Wednesday 24/12/14

Merry Christmas everyone. I'm going to take it easy this week, and so should you.

Television is a great form of entertainment, but its perfect TV families have distorted our perception of Christmas Day. Let's face it; nobody's family is perfect. We all have relatives that are rude, obnoxious, or just plain annoying (some of them have all the class and sophistication of a donkey). As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, you can guarantee these relatives are going to be there on Christmas Day; and you can guarantee they're going to be as weird, drunk or annoying as ever.

The good news is that you only have to put up with them for a few hours. You are in control of your emotions, not them. Don't let their behaviour get to you. Remember, it's only for a few hours; then you don't have to see them again for another twelve months. Smile, be polite and don't add fuel to the fire.

So take it easy and enjoy Christmas.

Thursday 17/12/14

In several blog entries I have touched on the topic of protecting yourself from the sun, but this week I'm going to provide specific advice on the subject. There's no denying it, summer is here. The days are long and hot, and the nights are only a little cooler than the days. Currently in Australia, we are regularly experiencing temperatures well in excess of 30 degrees Celsius. Despite the constant warnings in the media since the "Slip, Slop, Slap" campaign began in 1981, I still see a lot of sunburnt people walking around shirtless in the midday sun. Australia has the one of the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world and the number of new cases continues to rise.

Anyone can develop skin cancer, but you can drastically reduce your chances of getting it by following the simple steps:

  • Wear sunscreen with at least a 30+ SPF (Sun Protection Factor). The higher the SPF, the better protection from UV (ultraviolet) rays from the sun.
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim. If getting sunburt doesn't bother you, I'll appeal to your vanity. Repeated sunburn damages your skin and gives you wrinkles.
  • Wear a long sleeved shirt. There are plenty of lightweight shirts available that will let a breeze through. Remember, dark coloured materials absorb more heat than light colours.
  • Wear sunglasses. Not only will they will protect your eyes from the sun, you won't squint as much, delaying the appearance of crows-feet.
  • Avoid the midday sun. The sun is at its hottest, and the UV rays are at their strongest when the sun is directly overhead.
  • Drink plenty of water. This won't prevent you from getting sunburnt, but it will keep you hydrated and help minimize the effects of heatstroke.

Do you regularly carry a backpack? If so, you should consider carrying a small tube of sunscreen (you can purchase tiny tubes of 30mL – that's half the size of a chocolate bar) and a floppy hat. I have a wide brimmed bucket hat that folds down very small and easily fits in my backpack. The hat isn't exactly stylish, but I've been grateful for it when I've been unexpectedly caught in the sun.

There's no avoiding it, we all have to venture out in the sun. But, we have the knowledge to reduce the amount of damage caused by long term exposure to the sun; thereby minimizing the risk of skin cancer.

For further information regarding sun protection I have included the link to the Cancer Council of Australia below.

Thursday 11/12/14

The number of interruptions to our power supply has drastically reduced in recent times. As a result, many people are caught off guard when the lights go out.

Everyone knows they shouldn't open the fridge or freezer during blackout (because a fridge or freezer's insulation is capable of maintaining their internal temperature for several hours if you don't open the door). But what about your creature comforts? Yes, you actually can be comfortable during a power outage, with a minimum of effort.

In my house we have six high-powered LED torches placed around the building, ensuring that if the lights go out, a light source is always close at hand. I also keep a supply of candles, matches and candleholders in the pantry. The candles present a very low fire risk because I only use them in the candleholders (yes, I even have one of those old fashioned brass candleholders), and I never leave the candle unattended. You might think candles are old fashioned, but it is a lot easier to read a book by candlelight than trying to hold a torch while you read. I keep spare batteries for the torches in the cupboard, next to the candles.

From a security perspective, it is a good idea to have several torches located throughout your house. If you hear a strange noise outside at night, you don't want to waste time searching for a torch that may or may not work when you find it.

My basic (and I do mean basic) cooking needs are taken care of by a single burner butane gas stove. It is big enough to heat a fry pan or boil a pot of water, but small enough to store in the cupboard. Again, the open flames do not present a problem because I only use the stove in the kitchen on a non-flammable surface; and I don't leave the stove unattended. I also have a hexamine stove as a backup, with a supply of fuel tablets.

I always have a battery powered radio in the house. Without power, TV and access to the internet aren't an option; but it would take a catastrophic event to knock out all of the radio stations broadcasting into my area.

These are just a few simple things I do to make my life a little more comfortable during a minor inconvenience.