Wednesday, November 10, 2010
I really don't like the way the media is treating this.
I don't feel like anyone is treating her like a person, it's creepy to read/watch about things that are so painful and so much a a part of me, talked about on tv and th internet by complete strangers. Like my life is a side show.
Even though it's a long time ago, to me and my family it isn't.
I've been making a scrapbook/memory page, but i'm not sure i can do it anymore.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
I was wondering whether it is easier to deal with the death of a loved one, if it is sudden as opposed to being given advance notice.
I was leaning towards sudden death. It's not nice being given updates on a loved one's waning health via social networking, in fact it sucks. Also I am really not good at dealing with grieving in front of the person you are grieving for. Its vulgar. And then there is the perceived obligation to "tie up loose ends", "make your peace" and all that gaff. I am really more of a sweep it under the carpet and let's never speak of that upsetting/embarrassing/my life-is-a-disappointment-to-you moment again.
How do you act? what can you say that doesn't seem over dramatic or too flippant? I don't want to talk about my grades, or the weather, or your latest bad medical news, I just want you to stop dying.
Then I realised, yes, I'm self absorbed, "Oh my God you're dying? This is really affecting me". Yes, I am uncomfortable faced with mortality, my own and anyone elses. BUT... So is the rest of society.
Go into any newsagent's, there is the get well soon card, and the condolence card, and nothing in between. Where is the "I'm sorry you won't be here for christmas" Card? Or "So your doctor just changed your prognosis from six weeks to two days?" There is no Larson cartoon for the occasion.
Hallmark has failed me.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I really like these books. The paranormal subplots kind of threw me, though. I guess having only read his non-fiction work and his blog, I wasn't expecting a fantasy book.
The first time I read this book I was a little disappointed, I had just watched "Collapse" directed by Chris Smith. I wanted JHK to give me a blow by blow account of events we can expect and how to survive them. Instead, World Made By Hand shoves you a decade or so after all the "Long Emergncy"/teotwawki stuff has happened, and straight into the "new normal".
The second time I read it, I was able to just read the story, and I found I liked it, even the paranormal freaky bits. Although I found it hard to suspend my judgement on the anti-religion viewpoint. JHK has these characters he calls Christian, but their version of christianity and the Bible is so twisted and freaky, that it made me feel ill. I wish JHK had named the "New Faith" deity something other than Jesus.
A lot of people have problems with the role of women in this book. I would like to point out the book is in first person, narrated by a male character, who lives alone, in a society where the female population is limited. Of course the only women he interacts with sleep with him or mother him, (or both). This is just an extrapolated version of the way the sexes interact in reality. Even though we apparently have equality, women tend to do the larger portion of domestic duties, even if they have a job outside the home. It stands to reason,that if you take away the desk job, electricity, the suv, hot running water, the washer/dryer, fast food and law and order, women will be spending more time at home, and less time in the public sphere. I'm fairly certain women are not "forbidden" to be in on council meetings as some people have written. The women are just so busy they couldn't be bothered to go.
Another point brought up is the unresolved ending. Kunstler mentioned in a podcast interview, kunstlercast.com, that his idea was to write 4 books, one for each season. So there are 2 more to come.
Overall, this was a nice story. Robert Earle is an apocalyptic version of Pa Ingalls. Much, much easier to read than McCarthy's "The Road". The premise of a post carbon society, while not an earth shattering concept to Transitioners, serves as a good vehicle for peak oil discussion out in the wider McWorld, always a good thing. Mostly though, I get the feeling that JHK just had fun writing this. A world where all his economic/environmental/political predictions have occured, but "stuff" still happens.
View all my reviews
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Monday, September 6, 2010
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
This is how I (sort of) manage:
1. Use Vinegar for cleaning.
If you don't like the smell, (you prefer the way bleach smells?? :)) you can add a few drops of whatever essential oil you like. I use Tea tree oil for the bathroom. Put some bicarbonate of soda on a scrubbing brush and let the kids go for it, its that safe. then you spray a bit of vinegar on. The young ones will love the "fizzy". Maybe you can squeeze in a bit of acid and alkali science in there at the same time, lol.
I also use vinegar instead of fabric softener. Vinegar is an odor neutraliser, essential for teenage boys, as well as neutralising alkaline soap residue, for sensitive skins. Some fabric softeners actually work by coating fibres in a synthetic waxy substance, and if the item is smelly, then the smell gets locked in, only to be released as soon as the item gets warm/damp. For really smelly stuff soak first in a bucket of water with 1/4 cup of lectric soda crystals (aka: washing soda/sodium carbonate/soda ash).
2. Make your own Laundry soap.
The reason I started making my own laundry soap (recipe here) was because commercial ones all smell so strongly, and when I'm grouchy and headachy strong smells make it worse. I also noticed that whenever I folded my clean washing I would start sneezing uncontrollably. The cost cutting was just an added bonus at the time, now it's essential.
3. Cook from scratch.
I think if you have kids use them, lol. Free labour, in the guise of character building, and learning to serve. Older kids need to understand that what you do for the least of your brothers, you do for Him. (I'm still learning this myself). And littlies just long to be included. When you take the time to teach them now, it might take 3 hours to make dinner, but in a few years time, they can be left to do it themselves. Sacrifice some time now, and it will be made up later (i'm hoping, :D). Also if the kids are really stubborn to help in the kitchen, you might have to start with junky, exciting food, like pancakes, or cupcakes. And someone will have to eat all those wobbly practice efforts, so Dad should be happy.
4. Set aside a "baking day" ala Little House on the Prairie.
Bake a dozen loaves and freeze them, but make sure you slice them first.
Mother Earth News has a recipe for Artisan Bread in 5 minutes for free, its not the whole book, but it's what I've been using. That way you can try it out and decide if you want to buy the book.
5. Slowly cut down on the amount of bread you serve.
Eat porridge for breakfast, make it a treat, with a spoonful of honey or brown sugar, and milk, or some stewed fruit.
Dad might still need his sandwiches for lunch, but try and sneak a container of pasta, or casserole and rice, if he has access to a microwave.
Always make it a treat, never a sacrifice, don't give him "leftovers" but a "specially saved serve of your favourite because you mentioned how much you liked it last night" lol.
6. Eat less meat.
My family has gradually gone from having meat as a staple, to a treat. I don't eat it at all. One meat dish a week can last a few meals. (This is how one amazing woman does it)
I cook a batch of mince, chilli or spaghetti, and i use a ratio of 1:2 lentils to meat, plus some grated carrots, to give double my normal recipe for the same amount of meat. The kid thinks that is normal, guests either like it or are too polite to complain, lol.
Leftovers of nearly anything can be made into pasties. Cut a sheet of prepackaged (gasp) puff pastry into 4 squares (quarters) put a spoonfull of mince slightly to the left and bottom of the center of each square, moisten the edges with water, milk or egg. Fold each top right corner to the bottom left one to make triangles, press the edges together with a fork, poke a few holes in them. bake on baking tray until golden and puffy, the filling is already cooked.
7. Chickens, sigh I wish.
If one of your kids is animal orientated, and you have a yard, buy them a "present" of a few chickens (minimum 2, they need friends). 100 - 200 eggs per chicken, per year, for about 5? years. Here organic, barn laid eggs are AU$10 a dozen, free range is even more, so that's at least AU$160 (about US$130) a year worth of eggs. And you can't put a price on watching fluffy clucky bottoms bob and scratch around, or the life lessons being a responsible steward of G-d's creatures provides. Also your eggs with be totally salmonella free. Definitely worth the original outlay, and ongoing feed costs.
Once you have a steady supply of eggs, you can make fresh custard, home made ice cream, quiches, fritattas, pavlovas, meringues, egg nogg, all sorts of things that before would have cost too much to make. Ever wondered why some of Grandma's recipes call for 8 eggs!? She had to think of ways to use up a summer glut, eggs were practically free for her!
8. Cut Back on toiletries
Try using the "No Poo" method of hair care, it's not for everyone. My Boy doesn't use shampoo or conditioner, I haven't noticed a difference in smell. He uses normal soap if its needed. Us girls still use shampoo, I think long hair needs a bit more care.
9. Grow your own.
Try and fit growing vegies and fruit into your lifestyle. I struggle with this one. I know in my head that a few tomato and lettuce seedlings will grow up into hundreds of dollars worth of salads. I just don't look after the garden enough. Maybe one of your older kids needs an income? Offer to "rent" them a patch of yard, to grow seedlings and veg on. The rent being, say 10% of what they produce and then the rest they could try and sell to nieghbours. It could work, it definitely couldn't hurt.
Monday, July 12, 2010
I feel sooo sick. But I can practically feel the antibodies building up and by His stripes I'm healed.
Anyway, what am I supposed to eat when swallowing hurts? I can't eat chicken soup.
I don't want to eat msg or additives, so packet soups are out, but I can barely stand, boiling a pot of water is all I feel up to.
Here is my "Chicken" and sweet corn soup.
1 tin of corn kernels
1 tin of creamed corn
2 teaspoons of grated/minced ginger
1 crushed clove of garlic
1 tablespoons of soy sauce
1 litre of vegie stock (if you are supermama then you have litres of the stuff in your freezer right? oh well, just check the label for numbers first.)
1 tub of firm silken tofu, sliced into cubes or mangled pieces depending on how sick you are.
1 tsp cornflour
1 egg, lightly beaten
NB: if your principles are too strong to resort to opening cans, feel free to chop up massive amounts of corn. however if you are sick, you need to take it easy, well that's how i rationalise it anyway.
Tip everything (except for egg) into a pot, bring it to the boil, remove from heat, then stir in the egg.
If you have the energy, sprinkle some chopped shallots on top. Otherwise, take a bowlful and retreat back to bed.
Friday, June 25, 2010
OK, I am guilty of quite a few typos, sorry, typographical errors. Pure laziness, on my part. I also write the way I speak, especially in casual mediums, like email, or this blog, so I am always making grammatical errors.
However, I just got my son's report card. There are quite a few spelling mistakes in the comment sections. What, they don't have spell chuck?
Come on guys, this is a formal document. I still have report cards from my primary school days, so this is a document that will be kept for long time. Not to mention, passed around Grandparents, and doting Aunties.
OK, OK. I get it, she's a chick. Whoo-hoo.
Problem is, she wasn't elected by me. Did you vote for her?
I'm not convinced that Rudd was doing a great job. However, that should have been sorted out at the next election.
I feel that my democratic rights have been impinged.
A few elite politicians shouldnt be able to make massive decisions about our country's leadership.
That's what is so worrying about this.
Ages ago you used to get charged for how many hours you were online, not how much you downloaded/uploaded.
I remember my mum yelling at me to turn the dialup modem off, because while it was connected, we were paying.
So, it was totally in the interests of the provider to supply a slow connection.
Now, we get charged by the amount of downloads/uploads, so the providers want us to have the fastest connections they can provide....
They want us to be able to download movies and watch streaming tv, and rack up charges...
just a random connection i made....
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
It's basically an impeachment.
Has he done anything wrong? Illegal?
How can a few people decide for the entire country, without a vote?
Can't they just wait until the election, to change the party's leader?
Julia Gillard wasn't voted for by me nor anyone else.
It's an incredibly bad time for the nation to have leadership changes. The last thing Australia needs is political instability to add to economic instability.
If caucus votes Kevin Rudd out, can an election be forced by the opposition?
Thursday, June 17, 2010
I don't know why I did. Desperation?
Anyway, it was talking about "negative calories". The premise being that your body uses more calories to burn certain foods, than the foods themselves contain.
For only 6 easy payments of $66.60 plus p&h, and my first born daughter's soul, I could recieve an ebook listing all these wonder foods. Whatever.
I assume the first 50 food items are lettuces.
Then I started thinking, that practically anything you grow, or make can be classified as negative or nearly neutral calories. Digging a vegie patch, turning the compost, squatting down to weed the garden, all burn calories. So anything I grow, while not only being yummier, also burns more calories than are in the final product.
So if I break a sweat kneading bread, can I eat the whole loaf by myself? And since my mixer broke, any cakes, muffins or brownies I make have to be whisked by hand. Which, by the way, really kills my upper arm. Therefore, not only do they not contain nasty 200s, but they could be approaching neutral calories.
Ha Ha Ha, I'm pretty sure negative calories is hogwash. 1000 calories is 1000 calories whether its a ton of carrots or a cheeseburger.
Monday, May 24, 2010
The real estate industry is so out of kilter that these agents think half a million dollars is a perfectly acceptable price to pay for a 3 bedroom weatherboard house on a postcard patch of lawn. And somehow they think that people buying their first home can afford something like that.
Let's do some sums kiddies:
"Average" wages in australia in february 2010 are about $1 200 a week.
So average annual income is approx $62 400*
Now let's assume that we have a two parent family, with a couple of kids. One parent working fulltime and one working part time**, so we have $62 400, plus about half to two thirds, or about $36000, before tax.
So total income for the family is $98 400.
minus $17 000 for tax, $81000
Lets put these figures through a mortgage calculator:
The maximum this fictional couple can borrow is $467000.
If they can comply with all the terms and conditions and come up with the deposit, which for most loans is 10%.
So if my fictional average income couple have saved up 50 grand, they can buy what the industry considers an "entry level" property. And then pay $1000 a week, which is two thirds their combined income and hope to god interest rates don't go up, ever. I hope the kids don't eat much, or wear clothes, or go to school.
I'm not really convinced that average families are earning nearly $100 000 a year. I can't find a statistic for family incomes.
Btw There are plenty of nice properties out there for less than $500 000, my problem is with real estate agents who seem to think that First Home Buyers are looking for something in that price range.
I can remember my mother buying her first house for $42000 in th 80s. Her second house was less than $100 000 in the early 90s and sold for more than double that ten years later. That's just ridiculous! The same house, rose over 100% in ten years? Wages have not risen enough to compensate... House Prices are seriously over inflated and unaffordable.
I can remember the gossip when a friend built a house in the early 90s and spent around $450k. Everyone was positive they had over capitilised. I shudder to think what that property would be worth today. I shudder mainly because the house is not my taste, actually it's a hideous cliche of a McMansion. Not to mention a vast waste of resources.
Will house prices ever deflate back to their "real" worth?
Let's say house values rose at the same (ish) rate as everything else, between about 3% and 5% a year. A particular postwar 3 Bedroom house in Brisbane, purchased in 1990, was $100 000. 10 years later that house rising in value 5% a year should have cost about $162 000. instead it sold for $50 000 more than that. 20 years later it should cost around $265 000, yet houses in that area now sell for a median price of $557k. Let's say that house is worth a lot less than it's neighbours and give it a conservative value of $440k. (it was actually advertised for this amount in 2007, lol) By my reasoning, (most likely flawed/naive) this house is over valued by nearly $200 000.
This problem will most likely not go away. The GFC (which is not over despite media consensus, schmucks), will create rises in the real cost of living, wages will stagnate, inflation will rise and even if the real estate bubble bursts, the price of houses will remain unaffordable.
*imo this amount could be skewed by including mega earners in these calculations. For example, the highest 20% of earners earn 39.4% of all income and the middle 20% earn 17.4% of all income.
**if the second earner has a casual job, which is more likely, considering the 2 kids, then the bank will not regard the income as reliable, reducing the amount the family can borrow.
Friday, May 14, 2010
"Simply allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you feel about this, without jumping to the way to solve it, because I think we really need to feel these things and if we can feel them deeply, even if the feelings aren't comfortable then those are the feelings that will turn into the fuel that can drive passionate action." -Chris Jordan
Midway: Message from the Gyre
Sunday, April 25, 2010
I thought this was universal, until my husband said he had never had a frozen popper before. He thought I was crazy and teaching my son to be weird until he tried it. Mmmm, frozen icy goodness.
A 250mL popper which takes 2 seconds to for a hot, thirsty kid to drink, can take 15 to 20 minutes to eat.
Ask any mother how much she would pay for 15 minutes silence, on a long, hot, "Boooooring", weekend day....
Use a serrated knife, like a bread knife to score the package all around the middle, then cut the frozen popper in half. You will have to give it a bit of a whack. Give the child a teaspoon and half the popper, and tell them to go outside. It can get quite messy, little flecks of ice get flicked everywhere and melt into sticky droplets. Leave the other half in the freezer for later.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
this was my answer:
I would buy school uniforms, shoes, school textbooks, musical instruments, computers and other learning related supplies, and pay for school camps and excursions for underprivileged children. These are the things that are hardest for kids to do without, they make them stand out as poor at school.
Teachers also misinterpret "forgetting" schoolbooks, or permission slips as laziness, when the child just doesn't want to admit that once again they can't do something, because their parents can't afford it.
I totally remember pretending to forget things, simply because i really hadn't bothered to ask my mum for it, it would just stress her out. Especially, if it was my fault and i had lost it, say my school jumper, or a text book, I would rather put up with the teacher being mad at me than my mum.
I also remember once filling out forms in the principals office which let you pay off your textbooks over time, rather than paying hundreds of dollars at the beginning of the year. When we got to the bit that asked for reasons for the extension, I said "Look we just don't have the money right now," the Principal wrote in the box, "Because I am poor." Actually, that hurts still 11 years later. AXXhole
So if i could i would make sure no kid ever feels embarrassed having to ask to borrow an eraser or a piece of paper, from a friend. Or pretend that they don't want to wear the correct uniform and are trouble makers, when the fact is they don't even own the right jumper or correct shoes. They won't get yelled at for handing in a bit of scribble on a scrap of paper, when the printer ran out of ink. And they wont have to wag wednesday afternoon sport because they havent got $3.50 for the sports money, again.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
there are a few courses on "Post Peak Living" but you have to pay, so i thought i'd sign up for the free newsletter first.
anyway, so far they have told me to get a 72 hour emergency kit ready.... already done that yawn...
and to start a transition initiative in my neighbourhood, quote "If a group doesn't yet exist in your area, talk to your neighbors and begin organizing."
hmmm easy as that is it?
they direct you to the transition book on amazon but not to any of the transition wikis etc online....
My own googling, i mean extensive research, has been more helpful than their nuggets of wisdom.
for Brisbane residents: http://www.transitionbrisbane.org
join the ning its like facebook/myspace for community organisations
the transition primer is here
One of the courses that I might have been interested in is about post oil jobs, but then i read the info.
This is their advice, my comments are in italics:
Skills Needed in a Post-Peak World
Here are some of the skills that will likely be needed:
- medical treatment and nursing (but we won't need dentists? Probably should brush up on herbal medicine and distilling alcohol as well, because without oil, pharmaceuticals will be few and far between. Think biting on a stick while the doc saws your leg off a la civil war. And for those who can't finish a ten year medical degree, check out Where there is no doctor/dentist/midwife etc for some basic info.)
- welding (uh huh, and the electricity to run the welder is coming from? Lets replace this with blacksmithing.)
- growing food (yep makes sense, however this should be broader food production in general, ie beekeeping, raising meat/hunting, foraging, learning about agriculture with no chemicals, permaculture etc.)
- plumbing (with what materials? pvc piping? I guess recycled/repurposed materials then, and when there are no parts anymore? I think running hot and cold water and indoor flush toilets could be out in a low tech post oil future. Learn how to safely build composting toilets.)
- carpentry and green building techniques (as long as its is traditional artisan woodworking without power saws or belt sanders or oil based varnishes and so on ad nauseum)
- sewing (with a treadle machine or hand sewing only.... and only with reused textiles, because last time i checked there werent many old fashioned looms around to produce cloth, just a few hobbyist textile artists. and there won't be any petro chemicals to fertilise cotton crops. and how exactly do you process flax to make linen again cos i forgot? Knitting might become more common, since needles are easily made from wood and some spinning wheels can be found in a few "country style" mcmansions gathering dust. Ready to shear a sheep with hand shears anyone?)
- converting cars to use electricity (this is about POST peak right? i'm sorry but there is NO CHEAP OIL OR GAS OR COAL... peak oil is peak fossil fuels in general so where is the electricity coming from???? solar or wind power right? and the oil based plastic parts to repair and maintain your alternative energy source and your electric car are coming from which factory?? delivered by which trucks?? How about you learn cobbling, as in making shoes from wood and leather by hand, or saddlery and horse husbandry and wagon making, because we will all be walking, and using horse power in a post fossil fuel world!)
- installing and repairing renewable energy systems (don't forget solar hot water) (groan, maybe in the short term, see what i have said before about repairs and maintenance, once oil, oil products, and things that are energy intensive to produce are firmly out of the affordability of the general public)
- installing rainwater catchment systems (using pvc again are we??)
- transporting goods without using fossil energy (rickshaw? horse and cart anyone? grin)
- installing residential and commercial backup energy systems (oh for petes sake, whatever)
- appliance repair (repair? and you will plug said appliance into...? knock, knock, like i said there is NO ELECTRICITY!!!!!!!!! )
- set up and run a food co-op (thats a nice warm and fuzzy one, just don't ask for mangoes in June, no broom broom juice means no airplanes)
- build and operate a community oven (baking is very energy intensive; not everyone will be able to afford to do it every day) (quite realistic, just make sure you build it right next to your sustainable coppiced woodlot, oh wait, you do have one of those right?)
I just get annoyed at people who go on about post peak oil, and then they tell you to do something like buy like kerosene lamps, as preparation. By the way, there will be no kerosene, because it is a byproduct of oil. There are people who think oil will just not be there one day, to fuel their cars, when in reality it will just become more and more expensive. This will in turn drive the cost of everything else up as well. Even completely organic fruit and veg need cold storage and transportation and then cooking, for example.
Some people won't even realise the reason why they can't get ahead in life, can't put food on the table every night, and can't keep their savings account from being eaten away, is not because they are inferior, or stupid or unlucky, its just that every ones standard of living is slipping down as oil becomes scarce and prices rise.
One day (soon) you might notice that you don't go to the movies as often as you once did, or you will put off buying a second car, because you can't afford it right now. You stop and think, and can't remember the last time you bought yourself a new handbag, or shoes. You might keep putting off trips to the hairdresser, "until next pay", and even though you used to get pedicures and waxes all the time when you were single, you haven't done that since the wedding. Or you can't afford new school shoes for the kids this term, and you'll just buff the old ones up and pray they don't have a growth spurt until "things" are less tight.
You might start finding that when you go shopping some things that used to be "needs" have turned into "wants" and less and less is making its way into the shopping trolley, but you still spend the same amount as you did 12 months ago, even three months ago.
Or if you are like me things are already like that :)
I hate to tell you, but you have probably bought your last car. Luxuries will just get even less affordable, and our definition of what we consider to be luxury (needs vs wants) will have to change. Things will not get "less tight", and things will not go back to normal, if normal means consuming more than your fair share of the planets resources.
Everything will slowly grind to a halt, industries will contract, jobs will evaporate, and people will have to shift their thinking, from consuming, and rushing, to just simply living and being.
Here is my list of jobs for the post oil economy (incomplete and in no particular order):
- Prostitution (just kidding, sort of)
- Market Gardener
- Bee Keeper
- Stock drover (no more road trains, remember)
- Carcass renderer (where do you think soap, and glue will come from, when its not economic to make it from oil by products?)
- Tanner (as in leather, not solarium)
- Wagon maker
- Cooper (barrel maker, we'll need to replace plastic buckets, cardboard boxes and stainless steel drums with something.)
- Musical instrument maker
- Broom maker
- Soap maker
We could even see the rise of "piece work" the precursor to mass production. Especially for women in the cities, they will sew garments, at home with their own equipment, or make baskets, and or any other work where they can get paid by the item (no insurance, no unions, no super.)
If you feel like a beer, it won't be matter of jumping in the car and going to the bottle shop. You'll likely have to brew it yourself, but first you will have to plant a field of barley. If you want bacon and eggs for breakfast, you will have to butcher a hog, salt down and smoke the hams, collect eggs from your chook pen, chop wood for the fire and even before you do that you will have to grow feed for said chooks and hog. You see where I'm going with this?
Forget solar, hydrogen, hydroelectric and the rest. Think 1800s, preindustrialisation, "Little House on the Prairie", "My Brilliant Career". The only difference being the knowledge and scientific advances, for example, understanding germs, the need for sanitation, understanding nutrition and how to properly care for mothers and babies.
But this is countered by the knowledge we have lost since then, such as how to produce lye at home and make soap with no other chemicals. How to kill and butcher an animal. How to grow, and process textiles. How to accept mortality and live alongside death. How to work within nature without fighting and railing futilely against things you cannot control. But we will learn.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
I don't know who did it either, I just woke up and found it like that. I hope he can forgive us in gecko heaven.
down to earth
a homesteading neophyte
I have just read, "The Two Income Trap: Why Middle class parents are going broke," by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi. This book was printed in 2003, and predicted there would be problems in the economy in America due to Sub-prime Mortgages. Et Voila, Global Financial Crisis.
The Authors did a study on bankruptcy cases in America, looking at the different causes.
They tried to figure out why American families were worse off financially, now, when they more than likely had two incomes, compared to thirty years ago, when most families only had one income.
They discussed that it wasn't a case of families being greedy, spending on frivolous extras, and racking up irresponsible debt.
They found that increased housing costs caused by stupid school district laws, deregulation of the mortgage industry and high healthcare costs are causing a trainwreck in the finances of the american middle class family.
They found that the main cause of problems was that families need to provide thier children with decent schooling. In America, parents do not get to choose which public (state funded) school to send their children will go to. Instead, a bureaucrat draws lines on a map, forcing children to go to whichever school they happen to live near. So, in districts that are percieved to have a better school, a bidding war for houses starts between families. Warren and Warren Tyagi, claim that thirty years ago, parents were satisfied with the quality of schooling available, and in fact thought that school was better than what they had experienced, now the exact opposite is true.
The need to live in a particular area has limited choice and driven up house prices. This situation was exacerbated by the deregulation of the interest rates. Instead of a 80% homeloan as was normal in the 1970s, lenders were offering 90%, 100%, and even 125% mortgages. If you can't come up with a deposit, the lender will just tack on a hefty mortgage insurance, and you will pay higher fees and extra interest for lack of credit points. So you may be able to obtain a mortgage that might have been impossible a few decades ago, but it is going to cost a heck of a lot more too. In some cases, over the life of the loan, the house will eventually cost triple the principle amount.
Warren & Warren Tyagi cite studies that show compared to people who make a 20% deposit, people who make a deposit of less than 5 % are 15 to 20 times more likely to default.
Interest rate deregulation led to sub-prime mortgages, for people with not so good credit history. This sounds like a good idea in theory... helping people acheive the american dream etc etc.
However, the majority of subprime mortgages (80%) were used for refinancing existing homeloans, rather than firsthomes or investment properties. Another fact, that Warren & Warren Tyagi point out is that nearly half of people sold subprime mortgages could have qualified for traditional, cheaper mortgages. There was no case of having bad credit and taking the extra fees on the chin, to scrape through and get a mortgage.... these people were sold a dodgy, expensive product that they didnt need. Mortgage lenders in America are no better than loan sharks, or used car sales men. See this article from american federal trade commission
The fragile financial situation of families keeping up with massive mortgage payments, mean that if an emergency happens, such as a health crisis, or a layoff, the family is stretched too thin to recover.
Many jobs come with health insurance as a benefit so if one or both family members experience a lost job, they also lose the security of having access to doctors and hospitals. Medical expenses can be astronomical in a country that regards universal healthcare a socialist hand out. If a family member has a heart attack, or has a premature baby, families will have to come up with tens of thousands of dollars, somehow.
(As much as I hate standing in line at Medicare, I love that my son can get the occupational therapy, medication and therapy he needs, and it will never send us broke, ever. Occupational therapy costs $100 a session, I pay $30. Pediatrician appointments cost $1000 last year, I paid $80. And get this, when I gave birth, the hospital and homecare nurse was free, and they paid me the baby bonus. God Bless Australia.)
So basically, the idea of the book is that in 2003, American politicians, academics, and policy makers, if not the general public, were aware of problems in the economy, and the hardships faced by average families, yet they let them flounder.
until the tidal wave of bankruptcies became too big to ignore...
so instead of helping out,
by reregulating interest rates,
launching an inquiry into the mortgage lending standard operating procedures,
or introducing a comprehensive state funded healthcare system,
or even reducing the strain on particular school districts by funding schools, so they were more equal, and abolishing stupid district laws that prevent families freedom to choose the best education facility for them....
the powers that be decided to make it harder to file for bankruptcy.... hmmm, yes i can follow that reasoning....um, wait no i can't.
And now the rest of the world is reeling economically, because due to globalisation,
if a butterfly flaps its wings in America.......... we are all screwed.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Prior to then I had used condoms. However, I was convinced that only women who engaged in casual sex, with a number of partners, needed to use condoms. Condoms weren't respectable, the pill was. To use the pill was to be in an adult, committed relationship. It was a right of passage, a part of becoming a woman. I was told my feminist Grandmothers, Mothers and Aunts had fought bitterly for my right to have penetrative sex without the risk of fertilisation. My sexual partners, the media and even my women friends convinced me that having semen washed over my cervix was extremely pleasurable, and that having a thin synthetic coating between partners ruined intimacy and reduced pleasure.
My mother lived in fear of me “repeating her mistakes”, by which she means having children while young, and becoming dependent on men, either a husband, or the Government. She instilled into me that “only stupid girls get themselves pregnant”. Sensible, educated girls are in control of what goes into, and what comes out of, their vagina. I knew if I fell pregnant, before “having lived my life” (whatever that means), I would be an enormous disappointment.
I had internalised all of these views, some consciously, and some unconsciously. So believing I had made an educated choice, I asked my doctor for a prescription.
I never questioned that to receive this right I had to ask for permission. If control over fertility is the most basic of feminine rights, why is distribution recorded, controlled and regulated? If prevention of pregnancy is so basic a right, on par with education, health care, freedom from harm, and freedom of association, why is contraception not free? Someone, somewhere, is making money from millions of women ingesting steroidal hormones daily.
At the age of eighteen, I had trouble achieving orgasm from penetrative sex. I perceived this as a defect in my own physiology, or possibly psyche. Why then, when pleasure was possible, and actually more likely, without penetration, was I so intent on using the pill? Why did I need a method of contraception that was specifically designed to allow ejaculate to come in contact with my cervix? Why did I feel that the only “real” sex was penetration?
At eighteen, it had not occurred to me to question any of this.
For 12 months I took that tiny, innocent-looking, almost pretty tablet. For 12 months I experienced the absolute terror that I would forget to take it. For 12 months I had painful, humiliating abscesses and blind pimples on my face, which my doctor could not (would not?)attribute a source to. I regularly experienced “breakthrough bleeding” for periods of more than three weeks at time, as my body “adjusted” to the chemicals. Through 12 months of extreme cramping in my womb, of gaining weight, of developing anaemia, and of feeling foreign in my own body, I persevered. For this is what all women must go through, to experience the wonder of semen inside their bodies.
Finally, I fell pregnant. To my relief, the dreaded event I was enduring agonies to prevent had happened and I was allowed to unceremoniously, throw the pills in the f---ing bin.
One reason, in fact, my main reason, for using the pill was because I didn't want to have an abortion. I had decided that if my ovum did become fertilised, it would remain in my womb. My reasons for this are many and complicated, and I would never presume to force my choices on others.
However, my choice was removed from me. Every 28 days, or so, I had unwittingly, performed an abortion on myself. I did not know, did not think to ask, and was never told, the oral contraceptive pill is not actually contraception, but an abortifacient. Instead of preventing sperm reaching and fertilising my eggs, as I believed, it made my womb a hostile environment, so that embryos were prevented from attaching to the wall and were simply expelled.
I found this out, not from my doctor, not from a medical source, but from Germaine Greer’s The Whole Woman. When I found out, I already had a beautiful baby. I knew the exquisite agony and pleasure of motherhood. And I felt grief, absolute sorrow at the thought of those approximately twelve “almost, could have been” babies, flushed out of my womb, in my ignorance, by my own actions.
“All this suffering, all this mess, is the direct consequence of the insistence upon the accessibility of the cervix to the ejaculating penis. Whether you feel that the creation and wastage of so many embryos is an important issue or not, you must see that the cynical deception of millions of women by selling abortifacients as if they were contraceptives is incompatible with the respect due to women as human beings. [...] Fake contraceptive technology manipulates women in ways that we are coming to condemn when they are practised on members of other species. What women don’t know does hurt them. If we ask ourselves whether we would have any hope of imposing on men the duty to protect women’s fertility and their health, and avoid the abortions that occur in their uncounted millions every day, we will see in a blinding light how unfree women are.”
Greer, Germaine, (1999), the whole woman, Transworld Publishers Ltd, 1999, ISBN 0-385-60016-X, p
Monday, January 18, 2010
This morning, at 8am (Queensland time), my son informed me the temperature on our veranda was 40C, (104F). I am glad he has discovered temperatures and is having fun with the thermometer. However, I really didn’t need to know that. The veranda is the coolest place in our house, because it faces south and gets great cross breezes, being two stories up. I could have cried, I literally let out an involuntary whimper. I don’t function well in the heat, my brain doesn’t want to work, and I feel sleepy. We are all off our food. I keep plying my son with frozen poppers and smoothies trying to get vitamins and protein into him. The cat isn’t eating either. I can’t even bring myself to add to the heat by putting on a pot of coffee, or making some toast. Whatever the forecast temperature is for Brisbane, you can safely add 3 or 4 degrees, and that is what it will get to at our house. Today is supposed to be 36C, so voila 40C!
Note: The temps I am whinging about are the same as those experienced down south recently, however, when you take into account the humidity (today its 74%) when it’s 40C, the apparent temperature is 50C+.
I know that people, who live in places with cold winters, often express jealousy about my year round growing season. And yes, it is really lovely to have the opportunity to grow all those tropical fruits, and have fresh herbs, like basil, 12 months of the year.
You know what, though, I am jealous that northern hemisphere countries get at least a three month break, where nothing grows. No lawn to mow, no weeds, everything neat and tidy, covered by a layer of snow. You can sit inside, gaze out the window and dream of the next spring while frosts keep your garden beds nice and bare. Here, the weeds have taken over everything. The grass is head high in some places, and anything I planted on purpose has bolted to seed weeks ago, or is too bitter to eat from lack of regular water.
(Note: the grass is so high because we rent and we are not legally allowed to perform “maintenance” on the property. We can’t even fix holes in the walls, or repair a leaky tap! Trust me my Husband loves mowing, he would be out there weekly if he was allowed.)
True, I have only experienced snow, twice, on holidays. I can only guess at the hardships a serious winter brings, but right now I am hot, and chafy, and my head is pounding, because I can't physically drink enough water to replace my sweat, and I just want to be able to hop out of a shower and not break into an instant sweat. The humidity here is so bad that damp towels go mouldy even if they get hung on the clothesline straight after being used.
I can remember spending winters in rural Victoria, as a child.
I love the feeling of a taking a walk, on a frosty morning. The air is so clear it tinkles. The grass crackles under foot and every spider web has a snowflake pattern dusted onto it. When you look back across the sparkling silver field, your footprints have dotted it with green.
I can remember, breaking the sheet of ice that had formed on the dog’s water bowl so that he could have a drink, (and throwing the shards at my sister.)
I love the smell of a shed filled with boxes and boxes of apples, mingled with the musty smells of chicken feed and a hidden litter of kittens.
Here, at night, I can smell fermenting mangoes, the musky, wild smell of fruit bats, and the strange smell of Christmas beetles. The hot breezes waft the rotten meat smell of the neighbour’s wheelie bins into my bedroom, and I lie awake in a puddle of sweat.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
After a bit of a surf, I lucked onto the concept of geocaching....
I thought it sounded like a great idea, but assumed it was mainly an American thing. Imagine my delight when I typed in my postcode and hundreds of little boxes flashed up on the screen!
I picked 3 that were within 2kms of my place, making about a 4 km round trip, up and down hills, through parks and along bush tracks.
We had a lot of fun, searching for the little containers,deciphering codes and figuring out clues.
It felt a bit like being a spy. Lots of "Shhh, look casual, there's a muggle coming."
My tips for a successful geocaching walk:
- Write down, or print out, the coordinates of the geocache you are searching, as well as any clues, or extra hints.
- You can use a hand-held GPS, a mobile phone with a maps app, your car gps (which is what I did), or even just print outs from google maps.
- Copy and paste the coordinates into google maps search, and a little green arrow will pinpoint the exact spot for you. I printed these as a back up, because I didn't trust the battery on my gps, and I found they were more useful. My gps isn't very walker friendly, sometimes its 100m-200m out.
- Make sure you have a pen/pencil for writing in the logs, a notebook to record your finds and maybe some trinkets for exchanging. You could take a digital camera, I use the one in my phone, but don't post any photos of the actual hide because that would ruin it for others.
- Pack plenty of water, 2L each minimum. I have two one litre bottles fridge cold and two frozen. By the time you have drunk the the first two, or they are too hot to be refreshing, the frozen ones are defrosted.
- Wear hats, sunscreen and sunglasses.
- Wear comfy sand-shoes, or boots, (preferably old and worn in)
- Take insect repellent
- Take snacks, everyone (me included) gets grumpy after a while and juice, a biscuit or a piece of fruit can stop tantrums before they start.
- Keep the walk to a length that the youngest, (or the most unfit) geocacher can cope with.
- Don't walk in the middle of the day. Leave really early and plan to be home by 10am, or leave it until after 3pm. Especially this time of year. And if the forecast has temps in the 40s like they are having down south, its probably a good idea to postpone it.
- Take your rubbish with you. "Cache in, Trash out".