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Recently one of my children, a 2nd year Uni student, asked me for tips on how to save money as he never seems to be able to save (and oft-times ends up asking for help at the end of the month to pay for expenses that he can’t cover from his two part-time jobs.


Here is my reply which i addressed to all three of my children who have fled the nest.

Hi guys and gal,

A while ago your younger bro asked me for tips on how to save $$$. i guess i learned how from my parents who both grew up during the depression.
When i earned $$$ as a kid i saved it, at least most of it. by the time i was 15 i had saved $500 from my paper route; i only earned a few dollars a week for delivering papers for 5 years. The $500 became the foundation of my trip to Europe as a 19 year old once i finished high-school. After i quit the paper route i got jobs as a life-guard, swimming instructor and grocery bagger. i saved some and spent some. i spent on my collection of vinyl records while my contemporaries spent their pay cheques on smokes etc. Those that lived didn’t get anything to show for their hard work, it went up in smoke or down the toilet literally pissed away; i have a 1000 records in mint condition. Sometimes its about not wasting the $ you do spend.
Things we do to save:
1. Never ever buy on credit: when we use a credit card we always have auto-payment of the entire amount every month, that way we don’t get suckered into paying their 27% interest (should be illegal but it isn’t). nowadays it seems we just can’t get away without using a credit card especially for online stuff i.e. when i book our tickets to go back home every summer. The only time you should really take out a loan is when/if you buy a home. (ok i took student loans when i was at Uni but i made sure i paid them off before i got married to yo momma; didn’t want that hanging over my head while trying to start a family). i have never and will never take out a loan to buy a car. If you can’t afford it you don’t need it. Virtually every where you’ll live and work you’ll find you can use a bicycle more efficiently than a car to get around. For sure it will be cheaper and you’ll have the added benefit of exercise. You’ll recall the last time we lived in a major metropolitan centre in North America we did not get a car but instead we all cycled everywhere most of the time or took public transport.
the rest are common sense:
2. don’t do Fivebucks/Timmy’s coffee. get your own travel mug and use that with instant coffee and hot water.
3. don’t do restaurants/fast food. they may save time but they sure don’t save $. also the food choices are oft times less than healthy.
4. brown bag it. take your own homemade lunch to school/work, don’t do the cafeteria/McD route. too expensive on any income unless you own Microsoft.
5. avoid drinking in bars/pubs. again just too expensive. we still act that way here. i can count on one hand the number of times i’ve gone to a pub here in 2.5 years. i cringe when i see the prices: one beer at the 4 star hotel costs as much as half a case of beer at the govt controlled booze shop. The prices at the 5 star hotel are even more ridiculous. when i was a Uni student i would treat myself to one beer a week, end of story. Just too expensive to drink and save $ these days what with all the taxes.
6. Sally Ann/Goodwill or garage sales for good used clothes and other things you might need. i’ve bought some really nice previously worn clothes at The Salvation Army thrift shop or other thrift shops like the one near your old place guys. You may recall i bought quite of bit of used furniture from garage sales when we lived in Cowtown.
7. Buy used books, not new. This is especially good for text books if possible (i know they always aren’t available but do look around.) These days you can download a lot of free books to your tablet, great free entertainment. And there is always the library.
8. Take advantage of the free stuff on campus, concerts, films etc. for your entertainment.
9. Don’t do anything illegal: the lawyers fees will screw you over. One of my classmates was once caught up by the RCMP in a big drugs sting. His parents had to mortgage their home to pay for the lawyers. We will not do that for you. An another word for the wise, because of the social responsibility work i’m engaged in people may try to get to me through you so please make sure you’re squeaky clean. So i repeat: don’t do ANYthing illegal. We don’t need the hassle or expense.
10. Buy food that is in season. Buy day old bread etc. shop for groceries from a list; don’t impulse buy when at the supermarket and only buy groceries when you’ve recently had a meal. Eat the groceries you buy, don’t let them rot in the fridge.
11. File your income taxes on time, claim every credit you can. You should be able to get $ back every year. If you’re late with your claim you’ll get the $ back late, if you owe $ you’ll have to pay heavy fines.
12. Pay all bills on time or before they’re due i.e. rent, utilities, health care premiums etc. You know you end up paying more otherwise.
13. Put $ aside for a rainy day. Do not spend every cent you earn each time you get paid; put a percentage aside in the bank and leave it there for when you need it.  i used to save 50% of my pay when i was a kid. Later, at uni it was harder but i still kept a cushion in case i had an emergency. You can never tell when you might need $ for something unexpected like a wedding or a funeral… having the dosh on hand to pay for a gift or the needed airline ticket would be nice.
take care,
love you all!

A lot happened in 2011. People around the world were affected to a greater or lesser degree by what occurred. i was struck by an, at times, overwhelming sense that i could not do anything to affect change or to help those working for change either here in Sohar, Oman or in the streets of the cities and towns around the world where people are trying to make a difference. In the end, i decided i could, in my small way, bear witness to what was happening and work towards small positive changes that i think i can impact. i would ask that you consider joining me in my New Year’s resolution.

Every year, Jamie Mackinnon, a friend from my Cuso Nigeria days sends out a “Noel News” missive. This year he opined,

“Historical analysis seems to show that, over the millennia (beginning with the rise of the state) and more so in recent decades, violence has been declining globally, and the dignity of the human individual (as seen through the prism of human rights) has been increasing.”

As i read that i reflected on 2011 and what i had witnessed either in real life or through the words and pictures of friends, acquaintances and colleagues. i decided i had to beg to differ with Jamie. i feel that violence is increasing, partly because, at 7 billion and counting, there are more of us human beings around and partly because we are becoming inured to violence, both casual and causal. Violent action and rhetoric are, it seems to me, constantly being ratcheted up in attempts to hold off change and secure the status quo.

Here in Sohar we experienced the worst aspects of the Arab Spring when a citizen was shot and killed as he photographed the nascent movement for change. my workplace was closed for a week while our students demonstrated for change. 

In Cairo twitter friend Mona Eltahawy had her left arm and right hand broken by military security forces while they sexually assaulted her. Mona writes of her experience in detail here.

Also from Cairo came this graphic image of a woman being singled out for gross abuse by the military. She was in the streets demonstrating for an end to rule by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. If ever a picture told a thousand words this was that occasion. The full story behind the picture can be read here. What is not told is the story of the Coptic Christian who attempted to save this Muslim demonstrator from the beating she was getting. He ended up being shot in the knee for his efforts.

In North America the quotidian use of violence against peaceful, non-violent demonstrators is best summed up by this now infamous picture of one sworn to protect and serve disabusing all and sundry of his role in life. Violence has become banal and utilized indiscriminately by authorities around the world to either maintain their power or the status quo. TIME magazine’s Person Of The Year issue featured The Protester; very fitting but the cover story missed several important protest actions in the MENA region and elsewhere.

If one thing has become crystal clear it’s that money talks. The upcoming election in the USA is up for grabs to the highest bidder. Occupiers are slowly changing the focus away from the 1% who control the pocketbooks to the 99% who should be controlling the streets.

At this time and place in my life i’ve decided that i can best effect change by watching how i spend my money. Going out on the streets while i have four kids in school isn’t a good idea. i won’t be able to help them if i’m occupying the inside of a jail cell.

As my New Year’s resolution i’m revisiting and renewing several of my long-standing consumer boycotts:

Nestlé because they are still illegally promoting their infant formulas as better than mother’s milk. i’ve been boycotting Nestlé ever since i was working in Nigeria in the late ’70s and i heard of their deadly practice which actually leads to mothers in developing countries inadvertently killing their infants. Maggi is also a Nestlé subsidiary and should be avoided like the plague.

Union Carbide since 1985 because they still haven’t paid full reparations for the Bhopal disaster.

Shell Oil since 1988 when i first started buy petrol/gasoline for their ongoing lousy environmental record in the Niger Delta in southern Nigeria.

i’ve been boycotting Kraft the longest, since 1973, when i attended a Perth County Conspiracy concert. Band members railed against this food processing behemoth which consistently twists the arms of its supplier farmers in its pursuit of profit. There are better quality foods from a host of other more socially responsibly producers.

McDonalds ever since i worked there in 1974. They serve a product; they do not serve food. Nutritional value? Forget it.  Working there, behind the grill, was eye-opening and disgusting.

Just two days ago i decided to add Chik-fil-A when i discovered that they are promoting homophobia. Not that there is any chance of my ever darkening their doors as my wife Kim and i decided to become vegetarians over a year and a half ago. It was, plainly put, the right thing to do, for ourselves and the environment. Meat production utilizes far too much resources.

So while you may feel there is nothing you can do there is. Occupy your wallet, spend your money where it won’t hurt others. Support a political party or politician whose views you agree with. Late last year i finally became a registered member of a Canadian political party despite never being either able or allowed to engage in the Federal political process through the ballot box in my home and native land. i’m now a proud member of the Green Party of Canada and will do what i can, from a distance, to see that we gain more seats in Parliament.

Stephen Harpy, his policies and his politics are the greatest threat to the Canada that i knew and loved growing up in the ’50s and ’60s. So i’ll rage against him and his, in this blog, on twitter and on a ballot if i’m ever allowed to vote as a non-resident Canadian citizen.

The new Make It Stop (September’s Children) video by Rise Against is a visual, visceral very vocal attack on bullying and homophobia. They may be from the Windy City but they sure aren’t blowhards. The lads have something to say and they say it poignantly and powerfully.

Excellent material that could easily be exploited by teachers concerned with bullying. The three sub-stories which make up the narrative of the video can easily be utilized as writing stimuli. This is perhaps the hardest hitting and socially/politically strong video since Linkin Park’s What I’ve Done was released in 2007. (btw if anyone is interested i’ve done an analysis of this video, edit by edit).

Stylistically the song continues a theme of asking rhetorical questions that has long stood the test of time (remember Black Eyed Peas Where Is The Love). This could be another avenue to look at when discussing the lyrics.

From May 16th to 20th several thousand people in Australia will be trying to see if they can get by on $2 a day. For students it shouldn’t be too difficult as we are often on the financial fringes of society.

Sign up with Live Below The Line! i’ll be signing up and following from a distance as a distance ed student. This should be interesting. You’ll have to forgo those ridiculously expensive cups of joe at “Fivebucks”.  Have fun.

Following events in Libya from a distance and listening to the political discourse surrounding the dire situation one can only wonder, worry and pray that the remaining citizens of that country will soon be rid of their dictator. Recent statements from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and the UN Security Council make it very clear that no real action will be taken aside from alternately verbally urging and condemning Loony Tunes Libyan leader Muammar Ghadaffi to stop killing his citizens.

Listening to political pundits discuss the situation via various media a theme has arisen repeatedly. Commentators suggest the UN is impotent. Obviously our UN representatives need to “man-up” and take some political viagra so that the UN can insert itself into this egregious situation. If they go in without Ghadaffi’s permission will it be political rape? i don’t think so. He and his son are the only ones still suffering from delusions of grandeur. The citzens of Libya will welcome UN peacekeepers with open arms.

Libya needs blue helmets. That is the real blue pill that needs to be prescribed for this situation. Our leaders need to take action before more of our Libyan brothers and sisters become statistics. You need to contact your politicians/leaders and the UN and implore them to take action before Ghadaffi’s crimes against humanity shred the Lions of Libya.

i read with interest that today is the United Nations World Day of Social Justice. How apropos especially given all the people around the world striving for social justice, freedom and dignity in their lives.

i’m really wondering at what point the international community steps up and takes action when a member state systematically denies civil rights to its citizens and how many people have to die in the streets of the world’s cities before politicians take note. Do we need situations reach  Darfur and Bosnia levels before we take action? Where is the international Peace Keeping community when supposed leaders of nations are hanging on to power by brazenly killing their populations (and blaming foreign agitators and journalists)?

i would sooner see blue helmeted UN peacekeepers in the streets than dead and dying.

When i got the email “Academic Enterprise Review” from the Uni i had a profound sense of deja voodoo after reading the text and the sub-text.

When i’m told, “we will be able to achieve the required improvement in our finances without the need for significant staff losses” this means there will indeed be staff losses and that they will indeed be very significant for the people being deleted, erased, outsourced, euthanized or otherwise made redundant.

When i’m told there will be, “a reduction in the number of faculties to four” this means many of the staff suffering their significant personal losses will, in all likelihood, be senior academics of great standing in top level positions.  So the university will lose a tranche of academic heavy-weights with serious experience and skills and thereby lose standing in the academic world both within Australia and globally.

When i’m told, “schools and central support areas will be asked to make some modest savings” i know all students and staff will have to deal with diminished levels of academic and ancillary support.

When i’m told the review (which i sure as dickens wasn’t aware of), “recommends reviewing some aspects of the management of research costs and activities” it looks like academic thesis advisors will have their work loads increased and that there will be a profound shift away from pure research towards research that has commercial applications so there are financial spin-offs for the university.  So much for learning for learning’s sake.

When i’m told, “the vast majority of students will notice no change” i’m well aware of the conceit that students will be so busy trying to get their degrees with diminished levels of support that they won’t have time to deal with the restructuring at a grass-roots level.

When i note the email is signed by by an Associate Professor in an Acting capacity i am assured heads are already rolling and no senior leader in the university wished to be associated with this message.  It seems obvious that the announcement is not being heralded as something positive or beneficial in the general academic community within the university but, of course, most everyone is too scared of losing their job to speak out.

So, Mr. Murdoch, instead of spending your hard-earned money supporting the G.O.P. in the U.S.A. (a recent US$1,000,000 donation) and your valuable time trying to muscle your media machine into my ‘home and native land’ of Canada with your Fox News North initiative,  i would like to modestly propose that your time and money are better spent trying to improve the University which bears your family name rather than trying to squeeze more blood out of the academic stones of Murdoch University.


rob clément

EdD candidate

p.s. just learned that the Uni is named after Sir Walter Murdoch!  Was Sir Walter Rupert’s Grand daddy or uncle?  The above points still apply: Rupert, baby, spend your money in Australia doing good deeds. Take a lesson from Daddy Warbucks!

a short while ago some teenage friends of my teenage son Rauth came for a sleep-over.  They saw this poster on his wall…

they asked him if it was his mum and dad when they were younger…   i kid you not! but then again… maybe they had good reason….  Kim is definitely my Yoko Ono!

a) the amount of time it would consume.

b) the amount of energy it would consume.

c) the amount of money it would consume.

d) the sheer amount of reading involved (i mean people can tell you but until you actually get into it, you have no idea and the mind boggles).

e) how difficult (like nailing butter to a tree) and frustrating coming to grips with qualitative research philosophy can be. (But ultimately, how interesting it all is.)

f) about TIRF (The International Research Foundation for English Language Education); an amazing NGO (non-governmental organization) that provides online resources and which has some funding for doctoral researchers working in the area of TESOL.  TIRF is now accepting applications for the 2010 Doctoral Dissertation Grant Competition. Full instructions for DDG applications can be found here. Applications for the 2010 DDG competition are due May 15, 2010.

g) about the loneliness of the long-distance student.

h) about how in the era of Web 2.0 the technology still fails us when we try to attend a seminar in Perth via the internet.

i) that the Uni doesn’t post podcasts of the, apparently, popular public lecture series which i would love to attend as more than once the topic covered has captured my interest but being 12000 km away it’s a long way to go for a lunch hour presentation.  (Please post them on iTunes or youtube!).

j. about how much i’d be learning… being a doctoral student i had a small level of conceit that i knew quite a bit of stuff about my supposed area of expertise.  Ha, bloody, ha: was i in for a surprise!  i’ve been living and learning at an intense level for the past year and expect it will only continue as the research and writing continue.  (As Matthew Cuthbert says in Anne of Green Gables, “You’re never safe from surprises ’til you’re dead!”  (Harron, 1965).

then you’ll want to have a gander at Derek Bowers’s Portfolio.  Interesting public education campaign aimed at exposing the link between STIs/STDs and alcohol.