Uber eats

We haven’t ever used Uber Eats (or similar), because when we feel like restaurant food, we prefer to eat at the restaurant.   However, it’s common to see the Uber Eats drivers collecting food from the places we’re eating at.

But I get annoyed when we’re waiting for the food to arrive at our table, and the Uber Eats driver walks in, shows his smart phone, collects the order and walks out – and we’re still waiting.

I don’t know exactly how Uber Eats works, and perhaps the orders  are placed well ahead of time – but I can’t help feeling that the restaurants  give it priority.

 

 

 

 

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Those beer bottle tops

So, there was a social media storm about the new ring pull tops on Carlton Dry.  It seems that the company has reversed the decision!

The design of the top of a beer bottle?   What a 1st world problem.  I really can’t get enthused about issues such as this.

It seems to me that the bigger issue is the reduction in the bottle size from 355ml to 330ml.    Ostensibly this is instead of a “price increase”, but beer is a competitive market, and I suspect the decrease in bottle size is more effective than a straight-out increase in price.

It’s interesting that in today’s society, the   priorities seem to lie with functionality rather than value!

Bestjet.

So, Bestjet – an on-line travel agent (OLA) – have “gone under” (and here as well as long thread here).    There’s understandably a lot of angst out there!   I’ve said before, I don’t usually use intermediary websites for  travel bookings.   It may appear to save a dollar or two, but who are you dealing with?    In Bestjet’s case, there seems to have been something of a track record of business failures, as well as lousy reviews even before they went into administration.  Just because an OLA may have an impressive website, and perhaps even a street address in another state, it doesn’t mean that they’re reliable.  One report I saw stated that Skyscanner are a large creditor, which suggests that Bestjet obtained (some? much of?) its business via referrals from Skyscanner (on which they were liable to pay referral fees) – presumably travellers seeking the best possible airfare.

Bestjet customers are outraged.

To be frank however, it’s not the credit risk of an OLA that concerns me most (although this is a factor);  it’s the lack of service when something goes amiss (such as, changes by the airline).

Out of curiosity, I looked at a couple of the other OLAs on the Skyscanner list.  BYOJet gets reasonable reviews – but their “contact us” page doesn’t list a street address   Actually it’s a Flight Centre brand!   Another Flight Centre brand is Aunt Betty.   It gets pretty ordinary reviews, although many of the negative reviews seem to arise from changes to flights, in several cases by the traveller.   Don’t people understand that cheap airfares come with restrictive conditions and cut-price travel agencies obviously can’t give guarantees of good service?   But I digress.

For completeness, I do use a bricks-and-mortar travel agent for aspects of  some trips, usually the longer flights.   True, there’s always a risk of any travel agent becoming insolvent, but perhaps some reassurance exists if the agent is accredited (but not as much comfort as existed before the Travel Compensation Fund was ended).   However, I was very interested indeed to see that Luxury Escapes have withdrawn from the accreditation scheme – an interesting article about this here.

PS – airlines, too, might go broke.  We all remember Ansett, and there’s currently scuttlebutt on the internet about Norwegian.

Hospitals

It’s an unfortunate fact of life, but we’ve seen the inside of a few hospitals in recent times.  Fortunately, for the most part we’ve been there as visitors, but it’s from that perspective that you realise that almost all hospitals resemble rabbit burrows.  True, the signage is there, but there seem to be unending corridors, different sections of the building with separate banks of lifts…and more.

However, from our limited experience, one of the most confusing hospitals is Epworth Richmond.    Not only is it hard to get to by train, but the entrances are spread over two floors, with the entrance that many people use (from Bridge Road) being a level down from the main reception.   Then there are a number of different buildings (no doubt,  built at different times) , and moving between them is not intuitive!

To make up for this, when you do find the main reception and ask for directions, they give you a diagram on whch is marked the route you need to follow to get to the part of the hospital that you’re seeking.   Not perfect, but at least they’re trying.

Remuneration for bankers

So, first Telstra, and then Westpac suffered a “first strike” against its remuneration report at its recent AGM.   And, naturally, the question being asked is, “what does a bank executive have to do not to get a bonus?”   The chairman didn’t seem to be in the mood to express much remorse.  All he did was acknowledge that many were “questioning” whether the “cuts” had been enough.  Sorry, but I thought the idea was the executives got paid “bonuses” for doing more than their day job, so any additional payments were in addition to their pay, rather than something to which they were entitled to, but ran the a risk (seemingly, not a great risk) of missing out on if things weren’t good.  Obviously, I don’t “get it”, because the payments now are “variable remuneration”, not “bonuses”.   I guess I’m just stuck in the 20th century.    It will be interesting to see where the Royal Commission comes out on this aspect.    My hunch is that the banks have a long way to go to convince the court of public opinion – and perhaps also the Royal Commission – that they’re changing.

I looked at NAB’s Remuneration Report.  It’s 30 pages of, well, “complex” commentary – and this is supposed to be a “simpler” deal?   I wonder how many consultants were involved in devising this, and how much they got paid?

Now, I accept that running a major bank is a complex business, and I don’t have any issues with the executives being well-paid for their roles, even packages running to 7 figures.  However, the concept of “variable remuneration” bonuses seems to be lost on these guys.  What’s happened at NAB in the last year?   Cash earnings are is down (by 14.2%),  the share price is down, there’s been immense reputational damage – and the executives (omitting one who has left) are still getting between 45.5% and 105% of their “variable remuneration”.  Oh and by the way,  the “performance measure” on the score of “cash earnngs” is that it’s been 95% achieved!

I could continue ranting, but you get the idea:  why bother dressing up all this “variable” remuneration?   It seems to be  just another way of paying these guys to do their day job, so just save on the consultants fees and pay them the money – and let the shareholders decide if they’re being overpaid.

PS – NAB’s AGM, at which there will be a vote on the remuneration report, is on Wednesday.

UPDATE:  And there was an 88% vote against the remuneration report at the AGM.

Low GI

I got a talking-to from the GP:  my blood sugar level has been rising and although there’s nothing to worry about yet, he thought that I ought to be aware of my exercise regime and diet.

This dietary issue has introduced me to a new set of issues.  Of course, exercise is good, and alcohol and sugar are “bad”, but so too are some carbs.    It all depends on the Glycemic Index (GI) of carbohydrates. This opened a new world to me.  I checked the internet and then walked the supermarket aisles.   I thought I could just look for foods labelled “Low GI”.  After all, there are “gluten-free” and “organic” foods, aren’t there?

But, no such luck.  Although the supermarket aisles are full of organic and gluten-free foods, few if any products are labelled with a GI figure, even though a Low GI symbol is available.   This is perhaps because there are factors other than the inherent quality of the food itself that affect the GI, most notably, the preparation and cooking processes.   So, choosing appropriate foods is a little more complex than just looking at the label.   Yet there are choices to be made:   “quick” oats have a higher GI rating than normal rolled oats, and whole-grain is even better.   In relation to potatoes,  there’s a specific variety that has a much lower GI than others (at Coles).  Most rice is “not good”, and bread should be wholegrain if possible.  But when I bought some muesli with “wholegrain oats” (because there were no “wholegrain oats” to be seen), thinking that it was “good”, I was told by a family member, “but it’s full of dried fruit, which is chockers with sugar”!!!!    And it goes on……

But I do wonder if greater use if the Low GI label could occur?   Diabetes Australia state that around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes. This includes all types of diagnosed diabetes (1.2 million known and registered and up to  500,000 undiagnosed estimated).   This is before taking into account the people such as myself who “aren’t there” yet but might benefit from watching their diet.  All of these would benefit from more labelling.

On the other hand, far fewer people have coeliac disease (perhaps 250,000 all up).   True, people with this disease probably have to be even more careful (to avoid gluten) than most people who have blood sugar issues, but it seems a little perverse that labelling of foods is so much more convenient or them.

However, my “journey” has only just commenced;   no doubt there’s a way to go yet.

Justice and Technology

I was pleased to see the headline in a magazine that “artificial intelligence will never replace humanity on the bench”.    This is actually derived from an article by the Chief Justice of South Australia in the Australian Legal Review (which came inside an issue of the Australian a few weeks back).

The article pointed out that artificial intelligence has a great deal to offer to the legal system, but not when making legal decisions because these are the domain of judges.   The article suggests that AI seems incapable of sharing the capacity for empathy and compassion that hopefully will remain necessary characteristics of our concept of justice, along with ethical values.  These qualities arise out of a consciousness of “self”, and are the product of an interaction between ourselves and our environment, and it’s almost impossible to conceive that machines and comprehend this in a dynamic, corporeal sense.  Hence, although there may be scope for algorithms to assist in matters such as sentencing, it seems impossible to conceive that AI can replace the human touch in this area, or in areas such as assessing the credibility of witnesses.

That said, there’s enormous scope for AI in the legal world.  The article refers to the use of “smart forms” in connection with grants of probate in South Australia.  This is not really a novel concept, as the functionality is similar to the process used by the ATO for tax returns.   But as pointed out in the article, the effort required to design the process is quite considerable and the reality is that it might take some time to achieve a usable product.

Since the article appeared, there’s been some publicity about a recent decision of the Full Court of the Federal Court in Pintarich v Deputy Commissioner of Taxation [2018] FCAFC 79, where it was found that a statement in a computer generated letter purportedly remitting a taxpayer’s interest charges on a tax liability was not a “decision” which could be relied upon as there was no mental process of reaching a conclusion involved in the relevant component of the letter being issued.   This decision went against the taxpayer (it allowed the ATO to “walk away” from the relief set out in the computer-generated letter), but it sounds as though the courts are on the right track.