Archive for August, 2012

Make you Fink on Friday

This is absurd

I fail to see it…

At a time when the prices of food are rising beyond the means of ordinary folk Spain holds the Tomatina festival in Buñol where 120,000kgs of tomatoes are wasted by 40,000 people.

While here in Brazil the shortage of tomatoes has risen more than six times their normal price.

This is apparently fun.

This is also apparently fun

Not only this…

In Italy, the Ivrea Orange Festival is a similar absurdity.

“In the small northern Italian town of Ivrea, the Battle of the Oranges Festival is held every year during a three-day carnival leading up to Lent. Nearly 3,000 people gather in the piazzas of this village of just under 25,000 people. Orange-throwing is said to represent the battle against an oppressive emperor in the 12th century.”World’s Weirdest Festivals
Even the Americans do it.

“The Empire Asparagus Festival in Empire, Mich., is dedicated entirely to this perennial vegetable. Michigan is one of the top asparagus producers in the U.S.”World’s Weirdest Festivals

I fail to see the funny side of this when we have a world full of hungry people.

Maybe, I am just a boring old fart.

Banzai, or Bonsai?

Juniperus Procubens (Tuia Jacaré)

I have a bonsai tree.

I have never had a bonsai tree before.

I have contemplated being the owner of a bonsai tree, but never went further than thinking about it. Tonight at class my student showed me a bonsai tree.

So cute!

It’s now mine and is sitting in my lounge.

Now I have to learn to care, feed and prune my little pet.

I love plants, and while I am not an admirer of flowery plants, I love greenery. Maybe I am entering a new phase in life, who knows?



Change the World Wednesday – 29th Aug

I have never done this before, honest.

It wasn’t until I opened Eco to follow my link to Reduce Footprints that I realised I have not posted here for a whole week.

I have never done that before, I have never been so lazy, forgetful, inconsiderate, etc before (despite what my ex-wife says).

Now I am on my first coffee of the morning, but I still feel mortified that I had nothing to Fink about on Friday, no Saturday Satire, nothing to moan about on Monday. It’s not at all like me. And, to top it all off, I had my best day ever on the blog, 144 visitors; I’ve never broken 100 before and I did it in style.

Enough of the self-flagellation, today is my birthday, and I get to share it with you nice people. Sixty-one today; you can read my thoughts about it on Closer to Extinction, yesterday’s late night post on Life is a Labyrinth.

Last week’s CTWW post was an eye-opener. I was fully aware that we are often conned by the labels and ingredients on food, but to find the list of ingredients on a simple deodorant spray so extensive, did shock me; especially when I took up the Up the Ante and explored them.

Acerola berries – Crapemyrtle

A little side trip. Here I go off on my tangent. A couple of weeks ago, I was in my ‘new’ supermarket (I have changed for the bulk of my buying) and I spied a bottle of Orange & Acerola syrup, now I love Orange & Acerola combination. So a quick scan to make sure it didn’t have aspartame, and into the trolly. I might add that the label was surprisingly like another brand that I buy and trust; it wasn’t that brand on closer inspection at home. I made a jug. OMG, it was disgusting. It was only then that I put my glasses on and inspected the ingredients. Colour this, flavour that, preservatives, stabilisers… there wasn’t a single natural ingredient, it was just a chemical cocktail. Result, down the drain; lesson learned.

I used to have a large acerola bush in my yard producing fruit year-round, but I changed yards. I now have a small sprout growing from a seed that I found on the street.

On with this weeks CTWW:

This week share ideas on eating locally during the winter months. While “eating locally” may include meats, dairy, etc., for the purposes of this challenge we’re primarily talking about plant-based foods.


And then …

Come up with a plan, for your household, to eat locally throughout the year. This might include preserving produce which is currently available in your area, talking to farmers to see if they offer (or would be willing to offer) items during the winter, or growing a winter garden of your own.

This has always been a problem for me. Mainly because of the cost of getting to places where I can buy local produce. One of the very few times I miss having a car.

To top it off, my efforts to produce my own in my little backyard this year have not been as successful as the last season. However, I do have some little green tomatoes ripening, which is good because tomatoes are more than R$6 a kilo at the moment. So expensive, they have simply been off the menu. Now, USD1.50/lb may not sound expensive to you guys, but the normal price is USD0.25 – 0.40/lb. So I will have tomatoes in about two weeks. I still have dried cayenne peppers from my good year, and I have mint and ginger growing as well. Passionfruit will be good this coming year, a dead loss last year. My mamão trees (papaya) died.

So that’s it for this week. I am off to work, then I have a BBQ to prepare.



Change the World Wednesday – 22nd Aug

I’m a day late. Not a case of procrastination, although I suppose there well may be elements of the same, rather I have been thinking.

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, the driest desert in the world

We have also had some very dry weather, too dry. The humidity here has been terribly low this week, 20% yesterday. Tuesday was even worse, it gave me such a headache that I missed work; and I am usually one of those who have to be dying before I’ll do that. Been drinking water like it’s going out of fashion in order to stay hydrated. São Paulo was worse off yesterday, humidity there struck a 30 year low, 10%; that’s worse than some deserts.

This week’s challenge is a doozy. It was the ‘dooziness‘ that lead to what appeared to be procrastination on my part, but really it was thinking.

This week refuse to put chemicals on your body. Read the labels on everything which comes in contact with your skin and only use it if it’s chemical free.


Or … If your skin is already glowing with chemical-free happiness, please share tips and ideas. Feel free to suggest products or share recipes for homemade items … tell us about how you transitioned from toxic ingredients to healthy ones … or share the differences you’ve experienced since switching over. We’d like to know about anything which will help us eliminate chemicals from our body care products.

Well, ‘skin glowing with chemical-free happiness’… nope, that’s not me.

Refuse to put chemicals on my body. I am a man of simple means, I don’t go into toiletries much. I use soap, I don’t use shampoo, haven’t for years. I use a simple spray deodorant, the temperature here in summer dictates an additional measure besides soap to stop one reeking of sweat on the bus. I use a plain toothpaste, no flavours or fancy gels. And that sums it up.

Now, let’s look at what’s in the stuff I use:

Deodorant, Senador Platinum.

Ingredients: Alcohol, water, glycerine, perfume, benzalkonium chloride, alph-isomethyl ionone, benzyl alcohol, citrôl, citronella, coumarin, d-Lemonene, eugenol, geraniol, butylphenyl methylpropional, benzyl salicylate, hexyl cinnamal, linalool.

Well, that’s a lot of chemicals. Are they good or bad?

benzalkonium chloride – highly toxic to fish. Toxic to humans at 10%, most applications use 0.001 – 0.002% or 10,000 times less than a toxic dose.

alph-isomethyl ionone – Widely used as a fragrance in the formulation of aftershave lotions, bath products, bubble baths, hair care products, moisturizers, perfumes and colognes, shampoos and skin care products. Known to irritate the skin and trigger allergic reactions for some people.

citrol – a biodegradable, environmentally safe, water soluble, heavy duty, organic citrus base, solvent cleaner and degreaser, related to lemonine. Can cause skin irritation in some people.

citronella  – no info as an ingredient.

coumarin – rat poison in high dosages. Found in camomile tea, synthetic vanilla substitutes, tobacco products. Some people can become sensitised to it.

d-Lemonene – can be a skin irritant wit prolonged exposure. Distilled from lemon rind.

eugenol– cloves, the agent that gives cloves their distinctive smell. Some people may become sensitised to it.

geramiol – a type of alcohol, mosquito repellent, but attracts bees.  Geraniol should be avoided by people with perfume allergy.

butylphenyl methylpropional – synthetic fragrance, some people may become sensitised to it, therefore it is mandatory to be listed as an ingredient in Europe.

benzyl salicylate –  occurs naturally in a variety of plants and plant extracts and is widely used in blends of fragrance materials. Sensitisation is possible.

hexyl cinnamal – Hexyl cinnamaldehyde is a class B allergen according to DIMDI classification. It is also an irritant in concentrations higher than recommended.

Linalool – Over 200 species of plants produce linalool. Linalool gradually breaks down when in contact with oxygen, forming an oxidized by-product that may cause allergic reactions such as eczema in susceptible individuals (5-7%).

So basically, none of that is very good.

I use it once a day when I am working,or when I go out in public. I wouldn’t say that I was a heavy user, but nevertheless, it is surprising what it contains and that almost all of it is not good for the skin.

They warn on the bottle to keep away from children, because some of those ingredients can cause renal failure in high dosages.

I am not going to do the same with the soap and toothpaste I use; firstly, that took a lot of time, and secondly… I’m too scared. I don’t want to know. I have been shaken from the comfort of my little world.


You’ll notice on the image, a vertical line on the left; that is the list of ingredients and warning. It is so small, that I had to use my glasses and use the reflection of the daylight to make out the list in black on a sliver label. It was very difficult t read.


Monday Moaning

Butterflies yesterday, and again today.

Has Fukushima radiation created mutant butterflies?

A butterfly study is the first to definitively link Fukushima radiation to physical mutations in any organism

Fukushima butterflies showed some abnormally-developed legs, dented eyes, deformed wing shapes, and changes to the color and spot patterns of their wings. Photograph: Alamy

Last March, the 9.0 magnitude Tōhoku earthquake triggered a tsunami that sent over 45-foot waves of water crashing down on the reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, causing the largest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. While health officials scrambled to quickly stabilize the situation, it was unclear how much radiation had made it out of the plant—and how it could affect people, plants, and animals who came into contact with it.

Preliminary studies concluded that most of the 140,000 people in the surrounding areas of Fukushima had probably been exposed to relatively low doses of radiation that probably wouldn’t lead to any adverse health effects. But a new study published last week in Nature has shown that the radiation is causing a particularly sensitive population—the pale grass blue butterfly—to develop a slew of uncommon and potentially lethal physical abnormalities.

Researchers collected butterflies immediately following the nuclear meltdown and six months later, both from the surrounding areas of Fukushima and from various other localities in Japan where the butterfly is common. As compared with the butterflies collected from elsewhere in the country, Fukushima butterflies showed some abnormally-developed legs, dented eyes, deformed wing shapes, and changes to the color and spot patterns of their wings, with an overall abnormality rate of around 12 percent.

Mutations included malformed antennae, dented eyes, bent wings, and abnormal color patterns. Photo courtesy of Joji M. OtakiMutations included malformed antennae, dented eyes, bent wings, and abnormal color patterns. Photo courtesy of Joji M. Otaki

While these levels of mutations were still relatively mild, perhaps more alarming were the same data on butterflies collected six months later, in September of last year. The overall rate of similar mutations among these butterflies was around 28 percent, while this number skyrocketed to around 52 percent in the second generation produced from the collected butterflies.

Read more


The world still has not been told the whole truth about Fukushima.

Stunted wings courtesy Fukushima

If the radiation has affected butterflies, it has affected all life, including humans.

Butterflies have a fast life-cycle, in humans it will take maybe one or two generations before we start to see similar results.

Meanwhile, the governments and vested interests lie through their teeth.

I read today on a blog of a woman (American) who has just returned from Japan having been there as a tourist. “Japan is beautiful.”

You couldn’t drag me screaming to Japan.

Japan is dead. It just hasn’t rolled over yet.

Remember how they likened Fukushima to Chernobyl; “Fukushima is Chernobyl on steroids!” Now does that give you an idea of the enormity of the problem?

Decades after Chernobyl and the effects are still being seen.
Then there are other problems to consider. Fukushima is not over yet, there is still the risk of global disaster levels of radiation being released if the cooling tanks collapse as a result of another earthquake. In Japan earthquakes are a guarantee. The procrastination in removing this risk is a disgrace. If another disaster happens and the tanks collapse Japan is finished; and guess who’s next? The west coast of the USA.
The American government don’t want the people to know this because the USA has similar reactors (37 from memory) that are of the same faulty design.
Chernobyl – 26 years later.
“It is not unusual to find infants born to women from the Chernobyl area with shocking birth defects.The baby above was found in an orphanage that Mission In East regularly supplies with humanitarian aid. Her mother comes from the Chernobyl district and is unable to keep her.”Chernobyl Today
This is the legacy of Chernobyl, will Fukushima be any different?

Nature Ramble

This week we have a look at the beauty of the world’s largest butterfly and learn about its impending doom as a result of the palm oil industry.

To lose such beauty would be nothing short of criminal

World’s largest butterfly disappearing from Papua New Guinea rainforests

Rare Queen Alexandra’s birdwing is losing habitat to logging and oil palm plantation

Queen Alexandra’s birdwing butterflies are already on the endangered species list, and rapidly losing their rainforest habitat. Photograph: Mark Stratton

How large does a butterfly have to be before anybody notices it is disappearing? In the case of Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) Queen Alexandra’s birdwing, the answer is enormous.

The world’s largest butterfly boasts a 1ft (30cm) wingspan – imagine the width of a school ruler – yet few outsiders in its rainforest home in Oro province in northern PNG have ever seen it. It’s a scenario unlikely to improve as oil palm plantation and logging remorselessly devours this endangered butterfly’s habitat.

Edwardian naturalist Albert Meek first recorded it in 1906 on a collecting expedition to PNG. The fast-flying butterfly frequents high rainforest canopy so Meek resorted to blasting them down by shotgun. The Natural History Museum taxonomically allocated his buckshot-peppered specimens into the birdwing genus (a tropical grouping possessing super-elongated forewings) and named it after Edward VII’s wife.

Because of substantial sexual dimorphism it took some time to correlate males and females as the same species. The females are velvety-black with cream patches and bright yellow abdomens. They are almost one-third larger than the males, which are iridescently patterned gold, turquoise, green, and black.

It is not clearly understood why the butterfly grows so large but its lack of predators due to its unpalatable nature is certainly a factor.

Queen Alexandra’s eggs are laid on the poisonous leaves of a tropical pine-vine called aristolochia, found in Oro province’s rainforests. Emerging caterpillars feeding on aristolochia ingest its toxins throughout all stages of growth until they pupate into chrysalises. Red hairs on the emerged adult butterfly’s thorax warn predators that it remains highly toxic.

Their biggest threat, however, remains progressive habitat clearance. Queen Alexandra’s have lost much of their range across Oro province’s coastal plain and are now condensed into a small stronghold on a remote plateau called Managalas.

“Its habitat is being destroyed by oilpalm expansion and coffee and cocoa growing,” explained Eddie Malaisa, wildlife officer for Oro provincial government. “I’m very worried about this butterfly’s future because on the lower plains I know of only seven isolated blocks where it’s found but these are small patches of rainforest between 100-200 hectares surrounded by oil palm”.

Ironically, weakening regulation set up to protect them may be the butterfly’s best hope for survival.

Queen Alexandra’s are currently classified as an appendix 1 species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), which prohibits their trade as specimens for overseas collectors. With no legal trade, an illegal black market keep the specimens in demand. In Winged Obsession: Chasing the Illegal Trade (2011), journalist Jessica Speart tells of a jailed butterfly trader who was offering pairs of Queen Alexandra’s illegally smuggled out of PNG for more than $8,500 (£5,400).

She estimated the global butterfly smuggling trade to be worth around $200m(£127m) each year.

Malaisa believes downgrading Queen Alexandra’s Cites status (to appendix 2) to allow a controlled limited trade would incentivise poor subsistence farmers to protect the butterfly’s habitat by allowing them to sell an agreed quota of specimens.

“What is worse? Legally trading a few butterflies or removing Queen Alexandra’s habitat forever,” asks Malaisa.


Kids with a male (left) and female

Image credit: BocaAberta

Change the World Wednesday – 15th Aug

I got dobbed twice last week for the same award. Cool, I am now a double Sunshine Award winner, that’s even better than an Olympic Gold. That’s something that I’ll never win, not unless they introduce leap-frogging supreme with walking sticks as an event.

Water was the theme last week. I didn’t have that much to say, as I am already pretty careful with my water.

The weather has become sunny, but not hot, so still having every-second -day showers. The neighbours haven’t complained yet and my students haven’t noticed, so there seems to be no harm done.

This week’s CTWW challenge is an important one because it’s about education. Educating the kids to do their bit.

This week, if you have kids, think of something which involves your children, which also creates waste or is environmentally unfriendly, and commit to changing it. For example, consider how your baby is diapered and whether or not there is a more Eco-friendly method. What types of materials does your youngster use when creating those artistic masterpieces? Does your teenager drive or walk to school … and what about school supplies? This week is all about greening our kids.


Or …

If you don’t have children, your challenge is to be an observer and then offer recommendations. Take a look at the families around you and talk about what you see working … and what doesn’t. Offer recommendations and helpful tips to assist parents in greening their children.

I have stewed over this challenge all day. You’d think it would be easy after raising 12; you’d think I had all the answers, but it doesn’t work like that.

Instead of offering advice, I am going to show you a situation near my home as an observer in the second part of the challenge.

Just behind where I live is the Rio Cabuçu. It’s close, about a three minute walk. It doesn’t look like a river; no rivers in Rio do, they’re concrete canals. Not at all like the city rivers where I grew up.

I am used to beautiful rivers, clean rivers, rivers with grassy bank, rivers where you can play, fish and scoop out a handful of water and drink it.

The Avon River, Christchurch

But, let me go back to the Rio Cabuçu in contrast.

Rio Cabuçu

You can neither play in, fish from, nor drink this ‘water.’ This photo was taken about a year ago; the river is currently wall to wall at the bend where the water flow is impeded by the rubbish.

The people from the small slum area (r) beside the river and those from the suburb to the left just throw their rubbish into the canal. The kids do the same; the kids are told to do the same. They have the same trice-weekly rubbish collections that we have, but they have no conscience. They are passing this lack of conscience on to their kids.

If you challenge them, they get indignant. The river floods with every rain storm and becomes a raging torrent that fills the canal washing all before it. And the cycle starts again. Household rubbish, tree trimmings, old furniture, dead animals, they even throw concrete rubble and bricks from building projects into the canal.

These families are poorly educated. The parents don’t know how to teach their children, and so the children don’t have any respect for their surroundings.

This is not just a case of advising the parents, it is a case that the whole community needs to be taken to task by officialdom and educated. Anyone like myself would be just considered a busybody.

I walk across this river daily and lament at the artlessness, hold my breath on hot days to avoid the stench, and wonder how can people do this to their own backyard.

This is why it’s so important to educate the kids.


I got dobbed again, on Monday Moaning

Sunshine, revisited

Small Footprints re-dobbed me, although removed the obligation of doing a repost.

SF and I have shared a lot since she began blogging. Initially, in the olden days, I used to post the odd  green related stuff on my original Tomus Arcanum (which is long gone), but finding SF’s blog gave me a new impetus. I wasn’t previously committed to ‘green,’ although, many of the things I did in my life were green.

I dithered. I could not find a name for my blog, despite the fact that it was right under my nose. A commenter on Tomus took umbrage at my thoughts on green, and referred to it as ‘eco-crap.’ The penny eventually dropped, and Eco-Crap was born. The rest, so they say is history.

There is much in this world that gets up my nose; and much that gets up my nose is the abuse we are heaping on our little 3rd from the Sun mudball. I tend to say so. I have said that I’m not here to be nice, I call the shots as I see them; a lot of my gall gives you gas. Those of you who are familiar with my blog will realise that, especially in my Monday Moaning and Make you Fink on Friday posts.

The issues that we face in this world are so many and varied, ranging from recycling, to pollution, hot house gases, corrupt governments, greedy corporations, water, etc.

I am going to leave you with, not so much a ‘moan’, but food for thought.

I wonder where our priorities are…

Nature Ramble

This week let’s have a look at some of nature’s pretty ugly things.

There are plenty of things in nature that are essentially ugly, but they have a beautiful side.

The first offering is one f my own. It is a caterpillar that I found crossing the road in front of my house in Rio de Janeiro in 2008. I have no idea what type of caterpillar it is, I can find nothing using google that resembles it. If there is anyone out there in bloggerdom who has any suggestions, I’d welcome them via comments.

There it is, healthy specimen, isn’t it?

The next one is identifiable.

Emperor moth Caterpillar (Saturnia pavonia)

There’s quite a good story in the Country Life section for a good read.

If you want them big, try this one:

Hercules moth caterpillar, from Papua New Guinea

Sphinx moth family from Vietnam

Stinging Rose Caterpillar (Parasa indetermina)

If you want hairy, then the Puss Caterpillar, one of the most venomous in the USA

Puss Caterpillar, or woolly slug

Monarch Caterpillar

There’s just a few of the 20,000 species around the world.

I got dobbed

I didn’t have a post planned for here today, and I haven’t yet found anything satirish enough to make the grade.

The Sunshine Award

And, lo and behold, I awake after my customary morning nap and there in the mail box is a ray of sunshine.

I got dobbed, ah nominated for a Sunshine Award.

Our Tiny Earth, who is the culprit, ah the nominator says this, “I am nominating you for the Sunshine Award. Your blog inspires me to keep on”

I am an inspiration.

I am suitably humbled, which is inversely measured by my cynicism and stoic superciliousness. I always do this when I am faced with embarrassing situations, it’s a defence mechanism.

The acceptance of this award is, of course, binding on certain rules; tasks, if you like.

The Rules:

1. If you are nominated, you must blog a post linking back to the person/blog that nominated you.


2. You must answer some questions, nominate ten fellow bloggers and link their blogs to the post!


3. You should comment on your nominees’ blogs to let them know you’ve nominated them.

Done – sort of

So, here are the questions:

1. Who is your favorite philosopher?

Does one have a ‘favourite’ philosopher? My life has been measured by an amalgam of philosophers, ancient and contemporary. To say that one was a ‘favourite’ would be to demean the contributions of the others. George Carlin would have to have been the bluntest; he didn’t call a spade a spade, he called it a f***ing shovel!

2. What is your favorite number?

12, because that’s the number of children that I have sired and/or raised beneath my roof and will carry my legacy into the future.

Lixo P. Cat

3. What is your favorite animal?

Cat, I was raised with one in the bassinet. Ironically, my current moggy is the mirror image of him, a ginger tabby named Lixo. Lixo is Portuguese for rubbish, I named him that after he was dumped from a car in our local praça like a piece of rubbish as a kitten. Sometimes, in moments of endearment when he does that cat-thing and stops in front of you when you are walking I called him Fluffy Nuts, simply because he has.

4. What are your Facebook and Twitter URLs?

Twitter:  @whopaysthepiper  Facebook – I don’t FB

5. What is your favorite time of the day?

Any part of the day that involves coffee, or appropriately beer (after the sun has topped the yardarm).

6. What was your favorite vacation?

The year I planned to spend in Europe in 1992. On my way to Madrid, I stopped over in Rio de Janeiro for ten days and have never left. I never got to Europe. Living for twenty years in the 3rd World has shown me that life can be a vacation; something you’ll never realise living in the 1st World.

7. What is your favorite physical activity?

Walking, although the last three years it has involved a walking stick, so I should say, a fast hobble.

8. What is your favorite non-alcoholic drink?

Iced tea, or Iced coffee, followed by apple juice.

The passion fruit flower

9. What is your favourite flower?

Passion Fruit. One of the most intricate flowers that exist.

10. What is your passion?

Life and its indelible imprint.

10 Deserving Blogs.

Now this is where, I have a problem.

My reply to OTE’s comment advising me of this nomination was, “sadly I will have to think seriously about the 10 bloggers, the last time I did a meme of this nature, not one of my nominees participated leaving me disappointed and disillusioned with the practice. I vowed not to participate further. I have noted a distinct change to the nature of bloggers since I moved to WordPress; Blogspot bloggers were always guaranteed participants. But I thank you for the opportunity; it’s not my intention to demean the gesture.”

I have participated, because I think it would be priggish of me not to do so in light of the generous nature of the award.

The one bloggerette that springs to mind, one that has inspired me, and inspired the creation of this blog, Small Footprints, has already been nominated. I single her out as my inspiration to things ‘green.’ That is not to belittle the efforts of many others.

I would like to throw the award open and invite the bloggers I have linked on my side bar to consider themselves worthy of this handsome award. If I didn’t think them worthy, they wouldn’t be linked. Proof of the pudding, etc. The rules apply, of course.

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