Monday, 7 February 2011

A funny old week this week.

Some sunshine after a week of grey and snow showers
Getting back into a routine always feels strange after a long break and this time is no different. Last week I started back on my course but got stuck on where to find figures for the number of folks employed (technical term used by me obviously cheers) in factories between 1750 and 1950, so if any of you has to hand this very important piece of information then I would love to know. Anyway I got a bit fed up of looking and went to the post office instead to take some embroidered hearts to be sent to Australia and to pick up some Kefir grains that had arrived from Denmark. The folksy embroidered hearts I had made were a thank you for letting us stay whilst we were in Australia (of course I forgot to take a photo) but as Australian laws are very strict on imports then I had to fill out a detailed form. The good news is the form is in English as well as Latvian, the bad news is I still couldn't read it as my eyesight is getting so bad that I can't read small print without my glasses, the good news is I bumped into a friend on the way up (said my eyesight was bad - all groan please at this point!), and she came with me in case they asked me any complicated questions in Latvian and so she ended up filling in the form for me. I guess I shall have to start taking my glasses with me everywhere now or wear them full time.

Love the golden glow of this house but I do think they
need some insulation in their roof spaces
I spent the rest of the afternoon drinking tea at my friend's home, as I am never one to refuse the offer of a cup of tea, and so we chatted about all kinds of ventures we could get into, in fact we chatted for so long Ian got worried as he had gone to do a day's work in a Riga hospital and was home mid-afternoon with no sign of me around when I was supposed to be studying. Mobile phones would be useful if you can hear them. Yes! My hearing is getting worse too. I must be falling apart at the seams. So instead of searching on the internet for facts and figures I chatted the afternoon away, dyed a grass-stained t-shirt to give it another lease of life, fed my milk-kefir grains a nice drink of milk and my water kefir grains a handful of sultanas, some sugar and a nice slice of lemon. Quite a productive day after all!

We are still having issue with our communal heating and it was nice of them to turn up the heating for the start of my studies but it didn't last all unfortunately, just the morning. Amazingly though our radiators suddenly warmed up to a very pleasant temperature the afternoon before the Latvian Schools Winter Olympics was due to be held in our village. Some folks were staying in the accommodation block adjacent to the technical school that just so happens to share the same heating system as we do. A strange coincidence don't you think? We still have reasonable heat after they have all gone home but it does fluctuate somewhat and not sure how long it is going to last at all. Our bill for last months heating came through though and it is twice what it was for November which was a far colder month, i.e. -16C in November when we left and hovering around 0C most of this last week, and yet our apartment temperature was pleasantly warm. Needless to say I shall be down to the office this week with a record of the temperatures in our home over the last 10 or so days (as low as 13/14C some days) and explaining to them how they must be mistaken in their calculations, in other words they cannot charge us double for something we didn't get and we will not accept their charges. They are not used to people complaining directly to them and so it will be interesting to see what they have to say and how they try and deal with us. I can be quite persistent if I have to!

A glow on the horizon is a welcome sight around here but
not for the poor folks in Perth
On the subject of Australia I see that Perth is now suffering wild fires. It is amazing how a trip can make something much more relevant. We took a trip to Swan valley which is one area where the fires are raging and another two fires are along the road we took down to our holiday in Denmark on the south coast. How different things must be from a month ago. I know it is a vast country but the Australians are certainly getting hammered this season and I just pray that as a nation they will know how to pull together to weather these storms and come to value that sense of togetherness.

A work in progress, nothing like the slightly folksy hearts
I sent to Australia but a random assortment of fabrics and
It is bizarre but one of the products of such storms is that it increases a nations GDP. GDP measures the production in a country and if a country suffers a catastrophe that requires a lot of construction this then gets reflected in an improved GDP. The country can be poorer due to the catastrophe but the figures look better. It is no wonder therefore that David C. Korten, an advocate for a new economy said "We can no longer afford to leave the design of our economic systems to professional economists who lack both the necessary skills and interests to design an economy that serves life (from "Do corporations rule the world? And does it matter?" 1998). We desperately need an economy that serves life instead of lives that serve the economy, it is time that the poor are no longer ransomed to the rich, it is time that our economies were based on what we produce in real terms not on some bankers fanciful make-believe and we can no longer ransom our children's inheritance. It is about time we stopped building up debt that our children will have to pay. Change is not going to be easy but why should our children pay for that change? Shouldn't we start now?

And now for some more creativity that I got
up to instead of doing coursework.

The train is the same one I took a picture of while in Perth

A bit of a play with iPhoto and voila1
I will finish with an amazing discovery today, an Amazon enigma that my facebook friends helped me to solve. I was interested in books written by David Korten and wondered about getting his new book a revised edition of an "Agenda for a New Economy: from phantom wealth to real wealth". Ordering it direct might incur taxes payable at the post office so I looked for an English source of the book and found that it could be purchased as an e-book from Amazon. Having just downloaded Kindle for Macs onto my computer I thought I might try that option and found out a used paperback was £10.21 or I can pay £10.59 for the Kindle version - strange for a new book! I then decided to look at the American site, after all there would be no delivery charges for an e-book would there? American site $9.99 - somewhat cheaper but that was on Safari and I had difficulty downloading e-books from Amazon using my Safari browser so looked on Firefox (are you still with me?) and found that it was now $13.79 downloaded via the international wireless delivery Amazon whispanet - Whoops! Looks like there is a delivery charge! For what? I have no idea, the internet is the internet, right? Anyway I asked my friends to try the link and found that they got a range of answers from unable to get it, to $16 something, and someone with an American account could get it for $9.99. So it would look like Amazon charges you differently depending on where they think you are coming from, and even that varies. Most strange! They must be practicing some alternative economics of their own. It certainly makes me less inclined to use Amazon although at times I have little choice.


  1. your posts are always so ''full'' and informative, never a dull moment!! hope you get your book for the internet,? I've heard it all now!!

  2. Thanks Karen, it's not always what my kids say, if they knew what the word meant they would probably call me verbose :oD.

    So yes delivery for the internet, whatever will they think of next?

  3. Interesting about the heating system. I guess the world over people are the same - we like to give a good impression to visitors. But glad you were able to benifit even for a short while.

    Strange about the pricing of internet books. I've never looked into that so can't say anything helpful - only 'strange!'. Your blogs are always full of information.

    Hope your kefir grains are doing well. What are they, by the way? I have looked in the dictionary but can't find them.

  4. Just in case anyone is wondering what Karen could possibly have said to be deleted, she didn't. It was a case of mistaken clicking. It was an answer to something I had posted on her blog and would have seemed out of context here. Wish I could remove the fact it was deleted.

    Fortunately, Mavis, we are still benefiting from the heat and long may it continue the temperatures next week are set to plummet and if they dare to try reducing the heat I shall go and do a sit in at the local office.

    The kefir grains make something like yogurt but not quite and is commonly available in Denmark (maybe in the rest of Scandinavia but I don't know for sure) and ex-Soviet countries and is originally from the Causcas region. I think this site gives the best information on Kefir grains and what they do and what they are

  5. Thanks for the website. Full of interesting information.

  6. Yipee Just worked out how to get rid of a post so it doesn't look like I am being mean to anyone.


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