Thursday, November 27, 2014

Good News Journal (1)

Some time ago I said I wanted to start a 'good news newspaper'. I'm sure others have already done that. So, here is a story that warmed my heart. Except that that there is often more to good stories. Some years down the road, we may learn that all is not what it appears to be.

Never mind. For now let us just enjoy:

Chinese millionaire builds free luxury homes for entire village where he grew up

The timing was also serendipitous as I had watched on 'catch-up' TV a programme about Tatler. This programme featured rich Nigerians in the UK, multi-millionaires. My meandering thoughts were just going: if only these multi-millionaires could spare a million or two for their fellow countrymen, how different would Nigeria be?

Extrapolating this argument I think of all the ultra-rich Chinese and Russians which are flooding the west, buying up land and homes. What if -- WHAT IF -- each of these would just spare a million each for their fellow countrymen. What a huge difference would that make?

This Chinese millionaire story is, I believe, not isolated. I have read previously about Chinese migrants who had done well and returned to their ancestral villages to rebuild village halls and so forth. It is just that this one man was able to do this on a much larger scale.

“I earned more money than I knew what to do with and I didn't want to forget my roots,” he said.

Zinging around in the air also were the accusations of rape against Bill Cosby. The singer Pharrell Williams -- commenting on the shooting in Ferguson -- implied that he was very much inspired by Cosby. He is entitled to that opinion.

I have long wondered why it is that there are not many more 'Cliff Huxtables' on TV and in real life. It seems to me that some people 'get it', worked hard, made good, and then move out of the area where they lived and that is that.

Pharrell said something else (apparently at a previous interview with Oprah Winfrey) that 'the new black doesn't blame others [sic] races for our issues'.

Talking to a Christian leader from the Caribbean some years back, he alluded to how some black people blamed their plight (of whatever nature) on their history of slavery. Growing up Chinese my world was full of folk tales of how diligence will always triumph over adversity.

If there is a will, there is a way. We can turn a block of iron into a fine needle (只要功夫深,铁杵磨成针). Or there was the 'foolish man' who moved a mountain that caused him great inconvenience (愚公移山).

That was my privileged heritage. It taught me the 'can do' attitude.

I wonder what the young people in Ferguson and similar towns learn of their own heritage. Is there any cultural capital from which they could draw to think the Pharrell way?

And when people in Ferguson do become successful and wealthy -- as surely at least some of them do -- how many would move away, or how many would return like the Chinese millionaire to make a difference?

Recalling the ostentatious wealth of some of the newly rich, what could you do with ten million which you cannot do with nine million?

Monday, November 24, 2014

PPI: Please Pass (on) Information

I was reminded to write about this after reading another news item today about PPI.

Just last week I had an elderly client at the advice agency where I do some work present a letter demanding some £700 for getting his £1700 PPI claim back.

Seven hundred eye-watering pounds for something the Client could have got for free. All he needed to do was complete a form to churn out a letter. Go to websites like Adviceguide, Moneysavingexpert and Which.

Worse still, this "claims handler" alleged that the bank had duly refunded the Client and so the Client should cough up the commission within seven days, or risk having bailiffs at his door. The bank however tells the Client that this claims handler is not even a registered claims handler. O dear!

Meanwhile poor guy gets sucked further and further into debt while his blood pressure goes higher and higher. Were they a bogus company simply trying to frighten an old man into giving them £700? Who knows?

If you know friends, family or neighbours in this situation, ask them to seek help as soon as possible. Citizens Advice is a good stop. Older people could go to Age UK. There will also be other local not-for-profit groups willing to help.

For information about what to do with unwanted cold calls and texts (England only):

Help with dealing with nuisance calls, live and automated (not just PPI):

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Picky about Pixie

This has nothing to do with anything organic.

On Facebook I read huge number of comments about people who cannot 'warm' to Pixie on Strictly Come Dancing.

Well, glad I am not the only one who finds something about her so annoying. This is the opposite to 'something about Mary', as in the film starring Cameron Diaz, where there is something about Mary that makes her so lovable.

I am not bothered with the argument/gripe that she had had dance training. She clearly has the benefit of 'muscle memory' to help her dance so well. She IS a delightful and competent dancer. If I was watching a programme about celebrities who dance fabulously then she will be loved. Full stop.

I know little (ie not a lot!) of Pixie Lott except that she's a singer. I do not know what songs she is famous for, or the genre of music she sings. OK, I'm not really into popular music these days.

Why don't I like her? There seems to be something 'put on' (fake) about her. The way she speaks with that constant tilt of her chin comes across as being somewhat 'affected'.

Everything about her seems to be so 'put on'. She could master her dance steps in no time at all. She makes dancing look so easy, but of course it will be suicidal to admit that, so she makes it out that it is not that easy at all.

Then I noticed (perhaps I blinked and missed) that whenever her name is called to go into the next round she just looks relieved, but not a word of 'thank you' to the people who voted.

This gives me the impression -- and it's only an impression -- that she thinks she is by her own talent good enough to make it to the next round. She does not need the support of the voting public.

Natural talent, affected mannerisms and 'I really do not need the voting public': This sums up why I cannot warm to Pixie.

That's just me being picky. I am almost certain that she is a very nice person once we get to know her and she has her inner circle of friends who would go to the ends of the earth for her.

Herein lies the problem with most people in the public eye. There is a need to compartmentalize the private from the public: the problem of the façade (ie illusion). Cut the poor girl some slack.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Is it better to use tissues or real handkerchiefs?

I had just realized a link from is not working properly. This is because the original article is now being protected by a paywall although the original article was published before the paywall went up. The critical details are here:

By: Anna Shepard Eco-Worrier
Published at 12:00AM, February 23 2008

Q Is it better to use tissues or real handkerchiefs?
A Hankies all the way. Kinder on the nose, they also save trees and reduce landfill. A tissue is a one-use-only product. Needless to say, if you don’t use the recycled variety, you are using virgin fibre fresh from the forest, which requires a significant amount of energy to transform into a silky-smooth tissue.

Under Health and Safety regulations you can’t recycle tissues as they are considered contaminated. Composting them is the best disposal method, but I know that when I have a stinking cold the amount of tissue I get through would overwhelm my wormery.

According to the European Tissue Symposium, an average European will use 13kg of tissue (including toilet tissue) a year, which is the average weight of a two-and-a-half-year-old boy.
This only highlights the merits of a lovely organic cotton hanky (try ; boxes of eight from £12.99). Some people may be a little squeamish about carrying a bundle of germs in their pocket all day long, but they will quite happily ferry filthy tissues around, which is essentially the same thing.

Then there’s the matter of washing your hanky. Depending on how, erm, congested, you are, you may prefer to soak your dirty hanky before putting it in the wash. I bother to do this only when my sinuses are really playing up; the rest of the time I have no qualms about dropping a hanky in the washing machine with the rest of my clothes.

My mother has an ancient saucepan she reserves for boiling hankies, although, worryingly, I’m sure that I’ve seen her using it for boiling eggs. But there’s no time for hygiene obsessives when it comes to being green.

I’m lucky enough to have inherited some of Grandpa’s trademark red spotted hankies. He would never have been seen mopping his nose with a paper tissue. Regardless of the waste implications, it was a question of style.