Wednesday, June 26, 2013


goes by so slowly, and time can do so much' is how the song goes. In general I haven't seen much evidence of time going slowly for some years now, in fact quite the opposite. I mean, how did it get to the end of June 2013 already??? I was reading someone refer to something as being 10yrs ago the other day and thought 'surely not?' but one quick count on the fingers later... gulp.

But yes, time can do so much, that I have no issue with at all. Time does indeed heal, although at varying speeds. But what prompted this post originally was a graphic going around on facebook saying that the most precious gift we can give children is our time. I think that goes for anyone really, not just children. There have been a few postings on facebook recently that tie in with this, one is about the time spent interacting via technology and the isolation that can create and how that may be changing society by shortening many interactions and making them more impersonal and functional. A line that stood out for me was "Simone Weil wrote, 'Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity'" which echoes the thought of time given, but takes it a step further -as people need you to not only be there but to be truly present for them, a theme developed in this post, again I believe it is not just the case with children, but with anyone in your life. However I've often found that technology has increased the amount of time I have to interact with a lot of people, not diminish it, but that is because I use it to keep in touch with people well beyond cooeee and a cuppa distance.

These writings build up a picture of time being a precious resource, so with writings like these spinning around in my head it struck a chord with me when Rebecca came to explain the local TimeBank and how it works after I'd (finally, after 6mths of sitting on the paperwork...) signed up to join. With TimeBank everyone's time is considered to have equal value, regardless of the skill involved for the task done. I like that concept, especially as with TimeBank people are either doing things for those who can't do a specific task or who don't have time to get around to it. There does however seem to be a certain irony with the not getting around to it jobs, as in some cases those tasks aren't getting done because folk are busy doing jobs for other people... but as many of us know only too well it is much easier to do someone elses' household tasks than your own! Not, of course that TimeBank is restricted to household chores by a long way, but we all have the jobs we enjoy and those we procrastinate over, so why not let someone else deal with your bugbears? Especially if all it costs you is time spent doing something you enjoy, or at least don't mind as much!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

text talk

As various friends will happily point out on a regular basis I have certain luddite tendancies when it comes to IT. My 'if it still works, keep using it' attitude baffling those eagerly awaiting the next model before the wrapping is off the last. I'm on my fourth personal mobile phone in about 15yrs, none of which I've bought - and all have been either bottom of the range (my choice!) and/or well behind the leading edge of technology in terms of functionality.

Usually this really isn't an issue. I don't use my phone much. It is useful when I go away but otherwise it's most frequent use is as an alarm clock. However right now my reliable chunky nokia (thanks Jon for the hand-me-down!) is proving something of a challenge. As part of the Woodbrooke Global Learning Forum I'm in a small group of three discussing Quaker worship and how it affects our life - via text messaging! We're spread between Sweden, Kenya and Aotearoa NZ which has obvious implications in terms of timezones, but thankfully we've figured out the timings and as far as I'm aware no-one (yet!) has been woken from their slumber by the latest installment.

Those on the course with smart phones have been able to use the whatsapp to message each other internationally for free, great! Except I don't have a smart phone. What is more, for some reason we can't fathom, texts I send to Sweden don't arrive! So.... I send sms messages to Cornelius in Kenya, where they then get forwarded by whatsapp to Julia in Sweden. Cornilius sends his messages via whatsapp to Julia who forwards them by sms to me along with her own messages that she texts to me and apps to Cornelius. Confused yet? Then of course most of the messages that come to me are longer than the 160 character maximum of an sms message so they get split in two... so I get about half dozen texts or more at a time in a manner that would amuse Eric Morcombe no end as they are not necessarily in the right order!

So I can get my head around them, I type them all out into a document, along with my own messages (as of course you can't follow sent and received conversations on an old phone the way you can on a smart phone as they are stored in seperate places, and in any case I'm sending to one person and receiving from another!). Usually I can eventually do the jigsaw and figure out who said what when in reply to whom but occassionally an email is needed to sort it all out.

I was trying to explain this process during a three way facebook chat conversation with two non-Quaker friends (yes I do have such things honest!) - why not use facebook/skype chat? they very reasonably asked. Well.... this assignment was to use text messaging, no doubt future ones will use other means. Text messaging ensures you at least try to keep things succinct (yup, you've spotted the challenge for me already!), especially when you're paying for international text messages! In being succinct you rather obviously have to cut out the waffle, which for liberal Quakers of the unprogrammed tradition can be a real challenge when discussing such issues. 'What do you mean by deep worship?' I got asked having said I wished I got more of it. All of a sudden a monologue on some random topic for 'one minute without hesitation, deviation or repetition starting from, now...' suddenly seemed like the easier option. No space for anecdotal description, no vague waving of hands and well, you know.... because of course I can't assume that both of those I'm talking to do know. Oh the joys of coming from different Quaker backgrounds, worship styles and theologies!

The three of us did have the advantage of actually having all met each other previously, and only last year at that (although I first met Julia nine years ago I hadn't seen her inbetween times although our work kept us in email contact for about a year). So that helped with the diving in at the deep end, for me at least. I had some sense of the people at the other end. Obviously by being part of the course it is safe to assume that anyone in the group has a fairly open mind to the 'rainbow of Quaker grey' in all it's various shades, but text messaging is a hard medium with which to get to know a stranger, no matter how F/friendly they are. It is going to be interesting to hear how the other groups have got on.

Despite the challenges I'm loving the conversation. Typing everything out makes me really focus on every word said. Skim reading and thinking I've got the gist of it (and thus maybe missing the point) isn't an option. Sometimes I take a day to reply, I know what it is I want to say in my head, but how to put it in a text so the others understand it too is the biggest challenge. And much to my amazement clarity, and brevity, do come!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

plastic not-so-fantastic

I was reading this article via an ECE Sustainability group on facebook about cutting plastic out of life. Much as I admire the dedication of those who attempt it to prove a point I can't see me every achieving the same - for a start metal typewriters don't pick up the internet very well...

For me plastic is one of those necessary evils in life that I've yet to come to easy terms with. Technology aside though it is one of the many considerations I take into account when shopping. For example I'll buy my porridge oats in a paper bag rather than a plastic one (yay for Pams and Harraways!), but I gave up getting Ryvita (packaged in cardboard and paper) once I could get Healtheries grainwafers which are produced this side of the world, and even if they are wrapped in plastic it is only one layer not two like Corn Thins. Mind you I don't get through half as many now I'm not taking packed lunches 4 days a week anyway.

I've got one of those metal drinks bottles, but have never been one for buying bottled water if I could avoid it - however there is a plastic container full of bought water in bottles out in the garage in the Civil Defence Emergency kit (not that ours is as comprehensive as the link suggests!) - when we don't get through many bottles of pop (soda etc) etc it is hard to build up a big enough collection otherwise! And whilst on that subject I realise that context/location makes a big difference to the use of plastic - having seen photos of the mess various Christchurch friends' kitchens were in after the earthquakes I can't imagine anyone there choosing to store kitchen ingredients in glass jars rather than plastic again in a hurry, generally plastic tends to bounce better.

But whilst I (in my tsunami rather than earthquake risk area) can try to limit the amount of plastic I buy especially connected with food there are times when I really don't know what else to use - what do you freeze things in for example?! I've just discovered our local wholesaler has white basmati rice in 5kg cloth bags which is great, except mostly I use brown rice...I take my cloth shopping bag to the market each week when I go to buy our veggies, one of the stall holders commented on how unusual that was for Kaitaia - normal for Kerikeri and Paihia markets but not Kaitaia where he reckoned supplying a plastic bag is seen as a insentive to shop at his stall. I muttered something about trying not to use plastic bags and scuttled off as I couldn't think how to say that was probably because more people shopping at Kerkeri and Paihia markets do so because they are conscious about the environmental impact of food miles etc and thus the environment in general rather than because it is cheaper, without that sounding as though I was belittling Kaitaia. I'd far rather folk shopped at the market, no matter what their reason for doing so. I just wish fewer of the stall holders pre-packaged their goods in plastic bags, but I can totally appreciate why they do.

Whilst I can't see me ever managing to live without plastic (and would I want to?) the article certainly prompted me to think again each time I reached for some - what could I use instead? Sometimes I've had an answer but not the means to avoid it, sometimes I've been able to use something different - greaseproof paper instead of clingwrap for example. A provocation to re-evaluate my impact on the environment from a different angle that is for sure. And rather than beat myself up about what I do use I take comfort in the words of George Fox to William Penn 'wear it as long as thou canst', or in this case mostly that would mean use it - I'll know if and when the day comes that the day is right to cut it out completely. Until then, refill, reuse, and recycle is still a pretty good fallback position.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

back to e-learning

Realising that half the year had slipped by already and I was no nearer clarifying any longer term plans I'd vaguely been looking at the list of courses that NorthTec run next door. This was mostly because various people had been asking me if I was going to study again - once I'd got over the mild sense of panic at the prospect of returning to uni (yet again) I figured out that actually I might qualify for some funding now and whilst nothing was crying out for my attention maybe it would be something to do in the meantime. I'd been toying with the idea of doing something practical rather than academic, mainly as I'd passed the harakeke weaving group doing work outside a few times lately, but also I'd wondered about their horticultural classes given that I'm sure my 'make it up as I go along' strategy will only get me so far in the garden.

However before I got any further down that track I got an email asking if I'd be interested in joining a group working on developing an international online course for Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre that would explore different Quaker traditions through sharing and reflecting on our own traditions. Well it seemed like an offer I couldn't refuse, and I'm very glad I didn't as once I was signed up and could see who all else was involved there was a bunch of very familiar looking names! Okay so this will come of absolutely no suprise to Dawn and Graham, but the majority of the international group were people I already knew, or had met, or at least knew of through the World Conference in Kenya last year or the World Gathering of Young Friends 2005. However there is only one person in the group I know reasonably well and she's the one who recruited me!

We've only got to the stage of introducing ourselves and familiarising ourselves with Moodle so far but I'm getting quite excited about the idea of not only developing a future course but in the process going through the learning and sharing journey with such a wonderful group of people. Whether I'll still try to find something local as well I'm not so sure, I've just signed up for the local Timebank and gone back to volunteering at our local library after a break of several years so maybe I should just taihoa for now on that front and see how things go.

Monday, June 03, 2013

to buy or not to buy... a regular question for me, and I sometimes surprise myself with my own will power not to buy something because I didn't really need it.

Anyway, I was finally catching up with the Quaker Settlement's new(ish!) blogsite and this post about their purchasing guidelines stood out as a great practical example, so I thought I'd share it!