Data matching

The Australian Taxation Office is pretty good at matching up the data it receives from various sources to individual taxpayers.  Well, so it ought to be, it’s not rocket science – most of the data they receive presumably comes with tax file numbers.

And sometimes the ATO likes to portray itself as being a little helpful, too.  Hence, I recently received a letter from them drawing attention to the fact that I might be in a zone where I could be affected by the upcoming changes to the superannuation rules.

As it happens, I was already aware of this.   But I couldn’t help wondering why the letter was addressed to our residential address – when we always use a different mailing address (a P O Box) for all our superannuation and ATO correspondence.   Sounds as though there’s room to fine-tune that matching process!

NBN – “Coming soon”

I’d seen on the NBN website that we’re due to get NBN in the next few months, and now we’ve received a card from NBN suggesting that we “register for updates”.

I’ve done a little research about what might be involved in changing our phone and computer connections over to NBN,  and then I attended a presentation at the Melb PC User group on the subject.

Well, time will tell, but for now I’ve got a few unanswered questions, even after the helpful presentation at the PC User group meeting.   These include,  where will the connection point inside our house be located, whether, if we stay with Optus as our retail service provider, what the costs might be (so far, the suggestions have been that other providers are better “value”), and if we move from Optus, what are the implications for our landline phone number and email addresses…….

And these are only the “known unknowns”.  There are sure to be some “unknown unknowns” as well!   Interesting times ahead!

The legal profession

A glossy “Legal Review” magazine fell out of our copy the Australian.  One of the articles suggested that Australia’s legal landscape was being “shaken up” by overseas law firms coming to Australia.

Well, that may well be, but I was left shaking my head as to the appeal of such firms to large commercial clients (who of course are the target clients for both well established and new entrant firms).

The same phrases kept coming up:   profits per equity partner, meeting budgets, lateral hires/”turnover of partners”, internal ructions and “global integration”.

Well, I’m now past all that, and obviously I don’t have the same day-to-day familiarity with what’s actually going on.   But the themes sound unchanged from the days when I was involved.

The starting point has to be that there’s only one source of profits in a law firm, and that’s from client billings.   Yet we regularly read that increasingly savvy commercial clients are monitoring legal fees more closely than ever.   Obviously there are competing interests here!

Budgets can only be met if there’s a good flow of work, and even then often involve outrageously excessive working hours for someone in the food chain – often on the part of more junior lawyers.

Lateral hires (and the associated turnover of partners) are disruptive to all concerned and always beg the question – was the person pushed (why)?   Or did they jump (presumably for more money – see point about source of profits above).

The article honestly admitted that there have been internal ructions at a number of firms.  That’s not surprising when the money involved is so great, but hardly in the interests if clients!

In short, the world of law firms has always been messy, and at this level, things don’t seem to have changed at all.  Glossy magazines may portray a rosy picture, but clients beware!

I haven’t touched on “Global integration”.     Now there’s quite a bit to say about this, so I’ll save it for a future post.

Ransomware

It’s our worst fear, isn’t it?  That we’ll be hit by a virus such as   “Wanna Decryptor” or “WannaCry”?  This particular virus, which has received a lot of publicity, is said to encrypt all the files on the computer and you have to pay a ransom (in bitcoins) to unlock them.

Having said that, in this instance, it’s hard to feel much sympathy for those institutions and people whose computers were attacked.   Either their computers hadn’t been updated with an important security update from March 2017, or they had chosen chosen to continue to run an old version of Windows (such as Windows XP) which is no longer supported by Microsoft – a fact that’s been widely publicised.  In the latter case, they ought to have ensured that they had reliable anti-virus software from a third party supplier.

But of course our big fear is that one day we’ll inadvertently click on something and find that we’ve been infected by a sophisticated virus that’s evaded all the arrangements that we’ve set up to protect us from this sort of thing.

Would I pay the ransom?   Not sure, although I wouldn’t rule out doing so.   However, I do back up my most important files “off line” (to a hard drive that isn’t usually connected to the computer and is stored separately).   The catch is that it takes a bit of an effort to do this, so I don’t do it as often as might ideally be desirable.    Hence, if I were forced to rely on this, although I’d have all the historic data that I keep on my computer, I might well miss out on more recent work – possibly a few weeks of it.

No gas

The oven in our gas stove has been troublesome for some time now, in that it sometimes went out unexpectedly.    But then, suddenly, there was no gas at all, in neither the oven nor the hotplates.    Our other gas appliances were working satisfactorily.

It was  a new problem for me, and googling for answers didn’t offer any easy solutions.  So we had to call the plumber.

So what was it?    There’s a flexible hose linking the gas supply to the stove, with a regulator on it.    Replacing the regulator solved the problem, but it re-occurred when the stove was pushed back into position – due to a kink in the flexible hose!   On reflection, that may have been the initial problem, perhaps caused by a slight movement of the stove maybe when someone leaned against it.

Anyway, the hot plates are now working better than ever:  the replacement regulator apparently allows a greater pressure of gas.   And the plumber’s bill was much less than the cost of a new stove.   But time will tell if all the issues with the oven have been fixed.

Daylight saving

I’ve changed our clocks to take account of the end of daylight saving.   I don’t usually have any difficulties in remembering to do this;  the big issue is to remember how to change the clocks!

The computer and phone change themselves, the digital clocks are mostly fine, and I can get by on the microwave with a bit of trial and error – but the clocks in the cars always defy me!

For some reason I find them not to be intuitive, so I usually end up not changing them for a week or so until I finally resort to the manual!

Miss Google

I was very kindly provided with a lift by S to and from our Lower Glenelg walk.    Directions were provided by “Miss Google”, who I think was asked to provided the shortest routes.   Her ability to do this can’t be questioned, although she provided different routes in each direction (not sure of the reason for this).  In each instance, she deviated from the main highways that would be the intuitive routes for many of us, by using secondary roads that provided more direct routes.  Nevertheless these were good roads (well, just a couple of sections that perhaps would be better described as “adequate”).

I experimented with a gps some years ago.  At that time, I found it helpful, but around the city I felt it lacked finesse, mainly because my preferred routes were to avoid tram routes and areas that I knew to be congested.  No doubt the technology (and data bases) has improved since then so perhaps the time has come to re-visit this technology.

View from deck of B&B at Cape Bridgewater (starting point for our return trip)