Monday, February 22, 2010

Dick Smith

I'm guessing Dick Smith is the electronic business guy. If I'm remembering right, we went to one or two of his stores. We needed to get something for Jack's Nintendo DS.

Lord Wiki says I'm right. Dick Smith was the founder of Dick Smith Electronics. He's also the founder of Dick Smith Foods, and something called Australian Geographic.

Baby Richard was born in Roseville, Sydney on 18 March 1944. His birthday is two days after my niece's. Ellie is going to be seven this year. It's hard to believe she's going to be that old!

Roseville is in northern Sydney, and Smith went to a northern Sydney school called North Sydney Technical High School. Lord Wiki says the school closed in 1969.

Lord Wiki doesn't have much about the childhood of Dick Smith. Maybe I'll find that elsewhere.

This entry is confusing a bit, because it's not in chronological order. Instead, Lord Wiki divides Smith's life into sections. There's aviation, electronics, Australian products, publishing, stunts, awards, and advocacy.

I'm going to TRY and be chronological. I'm skimming through here, looking for the earliest date. There's 1968. This is the time that Mr. Smith opened up his first electronics store. He called it Dick Smith Electronics. Lord Wiki has a whole entry about the store. I'll read it later.

In 1972, Smith learned to fly. In 1976, he participated in a Sydney to Perth air race. In the late 1970's, he started flying helicopters.

Now let's get to 1982. It seems a few things happened that year. Smith sold the electronics business to Woolworths for twenty million. I guess if he wasn't wealthy yet, he was wealthy by now.

That year he also did a solo helicopter trip around the world. It started where I live...Fort Worth, Texas. That was on 5 August. By 19 August he was in the UK meeting Prince Charles. I guess it's nonstop? I didn't know a helicopter could stay up that long. Granted I really don't know much about helicopters.

On 13 September he left London, and he arrived in Sydney on 3 October. In July, it was all finished. I'd guess he'd end in Fort Worth. Right? That would make it around the world.

In 1983, Smith published a book about his adventures; and documentaries were made. In 1986, he started a magazine called Australian Geographic. This is like National Geographic, but focused on Australia. That sounds awesome to me. I'm going to bookmark their website. I'll definitely want to return in the future.

Sometime in the 1980's, Smith did a joke...stunt? He had a London Double Decker Bus jump fifteen motorcycles. This was in response to Evel Knievel who jumped a bus with his motorcycle. That I can sort of imagine. But I can't imagine a bus jumping over motorcycles. This stunt website has information about the event. It was done at the Sydney Showground.

In 1986, Smith became Australian of the Year. There's an earlier date here, in the award section, that I missed. In 1966, he was awarded a Scouting award. The Scout thing was important to Smith.

I think now I'm going to jump back ahead, and go into the 1990's. He was Chairman of the Board of various aviation groups. Flying was still a big thing for him.

In 1999, Smith founded Dick Smith Foods. Lord Wiki says it was started as a stance against foreign ownership of Australian food products....such as Arnott's being owned by the Campbell Soup Company. Dick Smith Food is all made in Australia, and owned by Australians.

Now we reach this century. In 2000, Smith and another guy traveled by balloon from New Zealand to Australia. In 2008, Smith and his wife traveled forty thousand kilometers around the world. All of that that is pretty cool.

I think I'm more impressed with wealth when it's used for adventures...traveling around the world. I'm much less impressed when it's used for buying multiple luxury cars.

Now for the advocacy section.

Smith gave his support to an asylum seeker named Peter Qasim. The guy had been in detention for seven years.

Smith donated sixty thousand dollars to the campaign for David Hicks to get a fair trial.

He helped pay the hostage fee for a photojournalist and writer held in Somalia. I think I remember hearing about them.

Smith is a skeptic, and I'm not to fond of this viewpoint. So maybe my admiration for him has dipped a bit. Lord Wiki says he was a founder of Australian Skeptics, and he's now a patron. I'm looking at their aims. I do like one of them: To encourage Australians and the Australian news media to adopt a critical attitude towards paranormal claims and to understand that to introduce or to entertain a hypothesis does not constitute confirmation or proof of that hypothesis.

I think sometimes we (or at least I!) sometimes forget to distinguish between what is proven and what is merely an opinion. And there's nothing wrong with an opinion. It's just we shouldn't confuse it with absolute fact.

An aim of theirs that I'm skeptical about (ha!) is: To stimulate inquiry and the quest for truth, wherever it leads. That SOUNDS good, but I doubt it's true. Skeptics tend to have a certain view of the world; and I would bet they more readily accept evidence that proves their viewpoint. If evidence goes in favor of the opposite viewpoint (pro-paranormal or pro-alternative medicine) I bet they'll be more critical and rejecting of the findings.

Now I might be being unfair here. Maybe I'm making judgments about this organization based on what I've seen from others. Perhaps this one really IS open-minded. If that's true, I applaud it.

Here's their list of things they're skeptical of. It's a pretty comprehensive list.

In 2008 and 2009, Smith got into the whole Whooping Cough thing. He pushed for parents to vaccinate their kids. Did anyone hear the recent news about that? Well, in the last year (maybe two?) Whooping Cough has been on the rise. I'm not sure if this was true in The United States, but it was in Australia. My Australian friends and their families were coughing up their lungs left and right. It was gross, awful, and debilitating. Worse than that, there was a very tragic publicized story of a young infant dying of the illness.

From the blogging and news world, anti-vaccination parents were targeted....blamed for the deaths and illness. I thought it was a bit perplexing, seeing that the vaccination wears off at a certain age. It doesn't last forever, and many adults don't get their vaccinations updated. If people get Whooping Cough, there's no proof that an anti-vaccination family was to blame. It could have come from an adult who hadn't taken the time to get her booster shot. A little later though, more energy went towards encouraging adults to get their vaccinations.

Anyway, now the new idea is that anti-vaccination parents might NOT be the full cause of the rise in Whooping Cough cases. There's belief and evidence that the illness might be mutating, and the vaccination might not be protecting people from all strains of the disease. Until 1997, a whole cell vaccine was used. But then that was changed because of concerns over side effects. The new vaccines are acellular, and might be less effective. I guess what scientists need to determine is whether we're more at risk from these whole cell vaccine side effects, or from Whooping Cough. OR as this article states, maybe they can make a whole-cell vaccine without the side effects.

Back to Dick Smith. He helped to expose the Australian Vaccination Network as being an anti-vaccination organization. Yeah, there's something fishy about their name. Dishonest. From the name, it doesn't look anti-vax. It sound almost pro-vax, or just a general information organization. I think that can be misleading. I think a more honest name would be something like Parents Against Vaccination. The organization IS pretty upfront in their mission statement. The AVN, publisher of Informed Voice magazine, is dedicated to the idea that health can be achieved and maintained without the use of pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines. Okay. I can accept that. But then they go on to say, Our goal is to empower people everywhere to make informed health choices for their families and themselves. So what if I inform myself and conclude that drugs and vaccines are the right choice? Huh? What would they say then?

I don't trust Western Medicine. I also don't trust movements that are completely anti-Western medicine.

Extremes are rarely a good thing.

Now I'm going to read what Lord Wiki has to say about Smith's various companies. I'll start with the electronics.

The first Dick Smith Electronics Store opened in 1968 in a North Shore suburb of Sydney called Artarmon. In the beginning it had a total capital of $610. That doesn't sound like a lot of money.

After Woolworths bought the company, it was brought to the United States. That didn't work out well though, and the stores shut down. But there are stores in New Zealand and India, so they've had some success with international expansion.

The business became quickly successful, and in 1969 Smith had to move the store to a larger space. By 1980, there were twenty Dick Smith Electronic Stores.

Now I'm going to read about Dick Smith Foods. Lord Wiki says they don't manufacture their own food. They get food from other Australian-owned companies. You know, I'm not sure if I've ever eaten any Dick Smith Products. Are they easy to find in the supermarket?

Oh! Now Dick Smith is back to being my hero. He tried to buy Vegemite from Kraft in 2004! That's awesome. It didn't work out though. Maybe he can try again.

Here's the company website. I want to look at their products, see if there's anything I recognize. No. Nothing really looks familar. Have any of you seen these things, or bought them? They have some alternatives to Tim Tams. I wonder if any of them are good.

Their FAQ page says it's getting harder and harder for them to get their products shelved at supermarkets. They say, Unfortunately the Store Managers at Coles and Woolworths stores have their stocking policy controlled by Head Offices. Feel free to ring them and register your disappointment at their non Australian sourcing policies – but do not expect them to change. That's pessimistic, but honest.

I think the truth is that it's not a matter of individuals wanting certain products. It has to become a fad. Then that food will be stocked. Right now, I'm doing a lot of thinking and learning about ethical chicken eggs. I recently learned that cage free is really NOT any more humane than the cheaper regular eggs. But because ignorant folks like me were fooled, these types of eggs have become a fad. They're easy to find at the grocery store. Now if I go to Tom Thumb and talk to the manager about which types of eggs ARE humane, they'll probably nod, act like they're listening, and wish I would leave them alone. If I want my grocery store to carry eggs with the Humane Farm Animal Care label or the Animal Welfare Approved label, I'm going to have to hope these types of eggs become a fad.

If a few people want to support Australian made products, that's not going to make much of a dent. If it becomes a fad, that will make a bigger difference.

Here's a Reader's Digest interview with Dick Smith. He had a speech impediment when he was young. He called himself Dick Mith. I guess he couldn't say the S sound. When Jack was young, he couldn't say that. No wait. Wrong. I'm all confused. Jack couldn't say the F sound, so he replaced it with the s/z sound. For finger, he said zinger. For fart, he'd say sart. It was cute.

The interview talks abut how Smith is a philanthropist, and how he wanted to be one since childhood...even when he couldn't pronounce the word.

Smith was honored by Reader's Digest list of most trusted people. He was #12. Smith says that surprises him because he does controversial things. For example, he defended David Hicks. He says he got a lot of hate mail because of that. Yep. People in this world can be incredibly hateful if you disagree with them. But I guess the list shows that a lot of other people will trust you if you stand up for what you believe in....even if they personally disagree. That's good.

Smith says, I had never been a personal supporter of David Hicks because I did not know him well enough, but I’ve always supported the fact that an Australian should get a fair trial. Amen to that! I think that goes for the judicial system AND the media. It also goes to us in the general public. We can read about people, and not like what we see. We can view them as villains. I did that with the guy I researched yesterday. But it's so important that we recognize that we may not be getting the whole truth. We need to ask someone exaggerating? Is someone outright lying? Is evidence in support of the individual being downplayed and hidden?

Smith talked to David Hicks personally, and ended up liking him. He feels Hicks is a decent guy. Now that's another thing though. Just because someone is nice and answers the questions in a way you prefer them to be answered....well, it doesn't guarantee they're a decent person. So, I'm totally with Smith when he says Hicks deserves a fair trial. I'm not 100% convinced that Hicks is a decent and innocent guy. He might be. I don't know.

Okay. Here we have some background information about Smith. He didn't do well at school. He dropped out a the age of fifteen, and went to work in a factory. But then he didn't like the factory, so he returned to school.

Smith says he was impressed by Hick's voice when they first talked on the phone. He expected Hicks to sound working class. Instead Hicks sounded like he'd been educated in private school. Smith talks about how this helped him realize his own prejudices. Okay. But might his prejudices towards such a voice put him in favor of Hicks? Did it make Smith like and trust Hicks more, versus if he had a less polished way of speaking? Maybe not. I'm just wondering.

Here's a Talking Heads Interview. It's from 2007.

When Smith was thirteen his dad opened up his own business. It went bankrupt, and his dad went through a severe depression. Smith says it's amazing that after witnessing his father's downfall, he still went ahead and started his own business.

His father was away at war when Smith was born. He didn't meet him until he was eighteen months. That's so sad, but I guess for other fathers it's worse. They never come home, and never get to meet their child.

His maternal grandfather was a famous photographer. Harold Casneau. His uncle, Harold's son was killed in the war. His room was filled with radio equipment, and sometimes Smith was allowed to go into it. He liked all the radio stuff. Maybe that's what inspired him to open the electronics store. Yeah. Probably.

In his young adult years, Smith did a backpacking trip. He returned to Australia when he was twenty-two. At a scouting event, he met a girl guide named Pip. They fell in love and got married. How sweet.

Smith says that he's a loner, and didn't do well with teams. I'm like this, I suppose. I prefer working alone. Working in groups makes me stressed.

Smith talks about how he was picked on because he had the speech defect. Some kids are very mean. They'll FIND a reason to pick on you.

Smith is asked how the teasing effected him. He says it made him a kinder and better person. I think that does happen sometimes. People don't like how it feels to be teased and bullied, so they make sure not to bully others. They also defend those who are being bullied. It doesn't always work that way though. Unfortunately. I think sometimes those who are bullied, react by finding someone that THEY can bully. I've seen and encountered many bullies and/or "queen bees" in the Internet. I have a feeling that these people were alienated and ridiculed back when they were in school. They get on the Internet and suddenly they find some people who like them. They get friends and supporters. They begin to feel powerful. And as they say, power corrupts.

Smith says he became interested in flying from reading Biggles books. I never heard of those. They're flying adventure stories about a guy named James Bigglesworth.

The interviewer asks Smith about his adventurous spirit, and asks if he ever feels fear. Smith says, Fear is a big thing with my adventures. When I plan them I don't think I'm going to be frightened, but often when I'm on them, I'm scared. I think that's the opposite of me. Although I wouldn't call myself adventurous. But if I do go on some kind of adventure, I'm usually scared before or after. During....I'm often less afraid. Maybe? Well, at least that goes with driving. Yeah, I know that's not exactly an adventure. But anyway, I'm scared of driving. I think it's so dangerous, and I fear killing me and whoever is in the car (usually Jack). When I think of an upcoming driving time, I'm nervous. And after the driving, I think of how risky it all was. But when driving, I often forget about the fear. Or at least I try to. Sometimes the fear will creep in while I'm driving. I try to push it away, because I worry I'll go into some kind of panic mode, and that in itself might cause an accident.

Smith says he's still happily married. He and his wife have children and grandchildren.

He loves bushwalking and hugging trees.

In this recent article, he speaks out against Australian population growth. There's estimations that Australia's population will reach thirty-five million by 2050. Smith worries there won't be enough food or water to go around. He thinks Australia should reduce the amount of skilled migrants it lets in, and people shouldn't pop out too many babies. I hate to admit this, but I think he's right about the skilled migrants. It would be nice if wannabe people like me could be given Australian residency. But is that best for Australia? If Tim had managed to get a job there, would then an Australian be out of a job? And perhaps immigration spaces should be left open for people who are DESPERATE to get out of their country. I felt pretty desperate when George W. Bush was president. And I was having MAJOR family issues. But that all pales into comparison to people fleeing poverty and war.

Now I AM still keen on the idea of having an exchange program. What if Tim, Jack, and I moved to Australia, and an Australian family moved to America? That way the population stays least in that instance. I definitely think there should be an exchange visa. We'll let you move to our country, if you find someone who is willing to move out!

Well, I think I've rambled on enough today. So I'm going to shut up for now.