Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Noise Pollution

I see that some well meaning but misguided boffins at Lotus are talking about building systems to add sound effects to electric cars. The justification for this is supposed to be two fold: to allow the driver to judge by ear how fast they are going, and to alert pedestrians to the approach of the vehicle, so that they don't step out in front of it. Now I will admit that it took me a couple of weeks to adjust to my Prius, and not being able to judge speed by sound (which I hadn't fully realised that I did, until it stopped working). But I'm adaptable, and I learned, fortunately before I got a speeding ticket.

But I see absolutely no reason to add to the noise pollution of this planet to alert pedestrians to the approach of cars. If a pedestrian is about to step into the street, they should assume that there may be a car approaching and check. Most of the people I have to dodge in the city have the ear pieces of some electronic device in their ears, anyway, and probably wouldn't hear it if my car made a noise like a jet taking off. Bicycles can be silent, so are we going to add noise makers to them, as well?

The average human being does not pay nearly enough attention to what is going on around them as it is. If we could just reintroduce some large carnivore to our communities - I'm thinking a sabre toothed tiger or similar - people would become a damn sight more alert to their surrounding, and less inclined to wander about in a daze, expecting others to avoid them. This might lead to a general improvement in manners and general standards of behaviour.

I can dream.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The sky is not falling

I am one of the people for whom the recession (or whatever you choose to call the current financial maelstrom) is something that is happening to other people. I have a secure, well paid job. So does my husband. We have no debt apart from our mortgage, which we are well ahead on, and we are gaining ground as the interest rates fall. I am conscious of how fortunate we are, and I'm being careful resist the urge that seems to have struck a large part of the community to reduce their spending. If your financial position is in any way unsteady, by all means review your discretionary spending and make appropriate cuts. But if you are not in trouble, why panic? I'm deliberately maintaining my normal spending pattern: supporting the same charities and cultural organizations, buying the same magazines, and the same groceries. It wouldn't occur to me to cancel my gardener's contract, or my housekeeper's. Because if I reduce my spending, all the people who rely on my business for part of their cash flow suffer.

I have two principle problems in implementing this approach: stores that decide to "rationalize" their inventory, and stop carrying the products that I want to buy. And the entire fashion and clothing industry, which seems to be stuck in some strange alternate reality.

Several stores have done the inventory rationalization thing to me in the last few weeks, apparently under the delusion that if they stop carrying product A, I will just buy product B from them instead. This is not what happens: if I want product A, I'm going to get product A from someone. All you are achieving is to cause me to shop in other places. Last weekend I conducted my normal grocery shopping at Coles. Coles seems to have stopped carrying several products that I use routinely, so I made a side trip to Woolworths. Woolworths had what I wanted, so I may very well do my whole shop in Woolworths next weekend. Some products I am now sourcing from on-line stores. I will not have my shopping habits dictated by a grocer.

Clothes have been a headache for me for years. I'm fussy about clothes, and I'm not prepared to wear whatever has been declared fashionable just because it's fashionable. I do not read any magazines which feature fashion - in fact the only magazines I read which are principally targeted at a female audience are those dedicated to knitting. And I'm not a standard size (is anyone a standard size?). I have a waist, and I expect to be able to put a belt around it, to support my mobile phone and various sundries. I do not want anything low waisted: this is a look that really only suits girls who have a rather androgynous figure, which a lot of young women have these days. I blame this on BPA leaching from plastic bottles, which I avoid like the plague.

However, the clothing manufacturers seems to think that every woman will be happy to wear whatever tasteless tat they are showing this year. Consequently I normally have to shop in one of the few stores that has worked out that there is a market for clothes for women who can tell the difference between good taste and fashion, or I have to employ a dressmaker or tailor. I happen to be between dressmakers at the moment (my regular lady went off to become a mother), so I am about to start the search for a new one. Using a dressmaker can be a little more time consuming, and doesn't provide the "instant gratification" of shopping in a store, but you do get to choose your own material and buttons, you know your clothes were made by someone paid a decent wage, and as long as your weight is stable and you stick to classic styles, you can wear the same garments for years. And no one ever has the same outfit that you do.


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