More than 5,200 cities and towns in 135 countries worldwide switched off their lights for Earth Hour 2011, sending a powerful message for action on climate change. It also ushered in a new era with members going Beyond the Hour to commit to lasting action for the planet. Without a doubt, it’s shown how great things can be achieved when people come together for a common cause.
Global warming is the greatest threat facing our planet today. A warming planet alters weather patterns, water supplies, seasonal growth for plants and a sustainable way of life for us, and the world’s wildlife. Climate change has already started, but it’s not too late to take action. There’s still time for us all to be part of the solution.
How awesome! Sometimes it’s a good thing to come home to your family. Sometimes it is the right move. A move forward, in the right direction. If you need to save money, catch up, have some breathing space so you can plan the next part of your life, without the pressures of life’s financials biting at your heels, it really might be the perfect move to make. And the right decision.
I do love her. Gita, that is. Not the cat. Not so much. Although he is pretty cute.
Have you seen Spalding Gray‘s intense film, ‘Swimming to Cambodia’ where he delivers a monologue that takes every ounce of intentionality you can muster to follow all the way through, to the very end? Have you seen it? If not, I highly recommend it. “Spalding Gray sits behind a desk throughout the entire film and recounts his exploits and chance encounters while playing a minor role in the film ‘The Killing Fields’. At the same time, he gives a background to the events occurring in Cambodia at the time the film was set.” That’s from IMDb. I actually did watch it all the way through, some years ago, and managed to stay present through most of it. Only after several attempts though.
Last week, I got into my car, started it up, and, as I drove off, I pressed the radio button for the ABC. An interview with Alice Pung was on. She’s just published a new book, ‘Her Father’s Daughter’, and as I listened to her speak, I decided I had to read it. It’s an autobiographic account of her life as a young adult, and as she explores the opportunities before her, she finds herself delving deeper and deeper into her father’s life, from painful memories of the killing fields in Cambodia, through to life in Melbourne.
The road toll hasn’t really moved much since 2005. Have you noticed? Yes, there were 57 fewer deaths on the road in 2010 than in 2005, which is great, even a victory, especially for the potential 57 and their families, but would you call it a satisfactory decrease? Well no, not for the 288 people who died.
from the "arrive alive" website - have you seen this?
TheVicRoads’ arrive alive page states that the Victorian road toll currently stands at 195. That’s higher than it was this time last year, albeit by one. We still have four months to go, including the Christmas/New Year/holiday season, so the final figure for the whole of 2011 will likely be well over 200 again. Now, for sure, this figure is soooo much better than the count in 1970, when 1061 Victorians lost their lives on the road, and it’s still way better than in 1989, when 776 were killed. But, with all our cleverness, with all our techno-savvy and 21st century sophistication, we still lose close to 300 people each year. The figures are thankfully lower each year, but still, each year, we lose close to 300 living, breathing people. People just like me and you.
Picture it. 300 people. If the average family consists of 4 people, then that’s 75 families. Imagine that. 75 families! Dads, mothers, little kids, teenagers. It’s someone’s grandmother. Or aunty, or cousin perhaps. Picture your own family. Your neighbour’s family. Imagine your whole street being wiped out. There’d be such an outcry if it was one whole street, in one fell swoop. Wouldn’t there be? But because it’s one here, one there, a couple now, a car of 4 all those months ago, and especially since the number is consistently dropping year by year, we become a bit blasé about it, somehow forgetting that it’s people. We just hear numbers. 288 last year. It’s not much different from 289. Or 287. Does that register differently for you? The extra “one”? It doesn’t much, right? It’s just a number. I know it’s that way. My evidence? Well, just get in your car and drive around the city and the state and you’ll see. To most people, it means nothing at all. But the one is all-important. It’s one life. It could be mine. Or yours. Or your best friend’s.
The frustrating thing for me is that this figure, the final tally of deaths on our roads, the one that’s calculated at the end of each calendar year, and posted on a website for all to see, (even though, I’d assert, hardly anyone looks at it) is completely and directly and unquestionably in OUR control! It’s a number that we can manipulate. Well, actually, we do! After all, we are the ones driving the cars! You and me. REALLY!!!
Be honest. Do you, when you open your car door to slide into the driver’s seat, and hopefully strap on your seat belt before putting your key in the ignition, lifting your foot off the brake, and backing out of your driveway onto the street, do you think about how you’re going to drive today? Are you going to make sure that no one dies today? Do you say to yourself something like, “Not on my watch!” Not so much.
I recently drove to Daylesford for a weekend away. I was looking forward to being away, spending a whole weekend with my friends, chatting, eating too much chocolate, drinking wine. Fantastic! But I have to tell you, my stomach turned a little when I thought about driving up. I even looked on Metlink to see if I could catch a train up there. Unfortunately not, so I had to steel myself. I absolutely dreaded that drive. Somehow, when people get onto a freeway, it’s as if the road itself transforms. Suddenly, it’s not a road, it’s a war zone. Suddenly, it’s a dog-eat-dog world, and you better strap some on, because it’s no place for the meek. Thankfully, the drink drive campaign has been pretty effective. Having a designated driver is mostly standard practice now, right? And the speed kills campaign – it’s definitely out there, although it’s not yet really in. But there’s another killer habit that makes me really nervous on the road.
Tailgating. For the most part, I’m not really aware of many drunk drivers. I don’t see them on the road so much. Speedsters? Yeah, I see them more often. But tailgaters? ALL THE TIME! Especially on the open road.
I don’t understand it. I mean, what’s with that! How is it that people think that’s safe? That it’s acceptable behaviour? Does the fact that they’re in their own car (that is, not in yours with you), and they’ll likely never see you again, afford them the anonymity required to be a complete arsehole on the road? Apparently it does. It’s as if all the pent-up anger, and rage, and “screw you”s that get stuffed down to some extent in the workplace, or at home, or wherever, gets let loose when people get behind the wheel on roads with more than two lanes.
Tailgating. I did a Google search. Interesting. To the Americans, it means this:
tailgating in America involves your car, in a carpark, eating & drinking with family & friends
In the United Kingdom, however, it’s like Australia. It means something quite different to us than it does to our picnicking US friends. Something rather less friendly, something much more aggressive, something really nasty, and ever so dangerous:
tailgating in Australia - it's what the truck is doing to this car (image from abc.net.au)
The above image comes from the ABC website, in an article written on May 19th, 2011 by Peta Carlyon entitled, “Tunnel tailgating could have had ‘catastrophic’ results”. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing that justifies this kind of bullying. And that’s exactly what tailgating is – bullying. As a culture, we’re very public about bullying in certain situations. We’re clamping down on bullying in the school yard, in the office, at home, and even on Facebook. Brilliant. I think we need to extend the conversation to the road. I mean, think about it. If you’re the driver of the car in front, whether it’s a truck, like the one in the picture above, or another car, isn’t the experience one of being bullied?
OLWEUS, “the world’s foremost bullying prevention program”, defines bullying like this:
“A person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself.”
This definition includes three important components:
1. Bullying is aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative actions.
2. Bullying involves a pattern of behavior repeated over time.
3. Bullying involves an imbalance of power or strength.
So, what do I do, when I’m being bullied by a tailgater? I actually have two different strategies to try, each with its own merits. I’m sure I’m not the first person to think of them, and I’m more certain that I’m not the only person to use them. The first strategy is to pull over and let the car or truck overtake me. I figure that, if I can’t make the driver back off, even after my almost completely ineffective waves of the arm and mouthing instructions in the rear view mirror, all in an attempt to communicate with the driver behind me to BACK OFF!!!, then at least I can take myself out of harm’s way.
Of course, that’s not always possible. Sometimes, and much too often, I find myself in a car or truck sandwich. You know, you’ve been driving along at the speed limit, with enough distance between you and the car in front, one-a-thousand, two-a-thousand, three-a-thousand. However, the car or truck behind you doesn’t employ the same strategy. They’re close enough to you to see what radio station you’re listening to. You can’t speed up, because you’re already going at the speed limit. You look across to your left, thinking to employ Strategy No. 1, but there’s a huge truck driving along next to you. No joy there. You look to your right, and there’s a taxi or something, keeping up too. Then, that thoughtless (I’m being generous) taxi driver decides that the space between my car and the one directly in front of me belongs to him! Next thing you know, with or without a record-breaking short hit on the indicator, the taxi’s moved in, and you now find yourself in a very tight sandwich. Nowhere to go. Trapped. At the complete mercy of the vehicles that have you completely surrounded. That’s when Strategy No. 2 kicks into gear. I slow down. And the closer the car behind me gets, the more I slow down. I figure that at least, if I am going to be hit from behind, I’ll have at least pulled away from the car in front of me, and I’ll be going slower, so the impact would be reduced. Even that doesn’t always handle it. Sometimes, there’s nothing I can do, no way to get out of there. I just have to grab the wheel firmly with both hands, sit up straight, drop my shoulders, concentrate hard, and wait. Eventually, it ends. One way or another. So far, with me in one piece. Shaken – yes. Upset – yes. Annoyed – definitely. Wishing there was something that could be done to stop this – yeah.
In a TAC Media Release (13th January, 2010) called “6 out of 10 most socially unacceptable behaviours relate to driving”, tailgating ranks #27
In a TAC Media Release (24th January, 2011) called “Speeding, long way to the top of socially unacceptable behaviours”, tailgating ranked #25
It is when behaviours are seen as “socially wrong” and not just “legally wrong” that peer opinions and social norms start to influence behaviour.
This morning, I called the TAC, spoke to Eric, who informed me that I was quite right, there is no law about safe distances between cars, it depends on how fast you’re driving, so it’s variable. After chatting for a bit, with me telling him about my recent experience on the road to Daylesford, and him sharing with me how his dad is too scared to drive because of tailgating, he recommended that I call the Minister of Transport. Great. I thought about it for all of a minute – you know, should I really do that? And then I did just that. I called the office of the Minister for Public Transport and Roads in Victoria, the Hon Terry Mulder MP. I didn’t get to speak with him directly, but was given his email address, and was promised that if I wrote to him, he’d definitely write me back in about 28 days, to give him time to do any research, etc before responding. I think I’ll do that, too.
If you drive on Victorian roads, and if you agree that tailgating is an unacceptable driving practice that something should be done about, let me know, leave a comment. I’ll include a link to this post when I write to the Minister so he can read what you have to say about it too.
It’s amazing! Inspiration sometimes comes from the most unexpected places. If you follow my blog, you’ll know that I haven’t posted for awhile. The last post I uploaded was on 29th May. Quite some time ago! It’s not that nothing much has been going on in my life. Quite the contrary. We’ve had an emergency trip to hospital for Moshe – all’s well now, thank goodness. One daughter announced that she’s having a baby – our first grandchild. Our youngest daughter is off for three weeks on a trip to the States, and our middle daughter moved out of one place and into another. Actually, that sounds really much, much simpler and uneventful than it actually was. It was more like those train tracks that click, taking the train in a whole new direction, and then, imagine if, whilst the train was midway across the interchange rails, they clicked once more, taking the train into another new direction, before the very next minute, clicking back to the first route again. One minute she was moving into a new place, the next she was coming to live with us (all my idea, my doing), and finally, after a looooong weekend of deliberation and contemplation and discussion, she made her final decision to stay with her original plan and continue her move into the new place.
Heaps happening. I kept rejecting the sketches of blog posts that breezed across my mind every so often over the past months. I don’t know. I can’t blog about things that involve others at a fairly personal level. A lot of people do it. I can’t. See, I know how at least two of my daughters feel about me writing about them on the internet. When it comes to the web, they both like their privacy and anonymity, and I respect that. It just makes it tricky sometimes when I’m busting to write things that I can’t share with the world.
This morning, I even seriously considered closing down this blog. I was in one of those moods. Lucky I didn’t though. I actually have plenty to write about! AND… I’m completely inspired to do so after the email I received this afternoon. I’d called to my endodontist’s office to pay a bill. The phone was answered by someone with a very pleasant and welcoming “hello!” We chatted, I paid the bill, she said she’d email me the receipt, and that was that. Her email came through almost immediately, with a two-line message that said:
“I will hold onto your eftpos slip here and give it to you at your next appointment.
Ps. I follow your blog – BIG yes to the sustainable house and kitchen idea!!!”
Amazing! She must have clicked on the link under my signature in my emails I’d sent ages ago, and she reads my blog! In that moment, I got all the encouragement I needed (thank you!!!), and my desire to write was re-ignited. Have I told you that I love to write? Have I shared with you where that love comes from? It began in primary school, Elwood Primary School, when, back in the 3rd Grade, I had Mr. Walter McVitty as my Library Teacher. Don’t know who he is? If you scroll down to halfway on page 2 of this pdf, you can read a brief biography. Mr. McVitty was one of my all-time favourite teachers. I used to sit mesmerized in his classes, eyes glued to his face, catching every frown, and smile, and grimace that he made as he sat on a wooden chair in front of us, his legs crossed, holding a book open in his hands, reading the next excerpt of books like “The Phantom Tollbooth“ by Norton Juster, and “A Wrinkle In Time“ by Madeleine L’Engle. I developed such a love of literature and reading in his class. I loved the worlds that got created in his readings, worlds to which I could escape reality, an indulgence I held very dear back then. He would spend time with us, recommending new books to take home and read, just as I’m sure all school librarians do. And for me, it was special, so special.
In the 4th Grade, with Mrs Davies I think, I continued to develop my writing skills. I was extremely proud of the short pieces I wrote for her. I remember one particular assignment we did. Mrs Davies handed out Xeroxed pictures for us to look at. We had about fifteen minutes or so to come up with an interpretation of what we were looking at, before taking the rest of that class to write a short story about it. This one I remember was of a little girl, standing in front of a huge wrought iron gate of a huge house seen in the background. You couldn’t see the girl’s face, as she stood with her back to us, her little hands holding the iron rods of the gate. I imagined she was crying, crying for her mother who was in the house. I wrote a whole elaborate, heart-wrenching story about this poor little girl. I remember carefully choosing my words to sketch the story on my page. Mrs Davies gave me a really high mark for this piece, and I took it home very proudly to read to my father. Thinking back, I remember I wasn’t sure if he liked it or not. I couldn’t get a read on his response, but it didn’t matter really. I was very happy with myself, and folded up the pages, tucking them into a tin box I had for all my little treasures. I kept that box for years and years. Can’t quite remember when I threw it away, but I now wish I hadn’t.
You know, I’ve got actually heaps to tell you about our Sustainability project! So, you wanna know? I’ll come back and write about it over the next few days.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been reflecting on, and talking to people about my desire to build a sustainable house. Building a house has always seemed such a daunting exercise for me, and even now, although I’m really keen, it’s quite a huge undertaking. I’m clear about that.
I’ve begun talking about it to our friends, wondering whether they might think I’ve gone off the deep end. Some have been quite interested in my little project. Others, not so much. One of my friends laughed. He asked me if I just had a rich uncle die and leave me everything. Another, when I said I wasn’t sure if I want to build on our current block of land, where we’re living now, or perhaps buy somewhere else, somewhere that lends itself more to that kind of house, somewhere in the kind of environment that has its overhead cables underground, perhaps with a view, maybe in a more sustainability-conscious community – she suggested I keep things simple, that we don’t need more financial encumbrances at this stage in our lives. “Build where you are, it’s already yours, why do you need to move?” she said.
And you know what? What she said about simplifying life really stuck. I am on a mission to simplify life. For both Moshe and me. You know, we just have so much stuff! I’m sure we don’t need all of it! I don’t think we need all those books any more do we? And all that stuff that we can’t fit into cupboards because this %*$#ing house just doesn’t have enough of them!
So, the long and the short of it is that sustainability, for me, is now becoming about the whole of our lives, not just about our house, or the heating system, or the recycled components. That’s why I changed the game from “BuildingOurSustainableHouse” to “Sustainability”. Some areas of our lives are way too complex. How we manage things, what we spend our time doing. Years ago, Moshe and I started a “creating our lives” endeavour. We first did that back in 1991, and it was magical. We produced some amazing results from that game. Moved to America. Took the kids to Disneyland. Paid off all our debts. Amazing stuff. Every so often, probably about once a decade, we go through this same exercise. Creating the overall context, mapping out our lives, creating goals, and the structures by which to fulfil on them. And here we are now, doing it all again. It’s exciting!
So, it goes like this. Back in March, we went to Daylesford for the weekend of our joint birthdays, and we created a new context for this next phase of our lives – being creative, productive and fulfilled together. From there, we listed all the areas of our lives that we wanted to include in this new game, and now we’re taking each area and kind of reinventing it. The first area we’re working on is our finances. We just gotta simplify that bitch. (Sorry, went out for dinner last night, talked about ‘The Wire’.) So, as Moshe and I toss around ideas, talk about things, I’m beginning to not see building a completely sustainable house in my future. Perhaps inclusions of as many elements as possible, but I’m now more interested in the simplest way for us to have the kind of home that Moshe and I have wanted for… well, most of our thirty-some years of marriage, and less interested in expending huge amounts of time, money, energy on having some cutting edge whatever. If you know what I mean. What exactly we will do, I’m not sure yet, but I’m working on it. I’ll keep you posted!
Last night, Moshe and Sarah and I watched the footy. Carlton v Melbourne. Great game in that we won. Not so great because we still can’t kick straight. Oh well. There’s more east to go. Half time came, and our own Melbourne born and bred Olivia Newton-John (who I just learned is a Carlton supporter so we love her even more) promoted her kick-ass Cancer and Wellness Centre that she’s building out at the Austin Hospital. I must live under a rock, because I hadn’t heard of it before last night. However. I got quite inspired by her and her amazing project, and jumped up with a smile to do my bit and call up to donate to the $10mil she still needed to complete the thing.
I get on the phone, and the guy gives me his name and asks if I’ve called to give a single-time contribution. I said yes, I have, and if I could give you a million, ten million, I would. He said oh, thank you, and then he said something I wasn’t expecting at all. He said, would you like to give it in memory of someone? Oh, I said, yes. Ah, yes of course… ah… yeah… yeah, I do…
And then I couldn’t say another word. In my head, it went like this, only really fast:
In memory of someone?
Yeah, Moshe had…
oh my god
oh my god
yeah, in his memory
oh my god
yeah, he died of cancer
to the guy on the phone: yeah, ah…
more silence, as I tried to speak through the lump in my throat again
I handed the phone to Sarah. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I heard her on the phone to the guy, giving my credit card number, and then he must have asked her for the name on the card, and she said, Mrs. – M- R- S, spelling it out for him. She realized what she’d said to him, and cupped her hand over her mouth, laughing kinda, embarrassed. No! no, no, she said. She’d been caught off guard a little too.
She finally completed the transaction, and got off the phone. Thank god she was there with me! I couldn’t go back in to watch the footy right away, so I sat for a bit at my computer. I looked on the website of the hospital for a bit, looking for ways I could contribute, I mean, in ways other than financially. I then remembered that WordPress has donation widgets, so I spent a bit of time looking through those, but none seemed right. Either they didn’t do what I wanted, or they did, but they hadn’t been upgraded for yonks, and weren’t right for my latest version of WP.
So, finally, I created my own widget. You can see it on the sidebar. The photo of Dad and me? Yeah, that’s it. If you click on the photo, or on the link beneath it, you go straight to the website page for the hospital, and you can click on their donate button. Please do. The whole of Melbourne needs this hospital to be built. Somehow, I don’t think any of us can escape being impacted by cancer any more, one way or another.
I love my dog. Tommy’s so very refined. He’s not content to gnaw at his bones in just any location. He likes to dine in the best places, where his dining experience will be enhanced with aromas and flavours befitting of any good foodie worth his salt. He selects the greenest, most dense thyme plant of the herb patch, drops his bone right in the centre, before relaxing down to the ground to pick it up and, with a good helping of the best my kitchen garden has to offer, chew away and really enjoy his meal. So impressive, such class, don’t you think?
Over the next few weeks, our wonderful gardener Bree and her crew – that’s David, will build an enclosure that will house our first real vegetable and herb kitchen garden since the one we had in Fairway Drive, Richardson, Texas back in the 1990s. We (that is, the gardeners) had planted pumpkins, zucchini, tomatoes, and other fabulous vegetables, and the vines grew and grew over the garden, with the promise of new vegetable growth, and then we had to move house. We never got to reap the benefits of that garden. Such a shame. Moshe and I had also created a vegetable patch in the first house we lived in, back in 1977, right after we got married. Remember that one, Moshe? There was a two metre square area in our back yard in that run-down house where the back door never quite closed enough so we could lock it, and we planted our vegetables – watermelon, pumpkins, and other things that I can’t remember now. The creeping vines covered most of the lawn, and I think we did get to serve some of the produce on our dinner table.
Here is the site of my soon-to-be new kitchen garden…
I’m so excited about this new venture. I’m about to browse the isles of the Diggers and the Greenpatch Organic Seeds websites for fabulous organic herbs and vegetables to plant in our garden, once the grass has died off, and the fence to keep our puppies and the local possums out is put up, and covered with netting to keep the birds out. Any recommendations for what I should plant this time of the year in Melbourne?
I have a new project. (Well there’s something new!) In the next little bit, in the next six to eighteen months perhaps, we’ll most likely begin building a house. Moshe and I have spent most of our married life living in one of two “one-day-we’ll-renovate-and-have-our-dream-home” houses that we’ve owned, or in rented houses or flats (apartments). Now, we don’t know exactly when we’ll be able to get serious about building, or if it’ll turn out that we just won’t be able to build, in which case we’ll need to consider alternatives such as buying and renovating, or simply buying. Or possibly, just renovating our current house. Doesn’t matter though, I’m on a mission to create a plan for building (or renovating as a backup) our own sustainable, green house. And all within our budget. According to one of my daughters, that could be a major problem. Turns out that the current conversation about building sustainable houses is that they cost a whole lot more than a regular house, and people’s budgets consistently get blown out.
So, my game is to see if I can do this without blowing the budget. I’m sure I’m not the first or last person to want to do this, but let’s see how I go. First thing I need to do is get really well-educated about this subject. I’ve watched the odd TV show here and there over the years about the amazing homes people have built, but I really don’t have any knowledge that’s of value to me in terms of building my house. So, this is the place to begin. Get educated.
I joined Shmeco, a site where people are invited to “exchange their ideas, stories and experience on sustainable living choices”. I found a bunch of Australian websites and blogs that I bookmarked and subscribed to, as well as Inhabitat, which isn’t Australian, but is so inspiring, and Michael Mobbs | Sustainable Projects. I bought a one-year online subscription to Green, and I’m investigating participating in the Sustainable House Day on 11th September.
Here are some images of eco-friendly/sustainable houses that I find interesting: