Sunday, 30 April 2006
I also spent a couple of hours looking through the Museum of the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, which was quite fantastic - maybe not worth the round-trip ticket price, but if you happen to be in town it is certainly worth a look.
It is now just after 6am and I am in the arrivals hall of Geneva airport, making use of the free internet - on iMacs no less - before boarding the first leg of the journey home. Before I get to see C again I will have been through five airports in four countries and three continents.
That is a lot of flying.
Apologies if I am sounding very formal. I am using a French keyboard and for the life of me cannot find the apostrophe anywhere.
It is way too early...
The view from our window is shrouded in fog. It looks cold and wet outside. This is the perfect excuse for me to spend the day curled up in my favourite chair reading Possession.
*Thank you Pavlov's Cat for prompting me to read the book - it is thoroughly addictive.
Friday, 28 April 2006
I am not generally a good shopper. I don't really enjoy it and tend to be overly picky even when I need something quite desperately. However, an urgent need for winter shoes drove me to the mall tonight and I came home feeling quite successful, possibly a little bit too successful.
I found a very comfy pair of boots that will go well with skirts and pants for the winter (but which I suspect are a little too funky for me...). I also purchased my first ever hair dryer, some 'iced coffee' hair die, and some apple juice. My credit card is still warm in my wallet and I feel a little bit sick.
I think I will wait for a little while before venturing out again.
My only question is why did he choose to display his independence and strength with this statement?
"It's not a question of being a poodle. I'm nobody's poodle."[Image borrowed from here]
Thursday, 27 April 2006
Booze: I am not very into it. I’ll drink sparkling wine or a fruity cocktail on occasion.
Chore I hate: Taking out the rubbish.
Dog or cat: I like both, but would prefer a dog.
Essential electronics: Computer & espresso machine.
Favourite cologne(s): None; I am too lazy.
Gold or silver: Silver.
Insomnia: Only when I am jet-lagged.
Job title: PhD Student.
Living arrangements: Live with husband, P.
Most admirable trait: Adaptability, maybe.
Number of sexual partners: I never kiss and tell.
Overnight hospital stays: Only when I was born.
Phobias: Very small spaces.
Quote: "Never forget that a small group of people can change the world. It's the only thing that ever does." (Margaret Mead)
Religion: Christian (but would disagree with many about what that means).
Siblings: One brother.
Time I wake up: Around 7:30am on a normal day.
Unusual talent or skill: Not sure any of them are particularly unusual.
Vegetable I refuse to eat: Several, I’m afraid. Beetroot is my least favourite.
Worst habit: Procrastination (this meme is case in point).
Yummy foods I make: Many, all vegan – curries, stir fries, scrambled tofu, soups, beans and rice, chocolate cake, risotto, eggplant & spinach lasagna, ratatouille, mmm food...
Zodiac sign: Scorpio.
Stolen from susoz at personal political.
Tuesday, 25 April 2006
I've been totally corrupted, to the core. First there was boarding "at your leisure" rather than in rows, then there was the super friendly service, the fact that my water glass was never actually empty (and was refilled even when I was dozing to make sure I wouldn't be thirsty upon awaking. The better than average (for airline food) meals and the guest passes to several business lounges with free food, coffee and internet access were also pretty good.
But mostly it was the fact that I actually got some sleep and felt in some sense human after flying for 21 out of 25 hours that has really tipped me over the edge.
Still, it's not like C and I can afford to fly business, so if it's a choice between cattle class and not going to South Africa later this year (all for C's research, I promise), then all of the above goes straight out the window.
I've never been to Geneva before, the farthest east in Europe I'd been before this trip was Paris. Not that Geneva is Eastern Europe, it`s just further east than Paris.
I`d have to say my first impressions are really good. The old town is gorgeous and the rest of the town isn't too bad either. There are bicycles and scooters everywhere and more international organisations than you could poke several sticks at. In fact you can hardly turn around without bumping into the headquarters of one organisation or another.
The Alps are a stones throw away and you can see them from all over town, which kind of reminds me of Vancouver CA, another city I would like to spend a lot more time in.
Speaking of spending, the one down side I can see to Geneva so far is the insanity of the cost of living. It's almost hard to believe how expensive everything is here. I haven't yet seen anything I would consider a bargain, let alone anything moderately cheap. I'm sure people living here know places around and about to find bargains and a meal that isn't more than out rent in Canberra, but as a short stay visitor without any French I'm pretty screwed on that front.
The second, and so far last, down side is the lack of obvious vegetarian options anywhere. Most restaurants don`t have more than one dish that's veggie, let alone vegan, and I`ve looked in two supermarkets and several corner stores and am yet to lay eyes on soy milk (good thing I bought my own).
Still, despite this, I'm sure that if the opportunity arose, C and I could be quite happy living here, there are dozens of organisations either of us would be happy to work for and the scenery is (almost) worth the obscene rents.
Right, I'm off to bed, got another full day of pretending I know what I'm talking about tomorrow.
Meanwhile, I'm thinking about C's mother and her partner, who have just this weekend moved to Darwin and walked right into cyclone Monica. The news update on the ABC says it's going to hit tomorrow morning, local time, at which point I'll be fast asleep. I can only hope they've headed inland.
Monday, 24 April 2006
"We find it funny so, if you find it offensive, you must have no sense of humour."To me this is the core message of the Right's argument that the Left has no sense of humour. So much of what they find amusing consists of subjugating people who fall outside the powerful groups in society - i.e., ultimately anyone who is not a wealthy white male. Oddly enough, people on the Left often object to this, because it contributes to the marginalisation of people who are already disempowered by society. In response, the Right jumps up and down and says that the Left has no sense of humour. Of course, if they are laughing it must be OK. How could anyone object?
These are the same arguments that were (and still are) used in workplaces to justify most forms of sexual harassment. Why is it that some men still can't seem to understand that the fact that they (as a member of the most powerful group in society) find something funny does not make it beyond objection? It is far easier to find something funny when it does not threaten you in any way.
Why can't they understand that this kind of 'humour' contributes to the objectification of women (or the marginalisation of other groups) and normalises attitudes of the same kind, thus allowing people to justify actions based on those attitudes? In the case of women, this includes everything from judging an individual solely by their looks to sexual assault and rape.
Once again, AARGH!
Where is P when I need someone to sympathise with me?
7 more sleeps.
What does this mean? Should I aim to stay in academia? Do I want to juggle so many expectations (research, teaching, grant applications, admin, etc.)? Are there any jobs in my field?
At least I have two years to think about it.
(Two years, ha, that is only if I finish my PhD on time...)
Sunday, 23 April 2006
"To improve my self-confidence."WTF???
Why do women feel that their self-confidence is in any way connected to the size of their breasts? How did this surgical self-mutilation become an acceptable 'confidence booster'? How could a mother encourage her 19 year-old daughter to do that to herself?
It really terrifies me that this has become acceptable in our society. The amount of pressure on young women to conform to an incredibly narrow standard of feminine beauty is just frightening, and the fact that the technology is now available to make this a reality for more and more women (through painful and expensive surgery) is only going to make the standard narrower and further increase the pressure. If I ever have a daughter I just have no idea how I am going to cope with these issues. I imagine it would be pretty hard to compete with the all of the messages that are out there broadcasting values that I disagree with so strongly.
Tonight, to counter my hatred of being home alone, I invited a friend over for dinner and we embarked on a reality tv blitz. I have just sat through 3 hours of The Biggest Loser followed by the first episode of Big Brother 6. Shocking I realise, but oh so good. My biggest shock so far on BB6 is Katie, or as we have now christened her: Train Wreck. She is frightening. I have never seen anyone appear to be so dim (and I am even including Dubya). I only hope that it is mostly a result of nerves or that girl is in real trouble.
Tomorrow I am taking my first classes at uni. I am sort of nervous. I am mostly worried that my students will think that I am twelve. I just haven't changed very much since I was twelve and frequently get asked what I am studying at school. To counter my nerves, I spent the afternoon preparing. The subject that I am teaching seems so much more straight forward to me now than when I studied it at uni. Back then, I was so stressed that I actually threw up before the exam.
8 sleeps until P comes home.
Saturday, 22 April 2006
When I travelled to Nepal, the level of hatred that people expressed towards King Gyanendra surprised me. They laughed at my belief (from Western media) that Crown Prince Dipendra Bir Bikram had shot his father and mother, King Birendra and Queen Aiswarya, the rest of the royal family, and then himself, and assured me that it was Gyanendra who had murdered his brother and family. They told me that Gyanendra had been exiled to India for being involved in drug trafficking and corruption and that he was a rogue that could not be trusted. This happened over and over again, from Kathmandu, to Lukla, to Namche Bazaar, Gokyo, Dingboche, Pokhara, and Chitwan National Park. Everyone still had large posters of King Birendra and Queen Aiswarya on their walls. They did not acknowledge Gyanendra as their King.
When Gyanendra seized absolute power last year and disbanded the government I was not surprised that the Nepalese people refused to acquiesce. It seems that since then, the democracy movement has continued to gain popularity and power. The coalitions that have been formed between the various political parties, and even with the Maoists have certainly strengthened the movement. My big concern now, however, is how well they will survive if they are given the chance to take back power. The actions and intentions of the Maoists are particularly unpredictable. They have used the most appalling tactics in their bid for power in Nepal and many people have suffered and died as a result. How can they be trusted with any 'legitimate' power after the way they have acted?
Last year in Hong Kong I met a wonderful guy from Nepal (who was there to campaign on trade justice at the WTO Ministerials). I asked him about the alliances that were being formed with the Maoists and how he would feel if it meant that the Maoists were given more power in Nepal. He replied that it would be a good thing. I asked him if he wasn't concerned about their record of violence and their history of completely disregarding the human rights of the Nepalese people. Yes, of course he was, he said, but after so many years of war, we have learned the value of peace. Many compromises become worthwhile in that context. To that argument I had no reply. The civil war in Nepal has destroyed the lives and livelihoods of so many Nepalese people, and the economy of Nepal as a whole. I can understand why people would be willing to make huge compromises to end the violence.
I just hope that it does, in fact, come to an end. They certainly deserve peace.
Friday, 21 April 2006
P and I went away with his family for Easter to Tarthra beach. It hadn't changed very much since I used to spend time there in a family coast house when I was very young. I have such good memories of the beach (even though the water was always freezing) and the old wharf - where I had my first and only fishing experience. (I caught an 8-legged sea animal that the old fishermen at the Wharf couldn't even identify. We threw it back in and called it a day.)
It was great to watch P's (and my) nephews and neice enjoy themselves - learning to ride their bikes, playing in the park and paddling about it in the ocean. The youngest is only 2 and 1/2 months old and last weekend was our first chance to spend much time with him.
I was planning to learn to knit over the long weekend, but completely spaced and forgot to buy any needles or wool before leaving on Friday. We tried to find some in Bega on the Saturday, but all the shops closed at 12. I guess I will have to wait for another chance to have some expert instruction on knitting 101.
I could just go and buy some now and try to figure it out from the number internet sites on 'how to knit'. I don't feel very confident about doing that though. I have never been very good at following instructions...
On the subject of blogs, I am feeling guilty that I just missed two Carnival of the Feminists - Number 12 is located at Written Word and Number 13 is over at I See Invisible People. I have yet to wade through either of them, but they are no doubt worth a read.
It is so impressive how well the Carnival has been going. It has taken on a life of its own and Natalie Bennet of Philobiblian should be extremely proud. The media has picked it up too. The Guardian has an article on Feminist Bloggers that mentions the Carnival and Natalie recently appeared on Radio National's Life Matters for an interview about the Carnival and her personal blog. You can download the podcast here.
P actually showed me how to listen to Podcasts only this morning, and I am very excited about being able to have Radio National on in the background. It seems particularly suitable for breakfast time.
Thursday, 20 April 2006
It's been an interesting couple of weeks indeed. First the French government bowed to overwhelming public outrage and overturned those draconian youth employment laws, then Berlusconi comes to the end of his reign of greed and corruption.
On another good note, UNHCR released a report stating that the number of international refugees is at it's lowest level in 25 years. Still there are over 9 million people stuck in camps living in pretty horrific conditions. This figure doesn't, of course, take into account the 25 million internally displaced peoples, since they are not covered by the 1951 Refugee Convention, and, generally, therefore, are screwed.
In an interview with The Guardian, the UN high commissioner for refugees, Antonio Guterres, said internal displacement was the world community's "biggest failure" in terms of humanitarian action.
The report also says that over half the world's refugees are surviving in "protracted refugee situations", which involving at least 25,000 people living in exile for five years or more. The largest and most intractable of these situations is, of course, the Palestinian diaspora, not to mention the continued occupation of Palestinian lands and forced migrations. Guterres, in the same interview, said:
"The danger in the current international context is that states will use the issue of terrorism to legitimise the introduction of restrictive asylum practices and refugee policies, a process which began well before the events of September 11 2001," the report concluded. "This has led to a tendency to criminalise migrants, including asylum seekers, by associating them with people smugglers and traffickers ... the rise of xenophobia and fear of asylum seekers in many countries ... has led to a tendency to see refugees not as victims but as perpetrators of insecurity."
Now, what were those new revisions to Australia's immigration policy again?
Tuesday, 18 April 2006
I haven't blogged about work at all, I know. Not sure why, other than I'm terribly busy all the time, but not totally sure what I'm doing. I'm hoping this feeling will pass in time. It's hard not to feel like the work experience kid, particularly since I've never been a public servant before.
I feel like there's so much I have to learn, both on the job front and on the existing-as-a-public-servant front. There are so many administrative quirks that people who have been in the office for a while begin to think are completely normal, but which are totally and completely weird.
I guess the other reason I haven't written much about the office is that I'm not entirely sure what I can and can't talk about yet. I'm often critical of the Howard government's aid agenda, but now that I'm working for them I'm having to think before I let my fingers do the talking. It's not like I feel I'm under a gag order, I'm just taking a while to figure out what's in the public domain and what's not - it's a fine line, and one I that I think will take me a while to learn how to tread.
Still, I guess no harm can come from spilling the beans that I'm being sent off to Geneva (as in Switzerland) this weekend to attend a couple of meetings. Looks like I'll have a Sunday and a Saturday free to wander the city (one of several that C and I have on our list of places we'd like to live). Interestingly, 40% of the population are non-Swiss, which might have something to do with the 24 intergovernmental organisations that live there (including the European headquarters of the UN and UNHCR) and 130 NGOs (including the ICRC).
Not too mention the chocolate...
Right, off to bed. Work. Climbing. Bed. Work. And then C's back!
Thursday, 13 April 2006
It seems LA police don't have much to do these days and are turning their attention to a serious issue facing the city - the slowness of old people.
I can understand why. Old people are really slow. It takes them longer to do everything, especially cross roads, and this means that innocent motorists have to wait at traffic lights even after they turn green!
This kind of irrational slowness deserves to be punished and I fully support the LAPD in issuing a US$114 fine to that 82 year old slow poke.
What a fantastic institution the LA police are. I wonder how many more minority groups they can target and oppress?
Good work boys.
Wednesday, 12 April 2006
This year has actually seen a round of political changes that have made me feel more positive about the world than I have in quite some time, for example:
- Berlusconi’s out;
- Chirac backed down over the First Job Contract law due to public pressure;
- The Australian government are in hot water at the Cole inquiry and the fall-out from the Workchoices legislation seems to be building;
- Dubya's approval rating plummeted to 38%;
- Thaksin was forced to stand down as Thai PM;
- Latin American politics is moving further and further to the Left (Bolivia, Venezuela, Brazil, now possibly Peru...); and
- The growing number of elected female heads of state (Chile, Liberia, Germany, joining Finland, Ireland, Latvia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Jamaica, New Zealand, Mozambique, and São Tomé e Princípe and the Netherlands Antilles).
We have already seen some of these very left-wing leaders essentially roll over on the big issues at forums like the WTO. Is the ideology of neoliberalism at the global level too entrenched, too hegemonic, to be resisted at crunch time?
Sometimes I feel extremely optimistic, and then I see the outcomes documents from the WTO meetings, or even the recent World Water Forum (where they took a step back from recognising water as a human right), and I realise that national governments are often the least of our concerns. Power has been so dramatically shifted to international organisations like the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO, and to the multinational corporations that they listen to, that a change in government can have only a limited impact on the big policies that control our lives (and, particularly, our economies). While I do honestly believe that these organisations only have as much power as we are willing to give them, I often feel that the kind of shift required to take this power back is so massive that I won’t see it in my life time.
Then I generally decide that being pessimistic won’t get me anywhere and go back to cataloguing the good news and chipping away at my own little piece of the big issues… So, yeah for Italy, and now I'd better get back to work.
Tuesday, 11 April 2006
It also looks like Romano Prodi might be victorious over Berlusconi in the Italian elections, which would be another piece of good news in world politics. I don't want to get prematurely excited, but I think that the tide is turning against the Right.
We can only hope.
Friday, 7 April 2006
After strolling about the two-bedroom unit that we could never afford, we started chatting to the real estate agent. No, we weren't really looking for a place to buy now. Yes, we were hoping to buy in the next 12 to 18 months and wanted to get an idea of the market.
"Well," he said, "we have a development that won't be ready for another 18 months that you might want to have a look at. Its in Lyneham..."The development looked really nice, and even though the townhouses there were more than we had considered spending, we arranged to meet him at the site the next day.
To cut a long story short, we saw the place and it looked perfect. We did the sums, studied the market, looked up rates and body corporate fees, negotiated with our parents and ended up at the bank making a mortgage application on Wednesday morning.
The meeting didn't go so well. While being extremely nice and helpful, the gentleman at the bank suggested that we were probably trying to borrow too much and would probably need a guarantor to secure the loan. He also broke the news that the ACT government's first home buyers stamp duty concession only applied for properties under a certain amount and that we would be faced with a pretty hefty stamp duty fee that neither of us had calculated on. I asked him to send the application up to Sydney for approval anyway, expecting it to be rejected, but both of us were getting cold feet.
We spent part of that afternoon looking at smaller places in the inner north that might be more affordable. They were horrible and tiny. It was depressing. We went home and tried to make the Lyneham place work, but ultimately decided that we would just be taking on too much debt. It was sad, but also a bit of a relief.
Today Paul called the real estate agent to break the news. Apparently he was very sweet about it. Then a few minutes ago I just received a call from the Bank. They approved our loan application...
Oh, how the universe likes to torment us!
Thursday, 6 April 2006
"Do you want to know which film that is?" he asked.
I was impressed by his commitment to film making and his ability to dream so big in the face of a country that was sliding into civil war and further and further into poverty. I racked my brains for a film that was independent and bold enough to possibly be this guy's favourite film, but didn't guess because I thought that it was probably a Bollywood film that I had never seen.
"Titanic," he announced, with a big cheesy smile. "You know this film?"
He friend (who, BTW, wanted to be a rock star and could play the guitar and sing very well) piped in, "I love that song too. You know it? My heart will go on..."
I struggled to hide my shock.
Celine Dion? No!
Over the last few years I have become more immune. From all over South and South East Asia hip and trendy young men (and women, although less frequently) have detailed to me their love of Titanic and Celine Dion's theme song. That bloody sound is also played loudly throughout the region and everyone seems to know and love it. Over the years I have, in fact, become so immune that I have forgotten to ask why anymore. That is unless I saw this article in today's Guardian - Bellydancing out, cinema in, says Hamas.
Of course, there are many more questions raised by this particular article, such as: Why bellydancing? And, how does Attallah Abu al-Sibbah, the new Palestinian culture minister, know that people do it indoors, in secret? However, the quote that caught my attention was this one:
"Titanic was a good film, a human film"Now I feel compelled to find out Why? What it is that made Titanic a good film to all of these people?
To me, it was boring. It went for at least an hour too long. The part (otherwise known as the entire second half) where the boat is sinking and Kate and Leonardo keep running up and down the ship calling each other's name almost destroyed my will to live. It was cheesy and slow and dull. And the old woman threw a valuable diamond into the ocean rather than giving it to her granddaughter or to charity, which also really annoyed me.
Can anyone enlighten me here? Why was Titanic so popular?
Wednesday, 5 April 2006
I am so glad that he was wrong and that the Thai people showed him who was really in charge of their country and demanded that he step down. So often it is the young democracies that really understand how important it is to defend the principles of accountability and transparency - something that those of us that live in more established democracies tend to get very complacent about.
So, congratulations to the Thai people on their victory. We could all learn a few lessons from them.
Tuesday, 4 April 2006
It seems the lunch club is taking off in a big way in the big apple and, surprisingly, I think it’s a great idea (my crippling social phobias aside).
The thing I like best though, is that the club has a “you pay for what you eat rule”. As a vegan/vegetarian/ecotarian I’m constantly ending up in situations where I’m forced to subsidise other’s carnivorous tendencies.
Why is it when I go out to dinner with a group of people and order a vegan dish (which often has to be specially made as most restaurants are still too short-sighted to have even one on their standard menu), which usually costs significantly less than the meat-based equivalent, without fail at the end of the meal someone (usually the person who ordered lobster and drank the best part of 3 bottles of wine) will loudly suggest, “let’s split it ‘x’ ways”.
At this point I have 2 options. I can speak up and look like a cheap bastard, or I can sit quietly and cough up (up to) double the price of my meal.
There is something very much not right about this. Not only are meat eaters contributing to the degradation of the environment and supporting an unsustainable industry, they expect me to help them do it!
Not anymore. I’m done with that lark. Let it be known I will no longer be subsidising meat eaters in restaurants.
I’m yet to work out how to go about this without looking cheap, but I’ll figure it out, or I’ll look cheap.
So, anyone want to have lunch?