Aug. 8th, 2010


Aug. 8th, 2010 05:45 am
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I've often wondered just how people could fall for email scams. The language is mangled beyond repair, the presentation woeful, the offers are unbelievable, and the technical details risible. Frankly, bank managers don't go around offering five million dollars of their clients' money to random people on the internet, not if they want to stay out of prison, nor do they have the English skills of a chimpanzee and a Hotmail address consisting of letters and numbers.

Yet, according to an article in The Weekend Australian, 50 000 Australians a year treat these things as if they are genuine. That's a thousand a week, one every ten minutes. People are gulled into sending thousands of dollars in "transfer fees" or "export duties" before the millions are transferred into their accounts. Or, if they are really stupid, they provide login details and passwords in order to make the process as easy as possible.

The article makes all sorts of recommendations, beginning with this: "Clip this handy guide to recognising scam letters and attach it to your fridge."

Nigeria must be a real haven for greedy bastards aiming to get something for nothing, yeah?

To my mind, the whole "Nigerian scam" phenomenon merely indicates that across the world, people are people. There are clever dicks and there are stupid chumps everywhere.

What it emphasises is that, despite our common humanity, the world's resources are unevenly distributed. A clever Nigerian does not have the career prospects of (say) a clever Australian. A profession, a secure lifestyle, a comfortable house and a healthy family are the prospects of an intelligent, dedicated, industrious child in the Western democracies, but for most of the world's youngsters, these are only dreams. The chances do not exist in the Third World, where nepotism, corruption and injustice have more to do with who gets ahead than do talent and skill.

Small wonder that clever but poor Nigerians will set their sights on rich but gullible Australians. It's a matter of global justice and fair shares - at least to the Nigerian scammer.

Doubtless the Nigerian authorities share these views, perhaps with their own share of the bounty.

In the end, I find it hard to lay the blame for these scams on Nigerian people. If there is cause and effect, the cause of these things lies in the rich nations of the West, content to keep their poorer cousins on the other side of the world that way.

Poor and distant. Why should we condemn our fellow humans so?

Taxi 66

Aug. 8th, 2010 01:18 pm
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They got in on the main city rank, now re-opened at a third the original size. "Can we stop at a bottle-o first?" one asked.

"Right-oh!" I replied. "But where are we going?"

"Formule 1"

"You beauty!" I thought to myself. The Formule 1 motel is one of those cheapo deals out on the highway. $59 a night for a basic room and the dining room is a vending machine.

But it's a nice long fare.

We went through Braddon, stopping at the Bottle-O there. That's the trade name, and it's a good one. Well-stocked grog shop, free parking outside, off-licence to print money, it is.

One of the two young men went inside and I hit the "Pause" button on the meter. It was going to be a good fare and people who stay at cheap motels are reaching into their own pockets to count the pennies. I look after them.

The guy in the back seat, a fairly chunky sort of fella, caught sight of the "Route 66" keyring I have bluetacked to the dashboard. It's one I bought at the Route 66 museum in Chandler, OK last year, and I keep it there for daydreaming purposes. That half day spent exploring the old road between Tulsa and Oklahoma City was a very happy one!

"I'm going to ride Route 66 next year with my father," he said. "We'll pick up the Harleys in Detroit, ride them to LA, and ship them home."

Wow! What a trip! This chap immediately had my attention.

His mate got back in, with a six pack of Jim Beams to help the night ahead go down, and we set off on Canberra's own Mother Road. Northbourne Avenue.

We talked Route 66 and the USA all the way. The food, the cars, the motels, the people. I mentioned that I'm planning my own father-son trip along Route 66 next year. From the other side of the generation gap. Myself, my son and my daughter.

I had lusted after a rental Mustang, but looking at the reviews it sounds like it wouldn't be as much fun for the third person, sitting in the cramped back seat, peering out through a couple of tiny side windows. I'd be doing a lot of the driving, but some of the time it would be me in the back seat, and I wanted to enjoy the experience.

So we'll likely hire something with a bit of size and a bit of style. A Chrysler 300C would be ideal. Lots of room for people and baggage, space for extras, a bunch of buttons to press and an image that is unmistakably All-American.

Not as much fun as a Harley, to be sure, but I'm not a Harley kind of guy. I wished my passengers the best for the trip, put my foot down and whipped off in a cloud of dust for the airport, where I watched the planes climb into the night sky and sent my thoughts with them.

Earlier that day, a package from Amazon had arrived, containing a DVD: Route 66: Producer's Picks.

Not a lot to do with Route 66 as such, but for the feeling of driving through Sixties America in a classy car, there's nothing to beat it. The black and white scenes, the corny live-to-camera adverts, the unforgettable theme music, the guest appearances of later stars, the thought-provoking plots, and above all the lifestyle, it's a pleasure to watch.

I've got a bunch of maps and guidebooks, any number of websites, and all my dreams to keep me going until next year.


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