Make It Or Buy It?

I once started an old-fashioned hobby that needed all sorts of arcane things that I had never seen in shops. When I asked the president of the hobby club where to get the things needed he said: ” My Dear Fellow – we make them ourselves. “. And then proceeded to show me how. Over the years I discovered no end of enthusiasts making things in workshops, forges, sewing rooms, and kitchens that had not been seen for centuries.

I joined in with some darkroom and studio work that revived old practices. In nearly every case there were difficulties finding out what to do and where to get supplied of raw materials but in the end most of the projects attempted were achieved. And I found out that in the process of casting, sewing, forging, planing, and general blood-letting we had gained something even more valuable than the musket balls, swords, tunics, and historic photos – we had gained the ability to be a little independent in a coddled world.

Not all of us can make castings in a furnace that we have constructed from river clay – but I know two chaps who can. Likewise I know people who can hand-stitch an entire suit of clothes. I can make leather goods and spray paint. None of us is ever really daunted by a household repair – we might not get round to it for a decade, but that is just laziness – not fear.

We all have reversed the admiration we might have once felt for store-bought goods in favour of those we design and make for ourselves.

If you are a person who is the victim of the shops – if all you wear, eat, use, and do is governed by the goods on offer and the price that the retailer can extract – pause for a moment and think. Is there any little need that you have that can be satisfied by making it yourself? It doesn’t have to be an organically grown steam engine or an entire garden in a week. But start small and make…and use to the exclusion of a commercial product…one thing. Get used to it – get to like it – and get the feeling that there are more things that you can do…

There are.

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It’s Like Funny In The Bank

If you can tell a joke that no-one expects, you can sell it for more money than they’d normally pay.

I know – I do this daily. Not here – you get this stuff for the price of the electricity to open your computer – but over on the column I write for the Perth camera store. They pay me to stay away from the place and write good things about stock and events they sell. If I ever stop writing they’ll just pay me to stay away…

Every daily post contains a product or service that is being touted – and I do so on a fair and honest basis – but every post equally contains one unexpected yock. Mostly I make fun of myself, as being the safest target. Of course, if I suspiciously look and sound like someone else and it puts the readers in mind of another figure in the photo trade…well that must just be a trick of the light. So far no rocks through the editorial window – from either inside or outside.

Some trades would be notoriously difficult to write humorous pieces for. I should not attempt the funeral trade, nor any crisis service or legal business.  I did poke fun at dentistry while I was a dentist, but have left it alone since retiring. This way I cannot be accused of dated humour.

Likewise, some topics bear little laughter from outside the fold – religions and political movements are a good example. People involved deeply in any of those fields are not inclined to laugh at themselves nor at anyone else. Laughter invites relaxation and friendliness and few religious or political figures want to be tainted with that sort of accusation.

As for writing jokes for other people to present…well, bring it on. But be warned that if I am going to get other people to laugh with you, I will also be providing them with an opportunity to laugh at you. Are you stalwart enough to join with them on both occasions?

Throwing Up On Facebook

I have friends who throw up on Facebook. It is possible that they also throw up on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram – users of social media often have multiple receptacles available to them. This is a great convenience – they might not be at home or near a work computer when something overcomes them.

Of course, no one has ever solved the age-old mystery of where the tomatoes and sweet corn come from ( I didn’t eat either of those – I only had 14 pints of ale…) but that is rarely a problem on social media. The really peculiar thing is where people get the stuff they do ” share “…

Oh, wait. I may have given you the wrong impression. I wasn’t talking about emesis. I was talking about the racist, nationalist, sexist, and political material that is posted daily. The half thought half-thought-through that nevertheless  appears repeatedly. Talk about things coming up again…

I’d normally just step round the stuff if it was on the footpath in front of the kebab shop. As it is I can make it go away with two clicks of the computer mouse…and I am starting to realise that I can do that a lot these days. Suggested posts that are thinly veilled information fishing exercises are one thing that go out immediately. I know nothing and tell less.

Then the Trump posts. None of the people I know  who throw up anti-Trump memes have any connection to the United States, to the Presidency, or to Mr. Trump. Their shared memes and snarky comments are irrelevant. Gone.

Then the vagaries. I am bad at guessing games and worse when the games are psychological. I cannot imagine what some of the posters are on about – the only clear message that comes through is that there is no clear message. I can get that by turning the radio dial a quarter inch to the left off-station.

I do pause at cats and dogs. They can stay, as can hot rod cars and panda bears. I do also study semi-official posts that ask me to look out for a missing person – though I do wish that when a person is found that someone will also notify us of that.

And I am a sucker for domino races or improbable collections of mechanical operations that eventually turn on a popcorn maker. The engineering students with nothing to do for three days are always good for a laugh.

Too Rich, Too Thin, Too Early…

The quote that ” A woman can never be too rich or too thin ” has been attributed to a number of people. One of them, the late Wallace Simpson, might have been tempted to add ” Or too close to the British royal family or fascist Germany…”. Leaving aside who actually originated the phrase, I would venture to say that it is not true. Nearly all of us can think of women…and men…who would far better off poorer and stouter.

I would like to use the format as a springboard for a thought about retirement: You cannot retire too early or too late – you cannot retire too poor or too rich – and you should not retire too sad.

Let’s take the first part; too early. I know several people who have elected to do just this – having built up a nest egg of superannuation savings they have stopped work in their early or middle fifties. Their experiences were mixed – one found nothing to do all day, and one has been trapped by other people’s desires and has no free time. Prisoners of either ennui or ambition.

Had they been able to continue their paid working time a little longer they could have been excused after retirement from having either empty or over-full days.

Now to the second part; too late. That caught my grandfathers – one died employed, with no leisure time ever, and one died from the effects of his work’s environmental dangers…he went at it too long and too hard. We all know someone who carries on until exhausted and is horrified to discover that there is nothing after the gold watch presentation but exhaustion.

Too poor? That’s sad, and it is sometimes the unavoidable consequence of low pay all the working time. Sometimes the result of bad investment or savings, family losses, or marital strife. Sometimes just the result of bad living practices. Whatever the combination of circumstances, it leaves the retiree bound as a slave to either governmental handout or to want. The only hope is a rise in the former to alleviate the latter.

Too rich? Here it pressure is from another quarter – a moral or intellectual one. The overly wealthy retiree is beset by the temptation to spend money, and may have arrived at that position not knowing what to spend it upon. Bad choices may be made – God knows bad choices will be offered by everyone who wants a piece of that money. A perfectly good man or woman may become a perfect monster.

For my part, I am discovering that my mixture of retirement age and money may be just right for me. I have enough to live well – on a standard that I think of as well – without being tempted to pretend to be something I am not. I have arrived at retirement with very few bad habits and no need to acquire new ones to please others. I have enough old clothes to wear and old books to read and can afford the candles and firewood to do this of an evening. And I have the sense to realise that I do not need to go where I do not want to go, nor can I be compelled to do things I don’t want to do for people I dislike. It is a modest form of heaven.

” Contents May Have Settled “

How often do you see this on the outside of a packet of food; ” Contents may have settled in shipment. “. Whenever I encounter it I am beset by a number of questions:

a. Was the box or packet ever full at the start of the process? Or did you throw the cornflakes in from across the room in the hopes that they would form a magical geodesic structure and support the inside of the box?

b. Was the box designed for the contents or was it designed just to be as big – as well as brightly coloured  – as possible…to attract the eye of the unsophisticated shopper? We’ve all seen the laundry detergent packets.

c. Is ” content settling ” the same as crumbling to powder at the bottom of the box? Did we buy the breakfast equivalent of a spoonful of sugar spun into cotton candy – only to have it resolve itself back to the spoonful as soon as heat or moisture hit it? Do we, in fact, have any right to corn flakes or just to corn powder? Is powder considered to be just tiny little flakes?

d. Why does raw liver never settle in the packet? Why is it always bulging out there?

e. What do you expect us to do with the packet that has settled? Are we to turn it upside down, shake it, and magically it will become filled again? Tried that once with dynamite that had sweated out of the sticks and you can swim in the crater after rain fills it.

f. How far do you have to ship stuff anyway? Can we not make food closer to home so that it doesn’t have to travel three seas and five roads to get to us? Is it time to go back to eating what is local? ( The answer to that is yes, and for a number of reasons…)

g. Why doesn’t liquor settle in bottles – so you could skim off the water on the top and pour out the good stuff from the bottom.

 

 

The Two-Star Rating…

I’m sorry to have to tell you that my dinner one night last week only got a two-star rating. That low number was a worry but the most concerning thing about it was the fact that I wasn’t involved in the measuring process  – someone else who packaged it got to do the  pre-dinner criticism.

I actually thought it was a pretty good meal – I put a frozen Herbert Adams beef and mushroom pie into the oven for 60 minutes and was rewarded with a beef and mushroom pie. It had beef and mushrooms – to which I added gravy, peas, and spinach. Meat, pastry, gravy, and two kinds of greens seems to meet some of the goals of the world – it certainly met mine. But the fact that there was a star rating on the side of the packet raises a few questions:

a. Who does the rating? Nowhere on the package does it say.

b. What actually do they rate? Taste? Texture? Amount of gluten? Amount of Lewisite?

c. What is the scale of the rating? 1 is poisonous and 5 confers immortality?

d. Is this a load of bullshit? If it is, is it mandated bullshit or just some advertising executive’s way to fill up a blank space on the cardboard package?

I note that the next package in the freezer – a Herbert Adams chicken and leek pie has gotten three stars…and a logo that says RSPCA Approved Farming. Begging the question whether the beef pie was frowned upon severely.

Being a chicken pie, I guess it would not contain bullshit. But the sauce is white and I’ve seen what chickens do in the chicken run…

 

Profession, Trade, Or Business?

That used to be the big question for people setting out on a career. Then it became a question of semantics as each category tried to define themselves – in most cases they tried to make out that they were better than the other two.

Now the field of definition has widened. Australia’s got more people idle for more reasons and there are new classes of occupation to examine. Consider these views, but remember that the Backstabbers Guild Of Australia is not an equal-opportunity employer…

a. Job – something you do to get eating money.

b. Work – something that you might have to do on the job.

c. Business – a job that involves other people giving you money. Unfortunately they expect something in return.

d. Trade – a business in which you are expected to be skilled at doing something that other people can’t do. You get to wear a uniform, drive a tray-top ute badly, and fail to keep appointments.

e. Profession – a trade that you only get if you put up with the annoyance of education after the age of 18. You’ll get a chance to make lots of money but there will always be some statutory body to take it away from you if you annoy their hierarchy.

f. Occupation – a catch-all phrase for anything from chicken-sexing to being a politician in South Australia.

g. Calling – something you want to do but feel the need to pretend that God wants you to do it as well to make it sound better.

h. Hobby – something you want to do that you don’t get paid for.

i. Avocation -a posh name for a hobby.

j. Pursuit – a hobby that starts to veer onto vaguely criminal lines.

k. Racket  -a fully developed pursuit.

If you are perfectly honest with yourself, you can find exactly where upon this scale of activity your daily routine takes you. If you are prepared to use the adjective ” perfectly ” to qualify the word ” honest “, you may care to start at the bottom and work up…