The real reason behind austerity

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

austerity-isnt-working-2The real reason behind austerity is to erode hope, to increase inequality and to make people's lives so hard that they do not have a chance to demand better. Nay, not just that, but that they even do not dare to demand better for fear of falling every deeper into poverty.

It has nothing whatsoever to do with reducing the country's dept and all that jazz. Portugal did not follow that idea put forward by the EU and others and, erm, no, the country did not fall off a cliff; the economy grew.

Austerity is about putting people into poverty because poverty is the ultimate form of control. Because people who are poor are, more often than not, dependent on government or other agencies for help and thus are controllable.

The aim of the neo-liberals, on whose dung heap those ideas have grown, is to make the poor ever poorer and also put the middle class into the poor bracket, wherever possible, while the elite gets richer by the minute.

Also, people who are poor but are working will not risk taking industrial action, that is to say strike or such, for fear of losing their job, which in turn could lead to losing their home and even losing their children.

In this context we also have to and must see the attempt by the neo-liberal establishment to outlaw, basically, cash and the use of it. Without money in the form of cash people also have no chance to do any extra, unofficial work, or make a little money from hobby crafts, selling surplus garden produce and such. Neither can they be trading on craft and other markets as card terminals would not be within their scope.

The end of cash will also, to a great extent, mean the end of markets in villages, towns and cities, selling produce and other things, as the majority of the market traders would also not be able to afford the use of card terminals.

The entire reason for the neo-liberal idea of austerity is to make the poor poorer still, to make the middle class poor, and to make the rich ever richer and by privatizing every public service making increasing the values of the shares of the corporations and the dividends for their shareholders, mostly the already very rich. It has nothing to do with the economy not with the reduction of the public debt.

Austerity is the tool by means of which the neo-liberal elite is turning most of the people into obedient slaves, who dare not revolt for fear of becoming poorer still.

© 2018

Upcoming GDPR regulation used to spam

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

One cannot call it any other way.

GDPR-graphicIn the last couple of days, aside from the ones I have been/am subscribed to, there are emails arriving from organizations, PR companies, and whatever that I have never heard of and never been subscribed to any of their mailing lists.

It would appear that the upcoming GDPR law taking effect soon in the UK is being used to send mails to people in the hope that they will subscribe to mailing lists. Therefore, before clicking on any link asking you to confirm that you would want to continue to hear from them ensure that you actually ever have been subscribed to them, and want to continue to do so. So, just check before you click and (re)subscribe.

© 2018

Russian backyard agriculture

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

dascha russian homesteadAround 35 million backyard gardens are in private family possession in Russia and the government supports this with a legal right to a free, tax-free piece of land from 1-3 ha (in some regions even up to 6 ha).

In 1999 those backyard farms produced 50% of all the milk, 60% of all meat, 77% of all vegetables, 87% of all fruit, and 92% of all potatoes and all that organically and sustainably. The entire country can in this way be feed without any real problems.

According to information from Russia the situation has gotten better still even since that time as more and more of such small backyard farms are coming “on stream”. The surplus of what is grown and now used by the householders and their family and laid up for winter and for seed, is sold on the local markets. That is, actually, one of the obligations that comes with being given free land.

Apparently, however, neither in the EU, nor Britain, nor the USA, this system could be implemented, so the powers-that-be (but probably shouldn't be) claim. Honest now, let's face it, we can't possibly allow people to be able to grow their own food on free land with a small house that the government also pays for – more or less – as is the case in Russia, and then sell surplus on the local markets. That would way too much cut the profits of the corporations.

Just imagine what would happen if people could do that and be able to grow all the food they and their families could possibly eat and then sell surplus as well. The whole idea of neo-liberal people control by controlling their food – and what goes into it – would go out of the window and that just would not do.

© 2018

Spear & Jackson Select Stainless 3-Piece Mini Tools Set – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Spear & Jackson SELECT STAINLESS 3-PIECE MINI TOOLS SETSpear & Jackson Select Stainless 3-Piece Mini Tools Set
• Mirror-polished stainless steel heads for rust resistance, easy clean and minimal soil adhesion
• Bi-material, soft grip contoured handles for added comfort
• An ideal set for container gardening
SSP incl VAT £17.99

A small but perfectly formed set of three miniature Select Stainless hand tools: hand trowel, transplanting trowel and three-pronged cultivator, ideal for working in the confined spaces of pots, planters and baskets.

While, originally, intended for use by adults in confined spaces of pots, planters, baskets and otherwise in container gardening, the set is also ideal for the little ones to be introduced to proper gardening, whether in containers or raised bed, by being given proper tools and not plastic things.

Personally I always suggest to refrain from giving a child inferior tools when introducing them to gardening. The plastic play tools do not cut it if you really want them to take gardening serious.

I particularly like the serration on the left-hand side of the trowel as, aside from giving a cutting edge, so to speak, if and when the soil is a little compacted, it also can be used to open bags of soil, compost, etc.

A real nice handy set of tools for the adult gardener pottering around in pots or, and especially, for the young gardener.

© 2018

Technology-addled children have trouble holding a pencil

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Technology-addled children have trouble holding a pencilChildren have been found to have trouble holding pencils, due to so much time on iPads and other such devices

Experts say that children lack the muscle strength required to write.

All number of things – from intricate finger movement to hand-eye coordination – have to go right before someone can actually write.

Children spend so much time swiping iPad screens that they cannot hold a pencil anymore. Senior paediatricians in the United Kingdom say that many children start school lacking the muscle strength to grip a pencil, which affects their ability to learn how to write properly.

Technology-addled children have trouble holding a pencil2Sally Payne, head pediatric occupational therapist at the Heart of England foundation NHS Trust, told The Guardian: "Children are not coming into school with the hand strength and dexterity they had 10 years ago. Children coming into school are being given a pencil but are increasingly not able to hold it because they don't have the fundamental movement skills."

"To be able to grip a pencil and move it, you need strong control of the fine muscles in your fingers. Children need lots of opportunity to develop those skills."

I would also say that they haven't got the faintest idea what a pencil or pen is in the first place having spent probably several years already playing around on their parents' and probably even their own iPads or such devices.

Developing finger, arm, and shoulder strength is something that happened naturally in the past, when children drew, colored, cut paper and did crafts for entertainment and participated more actively in household chores. But the spread of handheld devices has changed the nature of play.

As Payne said, "It's easier to give a child an iPad than encouraging them to do muscle-building play such as building blocks, cutting and sticking, or pulling toys and ropes. Because of this, they're not developing the underlying foundation skills they need to grip and hold a pencil."

And the ability of proper finger skills and hand-eye-coordination is not just important for writing by hand but also and especially for so many other tasks.

While some may say that handwriting belongs to an antiquated education system and is no longer relevant to today's texting, typing generation, this problem goes beyond not being able to form words on paper. This shows that kids' actual physical development is being stunted by too much sedentary screen-swiping, and that's very alarming. If a child's hand isn't strong enough to hold a pencil, imagine how weak their entire body must be, if the child has spent that much time sitting still, rather than running around the backyard or climbing trees.

While cursive, aka joint-up, writing might not be too important – I never got on with it myself – learning to write by hand and actually doing so is very important indeed, also for note-taking in class, as that action transfers the knowledge better than typing.

We should not be too quick to write off handwriting as a useless skill. Even if we do not write on paper as much as we used to, subjects like math and geography and art will always require the use of one's hand, particularly in early years. And who knows what schools will be like by the time today's kindergarteners reach university. Some lecture halls are banning laptops from classrooms, not only because they are distracting, but also because students are known to retain information better if it is copied down by hand. And that is because this “copying down by hand” is actually more a case of rewriting the words of lecturer into the student's own, thus already taking the material on board without even thinking about it.

We are doing our children a great disservice by handing them an electronic device (too early) before they have mastered other much more important skills than typing or swiping a finger across a screen. They also will not always be able to have a device handy later when needing to write something down, or the device may be out of power, etc. So what then?

On the other hand being unable to hold and push a pencil due to lack of muscle strength and coordination ability may also impede other activities, including the proper use of cutlery and using a knife for cutting tasks. I dread to think what kind of generation we are creating.

© 2018

Uses for chopsticks in gardening

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

How to use chopsticks in the garden and in gardening indoors and outdoors

Uses for chopsticks in gardeningEvery year, billions of disposable chopsticks are manufactured in China and shipped across the globe to Asian restaurants and take-out restaurants and with almost every tray of sushi bought in supermarkets and other places you get a set of those as well.

Those chopsticks are made out of a variety of woods, including birch, spruce, cotton wood, or bamboo.

Before even considering using them in the garden and in gardening, though that is what, mostly, we will be looking at here, the first reuse of them is as what they are, namely chopsticks.

I have a couple of sets of those sets at home in the tin cans on the windowsill in the kitchen that hold the various items of cutlery. There is a tin for spoons, for knives, etc. and one of them has also got some (wooden) chopsticks in them (for use). I also carry a small set, in a leather wallet, for on-the go.

While I in no way support deforestation in the name of stuffing our faces with dumplings and Vietnamese Crab Fried Rice, I do appreciate, however, creative ways to reuse and recycle items that are otherwise discarded into the trashcan or at the very least stuffed into a kitchen junk drawer, as is all too often the case also with those chopsticks.

In Japan (and also China now, I believe) a trend was started a while back of “bring your own chopsticks” – much like the “bring your own cutlery” that has been advocated in the West, and this is certainly something that should be encouraged.

So, before reuse of such chopsticks in the garden think of reusing them as what they are and when you want to use chopsticks at home then use those. Or when going out where there is the chance that you may indulge in some Asian food then carry your own set.

Having said that I am well aware that often getting yet another set is unavoidable as in some cases they are prepacked with the meal you purchase and you have no choice and control over this.

Right, now for the reuse of chopsticks in the garden and gardening

Dibblet: A dibblet is one of those small dibbers for separating seedlings and replanting them. Some people use a small stick, a pencil or pen, or such while others spend money, actually, buying a special dibblet. Use a chopstick instead. Works great.

Seed Flags: After you have planted your seeds, it is time to make a label so you know where you have planted what. The best marker is a good old flag: Use colored tape, cut it into a fun flag shape, wrap it around one end of a chopstick, and use a marker to note the name.

Seedling Support Stakes: When seedlings coming up, and are getting tall they may need some support. Insert a chopstick into the dirt next to the plant, and loosely tie a piece of twine or string around it to help keep the plant upright as it grows.

Row Planting Guide: Want to make sure you plant your rows straight? Cut a piece of twine or string a few inches longer than your row will be, or just have a lot more string than you will actually need to have one you can use again and again. Tie each end to the tops of two chopsticks. Stick the chopsticks into the ground at either end of the proposed row so that the twine is suspended like a bridge. If you use more twine than you might need for shorter rows just wind then remaining stuff onto one of the chopsticks. You can use your trowel to dig into the ground directly below the twine, making a perfectly straight row.

Mini “Greenhouse”: Stick three chopsticks into a pot or individual seed starting cell, and fit a plastic bag over the top and you have an instant small propagator.

The above are, obviously, only a few ways in which you can reuse and make use of those chopsticks in the garden and gardening and I am sure many readers can come – and have come up – with other ideas in addition to those presented here.

© 2018

The state of Yugoslavia stood in the way of the strategic plan of the USA

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The state of Yugoslavia stood in the way of the strategic plan of the USAThe aim of the US government, through the CIA and proxy-warriors of the CIA, was to eliminate the state of Yugoslavia as a geopolitical power factor, as a regional power. Yugoslavia, as it stood, as a large state, did not fit in with the desires of the United States and thus it had to be broken up. It stood in the way of the strategic plan of the USA the way it was.

The state Yugoslavia, as it was, stood in the way of this strategic plan of the USA for it was a country had some weight and some prestige and also had one of the largest and strongest armies of Europe. Thus it had to be eliminated as a homogeneous nation, although made up of many nations, and broken up. That was the aim of CIA dark operations. Those even included the arming of certain groups – mostly the Muslim fighters, such as in Bosnia, many of which were actually foreign operators from other Muslim countries, including Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Another of the CIA's clandestine operators tasks was the surveillance, and if necessary elimination, of a supposed Serb terror group whose aim it was to sabotage the plans for Bosnian independence. The problem here was that the group "Surpreme Serbia", as it was called, never existed.

While it is true that the Serb side has committed atrocities the Bosniaki side probably even more and was far better in ethnic cleansing, as were the Kosovar Albanians. In that case a British commander stated on record: “We have come out in the defense of the wrong group”.

In the case of Kosovo, as well as, to some extent, in Bosnia Herzegovina, a main aim of ethnic cleansing was targeted at the Romani (Gypsy) population, a fact very often ignored. In Kosovo the Roma mahalas were systematically attacked and the people forced out, after which the homes were either taken over by Kosovar Albanians or destroyed.

Other operatives that were “at location”, from British military personnel, especially officers, liaison officers, as well as intelligence officers, talk of the same US shenanigans, as well as security personnel for the convoys. The weapons that were supplied by the Saudis – for the Muslim mercenaries – paid for with CIA funds, and several former CIA officers in that region report of the same. And those Islamist mercenaries were directly paid from CIA black funds.

Black ops, as they are often called, of the CIA went basically from one region of Yugoslavia to another, after mission accomplished in one, in order to destabilize the country and cause it to fall apart by “encouraging” those regions targeted to strive for independence.

As far as Kosovo is concerned the troubles are far from over with it, basically, being the largest US military base in the Balkans and the actions of the regime in Kosovo, against Serbs (and Rom) being sanctioned, for lack of a better word, by the US military administration.

In the same way that Yugoslavia, as a state, stood in the way of the geopolitical interest of the USA so it was with Libya, with Iraq and is also the case with Syria. Whenever a country stands in the way of the global strategic interests of the USA destabilizing is being applied and if that does not work civil war is being created. And when that does not work, as in the case of Russia, weird and wonderful incidents are being produced by America and its “allies”.

© 2018

Don't try to impress people with what you can buy

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

20604260_2114171278607919_4510769526560386680_nDon't try to impress people with what you can buy. Instead impress them – or at least try to impress them – with what you can do and make. Make from natural materials, from trash, and whatever, and thus don't have to buy.

Also with what you can do without, I would add to that. People are always totally amazed that I do not have a television, for instance. How can you not have a television and stay informed, they ask at times. Others wonder in a question as to whether I don't get bored not being able to watch TV and what I do with and in my spare time. First question here is: “what is spare time?”, for of that I do not have much. I am far too active with all manner of things. And, also, have they never heard of hobbies and books?

But, let's get back to the things that you can do (and make) for yourself instead of buying them. I am more impressed what someone can make and do then what they can buy. There money won't get them anywhere should the time come when the proverbial hits the air moving device, if you get my meaning.

Being able to make (do) and do – and do without – is what counts, as far as I am concerned, and that more and more so today where we have already over-consumed our quota of the Earth's resources and with recycling and the circular economy being but, in the main, a serious case of greenwash.

Instead of buying to impress, and buying more and more, we should and must, in fact, reduce our consumption – maybe even reduce to impress, but then again why impress or try to impress in the first place – and make do, repair, reuse, make our own, ideally from waste in the form of reuse or upcycling, and make our own from scratch from natural materials and/or from waste.

In my house absolutely nothing matches, as far as furniture and such is concerned, and many things, such as coat racks, and others, are made by myself from waste materials, natural materials or a combination of both. Found objects become decorations in one way or the other and on goes the list. And why not? Shabby chic is now seriously the in thing and such decorations are very much part of it.

Making furniture from pallets – and similar wood – was once the domain of the poor student and the hippies but today it is more or less big business and pieces of furniture made from such wood fetch high prices. But, with a little knowledge and skill, and some tools, you can make those yourself rather. The same goes for so many other things too.

That is rather the way how I like to impress people – although I do not set out to impress them – and not by buying expensive things.

© 2018

All you need is one

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

29513116_287094908492162_7131041815685215326_n“A man with one watch knows what time it is. The man with two is not quite sure.” Unknown

So many homes are clogged with duplicate items, which are supposed to make things easier, but end up contributing to clutter and cost. But can downscaling to just one of each really be done? Maybe, maybe not entirely. It all depends on the individual's and the individual family's situation.

If you do have children who attend school then you can't just have one pair of school trousers, and one shirt, and pair of underpants, for the child unless you can wash and dry this each and every time that they need washing so they can be ready again the next day.

The same goes for someone who has to have clean clothes for work every day. Here too just having one set would not work. It is a little different if you are working somewhere where you are being issued with a uniform, and that in a couple of sets.

In most cases you will need two sets, whether this is as regards to bedding or clothes, especially underwear and socks. It would also not be very environmentally healthy, so to speak, to do your washing every day and use a tumble dryer, for instance, so as to have the clothes clean again next day.

Just having one, good, pair might work with shoes but not necessarily with anything else. You can reduce some of the clothing pile, even to a very minimalist level, if you add family nudism to the equation.

If your children are homeschooled and thus need no clothes for going to school, as they don't go to school, and can do their lessons at home in the altogether then you win even more in that department.

The one section in the clothing department you can do away with altogether, at least for the males, and that is underwear in the form of underpants. Science has shown that they are actually bad for boys and men alike.

In addition to that the idea that you only need one and only owning one item or pair of something goes against our cultural, and possibly even human, tendency to stockpile multiples for future times of need, even though most of the time those extras add more clutter, cost, and work to our lives than benefits.

Personally, I have to say that I am guilty of this, but many of the things stockpiles are consumables and it saves having to dash out to the stores when you run, say, out of toilet paper to have another couple sitting there in the cupboard.

In some departments it is possible to pare down to single items or just two of them, in others this simply does not work. With clothing this would mean that daily, more or less, you have to do the washing and then, probably, use a dryer, such as a tumble dryer, to dry the clothes so that they are ready for the next day. It does not make for savings and neither is that good for the Planet; the opposite rather.

As far as some items are concerned the question also is why own them at all. The television, as far as I am concerned, is one of those. If it has only entertaining and childminding duties then it is best not ever given houseroom in the first place or gotten rid off now. It is also not called program for no reason. It is a means of programing us and especially the kids who do not have as much discernment as adults should have.

In addition the toy department can be reduced – though ideally in cooperation with the children – as too many toys do not make for better play either. In fact the fewer toys kids own the better and more imaginary the play is.

While, as said, it can be possible to have just one items of something, as far as clothing is concerned this is not, and also not very environmentally friendly even if some may think it. Constant washing is not good for the clothes, requires water and energy, not speaking of detergent, and if the drying has to happen on the quick, via a dryer, then that costs additional energy and extra wear on the clothes.

Owning less in a way is a good idea as there is less stuff and clutter in the house, making it easier to find that single item as it is easier to designate a specific location in which to keep it. But in many cases the single items just is not going to be possible.

There are many minimalists and aspiring minimalists who believe that they are doing the Planet a service by cutting down almost to the bone but this is not always the case and what do you do if your single set of clothes that you have washed that evening is not dry for the next morning? Just one of the possible dilemmas.

You also wouldn't, necessarily, want to pare down too much on practical items like dinner plates, cutlery, etc., since that could create more work, and this is the same with regards to owning just one set of everything in regards to clothes. However, having ten shirts, ten pairs of pants, etc., as some seem to have, really is not necessary. Nor are hundreds (OK, I may be exaggerating) toys for the kids.

As far as clothes go good reduction and reduction in use is possible if you, whether you are an individual, a couple, or a family, embrace nudism, at least at home (and on the property) as a lifestyle. Also your health and that of the kids will benefit from such a change.

© 2018

Drinking the hipster way

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The HipsterWay1There definitely was a time when you used a jam jar or other glass jar as a drinking vessel you were looked down upon and was surely regarded as being seriously poor or a strange eccentric.

Jam jars and other glass jars were the common drinking vessels of the poorer classes for many, many decades and more and the very term of “having a jar”, referring to having a drink, even in the pub, probably originates from that. More than likely they even brought their own appropriate jars to the pub.

Robert Tressell in his book “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists” mentions on more than one occasion, I believe, of the workers drinking their tea during their break from jam (glass) jars.

When I was a child drinking glasses in our home were reserved for guest and all the family, though especially the children, drank from glass jars of various sizes for various purposes. Cheaper also to give children a jam jar, for instance, and have him drop that and break it – at least in those days – that a real drinking glass which would cost money to replace.

Personally I have kept this habit and my (personal) drinking glasses are all reused glass jar of different types and kinds and even the water bottle that I use by my desk is a glass jar, in that case a reused Bockwurst glass from Aldi.

Nowadays it has become the hipster thing to do to drink from glass jars (again) and many fashionable bars and coffee shops serve cold beverages and smoothies in glass jars to their customers.

But, hold it! No ordinary reused jar will do. No way, Jose! It has to be Mason jars. And they do the same at home but also there, in their own four walls, it has to be bought Mason jars. Reusing jam jars they could not possibly do. What would others think. Empty jars are for the recycling bin. One has to do one's part as to recycling. It would not do to reuse those jars. (Sorry, my sarcasm has got the better of me again.)

As drinking from glass jars – canning jars – has become so very trendy why not go the reuse route and make use of those that come with the products you buy.. After all you have paid for them through the purchase price. Much better for your wallet and for the Planet than buying – rather expensive – canning jars for the same purpose.

© 2018