Monday, December 28, 2015

Some things are very cheap . . .

One of the advantages of living a little longer is that you are able to observe on a personal level how things have changed.   What I have been considering recently is that over time some items or services have become very cheap and others are now  more expensive.   But this situation is in a state of flux, changing from time to time and usually without notice.

For example, long distance calling has become very cheap.   That's a good thing. I can recall when making a long distance telephone call to the 'old country' was saved for births, deaths or marriages.   At about $5 a minute--which was a lot more then, than today (for example, minimum wage was about $1.50, so the equivalent charge today would be about $30. a minute)  the cost was prohibitive.  Of course, in those days, we also shouted into the telephone during those calls;  the better to be heard across the great distance.

Reading has become most inexpensive.   This might be considered unfortunate, at least for authors, but I'll save that for another post.    Why if you check out the number of books available to be read for free on Amazon or other sites, you will never run out of reading material.   There has always been the library, but that's not really free since it is supported by our tax dollars.    Does anyone still pay $3 for a used paperback anymore?

Watching movies via a service like Netflix cost little --about $10 a month for unlimited viewing.   On the other hand, cable television is ridiculously expensive, something like $50 a month to watch thirty year old programs and infomercials.   I think it may be only the live sports that keeps people around.  I read regular reports of people 'cutting the cable cord'.

By comparison, food--which is really more necessary that telephone calls or entertainment--is quite expensive, especially for good food.   Apples for a dollar each, steaks (for the carnivores) are about $20 a kilogram.  Except meat is now often priced in 100 gram weight which, of course, appears more reasonable, that latter amount being quite miniscule.   The ancient Romans knew to keep bread cheap (along with circuses) but today $4 to $5 a loaf is typical.

Our first colour television -- 20 inch colour -- cost us $500.   Recently we purchased a 32 inch one (lighter in weight and a better picture) for $250.   Many years of inflation have intervened between the purchases.

I'm still working on discerning a pattern to these changes.   Any ideas?

Monday, December 21, 2015



I was interested to read some statistics regarding holiday shopping, specifically as it pertains to shopping on one of  Amazon's websites.   It seems on-line purchasing is ever increasing, almost rivalling in store purchases.   Merchants and malls invest considerably in holiday decor, in store carollers, special promotions but it hasn't stopped the rate of defections.   Some reasons that are suggested:

1.   The crowds that are avoided

2.   The ability to comparison check and look at product ratings and evaluations

3.  Variety.   It isn't the stores' fault but they simply cannot stock 5000 varieties of socks or dog toys

4.   Fewer impulse purchases - not necessarily

5.   No paying for parking or a restaurant lunch

6.   No risk of being robbed of any items you leave in your car in the mall parking lot.

7.   Better prices?   I'm not sure about this one.

Some articles and bloggers suggest making your presents but that would still require obtaining the raw materials.   Are fabric and hobby shops busy at this time of year?

Miss Minimalist suggests a 'One Less Gift' certificate.   If your family and friends concur that would 
enable you to skip the shopping and spend more time on . . . .   You decide!

               To all of you:    HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Bees are Important!

This article  and also this one at least show that the issues of declining bee populations is still one we should care about.

Here's a passage from When Bees Die:


“Are you expecting anyone?”   Kas went over to the door of their apartment and spoke through the door.   “Who is it?”

“Kas, it’s me, Sarah.   Can I come in?  Please?   They’re looking for me.”

Kas opened the door to his sister.    Her dirty, tear-streaked face contorted into sobs as she flung herself onto him.

“What’s up, what happened, Sarah?   How’d your clothes get so dirty?”

“Hey, you want a drink, Sarah?”   Coral got up and took down a glass from their cupboard and filled it from their small filtered water supply container sitting on the counter.

“The guards . . . they came for me . . . at school.   I was so scared, Kas, I just ran.”

“When?   Who?   You mean the pollinator guards?”

Sarah nodded, slowly, taking a long drink of the offered water.   “Mrs. Marsh—that’s my teacher—she had talked to Mom and Dad about it a few weeks ago.”   She looked down at the floor.   “I haven’t been doing very well on the tests, I think.”

“Why didn’t someone tell me?  Damn it all, I’m always the last to know anything that’s happening at home.”   Kas began pacing again.  

“Why don’t you sit down, Sarah.   Kas, simmer down! Don’t go and do anything drastic.”   What were they going to do though?

Kast stopped pacing and stood for a moment looking at the two girls huddled at the small kitchen table.   Coral had passed a handkerchief to Sarah and the girl was wiping her nose and eyes with it.  Kas took a deep breath.

“So, what happened, Sarah?   Better fill me in on what I’ve been missing.” 

“You mean from when Mrs. Marsh talked to Mom and Dad?”

“Okay, were you there?”

“Yes . . . well, most of the time.    Mrs. Marsh said I wasn’t passing the math tests.   I didn’t know my number facts.   You know that’s adding and subtracting and times tables and stuff like that.   I just can’t remember.  I’ve tried but if I don’t use my fingers I just can’t figure out what 7 plus 5 is or anything like that.”  Silent tears were creeping down the corner of Sarah’s eyes.

“It’s okay, Sarah, don’t cry,” Coral said.     

 “But you do the tests at your carrel, on the computer, right?  Nobody sees if you use your fingers.”

 “But there’s only five seconds for each question.   I get behind and I can never catch up.  I’m just not good at math.  I stink at it.  Not like you, Kas.”

“Okay, never mind.   So what did mom and dad say?”

“Just keep practicing.   Mrs. Marsh gave them some flash cards.   I was supposed to practice them an hour a day but . . . but, well, I didn’t.    I guess I never thought anything would happen.”

“Something happened today then?”

“I went to the washroom to get a drink.  It’s so hot in the school.  While I was refilling my water bottle, my friend, Yvonne, came in and told me that there were guards back in class waiting to pick me up.   I knew I was going to be sent to the pollination fields, I just knew it.   Kas, I was so scared, I just ran.    I hid out at the playground, you know the one over on Norland Street?   I’ve noticed that the tracker doesn’t seem to work well there so I thought I might be safe.  At least just for a while.”  Sarah paused for breath and took another drink.

“Doesn’t work there?   Are you sure?”

Monday, December 7, 2015



We love our technology . . . when it works.   If not, why then it is downright frustrating.   A recent 2+ day power outage due to a minor windstorm made me realize how dependent we are.   Everything stops.     It was still early fall and warm enough outside that the furnace wasn’t missed.   But looking around our home, it became apparent that even though the furnace, the gas fireplace and the stove were natural gas powered, they were useless without electrical power because they required an electronic ignition to start.   Similarly, our cordless landline did not work without electrical power nor did cell phones because the cell phone towers were somehow not functioning either.  

At least the toilets still flushed.   Candles provided a modest amount of light, just enough to avoid tripping over the furniture but not sufficient to read or do many tasks.   Obtaining any news or information required a trip out to the car to listen to the radio.   A trip to a nearby gas station to purchase a block of ice was made in an attempt to deal with the thawing refrigerator full of food. Cash only—debit and credit card machines weren’t working either.   Traffic lights were out and driving felt hazardous with some vehicles ignoring the required four way stop provisions.   No lights working seemed to some to mean go ahead green. 

By the next morning, the annoyance that we were attempting to face with good grace deteriorated to downright annoyance.   Playing pioneer days was wearing thin.   We didn’t have the skills, we didn’t have the tools.  We had lots of time for conversation, sitting in the near dark.   Conversations ranged from the ineptitude of the local power company—it wasn’t like it had been a hurricane or tornado—to commitments to invest in solar or battery operated radios, flashlights or a generator or at least a cooler. 

Emergency preparedness advisers, both government and private, suggest that households arrange to be able to manage for 72 hours—3 days—without outside help.   After the almost three day power outage from a windstorm, I don’t like to consider what a major earthquake, something that is overdue in the Pacific Northwest, would do to local officials and government service providers. 
It’s unpleasant to feel helpless but it’s a situation that we’ve allowed to happen.   Pa Ingalls on the Prairie needed no one and nothing but his skills, ingenuity and hand tools.   When my computer starts working I’m going to order some survival tools.   For sure.