Category Archives: Economics

Dog Enrichment Toys

Since I’ve recently become responsible for providing Enrichment Toys to some of our more needy dogs at the Refuge, I seem to have developed an interest in researching different types of Enrichment Toys for dogs.

Enrichment Toys for dogs, cats and other pets come in different styles and levels of “difficulty”. I use the term “difficult” very loosely, because really it’s not fair to compare a dog’s ability to a human’s. Dogs lack opposable thumbs, for one, and only have their snouts, mouth and paws with which to open or close anything. Whereas we as adult humans would think nothing about twisting the top off a jar of pasta sauce, or using a peeler to peel carrots.

So, what “difficult” means for dogs in the context of Enrichment Toys would be more akin to “How long does it take the dog to figure it out?” As in, how quickly can Rex learn to push the treat dispenser in such a way that the kibble within falls out so he can eat it. Or, can Rex figure out how to use his nose and tongue to push the treat along the maze until it emerges so he can gobble it up.

There are many, many different types of Enrichment Toys, also known as Puzzle Toys, Slow Feeders, Activity Toys, Boredom Busters, Enrichment Dispensers etc. Some are very simple, consisting of one piece only, such as the ubiquitous Kong:

image

(Image: Google Images)

Others are complex and contain many different parts, and require the dog to stand on levers to release the treat. There’s even an ambitious one that works using centrifugal force…you put kibble in the middle of the flying-saucer shaped dispenser, and when the dog nudges or rattles it around, the kibble within spin out. An example is shown below, designed by a Swedish woman named Nina Ottoson. You can read about Nina’s personal story here, and check out her many products for “activating” pets (her own term for it) here.

image

(Image : Google Images)

You only have to Google “dog enrichment toy”, or “dog activity toy” to find hundreds of examples of both manufactured and homemade DIY versions of such toys.

At the Refuge recently, we had 2 of these funky flying-saucer treat dispensers. One was given to a dog named Wolfie, whose technique was to chew on it. I tried the other out with a greyhound named Pi, and he amazed me by thinking outside the box. Instead of nudging the dispenser around, like I was expecting him to, Pi’s technique involved stamping down on the side of the flying-saucer disk, and making it flip over and over, so the kibble dribbled out. Clever Pi!

Quotes on Why We Need Art

Yesterday I wrote about why we need Art, especially in this mad new world of ours, where Money is God.

As I did my online research, I discovered many quotes on why we make Art, and why Art is important to us all. So today I thought to myself, why waste a good opportunity to share those quotes here with yourself.

(The following images are curated from Google Images):

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

What would You do?

What, oh what would You do, if you won the US Powerball?

Punters in Australia got all hot under the collar when they discovered they were able to purchase tickets online for the supermassive US Powerball, for a chance to win AU$2.15 BILLION (US$1.5 BILLION).That’s the amount at the time of writing, it would’ve gone up by a helluva lot more by the time you read this. Also, by the time you read it, someone, or quite a few someones, would be millionnaires.

And before you ask, Yes, the Powerball was open to Australians. (Yes, sadly the draw is over now) Tickets could be purchased through a third party company called Lottoland. So maybe we’ll see some winners on this side of the pond? I hope so!

http://www.news.com.au/finance/money/wealth/record-us15-billion-powerball-draw-now-open-to-australian-punters/news-story/721f7559c04f39ccd61787fcc80dc303

My question to you is not How Much you think you’ll win, but What you’re going to do with your windfall.

image

I’ll tell you my plans. They’re very simple, really. Let’s say I had a “modest” win of $30 million after taxes. Now, what would I do with all that cash?

Here’s what:
1) Split the winnings equally between myself and my ex. We are after a technically still married on paper, and he has been financially supporting my son and I, so it would only be fair to share my winnings with him. By the way, if anyone is jumping up and down yelling “But you used HIS money to buy the ticket, so technically it’s HIS win and it’s up to him whether he gives you anything or not”…actually, I used my old UK card that’s attached to my UK bank account, so technically I used MY own money, so it’s up to ME whether I give him anything or not. 😄

2) Then my ex and I can finally afford to go separate ways. I know he would love to visit his many Filipina girlfriends in their country. He’ll be hardpressed deciding which one of them loves him the most and is deserving of sharing his newfound wealth. And for sure he’ll be setting up his own music studio, so he can spend all his time making the electronic music he so loves. Maybe he’ll even hook back up with that American Cougar from 2013-2014, she’d love to share studio time with him. Oh, I’m not bitter about it, I’m actually merely stating facts. I’ll buy the ex out of the house, and pay off all our joint debts. And I’ll continue living in the property, after updating it (the electrics are as old as me!).

3) Once all that’s out of the way, I should have about $15 million left. I’ll put $10 million into several managed funds for Jack, that he can access only once he’s turned 21. Meanwhile, he will only have access to the interest accummulated from only one account. That will take care of Jack’s education and set him up for life, hopefully.

4) That leaves me with $5 million. Now perhaps I can finally make my dream of running a Dog Sanctuary come true. I envision acres of land, fenced off, of course, where the dogs can run freely and intermingle with each other to their hearts’ content. They need only go into kennels to sleep and rest. My inspiration is Sasha Pecic, who must be the happiest man in Serbia. Sasha has rescued 580 dogs from the streets on Nis, Serbia, and now they all run freely at his Sanctuary. I’d dearly love to visit his Sanctuary to ask him how he does it.

**********
And that’s it. In a nutshell. Remember a few days ago I mentioned a Big Dream of mine? Well, that Dream is running my own Dog Sanctuary.

I want to not only give homeless dogs a place they can call Home, I want to give our homeless humans the same. In return for helping look after the dogs, they’ll get food and lodging, and education and training in the care of animals.

And as for the dogs themselves, I intend to rehome them, or if not, rehabilitate them to become Service/Assistance/Therapy dogs. So that they may serve the needs of Humans and show them that they are capable of rising from the ashes of being abandoned or neglected, to being useful members of Society.

And that is all I wish for. I wanted to find a kind and generous benefactor/business partner, someone who is willing to undertake this Dog Sanctuary project with me. Someone who shares the same Vision and is happy to work with me achieve our mutual goal. Stereotypically this would be a man with the necessary financial means. In reality, though, this person’s gender or sexual inclination does not matter at all. He/she would have to 1) love dogs and animals, 2) be focussed on the welfare of the dogs and not on romance with me 3) not be obsessed about sex, because although I do like companionship and cuddles, my higher sense of Purpose supercedes everything else.

Is that too tall an order? I’m open to offers, the question is – are there any takers out there in the Universe? Surely there must be someone out there, amongst the 7 billion human beings in this world, who has the same Idea and is just looking for someone like me to share it with?

I’m still waiting…but maybe my chances are better of winning the lottery than of finding that Other Person (or persons) to share my Big Dream with?

Follow Your Passion – Part 1

image

Jack and I are regulars at our local McDonald’s restaurant. I’m up at the Dogs’ Refuge volunteering 3 times a week, and it’s become our little routine to stop at Macca’s (that’s how the Aussies call it) for breakfast, before I drive him to school and then park my car at the station and catch the train into the City. From there, it’s a short walk and another bus ride to the Refuge.

It means getting up at 6am, running around making sure the cat, chickens, Japanese Quail, budgerigars, cockatiels (weiros in Aussie slang), Japanese Koi, tropical fish and dogs have all been fed and watered, and I’ve had my shower and changed into fresh clothes, Jack has had his 5th prod to wake up and get dressed…all in order to get out of the house by 7am so we can have enough time for breakfast.

It may sound like a lot of hassle for nothing. Yes, and no. My mantra for my animal menagerie is “Guys have water, guys have food, guys are happy, guys are good”. That’s how I like to leave them, happy, fed and watered. I enjoy our Mother-Son bonding time over breakfast and on the ride to his school. I don’t mind the long hop-skip-and-jump commute, as it means I get to read my books on canine psychology and behaviour.

I don’t get paid as a volunteer at the Refuge, but I’ve found my Passion in animals, and I’m sure as hell going to follow my Passion no matter what. This may seem ridiculous, impractical, unrealistic, naive, silly… after all, we’re unfortunate enough to live on a giant Monopoly boardgame where Money is God. Those with money flaunt it but hold it tight for fear of losing their status. Those without money either try their best to get their hands on it, or don’t.

Money, however, doesn’t make you a better person. Sure, externally, with your snappy suits and polished shoes, with that genuine leather briefcase and ubiquitous cup of coffee in your other hand, you look for all the world like a Great Success. But behind the facade, you’re stressed beyond belief, with a large mortgage, perhaps a family to look after, you’re working 60 hours a week or more, your boss is a bully, you’re constantly being reminded that you need to achieve those statistics or else there’ll be no Christmas bonus for you this year, or the next, you’re popping pills and paying to see a psychiatrist, or even a lawyer because your marriage has broken down because you’re never home and even when you are, you bring your work home with you.

Happy now?

Yes, of course you have that huge big house by the seaside. You have that big garage full of luxury cars. Your children go to the most exclusive schools. You get to go on those long holidays to exotic locations. But then again you never see your house in daylight, because you leave for work at sparrow’s fart, and you’re only home after sundown. You only get to drive your flash car on weekends…and then they’re sports models so you can’t take the kids with you. You don’t see your kids anyway because they’re still in bed when you leave for work, and they’re back in bed by the time you get home at night. You work long and hard to save up enough money for that holiday…and then you overspend anyway and resign yourself to working extra hours next year, to make up for it.

Countless books have been written exhorting readers to “Follow Your Passion, and the Profits will Follow”, or “Follow Your Passion and Make Lots of Money!”, “Turn Your Passion Into $$$!”, “Passion Into Profit”, “Turn Your Passion Into Your Dream Job”, “Make Money From Doing What You Love”. To be honest, when I see titles like these on the bookshelves, I can’t help but think the people who write and read them are not in it for their Passion, but for the Money.

They’re not following their Passion. They’re just trying to like their job enough to justify carrying on doing it; their real pursuits are Money and Profit. Their real aim is not to discover and nurture their Passion, but to make their work bearable enough while they figure out how to get as much Money out of it in the least possible time, and then let’s get the hell out of here! I don’t think for one moment that these people will even contemplate staying in their jobs once they’ve accummulated enough dosh for their Great Escape, or once they’ve struck the Lottery. It’ll be more like “Hasta la vista, baby!”

If you’re truly Passionate about something, Money should not figure in the equation. Or, if it did, it’s as a means to an end, a secondary perk, not the Purpose of your Passion. If you’re truly Passionate about something, you’d happily do it for free. You do it for Love.

(Part 2 tomorrow)…😊

Infographic: How We Waste Food

Found this interesting infographic on Google while researching the topic of how much supermarket food goes to waste, and why.

So I’ll just put this here, for your information. This one’s about Australia. Be sure to click on the link!

http://m.lunchalot.com/foodwaste.php

And this one, by comparison, is the infographic on America’s food wastage:

http://visual.ly/21-shocking-us-food-waste-facts-statistics

Food for thought, right ;). Waste not, want not.

image
Waste not.

image
Want not.

image
Waste not.

image
Want not.

The Emperor’s New Clothes

…is the title of British Russell Brand’s independent movie, which premiered in Australia today, June 11th 2015. It’s filmed by Michael Winterbottom, and is a documentary featuring live action in the streets of Britain with Russell Brand, along with video clips of long-archived UK and worldwide news footage.

image

No, despite its name, the film has nothing to do with the fashion industry. Or the fairytale. Rather, it is Russell Brand’s own way of inciting a British People’s Revolution against the giant, crushing cogwheels of the world’s Banks; it addresses the issue of how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, by comparing the wages of top bankers and company CEOs against that of the man in the street.

For part of the film, Russell, armed with a megaphone, is in the front passenger seat of an advertising van, with a giant billboard on both sides exhorting the British public to “Shop The Bankers”, with large photos of high-level bankers beneath. It’s Russell’s way of naming and shaming these people, for drawing huge salaries in the millions of £££, while workers struggle to survive skyrocketing costs of living on hourly salaries that don’t even cover the cost of a cup of coffee these days.

These bankers pay themselves 7-figure salaries PLUS bonuses each year. The figures vary from a paltry £4 MILLION to more than £7 MILLION. Meanwhile, the average British worker’s wage is around £7 an hour, with an average yearly salary of just over £22000.

“Does that look or sound fair to you?” Russell asks a group of 100 primary schoolchildren, as part of an experiment in the film. He gets a resounding “NO!” from them.

Yes, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Top Shop get (dis)honourable mentions too, for TAX EVASION. Apple was very recently dragged to court in Australia for not paying enough taxes. Also read this article.

How does Apple justify its claim that it makes very little profit? Why, by making sure its money sits pretty in tax havens, or is shuffled between countries with lower tax rates. Its CEOs and top honchos pay themselves handsomely, jet about on holidays everywhere…while its slaves in China get paid something ridiculous like $2 a day (or was it 20 CENTS??!) and work for up to 18 hours a day.

DOES THAT LOOK OR SOUND FAIR TO YOU?

I had to go into the City to watch this film, as it wasn’t ever going to make it to the big screens of my local cinemas. One, owing to the contentious and hotly debated subject, two, because it doesn’t star a bunch of A-list celebrity actors and three, because it’s not an Action movie that caters to the lowest denomination. You have to have your brain switched on to watch this film.

The only cinema showing The Emperor’s New Clothes in Perth CBD was Cinema Paradiso in Chinatown. I’m sad to say that, in a cinema with a capacity of 300, I was THE ONLY ONE watching the film. Boo, Australian humanity, with your ignorance and insistence on staying asleep! Yeah, sure, when it’s The Fast & Furious 7, the cinema is booked out, but when a film (and an excellent one too) requires thinking or reflection, and a call to real action, action that will impact your lives and the lives of future generations, suddenly you have no time or inclination.

image

How The Rich Get Richer…

…and the poor get poorer.

It’s not like they haven’t already got millions in the bank. Big mansions in different parts of the country, even in different countries. Maybe they even own a private island. Or two. Jets, yachts, personal groomers and trainers, housekeeping staff, someone to raise their children for them while they’re out making more millions.

And yet, some of these rich and famous people (not all, I must say) still feel the need to make their names even more of a household commodity, by marketing themselves as a brand even more aggressively than ever. It’s almost as if they can’t stand to be normal, but instead have to push themselves out there, parading and strutting their stuff to gain attention. They’ve gone so far past normal that normal looks alien.

Back in the good old days, it was Quality that counted, not Quantity. Nowadays, though, with advances in technology, everyone’s a writer, artist, musician, fashion designer, interior decorator, etc etc. It doesn’t matter if you’re any good or not, there’ll always be an audience for you, someone will buy that CD of yours, your book can become a bestseller on some obscure online-only list, your music can become a hit on some indie station in Timbuktu. You can delude yourself into thinking that fingernails-down-a-chalkboard caterwauling of yours is the bees’ knees and that you’re the best thing since sliced bread…because people are just too polite to tell you otherwise.

And don’t worry, if you can’t do it yourself, simply hire someone else to do it for you.

Celebrities are quick to get in on the game and cash in on this trend. They’ve been doing it for years. No names here, you’ll know who I mean. Not satisfied with being a famous footballer? What, your millions in the bank are dwindling at an alarming rate due to the upkeep of your terribly lavish lifestyle? Why then, simply start your own line of men’s underwear. The ladies will love it. You don’t even need to know a boxer from a Y-front, the experts will take care of that. Just sign your name here. Oh look, the famous celebrity wife has followed suit with her line of sexy lingerie. The men will love it. She can’t draw, but that’s no deterrent, someone else will do the designing for her, all she has to do is give her OK. Still not satisfied with the insane amount of money you’re getting just by putting your name on undies? Why not visit some parfumier in France and concoct your own bottled farts fragrances? Now Everyone will love to smell like you. Endorse, endorse, endorse, baby! Kaching$$$!!!

So, in this terrible world we live in today, the rich are busy creating new products carrying their brand name, to peddle to the poor. The poor, who fantasise about becoming rich some day, (while spending money buying stuff they want but don’t need) live under the false impression that if they dress like their favourite celebrity, wear underwear signed by them, smell like them, carry handbags or wear sunglasses “designed” by them, then hopefully all that obscene wealth will rub off on them and make them rich too.

It’s easy when you’re already a famous name. Your products don’t have to be the best, they don’t even have to be ethically sourced, the hoi polloi won’t know if your dresses are really made by slaves in sweatshops in Indonesia. Your Marketing team will handle all that, polish everything up to look super shiny and bright. And the masses will fall for it and give you their money.

And once you get started successfully on one product, the rest is easy. That’s how the rich can wear so many hats…not just because they can afford to, but because once you’ve established a successful line in consumer products, you can then claim equal success as a cook, baker, author, fashion designer, interior decorator, artist, hell the world is your oyster and you can eat it too.

For the rest of us, poor fools who have no financial backing, or famous name or breeding, no matter how hard you try, you never seem to get there. These days it’s not what you know, but who you know.

The other day, I was waiting for my son at the mall, and the huge display of perfumes on the glass front of a chemists’ caught my attention. Upon closer scrutiny, I counted more than a dozen “celebrity fragrances”. I’ve been a perfume connoisseur before (read traipsing through the streets of Paris visiting independent and commercial parfumiers, testing out and buying my favourite scents, and collecting free samples. I highly recommend Paris as a travel destination, by the way). I was obsessed with a book on perfumes and macarons then, and when my Paris trip came up, I took the opportunity to indulge in both.

So, I know that most of these “celebrity fragrances” have cheap, synthetic bases, and are made from more chemicals than natural ingredients. The scents won’t be as longlasting as fragrances made the traditional, time-tested way. They might even leave a nasty lingering smell on your skin, or stain your clothing. Sure they look attractive, in their sparkly bottles and pretty boxes, but that’s just the Marketing and Advertising company doing its job.

Never judge a book by its cover.

image

image

Adventures in the Homewares Department

I was queuing up at my local Spotlight homewares, Arts & Crafts depot, waiting to buy some binder rings for an art project. There were 2 kids and their mother behind me, and the little boy wandered over to a shelf by the side and picked up a circular turquoise-coloured something. His mother told him to “Put that back!” right sharpish, and so he did. But not before I noticed that said circular turquoise-coloured something was made of silicone and had a beehive pattern on both sides, and could possibly make a wonderful texture stamp for my Gelli Plate printing.

So, as soon as the boy dropped the object back on the shelf, I picked it up. It was labelled a “hot mat”, but essentially it’s a potholder or trivet for putting hot pots/pans on, to save your kitchen countertop.

It was beautiful.

Having bought my newest texture-making toy, I started searching the kitchen and homewares aisles of my local KMart and Target stores. And of other, independent stores. I believed I could find some pretty amazing things that I could use for my Gelli Plate printing, at a fraction of the cost. My turquoise trivet had set me back $6.50.

My mission came up trumps. Here are some photos of my new stash of (cheap as chips) goodies:

image

image

image

image

image

The 3 in the top photo are silicone heat trivets, or hot mats, if you will. The others are placemats made of compressed felt. The last one, the red, however, I believe is made from extruded rubber or plastic.

Now to go create some Gelli Art with my new finds! I’ll be sure to share the results with you in my next post.

Social Observations: The New Religion

I was just scrolling through my Facebook feed, having read another shared post about the latest Apple vs Android debacle, followed by another one about some pastor who’s asking his congregation for a few million dollars so he can buy his own private jet…and suddenly my mind just made a connection between the two hitherto unrelated posts.

Apple fans have long been against Android fans, even more so against Samsung users, as Samsung is Apple’s main competitor. To say they hate each other is perhaps putting it mildly. I’ve owned both Apple iPhones and Android mobiles, so I can appreciate both sides of the coin. But I’ve lost friends on Facebook because I dared compare the long, snaking queues to buy the Apple iPhone 6, back in September 2014, to the bread queues of the Recession. Yes, really…one of those so-called “friends” on Facebook called me a hypocrite for using an iPhone and liking tech devices and gadgets, while at the same time “slagging off” Apple for pandering to consumers’ greed and egos.

It’s widely accepted that diehard zealots of Apple are members of the “Cult of Apple”, and that they will defend Apple’s products with their lives. Even when shown hard bare facts that some of Apple’s products are not as good as their competitors’ products, or not worth the bang for their buck. Even when shown how Apple devices are made using what’s tantamount to slave labour, in Chinese factories where workers never see the light of day and where suicides are a common occurrence. These Apple Cultists will gratefully swallow whatever expensive, non-essential new piece of bling Apple spews out.

I went to see what the big fuss was about, when the Apple Watch came out recently. (I wonder why it isn’t called the iWatch, with the “i” prefix, like all Apple’s other products?). The Apple rep at the store was waxing lyrical about this and that, even though I pointed out that 1) it doesn’t take or make calls 2) it doesn’t take photos 3) you can read your emails, sure, but you can’t reply unless it’s with a short previously prepared message 4) it’s going to pose a real driving hazard because drivers who get pinged while driving will be taking their eyes off the road to look at their wrists 5) why the obsession with counting heartbeats and steps? If you’ve been running, or if you’re excited, of course your pulse will be racing. So what? 6) Apple claims there’s a watch for everyone. Wow, like Joe Bloggs the hardworking blue-collar worker with a wife, 2 kids and another one on the way, can afford to fork out $500 for something that a $50 watch can do better? And, in this day and age, who can afford to splash out on a $24000 gold Apple Watch? When the same $24000 can feed Joe Bloggs’ entire family for a whole year?

But, as with iDiots, there will always be some rich people with no care for their community, environment, family, but only for themselves, who will buy that $24000 Apple Watch.

Just because they can. And just because it has the Apple logo on it, that they can show off. The world can go burn in hell, for all they care. It’s their money, they can buy what they like with it. What global warming? What climate change? What rainforest? What drought? What hunger? What poverty? What homelessness?

So…

Back to where I first started. If we were to compare Apple and Android to religion, then you could say that Apple is Catholicism, and Android is Protestantism. (Meaning no disrespect to Catholics and Protestants here, just using the religions as analogies).

Apple considers itself The Best, The Most Righteous, Catholic God, while Android fans are Protestants because there are so many different brands out there, all with their own good and bad points, but they just can’t agree amongst themselves so the schisms keep happening.

My two cents’ worth? Don’t follow the blind leading the blind. Find your own way, make your own path, follow principles that sit true with you and you alone. Buy products or follow brands that are ethical, guilt-free, GM free, organic, sustainable. Don’t just follow the Emperor, for the Emperor has no clothes.

And you know what else? If you really sit down and think about it, you don’t even really need a mobile phone. Not even the most basic model. People were perfectly fine before mobile phones came along. Now look at us. Tied to technology, not for any useful purpose, though, just to distract us from facing reality. Stuff you can and should do at the office at work, has now come home to us. As adults, we now have Homework again. Why not leave work at work, and go home and enjoy quality time with your family and children instead? Don’t be a slave to Technology, just like we are slaves to Money.

Me? I love my gadgets, to be sure…but nowadays I’d rather be in my studio making Art.

image

Social Observations: Bronies

Today’s post, and tomorrow’s is a hodgepodge of different observations on modern society. Not so much Urban Legends like crocodiles in the sewer, or Bloody Mary etc. Just some things I’ve found out recently, or stuff which fell into my head suddenly in a “Eureka!” moment.

Let’s talk Bronies. The Kid is a self-confessed Brony. He just came out one day and told me he liked My Little Pony (hereafter referred to as MLP). I remembered those sweet little cartoon ponies from the days when I used to watch Care Bears and He-Man and the Masters Of The Universe, and She-Ra. Yup, THAT long ago. So what if MLP was originally aimed at an audience of little girls aged 6.

No biggie. The Kid told me that males who liked MLP are called Bronies (or Brony in the singular), a portmanteau word combining “Bro(ther)” and “(Po)ny”. Female fans are Pegasisters after Pegasus (all MLP ponies have wings). Very young fans are called “Colts”. I guess being a Brony’s Mum that makes me a Pegasister by default.

Being a Brony is just like being a Doctor Who fan (did you know there’s even a Doctor Who Pony called Doctor Whooves? Yes, really, and I’m going to get it for myself). Bronies stand up there with the likes of other cosplay convention nerds (yours truly, minus the cosplay). It doesn’t matter one jot if you’re a heterosexual male, or gay, or bisexual etc. Bronies transcend gender stereotyping, they are simply male fans of MLP who refuse to accept that MLP is for girls only. Cool with me!

Here’s an excellent primer on the subject of Bronies:
http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/subcultures/bronies

And here’s a poster that I just ordered on eBay for The Kid. It’s an amazing 43×24 inch one showing the character Rainbow Dash with a sword between its teeth, against a dark background sprinkled with stars. I think it’s totally rad!

image