Archive for the ‘Something to Think About’ 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.

 

 

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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.

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

Lifeline

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!

Personal Budgeting – Making the most of your Money

January 20, 2011

Saving for Special Occasions

Jingle Bells – on 31 January it will be a mere 47 weeks to Christmas Day! Depending on your shopping and budgeting habits, this information will bring a feeling of joy or an anticipation of dread. Some will have it all organised. Others will cross their fingers, and trust that the credit card will be paid off before next Christmas! How about using the time (and pay packets) between now & Christmas to put some money aside? That way, shopping for presents and Christmas Day meals will be a little financially easier this year.

From next pay day, put aside $20 a week (or $40 a fortnight) each pay until Christmas. That is $940 you will have to spend on Christmas! What does it mean to “put it away”? Deposit it to a second, card-less bank account until needed; put it safely in a piggy bank; put the money towards lay-buys; pay the money in advance onto your credit card, so that you have a “bank” for present buying.

How do you find the $20/week? Just a few ideas: forgo a weekly takeaway; buy fewer lunches/drinks/coffees at work; “donate” the cost of a pack of cigarettes to the cause.

Even if you plan to spend more than $940 on Christmas, at least you have made a start on paying for Christmas. If instead you put away $40/week ($80/fortnight), you will have $1880 for Christmas cheer!

The same plan works for any other special occasion or particular item – a holiday, new furniture, deposit for a car.

Getting Organised – for many the idea of budgeting is boring. For others setting up a budget is just too difficult. Still others have no idea where to start. This blog is here to help anyone learn more about personal budgeting.

There is an Australian produced product called Moneybags, details of which can be found here. Moneybags supplies a kit that enables anyone to setup, maintain and update a personal budget. You can run a budget for yourself or with a partner. You can run a budget whether you have few financial responsibilities or many. Moneybags not only helps you set up a budget but helps you keep track of how you are going. In addition to expenses, you can also set up savings goals and keep an eye on your progress. Moneybags comes in a compact A5 size folder with full instructions.

If an Excel spreadsheet is more your style, ASIC provides a budget planner here.

What Does a Habit Cost You? – Do you have a habit that you would like to give up? Does this habit cost you money? Could you use more motivation to help you give up? Sometimes putting a monetary value on a habit gives us a different perspective.

Say your habit is eating chocolate. You have decided to reduce the amount of chocolate you eat for your health. But chocolate is just so nice – perhaps you will give up tomorrow! Could the prospect of saving money help you reduce the amount of chocolate you eat?

Say you currently spend $3 a day on chocolate, just on weekdays. Let’s say you decided to only buy chocolate three days a week. What is it worth to you? Savings – 2 days x $3 = $6/week, $25/month, $300/year. What if your habit was buying CD’s? Say, average spend is $60/week. Change that to $30/week. Savings: $1,560/year. The most important thing is to decide ahead of time what you will do with the savings. What are your goals – new clothes, travel, car, a house? Bank the savings and enjoy putting them towards fulfilling your goals!

Ryanair – Rip off in the skies!

January 17, 2011

Ryanair is a low cost airline operator based in Ireland. Have you caught today’s newspaper report? Until now they have been charging 40 Euros (A$54) to print out a boarding pass if the passenger forgot to do it at home! A judge in Spain has now prohibited them from the practice because of a court case brought by a Spanish lawyer. To put this charge into perspective, Ryanair’s air fares start from as little as GBP 7 (7 British pounds)!

Low cost airlines such as Ryanair have been at the forefront of delivering low air fares by, at first, either getting rid of or asking passengers to pay extra for so called optional extras. The reasoning used by these low cost operators is that these optional extras are built into the cost of the more expensive air fares. The first thing to go was “free” food. Many people thought airline meals were not worth eating. So why pay for something that is built into the fare if you don’t want it? In Australia, Virgin Blue was the first mainstream airline to provide food as an extra you could pay for.

Next to go was “free” baggage. This one is also easy to understand. Not only does baggage have to be transported to and from the aircraft and loaded and unloaded, it is also of considerable weight. Extra weight on an aircraft means extra fuel burnt and thus extra expense. If no one brought any luggage at all, then the airline would save a heap on fuel and baggage handling. The low cost airlines often charge for any booked baggage, charging less if you tell them about it when you check in online. Their credo is customer choice. So if you are just nipping away for a couple of days and only have a small carry on, there is no payment at all for baggage.

As the years have gone by though the list of “optional extras” has lengthened considerably from meals and baggage. An interesting variation came due to a quirk of aircraft design. The space between rows on many aircraft is slightly larger adjacent to the emergency exits. Some smart passengers who were taller than average soon realised they could get access to seats in these rows for no extra if they simply asked for them. Smarter airlines quickly realised these seats are a valuable commodity  that people would pay for!

When laws changed in Australia a few years ago, all merchants were able to charge a fee for using a credit card. This is somewhat understandable as there is a cost to merchants for offering credit card facilities. Some people however think that this should simply be absorbed as an overhead of running a business. Not the airlines. Not only have airlines starting charging a credit card fee but it is often a flat fee per passenger, not a set percentage of the transaction. This can practice can produce a credit card fee that reaches far beyond mere cost recovery. It is also near impossible to book an airline seat WITHOUT using a credit card!

No area of the aircraft is safe from extracting additional fees from customers. Ryanair has considered charging a pound to spend a penny (use of the toilet). They are also looking at equipping their aircraft with “vertical seating” so that they can simply cram in more fare paying passengers!

Next the air travelling public should perhaps expect a fee for scuffing the carpet, wear and tear as they fasten their seatbelts and a per minute charge for gazing out the window!

Look here for a full list of Ryanair’s fees. Note that while the fees in Pounds or Euros are nominally the same, the exchange rate is around 1 Pound = 1.2 Euros. So a five pound fee converts to around six euros. Since the fees are nominally the same (5 pounds or 5 euros), those in the UK are being stiffed about 20% extra in fees!

Look here for a full list of Tiger Airways fees. Notice that they have trade marked their “boardmefirst” fee ($6) and cannot provide any detail on what you get for your “convenience fee” ($7.20)! Too inconvenient for them to explain it apparently!