Covid-19 and Toilet Paper

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Relative to China, South Korea, Iran and Italy, Australia has a handful of Covid-19 cases. But intense media attention and Government exhortations to keep calm have predictably given rise to panic buying. Hand sanitizer disappeared first from supermarket shelves, followed closely by… toilet paper. There have even been scuffles in the aisles as people try to prise the last pack of this prized commodity from the arms of rival shoppers.

This morning I received an email from the Australian supermarket chain Coles, where we do most of our shopping. It informed me that the limit of 4 packs per customer had now been replaced by a 1 pack limit, and they had told their suppliers to concentrate on the 30-roll pack size. The email added:

“… a pack of 30 rolls should last an average family for around 3 weeks.”

As is my habit, I did a little arithmetic. Let’s say that an average family has 5 members. The toilet paper we have in stock (bog standard, and not a stockpile), has 180 sheets per roll. So if 5 people get through 30 rolls in 3 weeks they are each using (30×180)/(5x3x7) = 51.4 sheets per day.

What on earth are they doing with the stuff? Eating it?!

Sometimes I wonder if I was born into the right species. Do you ever feel like that?

Selfies – No, not that kind

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We’d all agree that self-discipline is the best kind of discipline; self-control is the best kind of control; and a degree of self-respect is necessary to win the respect of others.

But self-regard, self-importance, self-satisfaction and self-aggrandisement are to be treated with suspicion. So too, in the world of business anyway, are self-regulation and self-assessment.

This brings me to today’s stroppy-maker: a story in the Sydney Morning Herald about alleged rorting of an Australian tax-break for research and development – a tax-break that involves paying ‘tax offsets’ totalling A$3 billion per year. There is a list of R&D activities that qualify for these offsets.

The picture alongside is taken from that article. It shows Jamie McIntyre, one of the people against whom the allegation of rorting is made, a sum in excess of A$500,000 being mentioned.

“And how,” I hear you ask, “does the Australian Tax Office assess the validity of claims for these offsets?” Ah, well, there’s the rub. It seems the ATO relies on taxpayers to self-assess and, amazingly, some people are motivated by greed rather than an urge to add to the sum of useful human knowledge.

I’m sure you are amazed as I am – and as the ATO and the lawmakers who passed this piece of legislation must be. Who would have guessed that some people are prepared to tell lies in order to swipe an undeserved share from the public purse?

Let’s hope that this revelation – or allegation as I suppose I must call it – provides a valuable lesson in human nature to those who are responsible for managing honest taxpayers’ money.

The word ‘rort’ is an Australian colloquialism for a swindle; or, as a verb, to swindle.

Peace and Freedom

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We have quite a few TV channels here in our Yerevan apartment but most of the time we watch BBC World. The downside is that, in addition to paid advertisements, we get endless repetitive station promos and fillers.  All last week we were getting news highlights of the same week in past years… the same highlights over and over again, every time the BBC had a 30-second gap to fill.

The most annoying highlight has been a clip from Conchita Wurst’s 2014 Eurovision Song Contest acceptance speech, in which he/she dedicates the award to “all those who believe in a future of peace and freedom.”

Conchita

I’m not against peace and I’m not against freedom, but anyone who believes that there will ever, ever be a time when the whole world will be at peace and in a state of freedom, however defined, should be certified. It is not in our nature as humans – or indeed in the nature of any living thing – to live in peace.  And it is inevitable that when any creature, be it animal or vegetable, occupies a position of power over another it will use that power to constrain the freedom of the weaker party.  That is, as the French say, life!

But maybe that’s not what Conchita meant. Maybe when he/she used the word ‘believe’ its intended meaning was no more than aspirational.  Or perhaps it was meant to be woolly and meaningless, as in “I believe in you.”

Whatever the case, Conchita causes me to have a stroppy fit every time I see the clip.  He/she is guilty either of talking nonsense or of sloppy use of the English language.  Am I being harsh?

Roundism, Patterns and Solar Power

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Last year a posted my thoughts on roundism – our obsession with round numbers: special birthdays, wedding anniversaries and the like. So I thought, “When the meter that records the cumulative output of our solar panels reaches 25,000, I’ll photograph it and put up another post.”

But I missed it. I estimated when the meter would hit 25,000 and then I forgot to go to the garage with my camera.  So I thought, “I know, I’ll wait for 25,252 and do a post about our obsession with patterns and palindromes – and put in a plug for solar power.”  And this time I didn’t forget!

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Solar panel against blue sky

Our 3 kW array of photovoltaic cells was installed on my late mother’s 100th birthday, so I can’t forget the date and I know we’ve been harvesting the sun’s energy for 1,301 days.  That means we’ve averaged 19.4 kWh per day, earning/saving us close to A$6 per day.  That’s like having over A$90,000 invested in 20-year US treasury bills.  And the system cost us only A$6,800, so that’s pretty good.