Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Email Not Sent

August 13, 2011

Gather round boys, and I shall teach you how to pick up girls.

My foolproof technique is to find some hot babe, and tell her interesting facts about economic history until she is crazed with lust.
Oh it doesn’t always work, y’know.  So I’ve written an emergency email, to keep on file until the right occassion. (ie the next time I feel like talking about economic history.)
Dear Xxx,
I was going to tell you some interesting facts about economic history. This pickup technique, along with my cruel yet handsome eyes, never fails to win women over. But this time, I’ve decided not to use it on you.
You see, there is a possibility that we will meet at some cafe. Sparks may fly. We may fall madly in love, and soon find ourselves married with children. After a lifetime of adventures together, where we’ve forged the strongest bond, we may find ourselves in a living room somewhere, one of our grand-daughters on your knee. She might see a photo of you from the present, and say “Wow Grandma, you were a knockout! Grandpa, how did you sweep her off her feet?” And I shall say “I told her interesting facts about economic history until she begged me to stop. And now here we are.”
And she will stare at me. And then she will stare at you. And then she will stare at me again, and say “I can’t believe I even exist!”
To which I’ll have to sheepishly reply “You don’t. You’re just a construct in an email used to make a point.”
“Oh,” she’ll say. “I didn’t realise.”
I don’t want to have that conversation. It would be weird. So let’s not talk about economic history today.
Instead, how about we meet at some cafe and see what happens?
Monsieur Bits

Email correspondence with Arts student looking for a job

May 26, 2011

I have a friend doing an Arts degree.  I once mentioned that I’d built an Excel sheet that could automatically work out the optimal financial advice for a person, and generate a document in Word to explain it. He got excited, and pitched me on the idea of starting a business where I’d talk to financial planners to get the work, and he’d use the software to build the reports. The following email correspondence ensued:


Hi Durand! I went to the USyd employment service. They emailed me the link to become an employer looking for workers. If you send me your email address, I’ll forward it to you (that’s why I went to see them). Can I suggest that when the time is right, you recruit only say Arts student, who should be decent enough at that sort of thing – essays and multi-chocice-type picking – rather than commerce/finance students, or IT guys, as they may gt wise pretty quick and become competitors, where as Artsy-fartsys will probably just be happy fro the work – which, as repeat, I am confident tey will b quite able to do. I guess the end trick would be getting the firms to be satisfied with the final reports … but you know what “cuts it” in that department.


Dear XXX,

I’ve been thinking about this for quite a bit, even though I’m not currently in a position to employ anyone, being an employee myself. But by sending me your note, and going to the trouble of going to the USyd employment office to find out about this sort of stuff, you’ve shown a lot of initiative, which is really impressive. If I were in a position to employ someone to run software for me, I’d hire you.
And wouldn’t that be a waste of your talents.

As an administrator, you’d probably be paid around $40,000 a year, or around $3,000 a month after tax. You might be able to eat and pay the rent on that kind of salary (if you’re frugal), but not much else. And as a rule, administrators get dumped with all the crap jobs that no-one else wants to do, while having their concentration broken all the time by ringing phones, changing managerial whims, and photocopiers that have run out of toner. But if you knuckle down and work hard …. no-one will notice. Well bollocks to that! A big steaming pile of bollocks! (And yeah, ask me how I know about that kind of job, and I shall tell you a tale of woe and despair).
I’ve got a better idea. Learn It’s a “business platform” that allows you to build websites without having to know anything about building websites. If you sign up for the (free) development package, you can learn to build entire businesses online, which you can then either sell in their app-store, or sell to the thousands of people who want their businesses to run more easily. All the tutorials are online, are free, and are actually quite fun and easy to learn (just follow the tutorials). The thing is, most people don’t know about it, and those that do don’t have the two weeks it would take to do all the tutorials. Those that do and pass a test can get certified for a couple of hundred dollars. And people who are certified are able to earn between $80,000 – $150,000 a year, which is around $5,000 – $10,000 per month after tax.
If you got certified, I’d love to come and work for you as a salesperson. I could find all sorts of clients who need skills,  because while I was trying to get work as an Excel guru, heaps of business people I talked to were disappointed I didn’t know instead.

(I know what you’re going to say. You don’t know anything about websites. You don’t know anything about programming. Perhaps you don’t know anything about business. True. But last year, you didn’t know anything about philosophy either, and now you’re in second year.)

Something to think about 🙂


How to make a Centerlink officer happy

April 8, 2010

Dear xxx,

Thank you very much for being my case officer while I was unemployed. Having someone to check in with really gave me motivation, and the worksheets helped me reconsider my approach to job-seeking. I may have got a job without you (eventually), but I wouldn’t have been nearly as  focused about it.

So if you ever come into work one rainy Tuesday, perhaps with a headache, wondering why you bother, let me assure you …. You make a real difference.


Price of books

February 19, 2010

Howard Bloom, author of the incomparable “Global Brain”, has a new book out called “The Genius of the Beast – A Radical Revision of Capitalism”. As he is one of my favourite authors ever, I’m keen to read it.

But here’s how much it would cost me for the hardback:

From Dymocks:  A$63:00

From A$32:35*

Downloaded to my iPhone via Kindle: A$12:90

*In hardback, standard shipping, assuming US$1 = A$0.90

The Happy Centrelink Officer Index

February 16, 2010

I’ve thought of a new economic index – measure the job satisfaction of people working at Centrelink. It should be negatively correlated to the overall economy.

When times are good, most people out of work have genuine problems. I met some of them today. Like the guy standing next to me in the queue who had just been released from prison (literally!) and had forgotten the note from his psychiatrist allowing  him to seek work in an office. (This made him VERY angry!) Or the guy who had clearly knocked off a couple of bottles of scotch before 11:00am, and was happily whistling, filling the air with fragrance. The poor Centrelink officers were copping all sorts of abuse from all sorts of people. I eventually got to see a nice lady with a haunted look, and when I offered her a word of encouragement, she gave me a look that said “Rescue Me!”, and asked if I wanted to work there instead.

In contrast, when times are bad, nicer people start to turn up at Centrelink offices. They might be more understanding, not get so frustrated by bits of paper, and generally make life a little easier for the public servants.

So if you see a Centrelink officer leaping out of a tall building, then that’s a good thing for the economy. And there’s nothing worse for country than if a Centrelink Officer goes home with a smile on her face.

(This is why they call economics “The Dismal Science”.)

Famous Last Words

February 6, 2010

The New York Times is running a competition to see who can think of the wittiest last words, or epitaphs. Here are some famous ones:

“Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.” – Oscar Wilde

“Told you I was sick” – Spike Milligan

“They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist…” – General John Sedgewick, Battle of Spotsylvania 1864.

Competition entries are quite good too. Here’s a sample of epitaphs:

“I wish I’d spent more time at the office”

“At least I’ll get a lot of heat where I’m going”

“Hey, I didn’t want to buy the farm, I was just looking”

“What the …..? hell?”

“Time to think inside the box”

“You should see the other guy”

“Lose weight now! Ask me how!”

Doest thou renounce the Devil?

February 5, 2010

Doest thou renounce the Devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the sinful desires of the flesh, so that you will not follow, nor be led by them?

Because if not, you may be interested to know that Kesher is on tonight at my place. It’s BYO sinful desire of the flesh, particularly if that means fruit. Or, bring a vegetarian plate.

Thou shalt cast off thine shoes upon the hallway when thou doest arrive, or Nathan shall be cross.

Price Check at the Supermarket

February 1, 2010

So I went to Coles today, to see if that post about the cost of food made any sense. (Yes, I always do my fact-checking after I’ve published. My discerning readers wouldn’t expect any less.)

Most fruit hovered around the 30c-50c per 100g mark, and staple vegetables like onions and potatoes were around 25c per 100g. But processed food costs more. Bread is 60c per 100g. Lasagne, 70c. Butter 90c. Cake $1.10. Cheddar cheese $1.30. Steak $2. Camembert $4.79. And smoked salmon is $5 per 100g.

But the most expensive items were junk food. For instance, Funtastic Chocolate Surprise Eggs, with a toy inside, and pictures of High School Musical on the foil wrapper, was $11.00 per 100grams. (That’s $110 per kg!)

But tonight’s winner,  weighing in at $17 per hundred grams, which at $170 per kg makes it about a third the cost of silver bullion, is …


That’s right. Pez. Those little drops of hardened sugar in a plastic box. But these are no ordinary little drops of hardened sugar in a plastic box. There’s a reason why the Pez Corporation can charge so much for their sweets. 

Each Pez is lovingly handcrafted by sugar artisans in the jungles of Peru, dipped in platinum, and signed by the surviving members of the Beatles. For maximum freshness, they are flown to Australia (business class), and rushed to the supermarket in a refrigerated limousine, only stopping if there’s a good premiere on at the Opera House. If they can bribe their way past the heavies at Coles security, they finally take their place triumphantly on the shelf, proudly sporting the most enormous price tag in the supermarket!

And there they will stay, until the economy recovers.

How to feed a family of 5 for under $3

January 27, 2010

I have just made a massive bowl of lentil soup. I’d say there are at least five large servings – the kind of servings where you couldn’t possibly eat anything afterwards. It’s going to last me a good few days.

… and it cost me under $3.

It consists of 2 potatoes, 2 onions, a carrot, a tomato and a stick of celery, all of which cost me $2.55. I added some spices and some lentils, and let it boil. 

And here’s the thing … a pinch of spice transformed it from bland boiled vegetables into something wondrous. It’s amazing what a little chili and tumeric can do.


January 23, 2010

One of the things I like about fruit is that they’re cheap. Supermarkets have started to illustrate this comparing prices per 100grams. For example, processed food is usually more than $1 per 100grams. (eg If you got a 50 gram chocolate bar for 50 cents, you’d be doing well.)

But fruit and vegetables are far cheaper. Apples are usually 30c per 100 grams. Potatoes are 25c per 100g. Even expensive fruit, like mangoes at $7.99 per kilo are actually only 79c per 100 grams.

But today, rockmelons have topped the lot. Coles in Kings Cross were selling them for $1.99 each. And I reckon each rockmelon must have weighed around 4 kg each, which would mean they are 5 cents per 100 grams.

This is phenomenal news when you’re on a budget, like me. A vege burrito can fill you up for $10. But a half a melon can do the same job for $1.

But it’s got me thinking about something else. Rockmelons can fill you up pretty quickly, but because they are mostly water, you don’t stay full for that long. On the other hand, some foods can stop hunger for 5 or 6 hours. It would be interesting if there were a “Satiety-per-dollar” index. This would be particularly useful in the third world, where people have to really think carefully about what’s the best food to spend their money on.

UPDATE: Susannah Holt has already started a satiety index. And potatoes seem to be the most satiating food around.