Tuesday, 30 January 2007

I'm so hungry I could drink a horse

I'm going into hospital tomorrow to have an endoscopy. It's nothing serious, just need to get a few things checked out. The scariest part is that I'm going to have something that looks like a prop from Alien stuck where the sun don't shine.

Eew!

But that's not the worst of it. I had to take a couple of very small and innocuous looking pills last night, which, at about 5 this morning brought on hideous cramps and a rather hasty run to the bathroom. No need for details, but I'm sure you can imagine. I'm feeling better now, but have that "on the verge of soiling my pants at any minute" feeling in the pit of my stomach. Not the most pleasant way to spend a day.

But even that's not the worst of it. The worst of it is that I'm not allowed to eat anything after last night's dinner till after the surgery (which should be done by mid-afternoon tomorrow)! Have I ever mentioned that I love food?


I guess it's not as bad as it could be. I'm allowed to have "clear" liquids today. The definition of which is anything I can see through. I feel like rummaging through the kitchen, pouring things into glasses, holding them up to the light and peering into them. But I won't. I'll stick to water and the occasional vegetable soup (strained, of course).

It's a little torturous, but I'm a 3rd of the way through and figure I'll be okay.

Actually, come to think of it, that might not even be the worst worst of it.

The worst worst bit is called Colonlytely Original. I'm meant to dissolve 2 sachets into 2 litres of water and drink it later this afternoon - 250ml every 15 minutes. The packet has this vivid description of what's in store for me:
Chill to taste, the made up solution in the refrigerator.
Great, I'm supposed to trust my precious bowels to people with grammar this bad!
Gradually drink a cupful every 15 minutes. This is equivalent to ONE litre during an hour.
Right, well thanks for the math lesson, now back to the bowels.
If you feel nausea or fullness, SLOW DOWN and take longer to drink the required amount completely.
I'm not even sure what this means.
Bowel motions may begin after drinking the first litre.
How ominous is that! It sounds like my nasty bowels are only being held in check by rules and regulations and as soon as I down that first litre (in 1 hour, or possibly longer if I feel like throwing it back up) they will let loose their fury - "and lo, the house shook with the thunder of his bowels..."

Oh boy, it's going to be a hell of an afternoon.

Monday, 29 January 2007

Helen on asshattery

Helen of Cast Iron Balcony has written a brilliant response to all those men who try to silence Western feminists by raving on about the comparatively worse position of impoverished people in other countries.
[I]t’s clearly an empty rhetorical device to shut people up rather than to advance the debate.
[...]
Isn’t it hypocritical to tell a certain social grouping they should forget about the glass ceiling, if you’re a member of the other social group? I suppose everyone wants to keep hold of their own privilege, but really, does it have to be that blatant?
[...]
If you like things as they are, or you are antifeminist, come out and say it rather than trying to appeal to some faux anti-elitism. That’s asshattery.
Do read it. I wish 'those men' would...

Thursday, 25 January 2007

Post Punk Kitchen in NYT

There's a great piece in todays NY Times on Isa Chandra Moskowitz, the author of Vegan With a Vengeance - don't buy it from Amazon, just look then order it from your local.

C and I love the book and highly recommend it.

The interview was good too.

It's also worth checking out her website for lots of tidbits and tips.

Corporate environmentalism - a contradiction in terms?

I know I have often ranted about corporate abuse of the environment here and occasionally about their seeming shifts towards environmental responsibility. But, in my view, with something this important there's no such thing as overkill.

Too much of one voice, though, can get a little drab, so I'm handing over to an "expert" - temporarily.

George Monbiot, a far more qualified ranter than I, has recently published a piece on the greening of Tesco and Walmart that is really worth reading.

Monbiot argues that while mega-corporations may spout enviro-speak (i.e. talk the talk) and may even walk the walk, this will only go so far.
But there is a bigger contradiction than this, which has been overlooked by both the supermarkets and many of their critics. "The green movement," Terry Leahy tells us, "must become a mass movement in green consumption." But what about consuming less? Less is the one thing the superstores cannot sell us. As further efficiencies become harder to extract, their growth will eventually outstrip all their reductions in the use of energy. This is not Tesco’s problem alone: the green movement's economic alternatives still lack force.
The market cannot replace government regulation of the environment. What incentive do corporations have to make the kinds of changes that are ultimately necessary when (as Joel Bakan has taught us) the corporation is a psychopath interested only in the relentless pursuit of profit and power. Corporations will never willingly cut into their bottom line in order to protect the environment or appease fickle consumers who may care about sustainability this week but will still want their goods as cheap as possible.

We need more government regulation of corporations (particularly where they intersect with the environment and human rights) if we are ever going to make a difference to the future (which is increasingly becoming the present) of our planet.

While corporations like Tesco and Walmart are saying all the right things it remains just that, talk, if they refuse to submit to independent audit of their environmental impact. And, as Monbiot notes, while they are pushing the big picture they are neglecting the small, everyday interventions that do so much more to protect our common future:
In his speech on Thursday, the company’s chief executive, Sir Terry Leahy, spoke of the sophisticated new refrigeration techniques Tesco will use, which will allow the chain to reduce its consumption of climate changing gases called hydrofluorocarbons. But at no point did he mention an environmental technology called the door. How can you claim your stores are sustainable if the fridges and freezers don’t have doors?
And there you have it.

water, water, water

Suddenly water has become the hot new political issue for this year and politicians are scrambling over each other to be seen as the most pro-active and visionary after years of ignoring the issue.

This morning Howard announced at least $2.48 billion in new projects for water in Australia and a planned Commonwealth government takeover of the management of the Murray-Darling basin.

"Projects will include a $1.5 billion nationwide subsidy scheme to encourage all farmers, particularly irrigators, to be more efficient with the water they use [and...] to improve farm productivity. Another $500 million will be devoted to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of river storage and operations through projects such as digging channels to unblock natural chokes in rivers, to divert the water for agriculture. Another $480 million will be dedicated to funding a new division within the Bureau of Meteorology to audit the nation's water capacity and availability."

This all sounds very good, but it also leaves a lot of questions unanswered. First of all, no one seems to know whether or not this is actually new money or whether Howard is simply reallocating money that was set aside years ago to tackle the problem. Following on from that confusion is the question of why the two billion dollars of funding set aside three years ago has still not been spent or allocated by the Commonwealth government. "Election year" may be the only answer that to that one.


On another point, while it is good to see increased funding to reduce wastage in irrigation and agriculture, nothing has been said about how that saved water will be allocated. So far absolutely nothing has been committed for reinvesting water back into the rivers to provide for decent environmental flows. It is all very well to ease the burden on drought-stricken farmers, but exactly what is being planned for the future? Present day political and commercial priorities seem to be well represented in this latest initiative, but what about sustainability? When are we actually going to have a debate about how our water should be allocated and what level of priority we would like to give to saving our rivers and ensuring that there is some water left for future generations?

Mindful of these issues, environmental groups are critical of Howard's claim that by taking over the Murray-Darling basin the Commonwealth government will be able to take the politics out of the management of this important river system. They have pointed out that the Commonwealth is still largely beholden to the farming lobby and commercial interests and argue that control should instead be handed over to an independent body staffed by experts on water management (a similar model to the Reserve Bank).

Patrice Newell has also argued that moving control up to the Commonwealth level is completely the wrong approach to this issue. Her experience of trying to save a small river system in the Upper Hunter has made her acutely aware of the pitfalls of placing control in the hands of bureaucracies, which are constantly changing and caught up in a sea of political power plays. She argues that responsibility needs to move in the opposite direction, by devolving control down to the people who really understand local needs and the river systems in question.

Finally, it remains unclear how the Commonwealth is actually planning to takeover management from the States. According to the SMH, "The Prime Minister is understood to have obtained legal advice that suggests the Commonwealth could take control of the river system from the states without the need for a referendum." While Section 100 of the Constitution doesn't appear to stand in his way - focusing as it does on trade and commerce - exactly which head of power (or heads of power) he is planning to use is utterly beyond me.

If Howard was serious about taking a long term approach to the management of our water resources, then he would be bringing in the experts and opening up a national debate on the issue so that all Australians could participate in setting our priorities for the allocation of our most precious resource. Instead, Howard is simply playing politics and throwing money at pre-determined projects that no one except his bureaucrats have had any input in creating. The only vision that this exemplifies is that of a politician focused on the next election. We deserve better than that.

[crossposted at LP]

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

34 weeks

P. and I spent the weekend at Bodalla (on the NSW South Coast) with a group of 18 friends. It was a lovely weekend filled with yummy food, conversation, good company and a ridiculous carnivale themed Saturday night complete with costumes and a dance competition.

For the curious: P. did end up dancing. It was very entertaining.

P. also took a picture of me and the little one (still in my tummy) on the beach and I thought I would share it with you so you can see just how massive I am becoming.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Pastel polo shirts, plaid chinos and boat shoes

You may be wondering what the title of this post has to do with this story in today's SMH about Allen Jasson.

The thing is that Allen just wants to go home. He was here visiting family over christmas and merely wants to be able to board a Qantas plane and fly home - as long as he can wear his favourite t-shirt. Is that asking too much?

Qantas think it is.
Reading from a prepared statement, a Qantas spokesman [sic - gendered language SMH, naughty] said: "Whether made verbally or on a T-shirt, comments with the potential to offend other customers or threaten the security of a Qantas group aircraft will not be tolerated."
Seriously?

This is a slippery slope Qantas.

What happens if I'm mortally offended by anyone wearing (I can't even bring myself to write it again) the title of this post? Will Qantas insist my fellow passenger remove the offending clothing? Should I have the right to insist this occur?



Okay, so I realise that the title of this post isn't strictly a "comment" in the sense Qantas means, but it sure is a loud and clear statement about the person wearing the offending outfit, that's for sure.

What about a t-shirt bearing the swooshstika and the slogan "Just do it"? Surely this is a comment? No, how about anything from here or here?

I find it hard to believe that Qantas would ban a passenger wearing any of those slogans as offensive as I might find them, but say anything about our president and your off the plane.

Hang on a minute. Who's president? Jasson is an Australian with Brittish residency who was attempting to fly from Melbourne to London on an Australian plane. Hmmm, does Qantas know something I don't?

Perhaps next time I fly Qantas I'll wear this:



Or this:



Or even this:



Or anything from the real White House.

Friday, 19 January 2007

The weekend starts now

C. and I are off to the coast for the weekend and I’m ducking out of work early for a change.

There’s bound to be lots of swimming, cooking, eating and general relaxing. There’s some talk of a crazy Saturday night dance competition being launched by several friends, so I’m sure that will provide much hilarity (unless I’m coerced into dancing as that will just be embarrassing for all concerned). C. has been given a get out of goal free card due to her 3rd Pea carrying duties (and she has the hide to complain about being pregnant!!!)

See you Monday.

New Life for Sale!!

Would you pay $60,300.00 for this?

Each to their own I guess, but really?

Messages of hate

OK, so I really shouldn't engage with these rage-filled idiots, but some of the comments that have been flying around the net about how hateful I am for daring to write about my feelings about my own pregnancy are really impressive (I mean that in the sense that they have impressed upon me how aggressively some men will defend their male privilege and forcibly silence any woman who dares to question it).

First, let's start with a couple more gems from JamesH:
What a Martyr!

"This is not the result of feminism - this is the continued impact of a patriarchal culture that remains fundamentally unchanged at its core." PUKE!

Our western culture is based on a productive economic model, ever since the industrial revolution first took people off the land and into factories, where people needed to earn money to survive, instead of growing their own produce.

For every captain of industry who profited, so then did his wife and daughters.
Translation: Get back into your box. Women should be seen but not heard. Us men (sorry - "Captains of Industry") have single-handedly grown the economy and the economy is all that matters.
I have read and studied George Orwell's 'Animal Farm' and there are so many parallels between how the story unfolds in Animal Farm and feminism, that it is scary.

The animals were promised the utopia of equality, but gradually and insidiously the rules get changed until the animals find that they are living in a totalitarian regime.
Translation: Having read one book I am qualified to make pronouncements on the true meaning and ultimate consequences of all political movements.
As a man whether I like it or not, feminism has affected my life in ways that many women choose not to understand.
Translation: As a man who quite enjoys occupying a privileged position in society, I am angry that feminism might be attempting to change this structure. How dare it?

Anonymous said...
I have met young women like Cristy #. They are self-centred pains in the ass who never shut up.
Translation: I don't want to listen to women who write about their own experiences. Why can't they write about men? We are more interesting. I certainly am...
Beats me how they get a self-respecting man to hang around. They are very into social justice and green issues.
Translation: P. has no self-respect. C. is very into social justice and green issues.

Anonymous said...
Yea

Anyone catch the Cristy piece on how she was agonizing about being a wife, mother, worker, Phd enthusiast, pregnant, sex slave/ kitten and wonderful human being. How SHE felt about becoming a mother and the horrid changes it would mean to HER. Hubby must be under the thomb in that setup.
Translation:
P. has no self-respect and is under the thomb (this is like a giant feminist version of a normal human thumb - it is worse though, much worse...).
The idiot seemed so pleased to tell her readers how unhappy she was I couldn't understand why she didn't kill the kid in the womb. It would have made her a little happier by her accounts.

What a miserbale speciman.
I am usually one of those men who rant about women being baby killers when they argue for reproductive choice. However, now I think it is more funny to suggest killing a wanted child because the mother in question dared to suggest that pregnancy wasn't the most wonderful gift that she had ever been given and that she didn't thrive during every second of it. HOW DARE SHE?!!?!
She's a "herman" rites lawyer you know and thinks the UN is so, important in our lives. How many wankers are there in the world, I couldn't count. But she must be at the top.
Caring about human rights is dumb.
Imagine being married tot he idiot.
P. has no self-respect.

Poor P., I think that he got criticised more than I did. Well, that's what you get for being silly enough to marry a feminist!

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Online Opinion Commenters

My post on pregnancy went up on Online Opinion on Monday. Fortunately for me I was in Kangaroo Valley with my brother and so I didn't have the chance to see the comments until Tuesday night...

Wow, I knew that there were plenty of men who were particularly defensive of patriarchy and who get their heckles up at the merest mention of feminism, but I was surprised by how agro they were able to get over the idea that I might have found pregnancy a confronting experience and dared to write about it on my own blog. Actually, more surprising was the fact that they think that I care about their opinion, but that is another story.

Anyway, I was particularly struck by this little gem of insight that just arrived into The Forum (the discussion about the post):


I am sure Cristy's feelings are real whilst she struggles to complete her Ph'd fighting against the patrairchial oppression and sexism and at the same time dealing with the change in her body image.

I recalled the other day a friend who was so desperate to have a baby, that she was prepared not only to put her health on the line, but her life as well.

Against medical advice she choose to continue her pregnancy, she even had a stroke which made her dysphasic and at one point she became so ill that she was admitted to Intensive Care, still she choose to continue the pregnancy.

Both she and the baby survived and she has a healthy boy. Fortunately for most western women they are not faced with such a life and death dilemma's.

And when compared to the third world we do not really have to worry much about the survival rate of our children where in the third world a large percentage do not even see their third birthday. We worry about luxuries such as child care and maternity leave, Ph'ds and careers.

I guess the work of the culture of patriarchial oppressors in this country has had nothing to do with improving the health outcomes and survival rates of our children.
Posted by JamesH, Thursday, 18 January 2007 3:47:16 PM


Of course, this raises many questions about the author. However, the most pressing for me is what on earth he is going on about in the last sentence?

Does he think that societies in the "third world" are not patriarchal? Is he really claiming that patriarchy is the reason that maternal health care has improved in Australia?

Why are sexist men so delusional? Do they have to spin these lies for themselves in order to continue to justify their hatred of women?

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Peace or justice?

I have been pondering this article from The Guardian for the last week and I am no closer to resolving exactly what I think about the issues that it raises. However, I thought that it was worth discussing regardless.

Essentially, the Ugandan government has asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to drop its charges against Joseph Kony - the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army - so that they can proceed with a peace deal that may see the end of the civil war in Uganda.

The ICC believe that dropping the charges at this point would be fatally damaging to the credibility of the Court and would be a blow for International Justice. The Ugandan government (and many community members) believe that they should not be made to suffer an ongoing war just so that the ICC can have its historic first case and feel good about itself. I think that they both have a point.


On the one hand, dropping the charges against Joseph Kony would seem to encourage an international culture of impunity; one where people can get away with anything they like so long as they are powerful and violent enough to broker a good settlement at the end of the day. It sends the message that mass murder, mutilation and abducting children in order to force them to become child soldiers and sex slaves is OK - so long as you hold enough power to force the government to grant you amnesty in exchange for a peace deal. What will this mean for future conflict? Will it give confidence to future Joseph Konys that they will never have to deal with the consequences of their actions? Will it mean that they hold out longer and cause more suffering in order to ensure that they too are granted amnesty when it all gets too hard?

On the other hand, why should the people of Uganda continue to suffer for some nebulous idea of justice or even to serve as a warning for future conflicts in other countries? How do they benefit from a standing warrant when they are being terrorised daily and are forced to watch as their children are taken away to face hell on earth?

There is also the question of consequences - how do we know that charging Kony will have any kind of deterrent effect on future tyrants? I doubt any of them start with the idea that they are actually going to lose. It is just 'Western' arrogance to assume that we can solve these issues through the courts rather than allowing them to be solved internally over the negotiating table?

I just don't know. Both dropping the charges and refusing to do so seem completely wrong - how dare the real world be so messy.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Not that I’d ever set foot in a McDonald’s...

...but I was (begrudgingly) happy to see that, in the UK at least, they have announced that all coffee they sell will be sourced from plantations certified by the Rainforest Alliance.

Why is it that the companies that drive small businesses out of business are also the ones that offer (sometimes the only available) humane options for having coffee out of the house? Starbucks is a classic example. They engage in the most insidious business practices (including staking out popular local cafes and offering their lessors higher rent for the premises and placing outlets so closely together that each outlet looses some profits but ensures complete market dominance in any given locale) and yet they offer fair trade coffee.

I get torn between supporting local businesses (the kind without the global megacorps behind them) and buying coffee that actually pays farmers a living wage and supports community development programmes.

What to do other than have fair trade coffee at home and support local cafes by drinking something other than coffee.

More info on the benefits of fair trade coffee and why you should really be drinking it (and encouraging your local cafe to stock it as an option) can be found here and here, and some more general fair trade info here.

Monday, 15 January 2007

Today it's Cameroon, Thursday it's Vanuatu...

8 January 2007 was a bad day for the environment. Not because anything terribly different happened – just the opposite in fact. Monday last week was the day on which the average citizen of the UK had already produced as much C02 as the average person in the world's 50 least-developed countries combined will all year.

8 days!

I hate to think how long it takes the average Australian, particularly as we are (on per capita basis) worse polluters than the UK. And then I think "how long did it take the average American?" and I shudder.

What we are doing to this planet (and the majority of its inhabitants) in the name of 'better' living and 'progress' is absolutely disgusting and I'm sick to death of it.

UK-based World Development Movement has put together a climate calendar marking off the days on which the average citizen of the UK passes the yearly emissions of the average citizen of other countries.

That was a confusing sentence, sorry. Best to just go check out the calendar and get the picture visually. It's scary.

Today the UK passed Cameroon. I'm sure Australia passed them several days ago.

When are we going to learn that we can't keep abusing resources and pumping crap into the atmosphere without major consequences – for us, the rest of the world’s inhabitants, and the planet)? Sometimes I feel like we’re living in the first half of the 20th Century. Remember when smoking was good for you, you couldn’t be healthy without eating red meat and drinking and consuming several glasses of cow’s milk a day, the planet’s resources were infinite, and economics was a zero sum game – a race to the top? Life was just peachy then – except it wasn’t. The world has changed, but we’re not changing fast enough to make the change for the better rather than the worse.

Some days I feel like it’s just not worth bothering and that we’re a lost cause. That tends to last about 5 seconds and then I get pissed off again (at our arrogance and ignorance) and vow anew to keep at it till everybody just gets it.

I’m very stubborn.

Thursday, 11 January 2007

Has Schwarzenegger crossed the floor?

What’s going on with the Governator lately? I must admit I’m somewhat confused. He ran as a Republican, but is married to the most central democratic family in America. That was strange enough. Even stranger was that we got elected at all, but I guess it is California.

His first term didn’t produce too many surprises, though he seemed to lean more to the left than to the right – far enough, it seems to win democratic voters over, but not so far as to alienate the right.

I, along with lots of people I know, assumed that his governership would be a bit of a passing fad and that the people of California would elect an actual politician in the next election – but, again, this is California we’re talking about.

So Schwarzenegger has been re-elected and, somewhat like Chávez (but with a less cooky style), has made a shocking (for the American right) policy announcement – 2 actually.



The first came a few days ago when the Governator announced "near universal health care for the state".

Double take.

Umm, he is a Republican isn’t he? Surely this alone would be enough to get him tossed out of God’s Own Party. But then there’s this:
Under Mr. Schwarzenegger’s proposal, Medi-Cal would be extended to adults who earn as much as 100 percent above the federal poverty line and to children, regardless of their immigration status, living in homes where the family income is as much as 300 percent above that line, about $60,000 a year for a family of four. Medi-Cal is currently limited to adults with children, and children with documented residency are covered if their family’s income is up to 250 percent above of the poverty line.
REGARDLESS OF THEIR IMMIGRATION STATUS! Wait till GW hears about this, you’ll be in for a talking to Mr Schwarzenegger – but only if he can pronounce your name and then only if he forgets that you are about a thousand times more popular than he is…

To make matters worse (for the right, but far better for the left) the Governator followed up this “wait, which party do I belong to?” moment, with another, even better one: Announcing a 10% cut in vehicle emissions by 2020 (see here and here).

This order amounts to the first, in what will have to be a series, of practical impacts of the deal Schwarzenegger struck with the Legislature last year to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 25 percent by 2020.

In his speech he said:
Our country has been dependent on foreign oil for too long […] I ask you to set to motion the means to free ourselves from oil and from OPEC. I ask you to encourage the free market to overthrow the old order. California has the muscle to bring about such change. I say use it.
Well, gosh.

It’s going to be interesting to see where all this ends up.

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Lentil-rice balls lunch box


Lentil-rice balls, tomato sauce (tomatoes, garlic, onion, chilli & parsley), potato scone, apple-cinnamon muffin (recipe below), and strawberries.

Apple-cinnamon muffins
Ingredients
4 granny smith apples, peeled & cored
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 cup orange juice (optional)
1/2 cup vegan margarine (preferably non-hydrogenated)
1 cup plain organic flour
1/2 teaspoon baking power
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup almond meal
egg replacer equivalent of 4 eggs
water or soy milk

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180c
  2. Chop the apple up into cubes of around 2cms square and place in a large saucepan over medium heat. Let them sweat for a little and add the spices. Stir the apple pieces so that they are completely coated in the spices for a little and then add the orange juice (or just use water). Bring to a boil and then turn down and let the mixture simmer for around 15 minutes. Add more water if it looks like it might stick, but try to keep it moist rather than liquid-y.
  3. Cream the margarine. Sift the flour and baking powder into the margarine, stirring it through, then add the sugar, almond meal and egg replacer. Stir together to combine thoroughly and then add the apples.
  4. Add a little water or soy milk if the mixture is too dry.
  5. Spoon the mixture into a muffin tray and place in oven for around 10-15 minutes, or until cooked (i.e. slightly brown on top and springs back when you touch it).
Makes around 12 muffins.

“All that was privatized, let it be nationalized.”

Today's NYT has this article about Hugo Chávez's speech at his inaugaration a couple of days ago.

Chávez announced plans to nationalise major private companies in the electricity and telecommunications industries. This announcement follows a similar one in which foreign-owned oil companies were put on notice.

The Times also says that:
Last month, Mr. Chávez announced plans to meld the broad coalition of parties that support him into a single socialist party, raising concerns that he was following in the footsteps of Fidel Castro.
That thought probably makes US investors in the country quake in their boots.

The two things that worry me most though, are: the major step backwards a merger of political parties represents – as the next logical step is to ban (or pressure into silence) opposition parties; and the recent announcement to not renew the licence to broadcast of a local tv station critical of the administration.

Revoking the licence of RCTV is a huge step in the wrong direction for Chávez and will only serve to further alienate him from supporters in the international arena who often applaud the gutsy way he stands up to the Bush administration.

Let’s have the Chávez of old back – the one offering subsidised heating oil to poor residents of US cities and calling Bush “Mr Danger”. The Castro model of governance is a relic of the past – even in Cuba – Chávez needs to look forwards, not backwards.

This is not to say I’m pro laissez faire capitalism (not in the slightest), but on the continuum between that and the iron curtain, I’m somewhere in the middle (though I must confess slightly closer to the iron curtain than coca-colonisation).

I’m also not really a fan of the Giddens and Blair-sponsored politics of the third way that all too often ends up being conservatism under a different name. But I’m still hopeful there is a valid third way (or maybe a forth or fifth) that provides a true alternative to the Thacteristic/Reganistic policies of so many governments and the dictatorships and brutal fundamentalist regimes of so many others.

I’m just not convinced that Chávez’s way is the one.

*photo from NYT.

Tuesday, 9 January 2007

Pesto pasta lunch box



OK, so the pesto pasta is not the most photogenic thing that I have ever seen, but it was yummy. P made it with basil, tomatoes and chilli from our balcony, plus some store-bought rocket, garlic, walnuts and olive oil.

The rest of the lunch box consists of corn crackers, baba ghanoush (recipe located here), green grapes and an orange cupcake.

The orange cake was fairly yummy, but tasted slightly baking soda-y so I will have to play with the recipe. Once I have, I will post it here. Next time I am contemplating coating it in chocolate and making it into a birthday cake...

Weekend cooking fest

In keeping with our new mission to get organised about food, P. and I had our first cook up this weekend in order to prepare for the week.


It took a few hours, but by the end we had made orange cupcakes, potato scones, baba ghanoush, spinach and chickpea curry, and lentil-rice balls with pasta & tomato sauce (the last of which we also decided to have for dinner). They all worked out pretty well, but I was particularly happy with the baba ghanoush (recipe below) and the lentil-rice balls (from Vegan Lunch Box).


Baba Ghanoush
Ingredients
One large eggplant (washed)
3 tablespoons of tahini
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

Instructions
Preheat oven to 180c.
Poke a few holes in the eggplant with a fork and place in preheated oven for about 45 minutes (or until it sort of collapses).
Remove eggplant from oven and let it cool.
Cut the eggplant in half, remove the seeds and discard them. With a spoon, remove the remaining flesh from inside the skin (it should be soft and gooey) and place in a blender or food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge.



This was our dinner after the cook up - lentil-rice balls with wholemeal pasta and tomato sauce (tomatoes, onions and garlic). It was delicious!



These are the orange cupcakes and potato scones (which are just mashed potato, flour and a bit of salt kneaded together and baked at 240c for 10 minutes). We haven't actually tried either of these yet - I put them straight in the freezer once they were cool - but the orange cake looked (and smelt) particularly yummy.



Finally, here is the curry - which is supposed to last us for three meals (one lunch, one dinner and one for the freezer for later). The recipe is from Vegan with a Vengeance, but it was a pretty standard curry recipe really.



Looks like that food obsession has gone anywhere yet... hope you don't mind!

Monday, 8 January 2007

Says it all really

From comicstriphero re: Summernats:


"Alright! Environmental destruction, community disturbance and a whole weekend of verbal assualt on women! All officially sanctioned and partially funded by tax-payers! Australia rocks!"


Thank goodness it is now over.

Friday, 5 January 2007

Declaring a moratorium on the future

This has to be my favourite news story of the year so far.

I’m a week or so late, I know, but protesting against the concept of the future is just too sensational not to write about.

There are 2 parts of this story that make me double up every time I read them. The first is that:
The marchers called on governments and the UN to stop time's "mad race" and declare a moratorium on the future.
The idea of declaring a moratorium on the future is just fantastic. The only problem is that, historically, philosophers have never reached agreement on what ‘time’ actually is, and it’s difficult to place a worldwide moratorium on something without an accepted definition. Another problem is that even if we did manage to declare a moratorium on the future, basic science tells us that we’d still age and I’d argue that even the most dedicated anti-futurist would still perceive the passage of time.

This moratorium on the future is looking shakier by the minute (no pun intended).

The bit that I like even better is that the protestors (who left their run a little late as they were protesting just before midnight on 31 December) weren’t perturbed by the passing of the year and the commencement of 2007.
The tension mounted as the minutes ticked away towards midnight - but the arrival of 2007 did nothing to dampen their enthusiasm.

The protesters began to chant: "No to 2008!"
I guess at least they now have more time to get organised in their bid to stop the clocks before 2008 rolls in.

Keating!

Keating! The Musical is already sold out in Canberra. (Well you can still purchase single tickets with restricted views, but that is basically the same thing to me.)

Why?

Why didn't we book earlier? We should have known that Canberra is packed full of political tragics like us who would want to see this.

They are doing another season at the Seymour Centre between 9 and 22 March, but that is simply not realistic for us. You, on the other hand, may wish to book now to avoid disappointment.

Maybe we could go along just days after the birth. I'm sure a trip to Sydney on the bus would be no problem...

Thursday, 4 January 2007

Sushi and parenting classes

P and I have our first 'parenting' class this evening. We were supposed to start last year, but had to postpone the classes because neither of us were in Canberra. Today's class is about 'normal' labour (we get to hear about complications next week - yay!).

Since I am incapable of going for more than a few hours without food, I thought that I would pack a snack. I also thought that I would go overboard simply to keep having fun with making creative 'lunch boxes'.

And so I present you with brown rice sushi, baby tomatoes, mango & a gingerbread person:


I hope that you all have a lovely evening.

Pasta salad w/ cannellini beans

Last night I made one of my favourite summer meals - pasta salad - and it was made all the more exciting because we were able to use our own freshly ripened tomatoes, basil and chilli from our little balcony on the garden.


See below for the recipe
Ingredients
250g wholemeal penne
1 tin of organic cannellini beans (well washed)
3 fresh tomatoes (finely diced)
large handful of baby spinach (torn into small pieces)
large handful of rocket (torn into small pieces)
large handful of fresh basil (torn into small pieces)
juice of one large lemon
2 cloves garlic (finely diced)
1 fresh chilli (finely diced)
extra virgin olive oil


Instructions

Cook the penne in boiling water until it is al dente. Drain and set aside to cool.

Heat a pan over medium heat. Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and one of the cloves of garlic. Stir for about a minute and add the cannellini beans. Heat over medium/high for about 5 minutes. Take out of the pan and set aside to cool.

Combine 2/3 tablespoon of olive oil with the lemon juice, garlic and chilli in a small jar and shake to combine.

Combine all the ingredients in a large salad bowl.

Serve and eat.

p.s.
I hope you like this little corner of our balcony. We are pretty happy with how our plants are coming along - particularly since we face West.

p.p.s.
This slight food obsession is bound to pass soon, and then I will start posting on other issues again. In the meantime, at least P is providing you with some balance.

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

"A year of unprecedented brutality"

2006 was the deadliest year on record for journalists, according to the International Federation of Journalists. 155 murders and unexplained killings took place last year, in what the federation is calling "a year of unprecedented brutality".

Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary said, in a press release:
Media have become more powerful and journalism has become more dangerous [...] 2006 was the worst year on record – a year of targeting, brutality and continued impunity in the killing of journalists.
A report in USA Today lists the deadliest place for journalists (by number of deaths) as Iraq with 68 murders last year – bringing the total since the US-led invasion began to 170. Next, and trailing well behind, is the Philippines with 13 deaths last year.

According to Reuters Iraq has now topped the list 4 years running. I guess that’s something to be proud of...

Russia gets a special mention too, with over 200 journalists being killed in the last 15 years, with 40 of the murders that have taken place since Vladimir Putin took office yet to be adequately resolved – the most recent of which was Anna Politkovskaya, who was an outspoken critic of the regime and defender of the rights of the Chechen people.

The number of deaths this year seems to have galvanised the UN Security Council too, as, on 23 December, they unanimously passed Resolution 1738. The resolution calls for all states and actors to put an end to attacks on journalists and media personnel, reiterates war correspondents’ right to the status of prisoners of war under the Third Geneva Convention, and recalls the demand that all parties to armed conflict comply with their obligations under international law to protect civilians.

Still, this will likely provide small comfort to the (mainly) indigenous journalists that place their lives in grave danger in conflict situations around the world on a daily basis in order to let the world know what is happening in the places none of us are keen to go.

Let’s hope 2007 is a record year for less grisly reasons.

Rice paper lunch

On of our missions for the new year has been to get more organised on the food front. Obviously the big motivation for this is the arrival of the little one, who will no doubt make regular shopping and cooking a little challenging for a while. However, I have also been inspired by the Vegan Lunch Box cookbook (and blog) and have been wanting to generally be more creative with our daily food for a while.

To assist with the first issue, we went out and bought ourselves a little freezer and a bunch of decent quality containers, which are now living on our balcony ready to be filled with preprepared food (actually there is already some soup and tempeh chilli in there). For the second issue, I have been flipping through our cookbooks and pulling out a bunch of recipes that I think that we should add into our cooking routine and generally trying to think through the week ahead before we head out to the supermarket and farmers' markets. And, finally, just to make it feel a bit more fun, I have been playing with our lunches in an effort to make them a little more interesting and diverse.

So, today I thought that I would share one of my new creations with you - the rice paper lunch (with green grapes and a blueberry, lemon & corn muffin).


I have to admit that rice paper rolls are actually a very old part of our normal routine, but they are very yummy and so I wasn't going to discard them in favour of the new. The blueberry, lemon & corn muffins, on the other hand, are a fairly new addition. They come from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's 'Vegan with a Vengeance', a recent acquisition of ours that I cannot recommend enough.

I can't really share the recipe for the muffins, because it isn't mine. But here is a picture of them cooling on the rack.



The rice paper rolls, on the other hand, are totally made up by P and I (after eating many and watching them being made all over Laos). They change every time we make them, but here is the recipe for the ones in today's lunch boxes.

Ingredients:

Rice paper (from an Asian grocer, or the supermarket)
1/4 pack of Vermincilli rice noodles
150g Firm tofu (sliced into narrow strips)
1 cup small button mushrooms (quartered)
1/2 bunch of shallots (chopped finely)
1 carrot (cut into thin julienne strips)
1/2 bunch baby buk choy (chopped finely)
1 cup mung bean sprouts (washed well)
1 clove garlic (diced finely)
small square of fresh ginger (diced finely)
1 fresh chilli (diced finely)
vegetable oil
sesame seeds

Sauces:

sesame oil
lemon juice
fresh chilli - diced finely
Braggs (or soy sauce)

Instructions

Brush a wok or pan with a small amount of vegetable oil and heat over medium. Add half of the garlic, ginger & chilli. Stir for a couple of minutes and add the mushrooms. Raise heat and fry for up to five minutes adding some Braggs or soy sauce towards the end.

Repeat this process with the tofu.

Cover the carrots with a small amount of lemon juice and sesame oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Fill a wide bowl or serving dish with about an inch of cold water and slide in one sheet of rice paper. Remove after about 30 seconds, it should still be a little stiff (it will soften afterwards). Lay flat on a clean surface and place a small amount of each of the ingredients in a narrow strip along the centre, leaving space up the top and bottom of the strip (I should have taken another photo of this step - I will later and add it to this post - DONE).


Dribble a teaspoon of the sauce over the ingredients so that you don't have to dip them later for flavour (this makes them more portable).

Fold the top and bottom over and then pick up one side and bring it over the strip to lay on to the other side, before rolling the remaining package into a roll.


Set aside and repeat the process.

Eat (or save for lunch).

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