Valerie Yules Letters

December 6, 2014

Which way should a pram face?

Filed under: children, Education, Pleasures, social problems — Tags: , , — valerieyulesletters @ 11:23 pm

Sometimes a psychological problem of childhood can be prevented by simple parental actions early rather than therapy later.

Which way should a pram face?

Early developmental delays and psychological abnormalities cost a great deal in therapies today. How many are exacerbated by the way that a pram faces and could be prevented by having a pram that faced the pusher?

Prams usually faced the human who pushed them. The human talked to the baby, telling it about what they could see, and responding to the baby’s needs and chatter. The time spent on an outing was time spent with someone interested in the baby. They learned to talk.

Then prams started to face outward, so that the baby could see where it was going, and what was ahead of it – but with no help in understanding this, or ways of making its needs known except by crying loudly.

Mothers or others pushed the laden pram like they pushed luggage.
The baby did not see them, or see when it was about to be removed.

The mothers or others pushed the pram down the street. They sat with their mates at outside cafes and talked with them, but the baby still faced outward, and was given edibles such as chips of bottles from hands that came round to hand them to them. They ate and drank and looked at what they could not understand.

Sometimes it is even worse. The baby looks at meaningless mobiles that interrupt the sight of where they are going. Or a black veil over the pram gives the baby nothing to do except go to sleep. Go to sleep on an outing when there is so much to see!

The mothers who push this human luggage look like luggage-pushers, not like caring mothers.

It costs nothing to have a pram where the baby can see and hear what is happening to it, described by the pram-pusher, and it may save a lot of therapy in language, relating to others, and the meaning of the life it sees.
What does the research say?
The only research I have found on the subject was by Dr. M. Suzanne Zeedyk, of the University of Dundee , ‘What’s life in a baby buggy like?: The impact of buggy orientation on parent-infant interaction and infant stress’ 21 November 2008. ( She wrote up two studies. The first was a ‘national observational survey, conducted on High Streets in 54 locations throughout the UK and eventually comprising 2722 observations of parent-child pairs, which systematically documented the social interactions of families occurring during buggy use. The second was a small-scale experimental study with 20 mother-infant pairs, which built on the findings of Study I by monitoring both mother-infant interactions and indicators of infant stress, during journeys in the two buggy orientations.’
The average baby spent two hours per day in a pram, so the question is quite important. (Survey of the National Literacy Trust, 2005)
Two studies found that mums were more likely to speak and laugh with their babies in a parent-facing pushchair than in a forward-facing one. This means that taking your baby for a stroll may give you a great opportunity to make lots of eye contact and to bond with your baby
The research also claimed that sitting in a forward-facing pushchair increased a baby’s stress levels. Researchers concluded that travelling in a forward-facing pushchair can therefore leave your baby feeling isolated.
Zeedyk concluded that a cultural belief appeared to exist in the UK (and amongst manufacturers) that, once they can sit up, babies benefit from looking out onto the world around them. However, she claimed that research repeatedly shows that in order for babies to make effective use of that experience of the wider world, they need parents to help mediate and make sense of it for them.
This finding was not accepted by everyone. Baby Love author Robin Barker said that as long as babies are loved and fed, the direction they face when in a pram is irrelevant, but her evidence is anecdotal. Ms Barker said parents had enough to worry and feel guilty about without considering which way they push their child in a stroller.
“This is just another thing that can worry mothers,” she said.
Nevertheless, she does make a point – what a particular baby may want. Associate Professor Hannah Dahlen of the Australian College of Midwives said many children get bored facing inwards after three months.
“There is absolutely nothing wrong with children looking forward and watching stimulus around them,” she said.
“He doesn’t seem interested in turning around,” one mother said of her nine-month-old son. Another said her nine-month-old baby was trying to turn around as soon as she could. “She got bored looking at me,” she said.
Perhaps such mothers were not using the pram-time for interacting with their child, being bored themselves.

One solution of course is having a pram that can be fixed to look the way that the baby wanted, and these prams can be bought.

November 19, 2014

Think about spelling

Filed under: Education, humor, social innovations, social problems, spelling — Tags: , , — valerieyulesletters @ 6:33 am

Think about spelling

1 Which are the most common words?
36 irregularly-spelled words make up 12% of almost every text. Which appear here?

Once upon   a   time,   the   beautiful   daughter   of   a great   magician   wanted   more pearls to put   among her treasures. “Look through the centre of the moon when it is blue,” said her mother in answer to her question. “You   might   find   your heart’s desire.” The princess laughed, because she   doubted these words. Instead, she used her imagination, and moved into the photography business, and took pictures of the moon in colour. “I perceive most certainly that it is almost wholly white,” she thought. She also found that she could make enough money in eight months to buy herself two lovely huge new jewels too.

Answer: 27 very common words are here: 14 common words are difficult to spell.
Once a the of a more to put her through when it is said in you your because she I most that could make in two too.

2. Which letters are not needed in words?
Once upon   a   time,   the   beautiful   daughter   of   a great   magician   wanted   more pearls to put   among   her treasures. “Look through the centre of the moon when it is blue,” said her mother in answer to her question. “You   might   find   your heart’s desire.” The princess laughed, because she   doubted these words. Instead, she used her imagination, and moved into the photography business, and took pictures of the moon in colour. “I perceive most certainly that it is almost wholly white,” she thought. She also found that she could make enough money in eight months to buy herself two lovely huge new jewels too.

These words have letters that they do not need:
beautiful daughter more pearls treasures through centre when answer you might your heart’s laughed because doubted instead business colour perceive certainly wholly white thought could buy two lovely

3. Which letters are misleading in words?

Once upon   a   time,   the   beautiful   daughter   of   a great   magician   wanted   more pearls to put   among   her treasures. “Look through the centre of the moon when it is blue,” said her mother in answer to her question. “You   might   find   your heart’s desire.” The princess laughed, because she   doubted these words. Instead, she used her imagination, and moved into the photography business, and took pictures of the moon in colour. “I perceive most certainly that it is almost wholly white,” she thought. She also found that she could make enough money in eight months to buy herself two lovely huge new jewels too.

These words have misleading letters:-
Once beautiful daughter of great wanted more pearls to put among treasures. “Look through centre of when is blue,” said mother answer to you might your heart’s desire laughed, because doubted these words. Instead used moved into business took of colour I perceive certainly is wholly white thought could enough money I eight months to buy two lovely new.

4. Which letters are missing from words?
Once upon   a   time,   the   beautiful   daughter   of   a great   magician   wanted   more pearls to put   among   her treasures. “Look through the centre of the moon when it is blue,” said her mother in answer to her question. “You   might   find  your heart’s desire.” The princess laughed, because she   doubted these words. Instead, she used her imagination, and moved into the photography business, and took pictures of the moon in colour. “I perceive most certainly that it is almost wholly white,” she thought. She also found that she could make enough money in eight months to buy herself two lovely huge new jewels too.

These words have missing letters:
put might find used imagination moved most almost also huge

5. How would you spell this story?
Once upon   a   time,   the   beautiful   daughter   of   a great   magician   wanted   more pearls to put   among   her treasures. “Look through the centre of the moon when it is blue,” said her mother in answer to her question. “You   might   find   your heart’s desire.” The princess laughed, because she   doubted these words. Instead, she used her imagination, and moved into the photography business, and took pictures of the moon in colour. “I perceive most certainly that it is almost wholly white,” she thought. She also found that she could make enough money in eight months to buy herself two lovely huge new jewels too.

6. Is this spelling esier to read?  Cud u mak it esier?

Ons upon a  time,  th   butiful   dautr  of  a grat   magician  wonted   mor perls tu puut   amung   her tresurs. “Luuk thru the centr of the moon wen it is blu,” sed her mothr in ansr to her questn. “u   mit   find yur hert’s dezir. Th prinsess lafd, becos she   douted thez werds. Insted, she usd her imajinatn, and muvd into th fotografy biznes, and tuuk picturs of th moon in culr.”I percev most sertnly that it is almost holy wite,” she thaut. She also found that she cud mak enuf muny in ait munths tu by herself 2 luvly huj nu juwels too.

October 12, 2014

Climate change and exercise

Climate change and Housework Exercise

Recently a radio station ran a campaign for more exercise. People rang in about how they exercised with gyms, bikes and so on. None of it was useful, apart from transport.
In the past until about 1950. and in many countries still, exercise by almost everybody was useful. Only the wealthy took on useless exercise – or huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’, which had something at the end of it, or in ancient Greece, they went to the Gymnasium.

Most of the people rested as their recreation; Their work was their exercise – outside, growing their food, or inside, cooking, cleaning and making their clothes.
Today in our cities almost everybody uses electricity instead of exercise in the home.
Yet we can reduce carbon emissions by reducing unnecessary use of electricity and exercising instead.

People could save electricity by bending their knees, stretching their arms, strengthening their arm muscles, tuning up their wrists, and reducing their waistline. Thus with minimum electricity and carbon emissions, they would sweep and garden, clean the floor, polish, and sweep cobwebs off the ceiling.
It would improve their circulation, tone up pelvic-floor muscles, keep the heart fit, strengthen the legs and prevent osteoporosis, by doing housework like it was done up to 1950, without unnecessary electricity.

Carbon-emissions are saved by not driving.
Walking to go shopping used to require for light shopping, a basket, soft-handled string-bag, dilly-bag or backpack, and for heavy shopping, a shopping jeep or pram. This is exercise especially good when the back was kept straight and elegant and pulling or pushing with your arms so that the back was not bent. Shopping was not weighed down with wasteful packaging

A good hand-mower for level or ‘drought’ lawns. Push from the waist, not hunched, for figure-improving exercise for the stomach. Save $$$ and £££. A hand-mower saves carbon emissions and does not annoy neigbours. There is at least one excellent mower on the market so light it almost flies.
Do repetitive jobs with rhythm for more speed, pleasure and exercise – eg dishwash by hand, hang up washing, make beds, use a carpet-sweeper for quick jobs rather than vacuum. Move your feet rather than stand still at kitchen jobs, or use a high stool or chair when convenient, to avoid varicose veins. Carbon-emissions saved by not using electricity.
Exercise while you wait. Walk and turn while waiting for a bus or train or person, turn and stretch when sitting at a phone. These are times to exercise the neck, feet, leg and arm raising, pelvic-floor contracting, posture correction, correct breathing.
Sing or hum around the house or in the bathroom for morale and good breathing. Children love to hear you singing, until they are old enough to discriminate. Dont disturb adults though.
Dance down the passage sometimes.
Creative hobbies for healthy exercise – play music, paint, carpentry, home renovating.
Play with children. Even catching children for bedtime or washing them can be good exercise.
Sleeplessness. A good time for breathing exercises . . . . by the time you have breathed deeply to a hundred or so . . .
Don’t use electrical goods that do the job no better than you could get exercise. Buy the goods you really need to make life easier with the money you save.
Exercise inventions. Here’s an opening for the local bicycle industry. An exercise bike could generate TV power for your home – pedal as you watch, or run a mulch-maker, or . .
One Englishman powers his television with an exercise bike – the children can watch as long as they keep pedalling.
Human energy could generate power for many household tasks, and charge batteries. Treadmills and all those machines to make you strong or powerful or fast, could all do something useful – turning a compost-cutter, helping to make waste-paper into recycled paper, grinding up stuff, charging batteries.

Loneliness is a major reason why people do not like doing housework. Have a child or adult friend around, or listen to interesting talks on the radio to ,or even sometimes enjoy the quiet, to think and daydream.
Do men and women need the same sort of exercise?
For hundreds of thousands of years, men have been the exercise freaks, out hunting and fighting and digging and building, muscling their way around, puffing and panting and sprinting away. Today if modern man does not have regular vigorous exercise, his health deteriorates.
For hundreds of thousands of years, women have worked very hard but at a more regular pace. They have not needed large-muscle speed and power. And if they survived child-bearing and resulting disorders, they lived longer. Today perhaps modern women are still evolved to need that sort of exercise, which most women have had in housework and in the fields. Perhaps puffing and panting exercises are for male physiology, and may wear women out sooner. As, conceivably, the men’s harder, faster life, may actually wear out the healthy male for a shorter life than the conservationist female. Like that famous jogger, they may ‘die healthy’.

Formal exercise is unnatural. That is, understood as formal exercise not contaminated by being useful in any way. I never do any formal exercises. (I’m heading for eighty-six, and last tested bone density was better than my age.) Instead, I do gardening, walk to the shops with a shopping jeep, do housework – including twin-tub washing machine and outdoor drying, and carpet-sweep the floors
Formal exercise can be a waste of fossil fuels as well as waste of time when people substitute it for doing things for themselves.
Snobbery and exercise
Throughout history, slaves and peasants did the hard work. Useful work was thought undignified. Indeed, most of it was dreadful toil. The upper classes got their exercises at sports, hunting and gymnasiums.
Chinese mandarins even grew their fingernails about a foot long to prove they did no manual work.
Today machines can do the dreadful toil. Thank goodness. But should we still be snobs about useful work that is healthy exercise for us? As well as saving emissions, electricity, oil and money.

Do men die younger because they do the wrong sort of exercise – the repetitive fast Olympic sports type (lots of RSS)and not regularly, and women did regular housework exercise? Doing housework exercise at the times that you don’t really need the electric appliances also saves carbon emissions and money, and you can listen to the wireless at the same time. Or just think.

October 11, 2014

The cost of Bombing a truck

Filed under: political — Tags: , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 9:45 am

. If the misery of others leaves you indifferent and with no feelings of sorrow, you should not be called a human being. (—Sa’adi, thirteenth century Persian poet)

Leaders in a war make statements addressed to their people, not to the world. Their actions are with an eye on their peoples, not to the whole situation.

Remembering this, we should reconsider our air war against the brutal caliphate.

We are spending millions on our airplanes and their direction – a sortie over the semi- desert can be reported as killing five enemy or destroying three trucks. It will have cost at the least thousands of dollars.  The only profiteers are the armaments makers. (The British arms fair is the biggest in the world, and sells British-made torture implements and civilian-killing land-mines and bombs)

What will it have done for the hearts and minds of those the planes fly over?  Especially the civilian casualties or those whose property is destroyed.  We do not speak their languages. They may see the Muslim jihad as more their friend than the West, which is alien.  They may have memories of the West going back to the first invasion.

We bomb – forgetting how the British responded to the Blitz. We care little about the Arab archaeological treasures as well as the civilian homes and workplaces, and our additions to the world’s loss of land and infrastructure.

We mourn the brutal executions of Westerners – but only mention in passing the horrible fates of civilians under the caliphate.  This makes clear our own preoccupations

Our leaders may say that at least they are doing something –  they do no know how to do anything else and so play with our military might that will not harm ourselves.

October 4, 2014

Democracy can be worse than useless

Filed under: political, politicall problems — Tags: — valerieyulesletters @ 9:10 am

October 1 2014

Democracy can be worse than useless

The first great democracy, in 5th century Athens, with all citizens voting, showed the dangers of democracy when the people are uninformed.

The citizens voted for an attack on another city for the sake of glory and gold, and had a catastrophic defeat; they treated a rebellious island with the utmost cruelty; they followed a charismatic leader and then rejected him so that he led their enemies against them; they squabbled over an oligarchy.

We should all consider how democracies can fail, before seeking to impose them on other countries

Real estate scandals

Filed under: conservation, economic, social problems — Tags: , , — valerieyulesletters @ 8:42 am

Sept 2014

A beautiful home, designed a few years ago by a distinguished architect, in perfect condition, is to be destroyed in our street.

It might have been saved – a hopeful buyer would have moved in immediately to live there. The neighbors would have been relieved. The estate agent would still have made thousands in profit. But that buyer only offered 3.1 million dollars, and was second.

The winner at the auction- a foreigner – offered more and plans immediate destruction, to build a McMansion.

This is happening all over our Monash area – good buildings destroyed and McMansions going up – which will then be offered for sale.

See the local paper’s real estate supplement.

If the second bidder had won, there would have been no notice in GDP – he simply would have moved in.

The first bidder has GDP added to by the present home’s destruction and the building of new – and more employment – what profit to Australia!

September 22, 2014

Plastic bags in the oceans

Filed under: climate, conservation, economic, social innovations, Waste — Tags: , , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 1:24 am

Action on plastic bags in the oceans

Until fifty years ago, the world lived without plastic bags. It can be done.
Most people do not realise what happens to plastic bags in the oceans.
One step to action:
Every supermarket should be offered posters to put near their doors –
These posters tell people what happens to plastic bags in the oceans, and offer alternatives to carry their purchases – like cotton re-usable bags and baskets.
Telling of Alternatives to using plastic bags to put their rubbish and dog poo in.
Telling of Alternatives to putting food scraps in their rubbish bins in plastic bags – like worm farms, compost, and waste packaging.
Using plastic bags again and again, not one-use.
See Dr Jennifer Lavers account of what happens to plastic bags in the creeks and oceans and

Waste no plastic bags
Here’s how:
Re-use plastic bags. Keep them in a bigger bag hung on a door, or in your shopping jeep. When you go shopping, put some in your green bag, string-bag, basket or empty grocery box, and re-use them until they are tatty. Then use the tatty bags and empty packaging packets to put your squelchy rubbish in, to put in the rubbish bin what can’t go in the compost. Nobody needs to take home a new plastic bag from the supermarket just for the sake of something to put the rubbish in.
You don’t even need bin-liners, except perhaps a bit of newspaper or cardboard at the bottom.
Plastic bags can also be re-used as pooper-scooper bags, and large pretty bags can be kept for gift-carriers.
And it is amazing how, somehow, plastic bags will breed at home. so you don’t run short.
Reasons against plastic bags
Our billions of plastic bags are about the worst litter after cigarette butts. Plastic bags choke and smother dolphins, penguins, seals, fish, birds, pets and bushland animals.
Plastic bags are made of petrochemicals, increasingly costly. They wreck the environment. Even biodegradable bags can take longer to degrade than the life of the person who chucks them out.
It takes more energy and resources to make paper bags than plastic ones – the solution is to use neither. It is estimated to take 12 million barrels of oil to produce the 100 billion plastic bags used annually in the US alone.
Plastic bags don’t recycle. Anything put inside a plastic bag into your recycling bin will just be chucked away into landfill, plastic bag and all.

What can people do instead of bringing home more plastic bags to put their rubbish in? or buying single-use bin-liners? It depends where you are, especially if you live in a multistorey apartment block, but there are solutions. Sooner rather than later councils and landlords, builders and architects must come up with answers.
But what can you do, wherever you are?
What did people do before plastic bags for their rubbish? Plastic bags made of thin, flexible, blown polyfilm only came in 1977, believe it or not.
In many countries people still throw their rubbish in the street, expecting pigs, birds or sweepers will get rid of it somehow. In places where rubbish is put out in big plastic bags, crows and rats peck, gnaw and multiply. We had hardly any rubbish at all when I was a child, in an Australian city with a Scottish mother. The dustbin was tiny, and the rubbish was wrapped in newspapers that had first been read and then used as kitchen table-cloths or wet-floor mats. Today, if you are able to have a worm-farm or compost bin or pets, or even pot-plants, the only food scraps that really must go out in the trash bin are chicken-bones – and even those can burn into fertiliser in the ashes of my garden-stove.
But if you live in a high rise flat, that does not even have a landing where you can keep a neat little rat-proof worm-farm for friends who like compost, or a rat-proof rubbish chute (very very difficult, because rats eat plastic) there are still other things you can do instead of automatically putting all your kitchen rubbish into plastic bags, hung on a peg or lining a bin. Or worse, putting it down the drains with an insinkerator.
New methods to recycle food waste for useful purposes are developing rapidly. For example, bokashi bins which use fermentation can sit in your kitchen, looking really trendy. The costs of such techniques will keep coming down.
You can look at what sorts of rubbish that you have.
* The only kitchen rubbish that needs wrapping of any sort to keep your rubbish bin clean and unsmelly is the squelchy stuff and bones. But you accumulate enough unrecyclable packaging to put the squelchy stuff into. Waxed cardboard boxes, plastic bags inside cereal boxes and other food packets, the unrecyclable plastic containers, plastic bags that have been re-used so often in shopping that they have become tatty – keep these in a grocery box. As needed, fill these containers with your squelchy rubbish to put in your kitchen bin. All this bin needs is a liner at the bottom, such as the plastic wrapping from a daily newspaper, or tatty cardboard.
IN THE KITCHEN keep your bin for rubbish on the floor or inside a cupboard, the size and shape you need need. If you don’t want to bend, your bin can sit on a box. I like a rectangular bin kept under the table. Just tip in the kitchen rubbish without bagging, except for bones and soggy stuff and bones, which go inside the old packaging. With a worm farm or compost bins of course there is no soggy stuff.
YOUR OUTSIDE WHEELIE BIN needs only a bit of old cardboard or paper, such as copy-paper wrapping at the bottom. The contents of the bin just get tipped into the garbage truck, with no human handling, so plastic wrapping isn’t needed at all..
Your kitchen-rubbish regime soon becomes as easy and automatic a habit as brushing your teeth.
MAKING LESS RUBBISH to go in your bin.
Re-use, recycle, mend, op-shop what you can. Use all the food you buy. Compost what you can for your garden or neighbour’s garden. Make a little worm-farm. Taking out the trash appears to be the major chore for teenagers in American comic-strips. No need here.
Take re-useable string bags, baskets, cardboard grocery boxes (keep boxes in your car) or a shopping jeep. (See the chopping chapter, for a description of the waterproof two-wheeled shopping jeep with a stander foot, that is the most useful and easy to pull or push or let stand.)
Re-use clean bags for shopping, storing things in, for carrying anything you like. Wear one as a hat if you are caught in the rain. It is far more creative as a game to find 100 uses for a plastic bag than finding 100 uses for a dead cat or a brick. Or, ‘100 ways to do without plastic bags’
You can keep your collection of re-useable multi-use grocery plastic bags in a box, or in your ‘green’ shopping bag, which you hang on a coat-hook or in the kitchen, or inside another large plastic bag on a hook, or in your shopping jeep . You find they will breed. More sensible than squeezing them into a bag, to pull out at the other end looking tatty already.)
Keep bags that have become tatty inside another box or bag, to end their working lives as containers for soggy-squilchy rubbish you can’t use for anything.
LARGE PLASTIC BAGS from clothing and other stores are useful for storage and for gift-bags. The labels can be appropriate for the gift – books in a book bag, surprises in a show bag. You can store large bags flat in a drawer, or inside each other on a hook in a back room, or slip bags over an old mop-pole in a corner. It is easy then to find just the one you want.
(But there is another problem. What about the supermarkets? Checkout staff can work quickly when groceries all go straight into the plastic bags that hang ready in dozens below the till. It can be slower when someone hands over green re-usable bags to be filled. When someone uses no standard bags at all it can take longer still, because goods are handed back to the customer to pack herself in her trolley, box or big shopping bag, while she gets in the way, but at present supermarkets with high volume turnover may want to keep on dispensing plastic bags, to avoid slowing down, even for a second. Yet even this can be solved, for example, by ergonomic improvements, or by computerised checkouts that are on the way.)
The old story runs—For want of a horse-shoe nail the kingdom was lost. Plastic bags are like horse-shoe nails in reverse. Smothered in plastic bags the kingdom was lost.
Save a fish! Save petrochemicals! Save landfill! Save the future! Twenty million Australians could save sixty million plastic bags a week! That’s a lot of saving.
Biodegradable bags
Friends of the Earth say degradable and biodegradable bags are not an environmentally friendly option. Degradable plastic bags usually can’t be recycled with normal plastic bags, and people may think they can put degradable bags into their compost bins, which they can’t. Degradable bags are still made from plastic, continuing to place demands on oil. They contain a metal additive to make them degrade and tend to require sunlight to break down. If biodegradable bags end up in landfill, they eventually produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
Paper bags are no better, says Friends of the Earth. They are less easily reused and require more energy and resources to make and transport than plastic alternatives. Bags made from recycled plastics, which are then reused or recycled, are considered by many to be a better option, but recycling points are not yet widely accessible. Far better to use durable bags, string-bags, baskets or boxes when shopping.

Re-uses for plastic mail envelopes and newspaper plastic wrap
Plastic mail envelopes and newspaper plastic wrap have more uses than you realize, if you cut or pull them off so they do not tear, and keep them in a handy flat box for the envelopes and a container for the newspaper wraps.
I use them for keeping my papers sorted, mailing papers and disks, covering food dishes in the frig, and in making flower bouquets.
DOG POOPER-SCOOPERS. It is not only undesirable but in many places illegal for dog droppings to be allowed in public spaces. They can spread diseases and parasites, they get washed into drains to pollute them, and mess up unwary footsteps. They cost councils and water-companies a surprising amount of money.
Plastic bags are useful to take with you as pooper-scoopers for your dog. Tongs or plastic gloves are used to scoop them into the bag. Rather than buy plastic bags specially for this purpose, however biodegradable they may be advertised, re-use the bags that turn up in your home anyway, including the plastic envelopes that come in the mail with magazines and reports.
There are now high-tech products advertised to be able to mechanically scoop poo into bags, or to solidify it with expensive sprays, but none so far are worth the money, or to be frank, the extra effort they really involve.
Sooner rather than later however, more environmentally friendly disposal method will be invented, so that all those tons of dog droppings in every city every year can at least be used as fertilizer in compost (since because dogs are not plant-eaters, their poo is not much good on its own.)

September 21, 2014

Experiment in teaching literacy

Filed under: children, Education, spelling — Tags: , , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 11:40 pm

Teachers teach what they have been taught to teach. It does not occur to most of them to query what they have been taught. Some children will always fail to learn to read; the reasons are assumed to be intrapersonal, their own defects, if they are middle class, and their lack of educational background, if they are disadvantaged. Who dares think that the task may be at fault? Who dares think that the task could be easily amended so that more children and adults could read it?
Thousand of books and articles are published every year, and thousands of research articles are devoted to this terrible failure to learn to read in English. Yet the failure to learn in English is greater than in any other language that has half the resources dedicated to its teaching.
In Victorian times hundreds of the eminent and well-meaning sought to reform everything they thought needed reforming, and this Age of Reform achieved most of its aims, from abolition of slavery to the Industrial Revolution. But they did not manage to improve English spelling or its teaching. So the working classes spent a third of their primary education on learning spelling. The ‘dyslexic’ among the middle classes received remedial education once they had failed.
Today we realize that the spelling reformers went too far. They tried to reform English spelling root and branch – it was too much, changing the alphabet or changing the spelling so much it would need to be learnt all over again.
But now Anglo countries are running out of innovation. Are we afraid? The costs of our illiteracy and child difficulties are more than in other modern languages which have updated the ways that they teach beginners, making it esier for them – in alphabetic spellings updating them, and in languages like Chinese and Japanese making the beginning of learning to be easy, e.g.with hiragana, and leaving the hard way for later, when learners were more confident and readier to spend the time on repetition to remember their characters in hanzi and kanji.
In English the educators and dictionary-makers stick to the old spellings, and a vast literature exists to keep them as they are, for the sake of tradition.
Yet it would be easy to make life easier for the down-trodden in English spelling. The Left would be able to reach them, which it cannot now.
– http://

Innovation in publishing and education in English

April 25, 2014

cheap worm farms reduce landfill from rubbish

Filed under: conservation, economic, garden, social innovations, social problems, Waste, waste — Tags: , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 6:24 am

THIS simple design for a homemade worm farm is rat-proof and fits a small shady space. It suits a family of four, as the worms eat the kitchen scraps so fast!
All you need are two empty plaster or paint cans, often thrown out from building sites, and two cheap plastic garden sieves. Builders and plasterers at a building site will usually be happy to give you the used cans rather than throw them in a rubbish skip.
Place one can in a depression in a shady space on damp ground. Put a sieve on top. Cut the bottom from the second can. Place the can on the sieve. Top it with the second sieve (if there are very clever rats around, weight this sieve with half a brick, so vermin can’t lift it).
The sieves stop rats, mice and blowflies getting in, but allow worms perfect freedom to come and go. A few fruit flies do not matter.
Start off the worm farm with some damp earth with a few worms in it. They will multiply quickly, so there is no need to buy worms.
Then all you do is add your kitchen scraps (except bones) to the top can. Worms don’t like citrus, eggshells or tea leaves much, so put those in your compost bin instead. After a few weeks, you’ll have made rich fertiliser for the garden. Just lift the top can off and take out the fertiliser (full of worms) from the bottom of it. You can also take rich worm tea (from the worm poo) from the bottom can.
Shift the worm farm around the garden if you like, but keep it in a well-shaded spot—a cooked worm farm is a sad and smelly thing.
Apart from the fantastic fertiliser, having a worm farm reduces your waste: only bones and packaging need go out in your rubbish or recycling bins. Your compost bin (or heap) will
a All you need is a couple of old buckets and two garden sieves.
also have less food scraps in it and so will be less likely to attract rats. As an added bonus, the worm farm also stops the used plaster cans from going to landfill; these plastic cans are useful as gardening buckets, too, and for making liquid manure.
It’s amazing how quickly the worms reduce the scraps to earth, so the worm farm is hardly ever full. And with a well-run worm farm there’s no smell.
Friendly neighbours in flats could share a worm farm or you could even keep this farm on a balcony in a flat.
Perhaps councils could promote or sell these very cheap worm farm kits, as well as the more expensive commercial worm farms that many sell already. Everyone could afford one! S

Nature Strips and Climate Change

Filed under: conservation, garden, social innovations, Waste, waste — Tags: , , — valerieyulesletters @ 6:20 am

Nature Strips and Climate Change

Monash Council, Melbourne, is about to allow other planting on nature strips instead of grass. This is a small contribution to reducing emissions through reducing power mowing (since people do not use manual mowing with mowers like my Flymo H33, shops sell only poor quality manual mowers, and CHOICE sees power-mowers as the only choice).

‘Sensible’ planting is of tough ground covers and small shrubs which require minimum care and no watering, and whose seeds do not spread across verges.
Cars can be parked on them; they do not mind.
They can be transplants of tough plants which are already established in your garden.
I have several varieties of gazanias and small daisies. ‘Strawberry creepers’ are also hardy.
Whether Monash will approve my two groups of agapanthus I don’t know yet, since these need trimming to avoid obscuring neighbours’ vision of roads, and their flowers must be cut before they seed.

At present many nature strips are simply dust that is power-mowed. Others bcome mud-patterns when cars and motor-bikes park on them. The tracks of a single car remain for months. People can hold off mowing their strip while all the weeds of the neighborhood flourish on them.

Once people enjoy the savings of time, trouble and petrol of their ‘Nature’ nature strip, they may turn their attention to the rest of their garden, to make it a useful place of beauty, flowers, vegetables, timber, play, relaxation, water-saving, clothes-drying and bird and animal life (except possums!) instead of just another area to keep under control. They can do this too without power-mowers.

Everyone with a pocket-handkerchief of a lawn thinks they need their own several-hundred-dollar noise-making polluting neighbor-annoying petrol-mower. Encourage them to think outside the strip.

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