Archive for April, 2013

Banking over the phone

Tuesday, 30 April, 2013

Stupid bank. My Visa debit card expired today. I’d expected a new one to arrive in the mail, but no sign of it. So I phoned the bank…

Navigated a maze of numbered options, and when none of the options matched my problem I picked the closest thing. When I finally got a human, he told me I had reached the wrong department and transferred me…

I got a guy whose voice was horribly distorted so I had to ask him to repeat every second thing he said. (It turned out later when my wife was talking to him to lodge a complaint, that he was in the Philippines. His English was fine, but the international phone line was dreadful.)

I told him I hadn’t received a replacement Visa card. He asked me to have my six-digit personal banking ID number ready and he would switch to a system so I could key it in. “Six digit ID number? Do I have one of those? Let me check my big list of ID stuff…” I checked but couldn’t find any number like that associated with my bank account. The guy then said I had two options: go into a branch, or he would ask me a series of security questions. I figured if I fail the security questions I can go into a branch anyway, so said go ahead.

He asked my full name, Visa card number, card expiry date, my birthdate, my address, the year we opened the account, the branch the account was opened at, the approximate current balance in the account, and details of a recent transaction. I answered all of these questions, including the exact amount, date, ATM location, and reported balance on our last ATM withdrawal, which was just yesterday. The guy then said sorry, the system had locked me out of accessing my account.

I had kind of expected this, since I’ve had similar experiences dealing with this bank before, so I just said I’d go into a branch. <sigh>


Thursday, 11 April, 2013

So, I’ve noticed lots of people at my work drink coffee. Some drink tea, some cola. I’ve also noticed that a lot of people who drink these things (coffee particularly) make various offhand comments about how they really need a coffee to get going, or to be alert or productive.

So, some questions for people who regularly have coffee or other caffeine-containing drinks:

  • If your work banned coffee, tea, cola, and any other caffeine, do you think you would be less productive?
  • If your work banned coffee, tea, cola, and any other caffeine, do you think the workplace as a whole would be less productive?
  • Do you think people who don’t take caffeine are less productive than people who do?
  • If yes, do you think it would be reasonable for an employer to want to choose between two otherwise equally qualified candidates on the basis of whether or not they drink caffeine, on the assumption that the caffeine-drinker will be more productive?

You may have figured out that I don’t take caffeine. I actually kind of wonder: Am I less productive at work than I would be otherwise because of this?

Picking a masterpiece

Sunday, 7 April, 2013

I’ve formed a band with some of my friends – none of us are particularly good at playing anything, but we’re keen and want to have fun. Discussing what songs we should learn to play, we discovered that there is very little overlap in our musical tastes (as mentioned before).

One guy is into progressive rock, and recommended an album to another guy who was interested. The second guy came back a few days later and said, “Wow, that album is great!” The first guy said, “Yes, I call it a masterpiece.” The second guy said, “Yes… I agree. It is a masterpiece.” Then there was some discussion over how does one recognise a “masterpiece”, and could someone who has no prior knowledge in the field recognise a work as a masterpiece? They came up with a hypothetical experiment: Give someone who knows nothing about progressive rock a copy of this album, and another prog rock album, and see if they can pick which one is the masterpiece.

And so a real experiment was born. I know virtually nothing about progressive rock, so I volunteered to be the lab rat. The guys discussed together and selected a second progressive rock album, which is generally acknowledged to be good, but not a masterpiece. They ripped the tracks off both albums, anonymised the files, and gave them to me. I was to listen to them, make notes, and declare which one I thought was the masterpiece.

Album 1, as it was called, had 12 tracks. Album 2 had 5 tracks. That was all I knew about them. I didn’t know the artists, the album names, or the track names. I played both albums through once, and then on a second listen I took notes. Here’s what I thought.