Wayward socks and gloves

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

wayward socksFor some unknown reason washing machines seem to eat individual socks and, at times, it seems, also individual gloves, but they do seem to have a penchant for socks, and then a poor orphaned, wayward, sock or glove is left to fend all for itself. So, what do we do? We mix and don't match, that's what we do. Or that's what we should be doing.

I come across lost and never looked for again gloves, mostly single ones, as well as other clothing such as children's socks, again mostly single ones, but also others, in the municipal park here on a regular basis. Generally I do take them home, wash them and, in the case of gloves and socks, I try to, somehow, match them and make new unmatched pairs.

In fact, a number of years ago I wrote about turning odd gloves into unmatched pairs and that idea of mine was – shall we call it what it was – stolen by an enterprise online that then commercialized it by asking people to send odd gloves that they found to them for them, the “enterprise”, to “match” them up with others for sale.

When it comes to wayward socks at home – or when one sock is damaged beyond repair while the other one is still OK – why sort of not matching two of those up and wearing them should not be the way to go. Mismatched has, to some extent, it would seem, become fashionable even, at least among some. This can also be a way of rescuing found socks, especially for toddlers and children, and create unmatched pairs for them. Waste not want not.

When it comes to holy (not as in sacred but as in having holes) socks, nowadays, darning them is (almost) impossible due to the materials being used in the manufacture, with the exception of high quality expensive ones, maybe, and hand-knitted ones. So, let's pair up the unmatched and use those that are gone (beyond repair although often repair is not even possible) for other purposes before tossing them out. Worn out socks that are not repairable can be used as application cloths for shoe polish and even for polishing shoes, as dusters, and many other uses.

© 2018

Be happy with the little that you have

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Be happy with the little that you haveBe happy with the little that you have. There are people who have nothing and still manage to smile.

Many of us want more, more and still more while, in fact, we have all that we really need, at least in comparison to others who have nothing but who, more often that not, are happier than those who perpetually seek for more.

I have, and so have many others, found that it is also those very same poor who will share with you the little they have – without a second thought – while those who have much will not share even a little. “It's all mine and you can go and (enter your own expletive here, if you so wish)”.

It is, and I am not happy to admit that, not always easy to be prepared to share, especially not if you have grown up poor and are afraid to lose again what you have now. But being happy with the little that I have now I, basically, am and I, but then that is me, do not desire to have more than I need. What for?

Though, alas, I do have to admit that I have, at times, I bought far too much in the way of clothing, from charity shops though, I hasten to add, and now have more than I will, probably, ever be able to make use of. But those purchases were all very cheap but good quality and some, though theoretically secondhand, had never been worn and thus I do not, really, regret purchasing them. Whether I'll ever get to wear all of the stuff I do not know. On the positive side though I will not have to buy any clothes, bar the essentials, for a long time to come (if I don't put on weight, that is).

In order to be able to make many things myself I must say that I do own quite a few tools, some new, some old, and I do like to upcycle a lot of stuff (hence the tools) including pallets. If I can make something I need (and want), or repurpose or upcycle for that purpose, then I will do just that. My philosophy always has been that and that is what I grew up with, having little as a child.

Our toys where those that were handmade for us by others, that we made ourselves from natural materials or trash, or those that we found. Our clothes, if we wore any at all, were hand-me-downs, often from other people's children, and some where even homemade. Still, we were happy for we were being loved and cared for. We had fun with those toys we had and even greater fun making them, and fun not having to wear any clothes for much of the time. I believe that it does not take much to be happy, even with little in materials things, as long as the emotional needs are met. And I guess that why so many who have little to nothing but have community are happier than those who have so much in material things.

© 2018

Making art and craft every day keeps the doctor away!

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Making art every day keeps the doctor away!Art and craft comes in many forms and shapes, so to speak, from (creative & expressive) writing – including so-called journaling – to knitting, crochet, woodcarving and woodworking, and everything else in between.

Your health and personal well-being, according to studies, can benefit when you make time to be creative? And, apparently, it is true! Whether you write, draw, scrapbook, or create quilts, do woodcarving, or whatever in the arts and crafts department; when you engage in something creative, your mind and body benefits.

Expressive Writing fort instance, whether it is just journaling – that is what once was called keeping a diary and done by a so-called diarist – will eanble you in other areas to better be able to put your thoughts on paper, even if the paper is but virtual.

Writing has been found to grant practicioners a host of long term benefits including, but not limited to:

  • Fewer stress-related visits to the doctor Improved immune system functioning Reduced blood pressure

  • Reduced absenteeism from work

  • Quicker re-employment after job loss

  • Improved working memory

The Science of Google's 20% Rule

Some may have heard of Google's 20% rule, some maybe not (and I must say I didn't until I came across it), which allows employees to spend 20% of their time on side projects they are passionate about. What seems on the surface to be a huge sink in productivity actually saw huge boosts for both the company and their employees.

Side projects, it turns out, boosts work performance and productivity.

A study conducted by San Francisco State psychology professor Dr. Kevin Eschleman and his colleagues measured the effect of creative hobbies on over 400 employees. They found those who had a creative hobby were more likely to be helpful and creative on the job as well as more relaxed and in control.

The finding from the research indicate that organizations may benefit from encouraging employees to consider creative activities in their efforts to recover from work.

Creative activities are likely to provide valuable experiences of mastery and control, but may also provide employees experiences of discovery that uniquely influence performance-related outcomes.

Creative Therapies

There is now a whole emerging field of people who employ the arts to help people heal. It is called Creative Arts Therapies, and according to the National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations (NCCATA), it encompasses a wide range of modes of expression including art, dance/movement, drama, music, poetry, and psychodrama. One could, obviously, also be sarcastic here and say that there is always someone – or quite a number of people – who find a way of making money from “strange professions”.

Creative Arts Therapists are human service professionals who use arts modalities and creative processes for the purpose of ameliorating disability and illness and optimizing health and wellness. Treatment outcomes include, for example, improving communication and expression, and increasing physical, emotional, cognitive and/or social functioning.

When you undertake these activities, whether for yourself or with the guidance of a Creative Art Therapist, you stand to benefit by making art.

In a world full of distractions and stress, it can be difficult to find time to be creative but considering the outcomes time should be made available and not just for us adults but also and especially for children (and young people). Their lives have become far too structured and stressful and, aside from unstructured play, letting them get into creative activities, more or less on their own, could be of great benefit.

© 2018

Europe drowning in plastic waste

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Plastic bottles at a Chinese recycling plantNow that China has closed its doors, from January 1, 2018, to (plastic) waste for recycling from Europe (and elsewhere) the countries of Europe are beginning to drown in (plastic) waste and many are now looking for other developing countries, such as Vietnam, to take this waste for recycling, Britain among them.

Instead of actually reducing waste, especially, though not restricted to, plastic waste, and secondly building our own facilities for recycling the countries are, yet again, looking for places with lower environmental standards to where to dump the waste rather than doing the other.

Obviously, considering the high environmental legislations in the home countries it would be too expensive for the capitalists to do it at home and hence other countries, with lower and fewer environmental laws and legilations have to be found where our waste can poison the unsuspecting workers. Couldn't possibly have those recycling plants properly operated in our own countries now, could we. But that is exactly what we should be doing.

Before even thinking about recycling we should, properly, work on reducing the amount of waste, plastic and otherwise, that we generate and that is where all, but for starters industry and legislators, come in.

Now that China declines to take any more of our garbage we should be doing our own recycling, after reducing as much as we can, of our waste and by doing so lead the way and we would also create jobs.

When, however, we talk about recycling then recycling it really should be rather than, as in the case of most glass recyclables, downcyling said glass into a road aggregate akin to sand. That is not recycling.

As far as single-use plastic is concerned this needs to be eliminated once and for all as it cannot, properly, be recycled, at least not into decent objects and while there is nothing, per se, wrong with good solid, for lack of a better word, plastic that will and can be in use for a long time, we should phase out plastic more and more over time till we are almost, once again, free of the stuff.

As far as other waste, including and especially E-waste is concerned, industry has to come into play and design to once again – yes, we were there once already – to make products that actually last not just for a year or three but for decades and more. Oh, yes, sorry, I forgot that that does not give huge profits to the capitalist shareholders.

Instead of solving the problem at home our respective governments are looking for other developing – we used to call those Third World – countries which we can contaminate, and their unsuspecting residents, with our waste, by having them recycle the stuff that we don't want to recycle at home, in bad conditions. The new colonialism.

We should be doing the recycling – after looking at all the other options of reuse and so on prior to recycling – at home, in good conditions for the workers and the environment, as dictated by law. This would also create jobs, from collecting, to sorting, to the actual recycling. But, alas, that cannot be as that would be expensive.

© 2018

Bitcoin's impact on the Planet

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Bitcoin mining uses more electricity than 159 countries

bitcoinThe surge of interest in Bitcoin has triggered not only skyrocketing prices and endless debate on whether it's bubble, but also an enormous increase in electricity consumption all over the world. And, what is important as far as the Planet and climate change are concerned is that most of this electricity is generated using non-renewable fossil fuel.

According to Digiconomist's Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index, as of November 20th Bitcoin's current estimated annual electricity consumption is 29.05 billion kilowatt hours (kWh). The figure represents 0.13 percent of global electricity consumption.

According to the UK energy comparison site Power Compare, Bitcoin mining is currently using more electricity than 159 individual countries.

If Bitcoin miners were one country, it would be ranked 61st in the world based on electricity consumption, comparable to Morocco or Slovakia.

Apparently, if it keeps increasing at this rate, Bitcoin mining will consume the entire world's electricity by February 2020, according to Power Compare reports.

Currently Ireland currently uses an estimated 25 billion kWh of electricity annually, so global Bitcoin mining consumption is 16 percent more than the country consumes. Britain consumes an estimated 309 billion kWh of electricity a year, so global Bitcoin mining consumption is only equivalent to 9.4 percent of the UK total.

However, how alarming this all may sound the majority of analyst expect the Bitcoin bubble to burst in the very near future and, aside from leaving a lot of people with egg on their faces and a big hole in their finances, the power consumption will drop to an insignificant level then.

What it, however, does show is what impact online activities doe have on the global power consumption and it also shows how, in so many levels, we have to change the way that we use, or better consume, power, often unnecessarily.

We only need to look at our high-streets, and such places, where the lights are on in the shops almost all through the night, at times even when there is no one about (bar burglars maybe) who could remotely looking into the shop windows to see the goods on display.

© 2018

Simple, frugal and eco living with children

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Simple, frugal and eco living with childrenMany people think that simple, frugal and especially eco-friendly living with children is an impossibility, as kids cost so much money in what they need.

But what do they really need? The greatest, the most important, need a child has is love and care and that should come free. Other things are, sort of, optional extras. And once again, without apology though, I have to warn people that some of my suggestions may be seen as controversial.

Clothes: As few as necessary, and those should, ideally, be secondhand, otherwise let them go naked, at home, and such, where this is possible, especially the boys that haven't reached puberty as yet (or bare bottom, if it is a little too cold). This is a common practice in many countries and cultures, especially in China and Asia, for the boys particularly, and it seems to benefit them no end physically and mentally.

But I don't want skid marks on the furniture, such as armchairs and sofa, you say. Well then either have them use the dog shelf or wash their behinds after they have done their ablutions, as it is done in China and India. Also better for their behinds than toilet paper.

Why not go the whole hog, so to speak, and start the practice of family nudism, at least at home. It also saves on adult clothes. Family nudism equals true minimalism as far as clothes – especially for the kids – are concerned and is good for Planet and wallet.

I have yet to encounter any boy, at least of prepubescent age, who does not take to more or less permanent nudity like a duck to water. You might be hard pressed to get and keep clothes on him even when required.

Underpants: None for the boys. Underpants are now – finally – even by and especially the medical profession considered as extremely bad for the male.

Swimming trunks (costume): If and where possible let them play in the water and swim bare.

Shoes: some, otherwise barefoot and that – even – outdoors as much as possible.

As I said, I can be very controversial.

Sodas: No. not at all, not even as a “treat”. Have them drink tap water instead, as well as milk and fruit juices (unsweetened). And maybe, also, tea and other infusions (herbal teas).

Toys: Some good quality ones – maybe wooden ones – building blocks and others, toys that do not use batteries, and also and especially teach them how to make their own toys and entertainment. It is amazing what entertainment kids can get from some sticks and stones and other things that cost nothing.

Create games (and toys) with them that use and are made from waste materials. There are some Chinese games that could use, for instance, plastic bottle tops as game pieces (counters). I shall be featuring them in the near future after I have created some example by way of reuse and upcycling. So, maybe, look out for that article for some ideas.

Then there are the outdoor games such as Tipcat, which in Pakistan is called Gulli-Danda (elsewhere it goes under different names but is the same) and where it is played a little like cricket with teams. Very easy to make and lots of fun. Tipcat can also be played alone and is still great fun.

When we were children a carved tipcat was always in the pocket to play the game as, generally, a suitable stick was always to be be found and, as we always carried a pocketknife, cut to size. However, a special one could be made and used instead.

Get wood offcuts from a lumberyard, or such, and make your own version of Lincoln Logs, for instance, or just simply wooden building blocks. The kids will have more fun with them than with commercially made ones, that's for sure, and you save money, and save stuff from going to the landfill.

Pizzas & other takeouts: Don't. Cook good wholesome food at home and involve the kids in the cooking activities, at the same time teaching them to cook. There are enough recipes to be found online that copy takeouts and which, as you have done them yourself, are by far healthier as you know what has gone into them and where and how they were prepared and cooked.

Fakeouts are so much better and are easily made at home and can be better than the real thing without going to the expense even of getting all the right ingredients. Chinese takeout foods such as Chow Mein, for instance, which, by the way, is not a dish actually found in China but which was invented and created in the Chinese diaspora and is very popular also among the diaspora Chinese. Same as the pizza is not Italian at all. You do not need soba noodles, for instance, for Chow Mein, and pizza can be made much better at home with homemade dough and your own choice of toppings.

Those are but a few ideas here as to simple, frugal and “green” living with children and they can add to some real savings in the financial as well as the environmental footprint department.

© 2018

European countries fall to Nazism

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

5568One European country after the other, especially EU member states, fall back towards fascism and Nazism. A worrying, but to some extent understandable, trend. Understandable because of the forced migration and the forced acceptance of migrants.

A while back more or less far left parties entered parliament in Poland and right-wing parties have been in power for a number of years already in Hungary. The two countries that make up the former Czechoslovakia also have far-right parties in parliament or in control.

In Germany in the 2017 election the AfD (Alternative für Deutschland), a right-wing party has entered parliament and is, to some extent, “responsible” for the problems, still in December 2017, of a government proper being formed. The funny thing – though not of the hilarious kind – is that most who voted for the AfD were working class who, apparently, did not read the party's manifesto.

Now, in December 2017, in Austria we have seen a far-right party actually becoming the coalition partner of another conservative right-wing party, taking, in fact the three major posts in government, including the interior ministry.

In countries that were once part of the so-called Warsaw Pact the worrying trend is that those more or less openly fascist parties are singing from a 1930s hymn sheet, including the song about putting Gypsies into labor camps or, as in Bulgaria, talking openly, at least some politicians do, about euthanazing Gypsies.

In Poland at the end of November 2017 thousands of “nationalists” called openly for Jews to leave the country, a fact that was reported in some of the western media. What they may have suggested that they might like to do to the Gypsies in Poland was not mentioned and I dare not even ask nor think about it. I am sure than we can all imagine what it is they would want to do.

© 2018