Free yourself from the Sodastream monopoly

We’ve owned a SodaStream for a few years because my wife loves soda water. We don’t actually drink any soda but she just likes to use it to carbonate water. It touts itself as a cheaper alternative to buying fizzy drinks at the store but after a few CO2 refills it quickly becomes apparent that it’s not saving you quite the amount of money that you had hoped for.

Let’s take a look at the numbers. A Sodastream refill contains 14.5oz of CO2 which is apparently enough to carbonate 60l of water and it costs $15.That’s 25¢/l of water. This compares with $1 for a 2l bottle of seltzer water (50¢/l) at the store. A 50% savings isn’t bad, but when you factor in the need to go to a special store to get the CO2 refill or to have it shipped to you, the hassle and the cost quickly gets eaten up and becomes moderate at best. Continue reading Free yourself from the Sodastream monopoly

Replacements for swear words

Gosh darn it. What the heck is going on in this effing place?

One of my pet peeves is people who use friendly replacements for swear words. As in replacing “God damn it” with “gosh darn it”.

The reason it bothers me so is that it’s a religious response intended to make these swear words more acceptable. However, the fact is, everyone knows that when you say “what the heck”, you really mean “what the hell”, so you just look like a hypocrite by trying to create a phrase equivalent to the original without actually saying it, thus alleviating you from the repercussions of saying it.

What a fucking joke. Stop being such a pussy and say what you mean. Stop giving a damn about what people will think of you and if the original phrase isn’t appropriate for the audience in front of you (e.g. kids or church) then perhaps you should reconsider whether your replacement phrase is appropriate as well, because we all know what you want to say, so just spit it out.

Why we’re asking people to not bring gifts to our kids’ birthdays

In a couple of weeks, Ellie will celebrate her 2nd birthday. As part of the invitation we have specifically requested that birthday party attendees do not bring gifts. Here’s a few thoughts on why we chose to do that:

  • Today, gift-giving is very much an expectation when attending a child’s birthday party. As such, the gifts tend to be purchased out of duty rather than out of love, so the birthday boy/girl ends up with whatever seemed like fun for a reasonable price from the toy aisle at Target rather than a carefully considered gift given out of love and consideration.
  • Most of what children play with today is not compatible with how we are raising Ellie. In the absence of screens, branding and media, the best kind of toys for her are the kind of thing that you have to hunt down specifically as they’re no longer toys that most kids play with, so this avoids her opening presents that we then have to explain that she can’t have.
  • Simply put and perhaps most importantly, Ellie has plenty. She has lots of toys and doesn’t need more “stuff” in her life. Children fare much better falling in love with a couple of excellent toys than having myriad toys that they rarely play with. I realise that this isn’t an option for some people, but we’d much rather that people just come and spend some time with Ellie and create a memory with her; granted she probably won’t remember her birthday in the long-term (she will be raving about it in the short term), but she’ll have photos to look back on and see who was with her.

A brief history of fossil fuels, climate, cars, batteries and Tesla

This extremely in-depth article (it’s more like a short book) from Wait But Why is a fascinating and in-depth look at what energy is, where it comes from, how cars were invented, how far they have (or have not) come in the past century and the company that is trying to change the world.

Seriously, set aide an hour of your time and get ready to learn a thing or two about energy, the world, cars and the future. You won’t regret it.

Is it any wonder America is overweight?

Convenience, cars, cholesterol and carbohydrates are so pervasive in American society that it really is no wonder that America is so overweight.

Urban sprawl is rampant and forces people to live such distances from their place of employment that jumping in the car is the only viable option.

However, to see just how little health is engineered or considered in all areas of American society, we need only to look at a recent safety tip we were given at work, where we were advised to “avoid using the stairs to prevent falling down them”. While we’re at it, we should probably avoid walking so that we don’t trip and we ought not to exercise in case it raises our pulse rate and elevates our risk of cardiac arrest.

Come on America, you’re better than that. Grow up and take responsibility for your own actions. Take your health into your own hands and own it. Live a little and maybe even live dangerously by taking the stairs.

Why is a flat rate tax such a bad idea?

Tiered tax rates are very commonplace in most developed societies. However, I’ve never really understood why and I don’t know why flat rate taxes get laughed at whenever they’re proposed.

I get that those who earn more have more of a capacity to pay tax, but does that mean they should? I’m not so convinced. That idea is thrown around in the name of the fairness, but what could be more fair than everyone paying the same amount of tax for every dollar they earn?

After all, high-earners would still be paying much more because they’re earning much more. To me, a flat rate tax would simplify things and level the playing field. You just pay a set number of cents of every dollar you earn to the taxman: I really don’t understand why this is so lambasted when viewing it from a purely intellectual point of view (rather than getting angry that it might mean that you personally might be paying more tax).

Seems to me that it’s just a political tool to appeal to the masses while still pulling in as much tax revenue as is needed.

The completion of my family

Following the arrival of Jack, my family is now complete. My beautiful wife Marti, my daughter Ellie and my son Jack now make up our little family unit of four, with no more room at the inn.

Jack will be the last of our children so these pictures are the first of our whole family. Even though I’m well aware of the fact that I have a wife and a daughter and a son, to see our family together in a photo somehow makes it seem that much more surreal. I actually have a complete family; it might seem weird for me to say that, but it really hits home that we’re now a whole independent unit responsible to and for one another. And we’ve got another couple of decades like this before we start to divide and multiply. Continue reading The completion of my family

When to announce your pregnancy

When you find out that you’re pregnant, one of the first pieces of “wisdom” that you’ll hear is to keep it to yourselves until about 12 or 13 weeks, as the first trimester is when the bulk of miscarriages occur. Once you’ve cleared that hurdle, you’re much more likely to go to term the theory goes.

I personally disagree and it was nice to see that a client of mine agreed. She became pregnant recently and became aware at about 5 weeks. However she didn’t want to let the fear of what might happen to the baby stop her from enjoying the moment.

She wanted people to share in her joy, and rightly so. She put it better than I possibly could, but I would encourage you to share your happy moments with the ones you love, not least because if the worst should happen, you’d want to be surrounded by the love, compassion and comfort of your friends rather than suffering in silence.

The sad state of maternity leave in USA

With my love of John Oliver made well-known, his recent piece on maternity leave which he chose to air on Mother’s Day made me love him even more.

I was sickened to learn about maternity leave in the States when my wife became pregnant. Legally, a company doesn’t have to give you a single paid day off after you force a human being out of your vagina. The only law currently protecting mothers is the FMLA act which affords individuals up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for certain medical events (including birth) during which time your job is protected assuming you and your company meet all of the prerequisite conditions.

The fact that the US doesn’t mandate any paid time off puts them joint last in the world, alongside Papua New Guinea. Every other country in the world requires at least some paid time off after creating a new life: a fact which should sicken most Americans. How can the US give less of a shit about new babies and the people that keep them alive than Iran/North Korea/Mongolia/Zimbabwe/etc.?

America’s decision to proactively block mothers (and fathers) from spending time with their new family, not to mention enabling them to breastfeed for the minimum recommended 6 months just goes to show how capitalism rules above all else in the “land of the free”.

This contrasts starkly with most of the developed world where 6-12 months paid time off is standard procedure and where fathers can also share in this time off. It’s not a burden on employers or taxpayers: it’s an investment in families which ultimately benefits society. The American system is conversely incredibly shortsighted, focusing only on the bottom line.

John Oliver does a great job of explaining how sad this practice is. This is another blot on America’s record that they should seek to improve.