Sunday, December 17, 2017

Jellyfish Taking Over the World?










Some would feel apprehensive reading this article in The Atlantic with the ominous title, 'Imagining the Jellyfish Apocalypse'.   We know deep down that we've abused the world, polluted the environment, gorged on earth's resources but somehow we expect that Mother Earth, like many mothers, will shake her head and forgive us.   Or perhaps we expected some extreme devastation that would end things quickly and not leave us to suffer for our folly.


Jellyfish may be the Earth's alternative response.  In Australia the most common type, Irukandjii, of which there are 25 species, has a body the size of a pea.   What harm could they do?   The article describes the various forms of suffering you could endure which for an unfortunate few ends in death.   But don't take it personally;   these jellyfish typify the stimulus-response lack of consciousness with not much intelligence and certainly no motive.  Each animal is driven by basic compulsions and does not possess the kind of intelligence that could ever be trained, harnessed or reasoned with. 




Will our world's oceans return to the primordial soup with jellyfish smothering out all other life?   Considering the vast numbers of people that depend on the oceans' bounty for food, this would be devastating.   A number of countries including Sweden, Scotland and Israel have suffered power blackouts due to jellyfish clogging up their coal and nuclear powered energy facilities.


It all sounds like science fiction.   Jellyfish have been around for 500 million years;  perhaps they will outlive us.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Life can be Difficult

    


Mazatlan cab - Pulmonaria





Modern life is complicated.   There are various skills without which it is difficult to get by.   It's possible to decline to attain this knowledge but life will be more challenging.   If you don't drive you will have to make other arrangements.   You could live in a town or city that has terrific transit in place.   You could use taxis or something like Uber if that is permitted in your town.   You could arrange to live close to everything you need and then walk everywhere.   What a healthy suggestion!  But choosing not to drive means making other choices/concessions in your life.

It is difficult to manage without computer skills and access to a computer although for some/many a smart phone substitutes.     Booking a flight, checking out accommodation options, getting notification of a flight cancellation, paying bills and doing general banking are facilitated by a device of some sort.  You can manage without a computer if you rely on intermediaries to help you like travel agents.   You can pay your bills in person in the bank but most charge a fee for this.   You can wait a long time for a letter to arrive in the post if you can persuade your friends and relatives to communicate with you in this way.

You can avoid ever cooking if you have an agreeable spouse or partner.   You can resort to take-out food or fast food or even elegant restaurants if your bank balance permits.    Or eat your food raw.   Chopping and peeling are easier than cooking but not much.

Sometimes a little knowledge can go a long way.   You could learn to make seven simple dinners and repeat ad infinitum.   Omelettes and crepes permit many variations.   Once your computer is set up by some helpful techie type  you can write yourself a few cheat sheets for very basic uses such as sending an e-mail and using google.   Or maybe everyone is past that now. 




I've been reading The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton published in 1975.   Proof that good books age well.   In Victorian England, circa 1855, a totally different set of skills was necessary to get by.   

Friday, December 1, 2017

The News Cycle


  






Do you ever find yourself wondering what happened with a particular story or situation that featured prominently on the News?   I do.   The national evening news (morning news, noontime news) seems to be all about large dramatic stories. If it bleeds, it leads I have heard it described.   A major hurricane, a military coup, a mass shooting in a mall are all sure to be the top story of the day.    Various angles are pursued and interviews with locals and photographs of the devastation are obligatory.   Two weeks later?   Everything's over.   Or is it?

Years ago, a family member brought this up.   

"You remember the war in Yemen?" she said.   

"Vaguely, haven't heard about it for a long time.   I guess they settled things."   I replied. 

 "Well, it's still going on.   It's just not news anymore."


That was my introduction to the News Cycle.  It seems the term has been around in the 1920's.   The Oxford English Dictionary defines it thus:  

  A round of media coverage; the period from one broadcast or printing to the next.



  




If an event only lasts a day, it is surprising it made the news in the first place.   The local news might cover a house fire or a rush hour auto accident but the national news looks for events that can hold up for at least several days.   The decision must be made whether the story has legs,  ie. will carry on for a long enough period to warrant sending a reporter and photographer to the scene.   In these fiscally prudent times, arrangements have usually been made to piggyback on another news station or broadcast network.    In obscure locations, a search is made for an English speaking local, maybe a teacher on exchange, who will have their ten minutes of fame in front of the camera describing the scene after an earthquake.

Sometimes these events will be recalled to memory or come up in conversation.   Awhile ago it was the war in Ukraine.   Whatever happened to that?   Sometimes I am suspicious that governments have intervened, threatened removal of broadcasting licenses or other dire consequences like a tax audit if the topic is not at least muted. All in the interests of keeping the public calm no doubt. Perhaps I am being paranoid.   I don't hear about refugees streaming into Europe from Africa anymore.   Should I assume it has stopped?  The stories that last the longest are scandals about a political figure.   The Mike Duffy story comes to mind for the Canadian press.   Monica Lewinsky went on and on in the United States.  After a while I wonder if the opposing political party wants the story to continue.   

Local news has cooking demonstrations, celebrity gossip, travel tips, various witticisms, local music events and regional sports team scores.   It's entertainment.  Bad news is an intrusion.




Next week's post will be delayed a few days.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Recyclable Christmas Decorations







Inspired by The Minimalist Granny this post is a practical one about how you (and your children or grandchildren) can make their own Christmas decorations out of paper and other naturally sourced materials.   It's hard for plastic to compete with that.  You can then keep them if they have survived the festivities or make new ones the following year.  It can be an annual tradition like baking Christmas cookies.  Paper is inexpensive, unique and personal.   Origami paper serves the purpose well but you could use plain white photocopy paper that you and your assistants decorate, paint or colour.










Some are more difficult than others but by searching the Web and perhaps inserting the word easy  you will find something suitable.






Complement your paper decorations with some greenery and pine cones and you will be pleased with the result.   If not, you can pull out your wallet and make a mad dash to your nearest department store where a wealth of gaudy trinkets await.






   Your imagination awaits!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

YOUR DOG, THEIR DOG

     




Do you find yourself spending a lot of money on your pet(s)?    The pet industry has emerged and grown over the years.    There was a time years ago when dogs and cats were available to a good home for free.   Mixed breed puppies might set you back twenty-five dollars or so.   There were only a couple of brands of pet food available at the supermarket and no specialty stores selling dog costumes and designer treats.     A dog might have seen a veterinarian once or twice in their life.   There just wasn't money to spare for something not seen as a necessity. 

If you had read that a puppy's first year costs over $3000 here with similar annual costs you might have been taken aback and discouraged from getting a pet.   Today, some people are compelled to relinquish their dogs or cats when chronic conditions or accidents mean an enormous bill.   Add to that the difficulty in renting with a pet as described here and you end up with a surplus of pets without owners.

This article advises that owners drastically underestimate the cost of owing a pet by sevenfold.  A cost of $42,000 is suggested as the true cost.     You can buy a small home in some locations in North America and certainly elsewhere for that amount.    

Mazatlan Animal Rescue advises us here that 10 pesos or 66 cents CAD can feed 10 cats for a day.   Costs must vary in different locations similar to  cell phone prices in Canada versus the rest of the world.    Spend $50 a session for physiotherapy for your aging dog as I am doing or feed 10 cats for two and a half months.  Sixteen dollars to neuter a cat or thirty dollars for a dog seems like the best investment where some dogs don't have a home.    Or for  twenty dollars (including tax) a dog can enjoy a treat of premium chicken jerky.  Twelve ounces  in total which would put the cost in the same price range as this triple AAA Angus steak.



Henry and Ribsy was one of a popular series of books by Beverly Cleary about growing up with a dog.   I loved this series as a child.   Laugh out loud funny in some parts.   As I recall, Henry got Ribsy for free, under an applicable sign and sitting outside a supermarket.   The dog brought a lot of joy to the family, especially Henry, of course.   The same author gave the Quimby family with the irrepressible Ramona a cat, Picky Picky.   The family struggled financially in some of the books and it doesn't seem likely that they spent $3000 a year on cat care when they could barely afford to keep their car running.   Both families, as depicted by the author, were loving, kind and ideal pet owners.   

What would those families do today?  I notice that Petfinder, a consolidation of pet adoption sources has 286,000 pets available to be adopted.

What is the solution?

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Your Dream Haven

   





Most of us are appalled by shows like Hoarders.   People pile up household items, even useless things, until they can barely move in their home.   Mice and other undesirables move in.    Some people even spend money purchasing more stuff they don't need to further wall themselves into their homes.

We now know that psychological issues are at the root of hoarding.   All the detritus forms a shield against grief, depression, bad feelings, unhappy memories.   A frozen state of immobility ensues.   Getting rid of anything allows pain to get in.

Clutter is a milder form of hoarding and brings its own set of negative feelings.   We can feel uneasy, even stressed,  looking around at multitude of unfinished projects, things we own.    Large, almost empty spaces, by contrast, are more restful.   There are fewer things to focus on and what's there seems more important.   Think of art galleries and museums.    They are restful, calming places.  No doubt the gallery or museum has a place where supplies, stationery, staff lunches, restoration and display tools reside but it is out of sight.

A toaster may be used once a day, or not even that yet often it sits on a kitchen counter, removing space that could be empty.   The same can be said of the blender that makes smoothies from time to time or the pan that sautés.  Do you need to look at them every time you glance at the kitchen?   You might have noticed that homes that are staged for an Open House are remarkably uncluttered.

Try an experiment.   Clear every surface in a designated room, placing everything in an out of sight box.   Nothing on counters, tables or shelves.    Now place one decorative item that has some significance to you on one table.      A vase you purchased in that little village in Greece on that long ago vacation. Place a piece of greenery from your garden on it.    Maybe one more item or several books on a shelf.   That's it.

Sit back and feel the calm envelop you.  Go out for a few hours and then come back.   It's pleasant now, isn't it, to not feel stressed at the mess of undone tasks.   Your home is truly a haven.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

SANDWICH GENERATION

  





For those people who haven't heard the expression 'sandwich generation' before here is a definition:

The Sandwich Generation is a generation of people (usually in their 30s or 40s) who care for their aging parents while supporting their own children.


This term was only added to the Merriam Webster dictionary in 2006.   Why?   I am going to hypothesize it is because this life situation occurred infrequently a generation ago.   Children were anxious to leave the family home.   I know I was, moving out at age twenty.   (But I married at twenty-one, so it wasn't a long independent sojourn;  something like six months). It wasn't that I wasn't happy at home;  my parents almost doted on me.   But the siren call of independence and freedom was keenly felt.   And the deciding factor?   It was financially affordable.   Housing was inexpensive and good paying jobs were plentiful.   Today, there is a large wage gap, present in many large cities, wherein housing prices have quintupled and salaries maybe doubled.   That gap is part of what keeps young people at home.

Living at home makes life much easier financially, particularly if parents charge little or nothing for room and board.   Entertainment, tech devices, continuing education all become manageable.   Homes are much larger nowadays for many families.  From the small 1200 square foot rancher of the past, often with only one bathroom, today's homes have four or more bedrooms.   Many of these are ensuite or in separate wings.   Having children at home is not a one sided equation either.   If there is a good relationship, young adults at home can help with household chores, look after pets when parents vacation, and be company for a single parent or also a couple.   They provide a level of home security for parents who travel to warmer climes in the winter.    Sounds like a win-win, doesn't it?   

It does tend to lead to prolonged continuing education and student loan debt as the stimulating student life can be enjoyable for some, more enjoyable that the sometimes harsh work world.     Some of the economic doldrums in society today have been attributed to millenials  late family formation habit.   They stay single and don't buy the starter home that enables the next level of home owner to move up.   They don't purchase the accoutrements of house set-up--appliances and furniture--and they don't buy baby gear.   Those $1000 plus iPhones take the place of more mundane products.  Sometimes (I think it's something like forty percent) the young people divorce and come home for the short term or longer term, sometimes with children in tow.



But the other  piece of bread, to continue with the sandwich analogy, may not be enjoying life quite so much.   Older parents may need to downsize, except there are no grateful grandchild recipients  for cherished heirlooms.   Parents may still be helping out the son or daughter financially at a time when grandparents have left the workforce.   Their income is in a decline.   In some countries, like the United States, healthcare costs may seriously impede lifestyle.   Health issues arise in one or both grandparents and they just aren't able to cope as well independently.   A period of contraction, from family home to condo to some sort of supported care situation ensues over the years.   One or more family members, often daughters, become unpaid caregivers, grocery shoppers, doctor visit drivers, and tech adviser to aging parents.    The support is often also financial.

There are solutions but some of the choices are difficult.   Set boundaries for financial support both in dollars and length of time.   Easier said than done.   Elderly parent care is more manageable if they live with you.   Cue the mother-in-law comments.   All the family dynamics become more intense when everyone lives in the same home, even if it is larger now.   National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation humorously demonstrated the issues with relatives who only visited for a short time.   Imagine if they all moved in permanently.  

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Can You Afford to Retire?





This article, The New Reality of Old Age in America, in The Washington Post sets out a gloomy future for upcoming would-be retirees.   The take-away message?  Retirement will not be the anticipated golden years, a just reward for years of hard work and sacrifice.    Instead, many, if not the majority will live out the remainder of their years in penny pinching frugality interspersed with low wage jobs, all in aid of balancing the domestic budget.

(I must confess that when I read that, my first thought was, if that's the case, why save and sacrifice when you are young if it gets you nowhere.   Enjoy your youth, spend your money on the proverbial wine, women (men) and song and at least you'll have your memories.)  



Upcoming retirees may hope and desire anticipated post-retirement travel and leisure activities like golf and theatre.  These may be few and far between and largely consist of visits to stay with children and grandchildren.   You travel  the country in your camper on a convoluted route seeking out temporary jobs maintaining campgrounds, boxing up packages for Amazon during the holiday season, and running cruise ship excursions to and from lobster feasts in Maine.


For 33% of American, the article states, Social Security is their only source of income.  They raised a family, the husband was always in work or had a business and the wife often worked part-time.   Somehow there was never enough spare money to save for retirement.   It's hard to know if they could have done better.   Health issues in the United States seem to be a large factor in financial health and the insurance is a large bill every month.

Sometimes, saving a little just seems to put you in a higher tax bracket.  You're not 'poor' enough to qualify for various benefits, but you're certainly not rich enough to live with any kind of extravagance.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Employment Bait and Switch





Barbara Ehrenreich is a well known award winning author, journalist, political activist and self-described myth buster.   Check out her biography here.   Her book Bait and Switch seeks to complement her prior book, Nickel and Dimed in which she went undercover as an employee in low wage occupations.  In Bait and Switch Ehrenreich's goal was to enter the middle management job market and discover the intrigue, unfairness and misery.

Traditionally, white collar employees are college educated. One woman described in thus:  They believe they have done all the right things in life--generally described as not getting pregnant, not being a drug user and having a college education and a corporate wardrobe.   The enormous student loan debt should entitle them to a reasonably well paying position.

Ms. Ehrenreich creates a new past using her maiden name and launches herself into the employment seeking masses looking for an executive position that utilizes her skills.   Something in public relations, she thinks.     She hires a resume coach, full of enthusiasm.





The emergence of a 'support' industry supposedly to assist job seekers reminds me of the emergence of  sectors tailored to help the author in their reach for fame, fortune and massive sales.   There are the copy editors, the line editors, the cover artists, the marketing gurus, audio and video producers and book fair organizers.












Job coaching and employment-finding bootcamps are not inexpensive but most comes down to victim blaming and ad hoc advice blending various pop psychology insights.   By Page 150 Ehrenreich still hasn't found a position and her plan to write an exposé of the white collar executive world seems doomed to wither away.

Next, she undergoes a fashion and make-up analysis.   Her appearance is determined to be unacceptable but a sliver of hope is proffered, provided she invests various beauty products.  After many months and application to over two hundred advertised and posted positions Ehrenreich is experiencing what is reality for many.  No one wants her.   The soft job skills at which she excels do not require licensing or certification which might exclude some job seekers.   Anyone can claim to be an  Event Organizer or Public Relations Representative.   

It is not a question of being rejected.  Mostly there is no response at all, just soul sucking silence.  Near the end of the book, she is offered a commission sales job selling health insurance.   The position provides her with no office, no benefits, no salary  and requires her to purchase a laptop,  use her 'home' office and take a course to be licensed (which requires purchasing several expensive textbooks).   All at her own expense. 

After six months and $6000 expense Erlenreich is forced to concede defeat.   But meanwhile, she still has a book to complete.   She interviews some fellow job seekers that she has met.   There are sad stories of abandoned hopes, leading to minimum wage jobs or temporary positions designed to keep financial insolvency at bay.    It's a scary world out there for those entering or re-entering the job market.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Chained to your Cell Phone

 



Do you know someone, maybe quite a few someones, that always seem to have their cell phones close at hand?   Like a Wild West gun slinger, it perches at their hip, in their pocket or even as far away as a purse.  Always accessible, the owner is vigilant for a chirp or whistle, musical notes or a vibration that signals that someone, somewhere has thought of them.    

I've been at meetings where the cell phone is placed on the conference table; face down apparently is deemed more courteous.   During a lull in the discussion or if everyone's gaze is fixed on a flow chart on the wall, the cell phone is surreptitiously flipped over, scanned and entries are thumbed through.  The phone may then be dropped into the lap for some discreet texting.

Many jurisdictions have passed laws against texting and driving or talking on your cell phone while driving.   I'm not sure having a blue tooth phone in your ear helps with the distraction factor because the person you are talking to doesn't realize why you are pausing in your dialogue.   I have been engaged in interesting conversations while driving with the person in the passenger seat but when I pause, it is apparent that I am trying to make a left turn in a busy intersection or that something else on the road needs my total attention.   I can easily say, 'just a sec,' without feeling I need to explain.   This just isn't the same when your conversational partner is absent.

Some people feel the need to always have their cell phone within arm's reach.  They lay it on the bedside table at night and beside them when eating dinner.   If it is silent for too long, it seems necessary to check if something has been missed or isn't working.   This article in   U.S.A. Today informs us how many times a day people check and/or use their cell phone.   Guess.    Apple advises that their cell phone users unlock them eighty times a day.

But why?   The article states that frequent phone users, addicted phone users, get a little thrill, a little hit of dopamine, the happy brain hormone, every time their phone gives a little beep or shake.   And like any addiction it's not a positive thing.     No one would call it as harmful as cocaine or heroin.   It's a little closer to what propels a slot machine user to keep pushing the button when their wiser self knows they should stop.

It is probably also difficult for employees, some of whom are expected to be on call 24/7.  You used to have the excuse that you were on the road or visiting friends but no more.    Cell phone companies have no difficulties in increasing rates monthly and the cost of the cell phones themselves seems beyond what is reasonable.   It seems for many people it is one of life's necessities.  Maybe if it still looked like this:




or even this:















things would be different.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Negativity, drama or real life?




Upon a recommendation I started watching a British police program, Line of Duty.    There have been a lot of cop shows over the years.  Dragnet  and  Barney Miller were surely well wide of the mark in terms of realism although many found them entertaining.     I can only hope the recent addition is unrealistic as well, although in a different way.    The characters were deceptive, even corrupt and generally unpleasant people, and those weren't the criminals.

The opening scene had a British version of a SWAT team of at least a dozen heavily armed officers storm an apartment and shoot and kill  the man inside who was holding a baby while his wife looked on in horror.    It wasn't long before it was discovered that apartment 56, the target location,  was a few doors down.   The apartment they had entered was Number 59, but the second digit on the door was missing a nail and had swung down, therefore appearing to be a 6.

This was all bad enough  but before the van containing the police team had left the scene the officer in charge gave them all the version of events that they were to swear to at the upcoming inquest.   As long as they all stuck to that they would be exonerated.   They would swear under oath that the father was holding an incendiary device, not his baby, and threatened them with it.   It was rationalized that since apartment inhabitants were illegal immigrants there would be no one to say otherwise and the wife wouldn't be believed.

The plot line continued on with more examples of infidelity, deception, and just plain nastiness.  At some point I started to feel that my mood, my perception of the world, my hope for the future,  a good night's sleep  . . . would not be improved by continuing to view this program.     Also, I can't bring myself to believe that modern police forces operate this way and are populated by people like the characters in the show.   Maybe I'm naive but since there is nothing I can do about it, or most of the major world events, perhaps my state of mind would be improved by avoidance.    Maybe the Think globally, Act locally  mantra should be amended.   Just do your best in your own world and act with thoughtfulness and kindness not to mention foresight.   

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Are Studies Preferable to Action?

 


If you follow a particular issue that has meaning to you, do you get the feeling that a never-ending stream of studies is the preferred route of action?   Yet another report by university researcher, Nigel Raine, on the risk of extinction of bees is once again putting the blame on the pesticide class known as neonicotinoids.    One unfortunate result is that Bumblebee queens are 26% less likely to lay eggs.  

We need bees.   They do not exist to sting you but as this article in the National Post points out:

Bees are crucial to agriculture. Published reports suggest about a third of the crops eaten by humans depend on insect pollination, with bees responsible for about 80 per cent of that figure.



How many studies are necessary for the tipping point to ensure and actual action is taken?    Those who have other concerns and causes of interest, likely find similar patterns.  Why? 



BBC News

No blog post next week;   I'll be on vacation.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Lives of the Rich and Famous

 




Many of us might admit to a vicarious fascination with the lives of the rich and famous.   Television programs have focussed on this, whether real or fantasy lives.  This article in the National Post by Brandon Presser makes interesting reading.    Are the filthy rich really so different from you or I?   I recently watched The Butler which gave some insight although it's mainly about the era and the racism.


Butlers are not just present in Downton Abby and The White House.    They live and apparently exist to serve you at the Plaza Hotel in New York.  Some requests are mundane:   more ice is frequent.  But, relax,  millionaires and billionaires have some quirks.    Have you ever thought of bathing surrounding by oysters on the shell, sharing the water with you?   The potential pleasure in this ritual has never occurred to me.

Some butlers are asked to perform bizarre tasks.   Unusual food items are  requested:  tarantulas?    A butler must be able to be ever present but rarely seen and certainly not observant of anything that should be private.    If by chance something titillating is viewed, it must never be mentioned or discussed with anyone.   Discretion is all.

When you have everything money can buy, it must be difficult to come up with new desires.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

What's Cooking?

     



I've been reading several books by Michael Pollan and watching some Youtube videos made from his speaking appearances, for example, here, where he discusses how cooking can change your life.  You may have heard of his brief list of food rules:   Eat food ; mostly plants, not too much.   In the video he postulates that the key determinant of the health of an individual is if a person, not a corporation, cooks their meals.   A brave statement, for sure.   I don't recall nutrition being written and talked about so much in previous decades.   When I was setting up my household, collecting recipes and trying to learn to cook, nutrition took a definite back seat to taste.  I remember my mother-in-law giving me a favourite recipe of hers:   a chicken casserole that included both a cup of mayonnaise and a cup of sour cream.   I'm certain it was delicious at the time.

Both the United States and Canada have long had food guides.   These are recent iterations.   It seems important to remember that food industry and agricultural  lobbyists  promote a particular perspective.    The American version https://www.choosemyplate.gov comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 







  The Canadian government's recommended plate looks very similar with perhaps a slightly smaller portion of  what is termed meat and alternatives and the inclusion of a glass of water.   The other beverage is called milk and alternatives.  The fruits and vegetables (green) are combined  and there is a drop of oil representing fats and oils.



EAT WELL PLATE



There proliferation of books and videos and even Netflix movies on the topic of our food supply and nutrition habits recommending a change of habits considerably different from either country's recommendations.  Paleo, Low Carb, Intermittent Fasting . . . Once you go down that rabbit hole, you are more likely to start cooking.   That's probably a good thing.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

DO YOU LOVE YOUR JOB?

      




It seems that quite a few people do not love their work and not just because they are shovelling manure all day, literally or figuratively.   It doesn't help that an onerous commute is required at both ends of the working day for many.   But other factors contribute.   Do you need to be on call all/most times by means of your cell phone or e-mail?   Those things didn't exist twenty-five years ago.   Your weekend was your own. Salaried employees may work long hours without additional renumeration. Two people are laid off and their work is added to yours, often without additional compensation.

Wages/pay rates have been almost stagnant for twenty-five years or more. Many people are earning less, taking into account mandatory deductions from their wages.   Discretionary income has declined and many carry credit card balances which require at least minimum payments.    It's hard to feel motivated to go to work when it is a struggle to pay bills, never mind have a few treats.

Are lay-offs are regular part of your work life?   Some trades seem to have seasonal/unexpected lay-offs on a regular basis.  These can play havoc with your personal life and finances.   Do you work irregular hours or shift work?   Your circadian rhythms have a difficult time with this way of life.   Are you on what is called zero time hours?  This type of work contract does not guarantee you any hours of work at all.   Your employment is at the pleasure of your employer and living life on this kind of knife edge does not make you love your job.

Some aspire to Early Retirement.    This blogger makes it look relatively easy.   His current interviewee became wealthy in two years as an early AirBnb hostess.  Most of us find out about get rich quick schemes long after the early adopters have retired.    There's a whole community out there looking to save twenty-five times their annual frugalized expenses which are then invested  securely.  They are able to safely withdraw four percent a year and live on that pursuing sports, hobbies, travel or generally enjoying life.   Sounds tempting, doesn't it?





Life as  a cubicle worker can make you long for escape. Do you feel like a pencil pusher, or more likely, a keyboarder?   Years ago it was thought that modernization and automation would shorten the work day to four hours.   What happened?  Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian has some thoughts on the topic.

There must be a reason that no one on their death bed wishes they'd spent more time at work.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Being a Celebrity Probably Isn't so Great

   



There's been a lot written lately, or rather re-written, about Princess Diana and her untimely demise.   In case we had forgotten what happened, the twenty year anniversary of this event is upcoming at the end of the month and it seems to have been decided, probably by the press,  that it is time for a re-visit.   Often in the case of such an unexpected and public death initial press reactions offer some discretion.   The grief is too new, there must some some semblance of respect.


After twenty years the gloves come off.   Old theories and reports are dusted off and new ones are considered.  Anyone who had the remotest connection gets a chance to have their moment of fame or at least a line in the British tabloid newspapers.    At the very least, a tragic event like this serves to prod change.   In the same way that a traffic death at a vehicle intersection leads to the installation of a traffic light or stop sign, the information and details that came out about Diana's life as a member of the Royal family have led to change for the next generation.


It must still be difficult to be someone famous, whether Royal or Hollywood A list star.   Photographers clamour to take your picture and you have to be on guard against scratching your nose or yanking on your underwear in public.   The Duchess of Cambridge must always have a smile ready and never look bored.   You can keep track of her commitments here.  Then there are the blogs and articles that observe and report on the clothes, the children, the activities, the jewellery . . .   You would need to get used to always being watched and on display.


Are there still many young women who dream of being princesses?

Sunday, August 20, 2017

ARE TOURISTS ANNOYING?

Do you expect special treatment when you travel to foreign countries? Admit it now, it is a little frustrating when the direction and location signs are in a language you are not familiar with or, even worse, in an alphabet that is not the one you know.  

Tourism is the number one industry in the world. Do you feel a little self-satisfied to be contributing to other countries' economies?   London may not need your piddly contribution but other places in the world are very reliant on tourism for jobs and foreign currency.    It is natural to want to feel welcomed, perhaps even a little appreciated.    After all, you have emptied your savings accounts to be here, not to mention endured a lengthy and gruelling flight.  It seems unfortunate that some admission prices are outrageous, not to mention the queues:


The Louvre, Paris


Suzanne Moore writes in the Guardian here that not only do some locations not love and embrace tourists, they downright dislike them, including you and me.    But it must be other people who litter, engage in raucous yelling late at night, and generally behave badly.  Besides, they're just having a little fun; isn't that what vacations are for?   Probably they are only embarrassing themselves and will think better of the photographs when they get home and delete them from the Instagram account without delay.






In the months of July and August especially, traffic can become impossible and tourists driving rental cars down unfamiliar streets might cause frustration and annoyance without intending to.   Rental housing disappears, lost to vacation by-the-night accommodation that nets the landlord considerably more by way of profits.     Parisians have long had the custom of taking their vacation in the month of August, the better to leave the city to visitors.   

Stonehenge had to resort to putting a wooden boardwalk some distance from the ancient stones.   Some tourists wanted to take a piece of history away with them or at least leave their mark.   Some places are considering limiting tourists.  Are any of these on your bucket list?

Altogether, I am pleased I visited many places in Europe twenty-five years ago.   Perhaps I beat the crowds.