Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Hail storm

Last night at around 11pm a hail storm hit Canberra and blanketed our area with piles of ice. I was trying to sleep as the hail stones pounded our windows and the thunder and lightening seemed to fill the air. P, on the other hand, ventured out onto the balcony to get a few photos.

The roads were clear in the morning, but the aftermath could been seen on the nature strips and on the roof of the building opposite us, though the fog and the morning light softened the impact a little.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Mou gaan dou

C and I were idly watching the Oscars last night. A short portion of them anyway. Things were going along quite well. An Inconvenient Truth won best documentary feature, which, while predictable, was still heartening. The Oscars were also announced as being "green", though just what this means isn't clear. Still, if Al Gore said it and it's about the environment, I'm guessing it's probably right.

And then the award for best adapted screen play was announced and the writer of The Departed's name was called.

All night an annoying voice had been voice overing inane details about winners and/or their films during the long walk from seat to podium.

This had bugged me right from the start, but when they also got their facts wrong I was inordinately annoyed.

Annoying voiceover: "The Departed is based on Infernal Affairs, a Japanese movie".

Me: "Can't any of you stupid people get this right!

This outburst might be contextualised somewhat by a similar incident at the Golden Globes the other week when [insert name of cookie cutter movie star here] was giving The Departed an award of some description and happily announced it was based on Internal Affairs.

Seriously, how hard can it be?

Just for the record:

Infernal Affairs or Mou gaan dou (which, I believe, translates to The Non-Stop Way) is a Chinese film, which, by the way, is rather brilliant. It was written by a couple of Chinese screen writers and is full of Chinese actors,

including the beautiful Tony Leung

and the smooth Andy Lau

(and a few Thai guys).

It's also set in Hong Kong and almost entirely in Cantonese (with a spattering of English and a few scenes in Thai).

Not sure where the Japanese comes in?

The Globe

The apartment block over the road is called The Globe. Here's why. Yep, that's right waaay up there in the distance on the 7th floor is a postmodern (and very self aware, I'm sure) globe.

Our building is certainly prettier, but hopefully The Globe is less dodgily constructed. A friend in the building told me today that he has discovered, thanks to Canberra's recent rains, that at least one of the downpipes ends in a puddle in the middle of his bedroom. And his landlord wants to raise their rent! I suppose they do have a water feature...

Monday, 26 February 2007

Danger of flooding? Really?

I know we’ve been having some rain recently, but I hardly think this particular car park is in any danger of flooding in the next decade or so.

Saturday, 24 February 2007

Farmer's market Saturday

Today's photos come from the Saturday morning farmer's market. Normally it's an indoor affair and the light is very flat. This week, thanks to the Canberra Show, the market was in a different location and all the stalls were outside in the morning sunshine.

The tomatoes look fantastic and I can't wait to have them on a sandwich for lunch.

The bread comes from our favourite Sydney Bakery, Infinity Sourdough, who drive down every week and sell hundreds of loaves of their amazing breads.

Friday, 23 February 2007

Developmental impact of the sexualisation of girls

Well, the Australia Institute may have ruffled a few corporate feathers with the examples that it chose to use in its report last year on the sexualisation of children, but it seems that they have strong support for their over-all message from the American Psychological Association (APA).

The APA's Task Force on the Sexualisation of Girls have just released a report and it makes for sobering reading. While they are calling for more research into the pervasiveness of the sexualisation of young girls in the media (such evidence exists in abundance for young adult women, but not yet for young girls), the APA are clear that it is not difficult to document the existence of the problem by pointing to a range of prominent products marketed at young girls.
These include advertisements (e.g., the Skechers “naughty and nice” ad that featured Christina Aguilera dressed as a schoolgirl in pigtails, with her shirt unbuttoned, licking a lollipop), dolls (e.g., Bratz dolls dressed in sexualized clothing such as miniskirts, fishnet stockings, and feather boas), clothing (thongs sized for 7– to 10-year-olds, some printed with slogans such as “wink wink”), and television programs (e.g., a televised fashion show in which adult models in lingerie were presented as young girls).
According to their findings, this kind of "sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality, and attitudes and beliefs." The results can be seen in the lowered cognitive functioning in girls who have been taught to self-objectify ("In self-objectification, girls internalize an observer’s perspective on their physical selves and learn to treat themselves as objects to be looked at and evaluated for their appearance"); an increase in a range of mental health problems, such as eating disorders, low self esteem, and depression; diminished sexual health ("as measured by decreased condom use and diminished sexual assertiveness"); and the internalisation of sexual stereotypes that “place appearance and physical attractiveness at the centre of women's value”.

This report has reignited the debate over the sexualisation of women and young girls in our society (both in the US and Australia). Several blogs have responded with a "Duh?", but have acknowledged that the report does provide some useful scientific validation for their concerns. I have yet to come across any blogs that are keen on defending the sexualisation of young girls, but no doubt they are out there somewhere...

My favourite response comes from Melbourne blogger Blue Milk, who has used to the report to justify her ongoing campaign to encourage people to "kill a bratz doll today". While I would shy away from using the word "kill", Bratz dolls are a particular bugbear of mine - one that is only becoming more relevant to me as I move closer to having my own child (yep, I'll be 39 weeks tomorrow, but who's counting?). I find it deeply disturbing that any company could even consider dressing a doll in what basically amounts to lingerie and selling it to young girls. The only good thing that I can say about those things is that they make me slightly more tolerant of the bloody "princess phenomenon" that has been such a big thing in recent marketing to little girls.

However, while I don't think that the princess phenomenon risks actually sexualising young girls, surely they are just further along the same spectrum and present very similar problems? Encouraging young girls to fit into the princess mould certainly raises similar issues of self-objectification and the internalisation of sexual stereotypes that place appearance, physical attractiveness and submissiveness at the centre of women's value. As Peggy Orenstein points out in this fantastic article*, these Disney 'princess' characters are hardly great role models for young girls to be emulating. Ariel (the Mermaid Princess), for example, choses to give up her voice in order to be with a man - don't you just love the symbolism of that?

The question is: what exactly can parents do about the issue? Being the nasty killjoy who bans all the latest trends from the house and frowns upon dressing-up as a princess is hardly a great recipe for success. Instead, the APA suggests that girls need to be provided with greater tools for decoding the messages in the media and products that they consume (through school-based media literacy programs and through discussions with their parents). They also recommend encouraging them to get involved in positive activities that build their self-esteem (like sports) and to tap into alternative feminist media such as blogs and web sites that "encourage girls to become activists who speak out and develop their own alternatives."

*[Recommended over at Blue Milk.]

[Cross-posted at Larvatus Prodeo]

Northbourne sunrise

C and I have been going on early morning walks most days for the last few months. It's good for her to keep moving and nice to spend some time together chatting and strolling when the city is nice and quiet.

We've decided to start taking a small digital camera with us each morning and, if we see an interesting composition, making a photo to post.

This one was taken at the corner of one of Canberra's major avenues (the one that leads to Sydney and freedom!) which is also quite close to our apartment block. There is a ton of construction going on all over the city at the moment. New apartment blocks (still not meeting demand), new office blocks and a, still not quite finished, massively expanded shopping mall. You can see some cranes in the middle distance, already working at 6.45am. It seems we're a city on the move...

Apple-raspberry tart lunch box

Today's lunch box contains two soy sausage, tahini, pesto, tomato, carrot, shallot & spinach sandwiches, a container of 'cheezy chickpeas', a container of red grapes, raisins & dried apricots and a slice of apple-raspberry & coconut tart (recipe below).

The tart was an idea that came to me early yesterday morning as I lay there wondering whether to get up at 5am or hope for a little more sleep. I remembered that we had some apples that needed using and thought that they would be yummy with a bit of cinnamon, coconut, almond meal & raspberries. Turns out that I was right. P. and I gobbled up a quarter of it last night and only stopped in order to avoid making ourselves sick.

Apple-raspberry and coconut tart


2/3 cup plain flour
2/3 cup almond meal
1.5 tablespoons of vegetable oil
2 teaspoons of sugar (optional)

3 Granny Smith apples (peeled, cored and sliced)
2/3 cup raspberries
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup plain flour
1/3 cup almond meal
1/4 cup of vegetable oil
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon of allspice
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Egg replacer equivalent of 3 eggs


Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Combine the ingredients together and knead into a ball. Roll flat with a rolling pin (sprinkle some extra flour on top if it feels too sticky) and then press evenly into a greased shallow pie dish (or a pyrex one - they don't stick, which is nice).

Bake for around 8 minutes or until slightly brown (start preparing the filling while the pastry is baking).

Remove from the oven, but leave the oven on.

Sprinkle one of the teaspoons of cinnamon over the slices of apple and stir through. Place half of the apple slices on the base of the tart in a spiral pattern.

Combine the remaining dry ingredients together in a bowl and stir thoroughly. Add the vegetable oil, egg replacer and stir together. Add water if the mixture is too dry. When well combined, add the raspberries and stir through gently.

Pour the mixture over the apple and spread it out so that it covers the tart evenly.

Place the remaining half of the apple slices on top of the mixture in a spiral pattern, pushing gently so that they sit into the filling. Sprinkle with a small amount of sugar if desired.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the apples are browning and the filling is starting to become crumbly (it will be more sticky than a cake though and so your knife will not come out clean if you stick it in the centre of the tart).

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Coetzee: is this truly the best that humans are capable of?

J.M. Coetzee gave a speech last night that I wish I'd heard. Speaking at the opening of an exhibition at the Sherman Galleries in Sydney (an exhibition called Voiceless: I feel therefore I am) Coetzee spoke up for those that truly have no voice of their own - non-human animals.

Right from the opening, Coetzee lets his calm outrage be known:
To any thinking person, it must be obvious there is something terribly wrong with relations between human beings and the animals they rely on for food.

He goes on to describe both the implicit horrors of modern factory farming (but pre-industrial animal husbandry gets a serve too) and the modern human's response - ambivalence:
The vast majority of the public has an equivocal attitude to the industrial use of animals: they make use of the products of that industry, but are nevertheless a little sickened, a little queasy, when they think of what happens on factory farms and abattoirs. Therefore they arrange their lives in such a way that they need be reminded of farms and abattoirs as little as possible, and they do their best to ensure their children are kept in the dark too, because children have tender hearts and are easily moved.
The second half of the speech (or the edited version published in today's SMH) proposes some alternatives and neatly summarises, in one short paragraph, a position I've been trying to articulate for as long as I can remember - the alternative to ambivalence is not remotely difficult or trying:
These alternatives need not involve any sacrifice in health or nutrition, and there is no reason why these alternatives need be costly. Furthermore, what are commonly called sacrifices are not sacrifices at all. The only sacrifices in the whole picture, in fact, are being made by non-human animals.
What is trying, however, is having to answer that question (and others like it - where do you get protein? What about calcium? Iron?)

"I know exactly where mine comes from", l always want to say, "and I'm fairly sure you have no idea". I never do though, just answer the question and try not to sound patronising.

Coetzee's speech ended on a powerful note. That, this, of all struggles, is truly worth it and that most closely approaching selflessness, as we can expect no thanks for our grace. More than this, we cannot even expect the comprehension of those whose lives are affecting by eliminating our consumption of the products that cause them such suffering and indignity:
The campaign of human beings for animal rights is curious in one respect: the creatures on whose behalf human beings are acting are unaware of what their benefactors are up to and, if they succeed, are unlikely to thank them. There is even a sense in which animals do not know what is wrong - they do certainly not know what is wrong in the same way that humans do.

Thus, however close the well-meaning benefactor may feel to animals, the animal rights campaign remains a human project from beginning to end.
I've never read any of his work and have always wanted to. I think I might have just found the prompting I need.

The exhibition that prompted him to write such a powerful speech is in Paddington till 10 March. If anyone gets the chance to see it, let me know what you think - I'm somewhat otherwise engaged at present.

The Exhibition's organisers and Voiceless are also calling for a Commitment to Animals Day today and asking people to sign this pledge to spend one day cruelty free. It's meant to be today, but there's no good reason why you can't do it tomorrow instead.

It's not at all difficult, in fact, it's a sheer pleasure.

*t-shirt from Peta.

Beans, rice & Muhamarra dip lunch box

Today's lunchbox contains a spicy bean and vegetable soup over brown rice, a container of Muhamarra dip (recipe below), some celery & carrot sticks, some corn crackers and an apple crumb-cake muffin.

The Muhamarra dip is something that we always used to eat at Cafe Mint and it was a real favourite of mine. I have been wanting to make it myself for quite some time and was really happy with the results. It takes just the way I wanted it to. The apple crumb-cake muffin is from Vegan with a Vengeance. It is yummy, but, again, I think that the recipe is too sweet (especially the topping) and you could halve the sugar and receive better results.

(Roasted Red Capsicum and Walnut Dip)

3 roasted red capsicums, rinsed and partly drained, coarsely chopped
1 & 1/2 cups broken walnuts
1 slice of crusty bread (crumbed)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 small red chili (diced)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat your oven to 180 C and then place three whole red capsicums inside, in an oven proof dish. Bake for around 40 minutes or until sunken and soft, turning regularly (say every 15 minutes). Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Peel the skin off the capsicums (if they are properly cooked, this should be very easy), remove the core and the seeds and chop into one inch slices. Allow it to drain, but keep some of the liquid for the dip.

Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. (You may wish to add the walnuts and olive oil slowly as the mixture reduces in size). Add extra olive oil if it looks too dry.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Yummy as a dip with pita bread, crackers or veggies, or as a spread for sandwiches etc.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Missing, last seen 7 days ago

I appear to have lost my ankles. I was waiting for this to happen earlier, but when it didn't I got used to the idea that I would get to keep them.

The good news is that I can still see my feet and do up my own shoes...

"These are not small bickies, these are big bickies."

So said our esteemed Minister for the Environment yesterday when announcing the eradication of inefficient light bulbs.

The phase out is set to take place over 3 years, which means that 3rd Pea may have no memory of them at all.

Still, I can't help but wonder what we'll use to replace the cartoon light bulb commonly used to represent a bright idea – I’m not sure how well a compact fluorescent conveys the image. I have visions of 3rd Pea asking: "what is that above that cartoon person’s head, daddy?", and me having to explain the whole thing. It’ll be like one of those jokes that should have been funny, but isn't because you had to spend so long explaining it. Small price to pay, I guess.

Halogen lights won’t be included, though, as they are (apparently) more efficient than incandescent bulbs, which is a shame because they are the only source of non-natural light in our apartment and I hate them passionately.

It’s not often I applaud our current government, but I’m totally on board with this one (notwithstanding reservations about halogens and the stupid "bickie" line).

Now, let’s start talking about plastic bags, water saving showerheads, petrol powered vehicles...

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

It’s official, 3rd Pea will be a pig

I’ve no idea what it all means really, but
Wikipedia tells me that:
the Boar type is usually an honest, straightforward and patient person. They are a modest, shy character who prefers to work quietly behind the scenes. When others despair, they are often there to offer support. This type of person is reserved with those they do not know too well, but as time passes and they gain confidence, those around them may discover a lively and warm-hearted person behind that mask of aloofness. Despite those born in the year of pig having a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, they have few close friends who understand them and share their inner thoughts and feelings. It is easy to put trust in pig type; they won't let you down and will never even attempt to do so. Such people simply want to do everything right according to social norms.

It is important to remember that these people are not vengeful creatures. If someone tries to take advantage of them, the pig type tend to withdraw to reflect on the problem and protect themselves. All they need in such situations is a little time to find a constructive way to respond. The people of the pig type are conservative creatures of habit. They dislike being made to travel too far from familiar surroundings, unless it is a trip to the countryside. They love nature and are never happier than when they are out somewhere, far from the city.

There is a tolerant and peaceful side to their character. Such people are never afraid to allow others their freedom of expression; they do not want to cause arguments and if there is any way to avoid arguing, they will probably take this option. They are not weak, however, and if the situation forces them to fight these people will rise to the occasion, whether it is to defend themselves or those close to them. People of the Boar type are the most admired by others.
The downside is:
Selfish, very spoiled, unhealthy, ignorant, pushy, pity "lazy", and rude
Hmm, let’s hope not.

Even worse, though is the suggested diet:
all kinds of meats
Umm, that might be somewhat problematic...

In a nice synchronicity 3rd Pea will be a Fire Pig – something that comes along once every 60 years (and is considered rather special, apparently) – and I, having been born in 1976, am a Fire Dragon. Isn’t that nice. C, on the other hand, is an Earth Horse. Still, fire and earth mix much more conducively than fire and water, for example.

We’re going to be a nice happy zodiac unit – when 3rd decides to come out and play, that is.

PM would not win his own seat

If a federal election was held today, Prime Minister John Howard would lose his own seat, a new poll has found.


Monday, 19 February 2007

Penne, pumpkin muffin & chickpea lunch box

Today's lunch box contains penne with a tomato, garlic, basil & olive sauce, a pumpkin muffin, and some 'cheezy chickpeas'.

The pumpkin muffin recipe came from Vegan with a Vengeance and they are delicious. I would recommend using far less sugar than suggested in the recipe though. I cut it down a little and they were still sweeter than they needed to me.

The 'cheezy chickpeas' recipe came from Vegan Lunch Box. They are basically just chickpeas, nutritional yeast, sea salt & canola oil baked in the oven for 30 minutes, but they really are very yummy.

Friday, 16 February 2007

38 weeks

I came down with a head cold last Sunday morning. I actually thought that it might be tonsillitis at first - because my throat was so sore and my body ached so much - but my throat duly cleared on Tuesday and my sinuses filled up and started to throb. Joy!

The midwife told me on Wednesday that I won't go into labour while I am sick. While I am fairly keen for this pregnancy to end and unbelievably impatient to meet our little one, this seemed like good news to me. I am not sure where I would find the energy to give birth while feeling sick.

Now it is Friday. I can't believe that the week has passed so quickly. Paul took the Monday off to care for me, which was so sweet. I basically slept the whole day, which was very romantic of me considering that it was our wedding anniversary, but he took my dopiness very well. On Tuesday we went out to dinner at Rubicon to celebrate. They only have two meals that they can do vegan, but they were both very yummy and we had a lovely night out.

Other than that I can't really account for the rest of my week. It has largely been a blur of sleep, wiping my dripping nose and indulging in my new obsession with Flixr (you can see some of our photos by clinking on the images in the sidebar).

Anyway, the cold does seem to be clearing and we are planning on a fairly busy day tomorrow - farmers markets, catching up with friends, an 'end of summer' party, a birthday dinner AND finally purchasing my new sewing machine! Oh, and I am still planning to have an afternoon nap.

I hope that everyone has a lovely weekend.

Thursday, 15 February 2007

Careful where you bring up your kids

It seems that it’s a good thing that C and I won’t be bringing 3rd Pea up in the UK or US. UNICEF has just released a report ranking OECD countries on 6 dimensions of child wellbeing.

The UK came in dead last, with the US not far ahead.

Still, at least they ranked.

Initially I was puzzled to note that Australia (and 8 other OECD countries) weren’t in the rankings table. Then I noticed the footnote:
OECD countries with insufficient data to be included in the overview: Australia, Iceland, Japan, luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, the Slovak Republic, South Korea, Turkey.

I wonder if we have something to hide.

For those interested, the report is available here. There is also an interesting article in today’s Guardian about the report and the UK’s place in it.

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Ancient Chimps May Have Used Hammers


This should put a bit more of a dent in our ridiculous superiority complex.

Happy Valentine's Day

I hope that you are all having a lovely Valentine's Day.

In a moment of intense 'cheesiness' I decided to bake (coconut) cupcakes for P. and take them to him at work. (He works only one block from our apartment).

I also treated myself this morning.

I had an appointment with my midwife at some nearby local shops and decided to drop into my favourite secondhand bookshop afterwards. Unfortunately, it was closed and so I decided to get myself a hot chocolate at Tilleys (Tilley's Devine Cafe to give it its full name) while I sat there and flicked through interior design magazines.

I love Tilleys. It is a strangely comforting place that has featured throughout all of my life.

When I was very little, I used to fall asleep under the table at Tilleys while my Mum caught up with friends. Back then it was a tiny place - just a few tables and a small bar. It was also a women's bar (men could come in only if they were accompanied by a woman), so it always felt safe and comfortable.

As I grew up so did Tilleys. It started to take over the shops around it - the butcher was one of the first to go (obviously a good trade in my book) - adding more tables, then a stage, and then finally a full size kitchen.

In High School, I used to go into Tilleys after school for a hot chocolate when I wanted to feel grown up and have a really good chat with my best friend. On my 18th birthday, I met a group of my friends at Tilleys for my first legal drink (I think it was around 3:30 in the afternoon, which is a bit of a worry, but I felt that there were many places to make my way through that particular evening). Throughout university, Tilleys was the ideal place to study. You could spread out your books on the big tables and hole up there for the day without ever being bothered - except by friends who might stop through during the day for a short coffee break. It was also the location of our regular Saturday brunches - again the big tables being the perfect size to spread out the weekend paper and spend a good few hours lingering over coffee, beans and toast.

When I moved to Sydney, Tilleys was one of the first things that I really missed. I couldn't find anywhere similar - no other cafe seemed as tolerant of customers settling in for hours on end without buying anything more than a coffee or a juice. The absence of somewhere comfortable and homely seemed to represent everything that I found so hard about Sydney in the first 6 months that I was there. Everyone seemed to be permanently in a rush and I felt as though there was nowhere that I could just sit and catch my breath.

This morning there was a large group of women sitting up the back with their babies. All the little ones looked around the same age and so I guessed that it was probably a 'mother's group'. Looking down at my massive belly I realised that Tilleys may well play host to yet another milestone in my life.

I couldn't think of a better place.

I’m moving to New Zealand

I’ve said that before. C and I have often lamented that Australia is so far behind our near neighbour on many fronts – particularly environmental. It’s just a shame there really isn’t any work in either of our fields there or emigration would be a much more attractive proposal.

Today, the yearning to live somewhere that actually considers the environment and climate change significant political and social issues was made more acute, as New Zealand announced a plan to become carbon neutral by 2012. The whole country is going to be carbon neutral! And, it seems, not just by offsetting, but by cutting emissions as well.

NZ PM, Helen Clark, has been quoted as saying:
I believe New Zealand can aim to be the first nation to be truly sustainable across the four pillars of the economy, society, the environment, and nationhood [...] I believe we can aspire to be carbon neutral in our economy and way of life.
Australia’s refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, it seems, will, once again, come back to haunt us, as New Zealand’s Climate Change Minister (I can’t believe they have a climate change minister!), David Parker, announced yesterday that he won’t be looking to trade carbon with Australia any time soon:
There may be better places for us to trade with. If we've got Kyoto-compliant units, it might be in our interests to trade with other Kyoto-compliant countries [...] We could trade with Europe, for example, where they might be more likely to want to trade with Kyoto-compliant units that are more readily made to fit with their scheme.
In response to opposition claims that New Zealand going carbon neutral would have "an insignificant effect on global warming", Helen Clark said the costs of inaction would be far greater than those of action:
I believe that in the years to come, the pride we take in our quest for sustainability and carbon neutrality will define our nation, just as our quest for a nuclear-free world has over the past 23 years. The future economic costs of doing nothing are dire [...]

Two decades ago it was the threat of nuclear war destroying the world as we knew it which galvanized New Zealand to become nuclear free [...] So it must be with this century's environmental sustainability challenge [...] We have to make a stand for our world, and for our own sake.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Why don't we need any more clothes?!

How cute is this?

If I could get it in Australia, I would buy the bib (and about 4 of the other designs that they stock). But I am not paying US$7 in shipping for something that I really don't need...

Image from here.

Monday, 12 February 2007

Egg on their faces

From the Guardian Weekly (print version):
The inauguration of a Chinese-financed stadium in Grenada was marred when the Royal Grenada Police Band performed Taiwan's national anthem.

It turns out that the Royal Grenada Police Band might well have had good reason to be confused. Grenada, along with many other small developing nations has been caught in the midst of China and Taiwan's war of dollar diplomacy - the practice of getting a nation to switch their official recognition from one to the other through promises of massive aid and infrastructure projects (like Grenada's new sports stadium, which, by the way, will be hosting some cricket world cup matches next month).

Grenada was officially receiving massive aid from recognising Tawian until 2005 when they switched allegiance to the Yuan China. How can anyone be expected to keep pace of those sorts of changes?

AsiaNews had this to say:
Beijing's ambassador to the nation, Qian Hongshan, and scores of mainland workers who built the US$ 40 million Queen's Park Stadium in the capital St George’s were visibly uncomfortable as Taiwan's anthem echoed inside the 20,000-seat venue on Saturday.
I hate to seem culturally insensitive, but gosh that's hilarious.

No disrespect to Chinese culture or nationalism (each to their own really), but if you're going to play the "we'll give you tons of cash and a shiny new cricket stadium if you tell the world that the One China policy is true and right" game you deserve what you get.

Grenada's Prime Minister, Keith Mitchell, said:
"On behalf of the Government and people of this very happy country, a country that recognizes the warmth of its friends and respect its friends, I deeply apologized to the Chinese Ambassador and the entire Chinese people."
He has also promised an investigation into the incident, saying:
"I'm pretty sure that all Grenadians including the opposition forces in this country will support any action of the government to deal with this in a way that demonstrates that we respect our friends at all levels at all societies."
This jibe was intended for the main opposition party, which was, it seems, happy with the relationship with the New Taiwan Dollar Taiwan and not keen to switch to the Yuan China.

Ah, geo-politics. Always entertaining until someone plays the wrong song and war breaks out...

Sunday, 11 February 2007

Orange & almond cake with chocolate ganache

When we got married, Paul and I wanted to make sure that everyone who attended our wedding was well catered for at the reception. The food itself was vegan yum cha (at Bodhi in the Park) and we spent some time chatting with the events coordinator to make sure that many of the dishes were gluten-free (including the dipping sauces etc) because several of our guests suffered from coeliac disease. However, Bodhi didn't do cakes, so we had to organise this separately and were delighted to find the perfect solution at O Organics just down the road from our place (at the time) in Surry Hills - an organic, vegan, gluten-free Orange & Almond Cake covered in dark chocolate. The bonus was that it was absolutely delicious - the yummiest cake that I have ever tasted.

Anyway, ever since then (two years ago tomorrow as a matter of fact) I have contemplated purchasing another cake from them, but have always held back feeling that I really ought just make one myself. The problem has always been that I didn't have a recipe and couldn't find one anywhere on the internet or in my recipe books. However, after finding a recipe for a vegan orange cake recently (that didn't work out particularly well), I started thinking that I could probably experiment and make one up that would do just fine. So, when my brother was in town for his 30th birthday last week I decided that I would take the plunge.

I am very happy to report that it was a total and complete success. I was very lucky - the cake turned out to be absolutely perfect (well, perfect for my taste at least).

So, now that I have got it just right, I thought that I would share it with you.

Orange & Almond Cake
1 1/4 cups plain flour (sifted)*
1 1/4 cups almond meal
2 teaspoons baking powder**
3/4 cup light soft brown sugar
1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Juice of 1 orange
Zest of 1 orange
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C
  2. Combine the flour and almond meal in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, soy milk, oil, orange juice and zest.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well.
  5. Pour the mixture into a cake tin (I use the flexi ones because nothing ever sticks to them, but you can just use a normal tin and grease it well).
  6. Bake for about 25-30 minutes (in a new fan-forced oven - longer if not), or until the cake browns very slightly on top and a knife comes out clean with poked into the middle of it.
  7. Leave the cake in the the tin for around 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool for an hour or so.
*If you would prefer to make this recipe gluten-free then slmply replace the flour with almond meal or a gluten-free flour (like rice flour).
**This is quite a dense low-rise cake. If you want it to be a little fluffy then you could add another teaspoon of baking powder.

Dark Chocolate Ganache
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 1/2 tablespoons soy milk
100grams dark chocolate (preferably fair trade & organic), chopped up into small pieces
  1. Heat the oil and soy milk in a double burner (or just a metal bowl placed over a pot of slightly boiling water on the stove).
  2. Once they are warm (but not too hot, you don't want the soy milk to boil), add the chocolate and stir until melted.
  3. Remove from heat and let it cool (stirring the mixture every now and then).
Once the ganache is mostly cool, then you can pour it over the cake and smooth it around so that it covers it all over.

Leave the cake for a little while to set and then eat it (or serve it to others if you are feeling generous).

Friday, 9 February 2007

US files WTO case against Chinese industrial subsidies

The US has commenced WTO dispute settlement proceedings against China. The US government alleges that a range of subsidy programmes "illegally support the export of manufactured goods as well as discriminate against imports".

Umm, am I missing something here?

The International Center for Trade and Sustainable Development notes that "Both domestic manufacturing groups and the Democratic-led Congress have been putting pressure on the Bush administration to take sterner action on trade with China. They blame unfair Chinese competition for industrial job losses and the US' yawning trade deficit".

US Trade Representative, Susan Schwab, had this to say:
The United States believes that China uses its basic tax laws and other tools to encourage exports and to discriminate against imports of a variety of American manufactured goods … China's subsidies can particularly distort trade conditions for small- and medium-sized American enterprises and their workers.
Umm, has Schwab, or anyone in the US government, stopped for one second and thought about what the US’ agricultural subsidies are doing to "small- and medium-sized" enterprises (and micro one especially) in the global south?

The US government’s rhetoric about the damage China is doing to "free trade" – through, among other things, a devalued Yuan, dumping cheap textiles and shoes into US and EU markets and these industrial subsidies – is ridiculous in the face of continuing (with no sign of anything but the most tokenistic of gestures of reduction) and massively trade distorting agricultural subsidies.

The Chinese subsidies, particularly those in the industrial realm, might well have an impact on some US firms, the numbers of people affected by US agricultural subsidies (particularly those on corn, soybeans and cotton) world-over is significantly more substantial. Not that the US government has a habit of giving more than a passing acknowledgement to the plight of anyone outside the States (and, so might argue, to more than a few inside the country).

When close to half the world’s population live on less than US$2 per day (purchasing power parity) and the majority of them live in rural areas (though urban poverty is an increasing trend) and survive on subsistence (or close to it) agriculture, how are people to sell what little agricultural produce they have left after family consumption, when imported US and EU crops sell in markets for less than poor rural farmers can grow them?

And the US feels it has the right to whinge about Chinese trade distorting subsidies?

I think I’m going to be sick.

Think this isn’t a big issue? Then try it for yourself (or an approximation of it anyway) by taking the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation’s $2 a day challenge. It won’t give you any sense of how hard life is for the rural poor and, now that I think about it, you are likely to find it much easier to live on $2 a day due to US and EU trade policy, so perhaps that’s a bad idea.

A much better idea is to stop supporting the status quo and look at where the produce you buy in the supermarket is actually coming from. If there’s a farmer’s market near by try shopping there instead (in Canberra there are at least 4 that I know of – C and I head out to the one at Exhibition Park most Saturdays, the food is of a much higher standard than that at the supermarkets and significantly cheaper – thanks to cutting out the corporate greed). If you do have to buy produce at supermarkets try to get organic wherever possible, as chances are it has been produced in a much more sustainable manner (environmentally as well as economically).

End of rant.

Mezze Lunch Box

It was my brother's 30th birthday this week and since he was in town we were able to have him around to have a celebratory dinner. This lunch box is the 'morning after' result:

It contains a grilled mushroom, some baba ganoush, some stuffed green olives, some kalamata olives, some tabouli, some Moroccan chickpeas on couscous, some pitta bread and a slice of orange & almond cake covered in chocolate ganache.

Some recipes to follow.

Have a lovely day!

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Tofu burger lunch box

Sorry about the presentation, I wrapped the tofu burger up in a paper bag before remembering to take a photo. Anyway, I can tell you what was in it - a sourdough roll with tahini, strips of tofu dry fried with garlic, ginger and Braggs, tomato, baby spinach, shredded carrot, shallots, fresh chilli, and grilled mushroom.

The rest of the lunch is a baby version of the tofu burger on sour dough olive bread (for that hungry time around 11am), some corn crackers, baby tomatoes, almonds, dried apricots and a lemon poppy seed muffin.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Salad & baba ganoush

I started maternity leave yesterday and suddenly everything seems easier again despite my enormous belly. So, to get back on track again, here is another lunch box for you (because I know that you were all having withdrawal symptoms):

The salads are wholemeal penne, a mixed bean salad (with red kidney beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, butter beans, baby spinach, baby tomatoes, carrot, celery and shallots topped with olive oil & balsalmic vinegar) and a potato salad with tahini dressing (chat potatoes, celery, green beans and shallots with a delicious tahini dressing from Vegan with a Vengeance).

In the other container there is a little tub of baba ganoush, some corn crackers and a lemon-poppyseed muffin (also from Vegan with a Vengeance).

I hope that you all have a lovely day.

Monday, 5 February 2007

Hicks charged, sort of

The US Government has finally gotten around to charging David Hicks with something, sort of. And while our Dear Leader insists that it wouldn’t be right for Hicks to be charged under retrospective legislation (i.e. with crimes that weren’t crimes at the time they were "committed") in Australia:
"What the Americans do is up to the Americans … We believe the arrangements for the military commission meet the reasonable requirements of Australian law".

"[W]e do not believe the passage of retrospective criminal law in this country is appropriate".

"[O]nce somebody goes overseas they lose the protection of Australian law".

"I don't equate what the US is doing with the passage of a retrospective criminal law in Australia. I don't accept the analogy".
Well, that’s a whole new level of doublespeak.

The whole thing is a farce, and therefore I’m sending you over to a post by AnonymousLefty that would be funny if the situation wasn’t so sad, disgusting and deranged.

Friday, 2 February 2007

Please no

While this Mexican baby looks perfectly lovely (the one at the back), I would really rather than mine was not quite so big.

6.6kgs! Aaarrgghh, that would hurt.


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