Archive for the ‘Modern Life’ Category

The thing I don’t get…

February 23, 2017

The thing I don’t get about the “go back to where you came from crowd” is the apparent fear of and anger towards anyone who is different: different looking, sounding, with different habits, customs, language, religion or food.

I was in the supermarket today and two men were conversing in what may have been a sub-continental language – you know, any language of India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka. There are dozens if not hundreds of languages in that part of the world.

The two men were talking to each other, not to other shoppers nor were they seeking assistance from a member of staff. So why shouldn’t they be conversing in a language of their choice, one they probably grew up with? Conversing in a non-English language doesn’t mean they don’t know English, it doesn’t say anything about whether they are good citizens, caring people or useful members of society. It doesn’t even tell me whether or not they were born in Australia or are Australian citizens. All of these things make no difference to me. They were two people having a conversation in a supermarket. That is no threat to anyone.

Here is a small sample of English words that have Hindi or Urdu origins:

avatar, bandanna, bangle, bungalow, chutney, dinghy, gymkhana, juggernaut, jungle, khaki, karma, loot, mogul, pyjamas, shampoo, thug, typhoon, veranda, yoga.

So before you have a go at someone speaking a language you don’t know perhaps you could close your mouth, open your mind and realise that the way you do things is neither the only way or the best way. Or you could expand your mind by learning another language.




The Journey 2 November 2015

November 2, 2015

Mindfulness is not a magic potion. Like a new diet, piece of technology or idea it doesn’t work unless you use it. New running shoes don’t exercise to get fit or lose weight. I have to put the shoes on and actually go for a walk. Otherwise I just donated $40 to KMart.

I have been guilty many times in the past, as have most people, of moving on to the next magic potion, being enthusiastic about it for a while, even actually using it per the instructions. And then forgetting about it for whatever reason.

In my recent transition to another go at mindfulness, I have already reminded myself of this: yes, used well mindfulness is wonderful; I haven’t failed if I spill a cup of coffee; a moment’s inattention at the wheel could have worse consequences than that coffee; don’t be too hard on myself if I drop the ball; sometimes even when we make mistakes, we are extended grace, so that we do not receive the full consequences of our actions; and when we remember that, we may remember to extend some grace to someone else.

So what happened today? I needed to book some flights and accommodation for work to visit Groote Eylandt next week. We are using a new travel agency; I am going to Groote to present a new travel policy – I wanted to do it all “right”. I got a bit to caught up in getting it right and put myself under more pressure than I should have. As recently as a week ago this would have really thrown me out. Today, I was still stressed but mindfulness helped me get the job completed, ruefully smile a bit that I’d got myself into my own bind, mostly in my own mind but by the time I got home, it was all behind me. No rehashing it over, chastising myself. Not only had I let it go but because of the work I have pout in just recently, the letting go was closer to a natural process than a conscious process. It’s like breathing, most of the time you don’t have to think about it but it still happens.

If that doesn’t communicate, think of the scene in the original Star Wars when Obi Wan first tells Luke about the force and has him use a light sabre against a drone. Initially he is hopeless. Then Obi Wan tells him to put on the helmet so that he cannot see the drone and resume the joust. It is counter intuitive, taking away sight. Luke thought he was mad and did not want to do it. Luke did better when he used his other senses to harness the force.

Again mindfulness is not a magic potion like the Star Wars force. But sometimes you need to relax a little, see how it feels and simply dispassionately observe what difference it makes.

This week I’m improving my daily life with mindfulness to help me along the way. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

The Journey 1 Nov 15

November 1, 2015

This day has been a long time coming. There have been false starts, doubts, relapses and just plain laziness and pigheadedness. The Journey is about being present and mindful as often as possible, in all areas of life. My dear friend Kathie introduced me to the concept sometime in the last ten years. I was sceptical and resistant. After a time I tried it out. The first time I seriously tried it out was early one morning a couple of years ago in the back yard, facing the new day, eyes closed, stretching arms, legs and trunk while listening – to birds, passing cars, sounds that may not normally be obvious.Then on the drive to work, the radio was off and I just noticed things – passing cars, pedestrians, trees, gardens, signs – not the mere objects but movement, light, texture. This lasted a few days and was very powerful. Like any new habit, mindfulness has to be practised and exercised, as the newness makes way for familiarity.

Mindfulness has been to the fore in my life again in just the last few weeks. Today I am starting this occasional reflection. I’m not sharing these posts to the world of Facebook or Twitter. But I want to be able to log on here when ever I want to. If people happen across this blog, there will be a lot of boring stuff but perhaps just one nugget or so.

I am very inclined to put numerical measurements in place, especially in projects like this. This time there are almost none. No word count minimum or maximum, no schedule of posts. This is my gift to myself.

Mindfulness. Already in just this last week, consciously using mindfulness has given me the perception that time has moved slower than normal. I have been busy at work and at home but a couple of times things that I thought were two or three days ago were only yesterday. It is an especially modern phenomenon that time seems to speed up as we get older; we lose time. Could mindfulness help give us our life back by giving us time to savour it more fully than before? Today, I believe so. Time will tell.

I have a huge ball of string that has built up over the last 52 years, a lot of it in the last 10 to 15 years. It’s not regrets and mistakes – most of those I have fully come to terms with. It’s mostly the practical things of how I want to organise myself. But it’s just this: start from where I am, be mindful in all things as far as possible, be kind to myself – then I will have the time , energy and inclination to participate in the world around me.

QWA? – Security at the Chemist

March 2, 2014

Have you picked up a prescription from the chemist lately? Do they put it in that secure little plastic box that only the assistant at the cash register can open? It stops you or anyone else getting out the door without paying for your drugs, doesn’t it? Perhaps you have two prescriptions filled. Maybe both of them fit in that one secure box.

However, what if you order 3,4,5 or more drugs? Do you get more than one locked box? Not in my experience! At my pharmacy you get one or two boxes in the secure plastic box and the rest to carry unrestrained. I have been known to refill ten prescriptions at once, so that is 80% on the loose!

So why do you only get one locked box?  Does this mean that people who get more than one prescription at a time are more trustworthy? QWA.

Council Idiots

August 23, 2012

My step-daughter is a qualified vet nurse, very good at her job and has a passion for the welfare of animals. She just gets outraged at the stupidity of bureaucracy!

Case 1: Our local council requires all dogs to be registered from the age of three months. Like most councils they charge only a nominal fee for registration if you have the animal desexed. The fee is otherwise much larger. But get this, according to vets, they will only usually desex a dog of at least six months of age. So, can you register your three month old pup at the lower rate on the basis that you will duly have it desexed at six months? Not with our council. Pay the full rate and there is no pro-rata refund even if you have the operation done. So, don’t register the animal until it is six months old and desexed. Hmm, that risks a fine for not registering the dog or even losing the dog for good should it escape and cannot be identified to be returned to you. Answer, council raise your dog registration age to six months!

Case 2: A lost animal is often handed in to the nearest vet. The vet checks for an identifying chip in order to reunite the animal with its owner. Failing that and if the animal has lost its collar, often any other identifying tags have also gone missing. It makes a great case for micro chipping the family pet.

So, micro chipping must make the council dog catcher’s job much easier. After all limited pound space, a policy of only keeping most animals for a week, the council would be delighted to be able to identify an animal and return it to its owner. And it collects on the pound fees faster too!

My step-daughter regularly checks the council pound web site and that of the other animal shelters just in case she finds a client’s animal that she knows to be missing. And that happened this week! The dog had been missing nearly a week. She phoned the council to ask whether the animal had been claimed and perhaps the web site had not been updated. Nup. The dog was still in the pound. “The council has no obligation to scan for microchips”, was the stern reply! Another beloved family pet nearly bit the dust. No thanks to our local council and all thanks to a diligent vet nurse.

The home of the future

August 22, 2012

The internet has already change the nature of shopping. We comparison shop between real stores and online stores. Sometimes it is more convenient to buy locally. Other times because of range, availability, price or convenience we prefer to shop online. Currently, retail purchases are only 5-10% online. But that is only after ten years or so of online commerce. Already we can purchase so much online  for under $1,000 from any where in the world – that threshhold being the limit for inporting in to Australia without the need for payment of duty, GST or any other importing red tape – and in many cases have it delivered faster and cheaper than placing a back order with a real live store. What of the next ten years?

How does this leave the real world store in the average shopping mall? Your local mall is owned and operated by a large listed property manager. The average mall business has almost no control over their rent, outgoings or share of the mall’s advertising costs. Their hours are regulated, seven days a week and there are precious few days of the year that they can be closed. But there are no guarantees…on most mid week mornings and afternoons the mall barely has any customers. The weekends, late nights and school holidays are a mad dash to make some cash to cover the rent, outgoings, advertising and wages. And then there is competition from the internet. Any business in the mall that sells any THING – clothes, books, music, home wares – can be beaten for price, convenience, range and service by the internet retailer. And already, some of us don’t even go to the mall for our groceries.

The only businesses alive in the mall of the future are those where the customer HAS to be present – cimemas, hair dressers, chiropractors, dentists, coffee shops and take aways. But once all the other stores have disappeared, how will the whole food court be available to survive?

The plan of the future. Much of your local shopping mall will be converted … to housing? Don’t believe me? Studio apartment/1BR apartment/ 2 BR apartment for rent/sale, features: plenty of parking, central city location, public transport at the front entrance, complex includes a gymnasium, convenience store, coffee shop, hair dresser and pharmacy. Walk to the cinema, heated pool or indoor skating rink. Wait a minute, no mall has a heated pool or an indoor skating rink! There will be plenty of room once the supermarkets and large chain stores have vacated the premises!

And turning shops into apartments? Simple. Most major shopping malls have a major overhaul every 10-15 years. Turning a shop into an apartment only involves a few internal walls and some plumbing and electrical work.

You heard it hear first. In the future…you can live at the mall… and you have internet shopping to thank for it.

Be Street Smart – Raise Funds while you Dine Out

December 5, 2011

So, volunteering by giving time is just not possible at the moment. How about supporting Street Smart. Here is a little bit more about the organisationfrom their website:

“We established StreetSmart Australia in 2003 to support and strengthen smaller, grassroots community organisations helping the homeless, frustrated by the lack of action and support from Government. These smaller organisations are critical in helping many people in crisis. StreetSmart helps out by raising funds and delivering financial grants, raising community awareness of the issues of homelessness and assisting these organisations to connect across their communities.

We see StreetSmart as a unique bridge between those that want to help people experiencing homelessness and the grassroots agencies that are changing lives. We believe in the support of emergency aid and critical services, and development of projects and programs that encourage social inclusion, empowerment and sustainable change for people experiencing homelessness.

When money is raised from the public 100 per cent of your donations are distributed in the form of grants. To date we have raised $1.67 million, supporting 400 grassroots projects.

We currently operate in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, SA, WA and ACT.”

From now until 24 December just add $2 or more to your bill at participating restaurants to help raise money for the homeless. More details are here!

Are you a business person who owns and runs a cafe or restaurant? You and your patrons can get involved, details here.

Volunteer…you know you want to!!!

December 5, 2011

Today, December 5, is International Volunteer Day. Volunteering is something almost all of us do. At every stage of life, there are a multitude of possibilities. Plenty of activities to do with your children require volunteers – from tuck shops, to coaching sporting teams to providing transport on an excursion. At the other end of the scale older people may require a hand: meal preparation and delivery, household repairs and lawn mowing or a lift to the local shops.

Almost everyone already has all they need to be a volunteer: willingness to help and time to spend. While some volunteering may require training before commencing, most volunteering can be done without spending any money and relies on skills that people already have.

And the benefits of volunteering? The opportunity to mix with other people, to work towards a joint cause and often, just to help another person have a better day.

Here are some places to get started:

Volunteering Australia

Go Volunteer

Meals on Wheels

Volunteering for Professionals

Service Clubs – Apex, Rotary, Lions


Sex, Money and Paris Hilton ***

February 9, 2011

It has been a week since I posted. I’m from Cairns, so last Wednesday and Thursday we played host to Cyclone Yasi. Actually Cairns was somewhat of a bit player. The centre of the cyclone crossed the coast nearly 200km from here. The seaside towns of Cardwell and Mission Beach, and Tully, only a little inland, copped its share too. Port Hinchinbrook played a game of squash, where the squashee of choice was any boat or yacht currently anchored in said port. Here is a picture of the yacht squash.

Just as Cyclone Larry destroyed a lot of buildings in Innisfail in 2006, so it did to a number of these smaller coastal towns this time. It is little comfort that a lot of these house and businesses premises were built long before the current cuclone building standards (since the 80’s). Given that they have insurance coverage, people will re-build with stonger buildings. However there is heartache in the turmoil and less tangible things lost. There is also the despair of the uninsured. Perhaps everyone SHOULD be insured but there are always circumstances why this is not so. And those renting their homes are faced with more uncertainty as they need to find new homes in places where they are suddenly in short supply.

I have actually checked my home insurance policy. I’m covered for cyclone/storm damage but NOT flood or storm surge. Fortunately I’m not on the coast, so storm surge is out. And if the nearest creek floods me then the rest of Cairns would be in real trouble. Some of these homes that have been damaged down the coast would have been broken up by the cyclone but possibly inundated by the storm surge. I hope for them that insurance covers them for the cyclone and any storm surge is considered secondary.

Those that I feel most for are those that are losing their businesses, some for the second time in five years. For sugar cane and banana growers, the crops simply lie flat and useless on the ground with the wind of the cyclone. This year the ground was already primed with five months of continuous rain. Wind somewhat less than of category 5 cyclone could have done the same thing. The hardest part about coming back from the cyclone is the loss of substantial income. Farming requires cropping costs up front, while some months later the crop is harvested and income received. In this case there have been the initial costs, no income and more upfront costs for the next crop. I know most businesses can insure for business interruption but this would not normally extend to crops in the field. And I understand insuring the crops themselves can only be done in limited circumstances (if at all) and at exorbitent cost. The answer is to either sell up the farm or borrow more money and go deeper into debt.

The one blessing from this cyclone is there were no deaths directly from the cyclone. One unfortunate man did die from the fumes of s diesel generator in the power loss afterwards.

*** And the title of this blog post, “Sex, Money and Paris Hilton”, has absolutely nothing to do with the contents of the post. I’m just testing a blogging tip I read about constructing blog titles that people may be searching for. More searches = more traffic, the tip alleges! Waiting to see if it is true!

Your Mortgage – To Fix or Not To Fix

January 21, 2011

Tom On Tuesday phoned his bank in December just before another anniversary arrived on the mortgage. So the question Shakespeare may have posed in this scenario is, “To fix or not to fix, that is the mortgage interest rate question.”

It seems that many people perceive that financial matters are full of difficult concepts. The difference between fixed and variable mortgage interest rates is one such topic.

A variable interest rate means that your financial institution can change your mortgage interest rate up or down at any time. However these changes are not entirely arbitrary.  The Cash Rate, set by the Reserve Bank of Australia, is the basis for changes in variable interest rates. The Reserve Bank changes the Cash Rate as a broad means of affecting the Australian economy. The Cash Rate is also the rate that banks lend to each other overnight.

YOUR variable mortgage interest rate is set by your bank at a margin above the Cash Rate. The Cash Rate since 3 November 2010 has been 4.75% pa. A typical variable interest rate at the moment is somewhere between 7.25% and 8.0%.

Fixed mortgage interest rates are a set rate for a period of between one and five years agreed between the borrower and the bank. Fixed rates are set by reference to banks’ borrowing costs. Fixed rates ARE NOT related to the Cash Rate.

So, which is better, variable rates or fixed rates? As with so many financial decisions, the answer is, it depends. In practice, most mortgages in Australia are on a variable rate. There are some exceptions, such as introductory or “honeymoon” rates where the bank may offer you a low rate for the first year to get your business.

Let me explain with some examples, relevant at January 2011.

Introductory/Honeymoon rate: 7.1% for first year

Standard Variable Rate: 7.7%

Fixed Rates: 1 Year 6.94%; 2 Years 7.19%; 3 Years 7.20%; 4 Years 7.69%; 5 Years 7.89%

So if you are some years into your loan, do you choose fixed or variable? The first thing to note is that the longer you fix, the more expensive is the rate. This is almost always true. Second, the one year fixed rate in this example is considerably cheaper than the variable rate. While that is true at this time of the cycle, it is not always the case. The one year fixed rate tends to be higher than the variable rate when interest rates are at the bottom of the cycle and tends to be lower than the variable rate as interest rates head towards the top of the cycle.

So where in the cycle are we now? No one knows for sure but here is a history of the Cash Rate as set by the Reserve Bank.

So how do I find the best rate for me now? Look here to check current home loan interest rates.

NOTE: Tom On Tuesday IS a CPA but is NOT a tax agent, a financial planner, a banker nor a stock broker. Please note that all blog posts written on financial matters should not be taken in any way as advice from Tom On Tuesday. This blog post contains general information and the opinions of Tom On Tuesday. This general information also only pertains to Australia. Anyone reading this blog should seek out professional advice for their own personal circumstances before making any decisions.