Sunday, 31 December 2006

NYE over and out

10.55pm and it looks like new year's eve 2006 is done for C and I.

We wandered out into the city to watch the 9pm "family" fireworks then retreated in to a cafe for a hot chocolate and to get some distance from the gathering crowds of minors waiting for the government-sanctioned street party to kick off.

Post hot chocolate we strolled home, musing about how little life might actually alter with the arrival of the 3rd pea. It's not like there'll be much of an existing party life to interrupt. It's for the best really.

The upshot is that C is fast asleep and I'm pondering whether to keep watching dodgy movies or join her.

There are at least 20 parties going currently underway in our building though, and I'm a notoriously light sleeper, so perhaps I'll wait a while till I'm struggling to stay awake despite the noise.

All the best for the new year and I hope the impending arrival of the 3rd pea doesn't spell the end of two peas, no pod. I'm sure we'll still make the time to post. It's way too much fun to stop. You'd better prepare for a nauseating amount of baby pictures...

Friday, 29 December 2006


This might be a little late, but I figure that it is better late than never - so, here is my Christmas gingerbread recipe with accompanying photos.

4 cups of plain flour
1 & 1/3 teaspoons of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoons of ground ginger
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
½ teaspoon of allspice
½ teaspoon of cloves
1/3 cup of vegan margarine
2/3 cup of brown sugar
2/3 cup of molasses
1/2 cup of water

  1. Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves together.

  2. In a separate bowl, cream the brown sugar, molasses, and 1/4 cup of water into the margarine.

  3. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and add enough of the remaining water so that it all forms a dough that holds together without being sticky.

  4. Break the dough in half and roll into two balls. Place each ball inside a plastic bag and put them in the fridge for an hour or so.

  5. Preheat the oven to 180º C. Grease a few baking sheets with margarine and cover with a thin layer of flour.

  6. Cover (part of) your kitchen bench with flour and roll out the dough, one ball at a time, on to the surface. (A rolling pin makes this easier, but you can also just use a glass jar.) The dough should be fairly even and a little under 1-cm thick. (If it crumbles in place, rub a small amount of margarine into the crumbly area to help smooth it together).

  7. Use 'cookie cutters' to cut the dough into your preferred shapes and peal away the excess dough from around the edges. Use a butter knife to help remove the cut dough from the bench to avoid breaking your baby cookies.

  8. Place cut dough on baking sheets (leaving around 3-cms between them so they don't stick together) and put into over for around 6-10 minutes (depending on how hot your oven is - mine only take 6 minutes). Check them regularly because they can burn easily.

  9. Remove the gingerbread from the oven when it is firm to touch and place on a cooling rack to cool down.

  10. Once cool, decorate your gingerbread with icing, sultanas, lollies, or leave them plain because they are yummy just as they are.

I hope that everyone had a lovely day on the 25th!

Wednesday, 27 December 2006

A Christmas Meme

I'm back! Yay.

And so I present you with a Christmas meme from Pavlov's Cat.

1) Do you have a tree, and if so what is hanging on it?

No, we just a have a pot plant which has a couple of candy canes at its base and a small piece of gold tinsel tied to it.

2) What's the most successful bit of Christmas cooking you've done so far?

I made a mushroom-nut tart that was quite yummy, but I think that the gingerbread was the most successful (post with recipe coming now that I can finally switch over to the new blogger).

3) And the least successful?

I didn't do enough cooking for anything to be a real failure this year.

4) Which bit of your Christmas shopping are you happiest with?

I bought my Mum and her partner a toilet from Oxfam Unwrapped. I think that this was my favourite present to give away.

5) Have you opened any of your presents yet? What was it / were they?

Yes. I received some beautiful jewellery from P., which he bought for me in Laos. It is a matching necklace and earrings made from silver and bamboo. I also received school supplies for children in Thailand, Carmen Lawrence's book on Fear and Politics, a parenting book, a thermos, Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss, some moisturiser from Lush, a make your own cookbook and some vegan chocolate, a Christmas ornament, and a magazine subscription. I am also going to get a sewing machine from my parents, but I have to go and find the one that I want first.

Yes, I did very well.

I must say that our little one may have done even better - s/he received tons of books, clothes, nappy liners, Bunnykins crockery (the crockery was from me).

6) Do you have any bad Christmas associations that will have to be tackled?

Not really, although P. and I have managed to get quite bad food poisoning in two of the last three Christmases (once in China and once in Cambodia).

7) What's your favourite carol? Why?

Away in a Manger - because my brother and I sang it at a church Christmas concert while sitting on my grandfather's lap when I was very little.

8) Which part of your Christmas plans is most likely to go awry?

The part where I try to keep some of the day for myself, just to relax.

9) What's your most favourite thing about Christmas?

Giving gifts to people and catching up with family.

10) What's your least favourite thing about it?

The excess consumption and going to too many family events in one day (yes, this does seem a little inconsistence with my favourite parts, doesn't it?).

11) What Christmassy thing have you seen or heard in the street or on the teeve or in the blogosphere that has
(a) touched your heart

PC's encounter with the 'Merry Christmas to a Wonderful Mother' cards.

(b) hit a nerve

The sermon in church was about advent being a lot like pregnancy.

or (c) made you want to barf?

The lead stories in the news were cricket and sailing - and this was well before we even got to 'sport'. I quite like cricket, but there are simply more important things going on in the world.

12) Who do you wish you had contacted to say Happy Christmas but haven't so far?

Sally, Tiff, Mum's family who were in Sydney, those of Dad's family who were in Grafton,The Hivemind, Kristy, Armaniac, Aletia and probably a whole bunch of other people...

The last christmas

This year was the last time C and I will celebrate christmas without the 3rd Pea. It's hard to imagine how different things will be next year, but they'll surely be different.

C was going to post yesterday, but bloody blogger won't let her switch to (not)beta so she can't log into the blog and all her old posts are now labeled "anonymous". Hopefully they'll get it together one of these days and we'll have our blog back.

Back to christmas.

Despite not making an appearance till early next year, the 3rd Pea was the star of the show.

First thing on the day, C had me unwrapping all the things she'd bought 3rd Pea while I was away.

We then had breakfast with C's brother and his partner and a couple of friends before C headed off to church and I began the long and arduous trek across town on Canberra's famously inadequate buses.

At least they were running though.

We spent the rest of the day hopping from one family engagement to another. The one thing they all had in common, though, was food - and eating.

Oh, and that basically all anyone wanted to talk about with us was the 3rd Pea. Which is fine, of course, because the 3rd Pea is basically all we wanted to talk about too.

We're officially pottering for the rest of the week and plan to give the house a thorough 3rd Pea makeover.

Hope everyone had a lovely relaxing day and C promises she will post as soon as the powers that be deem her worthy.

Friday, 22 December 2006

29th Carnival of Feminists is up

If you would like a little holiday reading, then can I suggest a trip over to the imponderabilia of actual life, where an amazing Carnival of Feminists was posted yesterday. This Carnival is always pretty good, but

Thursday, 21 December 2006

High IQ = Veg

According to a recent study in the UK, children who have a high IQ when tested at age 10 are more likely to become a vegetarian when they grow up.
"For each 15-point rise in IQ scores in the study, the likelihood of being a vegetarian rose by 38 percent. Even after adjusting to factors such as social class and education, the link was still consistent."
Unfortunately for me this study doesn't say very much about my IQ, since I became a vegetarian when I was 5. However, I least I know that I married well!

Thanks to Kristy for the link.

Wednesday, 20 December 2006

I guess you can't accuse him of greenwashing

Well, I was pretty disapointed to hear about Rudd's tour of Tasmania during which he has refused to meet with conservation groups and overturned Labor's policy of wishing to protect some of Tasmania's old growth forests. However, it did completely reaffirm my decison to abandon Labor and join the Greens.

I like MrLefty's summary of what this means for Australian democracy:
I think it's good that at the next Federal Election we'll have the choice between a Liberal Party that wants to log Tasmania's old-growth forests in the interests of logging companies, and a Labor Party that wants to log Tasmania's old-growth forests in the interests of logging workers. That's what democracy is all about!

And to think that I was pleased with getting rid of Beazley...

Suvarnabhumi surpasses expectations, but that wouldn't be hard

I'm online in Bangkok airport. Things have actually improved somewhat in the last month. More sections are open and looking almost finished. The Thai Lounge is quite comfy now and I get to blog wirelessly.

I still think I'll always think of it as 'snake pit' but it's growing on me - and not necessarily like a cancer.

Just after writing that sentence (in text edit) I flicked back over to firefox to discover that blogger isn't loading. It's been trying for about 5 minutes now. I'm on the verge of taking back all that praise.

If this post ever sees the light of day I'll be amazed. Still, I've got 5 hours to kill, and waiting for blogger to load is as good a way to spend them as any...

Christmas shopping

Every time I think that I am actually ready for Christmas, I realise that I have forgotten another person or item and have to go back to the dreaded shops, with their horrible queues, and lug yet more heavy bags back to our apartment. However, I really think that I am almost there now.

Most people will be receiving something from Oxfam Unwrapped or Baptist World Aid, but they take a while to post out their cards and the Oxfam shop has almost run out of everything 'unwrapped', so I have been forced back into the shops for those additional presents that always occur to you at the last minute.

Oh, and Paul and I have actually bought things for all of the kids (nephews, neice, cousins, etc.). We didn't think that they were quite ready for the joys of receiving schoolbooks for children overseas or clean water for communities in Northern Laos. We did try to stick with books though, since we think that they make the best presents and still love all of the books that we received as children.

Next on my list of things to do is to bake gingerbread. I have finally acquired all of the ingredients and my "Christmas Cookie Cutters" (acquired triumphantly a few years ago at St Vinnies) are at the ready. However, I think I need to go and buy a baking sheet or two, so baking may have to wait for a couple of days until I feel ready to face the shops again.

For wrapping this year, I decided to use scrap paper and cover it with cut out animal shapes. I think that it looks cute and the bonus is that I won't feel too concerned when it gets ripped to pieces within minutes of being received. I have arranged them all around a little plant that we received as a gift earlier this year and strung up some lights that we got in Bangkok for $2.50, and quite like the effect.

[BTW: In case you were wondering, the Mao poster is not up to indicate any admiration for of that particular mass murdering mad-man, but rather just because the propaganda amuses us...]

On the way, almost

It's way too late and I've just finished packing.

I've got just enough kip left to have breakfast at a cafe downtown and buy a bottle of water for the plane.

It feels like I'm on my way already, despite having to spend most of the day in the new (and as previously discussed) rather horrible Bangkok airport.

Apparently it used to be a swamp full of snakes - doesn't seem to have undergone much of a transformation, it's just that now getting bitten costs a whole lot more...

Here's one last picture from Vientiane for you (though there are a few more I'll post once I get home)

I quite like the juxtaposition here: communism and a 'do not pass' sign. I wonder if the government of Laos is secretly trying to say something...

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Too easy

This quiz was clearly too easy. My grammar is appalling. I just happen to know where to put apostrophes.

Your Language Arts Grade: 100%

Way to go! You know not to trust the MS Grammar Check and you know "no" from "know." Now, go forth and spread the good word (or at least, the proper use of apostrophes).

Are You Gooder at Grammar?
Make a Quiz

Thanks for the diversion Ampersand Duck.

Monday, 18 December 2006

I'd like to thank the academy...

TIME has announced its annual person of the year awards and it looks like we all came up trumps. Well, those of us who engage in any meaningful way with any form of content-development ICT technology that is.

TIME puts it this way:
But look at 2006 through a different lens and you'll see another story, one that isn't about conflict or great men. It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes [...]

Who are these people? Seriously, who actually sits down after a long day at work and says, I'm not going to watch Lost tonight. I'm going to turn on my computer and make a movie starring my pet iguana? I'm going to mash up 50 Cent's vocals with Queen's instrumentals? I'm going to blog about my state of mind or the state of the nation or the steak-frites at the new bistro down the street? Who has that time and that energy and that passion?

The answer is, you do. And for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME's Person of the Year for 2006 is you.
Aw, now I feel all warm and fuzzy.

I do believe that blogging is a powerful tool for social change and that the web is a massive leap in creating horizontal connections between people and communities, cutting out the medium of television (which rarely, if ever, tells it how it is or assists people generate a better understanding of the other beings that inhabit their world).

But seriously. Come on TIME. Get it together. That gushing diatribe was rather over the top, don't you think. I know that online content is fast becoming the lion's share of your business (and that flattery will get you everywhere). But give us some credit for our intelligence. The whole point of the blogsphere and other user generated content mediums is to re-write the news, to break mould of global corporate, uni-directional media.

We already know we're creating a new reality and we don't need a media behemoth (even one trying so hard to remodel itself into something it can never truly be) to tell us how important we are.

Friday, 15 December 2006

Some disasters are more equal than others

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies released its annual World Disasters report yesterday.

It's called Living and dying in the shadows and has some good things to say about the level of level of emergency humanitarian aid the world allocated to disasters in 2005 - it hit USD 17 billion, more than any other year on record.

That's all well and good, but things start to come apart at the seams a little when one pokes a stick under the rock of where the money actually went and who benefitted most.

Desipite the record sums allocated to disasters, the IFRC says "millions still missed out on vital, potentially life-saving aid because funds were directed at high-profile disasters, while countless other crises were neglected."

The list below (from Reuters Alertnet) shows the break down of the aid per person as it was disbursed in 2005.

Aid per person in 2005 crises
  • Indian Ocean Tsunami - $1241 (Up to 230,000 dead, 2.1 mln uprooted)
  • Darfur, Sudan - $431 (Conflict has displaced at least 2 mln)
  • South Asia quake - $310 (Kashmir quake kills 75,000 in Oct 2005)
  • Chechnya - $281 (Rebels have been struggling for autonomy from Russia since 1991)
  • Hurricane Stan, Guatemala - $224 (Hundreds die in mudslides in Oct 2005, crops destroyed)
  • Democratic Republic Congo - $213 (Some 1,200 people die each day)
  • Northern Uganda - $86 (1.7 mln uprooted by 20-year insurgency)
  • Somalia - $53 (Years of anarchy compounded by drought)
  • West Africa - $50 (Locust plague contributes to new hunger crisis)
  • Ivory Coast - $27 (Country is split between rebels and govt)

  • While no one is saying that people affected by the tsunami didn't deserve every cent of that $1241, what makes people suffering from a protracted conflict in west Africa any less deserving?
    The table above doesn't include the US's Hurricane Katrina, which generated donations only slightly lower than the tsunami.

    The IFRC argues that governments and private donors should allow aid agencies to use money as they see fit. In other words they should end the practice of earmarking funds for particular regions or disasters. This will be a difficult process and the IFRC faces an uphill battle.

    Donor governments like to be able to politicise the funds they give to multilateral agencies and international NGOs, and announcing publicly that you are giving $1 billion to tsunami victims generates more and better publicity (and potentially votes) than annoucing you are giving that same amount to several humanitarian agencies for their critical work around the world.

    The same issue is faced for private donations. People are often moved to give money by the images they see on television news. This means that in the aftermath of a large disaster more money flows in than at other times. The American Red Cross' experience after the 11 September 2001 attacks is illustrative.

    As the donations rolled in the ARC discovered it had more money than it could sensibly to address the needs of the victims (over USD 500 million) and decided to use the left over funds for other (equally worthy) causes. Their plan to do so was greeted with massive public outrage and a reversal was speedily issued and all the money went to victims' families, who received about USD 18,000 each (which makes the tsunami amounts look piddling). See here, here and here, for example.

    This highlights the difficulties faced by humanitarian organisations which would prefer to have the flexibility to maintain ongoing support to ongoing issues (Congo and Ivory Coast are just two examples) and respond to other disasters as they emerge.

    That people are willing to give their time and money when big disasters occur is laudable, but until people realise that the daily cumulative total of death and destruction from ongoing humanitarian situations is far in excess of any single disaster and that supporting the organisations that are working to assist those in need who don't make the 6 o'clock news on an ongoing basis is far more effective than making a one off donation in the aftermath of a sensational (and frequently sensationalised) disaster.

    Red Sun Burning

    Ariel over at Jabberwocky has a fantastic post about a red sun in Melbourne, the bush fires and the future of our planet. I highly recommend reading it.

    I should warn you that the post is actually quite depressing, but it also gives cause for hope. It is because we do want a future for our children that I still believe that we will wake up from our collective stupor and do something about this mess that we have created.

    I would have commented, but Blogger Beta appears not to want me to comment on blogs anymore...

    Wednesday, 13 December 2006

    Eye of the storm

    It is the beginning of the wet season in Darwin and another big storm has just come crashing down around the house.

    I know that a lot of people love storms. They love to listen to the rain tumbling down on the roof, the trees shaking with the wind, and to simply experience the sheer power of the weather. However, I am not one of those people.

    I feel deeply unsettled by storms. They remind me of my complete and utter lack of power over my surroundings and I don't find that remotely comforting. The sound of debris smashing into the house and the crash of the thunder scares me in a completely irrational way.

    What struck me today, as the storm descended, is how much better off I am under this torrent of rain, than so many people across Australia right now who are facing the onslaught of the bushfires that are raging out of control. I cannot imagine the terror that I would feel, and or having the courage that our fire-fighters display under these circumstances.

    I guess I just wanted to acknowledge my admiration for all of them, and to wish them good luck. It is going to be a long summer.

    Monday, 11 December 2006

    Perversion of justice

    I woke this morning to the news that Augusto Pinochet died.

    I'm not one to rejoice in the death of another human being, but the news initially bought a smile to my lips. That initial reaction lasted barely a moment before a sadness took over. It wasn't sadness for Pinochet's family or close friends and the loss they must be feeling, but a deep sorrow that all the people affected by his brutal dictatorship will never have the justice they deserve.

    Yes, one of the century's great monster dictators is dead and unable to taunt his victims with the mere fact of his unrepentant freedom, and for this I am sure many in Chile and around the world are gladdened.

    But the very nature of his death (in a hospital, of natural causes) is a slap in the face of those he tortured and the families of those he murdered and disappeared. That Pinochet never spent a day in prison for the crimes he committed and that he died a free man is a travesty of the concept of justice.

    The people of Chile will never be truly free of the terror of Pinochet's regime because they will never really have closure. Seeing the man responsible for the brutal repression of an entire people put in prison would have enabled old wounds to begin to heal.

    How will those wounds heal now?

    A woman's work...

    For quite a while now I have been struggling with the implications of my pregnancy – wondering what it will mean (and already does mean) for my identity, for my future choices, for my body and for my relationships. Now a number of posts, particularly a few recent ones from Ampersand Duck and Pavlov’s Cat (and also a post and comments thread over at Crazybrave), have prompted me to post about these issues.

    I have to admit to having been shocked to the core by the impact of pregnancy on my body. I never understood that feeling ‘fatigued’ would involve falling daily into a deep black pit of exhaustion, or that the addition of the word ‘morning’ to sickness was such a cruel joke. Despite years of experience with (admittedly fairly mild) PMS, I also had no real understanding of the power of hormones to influence my outlook. Instead of the pure joy that I had anticipated, I felt sick with worry and doubts about the pregnancy; about my capacity to be a mother; to endure the loss of sleep; to successfully breastfeed; and to keep our child safe – none of which were assisted by feeling as though we couldn’t share the news with anyone except our closest family members. My brain was taken over by thoughts of how to deal with every possible problem and with my evident lack of capacity to cope as well as I had expected. My self-confidence plummeted as I realised that I was not glowing with prenatal health, but rather was a wreck who needed to sleep all day and could only stomach vegemite saladas.

    Fortunately, the second and third trimesters have been a lot easier on my body – my blood pressure is stupidly low and so I get faint very easily, but my energy levels are much better and my appetite has returned. I also feel a lot clearer and happier about the pregnancy. The first ultrasound and the first little kicks did fill me with the excitement that I had expected earlier, and suddenly everything did feel OK again.

    However, I am still trying to come to terms with the inevitable impacts of this choice on my life. My PhD is just starting to really come together, and I will have to set it aside and will never again have the freedom to come back to it with my full undivided attention. Future career decisions and relocations will also have an added dimension that I do not resent, but am aware of nonetheless.

    The real issue for me, however, is identity. For all the real gains that we have made as women over the past decades, there is nothing like motherhood to bring the full force of society’s sexism down upon you. Issues that I have been able to side-step previously, will become harder to avoid and I don’t feel like having the battles that this may provoke. I am not interested in being defined solely as a ‘mother’, regardless of how much I know that I will love my child and cherish our relationship. No man is ever threatened with being reduced to the single identity of ‘father’. Their personal qualities, career ambitions, and autonomous hopes and dreams are rarely taken away from them just because they chose to breed.

    I want to make it clear that I do not see this as a failure of feminism – as I know that this has been the belief of some. Instead, I see this of an indication of how far we have to go. The role of mother is still naturalised in a way that thoroughly devalues it – most particularly by those who claim to be upholding traditional family values. Because breeding is defined as a natural act (which it is, but bare with me here), women are expected to blossom in pregnancy, or to at least be stoic when they don’t. Their sacrifices – physical, emotional, career – are also continually undervalued. Men who take time off work to care for their young children are glorified as heroes, while women are placed in a no-win situation where we will be criticised by some for returning too early and by others for neglecting our careers for too long.

    This is not the result of feminism – this is the continued impact of a patriarchal culture that remains fundamentally unchanged at its core. Workplaces are still built around the idea that there is a good women at home taking care of the household. Childcare is expensive and waiting lists are long. Maternity leave is not provided for most Australian workers, and part-time work is difficult to secure. Despite all the rhetoric of family values and the (ridiculous) urgings from the government that we breed, no real effort has been made to actually make our society one that is supportive of women’s choices – abortion is vilified, while the choice to have a child receives a 'baby bonus' and then nothing.

    I say all this as a truly lucky person. I have a scholarship that provides paid maternity leave, a wonderfully supportive husband and extended family, and the freedom to go back part-time and to work from home – and, above all, I happen to love children and to genuinely want to be a mother. All of these things have made my decision easier, and yet I still struggle with the implications for my life. How it would feel to be facing a future without some of those supports is something that I find very difficult to even contemplate.

    Sunday, 10 December 2006

    Human Rights Day 2006

    Today, poverty prevails as the gravest human rights challenge in the world. Combating poverty, deprivation and exclusion is not a matter of charity, and it does not depend on how rich a country is.

    By tackling poverty as a matter of human rights obligation, the world will have a better chance of abolishing this scourge in our lifetime... Poverty eradication is an achievable goal.

    Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
    Today is Human Rights Day. This year's theme is "Fighting Poverty: A matter of obligation not charity".

    There's not much I can say about this that's new or innovative. It's pretty much all right here, and will only take you a minute to read.

    If you have 10 minutes to spare today, read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    If you have another 15, read the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

    The Office of the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights also has a handy fact sheet on the International Bill of Rights that these 3 documents make up. It lives here.

    Human Rights have also come to play a stronger role in development thinking in recent years. The UK's Overseas Development Institute has a handy briefing paper outlining the thinking. Australia does not officially endorse the approach, and most likely won't, even with a change of government - we don't want to be obliged to actually do anything now do we?

    If you still find yourself with some reading time and the inclination to continue perusing what the web has to offer on the topic of human rights and poverty, Amnesty International has a whole site devoted to the topic.

    Happy Human Rights Day - and let's hope it can be a happier one for some of the millions of people living in desperate poverty; poverty we could easily end if we so chose.

    Friday, 8 December 2006

    Darwin (and Melbourne, and Kakadu)

    Sorry about the long absence, I have not had any Internet connection since Saturday.

    It has been kind of nice really, although I must admit to suffering from a few withdrawal symptoms...

    On Sunday morning (ridiculously early), I fly down to Melbourne and jumped on the Sky Bus into town. From the Spencer St Station, I got a tram to Brunswick St and met fellow blogger Kristy at the Vegie Bar. One pot of chai and a large scrambled tofu later, we strolled down the street browsing in shops and mulling over Christmas presents for the 'hard to buy fors' on our lists.

    I just love the eclectic nature of many of the shops and the gorgeous range of fabrics used on the clothes and accessories - it was a world of inspiration. I also went over to Lygon St and browsed Readers for a quite a while. It was good to see that the Borders across the road had not stolen any of its business.

    It was great to meet Kristy too - after such a long time of reading her blog. Luckily for us, the conversation flowed freely and it felt completely normal to spend the good part of a day with a (sort of) complete stranger.

    That night I got on a plane to Darwin, where I finally arrived just before midnight. Mum and AMD's new house is lovely - its a little two bedroom place set in a gorgeous tropical garden, with a big wooden deck and a pool. My room is a bungalow out in the backyard - it is spacious, and has its own little deck and an ensuite.

    AMD had meetings in Kakadu on Wednesday and Thursday and so she took me with her out to the park on Tuesday afternoon. On arrival, we were given a private boat trip down Yellow River by a couple of Parks staff and it was just magical. The land out there is just beautiful and the river was teeming with birdlife. It was also teeming with crocodiles (big fellows) and I was quite glad that the boat was made of metal (it was designed to do croc surveys).

    I spent the next couple of days doing some of the easier walks in the park - mostly to the amazing rock art sites, which were like open air galleries - and doing some PhD work during the heat of the day. It felt like such a privilege to be out there, but I did keep thinking that I wanted P to be there to share it with me.

    [I'll post some photos soon. I am just feeling lazy today.]

    Now, I am back in Darwin struggling through those bloody interview transcripts. At least tomorrow is Saturday.

    Wednesday, 6 December 2006

    Pictures of Vientiane

    Being back in Vientiane has been a mixed blessing so far. I'm happy to be here catching up with friends and reacquainting myself with a place we (briefly) called home. I'm less happy about being away from C.

    Still the work is interesting and it's much better to be doing it now than next year when the 3rd pea makes an entrance and everything changes.

    I spent some of Saturday and Sunday afternoons wandering the back streets and managed to shoot a whole roll of film. I thought I'd post a few of my favourites so far.

    The one at the top is of a couple of the ubiquitous monks that wander the streets of Vientiane.

    Another common sight is of course tuk tuks, and this guy kindly let me take his picture - striking a pose in fact!

    I was in an alley taking another photo when these two crossed my path. There is a large informal economy in Vientaine and many people make ends meet by collecting recyclables from other's waste. Anything recyclable can be taken to one of several centres in the city and exchanged for (modest amounts of) cash.

    Tat Dam (black stupa) is one of my favourite Vientiane landmarks. It's rather old, but has been razed and rebuilt several times over the centuries. Granted, it doesn't look so old in this picture, but I really like the angle.

    Speaking of old, this is one of the few colonial-era French villas that still litter parts of the city. This one is my favourite, but it looks like someone has beaten me to purchasing and renovating it as there was work going on in the front yard when I strolled by. Oh well, there goes that dream...

    And while I'm on the topic of houses, I love this one too, but for different reasons. I'm not sure if you can see the giant lions on the roof, but take it from me: they are giant and quite spectacular.

    Tuesday, 5 December 2006


    It's all over the news, but just in case you've been living under a domestic rock (focused on ALP switch backing), here it is in capital letters:


    Well "quit" might be giving him, and the Bush administration, a little too much credit. His term at the UN (never confirmed by the way) is expiring (again) and there is no way the new congress is going to have a bar of confirming the appointment. Finally, the cronies have seen the writing on the wall, and the writing says "Get out of New York John Bolton".

    I'm still in Vientiane and have come down with a nasty head cold. The last couple of days have been a blur of meetings which have barely penetrated through the cotton wool padding surrounding my brain.

    I stumbled out of bed this morning to check email and the news and was jerked out of my self pity by the Guardian's headline: "US ambassador to UN John Bolton resigns".

    All I can say at this point is two down, two to go (for now).


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