Valerie Yules Letters

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.


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.)

January 11, 2014

Truth, Lies and Pretends

Filed under: children, Education, Fantasy, social problems — Tags: , , , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 6:46 am

It is almost always possible to tell the truth to children – and to others.
And it is necessary for the sake of our society.

The general agreement on a recemt Life Matters program that lies were inevitable to children is a change from the past, when theology not psychology would have provided the standard – however much people might have in practice fallen away from that standard.

When the children ask, tell them Santa and the Tooth Fairy are Pretends. Do you want to join in this Pretend? (Oh YES)

“There’s a bear under my bed.” “Mummy can shut that sort of bear in the cupboard.” (She leans under the bed and then shuts the cupboard door, and for as long as necessary at bedtime she shuts the ‘Imaginary Bears’ in the cupboard.) If a scent is used, it can be called a This-Can-Work,-We’ll-Try -This, without specific details or promises.
Promises. “We might be able to go to the beach tomorrow but I can’t promise.”

(Do I look nice in this? ) I like the blue dress better. (It is not fair to someone to let them think they look good in something that makes them look dreadful.)
(How are you?) All the better for seeing you, or Better than yesterday, or Battling on.
A dreadful dinner party. Choose the least worst thing to praise. “I particularly liked the – “

I believe that . . . but I may be wrong.

Dreadful questions – “Where is your father?” demand the baddies. “I don’t know where he is just now” or whatever can be told truthfully. Let’s hope we never are asked that sort of question. It’s not the sort that we usually are tempted to lie about.

If individuals have a reputation for truthfulness, we then know we can trust them. Nobody – neither me nor you – has never told a lie, but we can do our best.
A country with a reputation for dealing in truth has a great commercial advantage in the world as long as bad apples can be prevented from taking advantage of that reputation. We must keep our land incorrupt.
Victorian England and Scotland had a great advantage in an incorrupt civil service. The Quakers became wealthy because people knew they could trust them in business.

There are ‘pretends’, stories and fiction that can be shared around, as well as lies intended to deceive, not to amuse.

Suppose Truth became an ideal stronger than power or wealth or sensual pleasure. All of these goals are finally inaccessible in any ultimate form – but all of them direct our lives. What could happen with a goal for Truth?

A country with a reputation for dealing in truth would have a great commercial advantage in the world as long as bad apples could be prevented from taking advantage of that reputation. Currently the shift in business theory is to be quite open about deceit as a legitimate business manoeuvre, with best-seller adaptations of Chinese treatises on the art of war, such as Chu Chin Chang’s ‘Thick Face Black Heart’ so admired by the chairman of the Chase Manhattan Bank, which through a merger became the biggest banker in USA.
A great deal of time and money would be saved in politics with open government and even in diplomacy. ‘I am sorry we cannot support East Timor in this as we want the oil from the Timor Straits’. ‘We are backing X because we fear future invasion from Y.’ ‘We can’t ban landmines because we would need them if we were invaded ourselves.’ Such naivety would be so incredible that other countries would be stymied and incredulous.

No incoming government could be surprised by the financial situation it met – it would be open knowledge. No voters could be surprised by what a newly elected government would do – it would have told them. ‘We will do this, unless that happens, when we will do such and such.’ We could even have voting for major policies as well as persons on the ballot ticket – plus regular electronic voting.
Statistics would always be presented to the public with figures, not just percentages. For example, it could be made quite clear in an opinion poll on satisfaction with education that only 100 parents of primary children had been asked their opinion, so that the comment in a newspaper editorial two days later would read ‘as shown by the opinions of 68 of the 100 parents of primary children polled recently, the great majority of Victorian parents are very satisfied with primary education today’.
If a mistake was accidentally made in any reporting in the media, the correction would be given as much prominence as the mistake. When letters were published containing information that a newspaper knew was incorrect, the correct information would appear in an editorial note below.
A regular feature in all media, electronic and print would be features for viewers, listeners and readers, ‘We want to know’ – not just about pets, gardens, health, finance and kitchen renovations, but about what was going on. What special rebates are being given to which group where? Why can’t this be done? Why was this done?
Budgets and government accounts would be given mass media circulation in comprehensible detail, including spending on publicity and consultants. Calls for tenders would have open details. Government contracts, once made, would have no shield of ‘commercial confidentiality’. After all, a Victorian newspaper in the 1880s printed the whole of of the Westminster Confession of Faith during some local theological controversy.
Advertising – now that is tricky. At present advertisers are the real modern equivalent of Renaissance patrons for art – and they are the patrons of the art that the public really likes. And to a large extent, when consumers buy products advertised on television, it is really the cleverness of the advertising agency not the value of the product that has attracted them. I think my vision would be of ‘sponsored commercials’, rather like the present sponsorship of whole programmes – the advertiser produces a segment of pure entertainment, followed by a clear and accurate statement of the advantages of the advertised product. The policy of public benefactions and sponsorships would also continue to create goodwill for businesses. However, the disadvantage for small and new businesses in lacking capital for expensive advertising would be overcome by special chances for them too to advertise in print and in all the electronic and broadcast media. Truth in business and advertising would apply to prevent individuals simply changing business names to abandon responsibilities and to resurrect to despoil others yet again.

Mr Gradgrind of Charles Dickens’ Hard Times was suspicious of anything that was not a fact – and he backed teachers who would not allow that horses could be depicted on home furnishings because real horses could not prance up walls like that. Sometimes I sympathise with Gradgrind when I am fed up with too many whimsical picture-story books for preschoolers like ‘The elephant that wanted to be a geranium’ or ‘The best nest’ that get their laughs from depicting stupid and twee behaviour. Why shouldn’t reality be fascinating? Why shouldn’t a cabinet of crystals be delightful?
What would happen to schooling if truth was a priority?
In the first place, English and media courses could be radically different because they need not spend so much time and effort trying to warn the young against being duped by all the misinformation and misleading advertising they would face in the real world. They need not spend so much time teaching the young how to produce advertising copy that preached any side that was asked of them.
Historical novels such as The Hand that Signed the Papers would of course have disclaimers that fact and fiction were mixed; most would indicate the historical characters, and have a note about significant changes in interpretations and events – as many novelists already do.

History would contain many more connections and more context – it can never avoid interpretation, but readers would be given a note about interpretation. At present young students often study snippets of time without any overview, on the grounds that overviews are impossible – but they are necessary. The old memorising of dates was indefensible – but knowing about a time-line did give a setting for the present. Students need to know about how the past attempted to cope with its problems, and the results, and how it differed from the present, in order to stop repeating mistakes, and to have examples of ideals and heroes, with all their tragic flaws, and not just be fed models of the mean and mingy.

Drama is a special case – because here actors are deliberately trying to be other than themselves, in scenes that are not real events. I think that children, at least, are less likely to understand the characters if they act them than if they read about them or even watch great plays about them. This is because they cannot avoid injecting themselves and their own immaturity into what they play. After Socrates has died near the teachers’ desk or Captain Cook sailed on the playground or Antigone been shut in the cupboard or Jesus has had trouble adjusting his bath-towels, the triviality of the permanent impressions can make it unlikely that most members of the class will ever understand any of these above a childish level. Simply reading around the class divorces the present scene from the remembered language. That is what I liked about the way we ‘studied’ Hamlet and Macbeth at school, not the pundits who had written about them.

‘Honesty’ is often given the tag ‘brutal honesty’, in the same way that ‘reality’ is hard to dissociate from ‘harsh reality’. Here we face how much damage is done by people who think that if a cruel thought happens to come into their head, in order to be honest they have to say it and hurt people, often with barbs that never can be torn out. The matter is not as simple as that – the real truth is how to say what needs to be said in ways that will help not harm. If we have to say everything that comes to mind, we would all be the greatest bores, muttering all the time like so many Stephen Blooms.

If people felt bound in their inmost hearts to tell the truth, the law would be revolutionised, probably changing from the British adversarial to the Continental truth-seeking system. Pleading guilty or not guilty would solve most issues. However, I doubt if my vision can really assume a change in how easily human nature can deceive itself and in so many ways, when the personal costs can be so high. On the other hand, at present the law makes it often very difficult for the truth to come out. The only time I was called to be a witness, in a car accident case, it was possible to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, but to tell the whole truth was against all the rules of procedure – and yet the magistrate could not judge the case fairly without knowledge of significant facts that were necessary and relevant for the case. I managed to tell the whole truth but it was hard in the face of the legal procedures,

Religion is an interesting case about Truth. Faith has been defined as ‘belief in what cannot be proved, the experience of things unseen’ and certainly there are more things in heaven and earth than can be proved. Prophets and their followers can be sincerely convinced of their messages. However, today there is a good deal of religion-inventing that is not based on experiences of revelation, deluded or not. People can invent goddesses simply because they don’t want to be patriarchal, not because they genuinely think a goddess exists. Druids dress up imagining horned gods in Sherwood Forest. Superstitions multiply today without any concern for scientific evidence. “Do you think it is true? What are the grounds for you thinking this up?” are simple questions that should get answers. Do Satanists really believe in the Devil and seek to propitiate it? What if they were truly faced with what they conjured up?

A fairly general opinion now is that there is no Truth, not even at the bottom of the proverbial well. Everything is mirrors, illusions, change. This perception is increased by the scams and spams on the Internet, by computer imagery and by psychedelic drugs, which at one stage people like Timothy Leary thought might make truth more accessible to consciousness. Watch a few dozen videoclips or virtual reality, and the real world may only be recognised in the prick of a pin – ‘I dislike what I fancy I feel’.

In personal affairs, the Moral Rearmament people have found that living by absolutes is pretty hard. There is the joke about the competition for liars, which so shocked a parson who claimed he had never told a lie in his life – and so he was awarded the prize. Francis Bacon’s essay on Truth (‘What is Truth?’ said jesting Pilate and would not stay for an answer) is worth revisiting – Bacon himself had problems in the practicalities.

Truth is a journey that may never have an end. Old-time pilgrims believed they followed a track with maps. The modern tourist usually does not even have a brochure, but it would be the holiday of a lifetime.

January 7, 2014


Filed under: Political reforms, spelling, Waste — Tags: , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 4:39 am

All my webpages that formerly had URLs including VICNET have changed their URL.

They now are called and then their subhead,

Tell me if u hav eny dificulty.

November 29, 2013

Australian population

Filed under: conservation, population — Tags: , , , , , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 10:26 pm

We cannot hope to do anything about protecting nature while we expect enormous population increases. Melbourne growing to 8 million people
with the loss of some of the most beautiful country and wildlife in Australia is
No profit to anyone except developers and big retailers.
Great trouble for all other inhabitants with horrid housing, transport, loss of amenities and fertile farmland, more landfill etc.

We must keep our population low while we still can.
Climate change requires a smaller population to survive.
No more baby bonuses after the first two children is easy to do, for example.

May 4, 2013

Setting New Statesman competitions

I set NS Competition questions mostly but not only in 2005. They were meant to arouse thought, but I stopped setting them because instead competitors only tried to be clever.
I set New Statesman Competition questions mostly but not only in 2005. They were meant to arouse thought, but I stopped setting them because instead competitors only tried to be clever.

Some questions sent in and mostly published included:
1. Much modern comedy is about being horrible to other people. Is it possible to be funny about being nice (random acts of kindness, etc) without the punchline being that it doesn’t work or has horrid unintended consequences or it’s not nice after all?

2. Biblical prophets despaired that supernatural visitations could ever change anything for the good, and so it has generally seemed. Describe a supernatural visitation that could achieve something useful today.

3. List ten items that a museum would keep hidden away as sacred totems of modern British society.

4. As fast as globalism opens the world and the internet to everyone, forces try to privatize everything or keep it secret – from water and knowledge to museum artifacts and government activities. Here is the struggle in the next Harry Potter book. Outline the story-line.

5.The New Statesman decides to get its various acts together, and make sure that one thing happens each year that can ‘make the world a better place’, rather than being a pot-pourri heavily into schadenfreudia and dystopics. What feasible concern would you urge NS to take up and push for 2005? Give reasons.

6. A famous poet rewrites some of her/his famous lines in light of modern knowledge. It might be Byron for example, finding that man’s ruinous control does not stop at the sea-shore, or Blake’s Tyger facing extinction.

7. The custom of beginning sessions of Parliament with dedication by Christian prayer has been condemned as biassed. Replace it with a secular reminder of members’ awesome global responsibilities in these critical times, of high liturgical quality and memorability, and not one platititude.

8.In 200 words, list ten ideas for inventions that could save the world from the catastrophes that loom ahead.

9. A non-profit DVD has been invented for self-help in learning to read. Write the report of an educational institution recommending that it not be trialed, or similar report by any organization against trialing a humane invention that might affect its interests.

9. It is discovered that since children learn more out of school than in school, however – schools are needed by society as baby-sitters. Selected children are therefore allowed out on probation into the work-force for two-week periods as assistants, after which they do projects and catch up on schoolwork from their computers and books. Disruptive children may be frequently selected. A longitudinal study includes a control group. Since the children are learning that life is a tricky business means, the school does not have to bother about legal liabilities or insurance.

10.The case that human beings are not Freudian plumbing systems puts paid to the public faith in ‘outlets’ for aggressive impulses and the value of continual excitation and stimulation.Instead, concepts of ‘fizzling’ emotions and redirecting impulses into sublimation actions. Rather than tensing up with worry beads and desktop gimmicks and throwing plates, send ideas for a new theory of therapy

11. A recent legal case was so complex that the lawyer spoke for five hours. At least two hours of this case must have involved Little Bo Peep. 200 words from the defence lawyers’ lengthy oration in any current or recent business legal case, that brings in Little Bo Peep in a way that can guarantee another two hours talkling.

11. Do a take-off of the New Statesman at the time of Kingsley Martin or now. Hopefully winners will include examples of both.

12. A future archaeologist interprets a modern urban midden

13. Write on the theology of the astrology in modern magazines.

14. Designer babies. Design a human with characteristics that already exist (ie feasible) that might best survive the environmental challenges ahead.

15. This crowded world. A new children’s game for a playground with 800 children in it.

16. The blurb for a fantasy novel with a quest, in which all the characters have names like Emma and Robert, they seek things like dish-washers, and a royal commission is – well, a Royal Commission.

17. ‘The Borrowers’ is a famous children’s novel by Nora . . . An exerpt from a further sequel in which a family of borrowers (Glitches?) live in a computer – and characteristically have taken over English vocabulary for themselves, as with mouse, ram, scroll, etc, – and how they take their entertainment at the back of the screen instead of in front.

18. ISAGIATT – It seemed a good idea at the time. Future-looking at unexpected consequences from say, translocation, designer babies, universal literacy, memory pills, ageless beauty, honest politicians, thought-reading or other dreams science might make true.

19. An art critic writes about Modern Art as the elaborate colorful graffiti that wayward geniuses spray on walls and fences.

20 An exerpt from the Ancient Mariner on the Last Albatross, Blake on the Last Tiger, Kipling on the Last Elephant, or Charlotte’s Web in a factory farm.

21. From a Just-So story explaining something like Climate Change.

22. A happy ending for any notable tragic play or novel – say, Hamlet.

23 Can you design principles for a reform for English spelling that is more way out than the extremes of those that are commonly proposed?

24 Translate some great passage of literature into modern English vocabulary of say, the hoodie or barmy-army type.

April 27, 2013

New Game for spelling

Filed under: humor, Pleasures, spelling, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 7:31 am

New Spelling Game – Spell a word as u think it ought to be spelld.


Play every spelling game by spelling a wurd as u think it aut to be spelld.


Win every spelling bee by spelling a wurd as u think it aut to be spelld.


Pronounce every spelling as u think it aut to be pronounced!   Grapes of wrath or wroth?


See how much we all agree on changes from present spelling. 

April 11, 2013

Injustice for the disadvantaged

Injustice and huge waste of talent result when the disadvantaged face barriers that need not be. Also consider the personal suffering, the economic cost to society, and the wasted hours in school when children fail to learn through social disadvantage, dyslexic difficulties, or their foreign background.
Most people do not consider the injustice of which I write, and which my experience as a schools and hospital psychologist and teacher has burned me up, when I found how unnecessary it was.
Most people who are literate have learned it easily or have forgotten that even they had a struggle.
Many British and American talented men and women from Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin to inventors of modern communications like JV Atasanoff (computers) have seen the problem, but have tried to cure the problem of English spelling by radical change. That is impossible for many reasons. Other countries have updated their spelling. For many reasons Americans and English have not. Now spellcheckers help those who can read to write better. But what of those who cannot?
The burgeoning of texting shows how people can spell better than our writing system can. But this is hard for everyone to link to our traditional spelling.
Our academics prove that English spelling has problems; they know the problems of those who cannot learn literacy. But they fail to investigate how spelling could be updated, like other modern languages, to help the disadvantaged, and cut the time in education teaching reading and spelling for children to be able to learn other things, including learning by reading.
I have put forward ways in which this can be done. I have tried removing unnecessary difficulties in spelling for children, disadvantaged adults, foreigners learning English and even for ourselves as literate adults, and seen the happy results.

2011, Yule, Valerie ‘Recent developments which affect spelling. On the possibility of removing the unnecessary difficulties in English spelling, while leaving the basic appearance of English print intact.’ English Today, 107, vol 27, No 3. Sept 2011, pp 62-67
1986. The design of spelling to meet needs & abilities. Harvard Educational Review. 56.3. 278 – 297.

Try Parallel Texting to give these unfortunats a chance. That is, a parallel text shorn of the spelling difficulties, set next to the present text. Mor foriners and English-speakers could then manage to read
I try to persuade teachers to giv it a trial. It harms no one. But everyone is afraid to start, altho my tests hav stood the test of time and experiment since the 1970s.

One side of each page in a reading book is normal spelling; the other side is ‘spelling without traps’ which helps beginners to read present spelling.

Innovators! What do u think most needs innovation?
My work as a psicologist has been primarily with peple who hav not been able to read, or very badly, or strugld as children harder than we had to. Think of what they miss out. Think of the cost to society!
Try this, or think what u would do.
If we got rid of the unnecessarily tricky spellings, most disadvantaged peple would hav a better life, thru having fewer barriers to literacy. Children could lern litracy qicker. We could read a spelling with rules that took one page – like most alfabetic languages – and so could they. No mor than one or two spellings per speech sound.

1. A Dictionary Pronunciation Guide based on the BBC Text Pronunciation Guide, plus 36 very common irregularly-spelled words to lern by rote that make up 12% of everyday text. (ALL ALMOST ALWAYS AMONG COME SOME COULD SHOULD WOULD HALF KNOW OF OFF ONE ONLY ONCE OTHER PULL PUSH PUT TWO THEIR THEY AS WAS WHAT WANT WHO WHY VERY, and international word endings -ION/-TION/-SION/ZION)
After that, only 6% of surplus letters in words need be cut, and 3% of misleading letters changed, in everyday text. That indeed makes a difrence for the disadvantaged, who can then read normal texts when Paralel Text is given next to it.
Experiment is the best way to progress.
Can u make a trial, for those whom u find hav dificulty?
Tell me what happens, or why u did not trial innovation at all. Can u spell? The best of us may not be perfect.

2002. It’s the spelling that’s stupid, not me; Taking Ockham’s Razor to English Spelling. ABC Radio National broadcast. Ockham’sRazor. 5.5.—not-me/3505566
Only one or two spellings are necessary for every speech sound, not up to twelve.
Dr Valerie Yule, M.A., Ph.D, Dip.Ed., M.B.Ps.S. Academic positions at Melbourne, Monash and Aberdeen Universities in departments of Psychology and Education; Teacher at all levels, from preschool to adult and migrant literacy; Clinical child psychologist at the Royal Children’s Hospitals, Melbourne and Aberdeen; Schools psychologist chiefly but not only in disadvantaged schools, Present research on imagination and literacy.

Sale of former school properties

Filed under: economic, Education, transport — Tags: , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 1:27 am

Sale of former school properties

It’s just as well that the people living in houses on former school land won’t have any children, and that traffic wont worsen and petrol prices rise as parents take their children to distant schools, and that research that shows primary school children benefit from small schools is not read, and that governments don’t look to the future, when they will buy back land they sold off.
Keep former school land in public hands, for public use. It will be needed again.

March 17, 2013

Declining populations need a new economic theory and practice, not raising populations

Filed under: conservation, social problems — Tags: , , , , , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 3:25 am

We are now in the middle of perhaps the greatest demographic change in recorded history.(Mike Seccombe)

The fact of low-fertility, declining populations should not be seen only in the light of the financial profit consequence of ageing populations, but as a rational response to the world’s present and increasing shortages of water and other essential natural resources, cramped life-styles of the masses, decreasing land for wildlife, and increasing challenges of climate changes. It is irrational to think that we must always have growth of economic production requiring growth of population. The continued population growth of Africa sets problems of political instability, forced emigrations, droughts, loss of wildlife and jungles, increasing deserts and continued oppression of women.
The problem of ageing populations needs to be met by other means than increasing birthrates. The healthy old are an asset not a burden. The sick aged are a burden on other people to care for them, that is, demands on labor, with minimum need for economic production of goods to keep them alive. We must solve the problem of the chronic slow dying of the ‘struldbrugs’ that we must fear for ourselves.
We must change our model of economic production and profit to meet declining populations. World population in 1950 was far fewer than now; it was not excessive. We might retreat to those figures.

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