Plastic bags

So, the major supermarkets are ending the use of one-time use plastic bags.   I guess there’s a bit of momentum for this in the community, although perhaps in some ways it’s “virtue signalling”.

Aldi of course have never had one-time use bags, but their checkouts are designed with this in mind.  I wonder if Coles and Woolworths will make any changes to their checkouts to better accommodate placing items directly into the trolley?

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Be that as it may, our local Woolworths is publicising the move, even with signage in some of the baskets.

On a related note, the rules in Britain on one-time use bags were changed some time ago.  However, at the Sainsbury in London, one-time use bags were available, but there was an “honesty” system in place, where you were asked to enter how many one-time bags you used (5 pence each).  And at a small Tesco, we were provided with a multi-use plastic bag without charge!

 

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Broadening the mind

No matter how much travel I do, I guess I return from every trip with a range of new impressions and thoughts.    Certainly there were aspects of our most recent trip that provided me with “food for thought”.

Comfortable “Pier” lounge at Hong Kong

In my case, I’ve concluded that as I age, travel becomes harder on the body, even in what ought to be “comfort”.

One thought that occurred to me in London is that the rules for pedestrians there seem to differ from ours.  I’m not sure if these “rules” are actually what the law states, but there it seems that so long as the pedestrian keeps out of the way of vehicles, they’re free to walk almost everywhere.

Lots of these signs around!

Even “red man” traffic lights seem to be “advisory” only, although woe betide the pedestrian that gets in the way of a vehicle!    That’s an invitation to be shouted at.   In fact, some intersections don’t have red and green men (even though there are stop lights for vehicles) and leave it to the pedestrian to decide when to cross, when the traffic stops.

Different “rules” are fine, it’s just a matter of getting used to them – and remembering to adjust when arriving home!

 

Bitcoin (again)

I admit that bitcoin (and cryptocurrencies generally) hold a fascination for me, mainly because I can’t get my mind around how they work.   Hence, because of this – and also because, frankly, I can’t see what’s in it for me! –  my inclination has always been to  stay well away from any cryptocurrency!

However, bitcoin has been quite prominent in the news of late, because its price nearly got to the US$20,000 barrier, before falling back to around US$10,000.

Of course, this gives rise to all those “if only I’d bought some” reflections!    Hindsight is wonderful, but even so, I don’t have any regrets.

Apart from the volatility in the value of bitcoin, a reason for having no regrets is that the tax implications of dealing with cryptocurrencies are complex.    Although  GST seems not to be a big issue, as the ATO accepts that digital currency is a method of payment,  capital gains tax may be involved.  There are also potentially issues under the anti-money-laundering laws.     So the news that the tax office is getting set to “blitz” investors in bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies) shouldn’t come as any surprise.

Of course, anonymity is prized by some holders of bitcoin (who see it as a currency without a central bank), but it seems that the authorities have a number of weapons at their disposal, including Austrac’s powers to gain information from digital currency exchanges along with requirements for customer identification.  Combined with the with the ability to obtain similar information from other jurisdictions under double-tax treaties (for example, the US and Japan), it seems that at least some of bitcoin’s perceived “benefits” might not be quite as significant as some of those who are involved in it might wish.

As I’ve stated,  I don’t pretend to understand how cryptocurrencies work, but my imprression is that, although bitcoin transactions (being a blockchain) can be “peer-to-peer” without the need to go through an exchange, transactions involving the purchase of bitcoins, or their conversion back into currency, usually need to be done on an exchange, and it is at this point that the authorities appear to have the ability to watch what’s occurring.

Truth in advertising – medications

Did you see the news report that  the Federal Court found a claim by the makers of Nurefen to be misleading and deceptive?    It seems that Nurofen’s manufacturer, Reckitt Benckiser​, ran an advertising campaign saying Nurofen (basically ibuprofen) gave faster and more effective relief from headaches than Panadol (made by GlaxoSmithKline), or paracetamol, despite there being no real scientific evidence to support it.

The claim by Nurofen’s makers was based on a single clinical trial in 1996, which found that a dose of ibuprofen​, the active ingredient in Nurofen, was more effective than a single dose of paracetamol in the treatment of certain headaches.  However, other trials had been unable to replicate this result, and the authors of three analyses had concluded that no authoritative comparison was possible in the present state of scientific knowledge

Hence, the judge concluded that it was misleading or deceptive  for Reckitt to claim that ibuprofen (Nurofen) provides faster and more effective relief from pain caused by common headaches  than does paracetamol (Panadol).

Sounds fair enough to me.  However, it interests me that so many of us prefer the branded products.   Both paracetamol and ibuprofen are available as “generics” on the supermarket shelves, and so far as I’m aware, contain the same active ingredients as the branded products.   But I guess that when it comes to medications, we like the assurance of a brand name, and so are willing to pay extra for that.

Theft

We were upset to see that a small street tree had been cut down.   But what’s that?  There’s a sign attached to the stump.   To cut a long story short, it seems that a thief had cut through the tree trunk in order to steal a bicycle that had been chained to it.  The sign on the tree was from the irate owner of the bike.

Apparently the theft had occurred within the space of 10 minutes or so, and since the tree was cleanly cut, the thief had come prepared with some sort of saw.   Perhaps they had arrived by car?

In hindsight, it may not have been the best idea to chain a bike to a small tree, especially when  a steel parking sign was almost next to it.  But bike theft is  unacceptable, and it’s even more outrageous that someone would chop a tree down to do it.

TigerAir

Well, I certainly wasn’t very happy when Tiger cancelled our 11.10 am flight to Sydney and re-scheduled us to fly at 6.30 pm the NEXT day.

But the offer from Tiger to give us a credit for the fare, instead of a refund, really annoyed me.   I received an email confirming the credit, and then I called the call centre after we returned and asked for a refund instead,   The call centre operator was hard to understand and evasive, but the essence of his response was that the call centre couldn’t depart from the “policy”.  However, he did refer me to the website for the contact details of a “customer support” address, which was a postal address (in Gladstone Park).

I’m a bit old-fashioned, I suppose, and I’m OK with writing a letter.    So, doing the best I could to keep my emotions under control, I composed a letter to “Customer Support”.  By my calculations, on the same day that the letter would have been received, I received an email response,  to the effect that “as a gesture of goodwill” the fare would be repaid.

The letter also stood by the assertion that weather conditions had caused the flight to be cancelled, and hinted that I ought to have taken travel insurance!   Just the same, credit to Tigerair for responding quickly, and for (eventually) doing the right thing.  I guess some compensation towards the much higher fare we had to pay to Jetstar would be step too far for a low cost carrier.   In the meantime, I’ve posted reviews setting out our experience on both TripAdvisor and Skytrax, so they allowed me to let off a little steam!

Buying property

There was yet another “successful” auction not far from us recently.  A small place sold for $2 million, an amount that would have been undreamed of only a year or so ago.    Sure, the property had a number of nice characteristics, but still ….

But leaving this aside,  curiosity led me to check the stamp duty that the purchaser will have to pay on this purchase, over and above the purchase price.  It’s $110,000!   Then there are conveyancing expenses and some other fees.  It certainly means that buying a property is not a cheap exercise.