Reboot your mind, not your device…how to unplug and unwind in a 24/7 world

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

smarphone1If you are finding yourself at the relentless beck and call of technology; permanently checking-in to emails; taking work calls out of hours, and updating your social media status, chances are you’re experiencing ‘smartphone overload’.

Whilst there is no denying there are many positive aspects to cell phones, smartphones and other portable devices, this way of ‘living in a state of constant alert’ goes some way to explaining why so many of us find it hard to switch off in the evening and enjoy a good night’s sleep.

According to a survey from autumn 2013 almost half (46%) of women questioned surf the net or check their emails whilst in bed and more than 1 in 4 (26%) check social networks just before bed. Little wonder we need to restore the balance!

It is vitally important for our health and wellbeing that we reconnect with our mental on-off switch.

The way to do this is to disconnect from our devices in favor of time to relax and unwind. In the same way a child needs ‘quiet time’ before bed, so do adults and it’s important we realize that unless we look after ourselves properly or else we are ill-equipped to look after anyone else.

But it is not only before bed that we need to put the stop button in. There are also other times and places where being constantly “on” is not a good idea. Someone please tell me why someone goes for a walk in the park or the woods but is jabbering on his cell phone, checking his emails on a device, or is listening to his MP3 player on the smartphone. Time to switch off and plug into Nature.

Also is it really necessary to keep answering emails on the commute to the office. It would be much better instead to use this time, on public transport especially, as I would not suggest it driving a car, to read a book (not on a device but in paper) and to relax before work while doing this. It is much better for you and your mind and also those around you.

While there are, unfortunately, some of us who are on call 24/7 and thus have to have their cell phone on all the time to fiddle with it and checking your Facebook or emails every few minutes is not necessary, I am sure.

In addition, when talking with someone the earplugs come out and the cell phone goes into the pocket. It is bad form to do otherwise. Let's bring some sense back into our lives and step back from the digital obsession. It will do us all good.

© 2014

Be creative and reduce waste

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Make things for yourself and for others and reduce the need to go an buy everything that you want (and need).

Upcycling_examples1There are many things that are considered waste and waste products by the majority and the powers-that-be that, in fact, can become the resources for making things we want and need ourselves, or as gifts for family and friends. And, with the right mindset, ideas and a little skill those can also and even become salable products.

Even, unfortunately, people who consider themselves “green” and “ecologically minded” do not seem to have the mindset that our ancestors have and cannot see items of waste as a resource, aside from being recyclables to be used by the recycling industry.

They will go out and buy a recycled steel pencil bin while, at the same time, throwing away a clean tin can into the recycling which can – for nothing – serve the same purpose and can make for a great conversation piece when placed on the desk.

Or they will go and throw some large glass jars into the recycling bin and then go out and spend lots of money of recycled glass storage jars where the produce jars would have been able to to the same job for zero costs and removing some glass jars from the waste stream.

Those are but two examples and I have seen this happening myself and the people were so programed to recycling that they could not see that they could have been using those “recyclables” instead of buying new products, even though made from recycled materials.

When I was a child drinking glasses in daily use where not proper, if you like, glasses but glass jars of different sizes and I strongly believe that the reason for the predominately working class term of “having a jar” of something means just that, namely that a jar was used as a drinking vessel. And why not?

I have not bought a notebook for ages. I make my own from single-sided printed press releases and other printed matter. The same goes for the index cards that I use which I make from card material from packaging and I also make my own business card from such materials.

When we look back at the way our ancestors made use of waste for their everyday needs (and wants), from backs of envelopes, over cigar boxes, glass jars and so much more we can, and in deed must, take a leaf out of their books to make our money go further and, at the same time, reduce the amount that we put into the waste stream.

Starve your recycling bins and not just the trash can, I say, and make use of as much of the waste materials that you can. There is so much that you can make from waste for your own use, as gifts and, even, for sale. Just use your mind and some of the ideas that can be found in books and all over the Internet. Especially, however, take a look at what our ancestors did and how the reused and recycled well before it was a fashionable thing. And I mean they did reuse, repurpose and upcycle out of necessity often and for us it may just be a way to save money and to reduce our impact on the Planet.

© 2014

Sugru: Fixing the future

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Well, that may be a little overstated but it can fix a great deal...

sugru-applications1_smlNot so long ago I wrote about how I used Gorilla Glue and sugru® to fix the handle of an old garden trowel that was destined, prior to that, not by me but by previous owner, to be thrown away.

I had always wanted – after rescuing it – to somehow resurrect this lovely old trowel but there just was no material around bar, eventually, making a new handle and with the kind of trowel that it is, where the tool sits in the handle and not the handle in the tool, so to speak, this is always a difficult task.

So the poor trowel sat around moping until sugru arrived and I attempted a repair only with sugru. However, as there was a large deep crack in the top of the handle that went for quite a way it did not directly work and also not because the handle had a deep patina from use and the fact that with some wood it is best to roughen it up a little with sandpaper.

That still left the crack and sugru, together with Gorilla Glue, sorted that and the trowel has become now useful and usable again.

sugru® is a new self-setting rubber that bonds to most other materials. You form it by hand into any shape, apply it and make it into what you want it to be, and overnight it turns into a strong, flexible silicone rubber.

Only a generation or two ago, it was natural and obvious to repair something when it broke and to adapt something if it wasn’t quite right. It just made sense! The illusion of a never-ending supply of new things in recent decades has caused us to forget how to mend things.

sugru® was invented to get the world fixing and making again. From patching up hiking boots, to protecting iPhones with rubber bumpers, to customising the grips on sports equipment, it provides a versatile and easy-to-use solution for even those who’ve never fixed things before. Its flexibility and adhesiveness to all kinds of materials - from leather to wood to plastics - means that it can be used to make all kinds of products better.

The idea is catching on and sugru is now used by nearly 500,000 people from 151 countries around the world, whilst call sugru ‘21st Century Duct Tape’, and TIME magazine listed it as one of the top 50 inventions of 2010.

An 8 x 5g multi-colour pack of sugru retails at £11/$18/€15 at

sugru® was invented by Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh who is also the CEO of sugru, the exciting new self-setting rubber for fixing, modifying, and improving your stuff. Originally from Ireland, Jane studied at the Royal College of Art in London, where she had an idea that led to the first version of sugru in 2003. While there, she imagined a world where this magic material existed and set out to make it a reality.

Six years and 8,000 lab hours later, the formula for sugru was complete. Made in London, sugru launched in December 2009 and its community of users has continued to grow, reaching over 500,000 customers worldwide.

Jane is passionate about promoting a culture of creativity and resourcefulness, and sees it as an antidote to the throwaway mindset. Her mission is hitting a chord with the growing number of people looking to live more sustainably whilst doing what they love.

© 2014

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

Old Tools: Recondition and use

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

OldToolsWe often forget today, in this modern age, that the old tools, seen as obsolete by many today may, one day, have to come back into use and the more of them that we can rescue and then refurbish and recondition the better for those of us who still can use them. And this day may not be all that far off either.

Only early in 2013 the government of the Russian Federation announced that the FSB, the successor of the Soviet Union's KGB, in light of the Wikileaks affair, is going back to typewriters and paper for sensitive information and messages and this brings typewriters back into the limelight really. How many of us even remember what those are and were?

However, while the FSB is going to use electric typewriters the old manual ones, whether desk or portable (portable is a little far stretched with the weight of some of them), should be reconsidered by those of us looking ourselves for a safer way to communicate and to be able to write letters that are more readable than written in handwriting and newsletters and such should we ever lose the things we have today.

I have recently – more or less because of the hint from the FSB – dug up my old “portable” Remington Rand “Quiet Riter” typewriter that was built in the 1950s and was a common military field typewriter and, as long as I can find still color ribbons for them and a way to re-ink them, should the need arise, I should be fine in that department. Must remember though to give it a thorough clean and maybe even overhaul.

Old tools still have a role in today's world, and in some trades and jobs more than in others, for sure, and knowing how the work and how to use and maintain them is important and that even more so should we have to reduce our dependence on powered tools because of lack of gasoline and such like, for instance.

In forestry and woodland management, for instance, hand tools, as in horticulture, and even agriculture, and also and especially the old kind of tools, still have their place and often are more efficient than using power tools, and that includes chainsaws. Axes, billhooks, sickles and handsaws, more often than not, are more efficient, especially in small woodland management operations and in coppicing, where smaller trees are being felled and where things such as brambles and other encroaching vegetation needs to be tackled and the sickle is the best tool for removing grass and other vegetation around tree saplings. A strimmer (grass trimmer) more often than not, as people do not seem to understand that on approaching a sapling the revs should be reduced to as low as possible so as to avoid damage.

There are also many other old tools that deserve rescuing and refurbishing for use when it becomes necessary. In fact, it is a shame that so many old, well made, hand tools have and are still being consigned to the rubbish tips all over the place when they should be rescued and refurbished rather.

We are talking here also about specialty tools that were developed for a variety of tasks and many of which will be lost for ever if we don't look at the ones that are still about, refurbish them, learn their designs and find ways to reproduce them for as and when they may be required again. The latter, however, will also require the skills (and tools) to do so and while advances in CAD (computer-aided design) and 3D Printing may, at some time in the future, make it possible to just reproduce such tools it may also be possible that in that time in the future when we need to reproduce those tools again such technology is no longer possibility for one reason or the other. Thus is is better to rescue tools (and skills) now and refurbish and retain old tools of all kinds for such a future use and need.

I, for one, am putting together a kit of manual tools of various kinds, but especially those needed for working the soil and the forest, and others besides, such as old knives and others.

Every now and then another old tools falls into my lap, sometimes free, sometimes acquired on e-bay and sometimes in secondhand, thrift or junk stores or at flea markets and they often are in need of some TLC and many of the ones that come for free definitely do.

Even tools that require some restoration and new handles and such are worth obtaining when they come for free or almost free and are not traded by someone as antiques, and that goes for any and all that may fall within the range of tools that you have an interest in in not just restoring but also, at some later date, using.

In my case, as indicated, those tools are the kind that are used in particular trades and thus they include billhooks, sickles, scythes, hatchets and axes, crosscut saws and also a variety of gardening and farming tools, plus the likes of an old manual typewriter (or two – still looking for the second one), farming, forestry and similar knives and tools used in wood working and such. Though I do look also at getting and refurbishing anything worth doing up.

The great majority of those old tools and “appliances” were made to last and thus are worth the time spent on refurbishing and caring for as they will be able to provide another generation or two of faithful service if handled the way they should, with love and care.

Tools were not made to be thrown away in those days when a handle would break but were, and still are, capable of being fitted with new ones that could be bought but that can also be, with some knowledge and skill, be made by the user. Thus old axe and hatchet heads, for instance, are always worth saving and re-handling. And the same goes for old garden spades and forks, pitch forks, hoes that still have lots of life in them, and others.

In my estimation, many of those old tools will be needed again and we will also have to acquire the skills to make them again as we will need them again and in the same quality as they were made way back when.

We can see from the fact that many in countryside management and grounds maintenance are returning to the old tools and their use that this is going to be the case and carbon reduction and rising fuel costs are but two of the reasons.

Not only, however, are skills of using and of making those tools are being lost, the maintenance skills for those are too. There are very few people today who know how to correctly sharpen a knife, a billhook, hatchet or an axe, saying nothing about sharpening and setting of a crosscut saw. Even so-called professional grinding services often have little or no clue as to how to do the jobs properly.

A high-speed bench-grinder is not the tool for sharpening a knife or other edged tool but all too many people make that fatal – fatal for the tool – mistake including and especially the professionals, though many hobbyists also. The course grit and the speed of the grinder heat up the metal to such an extent that the temper will be removed and the edge becomes soft and loses its edge-holding ability. In other words the blade becomes (almost) useless.

Mistakes of similar nature are also made in the maintenance of other old tools and machinery as people today are no longer familiar with them and their use and especially their maintenance, whether bladed or other hand tools, hand-operated machinery for the garden, the farm, the kitchen or elsewhere, or typewriters or whatever.

Today many people do not even know how a manual typewriter is used, how to change the ribbon, let alone how to maintain it and the same goes for the sharpening of garden, forestry and farming tools and even kitchen knives. And let's not even talk about sharpening and setting a crosscut saw of the forestry kind, and many other things that ones was the repertoire of almost everyone who used such tools.

I must say that there are many times when I think that we have not advanced much at all if at all despite the fact that we now have and use computers and all that jazz. Our tools are made so cheaply and are of such inferior quality often that all one can do is to throw them away when a handle breaks or such. It is for that reason also, and not just for the sake of rescuing them for their own sakes, that I advocate rescuing and refurbishing old tools.

And axe, a hatchet, a hammer, etc. with a wooden handle can, should the handle break or otherwise become unusable, have the handle replaced while with many modern counterparts, including the new-fangled billhooks, this is not possible as the handles are either plastic or, in the case of many hammers today, thin metal tubes with rubber grips that I have found more that once to fail.

The very reason why many of the old hand tools are still about today, sometimes well after more than fifty or even a hundred years, is the fact that they were made to last and to be repaired and given some regular TLC they will last for many more decades to come once you have rescued and, where need be, refurbished them.

© 2014

Survival Kits

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Most are absolutely useless...

pocket-survival-kit_sml_noRegardless as to whether they are the commercially assembled and sold ones or the instructions that are given to assemble your own “survival kit” most of them are totally and utterly useless and a waste of time and money, and in addition to that most of the kits that are cheap contain items that are of inferior quality and thus make the kit more useless still.

The great majority of those kits, whatever name they go by, contain first of all many items you never ever will have to use, and thus are but a burden to carry and secondly for a knife they often have a cheap, single edge razor blade included which is not just useless but dangerous. Most, if not indeed, all of the so-called SAS survival kits the SAS troops would not be seen dead with.

The so-called wire saw also is a waste of time and money, even though they are cheap. As is the fishing kit, the wire snares and such like. For, when you are lost in the wilderness you don't what to stay there, you want to get out.

I have seen so much garbage included in so-called pocket kits that made the mind boggle but people cannot – it would seem – understand and do not want to believe that those kits are all but useless because, they say, this or that survival expert recommends doing it this way. You do not get a decent kit for under $10 or even under $20. A really good small kit even costs you a great deal more and it will be but a few, but quality and really useful items. However, that is not what the vendors want to tell you or sell you. There is not profit in it for them.

On the other hand you should not, in my opinion, unless you really want to, buy a ready-made kit but compile one for yourself that really will fulfill your needs.

pocket-survival-kit2In most cases you will but need a small number of items and how you store them is entirely up to you and I really mean but a small number of items.

  1. A good sturdy single bladed folding pocketknife – ideally with a lock that will not break – and the only one that I really would ever recommend for this purpose is the Opinel #6

  2. Emergency whistle of some kind

  3. A good small fluid filled compass with base plate (about the size of a large postage stamp) from Suunto or Silva

  4. A folding bit can opener – P-38 would be the most common one

  5. About 10 assorted safety pins, with the smaller ones threaded onto the pin of the largest one

  6. A BIC butane cigarette lighter

  7. A pencil (stub if you want to have a really small kit) and a small notepad

  8. A small flashlight, such as a Mini Maglite might also be good to have in your kit.

And that is about it...

Fishing kit, wire snare, wire saw, and other gimmicks are not something that you will need, though a small heliograph (signal mirror with aiming hole) could be useful should you have to attract search aircraft or such like.

Also forget the multi-tools, even good ones like Leatherman and such in any small personal daily carry survival kits as you will tend to leave the entire thing at home because it is getting too big and heavy. And, I am sure, you do not wish to walk around town in a load bearing vest with all the pockets full of kit, especially not when you happen to be going to the office and neither do you want to carry it in your rucksack or briefcase.

© 2014


  • Forget the iPad and games console. Knitting is the latest craze amongst school children.

  • Traditional craft that dates back to the Middle Ages is the latest form of playground ‘ravelry’

  • Knitting clubs common place in schools

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

kids_knittingTwo joysticks, a long cord and intense concentration are generally associated with games consoles, but now a much older technology is seeing a resurgence in school playgrounds. Knitting, more commonly associated with the middle-aged and senior citizens, is enjoying a resurgence of popularity amongst school children.

A new poll of parents for Clintons reveals that one in eight of their primary school-aged girls are learning to knit – and one in forty boys are following suit. Many are being taught by their grandmothers as the Clintons research also reveals that the skill has in many cases skipped a generation.

The research also finds that knitting clubs are becoming commonplace in many schools. The Abbey School in St Albans is one such school, offering kids an after-school knitting club that is currently over-subscribed.

teenager_knittingSophie Banks, who took part in the Clintons research said: “My daughter Asha, 10, enjoys attending the club at her primary school. I think knitting, along with other crafts, are great skills for children to master as they help with manual dexterity and numerical skills.”

Knitting is increasingly popular with celebrities: Cara Delevingne posted a photo of herself, wool in hand on Instagram. Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock and Sarah Jessica-Parker are also amongst the celebrities that have publicly declared their love of the craft.

Clintons are celebrating a resurgence of arts and crafts and have introduced a whole range of products in time for the Easter break. These include: Finger puppet kits, sock puppets, face art and Easter bunny painting.

Tim Fairs, marketing director said: “Today’s children are often thought to be permanently attached to electronic devises but our research and the popularity of our craft range show this to not always be the case. Perhaps what we are seeing is the new arts and craft movement.”

Most histories of knitting place its origin somewhere in the Middle East, from there it spread to Europe by Mediterranean trade routes, and then to the Americas with European colonization. The earliest known examples of knitting have been found in Egypt and cover a range of items, including complex colourful wool fragments and indigo blue and white cotton stockings, which have been dated between the 11th and 14th centuries.

Clintons was founded in 1968 and is a leading retailer of greeting cards, gifts and wrap. There are currently over 400 stores all over the UK, including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as a transactional website.

The company is managed by Schurman Retail Group. Schurman Retail Group operates 400 stores in North America, under its retail brands, PAPYRUS, NIQUEA.D, American Greetings Retail, Carlton Cards Retail and Paper Thread. Schurman Retail Group has deep experience in the development of retail brands, specifically featuring personal expression, lifestyle products.

It is good to see that, at least for the time being, knitting amongst children and young people seems to be making a comeback and it would also be good to see children and young people becoming interested and taking up other traditional crafts including woodworking such as working with greenwood, as all of us did in times gone by, especially those of us with access to saplings and such, making walking-sticks and whittling all manner of other things.

Let's hope this is a true revival of people taking up handicrafts and especially children and young people learning them and spending their time doing them rather than playing X-Box and the like. We can but hope, I say.

© 2014

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

Make your own BPA-free reusable water bottle

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

SnappleBottleTap_webWhat do you mean? I can hear you think and ask. How can I make my own reusable water bottle? Simple, I tell you, and it will not cost you a cent.

The only true and guaranteed BPA-free reusable water bottle is made but from one substance, namely glass, and you can easily make your own. No, not glass or the bottle by blowing your own glass bottle and all that jazz. That is complicated and requires a great deal of skill. We are talking here reuse of what you would, otherwise, toss into the recycling bin.

Yes, that Snapple® bottle that you are just about to toss, washed out and label removed (if you want – I do) and then filled with tap water makes a real good reusable BPA-free (as it is glass) water bottle.

But, I hear you say, glass is breakable and therefore plastic and stainless steel bottles are much better, and lighter. Yes, it is true that glass is breakable and glass bottles will break if handled incorrectly but most plastics contain plasticizers that are hormone disruptors though some are free from it and stainless steel is the best choice when it comes to wanting an unbreakable bottle. However, if you want a BPA-free one for, well, free then reusing a glass bottle of one sort or another is a much better way to go. It is also better for the Planet as it is reuse.

There are many reusable water bottles on the market now that are but tarted up bottles similar to the ones that you can easily make yourself by reusing the likes of Snapple® bottles or other drink ones or even glass tomato ketchup ones. I have done it and so can you and with a little soft cozy made from some thick cloth they can be protected easily against breakages.

So, go for tap water with your own reused reusable water bottle. Please do not think about reusing plastic bottles (PET bottles) for this purpose as they are leaching BPA and other phthalates, and those all are hormone disrupting chemicals.

So-called BPA-free plastics also are not harmless as scientists have recently found and while some plastics are fine glass, especially if it costs you nothing, is much better for you and the Planet.

© 2014

Keir Hardie and the Labour Party of today

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

James_Keir_Hardie_by_John_Furley_Lewis,_1902Keir Hardie was a socialist of the old school and founder of the Labour Party, however not of the kind that we know today and this can be seen from address of his below.

“I shall not weary you by repeating the tale of how public opinion has changed during those twenty-one years. But, as an example, I may recall the fact that in those days, and for many years thereafter, it was tenaciously upheld by the public authorities, here and elsewhere, that it was an offense against laws of nature and ruinous to the State for public authorities to provide food for starving children, or independent aid for the aged poor. Even safety regulations in mines and factories were taboo. They interfered with the ‘freedom of the individual’. As for such proposals as an eight-hour day, a minimum wage, the right to work, and municipal houses, any serious mention of such classed a man as a fool.

These cruel, heartless dogmas, backed up by quotations from Jeremy Bentham, Malthus, and Herbert Spencer, and by a bogus interpretation of Darwin’s theory of evolution, were accepted as part of the unalterable laws of nature, sacred and inviolable, and were maintained by statesmen, town councilors, ministers of the Gospel, and, strangest of all, by the bulk of Trade Union leaders. That was the political, social and religious element in which our Party saw the light. There was much bitter fighting in those days. Even municipal contests evoked the wildest passions. And if today there is a kindlier social atmosphere it is mainly because of twenty-one years’ work of the ILP.

Scientists are constantly revealing the hidden powers of nature. By the aid of the X-rays we can now see through rocks and stones; the discovery of radium has revealed a great force which is already healing disease and will one day drive machinery; Marconi, with his wireless system of telegraphy and now of telephony, enables us to speak and send messages for thousands of miles through space.

Another discoverer, through means of the same invisible medium, can blow up ships, arsenals, and forts at a distance of eight miles.

But though these powers and forces are only now being revealed, they have existed since before the foundation of the world. The scientists, by sympathetic study and laborious toil, have brought them within our ken. And so, in like manner, our Socialist propaganda is revealing hidden and hitherto undreamed of powers and forces in human nature.

Think of the thousands of men and women who, during the past twenty-one years, have toiled unceasingly for the good of the race. The results are already being seen on every hand, alike in legislation and administration. And who shall estimate or put a limit to the forces and powers which yet lie concealed in human nature?

Frozen and hemmed in by a cold, callous greed, the warming influence of Socialism is beginning to liberate them. We see it in the growing altruism of Trade Unionism. We see it, perhaps, most of all in the awakening of women. Who that has ever known woman as mother or wife has not felt the dormant powers which, under the emotions of life, or at the stern call of duty are even now momentarily revealed? And who is there who can even dimly forecast the powers that lie latent in the patient drudging woman, which a freer life would bring forth? Woman, even more than the working class, is the great unknown quantity of the race.

Already we see how their emergence into politics is affecting the prospects of men. Their agitation has produced a state of affairs in which even Radicals are afraid to give more votes to men, since they cannot do so without also enfranchising women. Henceforward we must march forward as comrades in the great struggle for human freedom.

The Independent Labour Party has pioneered progress in this country, is breaking down sex barriers and class barriers, is giving a lead to the great women’s movement as well as to the great working-class movement. We are here beginning the twenty-second year of our existence. The past twenty-one years have been years of continuous progress, but we are only at the beginning. The emancipation of the worker has still to be achieved and just as the ILP in the past has given a good, straight lead, so shall the ILP in the future, through good report and through ill, pursue the even tenor of its way, until the sunshine of Socialism and human freedom break forth upon our land”.

Keir Hardie was first elected to Parliament in 1895 and was integral to the founding of the Labour Representation Committee (later the Labour Party) in 1900, becoming its first leader in 1906. On April 11th 1914 – just a little over one hundred years ago – Hardie attended the twenty-first anniversary of the formation of the Independent Labour Party in Bradford where he gave the address above.

Despite the fact that the present-day Labour Party is about as far removed from socialism and Hardie's ideas and ideals they will always claim that they are his children, basically. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.

The Labour Party of today and the majority of its (leading) members would not know socialism if it bit them in the proverbial butt and those of the ordinary membership who claim that their Labour representatives do also must examine as to whether they have the lightest idea of what socialism truly is and is all about.

It is not only about free health care but a great deal more. In fact those socialists that went before understood it even better, such as Owen, and those who stood for the Co-operative Commonwealth.

While there are flaws in many of the programs of those old socialists and those that followed it is possible by combining the good from all programs and by thinking up our own ways to create true socialism where everyone gets a fair chance and where everyone is – yes – equal. Where everyone has a home, has work, or is free to pursue his or her own calling as to making a living, but where everyone works in one way or the other; where work is seen as a duty and as a honor. Where health care is first of all true health care and not a business with sickness and where everyone has a right to treatment as and when needed free. Where man and Nature are at the center and not corporation, economy and profit. Where there are no more masters and slaves. It can be done but not with the system we have at present and that includes that of political parties.

© 2014

Jimmy Carter entrusts secrets to snail mail: NSA might monitor his email

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

letter1Former American president is aware his emails could be monitored by US intelligence agencies excessively “liberalized” under President Obama so he prefers to send letters via ‘snail mail’ to ensure the privacy of correspondence.

In an interview with the NBC TV channel Jimmy Carter said he does not trust electronic communications because they could be monitored.

“When I want to communicate with a foreign leader privately,” Carter said, “I type or write a letter myself, put it in the post office and mail it”. And I think that we all can take a leaf out of President Carter's book here.

It has become obvious that the emails of all of us, not just elder statesmen and such, are being monitored by the NSA, the CIA, GCHQ, and others and that, therefore, out email (and cell phone) communications are far from secure.

Not that long ago, in the light of the Snowden revelations, the Russian intelligence community decided to return to the use of typewriters and paper for their confidential and secret communications and files. Each and every typewriter has a so-called “fingerprint” and thus a document that has gone into the wrong hands can be traced back to an individual machine.

While email is a great tool for speedy communications the fact that more than likely every one's emails are being scrutinized by the intelligence services of the US and the UK (and that of other countries, such as Australia), as they are all in this together, especially the Five Eyes, this medium cannot be considered safe and secure. Even encrypted emails can and will be read and as no warrant is required to do this, unlike the opening and reading of postal mail, the answer to a more secure means of communication is the old one... the letter, in an envelope and entrusted to the postie or to a personal courier. And, the old method of the spies also might be of use, that of the dead letter box.

When thinking secure communications do not think encrypted email and such but think the old methods that we have been using for many centuries, even before we had the Royal Mail and other such postal services.

When former presidents and the security services no longer trust – or never trusted in the first place – computers and email then, maybe, it is time that the mere ordinary mortals took notice. And storing data “in the cloud” really is not sensible at all.

As far as letters, in envelope with stamp, are concerned the cost factor is a consideration, and not just for overseas mail but the security factor outweighs that hundred times.

Email has its place for “ordinary” communications, personal and business, but the letter, by post, courier or other ways delivered, is the only secure way for sensitive communications.

© 2014

deliberateLIFE Magazine Issue #5 – Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

deliberateLIFE 5deliberateLIFE Magazine is now one year old – so let's say Happy Birthday – and issue #5 has just hit the iPad screens and others, so to speak, and this is yet another great issue.

The reader will, once again, find well written articles on living more deliberately, especially in the city, and how to reduce his or her environmental footprint, and much more.

My favorite pieces in this issue are “Tips to conserve water” on page 12; “The L.A. Kitchen” on page 21; the ones in the section entitle “Work” and “Venture into slow living” and “The drive to drive less” on page 39 and 42 respectively.

deliberateLIFE is the brainchild of Fay Johnson Fay Johnson. She is the Founder & Chief Deliberator at deliberateLIFE Magazine.

Fay is a social entrepreneur and has worked with influencers, businesses, governments, and non-profits to leverage their resources effectively to create change. Prior to moving back to California, Fay lived and worked in Washington, DC, where she served as the Co-Director of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus and as a key staff member on the Africa and Global Health Subcommittee of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. After leaving Capitol Hill, Fay served as a Policy Advisor at Oxfam America, leading the organization's advocacy and campaigning efforts during the 2008 drought in Ethiopia.

Seeing the need for a more multi-disciplinary approach to today's pressing social issues, Fay formed a new type of consultancy, Red Balloon Ideas. Her consultancy combines behavior change communication, strategic planning and cultural anthropology to develop effective change strategies for non-profits, governments, and businesses interested in tackling social issues. Fay holds a B.A. from UCLA in International Development and a Master’s degree in Public Relations and Corporate Communications from Georgetown University.

A global citizen, Fay was born in South Africa and emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area at a young age. The daughter of two social entrepreneurs, she spent much of her childhood traveling, visiting over 26 countries before she graduated from high school. These experiences embedded the deep belief that we are all part of one large global village. Fay has lived and worked in Hungary, India, Ethiopia, Kenya, the United States and South Africa.

Prior to her work on poverty and social justice issues, Fay ran her own business as a professional organizer, helping clients create order in their homes. Her favorite projects involved organizing closets, a skill she hopes to pass along to readers. Her second company was a photo preservation and scrapbooking business which allowed her to hone her design skills. Fay currently lives in Oakland, California.

© 2014