Tuesday, 8 June 2010

First Augmented Blog Post. (Thanks, Zemanta.)

Aquaponics is a method of agriculture which takes elements of aquarium keeping, hydroponics, and can be slotted well into a permaculture system.

Take a large fishpond.  Take some growing beds of gravel to hold plant roots up in a liquid solution.  Pump the water which the fish have excreted in and pump it over that grow bed.  Return the water back to the fish pond minus all the excrement, which the plants have meanwhile snacked on and found to be delicious.

I'm having a go at this, in the next year.  I'll be posting pics and articles here and to my Facebook account, so everyone can stay informed.

QUESTION: Does anyone actually read blogs anymore?  I'm wondering, because aside from the clumsiness of FB Notes, I find I'm posting more things to FB than to Blogger and Flickr combined, these days, and it seems that the readership for blogs is in decline - is that true?  Anyone got comments on this?

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Saturday, 10 April 2010

Punk Punk Punk, Punk-punk-punk It Up

When I was in my twenties, I wouldn’t have given you two bob for him.  I grew up with folk and country music, and in typical kid fashion, shook it all off for contemporary music, for Pink Floyd and Gong, Master’s Apprentices and Twisted Sister and oh yeah the more pop mainstream stuff of course.  But Malcolm McLaren and the Sex Pistols?  Puh-leeese!  Hate-driven music never was my cup of tea.

But then came an album that changed my opinion, with a social conscience and some great music.  Duck Rock was born   And today, 09 April 2010, a great man died.

Just before midday today, Trish and I were out driving. I had a memory chip in the stereo which had my old vinyl ripped to it, and Aria On Air came on, and gave us both goosebumps.  And on a whim, I played the next track too – Punk It Up.  And sang along because it felt like the right thing to do.  Then on the evening news I heard about it, and the goosebumps started.  See, I lived a significant portion of my life in Wittenoom, an asbestos town that has managed to kill a great many of it’s citizen with asbestos related diseases.
I myself have emphysema but it’s from smoking.  And what did Malcolm McLaren die of?  Mesothelioma, the asbestos disease…

Tomorrow I think I’ll play Punk It Up at full volume on the outside speaker system. It’s the least I can do for someone that made such a success out of crap music, and then made such good music that everyone dismissed as crap…

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Monday, 5 April 2010

Meat To Squeeze You

"Meat to Please ya!" used to be the little joke of the town butcher when I was a kid.  Hey, HE thought it was cool...  Back then, the butcher cut steaks and fillets off an animal, in front of you sometimes, and then weighed it up and charged you for it, wrapped it up in paper, and you took your 5lb roast home and it was damn good.  So okay, sometimes a butcher was caught by Weights & Measures for devaluing the pound, or for leveraging a few extra ounces worth out of customers by sneakily adding a thumb under part of the scales, that was up to you to be observant and call them on it.

And if caught, they'd always be generous, cos giving you a few extra steaks would be cheaper in the long run than a run-in with Dept  of W&M...  It was a pretty open type of give and take, no way was it honest, but at least it was something you could do something about.  Wouldn't it be good if that kind of mischievousness was all we had to deal with nowadays?

See, we've let the butcher out of our sight.  We walk into the meat section of the supermarket and it's all already on trays, packed and weighed and priced.  We have NO idea what's actually under the plastic.  The butchers sneak around behind the cover of their back rooms and for some reason when someone is unobserved they feel a lot easier about doing things that they might not try when in full view of their customers.

Now don't get me wrong - this is not a major attack on butchers, it's a major attack on ALL food producers and processors that have built themselves a hide-away of four walls and a lot of legal loopholes.  And that's pretty much all of them.  But in this case the concrete example I have is from a large chain of butchers, but not one associated with a major supermarket chain.  It's an example of how a smaller butcher starts to grow, and in order to ensure growth and success, does something that "everyone else is doing" but that everyone knows is not honest.  But what the hell, in order to get big you have to screw someone, and it may as well be the clueless customers.  (That's us, by the way.  We're the ones paying for the smaller butcher becoming a large corporation...)

In this case, it was a tray of sausages that I caught out.  And once you see this trick and how much money it can make once a company gets larger, you'll shit bricks.  I promise you.  

As far as my pocket goes, it's not much.  At $5 a kilo, breakfast sausages are cheap tucker in anyone's book - right?  But this particular tray of sausages (0.604Kg, around $3 something) ended up not being needed and got relegated to the freezer.  When I took the tray out of the freezer and opened it, this is what I ended up seeing:
Just Add Water...
As you can see, there's a fair bit of ice in that tray. Just for interest, I stuck the seven sausages (only three in the pic above as I took it after I'd discovered this little rort) and the tray and the ice on the scales and slid the balance weights.  Hmm, 600 grams.  I added the plastic shrink wrapping.  604 grams.  Exactly what I'd paid for, 0.604Kg.  Weighed just the tray and the plastic and the ice, a touch over 100g.  Just to double check, I weighed the sausages by themselves, and yep they came to a shade over 500 grams.  About 18% of what I'd paid was just packaging and water.  54c worth of shit, roughly.

Now the interesting thing is that when you work this out in quantities, you begin to see why the local butcher is less likely to do this, whereas larger companies will be all about those shaved percents.  See, if you can make an extra dollar on every kilo of sausages you sell, and you're a local butcher, you might make sell 20 kilos of sausages a week, and make $20 in ill-gotten gains. If you're that butcher that sells his product all over Australia at independent markets, you might sell 20,000 kilos of sausages in a week, and that's an extra $20,000 a week for nothing...  

That's why food manufacturers ship in palm oil at considerable cost to the environment both in clearing land for the palms, and pollution from tending and harvesting, then shipping. Because YOU'RE NOT WATCHING!  They can shave precious cents off the cost and sell to you for a few precious cents more for the "new and improved" formula...  On this and on the Zen Cookbook Blog I say it so often that it's become a thing I say in my sleep.  KEEP THE BASTARDS HONEST!  Take a bit of personal responsibility, take the trouble to check into everything, and make your feelings well known to your food outlets.  If they want to be dishonest, want to create environmental disasters, want to use cheaper ingredients that are known to have serious health issues, or want to keep the packaging the same size but put a few grams less in - then you damn well let them know it's not acceptable.  

If more of us do this, maybe some orang outan somewhere will thank us from its treetop...  

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Still Over The Prostate Cancer.

It's now four years since my PSAs came back beautiful and low.  Quick update for people that don't know it - in mid-late 2005 I had a high blood PSA and went for a biopsy which showed 60% hyperplasic cells in my old mate the prostate.  That meant that cancer was pretty much gnawing at the door so to speak, and I shat myself.  Not literally, of course.  There was a doctor examining me with a sharp biopsy needle shoved into a pretty sensitive bit of myself, would NOT have been a good look...

My urologist saved my gonads when he suggested using red wine, tomato paste, pomegranate juice, and selenium.  He didn't give me any indication of how much or how often, except for the selenium, which he was quite sure needed to be "pulsed."

I had to research the diet myself, and tested it on myself as I discovered the magic figures and facts.  I also made some surprising discoveries along the way, such as: other ingredients benefit from being taken in pulses as well.  Some ingredients if taken at the same time cancel each other out.  Some helper foods allowed my body to absorb as much as ten times the amounts of active ingredients from the same sized serving of food.  Some foods really needed to be taken with other foods as one supplemented what another prevented me from absorbing.  And the fact that it was not a consistent diet, you used certain foods aggressively, then tapered off on them, then went back to aggressive use at the appropriate time.

Being a foodie, it also had to taste pretty much as I'd always been used to, too.  So I adapted recipes to suit.

The upshot of it all was that a mere seven (7) months later, I went back for the next PSA tests and my PSA had dropped to a level that a person half my age would have had.  Almost like winding back the clock by 25 years.  And it's stayed there ever since.

I also find that the rules of the diet can be applied to pretty much all everyday cooking and meal planning (inasmuch as I can be said to "plan" meals at all...) and seems to help with type 2 diabetes, arterial health, and more.  (My father was having strokes by my age, on a generally much more natural diet, while my echo's and sono's all came back clear as a bell.)

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Saturday, 27 March 2010

It's Funny, Is It, Young Cyberpuppy?

I know something important when I stumble across it.  I know something else when I see it - a journalist trying to make themselves sound all cool and trendy by mildly taking the piss out of an important issue.  "Cyber" is a scare term?  Well that's all well and good, but in actual fact I think we do need to be scared about threats to the Internet.  (And yeah - I capitalise it.  So what?)  Because the attacks are not going to go away just cos you laugh at them.

I'm just thinking about myself to begin with.  I keep in contact with people on Facebook, Skype, email, a range of chat protocols, and through their blogs and mine.  I don't buy a dead-trees newspaper nor any magazines in that same medium.  My phonebook is either in the memory of my phones and VOIP programs, or else is an online site - I refuse a physical phonebook every time I catch the delivery people, which so far has been every year for ten years.  On a trivial note, I even get my TV guide online rather than in printed form.

The list goes beyond that of course.  My electricity utility has control and billing computers, some track where to shunt power at particular times of demand, some track how much of that power went to me and then bills me for it and generates the order to shut my power off if it thinks I haven't paid.  And at least part of that system has a connection to the Internet and is a tempting target to mischief-makers and serious terrorists...

Ditto with my mobile phone - aside from being billed and routed as the above, it physically uses the same infrastructure as Internet traffic does.  Want to disable Australia's Internet?  Drop a few key routing installations.  Oh yeah and as a bonus also drop a sizeable chunk of the mobile phone network.

So I say to hell with your blase attitude, if I'm this reliant on Internet at 53, then you who has grown up knowing nothing but instant answers at your fingertips are sure as hell not going to cope if someone does perform an act of cyber-war...

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Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Shutting Off The Internet 1-2-3.

Despite the amount of hype and stress surrounding things like this and the Aussie Great Communistic Repressive Firewall, the two can't really be compared.  Both are insidious and destroying of rights - but let's face it human history is composed of nothing but overtly setting up human rights and covertly removing them again, leaving a population that feels as though progress has been made, when in fact it's a regress.  That's what politics is all about, and always has been.

And in fact, both of these schemes have some positive spins that can be applied:  The Firewall shouldn't affect most people, since it supposedly blocks only material that by and large the Australian population must find offensive.  The Australian population signified this by electing the politicians that they have, because a politician with unpopular views is quickly dropped.  (Vide Mr Howard and his Industrial Relations legislation.)

Similarly, the scheme to make Internet users more accountable and identifiable would not affect the majority of people - we're already identified by SSN, bank account, credit card, driver's license, and Births Deaths & Marriages information.

Yet the Internet has vigorously resisted the adoption of IPv6 (a new scheme to replace the current scheme of Internet addresses, which we're running out of) and partly that's because it can make individual users uniquely identifiable, and the Chinese population (and now the Australian people) are quite unanimous in their dislike of being filtered and firewalled.

The reason that the general population is so against such information is simple:  They have seen a System within which it seems that the most minor crime is met with years of incarceration and deprivation of liberty, while genocide and fraud on a grand scale is met with aid and handouts.  The dimmest voter can see that there's an inequity at work here, and extra filtering, extra accountability, is going to eventually be used against them.

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Sunday, 7 February 2010

Props and Applause

People and businesses I have to give a big tip of the hat to:

  • WA Poultry at 1170 Baldivis Rd for having a huge range of small farm bits and pieces including the watering nipples for my rabbits - who now have a huge 30litre water supply that I can fill once in a blue moon and which has worked out about 2/3 the price of buying individual water bottles for each rabbit.  They were helpful, not too expensive, and good to deal with. 
  • Pinjarra Farmer's Market for hanging in there and providing a range of excellent produce - and some wicked tasty cheese mini-muffins this morning...  
  • Gull Roadhouse Barragup because they kept prices so steady for so long, made it easier to budget where to spend my limited fuel money.  Gull is also a WA-owned company as far as I'm aware, and that makes supporting them almost mandatory in my book.
  • Bunnings, for having everything I need for my house, shed, and garden under one roof.  'Nuff said.
They've all contributed to my last few weeks in very positive and welcome ways.

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Monday, 25 January 2010


I can't exactly black out my site for a week but I can direct you to http://www.internetblackout.com.au/ to reflect on what a repressive government could do...

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010

War And Pieces

Having just posted an article about war and famine, check and balance, civilisation and barbarism, on my Zen CookBook blog, it's occurred to me how this would go down.  Let you read that article and come back to here.  *drums fingers on desk, whistles, fiddles with radio station*

Ah, back I see.  Well, lets imagine for a moment that the world is heading for a catastrophe of some kind.  (What's that?  You don't say...)  So let's use Global Warming as the scenario then.

  • What is causing GW?  Too many people using up resources, leading to changes in the ecosystem and the weather system.
  • What is the timescale for GW?  We don't know. Every year we are revising our estimates to nearer and nearer in time, and estimating worse and worse effects over that shortening timespan.
  • Can we just stop using those resources and let the systems stabilise? No, because we are dependent on them, and if we stop using them, another population will begin using the resources, and we'll be evolutionary statistics.
  • Can't we impose a global moratorium on using resources?  Try telling that to China and India, who are pulling up populations from the depths of abject poverty to some semblance of a living standard, that they're no longer allowed to use resources.  Go on, I dare ya!
  • How about if we all become tree huggers and hippies and scatter throughout the bush, and suppose that we found a completely zero impact way to sustain everyone, what about that?  Nope, because even if we all stopped everything that causes pollution or environmental impact right this instant, the effect would roll along for decades and the world itself will become less and less hospitable and habitable in that time.
In fact, the only way that this system is going to recover is to crash hard.  Extremely hard.  Given that small disasters bring out the best and worst in people already, imagine how much more pronounced an effect a global catastrophe will have. Remember that we have a genetic imperative that we can't avoid - we have been programmed for millennia to reproduce and overwhelm other gene pools with our own.

If I were a superpower, my plans right now would already be laid out in detail and stored in a filing cabinet against the day that I might need to use them...  Cold countries?  Nuclear winter will bury them under a block of ice for at least a few centuries.  Don't waste nukes there.  If you are a cold country, your plans should include mass evacs to the tropics.  Temperate European countries?  Take out as many large population centres as you can, reduce their capacity to resist.  Africa/Middle East/China/India/USA?  (Depending on whose plan you're reading...)  Carpet those suckers in whatever you have, send in as many troops as you can before the big chill sets in.  Indonesia/Australia?  Send in troops and then immigrants, don't waste nukes, you need somewhere that isn't glowing...  

Not the best scenario, but it is time to make plans of your own, just in case. It probably won't happen, but if you've thought about it then you're that much better prepared than someone that hasn't spared it a thought. Also, I hope and feel that commonsense will prevail in most cases, but there are some nuclear powers out there now that are under barely rational leadership, and under the right circumstances that could trigger a brief outburst and as you saw in my other article, a really bad climate change would follow that pretty quickly.

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Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Cosmic Currents exCeed C

An oddity - something that scientists say does go faster than the speed of light.

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Tech School VP Is Not Techie At All, Just Stupid.

What part of Tech School didn't this dunderhead understand?  He called the bomb and arson squads on a kid who made a technical device - in a school full of kids being taught with an emphasis on technology - and the vice principal was too stupid to work out what it was, so he calls in SWAT?  Geez, he should be crawling up his own butthole in shame, and not recommending that the kid and his parents undergo counselling...

The best part?  We're well on the way to having halfwits like him in our schools here.  Watch them, people, and keep these sorts of bastards away from our future!  Oh bugger, there's Conroy just got past us...  There goes our freedom and future....

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Friday, 15 January 2010

The Pre Gen Gen

I'm trying to work out what the generation before the Baby Boomers did, to make such a balls-up of things.  I'm no longer waving some loopy concept around and seeing what sticks to it, I'm suddenly up against an awful revelation:  Our parents were weird!

The worst thing is that you hear teenagers say that all the time.  But I'm a Borderline Boomer myself, a bit on the young edge of the Boom but still there.  And I've noticed that almost everyone I speak to of the same generation, has a tale of dysfunctional parents of some kind.  Things I've heard:

"My mother was not good at parenting, she was far too busy having a good time."
"Mum was a lady and she didn't concern herself with the kids."
"Our mother was a self-absorbed alcoholic and dad wasn't home much."
"My father was a doctor, he kept mum drugged and beat us a lot." (TRUE! As I was told it, and will never let slip who this was.)
"My step father tried, he really did..."

My own story is somewhere spread among some of those above, and a few others I won't go into - we have enough similarity here to establish a few base rules.

Firstly, let me say that my father was the pool of sanity, for me at any rate.  He was also a good critical thinker, and often let slip little pearls which are still proving true to this day.  "The World Wars," he said once, "they changed everything, changed it for the worse, and you and I won't see the end of that change in our lifetimes."  I believe that without dad our family would have been much changed, too.

So now let me get to my generation.  Of all the people I meet and interact with, about 1/3 are my gen, about 1/2 are younger, and the rest are unclassified or much older.  That's a rough guide, of course, I'm not in the habit of counting my friends by age.

The group I'm interested in, the Boomers, have one thing in common:  all bear self-inflicted scars of excess.  And almost every single over-reaction to life that they exhibit can be traced to something parental.  "I was never allowed to be a kid, so when I got out of home I partied and drank pretty much all the time.  I did way too many drugs, and always at the back of my mind was the thought 'hey fuck you mum and dad!' and then I discovered that I'd given myself a real problem and now I can't take that back" seems to be a summary of the major plotlines.

Almost every one of my contemporaries exhibits signs of over-indulgence in one or more things.  As though they are overcorrecting for something in their childhoods.  And yet, often I can't find any such shortcoming as would explain that reaction in their youth, just being underparented. It's really strange.  Then I remember the rest of Dad's diatribe against the Wars.

"It turned a social order upside down" he said.  "Men left in their hundreds of thousands, and women were left staffing factories and spending more time outside the home and away from their children.  Those children (you) are missing something in their upbringing."

And "The balance changed.  In a patriarchal society, everything was based on needs and requirements.  You needed food and a roof over your head, you needed to learn how to provide for your family when the time came.  Then we became more matriarchal and those needs and requirements changed.  Now we're a world-wide nanny state, and it's only going to get worse."

In so many ways, he was spot on.  And continues to be, years after he's passed away - still the shots he called are on target.  He also called a few other things right, and in an upcoming article I'll try and remember enough of those to explain them.

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The Art of Transcending Dental Dumbness

Not to put too fine a point on it, but what a fucked system we have.  My father had a landline and dialup access and he had the eternal problem of needing to phone me for tech support but not being able to get on the phone and then get online with the PC...  That was among a lot of other things that drove him mad about being on a pension.  Did I understand that?  Vaguely.

Now it's me in the Pensioner Hot Seat and I've discovered a few things:  I should be entitled to broadband access equivalent to what an average user in the city has, say something like ADSL2 or ADSL2+.  Not a chance out here, it's ADSL vanilla all the way, and also no suitable phone line.  When I contacted Mr Conroy's office (it's one of his portfolio tasks) I was told that I couldn't have satellite because I have a bus and that is not classed as a fixed dwelling, and am renting a cottage which is not mine to ask for broadband for.  Fucked either way.

I said well how about a USB stick modem and mobile broadband access then?  "Oh no, the department is only set to handle giving out satellite broadband systems."  WTF?  I mean, WTF?  I mean OMGWTFBBQsauceandfuckingassholes...  A $130 USB device and a contribution of $20/mth would see me with comparable access, whereas to do the same thing with satellite would cost that (estimated) seven grand plus some horrific installation fee plus about a $100/mth contribution would be needed in that latter case.

I then had a need to call a support organisation for something.  The person I spoke to snapped out a 1800 number at me, I tried ringing it - and ran out of credit on my mobile.  So I tried Skype - and ran out of credit on that too...  Oh yeah - says right here that fees are applicable to mobile phones, and I've since discovered that Skype and other VOIP services are charged premium rates by Telstra to access 1800 and 1300 numbers.  THAT works for a pensioner with only VOIP or mobile!

And I got given an increase in my pension, good on you Mr Rudd!  Pity the price of electricity has gone up by more than that...  I'm back to worse off again.  So - no solar rebate or any way of getting cheaper power, because at our age we need a/c and things to keep our quality of life, no internet, and get charged premium rates for trying to call the organisations that are supposed to be supporting us.

Well done Messrs Conroy and Rudd!  We pensioners salute you.  To you it only looks like we're flipping you the bird because - ... well, because we are.  You've screwed us around so much, you really don't deserve both fingers but we're afraid you'd think we were calling you "number one" if we dropped one.

I phoned a large hospital the other day as they have a Dental Unit and I had been nursing a toothache for several weeks while trying to find a dental facility that does public coverage patients and wasn't closed over Christmas, and with outrageous callout fees to pay.

"No sorry" says the chick that answers the phone, "they only do emergency dental work on weekends"
I point out to her that I have a piece of paper in front of me given to me by the Dept Health and it has their Dental Unit plainly listed as "weekdays 9:00 to 4:30" and "weekends 9:00 to 12:00" so can she please explain herself?  "Oh," she says, "they don't do extractions or emergency during the week, and only emergency on the weekend."  WTF WTF WTFF?

Since then, I'm convinced that "dumb" and "dental" go hand in hand.  I've been phoning several other practices and they all have on hold music and messages saying that they're on holiday and callout fees apply.  Then I get to one that doesn't have that message and I wait. And wait.  I run my fucking phone out of credit again while waiting, in fact.  I find their White Pages entry and there's a contact email for appointments.  Several minutes later I have an email sent.

A week later I drive into town to find a practice that's open and go to this particular one.  Apparently they've actually been open almost all the holiday break but their phones get handled by a head office...  So I book, tell them I'm a pensioner, and could she please give me a ballpark figure for the gap payment so that I can budget my meagre pension?

"uh no because we don't know what rate you'll get rebated at" but I already know I'll get a certain level of rebate and tell her.  "Well we don't quote numbers in advance" she says, so I say what harn can there be in letting me know what I'll have to put aside and do without in order to pay their bill, and she says "we don't give that information out." And that's pretty much that.  I get told I'll need to bring a letter of income from Centerlink, which strikes me as a bit odd.  Then I check out the bundle of paperwork they've given me to take home to fill out.

There's a section I have to sign, which authorises Centerlink to release my status information to the surgery electronically.  I phone the bimbo again.  (Sorry, but she is definitely a bimbo.) I ask why they are asking me to authorise Centerlink to provide my status information and still have to also provide a letter from Centerlink that just duplicates this.  "You have to authorise Centerlink to give us the information contained in the letter.  YOU authorise it by going and getting the letter. It's standard practice.  I don't know why YOU'RE the only one having a problem with this."

I've meanwhile gone to a small practice elsewhere, where they've asked me to fill in that same release form, and then told me quite frankly how much of a gap payment I'd be up for if it was an extraction that was to be done.  No fucking around, no bullshit, no hassles, well done that Practice!

I ring Bimbo back and say "My name's Ted **** and I want to cancel my appointment."  The bimbo asks why and I refer back to our earlier conversation, and furthermore tell her I think she was stupid and has lost a customer.  She tries to explain once again that when I authorise Centerlink to provide the requested information, I then have to go and get that information and deliver it by hand anyway because that's how it's authorised.  "What," I say, "you mean I'm signing that piece of paper in order to allow myself to go into Centerlink and get my status statement and then bring it to here t show to you?  You don't think that's a trifle redundant anywhere along that process?"

She tries to express the ineffable (to her, anyway) for another six or seven minutes, and I finally get tired of it and ask her to just cancel my appointment.  She asks why and "Because I've just been to another practice where they didn't squirm and wriggle and avoid giving me a ballpark figure on what the operation would cost me, and they also got me to sign one of those forms and will contact Centerlink electronically just like it says on that form and get the information they need without me having to jump through hoops and run redundant paper copies around just because some stupid receptionist doesn't know the procedure."

"Uh sir, I..."

"Yes, you're that receptionist and you're stupid!  Please remember to cancel my appointment and have an adequate day." *click*

Five minutes later the phone rings and a woman with a heavy accent says "******* Dental.  We have an email here from you enquiring about an appointment, but it came to us here in head office and we were closed until today.  When can we book your appointment for?"  I tell her that I've already booked an appointment and just cancelled an it, and yes it was the same appointment I'd sent an email seeking but would now no longer be requiring.  She asked me why I'd cancelled and I said "Talk to Stupid at the ****** practice..." and wished her a good day and hung up...

Can things get any more stupid than that lot?  I think we're going to find a load more of these gems as the system goes pear-shaped under the pressure of stupid people making up stupid rules for everything from Internet to dental work...

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