When Retailers Suck

I recently had to buy some tech.

I tried to support my local Aussie retailer and my experience was terrible.

Umart sent me a follow up email and asked if I was happy with my customer support experience. Here’s my reply:

Well, since you asked… You guys really sucked. I bought a new MacBook recently and discovered my Wavlink HDD docking station didn’t work on the M2 chip. So I needed to buy a new one. After getting nowhere trying to find out that was guaranteed to work on Google, I reached out to you guys. 

Maria completely misunderstood my question and sent me a dud answer. So I sent her a second email, which she couldn’t answer until she checked with her “technical team”. Meanwhile, two days passed before I got a final answer from her, which was that she couldn’t help me, but she did point me to a unit on Scorptec’s site, which she said “should work”, but that’s not what I needed. 

In the meantime, I had gone to MSY in Brendale, where I’ve been a long-time customer, only to discover the original owners had sold out to you guys. I told the guys in the store about my problem. They basically told me they didn’t use Macs so they had no idea. I asked if I bought one of their docking stations, and it didn’t work, if I could return it. They said that was a hard no. 

So… I bought reached out to a couple of the manufacturers of other units being sold on Amazon. They both said their units would work. I bought a FIDECO unit, it was delivered within 24 hours, and did NOT work, so I returned it to Amazon for an immediate refund. Then I ordered a UNITEK unit from Amazon which DID work, so I’m happy. With Amazon. And Unitek. 

So I guess I’ll be ordering all of my tech from Amazon from now on and telling my friends and my audience about my experience, too. 

The End of Life Of Caesar

Nine years ago today, Ray Harris and I started our podcast about Julius Caesar. Every month since then (that’s 108 months and roughly 400 hour long episodes in case you’re wondering), we’ve told stories about the Julio-Claudians (aka the Caesars – Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero) in insane detail. And today – it ends. We have published the last episode of Nero and that’s the end of the line for this series. We’ve officially hung up our togas.

I didn’t know Ray from a bar of soap when we started nine years ago… and I still don’t. And don’t care to. Kidding. He’s been a joy to work with over nine years and we continue to work together on our series about the Cold War, the Renaissance, and the Bullshit Filter.

This series has been the hardest I’ve ever worked on anything. It taught me a whole new way of working. For many years, I would spend all day working on my ‘real’ job, and then at night, after dinner, I would sit down with my books and make notes for several hours a night (usually from about 8pm – midnight). I’d do that five nights a week, then record the next day, take a couple of nights off, and then start the process all over again. FOR YEARS and YEARS. It was only when I could afford to shut down my day job that I could work less in the evenings and do more of it during the daytime.

Fortunately, I loved the work, and Ray and I had a ton of fun doing it. We’ve learned a lot, we’ve laughed, we’ve loved… we’ve travelled across Europe and the USA, Ray’s been to Australia with his family… it’s been a wild ride. And it consumed up nearly a fifth of my life. It’s the longest “job” I’ve ever had…. sitting in my undies, making Ray wet his pants.

Thanks to everyone who has been on the journey with us, especially to those who have supported us financially. We couldn’t have kept it going without you. And thanks to our spouses, who don’t LISTEN to the show (thank god), but allowed us to do work on it, despite it seeming like the greatest waste of time and energy for many years.

And here it is.

RIP Mick Stanic

I’m coming up to the 18th anniversary of G’Day World in a couple of weeks. It was my first podcast, and the first Australian podcast ever. Blah blah blah. But I was shocked tonight to learn that the guy I started it with, and then started the world first podcast network with a few months later, Miroslav Mick Stanic, passed away in early 2020 at the age of 51. Apparently he had early onset dementia. 

Mick and I were introduced by my old Microsoft mate Frank Arrigo at some point after I left Microsoft in July 2004. We would catch up for breakfast from time to time. When I mentioned on my old Typepad blog that I was thinking about starting an Australian tech podcast, Mick put up his hand to help. And I couldn’t have done it without him. I knew nothing about how to host an mp3 on a website. And as he was living in Sydney at the time, the two of us had to figure out how to record a Skype call and edit it together. There wasn’t any software to record Skype calls in those days and nobody had done it before, so we had to kludge something together using sticky tape and string. 

Together we innovated and developed the podcasting medium. We were the first to record a podcast over Skype, the first to start a podcast network in February 2005, the first people to ever sell advertising on a podcast (I’m sorry) and the first people to record podcast interviews. It was a crazy, exciting time. 

Sadly the relationship didn’t last very long. We parted ways a year later and that was the last time I spoke to him or heard anything about him. So when I had the urge to look him up tonight, to see what he was up to, and maybe record a special reunion podcast, I was shocked to learn of his passing, and doubly shocked that nobody had told me about it. 

Old podcasting colleagues from the early days of TPN like Ewan Spence and Wayne Turmel might also want to make a toast to him. 

So… cheers, Mick. Thanks for everything. Our brief friendship really was a catalyst in my life. 

The Leaf

Once upon a time there was a leaf on a tree.

One fine day, the leaf became conscious and started to ask questions about itself and the meaning of life. It enjoyed the experience of being alive.

But here’s something you probably didn’t know about leaves – they can only see the colour green. So the leaf couldn’t see the branch it was attached to, or the main trunk of the tree. It thought it was just floating in the air, independent and free.

After a while, the novelty of being a leaf wore off and the leaf, who was on a lower branch of the tree, looked up and saw there were leaves that were higher up in the air, where they got more sunlight and had a better view of the world.

“I want to be where those leaves are”, the leaf thought to itself. It spoke to some other young leaves who told it that if it just wanted it badly enough, and was prepared to work for it, a leaf could move anywhere it wanted to. After all, those leaves somehow got up there, so why not us? We are just as deserving.

So the young leaf decided to work hard to improve its circumstances. It would focus all of its energy on moving higher up in the air. Now, sometimes, when it focused hard, the leaf could feel itself moving and thought it was succeeding. It didn’t understand that the movement was the result of the wind blowing. But other times when it focused hard, the wind didn’t blow, and the leaf was frustrated with its lack of progress. After a while, the leaf got depressed.

“Life’s not fair,” it would think. “I suck at being a leaf. I’m a bad, stupid, unworthy leaf. I don’t believe in myself enough. Nobody will ever love me.”

One day, it got talking to another, older, wiser leaf.

“You seem happy,” said the young leaf to the wise, old leaf. “What is your secret?”

“The secret, young leaf, is to know that you are connected to all other leaves by a tree,” said the wise leaf. “In fact, you ARE the tree.”

“What is this tree you speak of?” Asked the young leaf.

“It’s the invisible framework that connects us all and gives us life” said the wise leaf.

“But how do I get to be one of those higher leaves?” asked the young leaf.

“You are ALL of the leaves,” replied the wise leaf. “You are the entire tree. You are just one node of consciousness in the entire tree of life.”

“I understand that you are probably right in theory,” said the young leaf, “but how does that help me? How can I be happy?”

“Accept that you are the tree and enjoy the experience of also being a leaf,” said the wise leaf. “It won’t last forever.”

“But I can think fro myself,” said the young leaf. “Surely that means I am free to do whatever I choose.”

“Thinking and choosing are just chemical events generated by the tree,” said the wise leaf. “Like photosynthesis. Do you think you are free to photosynthesize?”

“No, but I’m not aware of the photosynthesis,” said the young leaf. “It just happens.”

“Exactly,” said the wise leaf. “You are aware of your thinking, so you think you are in control of it. But it’s really the same process as the photosynthesis. Both are just chemical events happening to the tree. Accept you are the tree, and everything will become clear and life will be simple, free from stress and anxiety.”

But the young leaf couldn’t see the tree, so it refused to accept what the wise leaf said. Leafs, like people, can only hear when they are ready to hear.

“If I accept what you’re saying, I would be miserable,” said the young leaf. “That would mean I’m stuck being a lower leaf. It seems like a defeatist, fatalist philosophy.”

“On the contrary,” replied the wise leaf. “Acceptance of the reality of things is the only path to permanent happiness and peace. Fighting against reality is a certain path to misery.”

But the young leaf was too caught up in its desire to be special, so instead of accepting the truth of the tree, it tried to escape its misery by drinking and binging Netflix, took up obsessively going to the gym, read a lot of books about having a positive mental attitude, eventually becoming angry at itself and bitter at the world, until it finally withered away and died and was replaced with a new leaf.

The tree smiled as the new leaf became conscious and started to ask questions of the other leaves.