Friday, 30 December 2011

2012 - Armageddon or Awakening?

Let's face it, society is broken.  The sticking plaster fixes won't hold and it's almost certain that our financial infrastructure is going to crumble.

There's corruption in governments the world over and greed is rife.  Politicians are elected according to the resources they can muster to raise their profile and not on their merit.  The deals they make along the way have to be repaid in favours later down the track, usually compromising the greater good.

Capitalism hasn't worked, as shareholders demand ever-increasing returns, and interest on lending creates money in the system that was never minted in the first place.  Socialism, for all its well-intended ideology, failed because it removed incentive.

Yet something's bubbling under the surface as people reassess old and trusted values.  There's certainly some kind of awakening, not necessarily in a religious but possibly a humanist sense.  Recognition of the individual and a feeling that we can all work together to effect change - not because the Nanny State bludgeons us with heavy-handed equality legislation, but because people are rediscovering genuine connectivity and a sense of belonging through social media.

Is government 'per se' in fact 'passé'?  Opposition only serves for political showboating and is obstructive when we should be uniting to address our common concerns.  There are good brains on both sides.

We need organisation, not rulers.  We have remarkable technology at our disposal to anticipate and distribute the world's resource requirements more efficiently (and fairly). We in the more privileged countries could get by with less choice - why are we so obsessed with paying above the odds for premium brands and social stigma when our global neighbours crave basic clothing, food and shelter?

I don't have the answers but know we need a new way of thinking - you can start by contributing below if you wish ...

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Blair-faced Cheek

"Nobody who has wealth to distribute ever omits himself" - Trotsky

 Tony Blair's financial dealings since leaving office are already coming under increasing scrutiny, but surely his bid for a piece of the DfID's grants schemes to provide governance in rebuilding countries like Iraq & Afghanistan is a bit close to the bone?

Admittedly, his organisation currently only operates in Africa*, but it's a foot up to being considered for other bids as they arise.  Pointedly, the application was made by the 'Tony Blair Governance Initiative' and not the 'Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative' and therefore strikes me as a sly reverse manoeuvre that will engage him with the DfID whilst leaving him free to expand his operational base to become eligible for future bids in other countries.

Can you imagine a scenario where our smug ex-Premier is allowed to play a role in making sure that aid given to reconstruct the very countries he had a hand in destroying is applied fairly?  Did you know, for example, that over a third of the £45 mill in aid provided to Sierra Leone in 2009/10 was spent on 'governance'?

So, to align this story with a previous post (see "End the Greed" - "Looters in Suits"), it seems that money that previously disappeared in bribes to corrupt officials in war or poverty-stricken countries might now end up lining the pockets of those vested with the responsibility of ensuring that they are applied properly.

Add to the mix that the role also brings him closer to the companies bidding for the rebuilding contracts, and Our Tony's got it pretty well covered from all angles.

I don't imagine I'll be offered work by JP Morgan any time soon ….

Update Oct '14: £52K unexplained hole found in Faith Foundation's books. Nice governance. And we let Blair loose on millions?

* So far as I was aware at time of writing, in respect of governance interests only

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Making Poverty - A History (ack. Tom Lines)

On 'Newsnight' the other week, about how the "Regulators are always behind the curve ... and they always will be" (Nick Leeson), no-one had a viable answer to "How do we stop this?".

I had one, which I posted on my Facebook group. Tell the traders "You can only do business like THIS at this point in time - if you want to use new vehicles/methodology/structures/models, run them past us FIRST so that we can evaluate them, dictate the parameters and monitor from the outset."  Otherwise we'll be forever fire-fighting and not actually capping the well.  We are over-regulated, which just ties everyone in knots - it's a sad indictment of modern banking when we have to enforce caution and insist that customers are treated fairly.  These qualities should be givens and certainly more closely reflect the banking system I was part of as regional manger for an Australian bank back in the early 80's before the Gordon Gekko factor took hold.

I was delighted to have my views endorsed by author Tom Lines ('Making Poverty - A History').  He directed me to his article 'The Dog that Didn't Bark', which looks at at the 28 years following WW2 when there were no such crises.  It's a thought-provoking walk through financial history and concludes with some credible recommendations to restore order - I commend it to you as essential reading in the current economic climate.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Don't take our Infrastructure down with 'The 1%'

A couple of months ago, before the Occupy Wall Street movement took hold, my wife and I were discussing what the series of events might be if someone hit the "Technology Bomb" button and you needed access to your money.

Having wondered why the travelcard reader hadn't worked on the bus on your way to work, you might pop in somewhere for your morning latte and croissant only to find that the payment terminal was down to accept your debit card.  So you'd head off down to the bank to withdraw cash, only to then discover that the ATM was down too.  You'd probably get by on what's in the fridge or larder for a day or two - until you had to do your weekly shop.  By which time panic buying would have set in and the food you couldn't pay for anyway was gone.

Fast-forwarding events, how would goods be replenished?  Presumably no-one could get paid to produce anything.  I'll leave any further implications to your imagination.

The point is, if the rising tide of civic rebellion ruins the banking system entirely, we're looking at pretty much the same scenario.

What's the answer?  Nationalise the banks to become non-profit organisations and give our distrusted Governments the power?

The 99% should be entitled to make their point, but I urge calm and caution.  Indeed, we may well be playing into the hands of the very people who seek to control us. This is not about anti-capitalism, but anti-greed/corruption. (See earlier post)

Monday, 31 October 2011

One Earth - Why are we Squabbling over it?

First off, yes, I am idealistic and make no apologies for the simplicity of my views.

But the point of this post can be grasped by anyone if they just zoom out from wherever they are, not even as far as an orbiting satellite, and look down on what they see.  One beautiful blue planet, but with insignificant little specks running around on its surface - all trying to stake their claim or influence the other seven billion or so ... and some wanting more than their fair share.

No matter what our race / creed / orientation, or whatever tags we're obsessed with putting on one another, we are one species and should respect and accept each other.  From the dinner table to the committee room, from local to international affairs.  What's so hard about calling one another "Friend"?  Surely a table shared is better than seeing it smashed to debris in the streets?

We'll never completely rid the world of evil, but society is broadly enough aligned to agree a definition of crimes perpetrated by the individual.  We just have to work on measured justice.  Global conflicts, however, don't arise from the actions of a single bad egg, but the fallout when dodgy deals go wrong or religions clash (ironically, trying to enforce their own version of peace and holiness).

Keep it simple.   Love thy neighbour and accept their faults - you have them too.

Thank you, Dalai Lama - you've since said it all ... there IS common ground between religions:

Monday, 24 October 2011

"An Equality Too Far"

These were the words of Adrian Smith, a Christian housing manager demoted (with a substantial drop in pay) by Trafford Housing Trust in the UK for PRIVATELY expressing his views on church marriages for gay couples.  I have no objection to Civil Ceremonies, as an expression of devotion and to bestow equal legal rights in respect of property, etc., but why should the church be expected to compromise on one of the principles of its faith?  Would you set up a pork sandwich stall at a tabernacle or mosque celebration?  And don't call me homo'phobic' to make me look intolerant - I don't have a 'fear' of homosexuality and, in fact, have managed to reconcile my own faith with acceptance of the individual.  Why is it, in a supposedly melting-pot society, that Christianity is being constantly goaded while people walk on eggshells around other religions?  As for the PC-blinded Trafford Housing Trust?  A sense of perspective, please!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Kodak Schmodak (DO NOT let Kodak charge you to replace faulty printheads). Read on ...


I have now had two Kodak printers (C310 & Hero 5.1) which have both been plagued with faults and an obscene thirst for ink.

I will never buy a Kodak printer again and urge you to consider the following carefully before buying one yourself.

Obviously the failing printheads on these makes my headline, but watching your cartridge levels almost visibly deplete runs a close second.  More than once I've lost half a cartridge of each trying to resolve a printout quality issue or by turning it on and off trying to get the printhead to un-jam again (and again and again ...).

I also grew tired of my colour cartridge continuing to deplete even though I was only printing in black.

The most frustrating and unreliable technology products I have ever used by a country mile.

Farewell Kodak.

PREVIOUS UPDATES (Temporary good outcome ... see original post further below)

8 October 2012

Here we go again ... red has stopped printing since it started to go at the end of the last cartridge - which I have now replaced, along with black - and I can't solve the problem through a head clean.

The ink levels have dropped alarmingly while I've been trying various maintenance options ... and I still haven't printed a single successful colour page.  Another £20 in ink down the drain?

What will you do for me this time, Kodak?

Update 12 Oct 12: After a few Twitter exchanges, had a call from the help centre today and we ran yet another test confirming that red was indeed not working (quite depressing when you get a solid yellow circle when you try to print a red one).  And guess what?  The printhead needs replacing - albeit that they'll send me one free.  And so they should, the machine's only just over six months old.  After the previous (replaced) printer developed similar problems almost immediately, it makes me wonder a) how long this one will last and b) what happens once the machine is past its warranty?  Are we expected to shell out for a new printhead every six months?

Update 18 Oct 12: Printhead here and replaced - up and running again, but calibration sucked the last of the black ink out of the cartridge that had already been diminished by troubleshooting.  Thanks, Kodak - I won't forget you owe me at least three cartridges by now.

I think, given the plethora of similar printhead stories I see in forums, we have pretty much established that there are inherent problems with Kodak printheads.  DO NOT LET ANYONE TALK YOU INTO BUYING NEW ONES - STAND UP FOR YOUR CONSUMER RIGHTS (In the UK, the 'Sale of Goods Act' gives you recourse on items not fit for purpose for SIX years).  I was a bit gutted to see on the FixYa forum that Kodak in the States actually provide replacement cartridges as well - so why am I being told, each time cleaning and troubleshooting bleeds them dry, that they can't do anything about that?

Update 27 Nov 12: I've been sent two sets of combo ink packs - either in compensation or to shut me up! If printhead problems result in you losing a lot of ink trying to troubleshoot, the precedent has been set here in the UK, folks.  To give Kodak their due right of reply, this is what they told me:

"After reviewing your case history clearly you have experienced and exceptional failure rate that is far beyond the rates that we have on record from previous customer cases.  Like any consumer electronics brand we do experience a small percentage failure rate that we continue to strive to reduce, but is well below industry standards.  As one of the leading print manufacturers in the UK, selling in excess of 10,000 printers a week, a small number of cases posted on public forums would lead you to believe a far greater number are faulty, but I can assure you this isn't the case.  In addition we would not have the breadth of UK leading retail partners if our products continually failed."

PART ONE - The Nightmare Begins

Remember the ads? New Kodak printers will save you heaps on ink? Well, apart from the three faults my printer developed since April (they sent me a new printing head and then last week tried to fob me off with a dusty replacement printer after the lid arm/hinge broke), it soon became abundantly clear that these claims were misleading. It DRINKS ink - even colour cartridges when printing in B&W!!?  The watchdog slammed them for their claims and made them revise the wording.  Now I see there's a class action in the US claiming misleading advertising, which is backed up by a 'survey' I received from Kodak yesterday asking if my purchase was made before or after 22 August 2011. I smell humiliation in the air. In the meantime, AVOID buying Kodak if your decision is based on the hype. (Update 29 Mar 12: BUT READ ON ....)

Update 7 Nov 11: Today I was directed to this Complaints page - makes pretty ugly reading ...

Update 19 Dec 11: Two more direct 'formal' complaints from me and no response to either. I'll just keep blog/Twittering. "Treat someone well, they might just tell someone - treat them badly, they'll tell EVERYONE"!

New Year's Update 4 Jan '12: Nothing to see here, folks, despite several more ignored emails. Kodak's customer services is non-existent!

Update 20 Jan 12: ... and so Kodak's previously longstanding reputation for excellence ends with a file for bankruptcy.  Let's hope they sell off enough of those patents to give me a printer I'm happy with.

Update 11 Mar 12: ... total rage today!! SECOND printer head just died, after using half the ink calibrating and cleaning the printer and then watching it drink MORE ink as I tried the head in the dodgy replacement printer they sent me.  I am now returning to the place of purchase and exercising my rights under the Sale of Goods Act (good for 6 years after purchase, in case you weren't aware - Trading Standards told me so). AN ABSOLUTE TOTAL PIECE OF (thirsty) JUNK!!!

P.M 11 Mar - Been on live chat. At last - an acknowledgement that previous printheads were faulty ... "We have implemented several changes to our product and manufacturing processes. The latest printhead you will be receiving will include these changes, and we are confident it will correct the problem." BUT they will not replace my lost ink today because "the cartridges were not faulty" - ermm, yes, but I lost ink because of the faulty printhead.  Watch this space - they promise to escalate.  Oh, and I'll be without any means of printing for up to 8 days .....

Update 13 Mar: The more I thought about it, the unhappier I got, so I decided not to wait for the new printhead and return the printer to Currys/PCWorld instead and [I have to swallow hard when I say this, given my past experiences with them] they were brilliant (... so far)! No quibbles, despite nearly a year since purchase.  In fact they said they'd had 5 faulty Kodak printers returned in the last couple of days and the problems seem to stem from those bought in the first half of last year.  I'm told I should have a NEW and possibly upgraded printer in the next few days.  Now the waiting game.  Have I mentioned I can't print?

Update 17 Mar: It was too good to be true, wasn't it? Kodak have sent Currys a REFURBISHED printer and another new printhead.  I wouldn't have left the service desk the other day had I not been told I'd have a new replacement. And, of course, my request for lost ink to be taken into consideration has fallen on deaf ears, because the cartridges are considered 'consumables' .. and, I quote from Richmond Currys ... "whether used for printing or in an 'annoying' way" ... like trying to get your printhead to work. Called them to say I'm not taking delivery and waiting for the store manager to contact me ...

Update 22 Mar: Good grief! Kodak actually contacted me after a Twitter post promoting this blog and are suddenly bending over backwards to help.  In the meantime, Currys' manager had offered me a new C310, but I'd heard reports about noisiness and similar ink consumption ... and no mention of lost ink - except to say that what was left of my depleted #10 cartridges (which have not yet printed a single page but have been half-used cleaning and calibrating trying to get the old printhead to work) could not be used, as the C310 uses #30.  Anyway, upshot is Kodak are now sending me a new upgrade with full (not starter) new cartridges.  This story may have a happy ending after all, in which case I'll be delighted to set the record straight.

Update 27 Mar: I'd like to say this has been resolved ... but it hasn't.  Having been told a new printer was being couriered to me by special delivery last Thursday (for delivery yesterday at latest), and that I'd be emailed with a tracking number on Friday, neither of these developments have materialised.  Chased up today and have been sent a despatch email (dated today) advising 'delivery within 5 working days'.  Sigh.  And it also refers to a 'replacement or upgraded' printer - no mention of the 5.1 I was promised.  So, despite the little ray of sunshine, it still looks like Kodak's Customer Service is badly broken.  Now been unable to print a thing for 16 days ... and it wasn't good even then.  The waiting game continues.

Update 29 Mar: New printer here, full (not starter) cartridges ... and all home computers are happily talking to it wirelessly.  Took a while, but hopefully a happy outcome.  Upgraded machine and will now just monitor to see if ink consumption any better.  I believe in fairness and will hopefully be able to put out a shout soon confirming Kodak is back on top of its game.  All credit to [awaiting permission to use name] who sorted this out for me and has taken a personal interest in seeing that Customer Services communications are more joined up in future.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Dear Bank Manager ...

As someone struggling with reduced capacity to repay my commitments in my own little micro-economy, might I suggest that we try to formulate a rescue plan for me, based on the proposals to save the euro. It seems that if you lend me even MORE, I can leverage the debt by selling it on nearly tenfold and make enough to trade my way out of my indebtedness to you. Maybe Tony Blair can broker the deal - I think he's still got at least one golden finger to stick in a pie somewhere.
Deal or No Deal?

Sunday, 4 September 2011

I Should Cocoa

And so back to greed and its consequences (see previous post), the ruse of shrinking product size as an alternative to increasing prices continues unabated. Cadbury have now 'pruned their Roses', having already lopped a few squares off your favourite choccie bars. Are they damaging their reputation by trying to pull the wool over our eyes like this? - vote with your wallets, folks.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Looking for Work and over 50 in London?

I tell you, it's tough out there.  Jobs, when there are any, are going to the younger candidates - which is fair, as I've had my shot (though I need an income), but even then we have one in five school leavers out of work at the other end of the spectrum.

It's frustrating, when you're just as capable as you were when last in work, trying to escape the self-perpetuating spiral of employers becoming less interested in you the longer you remain off the scene.  I'm being pragmatic, looking outside of my usual City sector and applying for positions (not even in management) at half my previous salary, but no nibbles ....

UPDATE 19 May '12:  ... and employers are becoming ever more imaginative with their explanations for opting for the younger candidate.  I couldn't believe these quotes from one of my LinkedIn forums ... the person who got the job was "earlier in their learning curve" (!) and "had a 'longevity' advantage".  So experience counts for nothing? And will they really get less service from an older person who is probably more loyal than the ambitious greenhorn who will have moved on in a couple of years' time?

UPDATE 3 Jul '12:  I was asked to contribute my views in this interview, soundbites of which will hopefully find their way into a radio piece over the next month or so. Be warned, though, its 15 mins in length so you might want to pull up a chair and a warm brew - and, as I felt I should be serious, it's a bit monotone!

UPDATE 8 Nov '12:  Hello! Still looking and utilising every resource under the sun ... job alerts by Twitter and email, forums, professional groups like LinkedIn, direct approaches and good old fashioned networking.  Jobcentre are worse than useless, forever changing their agencies, who in turn have a high consultant turnover.  Actions don't get followed through, their systems are archaic (email was down for over a week recently) and, frankly, they can't get their heads around what I've done and what I'm looking for.  But they're trying - very.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Julian Assange (WikiLeaks) - Where do I stand with him now?

I'm confused right now. As an Aussie who champions openness and fair play, I've been eagerly awaiting clearance of Assange's name in Sweden so that I can finally rally solidly behind him - but his massive ego still keeps getting in the way. He doesn't seem to like taking advice, even from confidantes trying to protect him from himself. The journo Heather Brooke accuses him of having some kind of Messiah complex, but it seems to me she might have an axe to grind (frustrated guilt?).  The Royal Courts of Justice aren't the only ones still reserving judgment, Julian.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

End the Greed

... and the London looters aren't much worse than the relatively few unscrupulous financiers who got us into this mess in the first place - just a bit messier.  Someone came out at the top at our expense.  For my views on market manipulators, AKA 'Looters in Suits' (particularly earlier posts), see Facebook page "Let's Sink Anthony Ward ("Choc Finger", Armajaro) and his greedy ilk".

Friday, 12 August 2011

London Looting Lunacy

To the lowlife who went on the rampage and got busted - hope the moment of madness was worth having your future prospects ruined by the mark against your CRB record.