Saturday, 29 October 2011

Rich, Dumb and Fat

I take no credit for the title of this post.

20 years ago UK broadcaster/author/TV dude Johnathon Ross coined the phrase for a documentary he made. His wry look at the USA fascinated me and has long provided another lens through which I view the place. I admit after so many trips to WDW I now add the word "fake" to the list.

The first signs of this perspective are, for me at least, when I board a US domestic flight and there snuggled in he seat pocket will be the latest issue of Skymall - the bastion of all American (made in China) ingenuity.

The Japanese have a concept known as 'chindogu'. Chindogu describes products that appear inventive and useful ... at first ... then reality sets in. But that's the point with chindogu - to invent something that fits that concept. Chindogu is never for sale.

Somehow in America they make chindogu type products but they take them seriously. Entrepreneurship is the great American dream and perhaps in the mass of products there are a couple that pay for someone's retirement. Like Shamwow Guy! I suspect there are many that fade into obscurity.

Australian sensibilities are a tad different and I certainly find all this stuff deeply curious. I sit there wondering "do people really buy and use this?" The catalogs on this trip didn't fail to dissappoint, or maybe the fail is so epic that everything is fantastic! So herewe go on a taste of Americana, and all the products about which I was wondering "retirement or bankruptcy?".

Apparently it's not good enough to send Mr Fluffy McFluffersons out into the yard to "do his business". You can't even just supply a litter box in the laundry. No! Kitteh has to have a special place in the family with you all nearby. With this delightful tray hidden inside a fake planter (with fake palm - hey, don't judge! - they can go in the dishwasher!) fluffy can keep his toes in the warm with the rest of the family

The plastic and polypropelene blends into any decor.
VOTING TIME: Glorious Retirement? or Sad Bankruptcy?

But you still have to clean it and perhaps this is a bit too manual for you. How about this automatic litter tray?!
I have no idea how it works. but it looks spacey so it must be good.
(from what I can gather there is a bag lined bin in the base and when kitty leaves something goes in the bag somehow. I don't know how the litter gets refreshed)

VOTING: Glorious Retirement? or Lonely Bankruptcy?

 Finally, here's a product for Fluffy which I post solely for the catalogue description:

"A hilarious conversation starter and pet pleaser, this unique water bowl keeps your pet well hydrated and your home cleverly decorated" (emphasis mine)

VOTING: Retirement? Bankruptcy? Launch of a new interior design trend?

Let's go out in the garden and see how we can beautify nature even more.

First up: Plastic ivy covered fences

Cause it's not like ivy is some vicious uncontrollable noxious invasive weed that grows widely unfettered.
Would it frighten you to know it also comes in fake bamboo? Which also is notorious difficult for getting to grow into a think bushy fence? (not)

Do I need to tell you that also available are plastic toparies?

VOTING : I'm going for Glorious Retirement on the basis of selling these to the beer gardens of bars and clubs
Not to leave the plastic alone:  giant 8ft plastic palm trees

These won't fit in the dishwasher
VOTING: Drinking pina coladas on the beach or serving pina coladas at the local Sheraton?

Now you are gonna need one of these palm trees onto which to hammer your fake yeti.

He looks like one of those bad photoshop disasters where someone digitally amputated his legs

VOTING: Holidaying in Nepal? or loading guests onto Expedition Everest

When you're finished outside you'll want to wash off all that plastic dirt - in your wonderful coloured shower

LED lights provide wonderful colours to choose from and you don't have to take any drugs to go on this trip.

VOTING: Awash with cash? or taking a bath?

Don't forget to clean your teeth ...

are you willing to put this in your mouth?
...with your 4  headed toothbrush that apparently cleans all sides of your teeth at the same time and only takes 30 secs to do your entire mouth. 

VOTING: Million dollar smiles? or English dentistry?

Unfortunately it won't fit inside your new toothbrush sanitiser.

zaps more bugs than those living in your mouth
VOTING: Clean as a whistle? or sinking in the mire?

Finally you can relax. Put your feet up and read a good book.

....with your special, lying down, mirrored glasses.

VOTING: Magical mystery tour? vs The opti-grab from The Jerk

I know what you're all getting for Christmas this year.

all pictures copied from skymall catalog

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Final Countdown

I've leaving on a jet plane ........

only one more sleep before I set off on my grand journey!

Watch this blog for trip reports  - I hope all my internet connectivity plans work!

Please remind The Ken Man to feed the cat and cuddle him occasionally.

Before I can take that sleep though, I still have to clean all my crap off the bed.

International Pink Ribbon Day for Breast Cancer Awareness

October 24 was International Pink Ribbon Day, a major focus point in Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

We've already looked at an upcoming film that has one perspective as to how pink ribbon day came about, and we've discovered the Zonta Breast Cancer Care Cushions. Today I want to share the work of a fantastic Canberra based group providing a simple but extraordinarily useful service.

Bosom Buddies

BB was commenced in 1995 and today they have over 300 members. Today BB has a fairly strong model and vision and it does a couple of main things:

  • provides support for a woman who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, helping as much as needed through hospital and doctor visits and post operative care.
  • Awareness raising in the community and advocating to improve treatment
  • The BB Fellowship provides support funds for individual and community based projects that are focused on breast cancer.
At my October club meeting we were fortunate to have Marilyn Brookes, a BB member and organiser, visit and tell us about her experiences and the services provided by BB.

Women, such as Marilyn, are not medical officers or counsellors - they are volunteers who have survived breast cancer and are willing to share their knowledge and provide a shoulder to lean on when needed. They are different from family and friends in that they bring their own story with breast cancer and sometimes are the only experienced support a woman has.

The ways the BB women show practical support include:
  • hospital visits - catching up with women whilst they are under treatment, answering questions, getting supplies.
  • running a help phone line - they frequently have women who have just had their diagnosis and are still in shock and scared and want to talk immediately. 
  • disseminate information - they give out flyers and run a website - and they have a nifty little "check yourself" door hanger card. They have materials and contacts for diet, exercise, wigs, hats etc.
  • run workshops several months a year
  • run an informal drop in at a coffee shop
  • release a newsletter
  • undertake advocacy (e.g. increasing the govt allowances for breast prothestics)
  • donate money to other groups also related to breast cancer issues (e.g. unlike in other states, ACT breast cancer nurses are not supported by the McGrath Foundation)
  • and do lots of networking - like coming to our breakfast - and mixing with many other groups

Finally, Marilyn left us with some local facts and hints

  • 14,000 women per year are diagnosised with breast cancer in Australia, and the number is increasing. The increase is driven by the large volume of baby boomers moving into the higher risk age groups and also by improved screen techniques and women taking more notice.
  • The biggest risk factors are if you are female, and over 50 years old. 
  • 50% of lumps are found by the women themselves 
  • 9 / 10 lumps found are not breast cancer.
  • In Canberra, the survival rate is 93% - as the medical profession are increasing their knowledge of the different types of breast cancer, they are also improving the variety and effectiveness of treatments.
Marilyn also passed on all the positive feedback she had received about our Zonta Breast Cancer Care Cushions - lovely to get feedback from someone who is directly in touch with the cushion users.

Finally we were left with the direction to "give our breasts TLC: touch, look and check"

go and check out their website - and then go and check out your boobs

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Mrs Banks Maths

Guess what costume I'm wearing to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party!
(thanks go to my friend Penny for her awesome sewing skills; and to for the inspiration for the maths equation)

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Zonta District 24 Conference: Undervaluing Volunteering Pt 2

2011 is 10 years + from the International Year of the Volunteers. So where are we 10 years on?

Since 2001 there has been a significant shift in volunteering from a government perspective. This situation was particularly highlighted to the government during the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Some 47,000 people volunteered to support the running of the games and the sitting federal government really took notice of the economic value of these contributions.

In the following years the Howard Government ramped up the outsourcing of community services to all range of organisations - most of whom were NFP with large numbers of volunteers. It is a political philosophy as to the responsibilities of state and the involvement of community, however it is my view that the federal government deliberately decided to let the community decide what was important by letting the community members fund those services directly.

However, Melanie's point is that "volunteers are not free". And whilst the government may believe it has a windfall of free labour for services it used to have to fund, Melanie still wants to ensure that volunteers are used appropriately, paid labour is used when appropriate and appropriate value is assigned and captured for both.

Australia has a long history of volunteering and yet in NSW, since the March 2011 State election there has been no appointed Minister for Volunteering and no allocated funding. Despite that we all do it, the State government must think that it is trivial and doesn't justify any recognition.

Melanie wants to change all this.

Melanie wants volunteering to have a central place in society. For the value of our volunteering to be included in the GDP and counted within our key labour force indicators. This is particularly of interest to women because women do more volunteering than men.And the UN considers the labour involved in low level farming, housework and volunteering to be "unproductive" - and it is this work that is more frequently undertaken by women.

In Australia women's lives have changed dramatically, and whilst we are not undertaking subsistence farming it is time that the volunteering work done by women was recognised and valued accurately. Melanie wants our national accounts to expand their coverage; for the national Census to expand its questions on volunteering; for the media to provide more coverage of volunteer events and issues; she wants Australia Post to change these stamps.
Instead of designing a unique stamp, Australia Post just stuck the Volunteering logo as an attachment on an existing stamp

I hope I have given you a taste of Melanie's work. She spoke with passion and enthusiasm. She has a clear vision and supporting action plan. She has a positive mindset for what is possible for volunteers - like you and me - here in Australia.

If you are interested in Melanie and her work you can read her book: Volunteering: why we can't survive without it. And then you can think what YOU want out of your volunteering and how you are going to best contribute your time.

Not available on Kindle - which is sad for us electronic, internet addicted types

Volunteering Australia is working to collect valid data on this subject from volunteers like you and I. GO AND DO THEIR SURVEY NOW!  It is open until 6 November 2011.

Take the opporutnity to reflect on your own volunteering whilst providing some free data for the cause - cause that's what you do when you're a volunteer at heart!

Zonta District 24 Conference: Undervaluing Volunteering Part 1

Melanie Oppenheimer has a personal vision: to have volunteering recognised for the community value and economic contribution we are making to Australia.

Sounds a bit businessy and straightlaced at first glance. Sounds a bit like counting things. And what fun is there in that?

But on reflection think about all the hours we do volunteering for Zonta. All the money we gather and the long term impact Zonta projects deliver for individuals and the communities around them. Perhaps I do want to start counting things – cause otherwise our efforts are “counting for nothing".

Marilyn makes the argument that economic systems only account for corporate output and not the volunteering or even "women's work" when building stats and GDP calculations
  Melanie opened her presentation with some Australian data:
There are over 600,000 volunteering organisations in Australia, which cover 4.6 million volunteers. 
The 2010 Productivity Commission estimated that the Not for Profit sector generated $43 billion in economic value.
That's pretty stunning stuff - who knew we were that busy!

Melanie described the current political view of the volunteering sector is much akin to the tale of Chicken Little. 
I don't mean the flop Disney version - not that I have seen it to judge - and Yes - I will get my Disney references any way I can!
 We all know the story. Here it is summarised on one page:

source: - with apologies to people who like Dubya Dubya
I bet he wasn't interested in volunteers either. Volunteers ain't sitting on vast oil reserves.

So let's have a look at the story and how it may relate to the volunteering.

Chicken Little is out enjoying the sunshine when an acorn lands on his head and he becomes convinced that the sky is falling! 

Hang on - why would I bore you with reading when Uncle Walt has already provided a cinematic treat!

The joy of this 1943 clip is how political it is. And that was Melanie's point too

Every tale has a moral – is it don’t be a chicken but have courage? Don’t believe everything you hear?

Or perhaps we could use it as a more cautionary political tale where the chicken whips up mass hysteria and the Fox takes advantage of this, eventually eating them all?

kinda reminds me of this
Anyway - I am sure you can see the relevance of this story to volunteering.

Volunteers need to have courage, to hold their convictions and continue to deliver without fear or favour. And without kowtowing to inappropriate forces.

Whatever version of  Chicken Little you prefer, Melanie reminds us to be wary of the government's recent interest in volunteering.

In Part 2 I'll lay out her reasons why.

Thanks to Melanie Oppenheimer, Assoc Prof, School of Humanities, UNE and the Zonta District 24 Conference

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Blogging live from Zonta District 24 Biennial Conference

The Zonta District 24 Biennial Conference is underway in Port Macquarie and I am here blogging live!

Beautiful Port Macquarie - where it is rainy one day and still rainy the next
Frankly the Conference doesn't really offer much in the way of big surprises and breaking news that I post here first. Following Robert's Rules the whole can be a bit slow and tedious.

About 90 women from across NSW are here. I am the only one from Canberra!

Here we all are - listening to candidate speeches
We've had an energetic speech about volunteerism, curiousity on social networking and, sorry ladies, fees are going up!

Lt Gov. Kerrie, ZI Rep Kathleen (Canada) and DG Carolyn
will be back with more soon

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

More Birthdays! (where's the cake??)

This weekend saw the 20th birthday of WDW's Old Key West Resort

Lighthouses are essential in Central Florida - even more so, if like this one, they contain a sauna
So why do we care?

Because it is one of the 3 hotels in which I will be staying on my upcoming trip - YAY! (for me)

The OKW property was opened 20 years ago as Disney's first Vacation Club (think time share) property. The DVC has proven to be a huge money spinner for Disney as they pull in every sucker provide unique and discount holiday experiences for thousands of guests every year. Imagine getting your guests to pay for building the property!! It's a financial planners dream come true.

I know - but it's late at night, and this was the fastest cartoon I could find. Sometimes I look hard, sometimes not. What do you damn people want from me??!!
The property runs very much like any timeshare holiday apartment - buy points in DVC to get access to a range of DVC properties  - both the half dozen in the World and some of which are not - such as Hawaii and the US east coast.

Like all Disney resorts Old Key West has a theme. This one is based on the Florida Keys islands that are off the tail of Florida. cue Bertie Higgins:

Don't let your kiddies watch this video - several now illegal activities are portrayed.

I really think Eleanor La Gore should have been in that video? She is SOOOO Florida Keys

Back from that little diversion.
Disney has given this an old-southern-Florida-holiday-timeshare-apartment-complex-on a golf course-theme. Pastel shades, timber floors and blinds, palm trees. In fact I am not sure there is even a hidden mickey in the place.

I've just realised .... that's exactly what OKW is  ...  you know what this means ???  

OKW is the only part of WDW that is real! I go to WDW cause everything is FAKE FAKE FAKE - but this resort actually is the very thing it copies!  I don't want real .... I'm so confused!

As a community service I have labelled the real timeshare resorts and the fake Disney timeshare.
 Oh - with that mind twist gone - let's get back to the overview.

Being the very first DVC property, OKW set the standard for what was to come. Self contained apartments, no maid service, no room service, no porters, no elevators and your own washing machine. The joy of OKW is that it has the largest rooms on property, and they were just refurbished in 2010. Look at the shot above and you can see the new floors, blinds, granite benchtops, paint, tiles, couches (or maybe upholstered) - re-painted furniture etc 

Have a look at this walk through video where we open the door, wander around and to get a good view of the whole room. All to the sounds of Disney tunes Caribbean steel style! (see we all have a little bit of Eleanor inside each of us ...take it way boys....)

Let me add that not only does that chair fold out to a single bed, the couch goes out to a queen - so the villa sleeps 5. Also not shown is the laundry room: off the bathroom the laundry room has a full size washer, dryer, safe, vacuum cleaner (yeah right) extra bedding etc.

Anyway - so how come I am staying on DVC property? Surely Mrs Banks hasn't wasted hard earned money invested in her next 37 years of holidays in Disney resorts? Oh don't be silly - no no no no.

You can stay at these resorts as a hotel guest, paying cash. Way too much cash. The cheaper option is rent DVC points off a DVC member (who has discovered that he cannot really afford everything that goes with that bi-annual WDW holiday.) Mrs Banks happened to secure me a discount cash rate last February. 

I'm all ready to sip my pina colada's from my balcony overlooking the golf course, with the sound of fireworks off in the distance. I'm getting used to it already.

photos were sourced from Walt Disney Company,, Mouse Planet,,

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Think Pink - Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Internationally, October is breast cancer awareness, and Zonta is there.

One of my fellow Club members said the other day that everyone she knows, knows someone who has faced breast cancer.

For me, it was my mother. As she is still alive some 30 years on, everything went successfully for her!

I have worked with a man who had breast cancer in both "breasts" (not really the time for a man boob joke - and I am resisting the temptation to post a link to the Seinfeld episode where Kramer and George's dad invent the "man-sierre")

I have a number of topics to post this month leading up to the International Breast Cancer Day on October 24.

I am going to open with a controversial topic: pinkwashing. I have covered this before, but in 2011 we have a new development.

But first I wonder if you watched the Gruen Planet tonight? For my non-Australian readers, GP is a comedy styled, panel discussion show about the advertising industry, and GP did a session on "pinktober" - the pinking of products in the name of 'cause related marketing'. Is it helping or just cashing in??

I thought the panel gave the topic a good run around the kitchen table - I was impressed that they discussed a range of perspectives and not just fell into the 'bad, large multinationals taking advantage of the advocates'.

Have a look at the show and see for yourself. (I am hoping to replace this with just the pinktober piece eventually - for now you'll have to get to 21:50 mins to see the piece.)

This show gave me a new lead - there is a new Canadian film to be released in 2012 : Pink Ribbons Inc. The film asks the overarching question: "Each year, millions of dollars are raised in the name of breast cancer, but where does this money go and what does it actually achieve?"

It is not my intention to bash fundraising although sometimes I have my doubts - much like the raised eyebrows in the Gruen Planet clip. Not having seen the whole film I can't comment but I will be watching for it's release. I have a belief that everyone shares the same positive intentions: who ever gives a dollar and all the organisations involved in breast cancer - all want to help and assist the situation. In the GP clip discussions are opened with an important line: "first, it's worth separating breast cancer from the actual "pink" extravaganza". And I think that articulates my personal starting point too.

I feel more secure than ever that my club has made the right decision to donate directly to the breast cancer research at John Curtin School of Medical Research at Australian National University; and that the Zonta Breast Cancer Cushion project is useful, necessary and impactful - whilst being a totally transparent project - every single cent raised, every single hour spent goes direct to the woman in her moment of need.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Walt Disney World 40th Birthday today!

If you have the fortitude, here is the 1 hour "Wonderful World of Disney" original broadcast of the grand opening. I enjoy it more for seeing what Florida and the fashions looked like 40 years ago. Full of Disney celebrities, 1971 dance moves and dodgy character costumes.

I swear this is the inspiration for Eleanor LaGore, and what Julie Anthony does to Zippeedeedodah is pure inspiration for what Gina Riley did to "I was only 19".

Bob Hope does a clean version of his usual schtick, and those Country Bears are still performing today!
The character orchestra was shipped out to Tokyo Disney years ago, and replaced by the fab Philharmonic 3D film.

If you can get through to 57 mins, Bob returns with a touching tribute to Walt Disney and described a bit of the philosophy behind the park.

Bob's closing line sums up what I suppose I experience when I walk through that entrance tunnel at the Magic Kingdom - a return to the child that lives in all of us.

Happy Birthing Walt Disney World