Monday, June 30, 2008

another reason to be a pacifist

Sunday, June 29, 2008


While a part of me would like to think that one day I could rise above my many petty thoughts, today is not one of them. Little things have been annoying me lately but now as I sit snuggled under the blankets, sandwiched between two beautiful cats (one comatose, the other purring) I’m starting to feel the tension of the last few weeks slowly leave my body.

I have no doubts that the back-to-back visits of, or to, families has thrown me off course a little. Both at that crucial phase at the beginning of a new project, when I’d like to firmly lock the door on the world and catch the thoughts before they slip away. Instead there was a lot of time spent cooking, eating and planning the next meal. I tend to find the more energy that is focused on my stomach, the less fuel my mind gets to remain inspired.

So now I have peace – the felines, a peaceful house and blissful aloneness. Strangely with all just right in my world, I’m finding it hard to pull focus. I’m not seeking distractions, it is more like when you sit and meditate after a long break (in my case that can be months or sometimes years between sessions) a backlog of thoughts and emotions pile on in having finally managed to get your attention. I tend to visualise ‘unattended business’, the stuff I haven’t given myself the space and time to deal with, as little creatures forming a patient queue behind a closed door. The minute we attempt to still our mind, the doorway opens, making us a captive audience.

My thoughts take me to the uncomfortable emotion of envy. I like my life, so I was caught with my defenses down when I had a knee-jerk reaction to someone else’s success. There was a moment recently when that happened. The incident has gone but I remember the postscript. I’d been somewhere and caught a sight of someone in print and found I reacted negatively – purely against their smiling publicity shot. I wanted to find a reason to not like their work based on no actual reason other than envy. I was shocked, so much so that the lesson remained with me. As quickly as the thought crept out, the reaction to it slapped my face in a “Where did that come from kind of way?”

A basic human fear is one of lack. On a primitive level the lack of food, shelter or even a community to collaborate with are very real ones, without them we may not survive. But our 21st century, first world “lack” triggers can wear many disguises. A belief that we lack love, in turn makes us unlovable. The irrational fear that we don’t know where our next mouthful is coming from may make us hoard or overeat. Believing in a lack of money can create stinginess rather than becoming merely thrifty. Even when we are surrounded by abundance a deeply buried irrational fear can manifest itself when we least expect it.

There are so many times when a relationship has ended that I have thought, “That’s it, I’ll never fall in love again”, as if there is some quota of love handed out at birth. Though at the time it is said in that fatalistic kind of way, suggesting my ability to love has become exhausted. No matter how many times I prove that one wrong, it creeps back when the intimacy chips are down. Really, it has nothing to do with love or the availability of suitable men, just the fear of feeling so utterly vulnerable again.

But back to that other funny fear that crept up on me. I had to ask myself, am I worried that success is a limited resource?

Success is a really odd concept, what I might truthfully believe about living a successful life on any given day may be due to my feelings of security or lack of, at the time. A chance meeting with a colleague who inadvertently plays the numbers game (“How many clients are you seeing at the moment?”) may shoot me up or down some imaginary scale of how I judge myself professionally. Or perhaps it is really about how I think they are assessing me.

Will I be successful if I get a book published, or will I feel that I’ve just fluked it unless there are two, no make it three? Or perhaps I want to start doing collage seriously and become the next best thing in Outsider Art. Or perhaps the inner actor who was put to rest when I turned 21 wants to come out and play. I mean, who hasn’t imagined making their first Oscar acceptance speech?

Now some of those examples are plainly ludicrous but the point is when I had that fleeting thought of ‘why is she famous?” what I knew I was thinking was “Oh no, if her book/career/idea is successful there will be no room for mine”.

But at least, once the shock receded I began to laugh (quietly, I was in public and I do have the not so irrational fear that what I might call quirky about some of my habits, others might find frankly disturbing). I caught the fear and countered the thought. There is always space in this world for newly packaged ideas, words, art, films or even brand new loves. Even if I fail to make a splash beyond how those in my immediate world value me, I am a big a fan of ‘the process’. The act of writing and what it unearths, putting images on paper and being amused by my subconscious, how talking and sharing ideas,rather than protectively holding them to my chest, makes them multiply – that is what I mean by the process.

Right now there is no actual lack. Sure I fear my parent’s death, my partner’s geographical relocation and the uneasiness of being a small business owner and mortgage holder as we head into an economic recession. All those insecurities take turns to unsettle me, if I let them. But right now, the family is hanging in there, I wake up beside a loving man each morning and I seem to find enough dollars to keep the bank off my back despite the marketplace doom and gloom.

For now I straddle the complacency that comes from having enough and the need to keep striving, in order to grow. In both business and in life. I’m just learning how to be still, in the moment – without ending up with bedsores!

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

morning in pictures

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

the bluebird of happiness and does my crotch look small in this?

I just had to mention – I bird shat on my head as I headed down a city laneway this lunchtime. Shall we see if it brings the fabled good luck?

Some nice people contacted me through my work site wondering if I wanted to do some product promotion for them. No link, really as funny as it is I don’t want to promote traffic to a place flogging off glorified cock-rings in the promise of todger enlargement. Hey there’s all this “science” to their product, something to do with germanium and magnets. So it really must be special.

However it looks like a larger version of the plastic tag the local council sends for the annual cat registration. Don’t you reckon?

Oh they play on every mans worst fears too. This is a real cracker.
The age old question; Does size matter? Well that depends on who you ask. Some surveys show that it does matter while other surveys show that it doesn't. You just have to ask your partner if it matters to her. The problem is that many woman will lie about it because they don't want to hurt you, it's like when they ask us "Do I look fat?!" and we answer "oh no, you like fine!".

Who’d have thought lying could be a two-way street?

Hope the bluebird of happiness is shining on you all today.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

a response to the Eddington report

Melbourne residents who don't think the solution to climate change is to build more roads have four weeks to make the July 15 deadline for responses. If you are not from around here, then this post is what I am ranting about. For more information on how to do this check out the website.

I contacted the Greens on my local council after reading the report but to they didn't supply any real guidelines or framework to respond to it. If you are interested, here is our submission which you are welcome to cannibalize to use if wish.

I know this all a NIMBY but really, I don't want a tunnel in ANYONE'S backyard. A bike track though is another thing.

East West Link Needs Assessment – a response to the Eddington Report

We, the undersigned, oppose the planned roadways and tunnel proposed in the Eddington Report for the following reasons and suggest some long term solutions to the traffic congestion issues, as discussed and referenced below.

The Problems


“We cannot reduce congestion by building more roads since immediately we get more traffic to fill them up to the same speed as before. The only way to reduce congestion is to introduce better public transport facilities which reduce the number of people who travel by car on the roads.” Professor Martin Mogridge, University College London

Building more roads is a short-term solution to the issue of traffic congestion, with a high financial cost to taxpayers as well as to the health of local residents. The proposed roadways will not ultimately solve the congestion issues and could potentially increase private vehicle use in the area.

Melbourne is growing and new homeowners are moving into the only affordable housing that is available, in the new developments in the outer suburbs. Yet in the absence of public transport infrastructure in those new suburbs they are forced onto the gridlocked roadways. Recent public-private partnership of roads in this State have not solved the issue of traffic congestion, it has encouraged greater car usage until the new roads are as congested as they befor- the road changes. A trip on the Monash or Tullamarine freeways clearly illustrates this point at the ever widening peak hours of travel or even at non-peak times.. Melbourne already has one of the highest ratios of road space to population. Increasing this ratio is not a solution.


The Garnaut Interim Report on Climate Change (February, 2008) reinforces the need for Australia to reduce carbon emissions by a minimum of 60% by 2050.1 Australia has one of the highest Greenhouse gas emissions per head of population in the developed world. Fossil fuel usage is the major culprit. Extending roads and creating mega-tunnels encourages fossil fuel use and compromises the potential efficacy of any emissions trading scheme that may be introduced by the Federal Government. It also gives drivers the message that they do not need to change their car usage and emission habits; rather it condones and encourages it.

As (suburb name) residents we are also concerned that ventilation stacks for the proposed tunnel in our neighbourhood would compromise the health of the community, as well as threaten the to “quiet enjoyment” of our property. While ventilation shafts are an obvious cause of concern regarding pollution, the design of the tunnel with no local off ramps, as well as the effects of tolls on driving habits means increased on-road vehicle traffic in the area. Numerous studies document the health effects of pollution.2

It is confounding that the EPA has ‘chosen’ to stop monitoring all the Burnley and Domain tunnels’ ventilation stacks, while it is widely acknowledged that independent monitoring of air pollution in this country is inadequate.3 Additionally, experts have warned that more than half of the ill effects of pollution in Australia are said to occur at levels lower than the National Environment Protection Measures standards.

There are four primary and two secondary schools in the Parkville/Carlton area, in close vicinity to the proposed road tunnel that would necessitate the erection of ventilation stacks. Studies, such as ones published in The New England Journal of Medicine (September, 2004) and New Scientist in the same month, demonstrate a link between pollution and chronic deficits in lung development of 10-18 year old children, as well as infant mortality due to exhaust pollutants. These findings need to be considered before risking the health of our local children.

The International Journal of Cancer (August, 2004) has reported an association between ovarian cancer and exposure to diesel exhaust fumes. Other than the devastating impact of cancer on an individual’s life, the increase in cancer rates are a drain on the State’s health budget.

Pollution is increased when accidents occur in road tunnels. During the March 2007 Burnley Tunnel accident reportedly toxic “black smoke poured out of smoke stacks” exposing those living near the vents to unhealthy amounts of particular matter.4

The Solutions

We believe the real solution for Melbourne’s road congestion, as well as its responsibility for our excessive carbon emissions, is to invest the estimated $18 billion cost of extending roadways and tunnels in public transport instead.

We propose that this money could be better invested for the health of Victorians and the planet through the following measures:

1. Return ownership of Melbourne’s public transport to the State.
Private owners have breached many aspects of their contract and the State Government has allowed them to get away with it.5 In addition taxpayers continue to prop up the privatised public transport system, while paying the highest ticket prices out of all of Australia’s State capitals (except Tasmania).

2. Invest the $18 billion in improving public transport infrastructure, including new train and tram routes to suburbs in outer Melbourne, a train service to Doncaster and more trams and trains on the existing network.

3. Better service on Public Transport means more patrons. The study6 cited shows that increasing scheduled services and introducing cheaper fares could increase patronage in some areas by more than 5,700%. This is the most logical solution for Melbourne to reduce carbon emission caused by private transport and solve the growing gridlock on the roads.

4. Remove the ticket inspectors and replace them on trams with tram conductors. Melbourne tram users feel safer with conductors and intimidated by the heavy-handed tactics of the current inspectors. A perceived sense of safety increases public transport usage.

5. A smarter way to tax vehicles.
Gas guzzling, road hogging oversized 4-wheel drive/SUV’s are inappropriate for metropolitan use. The State could impose a levy on all such vehicles that are registered to a city address. Rural residents would be exempt. Conversely hybrid (and low emission) cars should attract a reduced vehicle registration fee.

6. Vic Roads could invest any profit from these taxes in the provision of better bicycle paths.

another outstpoken female and the not boyfriend

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

slow baking

While not exploring the politics of what is in a name I have actually been quite busy baking. The process of making a cake, one from my '70's childhood no less, to celebrate the fast approaching winter solstice has been an eye opening one. For once it was not an exploration of gluttony (as say the absolute *need* once in a while to flambe some bananas with butter, sugar and brandy) but of ritual, nostalgia and a homage to my fast fading mother. I also got a bizarre kick out of acting into the role of an organised cook; washing my hands, clearing the surface, donning an apron and arranging all the ingredients. No short cuts.

While baking a fruit cake will not reverse her cognitive decline, even so many kilometres away just making the cake has linked me back to my best experiences of being mothered.

Some people love a fruit cake, I myself can take it or leave it but nostalgia is something I will happily consume in large slabs. After all, the soul needs a little feeding too from time to time.

Have you made your solstice cake yet?


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

written on the body

Bold red writing on pale skin, the inner flesh of the forearm. A simple font.

“The soul is the same in all living creatures, although the body of each is different.” Hippocrates

Part of the text was peeking out from the sleeve of her winter coat. It was eye catching. Certainly everyone within view of the slender arm that reached out to hold the rail did a double take. While tattooing has had a resurgence in the past 20 years it has gone through many phases from a silhouette of an animal to tribal symbols and now text – as made popular by Angelina Jolie.

In my mid-20s, after agonising all summer over the perfect tattoo, I came to realise I have commitment issues. I was not convinced that what had meaning to me in my second or third decade, I’d hold the same affection for in my flesh-sagging 70’s. In the end I stayed a cleanskin but not for lack of trying. Around that time I finally gave up attempting to keep my pierced ears open. They spat out even the best quality earrings after a couple of hours. Contrary to the culture I lived in, my body did not wish to be adorned.

Though I promised myself a belly button piercing if I ever had a flat wee stomach. Yeah, like that was ever going to happen. But that's another story.

On the tram, when I saw the text in blood red, I thought of the concentration camp survivors and their involuntarily tattoos. Human beings reducing to a string of digits, a visual imprint for life on the few who survived. In another corner of the blogworld, I have had a stern rebuke for my choice of food blog name. Anything invoking the term nazi is considered by some to be insensitive. Setting up a blog was spur of the moment, unplanned and not entirely thought through (not for me the blog-as-vehicle-to-publishing route), so the choice of name wasn’t chewed over. While I have never wanted to insult anyone, the use of the word nazi has entered the culture increasingly over the last decade or two – with style nazis (and fashion victims), grammar nazis (of which there are many selfconfessed linguistic pedants in the online world) and of course – Seinfeld’s (a Jew himself) Soup Nazi. Twenty years ago it may have been edgy bordering on offensive to claim such a descriptor with flippancy, just as if I’d called someone of Maori blood in my homeland “black”.

In an odd twist the term “nazi” was introduced to me through gay friends, who adopted the descriptor to critique the various behaviours of those they knew. Though homosexuals were a much smaller number than Jews of groups the Nazi regime wished to obliterate, they also required registration pre-war and the mandatory wearing of a pink triangle. Yet as a group gays don’t seem to have an obvious issue with the change of use of the word. Nor modern day gypsies, communists or Jehovah’s Witnesses. Interestingly, the original anti-homosexual legislation bought in under Hitler in the 1930’s was only fully repealed in both East and West Germany in 1994. It is documented that homosexuals in the concentration camps often died at the hands of other inmates.

Stalin’s forced famine in 1932-33 killed 7,000,000 in the Ukraine in an effective attempt to stop the State’s demand for independence, one million more than the inexcusable Nazi holocaust. Stalin managed to kill 3,000,000 children alone in just one year, no gas or bullets – just a slow death through dispossession and starvation.

Even post these horrors that the Western world swore they we would never allow to happen again, genocide continues. One racial group trying to wipe out another in an attempt for supremacy. We switch off images of Dafur because it is not nice to see the bodies of the residents of an entrie village hacked with machetes or hear news of systematic rape and torture. Not nice at all. And let’s not even touch on Palestine. A while ago I sat across the table and shared food with a beautiful Muslim woman. It was hard to miss the scars that peaked out from under her sleeve, not unlike the compulsion I had to read the text in red on the tram riders arm. I gently asked what had happened to her. “It was in the war,” she said. I needn’t ask any further, she was from Lebanon.

We tattoo our bodies with images and words. Language changes and evolves. Sometimes reclaiming a word gives it power. If I am ever called a word beginning with C that refers to female genitalia I say, “Thank you, a c--- is a beautiful thing”.

I’m sorry if jokingly calling myself a food nazi offends. Hitler’s final solution ultimately failed, albeit at the cost of far too many lives. In it’s own way reclaiming and reshaping the word helps us not forget.

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

a nice wee self-centred meme

It is a long weekend here, wintery and a tad boring while I am in the final week of being sadly neglected by the Not Boyfriend’s end of semester commitments. A perfect time for a meme I reckon. The one doing the rounds was last spotted over at Pavlov’s Cat.

All about me!

What was I doing 10 years ago?

A stunned, hard working, newly single, numb kind of year. It began with having to relocate my business at short notice at Christmas, segued into a serious relationship ending (we’d bought the house, planned the kids and learnt as best we could how to co-exist) and left me moving into the communally owned house temporarily. It took a year to resolve the property issue, leaving me feeling vulnerable and rootless through those twelve months. In the meantime I was working in my business and had my teaching load doubled. I remember enjoying the solitude of the house and garden, the friendship of my cat waiting for me at the end of the day and working bloody hard. Oh and celibacy!

Five snacks I enjoy in a perfect, non weight-gaining world:

1. My mum’s chocolate mousse.
2. French pastries, especially Filou’s apple slice.
3. Black & Green’s peppermint chocolate.
4. Perfectly crispy, hot potato chips with mayonnaise.
5. Rich, fruity cocktails.

Five snacks I enjoy in the real world:

1. Lindt 85% chocolate.
2. Raw almonds
3. Fresh fruit, feijoas at the moment but I’m craving mango season already.
4. Smoky babaganoush from Tiba’s with plain rice crackers.
5. Kalamata olives.

Five things I would do if I were a billionaire:

1. Finish my house and pay it off.
2. Travel more, at the moment New York (have just turned down a trip later in the year due to being sensible about finances), Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Mexico are whispering my name.
3. Get a writing coach, pilates instructor, massage therapist and tailor.
4. Continue working in my business 2-3 days a week, take on an apprentice – basically do what I do but with greater flexibility.
5. The clincher is I’ve always dreamed of setting up a philanthropic trust. My vision is to provide seeding grants for small projects that encourage wellbeing and personal empowerment, plus some study grants. Actually I’m looking at doing this on a smaller scale with my sister in our post-mortgage-pre-death years as we are the last branches on our family tree.

Five jobs that I have had:

1. Data inputting Swedish childrens’ dental records, 1986 on a home PC (you had to do a back up every 5 minutes or you lost the lot).
2. Actor/entertainer in summer festival – I don’t remember much except it was hinted very loudly that taking drugs at the big public party that opened the festival was encouraged in order to look like we were all having a good time.
3. Creating online communities for a sadly short lived site for women at the height of the boom. Basically creative writing as different characters on the forums we were setting up. I’d wished for a job that paid me to play on the internet and I got exactly that.
4. The above new media also paid me approximately $2 per word to write articles relevant to my real day job as a resident expert (life has never been so good!)
5. Cleaned a private hospital as a summer job at high school. The percentage of old men who used the hand basin in their room as a urinal, instead of going to the en suite bathroom, was remarkably high.

Three of my habits:

1. Nitpicking. Awful I know but I have a pedant streak that the Not Boyfriend is seriously trying to liberate me from.
2. Talking to cats, not just mine but any feline that crosses my path.
3. Spending too much time on the internet and not enough on the pursuit of exercise.

Five places I have lived:

1. Wellington, New Zealand.
2. Stoke Newington, London, UK.
3. Cremorne, Sydney, Australia
4. Out of my backpack in Europe – beaches, hostels, hitch hiking.
5. Melbourne, Australia.

Feel free to share the meme.

Since this is so food focused I've cross-posted it at food nazi.


Monday, June 02, 2008

the game (things to do while the beans cook)

A fun game via Poppalina.

a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b. Using only the first page, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd's mosaic maker.

1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One Word to describe you.
12. Your flickr name

The Results: both enjoyable and at the same time confronting (just how *do* I describe myself and do I love my cat more than any humans?)

Sunday, June 01, 2008

the week that was

This week many nice things happened:

I had a delightful lunch at Misuzu’s with a food blogger. We ate a platter of exquisite food and chatted for hours. We swapped stories of stupid things we have done when young and under the influence of certain substances, laughed at our own naivety and talked more about art the food.

I was taken out for dinner to the 100 Mile Café, where the food was ok but the company better. The place should work but something just doesn’t quite make it. Maybe they need some feng shui or something or perhaps it would help if the staff greeted you more warmly on arrival and didn’t get all stiff and play silly games about not having a booking? The place is never full.

Bought some seriously expensive and totally gorgeous cherry red shoes. Fluevogs – I love you!

After a couple of months hiatus the dreaded urticaria made a return. Lets hope I managed to nip it in the bud. Being spotty and itchy is not a good look, even if the colour does match my new shoes. While not a nice thing, it was certainly memorable. It got me out of making dinner, instead being served some very fine vegetarian fried rice and green prawn curry from the trusty local Asian restaurant, followed by some medicinal 85% chocolate whilst bombed out on antihistamines.

A very nice chat with a potential new colleague, finding out we like the same haunts. Although we may never end up working together I get the feeling there will be a few glasses of wine shared in the future.

Celebrated National Porridge Day with a warm bowl of grains in bed.

Had an equally enjoyable brunch with yet another food blogger (and her partner, a fellow porridge lover). We’d only known each other 5 minutes before we discovered an incredible coincidence that she’d moved into my last shared house not long after I’d moved out. We talked wistfully about the beautiful Jacaranda tree out the front, the toes biting possums terrorising the backyard and the housemate in common that we unanimously called “Creepy Steve”. Oh we ate a dam fine breakfast at Black Ruby too.

I made my first Christmas/solstice cake in over a decade. The planning and anticipation will be better than the actual cake because, rather perversely I’m not a huge fan of chrissy cake, I just like the idea of making one!

…it all makes a nice change from playing far too many games of scramble!

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