Friday, 30 June 2006

Justice finally speaks

Finally, the US Supreme Court has held that the military war crimes trials created for detainees at Guantánamo Bay are against both the US Constitution and the Geneva Convention.
"The military commission at issue lacks the power to proceed because its structure and procedures violate both the UCMJ and the four Geneva Conventions signed in 1949."
Essentially the Court ruled that Congress' attempt to exclude the Court's jurisdiction over the inmates at Guantánamo was unsuccessful. The US Government argued that they Court should abstain from hearing any matter arising out of a detention at Guantánamo under the same principle that allows them to abstain from hearing a case against a US service-person, under the principle of assisting in the efficient operation of the Armed Forces. According to Justice Stevens, the Government's argument was "inapt because Hamdan [the inmate in question] is not a service member." He also held that the Court's overarching duty was, in fact, "in both peace and war, to preserve the constitutional safeguards of civil liberty, and [...] the public interest in a decision on those questions without delay".

Particular issues that the Court objected to included:
  1. The fact that "an accused and his civilian counsel may be excluded from, and precluded from ever learning what evidence was presented during, any part of the proceeding the official who appointed the commission or the presiding officer decides to close." [Australia has introduced similar rules for our own 'anti-terrorism' cases]
  2. "The procedures adopted to try Hamdan also violate the Geneva Conventions. The D. C. Circuit dismissed Hamdan’s challenge in this regard on the grounds, inter alia, that the Conventions are not judicially enforceable and that, in any event, Hamdan is not entitled to their protections. Neither of these grounds is persuasive."
  3. "Even assuming that Hamden is a dangerous individual who would cause great harm or death to innocent civilians given the opportunity, the Executive nevertheless must comply with the prevailing rule of law in undertaking to try him and subject him to criminal punishment."
  4. "The Government has not charged Hamdan with an offense … that by the law of war may be tried by military commission”. [This is because Hamdam is only accused of being Osama bin Laden's driver and not in participating in any act of violence whatsoever]
Since the Supreme Court already ruled two years ago that Bush had no authority to seize and detain terrorism suspects and indefinitely deny them access to courts or lawyers, this ruling must spell the end of Guantánamo.

Of course, I suspect that the administration will take its time in repatriating the inmates and may try to hold some of them for trial in US Courts (although I doubt they have very much admissible evidence for many, or any, of them).

Wednesday, 28 June 2006

I've got a lot of places still to see

create your own visited countries map

[Idea stolen from adelaide writer]

Really, I am over it

but this was just too amusing not to share:

For the record, I am not so sure that Grosso actually dived. I'd say he probably did trip over Neill who probably shouldn't have been in the way...

On a positive note, Hiddick has indicated that he might be willing to come back and coach the Socceroos after his two-year contract with Russia has finished.

Tuesday, 27 June 2006

My older brothers made me this way

Canadian researchers have found that the most consistent biological impact on a guy's sexuality is whether or not he has older brothers.

According to their research, a mother's immune system reacts to male fetuses by creating "maternal anti-male antibodies" that affect the part of the brain that determines sexuality. The more male fetuses carried, the stronger this response will become.

What I would like to know is whether and how this relates to sexual preferences in females.

"We was robbed"

That just should not have been a penalty. The Socceroos really deserved to win that one. They played so well. They controlled the game.

It is 3am. I must sleep, but I am feeling a little worked up.

bother bother bother.

Update: Upon reflection, I must admit that there is some irony in Italy getting through on this kind of a penalty decision after what happened to them last World Cup against Korea. Perhaps it was just their time. They are likely to have a walk in the park to the semi-finals now too, since Ukraine got up against Switzerland in a penalty shoot out.

Second Update: Zoe, Ms Cynic and Armagnac give their reactions to last night's game.

[Image from the]

Monday, 26 June 2006

Hair trigger Texans think UN wants their guns

The Navasota Examiner & Grimes County Review, a Texan paper not renowned for it's liberal perspective has hit new heights with this opinion piece published yesterday.

Gina Parker, apparently a practicing attorney and CEO of Dental Creations, "a dental product manufacturing company," writes a scathing attack on the UN's "global guns ban."

If only the UN was actually seeking a global guns ban.

The conference that has Parker and the NRA so riled up is the United Nation's Small Arms Review Conference, which is currently underway in New York and, far from seeking to create a "global gun ban treaty," the conference is meeting to review progress made in the implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects. This is a far cry from seeking to ban all small arms - note the prominent use of the term illicit.

Funnily enough, Parker quotes actor James Earl Jones (whom I have now lost all respect for) as saying:

The world is filled with violence. Because criminals carry guns, we decent law-abiding citizens should also have guns. Otherwise they will win and the decent people will lose.

One wonders why Jones isn't supporting the UN in it's efforts to "prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms." Unless he and his fellow "libertarians" are concerned that if the criminals can no longer get hold of weapons the NRA's core justification for the propagation of violence would disappear - and that just wouldn't be any fun.

Possibly my favourite bit of Parker's article (though it is hard to pick one favourite there's so much hilarity in this schlock) comes next:

Although that concept seems quite clear to most Americans, the United Nations has failed to grasp its obviousness and is quickly moving towards a global gun ban.

The scariest thing is that, in her state at least, she's in the majority.

The NRA has, of course, come out screaming about the conference. They even have a new website dedicated to rousing gun lovers to raise their voices in "a Shot Heard 'Round the World on the 4th of July." Saying:

If millions of gun owners speak with one thundering voice of outrage, we'll stop the global gun ban treaty before it destroys our firearm freedoms.

Ironically, as the 4th of July is a national holiday in the US, the conference will be taking the day off and the NRA protesters will be howling at an empty building. The website is so good I just have to give you a sample. Right on the front page is an excerpt from a speech given by Wayne LaPierre, The NRA's Executive Vice President. It's pure gold:

This 4th of July, while you and your family celebrate the 230th Anniversary of the founding of our great nation, there's one party you won't be invited to...

...And that's the party that Kofi Annan is throwing at United Nations headquarters in New York — using your tax dollars — for nearly fifty dictatorships, six terrorist states, governments that endorse execution based on religious faith, and a multitude of other nations from around the globe.

You see, this party isn't to honor your freedoms -- but to conspire to take them away. That's right. Over our 4th of July holiday, while taps is played at Arlington National Cemetery to honor Americans who have sacrificed their lives for freedom...

...These dictatorships, terrorist states and so-called "free" nations of the world plan to meet on our home soil to finalize a U.N. treaty that would strip all citizens of all nations of their right to self-protection, and strip you of your rights under the Second Amendment.

Before one word falls from their lying lips about our country and our freedoms, I want them to hear from America's 80 million gun owners and YOU.

God bless America.

If you'd like to help those the NRA accuses of undermining America's "national sovereignty, our individual freedoms and the future of our nation." then click on the banner above and join the million faces petition.

Finally! Alkatiri has resigned

Well, I was beginning to fear that it would never happen, but the SMH have just reported that Alkatiri has resigned from the position of Prime Minister of East Timor.

Thank goodness. It looks like Gusmao's bluff worked and allowed Alkatiri the necessary space to save face and stand down without admitting fault. However, having seen the alarming accusations made against him on the ABC's Four Corners program last week and the subsequent investigation into his ex-interior minister, Alkatiri certainly has a lot of questions to answer.

I hope that his resignation will bring peace and stability to East Timor. Does anyone know if Jose Ramos Horta will be resuming his old position of Foreign Minister or stepping up to the position of Prime Minister? Apparently his ex-wife, Ana Pessoa, who is a close ally of Alkatiri, has become the frontrunner to replace Mr Alkatiri and has said that she would be willing to take up the position.

Head for the hills, and don't eat chicken

Idly reading an article in today's Guardian on several people who caught bird flu from wild swans in Azerbaijan, I was somewhat shocked to read this final paragraph:

Separately, the World Health Organisation has confirmed fears that a cluster of
cases in Indonesia was caused by the virus passing directly from person to
person. Seven people died, but officials insisted there was no risk of wider
transmission. Scientists found that the virus had mutated slightly, but not into
a form that could be passed on easily.
Umm, isn't this REALLY big news?

Okay, so the virus has only mutated "slightly" but surely even a slight mutation should get more than a passing mention at the bottom of another story.

Scary, scary, scary.

Having been in Laos for most of last year and seeing the intense proximity between people and fowl, even in the cities, Ias well as the amount of smuggling of chickens and eggs from both Thailand and Vietnam, I'm fairly convinced that an outbreak in Laos is pretty much inevitable. Meaning the whole Southeast Asian region would be affected. Add to this the news that person to person transmission has new been confirmed, the huge density of population throughout the region and the massive number of international travellers passing through the area and you have a recipe for disaster.

I don't want to be alarmist, but gosh, it's all a bit worrying.

Update: The story also ran in saturday's West Australian - on page 37... It seems that experts are insisting that this incident doesn't "increase the possibility of a human pandemic." Somehow I don't find that particularly comforting.

The Northern Territory's main paper, the Territorian, also ran a, slightly larger, story on the same issue. Nothing in the country's major papers though. interesting.

Sunday, 25 June 2006

Domestic violence and football

Last night, or more correctly, this morning, was somewhat surreal and disturbing.

I was woken by yelling sometime around 4am and in my delirious state thought it was coming from outside. There was the deep rumble of a man's voice, though I couldn't under what he was yelling, and the higher pitched cries of a woman, very much in distress. I could hear her plainly. She was yelling things like: "get away from me" and "get you hands off me."

In a state of horror I stepped onto the balcony hoping to scare the guy away by threatening to (and hen actually) calling the police. When I got to the edge of the balcony, however, the street below was deserted. Thinking they'd left I went back to bed. but within five minutes I could hear more of the same. It then occurred to me that it might be coming through our bedroom wall, so I struggled up again and pressed an ear to the wall above our bed. The volume instantly rose and it was suddenly clear where the yelling was coming from.

Things got worse when thumping noises started filtering through and doors started slamming.

Thinking that confronting a (probably) drunken and (certainly) enraged alpha male at (by this time) 4.30 in the morning seemed a little suicidal so I took the less action movie option of calling the police and settled in on the couch waiting for them to arrive.

To stay awake I turned the football on, and just as an aside, the Mexico-Argentina game was one of the finest I've ever seen. Truly great football.

The police called not too long after 5 saying they couldn't get inside. I buzzed them in and listened while they repeatedly knocked on the neighbour's door. I thought one of them must have left by then as I had heard a front door slam somewhat earlier.

The police officers knocked for about five minutes then left and I went back to the football.

Later this morning when I awoke, I realised (with the less sleepy and more astute help of C) to my horror that I had sent the police knocking on the wrong door. Our apartment block is unbelievably confusing in it's layout. There are seven floors, but the lift only stops on five of them. The apartments on the two other floors are reached by entrances on the lift accessible ones. The layout of apartments is also somewhat adhoc and the result is the the apartment door right next to ours doesn't in fact share a wall with us at all. As far as I can make out it must go up to the next floor and out over the corridor to the other side. The next door along does, however, share a wall with us.

When it clicked I realised I'd had the police bashing on the door of an innocent (and single university professor - our real estate agent told us that's who lived there when we moved in). Oops. And worse, the arsehole who is, in all likelihood, beating his partner gets off scott-free.

All this is beside the point really. The big issue here is the continuance of such unacceptable and harmful behaviours. Why is it still okay for a guy to hit a girl? How is this an acceptable form of anger management or an alright way to let someone know they have upset you?

I'm so tired and angry I can hardly think. I'd appreciate some enlightenment from our male readers. How, in any scheme of things, can this sort of behaviour be justified?

Friday, 23 June 2006

Socceroos through to next round!

OK, so I got up at 4:45am and went out to a pub to watch the soccer.

This is odd behaviour for me - I am not a big fan of either pubs or sport as a general rule - but there is something about soccer that gets under my skin.

It was a good game to watch too - plenty of tension, plenty of excitement, and a fair bit of horror all mixed up together. Another highlight was, of course, the dancing performed by Croatia's coach - at one point he appeared to be impersonating a washing machine (and quite convincingly too).

Croatia's second goal - or more accurately Kalac's fumble (following on quickly from a previous fumble that almost scored him an own goal) - was horrible. Schwarzer looked deeply depressed sitting on the sideline - and justifiably so.

Kewell's goal was beautiful and an enormous relief, but then those last ten minutes seemed never-ending. I have rarely been so tense in my life! Who knew I cared?

I couldn't believe that Poll didn't remember to red card Simunic after giving him his second yellow card - especially because he was being so aggressive about it. But ultimately it just didn't matter.

My only remaining question is what happened in the last minute? Was I seeing things, or did Australia score a third goal? I can't find any reference to this at all online, but everyone around me was just as confused as I was when the whistle was blown.

Update: Apparently, it was scored after the ref had already blown the full time whistle. [Thanks Liam for the info]

[Photo courtesy of]

Wednesday, 21 June 2006

Busy busy

Sorry for dropping off lately, but I'm afraid this trend is set to continue for a little while. I am swamped with preparing for my progress review, organising my fieldwork for later this year and marking exams.

Just briefly though, in an attempt to distract you from my laziness, I would like to mention my recent addiction to Radio National podcasts. You can download any program that you want from the net and then listen to it at your leisure.

I never really got in to Radio National, because I never knew what would be on when and don't really drive (which is when other people I know listen to the radio), but now I am playing programs all the time.

My current favourites are Late Night Live, with Phillip Adams (who is just tops - except that he breeds cattle... although at least he does it organically and free range) and the Book Show, with Ramona Koval.

OK, but to the grind for me...

Tuesday, 20 June 2006

The new World Cup rule: take off your trousers, they're offending our sponsor

Umm, I have no idea what to say about this, other than it defies logic.

Oh, and how embarrassing to have to watch a whole football match in a packed stadium in your undies!

Monday, 19 June 2006

Coconut shells could save your life

I was forwarded this article this morning. It’s in Vietnamese, but the gist is that a company in Vietnam has started producing motorbike helmets from coconut shells.

The company says they can withstand an 800kg impact, whatever that means.

They look groovy too.

Having seen the low level of helmet wearing in both Laos and Vietnam last year I’m all for it – but only if they actually work.

Saturday, 17 June 2006

Magical Mystery revealed

Apparently Leonardo da Vinci once said "...and once you have tasted flight, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you long to return."

If that's the truth, then I'm going to get a very sore neck.

C, in all her ingenious secrecy, paid for me to jump out of a perfectly good, if rather small, air plane this morning.

Skydiving is something I've always wanted to do, but never quite gotten around to. I'm not sure if I ever would have gotten around to it had C not pushed me - not literally of course, the expert jumper who was strapped to my back was the only one doing the pushing.

I don't really have much to say about it other than that it was absolutely the most exhilarating experience of my life. Exhilarating, that is, not enriching - I'm not quite that shallow.

It was a truly, truly amazing experience and one I'll never, ever forget.

In place of more blather from me, here are a few photos that C took during the whole process.

Just hanging around before take-off.

Trying to look brave.

That's me, that tiny little blur!

Me again, somewhat bigger.

And again, about to land on C's head (I missed).

C's Magical Mystery Tour

Roll up, roll up for the mystery tour.
Roll up, roll up for the mystery tour.
Roll up and that's an invitation, roll up for the mystery tour.
Roll up to make a reservation, roll up for the mystery tour.
The magical mystery tour is waiting to take you away,
Waiting to take you away.

Just a little bit of Lennon and McCartney to get me in the mood.

We got back from the holiday yesterday (and what a lovely time was had by us). But more on that later.

Right now I have to dash off and get ready for C's Magical Mystery Tour.

It was, you might recall, my birthday a couple of weeks ago and C has organised a surprise, which has had to wait till today since we've been away.

A couple of years ago we started giving each other experiences for our birthdays rather than tangible gifts. The tradition has worked out really well and we've both loved our birthdays more and more each year.

The best part about it is that the other one isn't allowed to know what they are getting until the last possible second.

So all I know is that I have to rug up and clean my teeth and be out the door in about 10 minutes.

Will update post experience.

Saturday, 10 June 2006

The Tao for Babies

My sisters came over today and gave us a book, The Tao for Babies. I think they are hinting.

Anyway, it's unbeiveably cute and I'm planning on bending many copyright laws by scanning the whole thing and posting the images here.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of the tao, here is a wikipedia entry on the topic. If you can't be bothered reading it just enjoy the words and pictures or pick up a copy of The Tao of Pooh.

Here are the first couple of pages:

There will be no sleep for 6 weeks

I'm a little sleepy today as my friend C2 and I stayed up into the early hours of the morning watching the opening ceremony of the World Cup. I should have known it would be crap - they always are. But this year's was a particularly poor specimen.

Oh well, at least it was followed by some good football. The Germany v Costa Rica game was quite well played and hopefully will set the standard for the rest of the tournament.

But it was last night's second game that would have really been worth watching - I just wish I'd had the staying power (but bed calls so loudly sometimes). Ecuador beating Poland! Fantastic for football, but not so good for Poland, and a repeat of their opening match four years ago.

The best thing about it was that Agustin Delgado scored one of Ecuador's goals and it was exactly four years to the day that he scored Ecuador's first ever goal at a World Cup finals.


My money's still on the super outsiders - Cote d'Ivoire, Togo and Trinidad and Tobago.

Bit of an Africa bias there, I know, but we've been screwing Africa for years and maybe it's time they got some back. Winning the World Cup might, at the very least, bring some media attention to a continent that deserves a nice big break.


P and I are heading off on holidays tomorrow morning.

We will be away from computers, telephones, and all kinds of work for six days.

This is where we are going:
and these are some of the things that we will be doing:

See you next week.

Friday, 9 June 2006

Judge backs 'buffoon' attack on Berlusconi

First they vote the "buffoon" out then the courts rule it's okay to call him a buffoon.

I love Italy.

Thursday, 8 June 2006

Google reconsiders its deal with China

I am really glad to hear that Google is reconsidering its deal with the Chinese government to set up a that intentionally blocks requests for search terms such as "Tiananmen Square" or "Falun Gong". Google has been trying to argue that some access to information is better than none at all and that this justified their complicity in the censorship being exercised by the Chinese government. Now it would appear that they are considering a more principled approach.

This change of heart is probably due to the chorus of criticism that they have received from groups such as Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International. I even heard a fiction writer at the Sydney Writers' Festival use most of her speaking time to raise her concerns about this issue.

Anyway, regardless of the reason, I think that it is good news. The last thing that is going to help human rights in China is for corporations to start legitimising the oppression of the Chinese people, by cooperating with the government. Hopefully Yahoo will also reconsider its own actions in this regard.

Tuesday, 6 June 2006

Not bad for an old man...

Two things happened on the weekend.

1. I did actually turn 30; and
2. I realised that attempting to ride over 200km without any training and in pouring rain and freezing conditions is not only insane, but is likely to earn one a derogatory (but loving) nickname.

Thinking back I should have listened to, well everybody. My friend P. gave me plenty of opportunities to pull out – the last one on the morning we were to leave. He called, said it was raining and asked if I still wanted to come. I think I said something particularly stupid, along the lines of "bring it on!"

It was brought on.

We set out not long after 6am and rode through the silent city streets. The rain wasn't too bad and the cold not as bad as I'd thought it would be. By the time we hit Queanbeyan (Canberra's nearest NSW neighbour) things had taken a nasty turn. The weather had gotten colder and the rain heavier.

We struggled on up the first of the many big hills. Well, I struggled P. just whistled and disappeared off into the foggy distance.

To cut a very long and painful three hours of me-wishing-I-was-dead short, we eventually pedalled into Captain's Flat - a small mining town 65km from Canberra and a quarter of the way along our route.

By this time the rain had really set in and I was so cold I couldn't change gears any more.

We stopped at the first available place, a gas station, and ordered hot cups of tea. I have pretty steady hands most of the time, but I was shaking so much from the cold that I managed to spill about half of the boiling hot tea all over my hands before I managed to take a sip. It was pretty scary that I couldn't feel the skin burning.

There was no way I was getting back on that bike.

No way in hell.

P. decided to push on and instantly rose several notches on both my esteem and insanity registers.

After P. departed, still whistling and looking cheerful (a look he still possessed 9 hours later when he arrived at the coast, by the way) I staggered across the road to the nearest public toilet and had one of those moments you'd rather not have.

Standing in front of the urinal I realised my hands were too frozen to actually undo the button on my shorts. The only thought that ran through my head was "I'm almost 30 years old and I'm about to wet my pants."

Luckily, I managed to force the button open with my frozen clumps (formerly known as hands) and the crisis ended in a warm stream heading in the right direction.

Next it was onto the phone booth and the call of shame. I phoned my father, who owns a ute, and asked if he was busy ... then spent the next hour thawing out in front of an open fire in a lovely cafe called The Outsider. My parents arrived, had a good laugh at my expense, and bundled me into the car for the return journey.

I arrived home to a much amused C., who struggled to keep a straight face at the sight of my sorry state.

A hot shower and fresh clothes made me feel much better (though I'm not sure I'll every get the chill out of my bones). The better feeling rapidly departed with the arrival of C2 and L, who were to take us down the coast. The jibes flowed and continued to flow all weekend. So much so that I have been re-christened "Captain Flat" by my work colleagues.

It seems like the name will stick...

...Still it could be worse.

The weekend was lovely, however, despite the jibes. 15 of us spent a few days relaxing and eating obscene amounts of beautiful and (mostly) vegan food.

Happy birthday to me.

Fast Food Nation

I am really looking forward to seeing this film when it comes out. It is a fictional version of Erik Schlosser's brilliant book: Fast Food Nation.

If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend it.

Monday, 5 June 2006

Pig can fly

Until I have something more thoughtful to say on this disturbing subject, I will just have to share an adage that I learnt as a child:
The earth is flat
Pigs can fly, and
Nuclear power is safe
Someone on the 7:30 Report (from the Sierra Club, I think) also just pointed out that trying to move away from coal by building nuclear reactors is like trying to give up cigarettes by taking up crack.

I have always secretly suspected that John Howard may be on crack.*

*Note, this is metaphorical only and not intended to be defamatory in any way...

Carnival of Empty Cages #2

The second Carnival of Empty Cages is up at Shrub and Ariel has a done a great job. Do go over there and check out the posts.

Now would also be a good time to mention that we here at no pod have agreed to host the next Carnival, which will go up on 1 August 2006. So please start submitting posts (yours or someone else’s) to us at at (Please put Carnival of Empty Cages in the subject line).

We are particularly interested in the life cycle of veg*nism:

1. The story of when and how people became a vegan or vegetarian.
2. The evolution of people’s reasons for staying a veg*n.
3. The most frustrating aspects of being a veg*n.
4. The most rewarding aspects of being a veg*n.
5. Whether or not people make much of an effort to “convert” others to veg*nism and what people think of this as a concept.

If you are not a veg*n, but your post is on topic, we would be happy to hear from you too. It would be great to hear from people from all over.

Four things

I received this meme by email, but thought that it would more fun to respond here - so that I could tag some bloggy people at the end.

Four jobs I have had in my life:
1. Tutor at ANU - I have discovered that I really enjoy teaching and am now rethinking some of my career objectives.
2. Social researcher for NSW government - I discovered that working for a committee can be quite frustrating, particularly when they all try to edit your work at the same time and do not agree with each other. Working within community centres and communities groups, and mixing with people that I don't normally encounter was, however, a great experience.
3. Solicitor in a corporate law firm - I worked in the Environment and Planning section and did a fair bit of litigation and advice work. The team that I worked with were really lovely, but corporate law and I were fundamentally incompatible.
4. Child care worker - I worked in after school hours care and holiday programs. I loved working with kids, even if it is utterly exhausting and not particularly well paid. It was a great balance to studying while I did my undergraduate degrees.

Four movies I would watch over and over:
(I have to say that these a somewhat different from my 'favourites')
1. The Princess Bride - I dearly wanted to be Buttercup when I was young.
2. Pride and Prejudice - the BBC version. I realise that this is highly unoriginal.
3. Manon Des Sources - I always cry at the end.
4. In the Mood for Love - beautiful cinematography, beautiful music, excellent acting, heartbreaking...

Four places you have lived:
1. Ban Hongke, Vientiane, Laos
2. Surry Hills, Sydney, Australia
3. UBC, Vancouver, Canada
4. Maclean Gardens, Washington DC, USA

Four TV shows I love to watch:
1. West Wing - we recently acquired the DVDs and have developed a sad addiction.
2. Sex and the City - I have great memories of watching them regularly with 'the girls'
3. Dateline
4. 7:30 Report - OK, I just ran out of ideas.

Four places you have been on vacation:
1. Tahiti – My grandparents took me to Tahiti when I was 9 or 10 because they are angels. Randomly I ended up going back there a year later on a three-week school excursion. We were billeted out to families and the most significant thing about mine was their cupboard full of chocolate biscuits. I felt that I was in heaven.
2. Italy – I went there with my Dad after finishing high school and it was fantastic. I loved soaking up the history, drinking the coffee, and seeing the incredible pleasure that Italians take in everyday activities.
3. Nepal – I went trekking in the Khombu region for 20 days by myself (although I did have a guide). It was incredibly challenging, but the scenery and the Sherpa made every step worth it.
4. China – P and I went here for our first trip together. The history, the food and the culture were amazing, but it was also hard work and often quite freezing (we were in the North in January).

Four websites I visit daily:
1. Guardian Unlimited
2. Bloglines
3. Larvatus Prodeo
4. Gmail

Four of my favourite foods:
1. Tomatoes - I am not sure that I could live without these.
2. Chocolate - dark, organic, and fair-trade if possible.
3. Soy products - tofu, soy milk, soy cheese, soy yoghurt... mmm
4. Good bread - I love a good sour dough, like the ones at Bourke Street Bakery or Silo
[Oh, and coffee, of course - espresso with warm frothy soy milk]

Four places I would rather be right now:
1. Swimming at the beach (preferably in summer)
2. Hiking in the mountains (with comfortable shoes and warm clothing)
3. Browsing in a good bookshop (with lots of money and new bookshelves at home)
4. Having brunch at Tilleys, Bodhi or Cafe Mint with friends

Four Friends that have been tagged that I think (might) will respond:
1. Kate
2. Sal
3. Brooke
4. Kristy

Friday, 2 June 2006

Yay! The Snowy is staying public

I have to say that I am extremely relieved to hear that the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectricity Scheme is not going to be privatised. I wasn't really expecting Howard to back flip on this issue, but it is definitely good news for Australia.

I never feel very comfortable with the idea of privatising essential services, but the Snowy raised even bigger issues than most proposals for privatisation. The scheme itself controls a huge amount of water and this control has an enormous impact on the environmental health of a number of waterways - including, of course, the Snowy River, which was robbed of its water by the construction of the dam in the first place, the Murray and the Murrumbidgee Rivers (which are where much of the Snowy River's water is now diverted so that we can continue to irrigate unsustainable farms in the West).

Anyway, under private ownership the commitments made by governments to provide an 'environmental flow' for the Snowy - after a long, hard campaign by the local communities of Dalgety and Orbost - would have been on shaky ground and subject to the profit motives of any private owner. Putting water in private hands is always a recipe for disaster - particularly for the environment and for vulnerable communities.

Thursday, 1 June 2006

Almost 30

It's my 30th birthday this weekend. I'm actually not much of a birthday person. Never really liked them, other people's either. When I was quite young I punched a hole right through the middle of one of my sisters' birthday cakes.

Not much of a birthday person.

Historically icky things have tended to happen on or around my birthday, though I'll admit that the last couple of years have been actually quite nice as C has taken me to some lovely places to celebrate - last year to a beautiful (though in some parts scarily backpacker-hell like) place in Laos called Vang Vieng and the year before to northern NSW.

This year in order to keep the travelling spirit alive, and to counter my party phobia, C and I and 14 of our friends are heading to the coast (of southern NSW) for a long weekend of not-necessarily-birthday-related fun.

Right about now you might be thinking something along the lines of "that sounds nice, but what's the picture of your bike got to do with anything?" Good question and ordinarily the bike would have absolutely nothing to do with a weekend down the coast. But, one friend has decided to ride from Canberra to the coast and I, in a fit of turning 30 idiocy, have decided to do the same.

The reason I am clearly insane and my friend isn't is that while he rides his bike (races even) regularly (daily even), I do not. I have ridden around Canberra's lake exactly once since moving here and how this makes me think I'm capable of riding 200+ kilometres tomorrow I have no idea.

C, sensible as always, is getting a lift in a car, as are the other 13 coast goers.

Still, it's 10.30pm and I'm due to leave at 6am, so there's no backing out now.

We have no intention of riding back (or there would go the entire weekend), so assuming I make it I will report back on just how stupid I actually am for even considering this obviously insane trip.

Keep your fingers crossed for me if you're superstitious. I'd keep mine crossed too, but figure I'll have enough to think about without adding any extra tasks.

Meditations on turning 30 will come next week, I'm sure. I still have a day or so of being 29 and don't have to think about it yet. Not just yet.


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