Whither Telstra

Last week Telstra ran an investor briefing.      Telstra are going to simplify their product offering and management arrangements, put its infrastructure into a standalone infrastructure business and get stuck into their costs.

Like a lot of people, we’ve got shares in Telstra, and the regular dividends are a source of income given our “self-funded retiree” status. We’ve had our shares since the original IPOs, and yes, I have held on to them because they paid a good dividend.  And, yes, I may have been a bit complacent.  In hindsight, of course, to have sold them a couple of years back when the shares were in the $5.00+ range would have been a good move!   At the time, my mood was along the lines that the dividend probably couldn’t be maintained at the level it then was, but I could live with a bit of a price correction.   I just didn’t expect the correction to be as much as it has been.
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Unfortunately, the market appears to have been a bit under-whelmed by the announcement.   I can only speak for myself, but what last week’s announcement suggests to me is that Telstra has a lot more work than I thought it had to get “lean and mean” so as to prosper in the modern world.   All this stuff that now has to be done suggests to me (and the market?)  that there was a lot more flab and more problems than we’d realised.
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Where to now?   Realistically, I think the time has passed to bail out.  I think I will just have to ride out the storm, stay with the shares we’ve got and “hope for the best”!
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One space, or two?

I’m reliably informed that in the days of typewriters. it was always customary to insert two spaces after a full stop.  And it is still my instinct to leave two spaces.   But the grammar check in Word defaults to only one space.

However, after some research, I worked out that Word allows you to set the number of spaces between sentences (Options/Proofing/Grammar Settings).  You can also tell it not to check this aspect (which I have now done).

But, more generally, the topic of spaces between sentences even has a Wikipedia entry!   That states, “The desired or correct sentence spacing is often debated but many sources now say additional space is not necessary or desirable”.   The article sets out the issues at some length, and it seems that in some quarters strong views are held on the matter.  I thought my views were just a little quirk on my part, but it seems I’ve touched on what for some people is a serious matter!

 

 

Privacy

Noticed all those emails recently coming through, to the general effect that “we’re updating our privacy policy”?    But of course it’s not altruistic, it’s because the EU’s  General Data Protection Regultion recently came into effect (on 25 May).

Apparently this impacts on any company which gathers and handles information about Europeans, even if the company has no actual footprint in Europe.  The GDPR toughens the regulations about collecting data and gives individuals expanded rights to monitor it.

Hence, many of us are getting emails from companies that we’ve only had a passing connection with, as they get ready for the new regime.  Even though we’re not in Europe, presumably the hassle of identifying who is and who isn’t affected would often be much too great.

An email typical of those I received stated —

“Your privacy matters to us……We have updated our Personal Data Protection Policy as part of our ongoing commitment to complying with applicable data protection laws. Please take a moment to read the policy as it describes the purposes for which we collect, use and disclose your personal data….”.

Hmmm, the opening words perhaps over-state the situation (does my privacy really matter to them?), but at least the sender acknowledged that their motive was to comply with laws!

That NAB outage

I was holding NAB in high esteem (well, relatively, given there’s a Royal Commission occurring)- and then they go and have a five hour outage of all their systems!

On the NAB website, it’s stated that –

“The outage was caused by a series of failures, originating from our back-up power equipment, which isolated our mainframe.”

Well, it’s good that NAB has been reasonably up-front about what happened, but the question remains, how can this have occurred?    An outage for five hours or so?  Is our banking system really that brittle?   And why did it take so long to get the system up again?

Well, in relation to the latter, NAB state that,  “Power equipment failures like this are incredibly rare and haven’t occurred in a number of years, so it took our technicians several hours to recover our systems once power was restored. Our teams worked incredibly hard over the weekend to restore systems quickly, and continue to work hard to monitor the situation and ensure no further disruptions.”

Are they really saying that they didn’t know what to do?   Or am I mis-reading something?

It’s interesting to think of the wider implications, too.   There have been suggestions that we’re moving towards a “cashless” society (supposedly there are people out there who make even the smallest purchase on a card), but if outages like this can occur,  can a truly cashless society ever become a reality (even if merchants are offered an incentive to go cashless) ?

And from the perspective of governments, while a cashless society might make “tax evasion” less of an issue, perhaps in this era of cryptocurrencies, it may just be wishful thinking to imagine that all financial transactions will be ever able to be monitored by governments .

EDIT – and now big advertisements by NAB in the print media.

UPDATE:   And Visa in Europe recently had a long outage, too!

DVD Player

The DVD player was playing up.    It wouldn’t play the last part of some movies.     The older the movie, the more likely it was that the issue would arise.    I googled for a solution, but in vain, apart from vague suggestions to get a DVD lens-cleaner disk (I have no idea how that might have worked).    Meanwhile, it had become very frustrating not to see the endings of random movies.

I then took a different approach to my googling;  how much would a new DVD player cost?  Would you believe, you can get them for about $25!     Well, what did it matter for $25?   If it didn’t work, maybe we could keep it as a spare.

So I duly made the investment.  S had misgivings as to whether such a cheap machine, and from Big W at that (and much smaller than the old one) would work, but first reports are that it does everything required of it.  The old one has been put aside to await the next hard waste/electronics collection.

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.

Nightmare

I thought modern technology was supposed to make it virtually impossible to lock your keys inside the car?   Well, seems that it still happens!   The assistance man was attending to a car nearby, and from what I could observe, was trying to enter it.

And it wasn’t going well!   However, later the alarm ceased sounding and the vehicle had gone, so presumably it all worked out eventually.

EDIT:  I have been assured that it really is “impossible” to lock the keys in the car.  Hmmm, so modern technology is “fail-safe”?   But if you lose the key, well, then “issues” definitely arise!