Tuesday, 27 May 2008

hello... and some thoughts on the morality of eating meat

Hello

I feel as though it has been forever since I last posted. Of course, I am supposed to be on hiatus, so that is how it should be. However, I feel a bit odd not posting for so long.

Things have been moving along as normal here at the house of the peas - except that we all came down with a yucky 'winters-on-its-way' head cold and had a couple of weeks of being snotty sad heads, which was not very fun.

I have also been trying desperately to get my PhD moving, but really not doing a very good job of this. I have just not been getting enough time and am finding this increasingly frustrating and discouraging. I would dearly love to just walk away from it and be free of the constant guilt that it seems to involve, but I know that I would always regret making that decision and wasting all of the time and all of the assistance that has been given to me by my supervisor and all of the people that helped me with my field work. And so I must somehow find a way to make it work.


On another subject entirely, I recently read this post by Pavlov's Cat (and the comments that it generated) and it made me stop and really think about the issue of the universal or absolute morality of eating meat. I really struggle with this issue - primarily, I think, because I feel deeply uncomfortable condemning the actions of people that I know and respect. However, when I am truly honest with myself I can't really say that I think that this is a subjective issue. I don't really think that eating meat is something that is perfectly OK and that it is simply up to the individual to decide whether or not they feel comfortable with doing it.

The truth is that I genuinely believe that animals are sentient beings who have the right to life and that killing them unnecessarily is, therefore, a breach of that fundamental right - in the same way that killing another human being is a breach of their right to life. I strongly reject a classification of the animal kingdom into some kind of hierarchy where human beings sit above all of the rest and have some kind of superior right to life and to consume all of the resources of this planet. (And this is before we even get to the issue of the incredibly cruel manner in which so many animals are treated while they are alive and the kind of impact that modern factory farming practices have on the environment).

However, the issue is also naturally far more complex that rejecting an anthropocentric view of the world. Some people around the world are in no position to live without killing and eating animals. People in many parts of Laos, for example, rely on the protein (and calories) provided by the lizards, rats, a other small mammals and reptiles in order to simply survive. Condemning their consumption of meat would be like condemning a lion for hunting. This being the case it is not possible to draw a clear line in the sand and to make an absolute statement against the consumption of animals.

Another issue that applies more to people in wealthier parts of the world is that all kinds of food production involve an environmental impact and the displacement and death of many animals anyway. This means that even a vegan diet does not escape the issue of causing death and destruction. Yet again this fact speaks against the idea that it is possible to argue that this as a truly black and white issue. So, perhaps, since the gray moral area of this issue is arguably fairly wide, people should have the right to navigate their own way through the inevitably moral compromises that must be made in making their own consumption choices.

So then, where does that leave me? Honestly it leaves me a little confused. However, I do think that it is reasonable to still believe that people should bring a mindful approach to their consumption choices. Also, there are clearly extreme ends of the spectrum that are objectively 'wrong'. Even with all the shades of gray in the middle, surely it is always wrong to lock up a pig in a tiny metal cage until she is fat enough to kill and eat? Surely it is always wrong to shove thousands of chickens into a filthy, dark and airless shed and to leave them to sicken and maim each other in their desperate attempts to stay alive?

As for the wrongs and rights of people's choices to eat locally raised, organic, free range meat: well personally I recoil from the idea. However, I feel less confident in my own right to condemn such a decision by imposing my ethical viewpoint on other people. And yet, I feel as though I am being deeply disrespectful to animals when I fail to do so...

Clearly I need to do a lot more thinking on this subject.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Unfinished book meme - take two

Not sure I'll do much better. I think C has an inflated opinion of my literary history...


Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
Catch-22
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights

The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
*Moby Dick (Okay, I get it, it's about a whale, right)
*Ulysses (hmmm, maybe one day)
Madame Bovary
*The Odyssey (see Ulysses)
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The [A] Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel
*War and Peace (way too many detailed descriptions of horses and saddles)
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
*The Iliad (see Ulysses)
*Emma (bored to tears, literally)
*The Blind Assassin (just couldn't seem to make it past the first chapter - something about the vernacular annoyed me)
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
*Great Expectations (Dickens smickens - though C loves it)
American Gods (are there any?)
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand is a freak)
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha (unfortunately. Hey, I was stuck in a snow storm in Nepal... seriously)
Middlesex
Quicksilver
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales (school)
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead (see Atlas Shrugged)
Foucault’s Pendulum (one of my all time favs)
Middlemarch
Frankenstein
The Count of Monte Cristo
Dracula
*A Clockwork Orange (what is it with me and vernacular?)
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
*The Poisonwood Bible (just couldn't find my groove - no disrespect to Ms Kingsolver, I think she's rather brilliant)
1984
Angels & Demons (Yes, but I was in the infectious diseases ward of Canberra Hospital - didn't have one, as it turns out. Bastards)
Inferno
The Satanic Verses (not sure he deserved the fatwa, though I can see why the Muslim world was pissed)
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse (just beautifully written, read it now)
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Dune
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury (school)
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
Cryptonomicon
Neverwhere
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
Dubliners
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Beloved
Slaughterhouse-five
The Scarlet Letter
*Eats, Shoots & Leaves (it's not really the sort of thing you read all the way through, now is it)
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Lolita
Persuasion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
*On the Road (something about a road trip)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values (I think I actually liked this at the time - I was young)
The Aeneid (see Ulysses)
Watership Down
*Gravity’s Rainbow (Sort of feel he peaked with Lot 49)
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield

Unfinished books meme

I have borrowed this meme from &duck and Pavlov's Cat before her because I was interested to see how I went. "Apparently these are the 106 books most often listed as 'unfinished' on LibraryThing. The rules are that you bold the ones you've read all the way to the end, underline the ones you read for "school" (I have just put it in brackets, because I couldn't figure out how to underline them), and asterisk the ones you started but didn't finish.

This list really seem to be spot on for me. It seems to be a list of all of those books that I have started and didn't finish OR those books that have been haunting me for years (because I keep promising myself that I will read them). Because of that I decided to also put a dash in front of those books that I have been meaning to read for ages...

[P. should definitely do this meme and then the world will see how much better he is at finishing books than I am. That boy has commitment. Although I don't think that he has finished War and Peace yet. Thank goodness.]


-Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
*Anna Karenina
-Crime and Punishment
Catch-22
*One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
*The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
-Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Ulysses
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
-Jane Eyre
The [A] Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
*Guns, Germs, and Steel
-War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
Emma
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
-Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
*A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
-Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
*Middlesex
Quicksilver
-Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales (school)
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
-Foucault’s Pendulum
Middlemarch
Frankenstein
The Count of Monte Cristo
Dracula
*A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
*The Poisonwood Bible
1984
Angels & Demons
Inferno
The Satanic Verses
-Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
*To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
*Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
*The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Dune
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
Cryptonomicon
Neverwhere
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
Dubliners
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Beloved
Slaughterhouse-five (school)
The Scarlet Letter
*Eats, Shoots & Leaves
*The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake
-Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Lolita (school)
-Persuasion
-Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
*On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
*Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
*White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield

Thursday, 15 May 2008

14 months

Dear Lily,

Yesterday you turned 14 months old.

Now that you are so steady on your feet you have really started to claim your independence. Gone are the days when you would cling to me and shy away from other people. Now you tend to simply take off and get right into things without looking back. It is so much fun to watch.

You have really grown into a very confident and sociable little person. You just love getting out into a crowd and mixing with people (especially other little people). You love to try new things and have a frightening lack of fear when it comes to heights and dogs and generally anything that could actually harm you.

I thought that you had a brain explosion last month, but this month your language really just took off. I am amazed by how much vocabulary you picked up this month and just how much you are able to put it to use in communicating with us (and to increase your capacity to be very specific and determined about what you would like).


You now know most of your body parts and like to point to them and name them (especially our eyes, which can be a little painful at times)- these include: arm; cheeks; chin; ears; eyes, hair; hands; head; knee; leg; mouth; nose; teeth; and toes. You are also quite obsessed with animals and now know the words for: ape; bear; bird; cat; chicken; cow; dog; duck; fly; gibbon; lion; mice; moose; mouse; turtle; and whale.


Despite your generally low level of interest in food, you have also picked up quite a few food words (particularly focused on those that you like or those that we say a lot), including: apple; banana; biscuit; bread; breakfast; dinner; lunch; pasta; pea; pear; pizza; plum; rice; tea; and tofu.

Words for objects and places seem to be particularly useful to you. Now you don’t have to just wave your hands around and yell at us until we finally stubble upon the item that you were after. Instead you can demand it by name and, where possible, that is exactly what you do. Some of the things that you have learned to name this month include: bag; balloon; book; bottle; bowl; bus; crayon; doll; garden; glasses; kitchen; peg; pen; seat; teddy; washing; and (embarrassingly, because it was only after seeing them twice, but now you are truly obsessed) The Wiggles. You have also picked up the words for bib; moon; nest; poo; star; and wall, but have yet to demand any of them.

[Lily on her way to the garden]

Speaking of demanding, you have also learned a number of commands that have proved useful in getting us to do what you want/need. These include: again; bounce; more; read; rock; sing (or “bush”; “round” or “row” when you want us to sing particular songs – “Here we go round the mulberry bush”; “The wheels on the bus”; and “row, row, row your boat”); and wee (when you want to swing or go down a slide). Fortunately you have also discovered that the addition of the word “please” to these commands considerably helps your cause.

Other actions that you can perform yourself and like to declare aloud as you do so include: dance; push; sit; sneeze; and splash. You also like to make noises to accompany your actions (or those of others), including: boo; bang; beep; bonk; meow (pronounced mee); pop; roum (car noise and, apparently, the noise that wheelchairs make!); swish; woof; quack; and your new noises for dogs and ducks: woh-dog & woh-duck (I hope that you keep these ones for quite some time!). You have also picked up a few numbers – specifically two, four, nine and ten. You will say these in sequence during your number books, but have really shown no interest, thus far, in any of the other numbers. In fact, generally it is just nine that you are focused on.

Adjectives are also starting to speckle your vocabulary, including: blue; clean; cold; done; dry; gone; green; mine; nice; and same. “Mine” in definitely your favourite. Sometimes it is also replaced with “my”, as in “my baby”, “my teddy”, “my bear” and “my mama”. You have also picked up a number of words for yourself, including: pixie; Lily, and me. I hadn’t realised how often I call you Pixie until you started referring to yourself that way. It sounds incredibly cute coming out of your mouth.

Another name that you came up with the other day was for a toy monkey that I have just finished making for you. Before it was even finished you started demanding his unfinished head, exclaiming Boo-boo over and over again until I relinquished him to you. Now that he is finished, you carry him around saying “boo-boo” “boo-boo” and you sound just like Yogi bear. It is uncanny.

Finally, you are starting to create little phrases and through them we can see what it is that we say to you far too often. These include: back-in-there; done-now; and see-you-soon.


I am just loving this new phase of your development. As your language increases Papa and I are getting the chance to get to know you even better and it is such fun. You really are such a cool little person and being able to have crazy conversations with you is just making that even clearer.

love
mama
xoxo



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