Friday, May 25, 2012

The Little Red Hen. A tale for modern times.

An allegorical folk tale about the valuable lesson of teamwork - revamped for modern times.

Inspired by Estonia's President, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, "I'll gladly Pay you Tuesday" here

The Little RED HEN - revisited.
Once upon a time there were some little hens. They lived outside a farm on their own, subject to the rigours of supplying all their own needs in an unpredictable and sometimes hostile world. They were alone. Sometimes they were afraid.

One day the farmer approached them and invited them to come inside the farmyard fences. In there they’d have the benefit of the experience and contacts of all the other farmyard animals. Life would be secure and good. Together they could do wondrous things. Everyone would benefit!

The little hens were allocated a corner of the farmyard, and they were content. They were united with all the other farmyard animals; horses, cows, pigs, ducks and geese, each with their own part of the farmyard to tend.

The farmer presented the little hens with the rules of the farmyard. The rules were clear, the rules were fair. Everyone would benefit!

The little hens read the rules, they understood the rules, they accepted and followed the rules. And life was good.

Eggs were laid, and chickens were hatched to the little hens. The chickens were taught by the farmer to abide by the rules, to live within their means to work with the skills and resources they had. And life was good.

The little hens and their chickens scratched the soil, they tilled the soil, they harvested the produce. They worked hard; they were careful. The little hens wrinkled their little brows over the accounts late at night, by thrifty candlelight, after a hard day's work. There was little waste and just about enough for all the hens and the little chickens – just like the farmer had promised. They trusted the other farmyard animals to do the same, to follow the rules so all would benefit. Surely life was good?

The little hens and their chicks appreciated the farmyard. They enjoyed the benefits of belonging to the farm. They were secure. But a storm appeared, brewing menacingly on the horizon. The farmer came to the hens and their chickens to ask for help. For the good of all.

The larger animals who had been at the farm longer than the little hens and their little chicks had asked the farmer to help them out. They couldn't seem to manage their plots of land or their accounts. They never seemed to have enough to go round. The horses, the cows, the pigs and ducks and geese complained loudly to anyone who would listen that they were being treated unfairly and that life was harsh and unjust. They needed someone like the little hens and their chicks to support them. A lot.

The little hens were confused; surely the horses, the cows, the pigs and ducks and geese had worked as hard as the little hens and their chickens, scrimping and saving for the good of all? Surely they had lived within their means and hadn’t become lazy and greedy? Did the other farmyard animals expect to have more than the little hens and their chickens?

The little chickens saw the benefit of belonging to the farm. They agreed to let the horses, the cows, the pigs and ducks and geese have some of the goods they’d worked so hard to produce. For the good of all, for the unity of the farm. But they were not happy.

The chickens who had played at the homes of the foals, the calves, the piglets, the ducklings and goslings had seen a land of plenty, had seen rules being flouted. Had seen farm animals better off than themselves and their families. And they didn’t understand why they were being asked by the farmer to support those with more than themselves.

And the little chickens became resltess.


Monday, May 21, 2012

How not to seek serenity

I've occasionally written about the benefits of mindfulness, but when I came across this clip the other day I realised I've missed a major aspect, and that's how to still the perpetually wandering mind.

Now, whilst this clip mightn't precisely help you relax and achieve a restful state, it will give an insight into how meditation and relaxation are tackled (and I use the word advisedly) by many people.
So, if you feel stuck, frustrated, out of sorts, and that your wandering mind means you suck at this meditation, mindfulness or relaxation thing, remember that it's perfectly normal. When you talk to a wise teacher they'll look at you with compassion and remind you quite honestly that's how it is for everyone.

Beating yourself up about it, haranguing yourself with annoyed phrases and demands to relax are the aspects that don't help!

Enjoy, and please let me know how you go :)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Is a great author a friend or foe?

I have a beef with Sir Terry Pratchett. A bone to pick. A complaint to make… allbeit extremely respectfully; he is pretty famous after all, and has friends in high places.

I received an Amazon gift voucher for Christmas. I knew there was a new Pratchett out and everyone expected me to spend said voucher right then and there. But I’m not like that, I like to savour the anticipation, to get double the value as it were, from a gift voucher…

a) there's the savouring and anticipation of a feast from a master-craftsman

b) the actual reading of said book written by the master-craftsman.

I stretched it pretty well! Writing 26 posts in April for the A-Z blogging challenge about Climate and sustainability had a lot going for it. It would have been far too distracting having a new Pratchett breathing down my neck begging, nay, demanding to be read.

Heading off on holiday in May seemed the right time to redeem the voucher. It hadn’t been lost, used as fire starter, been recycled or gone into the compost – always a good beginning!

There was enough on the voucher for 3 good e-books. Electronic reading is great where space is at a premium; a library condensed into such a convenient package . The ability to read tucked into a sleeping bag with only one hand exposed to the chilly night air in a flimsy tent is sheer magic. Little light curved so perfectly to illuminate the page, and the sound of my chuckles are dampened by the downy deep sleeping bag. Best not to annoy a snoozing partner!

But now, here’s the REAL gripe. It’s only possible to read a Pratchett once, for the first time,  ever.

Think about it, and that statement isn’t as loopy as it sounds on first reading, no matter how poorly it’s phrased.

There’s only that once when you don’t have any idea what's going to happen, which characters will reappear and what their relationship will be with each other and the plot. That’s NOT FAIR.

I’m like a child at a fair, gorging herself on all kinds of sweets, hotdogs, fairyfloss and doughnuts, not slowing down to chew properly or really notice what’s happening. When I’m immersed in the story, I think there could be a major storm crackling and raging and dumping torrents of water and hail outside the tent and I wouldn’t notice till the whole thing blows down around me.

Of course the second reading is wonderful. There is delight in slowing down, catching the nuances, the aspects that in the first excited reading had been grabbed greedily and gulped without chewing as it were.

There’s the “Ah, yes, I remember that now” and the “How on earth did I miss that gem” and the “Oh ho! There’s the clue so sneakily inserted in amongst the delightful distractions. The clue that’s so vitally important for the drama later on.”

The third and subsequent readings all have their joys, not to be ignored or overlooked. The books and characters become friends, loved for all their foibles and idiosyncrasies. You know how they'll react to the situations they’re placed in, it's wonderful, but it's not the same as the first not knowing.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I haven’t finished the book yet. I've finished the other two more academic books redeemed from the gift voucher - both good! and now I’m at the stage of exploring and using all the delaying tactics known to man and woman to avoid the time when I know how Snuff evolves. What’s the expression – bittersweet?

I try, really I do, to ration myself to just a few pages each night, but time ticks away, my arm aches and my hand is bitterly cold, I've read more than my ration :(

I let my Kindle run down. I try to reread sections, to backtrack, to slow down and savour the moment, but they’re too damn good. IT'S NOT FAIR!

I’ll allow myself another page AFTER I’ve done the chores. I’ll just knit another row, then I’ll have a peek at what’s happening. I try so hard to stop and remember other characters, and situations - where and when this character was introduced, what happened and why. I indulge in flights of fancy: will Death appear, or Esk nod wisely from a corner?

And the themes are wonderful. Good and bad and the complexities therein, deeply nuanced with layers of shades of grey. Justice, compassion, grief, anger, ethics, values, integrity and worth – so human, such deep understanding of the beauty and pain of existence.

Sir Terry Pratchett is a master craftsman, and while part of me rages against the unfairness of life and his illness, I’m so grateful for his wisdom and compassion and his continued ability to share all that with us ... and I finish Snuff with a contented sigh.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

A-Z April blogging challenge reflections post.

2012 A-Z Blogging Challenge wrap up

Well, I did what I said I’d do! I completed the task of presenting information on climate change and peak oil to the best of my ability. 26 posts, of reasonable length, considering the topic is enormous, incredibly interlinked and complex. (Link to preamble here.)

My biggest frustration by far was having minimal internet availability at the beginning and end of the month and in to May (including the present moment).

In the first week of April I was returning from Canberra where I’d given a presentation at the Career Development Association of Australia annual conference about blogging. I mentioned the A-Z blogging challenge as a great discipline and fun way to interact with other bloggers and to find your way around the blogosphere. It went well and we may have some additional bloggers next year!

Having extremely intermittent internet meant returning visits from people who’d commented on my posts was and still is, almost impossible. I felt, and still do feel guilty about that, like a rude hostess who hasn’t acknowledged her guest’s presence. I won't have good, reliable access for another week, so my apologies in advance for not following up with comments and visits.

I managed to visit up to 20 blogs per day when I had good access, but no where near what I’d have liked.

I thought I’d set up the first few posts to go up automatically, but obviously hadn’t. That was pretty annoying as I know how frustrating it is to visit a blog on the list and find they don’t appear to be participating. My apologies to anyone who had that experience.

The second annoyance was discovering that word verification was still on. I was so sure I’d taken that off last year, but either I hadn’t and it’s been there all along (begs forgiveness) or in the changeover to the new look somehow it got added again. I thought that might have accounted for the minimal comments, but there was little change when I fixed it which was disappointing.

I visited some fantastic, thought provoking blogs and have added them to my list. Others were witty, delightful, and a great take on the challenge! I’ve confirmed yet again that I’m not interested in frou-frou posts but usually found something kind or supportive to say. The ones I had most difficulty with are the overtly religious ones wanting to take their brand of religion to the world.

Some stats:
Visits: At the time of writing (4th May), over the last month, the bulk of visitors came from the US (1303) followed by Australia (217) UK (199) and Russia (joy oh joy, so much spam).

Views: Least views was 7, most 448 for E is for Eat. (What is the attraction of that particular post? Do people like it, is it what they expected when they dropped in? I don't think it's amazingly outstanding. Are they incredibly disappointed with the content? The search words don't give me much clue how they're finding it, so it's all a bit perplexing.)

Comments: Quite a few posts received 3 or 4 comments, the least received 1, the most 10 (E is for Eat here).

I’ve had my share of non-comments. The kind that basically says “I was here”. I dislike these lazy copy and paste visits that you see repeated word for word on other blogs. They don't encourage me to visit the blog. One in particular I found almost insulting, a kind of gushy “lovely blog, delighted to visit” on a post talking about anticipated famine, or something equally dreadful as a result of climate change. I understand that my theme may not be to everyone’s taste, but would prefer no comment rather than insensitive and inappropriate comments. The person clearly hadn’t bothered to even scan my content.

In contrast were the perceptive comments from other visitors, sometimes directing me to further information or adding something thoughtful or thought provoking. It was reassuring to have some people come back a couple of times and each time add something worthwhile. I was especially delighted when someone would say “I’ve never thought of that”. Thankyou! Though few and far between, they are the gems I’ll remember.

A special visitor was Hilary Melton-Butcher at Positive Letters....Inspirational Stories (here) who not only visited EVERY post, but clearly read them, pondered the content and commented thoughtfully. I feel deeply supported by her willingness to give of her time so generously. She’s a busy lady and a fantastic blogger. Each of her posts gets lots of visitors and comments, yet she replies to each one of them with thought, compassion, and never fails to say something kind or supportive. She is an amazing woman, and I’m so grateful for her unwavering support.

I chose the theme of climate change knowing it’d be tough and unpopular, but believing it’s the least I can do to add my voice to the growing throng of people concerned that the world we leave our children has some semblance of liveability.

We could do so much, yet there is continued government inaction on addressing the vast range of devastating issues related to climate matters. Instead, they find the funds to kill, maim, mutilate and ruin the homes, livelihood and lands of innocent civilians, communities and countries to feed the voracious war machine and addictive lust for oil. Pockets are being lined by those with vested interests. Corporate greed and obscene levels of power obscures and obstructs our need to act creatively and proactively...Now.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Budget, schmudget - we'll be in surplus!

News from a vaguely familiar state somewhere in Southern Australia. Somewhat tongue in cheek, and entirely unreferenced, flight of creative fancy.

The elected Grubbymint in their most recent budget, endorses rampant climate change, gives green light to policies that hasten our ill health, erodes job security and secures the advantage and ubiquity of coal fired power plants.

Education, now considered a luxury, is outsourced to the lowest bidder. Staff recruited via call centres based in India - visas optional.

Funding slashed from technical and further education redirected into newly built and refurbished jails. Corrections Officer training available from “Shonky Bros” inconveniently and expensively located in your nearest capital city.

What used to be quaintly known as the Bluestone College*, is rumoured to offer courses to inmates similar to what in the past was offered by TAFE’s. Many inmates had hopes for re-entry into education after disrupted schooling. *early jails were built from bluestone and were known colloquially as a bluestone college.

An early introduction to a life of crime by Thugs Anon, led to these youths being called the 100,000 dollar kids, being the average cost per annum to provide funding for services such as counselling, welfare, court appearances, intervention orders and rehab costs. Their dreams of a regular education have been gutted by the callous dismantling of the highly regarded TAFE sector with support systems available to reintroduce disengaged youth to reputable, vocational and challenging courses.

Services for those with special needs are seen as an an unnecessary luxury by the Grubbymint and are likely to be slashed to cut costs.

Jails are rumoured to be refurbished and huge sums are earmarked for new facilities to house the expected increase in convicted criminals. In part these new inmates are likely to come from the growing ranks of the newly unemployed and angry, disengaged groups who are unable to take advantage of “upskilling” now the TAFE colleges are being allowed to fall into disrepair. 

Stress levels are anticipated to increase as disregard for the environment takes its toll – those who used to cycle safely to bushland to lift their spirits and enjoy some peace from the hurly burly of life are now unable to avail themselves of that outlet. Health impacts are expected to lead to an increase in depression and weight gain, blowing out medical and hospital budgets.

Jobs slashed in the environmental sector saves millions, now earmarked for generous injection into cleanER coal. Koalas, already endangered, lose protected lands, but habitat is now available for fracking and/or subdivision (see F - Fracking here). Generous tax breaks for fossil fuel and mining industry will be offset by increased taxes in luxury goods such as bicycles, scooters and all recreational and sporting goods.

Innovative enterprises are obstructed and investment discouraged in renewable energy, further supporting the stranglehold of the fossil fuel industry.

Generous performance bonuses are deposited into bank accounts of the sycophantic Grubbymint minions whose inability to address the far reaching impacts of their vicious decisions further alienates them from the public and any good-will that may have been expressed. Secure in their sheltered, ivory tower 'workshops', they’re protected from the need to come face to face with any of the people who suffer at their hands, and give high fives all round for a job well done.

Safe in a sanctuary, these koalas are unlikely to be bulldozed or fracked into oblivion.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

An A to Z of Climate Matters.

April 2012. An A-Z of Climate Matters. 
There is a link in the sidebar to the A-Z blogging challenge hosted by Arlee Bird and his wonderful team.

A is for Advertising - a brief look at the methods media, vested interests and the advertising industry use to sway opinion regarding climate change rather than to share facts.
B is for Biodiversity - why it's important for our very survival on earth.
C is for Change - how we often resist it, fear it and avoid it, but how we also need to face it head on if we're to negotiate climate change and energy depletion with hope and confidence.
D is for Desertification - what can happen to lands which are overgrazed, and have every natural living thing removed for the planting of mono crops.
E is for Eat - what we choose to eat, how much, how often and where it's imported from has major implications for food security. Farting cows make their appearance here.
F is for Fracking - a method of extracting fossil fuels from deep under the earth.
G is for Greenhouse - the gasses which we're emitting into the atmosphere at such a rapid rate aren't healthy and are contributing to a toxic blend of chemicals which will last many hundreds of years. We don't breathe these easily, nor do animals. Trees that normally absorb carbon-dioxide aren't keeping up with our emissions.
H is for Health - Our mental and physical health is intricately tied with our climate. Increasingly frequent and severe weather events such as fire, drought and flood have impacts on everyone involved.
I is for Insects - We need them! Without creepy crawlies and bees, humankind is unlikely to survive. Toxic chemicals used on crops as pesticides kill not only "pests" but helpful critters too.
J is for Jellyfish - these can survive and thrive in ocean areas which have been overfished.
K is for Kilter - as in Our climate is out of kilter and so are some of our lifestyle choices.
L is for Leadership - innovative, farsighted, visionary, leaders are rare and need to be encouraged and celebrated.
M is for Mangroves - mangroves are the most interesting trees! They're salt tolerant meaning they can grow in sea water, and can deal with more carbon than any other tree.
N is for Notice - notice how you can make energy savings in your home AND save money!
O is for Oil - such a recent discovery and one which has infiltrated almost all our lives. In fact it's probably fair to say we're addicted to it and as with any addiction, breaking it could be a bit of a challenge. but it will run out, so perhaps it's not a bad idea to have a "Plan B".
P is for Plastics and Pollution - plastics are a wonderful invention, and a byproduct of oil. They're extremely handy for all sorts of things. Unfortunately products are often discarded thoughtlessly and add to the increasing problem of pollution.
Q is for Quadruple bottom line - a little bit of accounting - a different way of looking at what is valuable for businesses. Interesting rather than daunting :)
R is for Responsibility - hyper-consumption has an impact on using fossil fuels and therefore our climate.
S is for Soil - you don't have to get down and dirty to appreciate how necessary healthy soil is! Healthy soil = healthy plants. Healthy plants = healthy us.
T is for Trees - tall, majestic and leafy or stunted and straggly. No matter what they look like, trees are vital to maintain a breathable atmosphere, to stabilise soil and to assist with biodiversity.
U is for Urban heat island - cities absorb heat so people to use more air-conditioning. Greening our cities creates cooler, healthier lifestyles.
V is for Values - values underpin much of what we do and give our lives meaning. When people are out of touch with their values, their lives can lack direction and be unhappy and empty.
W is for Water - Water wars. Water disputes. Country against country, region against region. Farming, people, mining, all demanding more of this increasingly polluted vital resource.
X is for eXtreme weather - did it really take me this long to discuss weather?
Y is for Yesterday - sing the words from The Beatles song "Yesterday" to get a sense of this letter.
Z is for Zero - Zero population growth - improved quality of life for mums, children, families and communities. Enough food and water to go around. Equity and balance. So easy, yet so hard for many to accept the need for reliable modern contraception.

And now ... a well earned celebration :D