Valerie Yules Letters

February 9, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — valerieyulesletters @ 11:28 am

 17 October 2008

Q. Re why do women shave their armpits?

A. Razor industry promotions encourage men to shave their heads to look like oldies, and women to shave their bodies to look like little girls. Like tobacco promotion in China and junk food promotion for children, it ‘fills a need’.



Filed under: Uncategorized — valerieyulesletters @ 11:26 am

4 October 2008 Human metabolism that wastes no food ‘Food for thought’. Bijal Trivedi and Matt Walerk discuss ways to make the most of our food. I suggest two more, to stop the enormous amount of wasted waste of food at every stage of its production and use, and to improve human metabolism, to make the most of the food we do eat. Western ingenuity has been directed to developing ways for people to eat as much as they like’ by taking minimum nourishment from it. This is a paradoxical pursuit while others go hungry.

Now our ingenuity is needed to get maximum nourishment from less food – and to be able to enjoy many more sources of great pleasure as well as the great pleasure of eating, so that consuming need not be a major obsession . There are many examples in the world of people who are very healthy eating half or less than the average Western diet. How do they do it? Babies’ metabolisms appear to adapt to the quantity of food they are given, and in many cases, this is too much. (Not included☺ A third strategy, also emphasising quality rather than quantity, is to try to prevent the spectre of nine billion people on the planet, and so try to ensure better lives for fewer children.)


Filed under: Uncategorized — valerieyulesletters @ 11:25 am

Real wealth does not rest with banks October 7 IT IS ironic that Peter Costello understands what the banks are getting away with and that the Labor Government is letting them do it. Why do banks have to be rewarded for having to pay high interest rates to borrow from abroad? It has been banks’ policy to encourage Australians into debt and to discourage them from being savers who could supply capital. Pitiful interest rates for small savers mean that many people gamble to make money. Australians’ annual gambling losses of $15 billion would be a nice fund to help supply capital for lending. We need a national bank with the aim of raising capital from Australians for wise lending to Australians for the public benefit. Costello probably also has the arithmetic to see that payments to first home owners have pushed up property prices even further.

Deliberately increasing the population increases demand for housing and so property prices rise further. In a sane society, property values would allow a worker to buy a home within five years, not carry a millstone for 30 or more. The recent BRW Young Rich List is overweight with billions made from producing nothing, through hedge funds and property. Does the United States teach us nothing about banks, speculation and true wealth?


Filed under: Uncategorized — valerieyulesletters @ 11:21 am

October 4 2008 Sir, I challenge the Financial Times or Andrew Mueller (“Free up Spelling? Give me a break”, Moment of Madness, FT Weekend Magazine, September 27/28) to set out in print the “rules of written English, arcane and illogical though some of them may be, that can be learnt by anyone”. The rules of German or Italian spelling can be set out on a page; English really requires a dictionary because of all the exceptions and inconsistencies. Prof John Wells of the Spelling Society was trying to apply some of our spelling rules more consistently. It was once hoped that computers could spell if they were programmed with all the spelling rules but computers have proved to be no better than secondary-school students. So spell-checkers have to be programmed word by word, not by spelling rules. It is high time for experiments, not arguments, to test whether taking some of the unnecessary traps out of present spelling, such as redundant letters in words that serve no purpose to represent meaning or pronunciation, could really help to reduce the great and costly literacy problems of English-language countries, by making English spelling obey its own rules more consistently.


Filed under: Uncategorized — valerieyulesletters @ 11:19 am September 1 2008. Gambling about water A 5000 litre tank can cost as little as $2000 all up for a new building – see Choice – cheaper and easier than retrofitting with inside plumbing later. Yet whole estates are going up relatively tankless. Gamblers could better spend that sort of money on a tank as a gamble than on pokies and Tatts – less than $39 a week for one year. It is a safer gamble that Melbourne winters will still fill tanks than that we can afford the emissions and energy costs of relying on a desalination plant. If for health reasons such as obesity, more people need exercise, then instead of lifting weights as many do, carrying a few buckets a day can be part of thrifty housework exercise, made entertaining and educational by listening to the radio. Often tanks can operate by gravity, not needing pumps. Indeed, if we started applying our minds to our housekeeping, we could rethink many of our needs and unnecessary waste. Tanks have been an iconic part of the Australian landscape. With a bit of imagination and artistry, Melbourne could have another tourist asset, far less expensive and more valuable than many imported ‘events’. Is it a problem if people do not need to buy so much water? A Labor government should rethink what social and economic good it needs money for, and whose interests it is governing for.


Filed under: Uncategorized — valerieyulesletters @ 11:18 am

February 3 2008 . . School holidays are for freedom. Helen Hayward (“School’s still out and it’s time to restore a little balance,” Opinion, 27/1) and all young mothers should know that until recently children loved holidays because it was a time of freedom to do what they liked, the only rule to be in for meals. Parents might hardly ever see them, except on beach or bush outings that all the family enjoyed, or an occasional treat out. Holidays were a time to roam and explore the neighbourhoods, play games and sports, enjoy hobbies, make things, read to your hearts’ content, even help your parents. A time to learn independence and initiative. What parents were doing was their own affair. Write books, OK. What has gone wrong that parents are now martyred trying to keep the children entertained in the holidays? What toys can children play with endlessly, rather than stare at screens? How can children learn to become teenagers able to entertain themselves without money? Melbourne needs to stop becoming an ‘unlivable’ place where children cannot play in the streets, and may not even have a backyard to play outside. The problem is not the length of the school holidays, but how our communities and culture are shaping up to be child-unfriendly.


Filed under: Uncategorized — valerieyulesletters @ 11:16 am

Could the Age have occasional Opinion articles by older parents who solved the problems being continually voiced by young women, anguished because of ignorance? The same problems are repeatedly aired year after year. For example:

Opinion piece 1. Anguished young person faced with some problem they have no solution for.

Opinion piece 2. Contribution or contributions by people who experienced the same situation and coped. This could be a model for other Opinion pieces which are Problems or Whinges left unanswered. Or you could have a heading for Readers’ Letters in response, rather than just scattering them among miscellaneous letters.


Filed under: Uncategorized — valerieyulesletters @ 11:14 am

December 28 2007 Spelling reform: a little would help a lot In the Christmas season, we think of those less fortunate than ourselves. These include the children ‘whose life chances are blighted by the English spelling system. Disadvantaged children are the most handicapped by unpredictability in English spelling. The next step must surely be practical. How can this needless barrier be reduced without disrupting all those who like us are fortunate and literate, and without losing our heritage of print and international visual compatibility with other modern languages? What research and experiment are needed?

The print media, including The Independent, have an interest in hosting public discussion about ways to extend literacy to those currently failing. Removing the traps out of English spelling does not require wholesale change, as was once believed. Most of it is consistent already, and its principles can be applied to the outliers. Long-term trends and pilot research already support streamlining spelling by omitting surplus letters in words. The 31 most common irregular words can be retained, as not too much to learn. The public need to be informed on relevant issues such as ‘spelling by ear and reading by eye’, spelling as a supra-dialect convention, and the nature of the abilities and adaptability of readers and writers as evident in the popularity of short text messaging. Pilot tests of what might help disadvantaged learners at no cost to ourselves should at least be given a go.


Filed under: Uncategorized — valerieyulesletters @ 11:12 am

12 October 2007. We could cut our consumption by half. Even rural Africans today do not want to live at the level that increasing numbers do – with population growth contributing to spreading desertification, loss of jungle resources, growing slums and refugee camps, social conflicts and wars.

Africa has a severe problem of population outracing living resources, e.g. Nigeria and Egypt, populations 31 million and 21 million in 1950, now 114 m and 70 m and heading for 356m and 127 m by 1950. Only misunderstanding statistics about slowing percentage rises in population ‘suggests that population growth will sort itself out’ as the world heads to 9 billion by 2050. But we of the West could all cut our consumption by half by cutting out waste – and modifying capitalism so that it does not depend upon increasing consumption, with increasing production of waste. This would have far more effect in reducing carbon emissions than carbon trading – a tactic to make business profits while allowing the grossest emitters to continue emitting. 7 September 2007 Identifying drivers of population growth.

These economic, religious and political interests need public identification, as the world rockets from 6 billion to a likely 9 billion by 2050, increasing poverty, climate change, and greenhouse gases. Apparent slowing in percentage rates of growth is misleadingly comforting, because, for example, the 2.6% growth rate of Nigeria’s 100,950,000 population in 1995 meant 2,624,700 more people. But today’s lower growth rate of 2.4% for Nigeria’s population, now 135,031,000, means 3,240,744 more people, so that 206,166,000 are predicted for 2025, a doubling in thirty years. Westerners are taught to fear population decline as a greater threat than shortages of water, oil, land, forests and fish, extinctions of wildlife, the cruelties of factory farming, and decreasing quality of life. Yet sustainable economies are possible. Capitalism is modifiable to operate without continually increasing growth, mass markets, rising real estate values, economic reliance on the housing industry and pools of cheap, docile labour from economic refuges.

Western pronatalist policies prevent stabilisation attempts in countries with doubling populations. Factors include political and religious competitive breeding (‘Children are our weapons’). Anomalous religious dogmas forbid contraception but not wars; a commandment to multiply, surely now fulfilled, overrides commands for mercy and justice. The poor need children for labour and as old age insurance when there is nothing else. Large families seem wise when many children die. When expatriate workers’ pay funds countries that cannot support themselves, (e.g. 70% of Tonga’s GDP), large families are encouraged – perversely increasing their problem. Alternatives are possible. Publish the data on population growth for everyone to know. A United Nations convention on the Right to Reproduce – one each = two per couple – could quash fears of selective genocide, combined with ensuring the right of every child to have a chance to grow up healthy. Most women do not want to bear more children than they can cope with. Educating women is a successful way to help stabilise populations.

POPULATION 7 September 2007

CORRECTION A crucial phrase was cut in my letter on Population as printed September 7. ‘A UN convention on the right to reproduce – one child each = two per couple – could quash fears of selective genocide . .’ This fear has generated mistrust of family planning programs, and the proposal is worth debate. CHILDREN Holidays should be child’s play July 24 2007. What has happened to the world that Catherine Deveny can say, ‘Trust me, kids are always bored at home’? Until recently, children longed for school holidays and for every minute of the freedom they had. To roam the streets, play with all sorts of hobbies, do just what they liked until tea-time. Now newspapers publish holiday entertainments parent can take their children to, and there are organized games and other forms of ‘school by other means’. Toyshops are full of the sort of expensive toys that can entertain for a minute or two. Computer games can obsess them all day. Children’s freedom is the time when they can develop the enterprise and initiative that Australia will need when they are adults. If or society now has so much such stranger danger and lack of places to play freely, and children lack the construction toys and space for the hobbies of yesteryear, this is a high price to pay for overcrowding Melbourne and for not stopping the conditions that encourage ordinary human beings to become pedophiles. (And of course, in the past children did not become bored or they had to help with housework.) It could be worth balancing the media stable of young mums who imagine their complaints are universal and unsolved, with some more senior journalists who have known an earlier world as well.


Filed under: Uncategorized — valerieyulesletters @ 10:59 am

To follow Terry Lane Since it is sad that Terry Lane’s remarkable career with the Sunday Age ends on a note of despair, it could be possible to follow with a feature on ‘Alternatives’, to which readers can contribute. It is difficult for the public to contribute ideas and solutions except for ephemeral blogs and isolated letters, yet even encouragement to think innovatively could make a great difference to widespread feelings of helplessness.

‘Big Ideas’ need a supporting ferment of ‘Little Ideas’. An ‘Alternatives’ feature would encourage the public to put up different ideas about solutions to today’s problems. They can be entertaining and quite wacky, or be good lead-ins for action. Regular columnists can add to them. I run an Australian Centre for Social Innovations (ozideas with vicnet, not the recent empty domain name that sabotages it) and can add starters. The frontiers of science make the news – the plains of science are where the public too can experiment in their own lives. Now that everyone is being urged to change their lives to reduce carbon emissions and resource-waste, everyone’s ideas become important. Topical problems can be put up, asking for innovative ideas for solutions, and readers can also send in their own innovative ideas in the form of ‘Problem and towards solutions’. I look forward to artists, writers, film-makers and the general public all taking urgent interest in contributing to visions for the future that are not all bleak dystopias.


 How about:

1. Keep a record of the innovative Good Ideas that readers often submit for solving problems or making life better. Then at the end of the year you can look at which ideas have been taken up – and which have just been wasted on the desert air, or people need to be reminded about. It really is a waste at present that so many good ideas get published – including by some of your columnists – eg about what to do with old mattresses – and then nothing happens and the ideas get lost.

2. Comments on the news that is in the papers. e.g. 1. Compare the 2 million dollar stage-set of Tanglings – that man would be sacked who didn’t know how to coil rope – with the similar-looking but very real devastation depicted in a photograph of war wreckage at the same time. In two centuries time – as the curator imagines – which will be most remembered? 2. Call for better ideas about how to save shower-water . For better water saving, you could, for example, stand in two square basins, with 3 buckets, perhaps the rectangular sort, to fill the shower recess so no water is wasted. Time your shower by how much water in the receptacles. Then get Free Exercise and weight-lifting practice by carrying the buckets to garden or toilet. This is far faster than trying to pour the water down a hose. Two buckets flush a toilet when it really needs flushing. When water is really short, wash yourself in one of the square basins, and handwash clothes in it afterwards. And shampoo your hair in an icecream bucket in the handbasin, before rinsing in the shower. If you want to push the boundaries and shock everyone, water-saving is one way to do it. (My last water bill was for 22 litres a day, and I have an average size suburban garden.) People can also have good ideas about not wasting many things that people assume have to be wasted. Uses for margarine tubs? It takes water to make the tubs. And what to do about rubbish if you don’t have dozens of free plastic bags from the supermarket.

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