Sunday, May 24, 2009

Coming toward a crossroad


Since leaving TAFE in November 2008, I have been busy working on a large digitising project, in the effort of moving 2PR FM from a pre-recorded radio station, into a live streaming service.

This has involved the conversion of all my CDs and Vinyl into wave files. When processing, all the files have to be normalised at the same volume output, so that programming material will flow more easily.

Many CDs have a silent gap at the start of every track, while some don't have it at all. This portion of the track also has to be uniformily the same, so automatic mixing can take place without any gaps or dead air, while at the same time, preventing premature mixing. This is when one track starts, when another song hasn't quite finished yet.

Initially, the entire project seemed quite daunting. Having so much music to convert meant that I had no idea where to start. This issue was soon resolved when I decided to compile tracks by era.

The first part of the project was gathering every charting track from March 1983 through to August 1984. This first part of the project resulted in over 500 tracks on five DVDs. The second portion of the project is gathering all the smaller hit makers of the 70's. This has taken the best part of three months, and so far has resulted in 1200 tracks on eleven DVDs.

Over the last month, I've been gathering all the charting tracks from March 1989 through to September 1990, something I seemed to be at the tail end now. They were a few gaps in my CD collection, so I had to by some CD singles from Chris Rea, The Hoodoogurus, Boris Grebenshikov, Stevie Nicks and Al Green. Though I've got most of them, I'm still awaiting some to arrive. I should have this section wrapped up by the end of this week. I can then burn some back-ups off, and then get it off my hard-drive in readiness for the next era of tracks.

At this stage it's looking like compiling all the charting tracks from September 1979 to March 1983.

Though this project is going to continue, I feel I'm coming to another crossroad where I may have to change my priorities. It seems that commercial radio is about to go digital, meaning that they will be able to broadcast extra channels, parallel to their current radio services. I hope with the experience of my recent digitising project, certificate acquisition, and similar goals, that the people in the Australian Radio Network can consider me for a program director for their new digital radio service.

Though I like to keep an open mind, that a miracle can happen, I somehow already know the conclusion to this one. I guess its fingers crossed and see what happens.

If they accept my proposal for a new digital service, then I will fast-track the digitising project. I guess though if it falls through, then this project will have to take a back-seat to the continuation of my earth two novel.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Banks lapping it up


Interesting to note that even during a fully blown recession, the banks still have the nerve to keep lapping it up.

Bill tops $2m for NAB strategy trip
From the Sydney Morning Herald
Friday 22nd May 2009
Artical by Mark Hawthorne and Eric Johnston

AS MANY as 100 National Australia Bank executives have secretly jetted to San Francisco at shareholders' expense to attend a strategy conference, with the bill expected to top $2 million on airfares and accommodation.

The Melbourne-based bank confirmed that 24 executives were in San Francisco, but disputed claims from senior bank staff that 100 had been sent.

The trip coincides with revelations in a Reserve Bank report that Australia's banks receive $11.6 billion in fees from customers, as well as unprecedented taxpayer support to help deal with the global financial crisis.

According to the report, bank fees have risen $885 million, or 8 per cent over the last year.

The industry has also been criticised in recent months for failing to pass on to home owners the full amount of official interest rate cuts, even after the Government provided a universal deposit guarantee to buttress the banking system.

An NAB spokesman, George Wright, confirmed the training program was taking place, but disputed the number of people involved. "Only 24 are put through the program at a time."

He said 24 executives had finished and a further 24 were about to start. The executives were from NAB's Australian, New Zealand and British operations.

"We have established a senior leaders program which we intend to put a number of senior leaders through over the next four years," Mr Wright said, adding that it was more economical to send the executives to San Francisco than have those involved sent to Australia.

The tailor-made program includes academics from business schools including Harvard and Stanford universities and the London Business School.

This week's trip to the US is the second by NAB executives in just three months. In February, 25 flew to San Francisco to attend a leadership program.

One of the most recent programs included the bank's chief executive, Cameron Clyne, who talked up the benefits of the leadership scheme at a briefing to investors earlier this year.

Mid-ranking executives at NAB's Melbourne headquarters said they were not informed of the San Francisco trip by senior executives. "There's no one around to sign off on anything," one complained. "We only worked out what had happened by Wednesday, when it was evident just about everyone's boss had disappeared. Many are tacking on … annual leave … and won't be back until next month."

Those on the latest trip are said to include the head of nabCapital, Shaun Dooley, and the chief risk officer, Bruce Monro.

The cost of the February event, including accommodation, was hundreds of thousands of dollars. Qantas charges about $14,600 for a return business-class flight to San Francisco. If 100 were attending, as suggested by NAB staff, the latest event could top $2 million on travel and accommodation, without including the cost of the tailored training course and executive expenses.

Staff at the Melbourne HQ say they have been "left holding the bag", and the trip had been kept secret to prevent media leaks. "It's nice for some, but meanwhile the rest of us are taking the calls from angry customers asking why we haven't passed on interest cuts to their credit cards and their mortgages," he said


Banks pick up $1b in penalty fees
From the Sydney Morning Herald
Friday 22nd May 2009
Article by Jacob Saulwick

HOUSEHOLDS paid banks almost $1 billion in late or overdraft fees last year - about $50 for every man, woman and child in the country.

The Reserve Bank has for the first time tallied the "exception fees" charged by banks - the costs attached to making a late credit card payment, overdrawing from a deposit account, or running over a credit limit.

It reveals a $960 million bill accrued by households, the bulk from overdrawing deposit accounts and breaking credit card rules, as well as $200 million in fees from businesses.

For consumer groups, who have spent years agitating for the release of the information, the Reserve's report supported their argument that the level of fees charged by Australian banks is unfair.

Further, the burden is understood to fall disproportionately on lower income earners, who can rapidly rack-up a succession of fees because they do not have the wriggle room in their accounts to avoid penalty charges.

"The reason that it is such a pernicious issue is that the fees are paid primarily by the people that can least afford them," said the director of policy and campaigns at the Consumer Action Law Centre, Nicole Rich.

There are no figures detailing the breakdown of charges on different income groups, but the Senate Economics Committee reported last year "strong anecdotal evidence that in some cases at least the impost of high default fees is marginalising people who are already struggling to feel they belong in Australian society."

A spokesman for Choice, Christopher Zinn, said the exception fee bill was much worse than his expectation of about $250 million.

"We believe that you can have secure and stable banking without a billion dollars a year coming from penalty fees," he said.

Total bank fees actually grew at a slower rate than the size of banks' balance sheets during 2008. Household fees increased by 8 per cent, down from an average growth rate of 11 per cent between 2002 and 2007.

Banks charged households $4.8 billion in fees in 2008.

Of that, credit card fees made up $1.3 billion - up 11 per cent from the previous year, but down from an average growth rate of 23 per cent before that.

For its part, the bankers' lobby noted that customers could find ways of avoiding about 30 per cent of all fees.

"By using your own bank's ATMs, ensuring accounts are not overdrawn and your credit card paid on time, money can be saved," said the chief executive of the Australian Bankers' Association, David Bell.

"Avoiding overdrawn fees can be done by checking your account balances before making large purchases." The majority of major banks have also introduced low or zero fee accounts for low-income earners.

Also yesterday, the Reserve Bank released figures showing households used recent government stimulus payments to carve into their debts. Credit card repayments jumped more than 17 per cent in April, the report showed.

In addition to exception fees, customers paid $640 million for using ATMs that were not from their own bank.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Feeling good, I reached another goal!

CURRENT MOOD: Accomplished

The mood was much more positive tonight when I was invited to South Sydney TAFE's award night. It was something I knew nothing about, until a few weeks ago, when I was informed that I would receive the high achiever award. In reflection to some recent events, it was just one of those things to really lift the spirits.

Upon getting there, the tables of freshly cooked food were just to irresistible. It was a quick feed on some samosa triangles, cooked fish slices, and a few plates of smoked salmon sandwiches. It was good to catch up with some of my old Tafe friends, but then it was time for the awards. They were many people to get through, and it seemed to take for ever, but before I knew it, I was called up to received not one, but three certificates, one of them being the high achiever award. I had never felt so good in such a long time. I had then spoken to some of the TAFE staff that congratulated me on my efforts.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Asperger meeting


It's been a somewhat rainy cool evening tonight, but a night that was very enjoyable. I was one of the guest speakers invited to the South Sydney Autism Meeting. This was a gathering that is organised every month or so, for parents of Autistic children, friends, specialists, and anyone with an interest with Autism and Asperger's to meet up.

They showed a segment of "Rainman goes to RocKwiz", and tested my knowledge on music charts. They were about 70 people attending, as I met several of them toward the end. Unfortunately time was tight and things got somewhat rushed toward the end. There is going to be another one in early June, something to look forward to.