Friday, January 30, 2009

Eco Buttons and Solar Panels

I was alerted to this gadget and thought it interesting.



It's supposed to be a button that helps your computer 'go to sleep', saving you energy and reducing your carbon footprint. Actually not just sleep but 'eco-sleep'. It's supposed to be able to save about £50 a year just by using it for three hours a day. Above and beyond what the normal standby features in a computer would do.

I haven't used it so can't say whether it is great or not, but might be worth putting on a Birthday Wish List, I guess.

Then I think why don't manufacturers put this feature in computers in the first place?

Or why don't governments insist that this becomes a required feature in new computers, like seat-belts in cars?


In fact, why doesn't the government legislate that all new homes should come with solar panels?

The husband is thinking of doing major works in the house (again, sigh, I HATE builders' dust). This time the plan is to put in some solar panels.

Our 'garden room' is south-facing and is a sun trap.

So I cannot complain, can I?

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Not a fan of ...

Not a fan of coffee.

Not a fan of George Clooney or the nespresso machine. Not surprised to learn how 'unethical' and useless it is here. Tickled pink.

Not a fan of Lang Lang, the Chinese pianist whose constipated looks while performing is such a pain to watch. Painist, not pianist, there. But this guy is so popular, or so I thought, and sometimes he plays very well, if very loudly.

So I was glad to learn that he is also much 'reviled' amongst some critics.

Andre Previn has said of his antics, "he might as well get up and juggle".

Earl Wild called him "the J-Lo of piano".

And other (Telegraph) critics have called him the "piano star the critics love to hate", criticized his "bravura display of preening", and described his antics as "better suited to a circus".

I guess what I am saying is, "It's nice to know I am not alone."

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Who made off with what where?

Back tot he Wedgewood story. £415 millions of debt. I don't know how companies could be allowed to run on such a level of debt. To my simple mind (dare I stress), it is not ethical. Because if the company goes under -- as Wedgewood has -- then the employees are the ones who suffer.

Not too many years ago I remember fuming in the same way when a particular manufacturing company in Singapore laid off hundreds of workers -- mainly women, mothers wanting to improve their children's lives -- because their orders were down.

This same company, as I remember, went all out to recruit these women when the going was good. As soon as there was a downturn, the women were laid off. Few benefits to talk about. In fact it was such 'flexibility' with hiring and firing that attracted such 'investors' into Singapore then.

Such employers do not realize, or worse, do not care, that mothers make a lot of sacrifices to work in factories like that. Yes, they gain in earning some wages, but the trade-offs are many, too. They need to make many arrangements for childcare in order to work, to earn a pittance.

But of course there are no rules to prevent corporations from trading on a deficit. To many people, this is good accounting: you make profit on borrowed money. IF you made a profit, that is.

We have seen in the last decade or so it has been much easier for corporations to borrow because credit was so readily available instead of improving their cash flow. Once the credit rug was pulled away we see companies tripping over, collapsing everywhere.

And the employees and their families are the ones who suffer the most.

Then we have the likes of Bernard Madoff. $50 BILLION fraud. How many mountains would this amount of money make in cash? I wonder.

Where has this money gone?

What drives such a person to commit a crime like that?

Why aren't rich people able to say 'enough'?

My husband holds the view that money was not the incentive; it was the thrill of getting away with it.

We have been borrowing (sheet) music from the local library because my son wants to play certain tunes (first 'Stranger on the Shore' and his current favourite is 'Chariots of Fire'). The music clearly states: DO NOT PHOTOCOPY.

So we do not photocopy.

He asks why we should not be allowed to photocopy. So it was a lesson on copyright, royalties and intellectual property.

"If one day you wrote a fabulous piece of music, would you like people to photocopy your music instead of paying you the royalty for every copy sold?"

As he is likely to write a great piece of music (ahem, so says proud mother), my son understood immediately the ethics of 'doing to others ....'.

Would business and industry be a much more ethical place if only the likes of Madoff were to consider the real impact on real people in the event of a real financial disaster? Profits to some people might be just the colour of ink on the bottomline. To the people who actually prop up the system, it is a livelihood. their liveliood.

What is so difficult about real people that such people in their plush offices find so difficult to comprehend?

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Friday, January 16, 2009

No new boots, no new clothes

Decided to re-sole my old brown boots instead. They are still comfy. Must get at least another year of wear out of it. I have brown polish which I can use on scuffed surfaces.

Sale season still on. I look on with envy. Some organic, ethical, fairtrade outfit has got a massive sale on, but nothing for me. I live in hope that these outfits would do something in my size soon before my current batch of clothes (some organic, some not) become rags. Or fall back on 'poisonous cotton'.

The following retailer also has an interesting 'Library' section:





I'm not asking for much. Just simple sensible clothes in size 8 please.

The good news is I've got my physio appointment (re arthritis) in mid-February. Yay!

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Shall I get new boots?

The sale is on at my favourite shoe store. Husband has already acquired a couple of pairs of smart working shoes and the question was do I replace my current pair of brown boots.

When the prices seem so 'reasonable' one is tempted to go, "O! Just get them. They would come in useful."

But this pair has come with a spare set of rubber soles for the heels. True, I've worn them for a year, or was it two?, O, I don't remember. What I remember is when I first put them on, they were so very comfortable. Shall I get them re-heeled?

The cobbler would do it for £7.99, minus £1 if I brought in my spare heel-soles (whatever they are called).

The sale means it does not cost that much more to get a new pair. However £6.99 and a bit of time would (1) prevent this pair from going into landfill, (2) provide some business for the cobbler, and (3) I get to keep my slightly scuffed but comfortable brown boots.

Hmm. What should I do?


Yesterday I read about how Wedgewood will not be celebrating their 250th anniversary. The company is deep in debt. (As to the ethics of trading in such manner is another story. Personally I find this practice unethical and puts the livelihoods of the employees at great risk.)

It appears that on one side the 'IKEA' generation would prefer to change their dinnerware every so often instead of investing in a dinner service they could replace if something broke. (Now that Wedgewood has gone bust, does that mean that our dinner service is much more valuable?)

On the other, it amuses me that so many gifts of expensive crystal and chinaware never get outside the display cabinet that it is stored in. If it does not get used, it does not get broken, and so it does not get replaced. Either way Waterford and Wedgewood are not getting new business!

So what do people do? Keep these till the owners pass on and the descendants sell them (as we see in so many TV programmes) in order to go on holiday or something like that.

What worries me more is not that people are not buying Wedgewood, but that families do not sit down at tables to eat. Families eat in front of the TV and that is why cheap replaceable IKEA is prefered (preferred?).

That thought sends a shiver down my spine.

I think the new brown boots would have to wait another year. Meanwhile this information might be useful if you need new shoes:

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Try a little kindness

Last Saturday we ran into Mr H at the supermarket carpark.

He's our school gardener. He normally goes about doing his work quietly. For some reason we always greet each other and often stop for a chat. Then recently he lost his wife of many years (50-something?) very suddenly. He was making lunch. She went to the toilet, he heard a bang, and she was gone. Wedged behind the door, he could not even get to her and had to call in the Fire Brigade.

This year while making cookies for the school staff at Christmas I decided to also give him a little bag. A sort of 'thank you' for keeping the school grounds pristine and planting the little flowers that have added some needed colour everywhere. And the first Christmas after the death of a loved one must be so, so difficult.

Back at the carpark he told me even before I could ask that he'd spent time with his relations. O good, I said.

Then he went on to say how delighted he was with the cookies. He didn't want to eat them and instead went and showed them to the staff at the office.

He then turned to my husband to say some very nice things about me.

After this encounter I thought of the words from an old Glen Campbell song "Try a little kindness". It does not take too much to bring happiness to people.

What a blessing it is that one could do that! The delight on Mr H's face has given me so much joy.

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Organic gold

Malawi strikes organic gold

What a marvellous story.

This and other stories like this formed part of the impetus for me to start up Organic-Ally.

Some scientists might pooh-pooh the idea about going organic, that we cannot feed ourselves, etc. Well, maybe if we ate less but ate better?

Or how about eating less meat so that we could share the grain around?

I am a meat-eater, I must put my hand up to that, but I am also conscious that our family do not eat huge slabs of meat every day.

The other issue is of course scientists who focus on GM and conventional agriculture work on a very different scale whem compared with the smallholder farmers. The latter have a different set of problems and their problems need a different set of solutions.

There is a Chinese proverb that roughtly translates as "a long barge pole could knock everyone off the barge" (akin to not tarring everyone with the same brush).

It's easy to understand the mentality that we must not "rock the boat" (or barge). More difficult to say, "Hey! Let's take another boat. Jump ship."

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

New year bargains

This bit of information has come at a good time for me, and so I'm sharing it. Our family have slowly over the past years switched to using greener, organic skincare, shower lotions, etc.

My son and I have switched to organic toothpaste without all the foaming ingredients. Husband is a bit slower to change. I think this is because I remember my first toothpaste as being a 'cake' of powdery stuff in a little flat circular case. We rubbed the toothbrush onto this cake till we had enough on the brush.

This toothpaste -- like the one I now use -- often leaves a residue on the toothbrush because it does not get 'foamed away'. That is why I still have the habit of tapping my tooth brush rather hard on the edge of the sink to get rid of this residue.



You can now save £5 at Green People on orders over £35 when you apply this code AF27740957 at checkout. Code expires on 31st January 2009.

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