Question everything

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Think for yourselfWe live in an age where people, to a large extent, have become rather gullible once again, believing everything the governments and media tell them.

Before the so-called enlightenment it was the church that could not be questioned – at pain of death, literally – and whatever the church said was believed and had to be believed and under feudalism it was the same.

Then came the so-called enlightenment and “modernity” and people began to question of what they had been told and what they were being told by leaders, church, state and the newspapers.

For some strange reason, however, ever since around World War Two people have become lethargic again in that department and more and more they take as gospel everything they hear and read and see on television, mostly without questioning. This is, obviously, exactly what the powers-that-be (and who should not be) want and it is a bad thing for sure.

Not that the belief in authority and the need for it and for government and state had ever really gone away. However, many people, especially also during the 1960s to about the 1980s had become more prepared to question what they were being told and many did rebel and question. Still though it was but a minority.

More people than for a long tine before now already appear to have become statists with the belief that government has all the answers and everything that the government pushes out through the media must be true, even to such an extent that they seriously believe that government would not lie to them. Yikes! And people really believe this, I kid you not.

The government and the media lie to us day in day out and the great majority of the media, owned by just a few wealthy families, are totally beholden to the government and thus put out the message that the government wants the people to hear and to believe.

Question not just what you are told but wonder what is being hidden while something is being pushed beyond the limit, so to speak. When the media keep pushing something like a doge worrying a bone then you must ask as to what they are not telling us; what bad news is being buried during that time.

But there are also so-called alternative media out there that push a hidden agenda and the question with them has to be, as with the “official” media channels as to who pays the piper and why this or that lie or half-truth is being peddled. But first you have to learn discernment and learn to recognize when something does not add up. Always do your own research and get your information from both sides of the divide and then take the middle ground.

Government and the powers-that-be have known for a very long time what power there lies in newspapers and other media and that was the very reason that the Nazis made so heavily use of radio, created a single broadcast entity, and made the listening to foreign radio stations a crime. The media is a great propaganda tool for the governments and many media outlets knowingly or unknowingly participate in the propaganda war on behalf of the powers-that-be.

It is therefore extremely important to question absolutely everything and not to take everything that you come across anywhere, whether official or unofficial media, as gospel; not unless you yourself have researched it and ensured yourself of the truth or the opposite.

Don't believe that just because they say so that it also is going to be so. The most important thing is to read alternative sources and especially to read books on all manner of things, including historical and dystopian novels such as, for instance, George Orwell's “1984”. That book especially will open your mind, as well as Huxley's “Brave New World” as to the capabilities the governments have and what they may be aiming at. But don't just leave it at that. Read to free your mind and to learn to question. And always question authority. Question especially authority and especially how they claim to have that authority they wish to exercise over you.

© 2015

'Reduce waste, buy packaged' crusade looks to bust food waste myths

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A campaign to educate consumers about the role that packaging can play in reducing food waste launched apparently in later summer 2013 to counter negative public perception on the issue.

INCPEN, the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment, has launched 'The Good, The Bad and The Spudly' initiative in response to growing awareness of wasteful food habits, both in the home and throughout the supply chain.

Jane Bickerstaffe, the director of INCPEN argued that used wisely, packaging kept food fresher for longer and that over the past 20 years, material innovations had come of age.

"Packaging has got cleverer and cleverer at doing more with less," she asserted. "There's always room for improvement, there is some not very good packaging out there but we think it's in the minority. I believe that all parts of the [packaging] supply chain are trying [to be better]."

She also pointed to the fact that in terms of overall resource inputs, packaging accounted for a fraction of the overall food supply chain.

"More than 10 times more resources are invested in making the food than in the few grams of packaging that's used to protect it," she said.

"The packaging is a sensible investment in resources and if manufacturers can use it well, it will keep their costs down as well as their environmental impacts - it's a win-win situation."

Bickerstaffe said one key challenge was to communicate these benefits to the consumer in a way that was meaningful enough to influence their purchasing habits.

"It's very difficult, people aren't interested in packaging," she acknowledged. "What they want is their food in good condition so that's the message we need to promote - if you want fresh peas, then buy the packaged option, especially frozen."

She added: "People have been fed a diet of 'packaging is bad' - they will avoid packaging and buy unpackaged and wonder why it's gone off."

Questioned about the rising complexity of material use in packaging and the challenges this creates for reprocessing, Bickerstaffe admitted that far more collaboration was needed across the entire supply chain.

"To understand the environmental impact of packaging you have to have to engage with not only the raw material suppliers, the packaging manufacturers, the brands and the retailers - but reprocessors, councils and the waste management sector too."

However she maintained that compared to more recyclable materials, complex packaging such as foil laminate packs was just as environmentally beneficial as they used far less material at the design stage.

I must say that I have never heard as much rubbish but then they do represent the packaging industry, so it is not really a wonder. Though I do agree with the buying of frozen peas and other frozen vegetables as there is no waste aside from the packaging, in the form of a plastic “bag”. Anyone who wants to be frugal could, and I personally do so, reuse such bags as sandwich bags and as those bags are relatively strong they can be washed out and dried and then reused a number of times.

Foils laminate packaging, more often than not, cannot be or is not being recycled simply because it is too difficult or too labor intensive to separate the components and thus the packaging ends up in the landfill.

It is true that, as far as frozen vegetables, for instance are concerned, and they are packaged, for sure, it is less wasteful to use those, and that for more than one reason. First of you use only what you really need and the rest goes back into the freezer and second you do not have any peelings and trimmings, and you also, thus, save financially, as you only pay for the weight that you are actually going to use.

However, as for other packaged foods, I cannot help but disagree with the “findings” of the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment and see them as biased towards the industry that it represents. Period. Potatoes packaged in plastic do not, repeat, not keep fresh longer because in most cases they are washed and that treatment causes them to sprout and go off faster, and especially is encased airtight in plastic. But then, as said, they would make such claims as it is a body of the industry that gains from more packaging being used.

© 2015

Cargo bikes continue to spread, now in UK department stores

Johnny Loco cargo bike photoIn yet another sign that cargo bikes really are everywhere, UK department store John Lewis is now carrying cargo bikes from Dutch brand Johnny Loco.

For those outside the UK, this story probably doesn't hold that much significance. But as someone who grew up in the UK, I can attest that John Lewis was the first port of call for my mum when we went shopping for kids clothes, gifts, and just about everything else. When mainstream retail locations like John Lewis get on the bandwagon, it's exposing a whole new audience to these powerful transportation tools.

Currently included in their line up is The Johnny Loco Earl Grey Cargo Bike (RRP £1,999, or about US$3,100), and the Dutch Delight E-Cargo bike (RRP £3,499/US$5,429). The company is also offering the Johnny Loco Womens' Husky—which features a pretty darned hefty looking frame.

Read more:

Study links certain parenting tactics to increased materialism later in life

Christmas morningIf you want to raise appreciative and grateful children, here's what NOT to do.

The temptation to use holiday gifts as bribery to ensure kids’ good behaviour is hard to resist. It’s a time of year when emotions run high. Stressed parents are busy shopping and wrapping gifts, and many kids come up with absurdly detailed lists of items they’d like (or even expect) to receive. Decent behaviour would seem a logical trade for all the effort parents put in to make the holidays good for their kids.

A new study, however, urges parents to avoid this temptation. The manipulation of material objects as a parenting tactic can lead to kids having certain issues later on in life. The researchers, who surveyed more than 700 adults about their childhood circumstances, relationships with parents, and types of punishments, concluded that three parenting strategies in particular lead to increased materialism:

1) Using gifts as a reward when children have accomplished something, such as good grades or making a team
2) Giving gifts as a way of showing affection
3) Taking away gifts or favourite toys as a way to punish children

Marsha Richins, one of the researchers who is a professor of marketing at the University of Missouri, explains why this is damaging:

Read more:

Homemade Laundry Detergent and Gift Idea!

Picture of Homemade Laundry Detergent and Gift Idea!Laundry soap is expensive!

I walked down the soap aisle of a store as a young mother and just cried while looking at the prices of laundry detergent. It was so expensive for our tight budget! On top of price, we all have high allergies and soap is packed full of scents and stuff that we are allergic to.

I felt defeated.

Then a friend of mine mentioned she had made her own laundry soap. I was thrilled--I may have hugged her for joy! I discovered quickly that making laundry soap was super cost effective, low on the allergens scale, and totally liberating as a budget conscious mother!

Cost breaks down to about $1 (or less) a gallon! I know--life changing!

And, I've decided to share the wealth to those looking to cut costs.

Laundry soap also makes a great holiday neighbor gift!

Read more:

6 reasons to remove your shoes inside

From harboring hitchhiking bacteria to tracking in toxins, here’s why you may want to leave your kicks at the door.

No shoes insideShoes are great. We’ve been wearing them for 40,000 years and needless to say, they’ve served us well. The first forms of protective footwear evolved from simple efforts to keep our trotters insulated from snow and cold – and given that we don’t live on a planet lined with smooth, silky grass and other assorted soothing surfaces, shoes are a basic comfort for many of us.

But do we need to wear them inside? Many cultures think not, yet in the United States and other countries, oftentimes the shoes come inside attached to the feet of their wearer. Some households have a no-shoes policy, which can be met with scorn from the unshod-shy. But there are plenty of reasons why it might be a good idea to leave the loafers off when you come indoors. Consider the following:

1. Bacteria

We’ll just go straight for the “blech” factor here: Your shoes pick up sneaky bacteria which are then spread about your home when you wear shoes inside. A study from the University of Arizona collected germs and microbes on footwear. The researchers found 421,000 units of bacteria on the outside of the shoe, including E. coli, meningitis and diarrheal disease; Klebsiella pneumonia, a common source for wound and bloodstream infections as well as pneumonia; and Serratia ficaria, a rare cause of infections in the respiratory tract and wounds, reports Reuters. Granted the study was co-sponsored by The Rockport Company, but even so, it definitely brings the point home.

Read more:

Circular economy 'could create more than 200,000 jobs' in the UK

WRAP chief executive Liz Goodwin says that the circular economy could deliver jobs where they are needed mostThe development of a circular economy could create more than 200,000 jobs across the UK by 2030, according to a new study by WRAP and Green Alliance.

The report entitled 'Employment and the circular economy: job creation in a more resource efficient Britain' was unveiled today (20 January).
According to the report, developing the UK's resource efficiency can "make a valuable contribution to improving Britain's labour market situation" and help address regional imbalances in unemployment.

Significantly, regions where unemployment is higher, such as the North East and West Midlands could see the greatest impact in job creation, especially among low-to-mid-skilled occupations where job losses are projected for the future, the report claims.

Reducing unemployment

According to the study, on the current circular economy development path, by 2030 the sector could require an extra 205,000 jobs, reduce unemployment by around 54,000 and offset 11% of future job losses in skilled employment.
The report also considers the potential geographical dispersion of jobs by circular economy activity. It states that reuse and open loop recycling are expected to remain the least geographically concentrated, followed by closed loop recycling, servitisation (business models that increase the life of products rather than using new ones) and biorefining (extracting valuable resources from biowaste), requiring activity across the country.

By contrast, remanufacturing is likely to be somewhat more concentrated and situated near to existing manufacturing sites, where "unemployment tends to be higher", according to the study. The development of the circular economy could create jobs for former employees of manufacturing industries in these areas, the report claims.

Read more:

English Heritage gifts Made in China

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

10891461_10153015694544813_3922972156006871284_nThe Quango, for a charity it hardly is, whose supposed task it is to protect the English heritage does not do much for it itself, it would appear. The heritage of England is not just its old (and not so old) historic buildings but also its crafts.

Instead of, however, having the pottery (and other stuff they sell in their gift shops) made by English heritage craftsmen and -women they get the stuff made in the Far East. If that is not a kick in the teeth for English heritage then I do not know.

The picture shows the bottom of a piece of English Heritage pottery on sale in the organization's gift shops and it is not made in England at all but in China as is quite obvious from the “stamp”.

Maybe someone needs to tell English Heritage that the heritage of the country is not just some of its old buildings but it is also and especially the old crafts that are still being carried out, though by fewer and fewer craftsmen and -women today. It is those crafts that are the country's heritage and more so than buildings whether old castles, manor houses or certain more modern buildings.

Rather than having “traditional” items made in China those should be made, according to tradition and heritage, in the country, in England, or at least Britain. But then again that would not give as much in the way of profits from the sales to English Heritage with which to fill its coffers.

It would, however, appear that English Heritage has absolutely no interest whatsoever in doing anything towards protecting the crafts heritage in England and Britain and to promote it; none at all. Instead they have their traditional English things that they wish to sell made in the Far East where it is cheaper and where, more likely, the workers who make them are exploited at the same time.

© 2015

Lots of hugs may help us avoid the common cold

huggingThe tongue-in-cheek name of this publication might imply that we are already pro-hugging, but new research suggests that hugs may have preventative health benefits.

Affectionate physical contact, and the social support that comes with it, has previously been shown to make us feel good and reduce stress. We also know that being stressed out makes us more prone to getting sick. So, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University set out to see if people who hug frequently are more resistant to the common cold.

They also wanted to see if perceived social support—if people feel supported by their friends and families—is correlated with better resistance to infection.

The researchers surveyed 404 healthy adults about their frequency of hugs and about how much social support they feel in their lives. The participants were then deliberately exposed to the common cold virus, and monitored in quarantine.

Both participants who felt more social support and those who received frequent hugs experienced fewer cold symptoms.

Read more:

Don’t stop knitting! It keeps you healthy.

woman knittingLast month I wrote an article called “Why bother knitting a scarf?” Much to my surprise, I received thousands of positive reactions from readers who share my love of homemade, local, and beautiful “slow fashion” items. Clearly, knitting is being embraced by people from all walks of life who benefit from its peaceful, relaxing repetition. It got me wondering – what’s really going on when people knit? Why is it so tremendously popular?

It turns out that knitting has incredible health benefits. It makes people feel good in just about every way. A bit of research has revealed a wide range of ways in which knitting helps humans cope, physically and mentally.

1. Knitting is used for therapy. It’s a powerful distractant, helping people manage long-term physical pain. For those who are depressed, knitting can motivate them to connect with the world. It is a conversation starter, allowing people to interact politely without making eye contact. It builds confidence and self-esteem.

2. Knitting is supremely relaxing, which is extremely important for reducing stress and anxiety. Dr. Herbert Benson, founder of Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute, wrote The Relaxation Response, in which he recommends the repetition of a word, sound, phrase, prayer, or muscular activity to elicit “the relaxation response” – decreased heart rate, muscle tension, and blood pressure. Knitting is likened to meditation, sometimes described by knitters as “spiritual” and “Zen-like.”

Read more: