to drop the chain onto the smallest chainring. I really must fix that front derailleur sometime soon. We slogged away until we reach the bridge, where I was quite happy to pause for an emergency loo stop for the girls!

The remainder of the ride up the hill with 60kg of trailer doing its best to drag me back down again was definitely the slowest I’ve ever climbed Strickland Ave, by a long way! Fortunately we were sheltered somewhat from the wind by the curves of the hill.

We even got a tailwind along Chimney Pot Hill Rd but as we turned into Ridgeway we were hit by the full force of the gale and we came nearly to a complete halt! I was grinding along in bottom gear, on the flat mind you, out of the saddle, crouched over my bike like a Tour de France contender, face contorted as I forced my way against the fury of the wind — and rain — and into our driveway. The girls jumped out of the trailer and bolted for the shelter of the house while I struggled to open the door to put the bike and trailer away. I let go of the trailer for a second to brace the door against the wind and had to chase it half way down the driveway. Finally I dragged it into the basement, let the door slam in the wind and heaved a sigh of relief! Home!

The next morning my legs feel like I’ve just ridden a serious race…  And Strava has awarded me a 5th place in the climb “Hydro to Strickland” — because I’ve never ridden that route before, and because there were only 4 other riders who have ridden that route!

Luke 16

Luke 16 is a fascinating chapter. Jesus starts off with a parable in which, at a casual read, he seems to be commending devious behaviour, then he tosses in a single sentence about divorce before launching into a story with a very metaphysical flavour which differs radically from his normal down-to-earth parables.

We studied this passage at Bible study this week and our rector John preached on it today. I struggled a bit to understand what Jesus was really saying about money in the first parable: is he really saying that using money to win friends is good, regardless of whose money it actually is? Or is he using hyperbole: even a dishonest manager can use his resources to make friends: how much more should we do this? Another alternative is that the manager was cutting his commission. Or perhaps these were bad debts and he figured by cutting them, they’d be more likely to be paid, and at the same time he’d earn the friendship of the debtors, and the commendation from the rich man for making the best of a bad debt. Interestingly my wife had no problem with the parable. She read the final interpretation.

Whatever the meaning intended by Jesus, we can be sure that he was not condoning dishonest behaviour. The Pharisees reacted badly to this parable — I guess they read it as an attack on their high regard for material wealth.

The second parable is curious because it uses Jewish pictures of heaven and hell in a way that I can’t recall in any other parables. Jesus’ other recorded parables used scenarios from life: banquets, journeys, weddings and so on. So why did Jesus choose this imagery?

He makes a very pointed comment at the end of the parable of course: “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” The message of the parable is also about the motivations of the heart: is it God or money that you are following? I like the picture and scenario: it’s very vivid! But I would still like to know why Jesus chose this imagery.

And finally, I wish I knew why Luke chose to sandwich the divorce passage between these two parables!