Posts filed under ‘Useful resources’

Transboundary waters

I’ve alerted you before to a potential future of conflicts over dwindling water resources. Check out my posts here and here if you missed out. And now a new report by the Pacific Institute (prepared for the United Nations) looks at the growing likelihood of cat fights over shared water resources.  You can download the report here but basically it says:

  • global climate change will increase the risk of conflict over shared international freshwater resources
  • existing agreements and international principles for sharing water (there are around 300) will not adequately handle the strain of future pressures
  • freshwater resources are unevenly and irregularly distributed, with some regions of the world extremely short of water, and political borders and boundaries rarely coinciding with borders of watersheds
  • 40% of the world’s population relies on shared water resources that cross political borders
  • regions that will experience the effects of climate change but are governed by weak international agreements are: Mekong River in southeastern Asia, the Colorado River, the Guarani Aquifer in South America and the Nile River in northeastern Africa.

The report calls for either establishing agreements in transboundary water areas or amending existing treaties to incorporate climate change. There is a long history of disputes over water resources. You can see a chronology of water conflict here.

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January 20, 2010 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Water conflicts

Did you read my post about water barons and how multinational companies or private individuals are spotting the opportunities to make a profit from an increasingly dwindling supply of fresh water?  I told you about how we will be slugged with substantially increased water rates, contaminated water supplies or poor service delivery when water scarcity hits us.

Australia of course is the driest continent on the planet and has one of the highest levels of water use per capita – so what happens when an area or region runs out of water? It’s what I’ve been saying – illegal water carriers swoop like vultures to the carcass. The Upper Hunter region in New South Wales has been in the grip of drought. Dams, tanks, bores and streams have been running dry from Cessnock to Murrurundi and thousands of families in this mainly rural area are being forced to buy water for drinking, washing, bathing and stock such as cattle.  Bores in the village of Wingen are dry for the first time in years and I saw a TV show the other night where the publican was being interviewed – he was saying they fear it when people who come to his pub go to the toilet (because it means litres of water being used to flush the toilet and more expense for him).

Water carters are charging between AU $100 and $160 for residential loads. Water loads vary from 9000 litres up to 28,000 litres but the average load seems to be about 12,000 litres. That sounds a lot but remember these people are farmers mainly, so they have stock and soaring temperatures to contend with. Beef farmers are apparently weaning calves four months early due to the lack of water.

And in the midst of this water crisis, you get the opportunists, the water privateers – who are illegally supplying water and causing damage to water mains and hydrants because they are not licensed and not accessing water supplies in the approved manner (which is via a credit card-like key).

I suspect this is our future – a world that will see increasing skirmishes over water and opportunists who will sell us water (a basic human right) at exorbitant costs.

Since the late 1980s, the Pacific Institute has been studying the connections between water resources, water systems and international security and conflict in an effort to track and categorise events related to water and conflict. Their water conflict chronology will freak you out but it’s a reality we must face.  You can view the chronology in a number of different ways, from a timeline to interactive Google Earth water conflict maps. You can filter the timeline to show when conflicts over water occurred by region, conflict type and date range. There’s also a list of conflicts over water starting in 3000 BC with extensive descriptive notes.

Australia is not the only country facing water scarcity. American readers should read this article on water issues challenging the US, including inter-state water battles. If you live in Oklahoma, might be time to consider getting out before corn and soybean yields decrease by 30 to 46% due to the Ogallala Aquifer under the Great Plains of the United States (including important parts of Oklahoma) experiencing a 20% decrease in recharge. And of course when you get crops failing around the world due to water scarcity…you get food scarcity…you get skirmishes and death.

India has already witnessed deaths and injuries over water shortages and Nigeria has recently seen thousands of people protesting over dwindling water supplies. Water covers three-quarters of the planet’s surface but most of this is undrinkable. Less than 3% of the world’s water is fresh and drinkable. Lloyd‘s are already talking of “water bankruptcy” being our future and pointing out that 55% of the world’s population will be dependent on food imports as a result of insufficient domestic water by 2030. That is just 20 years from now.

December 29, 2009 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

How to destroy your credit card

So…Christmas is over for another year. Did you have a great time with family and friends? Did you get what you wanted from Santa? I bet one thing you might have wanted from Santa is a debt-free 2010. As we head towards New Year’s Eve, we start to think of those dreaded New Year’s Resolutions. Some people don’t bother with them because they know any resolution will be long forgotten by the end of January. Others, like me, well…we make a list and stick to it until about March or so. But this year, we can all stick to one resolution – saying goodbye, adieu, hasta la vista to your credit card. Why? Because it’s probably keeping you in debt and if you used it to finance Christmas, you’re about to face the January credit card scare.

There are two Golden Rules to being Frugalicious. The first is never spend more than you earn and the second is don’t have credit card debt. If you pay off your credit card in full every month, then stop reading this post. Otherwise, read on.

First of all, gather up your credit cards. I know this will be hard but I’ll wait. Get them out of your wallet and place them on a table. As this will be ceremonial-like, why not light some candles for atmosphere. Perhaps pop on a CD of your favourite music. Make the farewelling of your credit card an important occasion.

Now, you could do the usual thing and take a sharp pair of scissors to your credit card but let’s get more creative. Here are some ways to destroy your credit card but make sure you’re always careful: wear protective goggles, gloves, clothing and shoes.

Nuke it. Place the credit card in a microwave safe bowl and pop it into the microwave. This is a pretty satisfying method albeit a bit smelly. You might expect it to explode but it will just melt and buckle. Watch this video to see what happens.

Run over it. Wait for a sunny day to go out and mow the grass. Take the credit card from the table, carry it out on a ceremonial tray and place in the centre of your lawn. Start your lawn mower. Say a few words in memory of your credit card, then head in the direction of that shiny piece of plastic sitting innocently on the grass. As you reach it, say “consider this a divorce” and run straight over it, listening to the lawnmower blades making a mess of your credit card. See if you can find some of the pieces and dance around the remains.

Shred it or blend it. Find a shredder that shreds plastic. This is a noisy method but strangely soothing. The shredder will rip apart your credit card into tiny plastic bits in seconds. Or you can pop your credit card into a blender. The more credit cards you have, the better the blender method. Watch this video for instructions.

Blowtorch it. Only use this method if you know how use a blowtorch safely. Place the credit card in a metal vice, say a few prays for the credit card, then light the torch and watch as it melts away before your very eyes. Watch this video on how to blowtorch your plastic (along with other whacky methods).

Washing machine or dryer.  Set your credit card to the test – how many times can it make it through the washing machine or dryer cycles?

Hole punch it. Put as many holes through your credit card as you can and use the bits as confetti. As you’re punching your credit card, remember how many times your bank has punched it to you with rising credit card interest rates.

Credit card funeral. I really like this idea. Robert Crilley (retired North Carolina district court judge) presided over a funeral with a difference. Inside a miniature casket were the torn-up credit cards of 50 or so people. Gather some frugalicious friends who also want to say hasta la vista to their credit card and do the same, complete with music and a North Carolina accent. I really encourage you to watch this video of Crilley. I love it when he says:

“The deceased represents the merging of two very powerful bloodlines: the one whose motto is, ‘You know you deserve it,’ and the other, whose motto is, ‘You can have it now…..Our friend didn’t want worship. He just wanted everything that he gave you back again in one form or another — with 18% interest.”

Go camping with your credit card. Next weekend, go camping with your family. Have some quality family time by lighting a camp fire and tossing your credit card in the camp fire. Joining hands, dance around the camp fire together as the plastic burns. You might find yourself getting into a state of ecstasy.

Here are 27 more fun ways to destroy your credit card but, whatever you do, make sure you securely destroy your plastic. You need to know how to properly slice and dice it so identity theft can’t occur. Watch this video on how to securely destroy your card in 15 slices, this includes running a very strong magnet along the stripe on the back of the card (to scramble the data).

December 26, 2009 at 11:45 pm Leave a comment

A fragrance obsessive’s guide: Part 2

Alrighty! I’ve had some amazing comments and reaction to my various posts on perfumes with a number of requests to post more. So today I will cover more perfumes I think are worth a sniff, if not worthy of purchase. If you’ve missed out on earlier posts, go here for Part 1 of my guide and here for my rant against celebrity and brand name perfumes. Make sure to read the comments as some readers have suggested favourite scents. I’m off this week to sniff Tom Ford’s fragrances because Woody3D left a comment about how good they are (particularly Arabian Wood).

Now remember: I’m no perfumer. Just a girl who’s had a lifelong love affair with perfumes courtesy of my grandmother (who had a perfume shop) and my mother, who would not have dreamt of getting out of bed without a spray of her beloved Zibelene (by Weil before it was reformulated and turned into a shadow of its former self).  In this post, I’m going to include some perfumes I’ve discovered from independent perfumers (ie not the DREADED brands or celebrity perfumes, blah) and some Arabian or Middle Eastern perfume oils. I’ve been toying with these for a year or so now.

More posts will follow but today in no particular order:

  • L’air du désert marocain by Tauer Perfumes (Switzerland). You can read my full review here. This is a unisex perfume if you ask me. One whiff of this scent and you’re swept off to the sands of Morocco and the heady smells of the spice souk. It’s an intense, sensual oriental with wonderful smokey notes and tinged with coriander, petitgrain, lemon, bergamot, jasmin, geranium, cedarwood, vetiver, vanille, patchouli and ambergris. All working together in perfect harmony in a cedar and vetiver base and with an amber background. This is a brilliant perfume IMHO.
  • Visa by Robert Piguet. I don’t like the name of this perfume but once you move past that, you end up with a velvety, fruity chypre that has hints of peach and pear. Visa was originally created by Germaine Cellier in 1945 (an amazing French perfumer who also created other wonderful scents like my beloved Fracas; Coeur-Joie by Nina Ricci; and Jolie Madame by Pierre Balmain. These perfumes are classics from the 1940s and 1950s). But back to Visa, which is a modern recreation. It is slightly sweet for me but it’s flirty and vivacious. When I first sprayed it, I thought bleh, it’s just like all the modern “I want to smell like a fruit bowl” type perfumes. But once it settles, interesting notes emerge with immortelle being prominent. It’s really quite a seductive perfume.
  • Ahebbak by Ajmal (a Middle Eastern fragrance house). Ahebbak apparently means “I love you” and this oriental perfume oil is indeed a very romantic, opulent scent. I had to go all the way to Abu Dhabi to get this (well, I was on my way to Morocco to run a workshop so I went via Abu Dhabi). With oriental perfume oils, you just need a dab, then wait 5 minutes for the dry-down. This concentrated oil is full of musky, floral and citrus notes. The citrus is the top note and then you experience the warm, spicy middle note and finally the lingering, soft musky sandalwood base note. Although I love this perfume, I think it’s been created more for the young, spirited woman (which does not imply I’m some old goat – rather someone who prefers a more confident, punchy fragrance).
  • Ubar by Amouage (a fragrance house established by a member of the Omani royal family in 1983). I discovered this perfume about 7 years ago before, quelle horreur, it was discontinued. I bombarded Amouage with emails as I’m sure many other lovers of this gorgeous scent did. Ubar has now been relaunched (thank goodness, I don’t have to get on yet another plane to Abu Dhabi to get my hands on it). Ubar is named after the long lost ancient Arabian frankincense trading city of Ubar, so you get the idea: exotic, spicy, heady, seductive, playful, evocative, mysterious, warm desert nights under a silvery moon – okay getting carried away. I’m not quite sure how to describe this beauty because I have not whiffed the re-launched version. I have an unopened bottle of the original 1995 Ubar (I’ve been through about 4 bottles to date) – the first notes you experience are honey, rose,  jasmine and vanilla followed closely by lily of the valley.  What I loved about the original Ubar was the power and sensuousness of the civet base. I am hoping that the new version is not some watered-down muck but reviews give me confidence. It apparently opens with top notes of bergamot, lemon and lily-of-the-valley (I’m guessing less rose) before revealing the middle or heart notes of damascene rose and jasmine and then finishing with a civet and vanilla base.
  • Rumba by Balenciaga. I pull this out of my perfume wardrobe every so often; it’s an old stand-by for me.  It’s luxurious and elegant. I believe it was created in the 1980s so is full of sassiness and power (and probably shoulder-pads!). This is not a perfume for shrinking violets because its golden plum base swirls with the sweetness of orange blossom, tuberose, heliotrope, gardenia, vanilla and magnolia. There’s a smokiness to this rich scent, probably from the amber and musk, which temper Rumba’s sweetness. It could have turned into a disastrous, cloying, sickly sweet perfume without the darker, sensual base. When I wear it, this is one of the perfumes I’m often asked about.
  • Bal à Versailles by Jean Desprez. Created in 1962, I think this was one of the first perfumes I hounded my mother to  buy for me when I was a teenager. And I think it’s a very overlooked perfume. This is a lush, woody oriental scent that causes you to ponder what it must have been like at the Palace of Versailles when Louis XIV reigned supreme – it’s aristocratic, elegant, flirtatious. I can imagine powdered and wigged women of the time before the French Revolution, engaging in some romantic court liaison with a Count or Prince, wearing Bal à Versailles. It’s a lavish concoction of roses and Grasse jasmine, with orange blossom, vanilla, sandalwood, musk, vetiver and patchouli (but don’t panic: it’s not that horrid patchouli oil that hippies wore in the 70s and God forbid I smelt on someone the other day as she wafted by. Nearly knocked me over). This perfume is for the sophisticated woman but I actually think a confident guy could pull off wearing this perfume: just a dab mind you. Because of its musky, dark leathery accords, just a little could be quite stunning on a guy.

So keep talking to me – what are your favourite scents?

December 17, 2009 at 2:00 am 14 comments

A frugalicious Christmas

I try to avoid Christmas as much as possible because I believe it exists simply for the purpose of making us all go dilly and spend, spend, spend. Then in January, you live in fear of the credit card debt you’ve accumulated. This year, we are spending Christmas with a great friend and her family. You might ask: what about your family? Well, most of them are overseas or no longer on the planet. So what better way to spend Christmas than with some great people (rather than things you’ve bought) and some simple food.

So here are my essential tips for avoiding a credit card headache in January and enjoying a simple “back to basics” Christmas. None of the ideas involves lots of $$$$ and they involve spending time making things or being with your family.

  • get that credit card out of your wallet and leave it at home. Do what I do: hide it somewhere secret and then forget where that place is. A decade later you’ll discover it! You will most likely get caught up in department store displays and bright, shiny decorations that are calling you like a siren – but if you don’t have your credit card with you, it might just stop you from buying what you (or others) really don’t need. Remember that interest rates are likely to rise in 2010 and remember we aren’t out of the GFC yet.
  • prepare a gift budget. You might have heaps of people to buy gifts for but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune. Make a list of who you need to buy gifts for and the amount you have for buying all the gifts. As you buy each gift, subtract the money you spent from your total budget. A simple technique that encourages you to be frugalicious. You don’t need to buy to impress people – think about the person’s personality and a simple gift they would appreciate. If you have the ability, make a few gifts.
  • don’t use expensive gift wrapping. In the past, I’ve cut up old maps, calendars and comic books, used newspaper which I’ve coloured or used plain white paper that I’ve drawn on. I’ve taken photos and scanned them onto paper (like my background for my Twitter page). Use your kid’s drawings that they did at school for wrapping paper. A few years back, I presented a family member with a gift wrapped in aluminum/aluminium foil – learn how. And the most frugal technique is to buy your Christmas wrapping paper straight after Christmas because it will probably be at 75% discount and you can use it in 2010.
  • gift tags and cards. Why pay a commercial card company to write a personal message that you should be writing? Cut up your Christmas cards from last year, make a collage out of them and compose your personal message on the back of it. You could send an e-card but I don’t think they have the personal “I care” touch. So why not make a Thankful Leaf – and idea that we have used in my family over the years – get a piece of paper, chuck a leaf onto it, then spray around the leaf or watercolour around it, using bright colours. Take the leaf off and you’re left with the shape or silhouette of the leaf. In this space, write what you are thankful for eg I am thankful for our friendship. Go here to see some examples and a Thankful template you can use.
  • Bring the outside inside. Maybe when you were a kid, you decorated pine cones with gold or silver spray paint. Do it again and even sprinkle with a lovely essential oil. A Christmas table looks fabulous with gold-tipped pine cones snuggling together in a festive looking bowl or even a shiny stainless steel bowl. Plonk some twigs from the garden in vases and tart them up with glitter and use as a table decoration. Make some paper fans to decorate the tree – go here to learn how and also how to dip pine cones in white paint. Make some merry mice. Don’t light up your house like a Christmas tree – just have the Christmas lights on for a couple of hours each night so it’s a special time.
  • Do stuff together. When I was a kid, Christmas lunch was followed by an intense game of Majong. Or the Monopoly board would be whipped out. Why not turn to some simple entertainment – play cards, get the karaoke machine out, tell stories about what you are thankful for, read a Christmas story together. Bake Christmas cookies together or work on a huge jigsaw puzzle. If you’re up for it, put on a pantomime. Go to the Put on a Panto website for ideas. You don’t all have to disappear into your respective rooms to watch TV or surf the Net.
  • If you are totally clueless as to what gifts you might be able to makego here for ideas. If you have a cat, make a cat mat for your kitty cat. For your canine, make a dog-bone wreath. And there are plenty more ideas for crafty, budget-conscious gifts here.
  • Share the love. Because of the economy going belly up, there are many homeless people out there or people suffering from a long illness or people who are less fortunate than you. To really embrace the Christmas spirit, why not volunteer your time. Spend some time at a homeless shelter helping prepare Christmas lunch or take yourself off to a retirement home and chat with some of the seniors (they have a lot of rich stories to tell). Above all, don’t stress out. Take a little time each day to just enjoy things – go for a walk, read a story with the kids, make yourself a cup of hot chocolate and relax.

A good friend said to me the other day “I count my blessings every single day”. Why don’t we all do that over Christmas.

December 16, 2009 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Lost for words

Wordle: Lost English wordsI’ve been helping a couple I’m friends with choose their first baby’s name. If it’s a girl, the front-runner is Lara; if it’s a boy, Evan or Owen. We were busy looking up odd, unusual or lost baby names and, in the process, I came across a whole slew of words we seem to have lost from the English language. I was caught up with this for hours (there went most of Sunday).

So today, I’m bringing you a select list of words that our ancestors once uttered. I’m putting them into sentences as I really like how they sound (I’m presuming the words could be used like this). The lost word is in bold with its meaning following the sentence, although this is pretty obvious when you see the word and ask “what the?”!

  • You are very acrasial today I must say.  Ill-tempered, cranky.
  • I was watching the child’s lambition of the ice cream. Licking or lapping.
  • I simply couldn’t get any sleep last night because of all the tussicating going on. Coughing.
  • He was a skeptic but now he’s a sacricolistDevout worshipper.
  • The namelings Kim and Dr Kim follow the same political party. People sharing the same name.
  • The bird flew to its nidifice. A nest.
  • If I might quaeritate. Are you sure we’re going in the right direction? To question or inquire.
  • I’m off to the markets to venundate. To buy and sell.
  • I must say, that’s a real conynger. Rabbit-warren.
  • That dinner looks a bit meagry. Meagre-looking.
  • The sinapistic sauce I made last night really went over well with my guests. Consisting of mustard.
  • Phylactology reached its peak during the Cold War. Science of counter-espionage.
  • She thought her bad luck was due to evil forces but her family thought it was a matter of scaevity. Unluckiness or left-handedness. Actually, the Greeks and Romans used to associate left-handedness with weakness and during the Medieval era, it was associated with witchcraft.
  • I simply will not tolerate your sevidical tone. Speaking cruel and harsh words; threatening.

These are some of the words I found most fascinating. Can you imagine how people used to speak?!  Mind you, we have some interesting new words entering the English language, reminding us that language is very much a complex, adaptive system. Here’s some new words:

  • Blamestorming. A noun meaning a way to collectively find someone to blame for something when no-one wants to fess up.
  • Threequel. The third book, movie or event in a series.
  • Lookism. Prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of appearance.
  • Unfriend. To remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook.

There are heaps more here.  I can imagine when Twitter, Facebook, social networks and so on are left behind by the amazing technology and cultural shifts of the future, someone 500 years from now will laugh at words we use now like tweet, twitterverse, gaydar, metrosexual – to name but a few.

Sources: Cracked; Phrontistery; BluePlanet languages; AskOxford. Word Cloud by Wordle.

December 15, 2009 at 2:00 am 3 comments

Water barons

I’ve blogged many times about a future world facing water and food scarcity, along with skirmishes over access to water and food. Go here and here for a refresher.

I recently said that water will be the oil of the 21st Century and that private companies are increasingly buying rights to water. I even suggested you search the names of two French companies – Suez Lyonnaise des eaux and Vivendi Environnement – did you do that? No? Search now. I’ll wait.

You might have found that these two companies alone supply water to 230 million people around the world (and this includes the US). They have quietly assumed control over the water supplied to millions of people. Scary. Think about a future when every time you flush the toilet or turn on the tap/faucet, you are pouring profit into private water companies.

American readers: you may have heard of T.Boone Pickens – corporate raider and oilman – he owns more water than any other individual in the U.S. and is aiming to control more. And he is planning on selling 65 billion gallons a year to thirsty Americans. Have you heard of Dr William Turner and the WaterBank?  Turner is from New Mexico and is a new breed of professional – an Internet water-rights broker – who lists water rights for sale or lease and trades in the water marketplace.

In most countries, the State owns the water resources. But the infrastructure to run the water supply (eg dams, filtration and supply systems, the charging process) is one more Government activity that is being increasingly run by private water utility companies who argue that they are cheaper and more efficient than public works.

Because I think this is such a serious issue, I am going to provide you with some stuff to read and follow up, so you can educate yourself. And think about how to secure your access to a basic human right – water.

  • CBC News Canada report on water privatisation in South Africa
  • in fact check out the whole series by CBC Canada on water privatisation
  • US companies raid Aussie water
  • The Center for Public Integrity’s in-depth investigation into the water barons
  • The Jakarta Post – taking on the water barons
  • World Economic Forum report that warns we will face water bankruptcy in less than 20 years
  • World Vision report (audio) Water Wars
  • World Water Wars– website for exchange of ideas and information about water privatisation and exploitation
  • series of videos featuring Datta Desai and the protest over water privatisation in Maharashtra, India.

There are two interweaving factors at play here: the world is running out of fresh water, FAST and multinational companies and private individuals are spotting the opportunities to make a profit. You and I will not reap the benefits of these profits. No. We will be slugged with substantially increased water rates; contaminated water supplies; poor service delivery. Don’t believe me? Then read this and this.  If you ask me, very soon “www” will not stand for World Wide Web. It will signify World Water Wars.

December 8, 2009 at 2:00 am 2 comments

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