Tag Archives: US

Pesticides in the US and Australia

Chlorpyrifos is one of the most widely used pesticides on American farms, sprayed on everything from strawberries to soybeans. It’s cheap, and it works well; chlorpyrifos is derived from the same chemical family as sarin nerve gas, and kills insects by attacking their nervous system. But exposure to chlorpyrifos is also linked to brain damage…

via The US government is ignoring its own scientists’ warning that a Dow pesticide causes brain damage in children — Quartz

This article talks about a pesticide called chlorpyrifos, and the harm it can cause. Something that jumped out at me was this:

Pregnant women who lived near agricultural fields where chlorpyrifos was sprayed during their second trimester were three times more likely to give birth to a child who would develop autism, according to a study out of the University of California, Davis.

If there really has been a rise in autism, then perhaps chlorpyrifos is at least part of the problem because the residues on common food can do damage as well. A search for what kinds of foods are sprayed with chlorpyrifos in Australia led me to:

These are the worst offenders when it comes to pesticides, including chlorpyrifos. These are commercially grown foods that we all eat. I almost cried when I saw strawberries, grapes and sweet bell peppers [capsicum] in that list. And potatoes?

I strongly recommend that you read the entire article, including the ‘Clean Fifteen’. These are fruits and vegetables that have the least amount of pesticide residue:

http://www.sgaonline.org.au/pesticides-in-fruit-and-vegetables/

As a final word, the EPA in the US wanted to ban chlorpyrifos, but new Trump appointee, Scott Pruitt, chose to ignore his own agency’s recommendation. Here in Australia we haven’t even gotten to that point yet. Pathetic.

Meeks

 


#Whatsapp – oh, so that’s what it is!

meeka-thinksWhat a difference a name makes. Believe it or not, until today, I really didn’t know what Whatsapp was.

So for all those other dinosaurs out there, here’s my definition of Whatsapp and messaging in general:

It’s instant messaging, but for your phone!

-blush- I know, I know. I feel so dumb, don’t rub it in… But you see, all the hype made me think messaging was something new. It’s not. IM, or instant messaging has been around on the computer for a very long time.

“But what is it?” you say.

On the computer, instant messaging is like making a phone call with your eyes instead of your ears. You and the person you are ‘talking’ to are connected in real time, and you type messages back and forth, also in real time. So you are having an ‘instant’ conversation using text instead of voice.

Compare this to email which is like sending a letter that the recipient receives instantly, but may not read [or reply] to until some time later.

I can’t remember when I first started using instant messaging, but I know I was using it daily by 2001. I stopped using it daily when I started receiving massive phone bills [I didn’t know that I would be slugged with a massive data surcharge].

Fast forward to the mobile era and ‘lo, smartphones have apps [a sexy word for a program] which can do instant messaging like computers but on the go. Instead of talking to someone on your contact list, or sending them a text [which is like a teeny tiny email that may or may not be read straight away], messaging apps allow smartphone users to text back and forth in real time.

“But why message when you can talk?”

Okay, I’m not completely sure of the answer to this one, but I think it has something to do with cost. Voice calls cost a certain amount of money. SMS text messages also cost money but less than voice calls, so my guess is that messaging costs less again.

The reason I’m so hesitant about the cost is because Australia is very different to the US. I believe that in the US, data [i.e. SMS and messaging etc] is practically unlimited so messaging is a satisfying and cheap alternative to voice calls.

Here in Australia, however, we have to pay for our data. I’m with Virgin Mobile and from memory I have 1.5 GB of free data included [per month]. Any usage above that incurs a cost. As I know how easy it is to use up 1.5 GB of data, I try not to use data at all – hence my lack of knowledge about messaging. And yes, I could upgrade to a better plan, but that would be an added cost on top of the money I already spend getting internet access for the computers in our house.

To be brutally honest, I’d rather play FFXIV and have access to the internet on my computer with its lovely big screen and decent speakers than ‘chat’ with you on my smartphone.

And that is why I didn’t know that Whatsapp is just an instant messaging program – because it’s designed for phones not computers.

So there you have it, a dinosaur’s eye view of Whatsapp.:)

cheers

Meeks


#Amazon, US #Tax and #Australian Citizens

meeka thumbs upAnything sold on Amazon – including self-published books – is subject to a 33% withholding tax.

This is a tax that Amazon must take out of the sale before you get your share.

This tax is applicable across the board and non-US citizens are not exempt.

 

Unless………..:

  • their country of origin has a trade treaty with the US
  • and they apply for an exemption under that trade treaty

As an Australian citizen, I am lucky enough to meet the ‘trade treaty’ criterion but until today, I did not apply for the exemption because:

  • I was not making enough money for it to matter, and
  • the process was just TOO HARD

I’m not sure what changed, or when exactly, but suddenly the process of applying for an exemption is so easy I’m still pinching myself in case I’m dreaming.

So what’s needed?

  1. Your country of origin must have a trade treaty with the US
  2. You must have an account with Kindle Direct Publishing [nah..really? lol]
  3. You must have a tax file number [or equivalent] from your country of origin

Seriously, that’s it. With those three things you can log into Kindle Direct Publishing and fill in a very VERY easy online form and you’re done.

  1. Log in to your KDP account
  2. Select My Account
  3. Select the option for Tax Interview
  4. Have your tax file number handy
  5. And start filling in the questions.
  6. When you get to the page that asks if you want to do an electronic signature* – select YES
  7. The electronic signature is nothing more than your typed name, email address [same as for logging into KDP] and ‘Submit’.
  8. Be sure to print off a copy at the end and you’re done.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll sit there scratching your head and wondering how you can send an electronic signature. Is there a special program you have to invest in to create such a signature? Or do you have to print the page off, sign it manually and then post it off? Hah!

The answer to all those questions is a big, fat NO. There appears to be no valid reason for doing things the hard way, so don’t.

Having procrastinated for years, literally, I am so relieved to finally have this Sword of Damocles removed from my halo. Thank you IRS and thank you Amazon! Now if only I could be paid via PayPal or EFT I’d be delirious with happiness…

-smack- Don’t be greedy, girl!

Much happy dancing,

Meeks


Capitalism vs Competition

In theory,  the thing that makes capitalism work is competition. When competition is alive and well, it balances the normal drive of capitalist companies to maximize profit. In short, you get a healthy economic system, one that works well with human nature.

But what happens when those companies can avoid competition? Or become so powerful they can stifle competition altogether?

The answer can be found in the link below:

http://venturebeat.com/2014/09/01/how-big-telcos-are-smothering-city-run-broadband-services/

In the US, small to medium sized cities that are NOT serviced by the big communications companies [because they are too small to show a profit] can offer their residents a non-commercial broadband network. This network is often faster than that offered by the big telcos.

In the Venturebeat article, we see what happens when the big telcos get worried by competition from these non-commercial networks. Not pretty.

Things are different here in Australia, but only because we are behind the times. I truly wish our municipal councils offered high speed broad to the homes in their areas. That would be a fantastic innovation. We can but hope.

cheers

Meeks

 


Darshan – an Un-review

Have you ever read a book that you wanted to stop reading… but couldn’t? Darshan is such a book.

I am not exaggerating when I say that Darshan is one of the most beautifully written books I have read in a very long time. The prose is exquisite, evoking sensations I should not be able to feel. I have never been to India, yet while reading this novel I could smell the parched earth of the Punjab, and the spices that make Indian food so distinctive.

I have not been to Fiji either, yet lush, verdant green filled the backs of my eyes, and my skin seemed to sag beneath the cloying humidity of this island paradise.

I have been to the US, but not to the places described in the book. Nonetheless, I seemed to know them, as if the author had reached into my subconscious to find the memories that would make me ‘see’.

And there, in a nutshell is the problem with Darshan, it’s too good.

I felt all flushed with fever
Embarassed by the crowd
I felt he found my letters
And read each one out loud
I prayed that he would finish
But he just kept right on

Strumming my pain with his fingers
Singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song

[Roberta Flack, Killing me Softly]

Everyone will find something different in Darshan, I know that, but at the heart of this amazing piece of fiction is a universal truth about families : we love each other, but the expectations we hide can never be fulfilled, and so, in the end love turns to pain.

As I sit here, trying to find words to describe what Darshan did to me, I’m inundated with memories of my own childhood. I tried so hard to do all the right things, to be what was expected of me, yet all I really wanted was to be accepted for who I really was – a dreamer.

I remember the day I presented my first printed book to my parents. It was a slim, user guide for a piece of software. I didn’t expect them to read it, or understand it, but it bore my name and I had laboured over every word. It meant so much to me.

My parents turned the book over in their hands. Then they put it on the table and said something like “that’s nice, dear”. Actually they would have said the Hungarian equivalent, but let’s not quibble.

They were bursting with pride when I graduated from University, I have the photos to prove it. But my little book meant nothing to them. They did not even realise they were meant to be proud of me.

There was no malice there, I know that, they simply didn’t understand. But that small book was the achievement of my life, up until then, and I expected them to feel something. To give me my due!

But you see, my parents wanted me to achieve something that would make money, and hence have tangible bragging rights – like a shiny Mercedes, or bright sparkly diamonds. All I gave them was a few bits of paper covered in ink.

To be fair, my parents were not shallow consumers, far from it. We arrived in Australia as refugees, literally wearing all our possessions on our backs. I saw them struggle to learn English in their 30’s, struggle to get a good job, buy a house, put me through school then university.

In my family, every step from destitute refugee to middle class citizen was signposted by dollar bills, but my little book was given away for free with the software! What value did it have? Worse, if their daughter could never make any money, how would she survive in this strange, harsh world?

In Australia there are lots of refugees, and even more immigrants, so my story is nothing unusual. Neither are the expectations placed on my generation. But the truth Darshan showed me was that every generation has expectations of the next, and those expectations are rarely met.

And so I sit here and I wonder what expectations I have placed on my daughter. Will she grow to resent me, despite my best efforts?

I want to believe that this generation communicates better than the one before because I want my daughter to be happy, but how do you ask those sorts of questions? Where do you even begin?

I’ve turned comments off for this one.

-hugs to you all-


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