30 October 2005

halloween bbq

Halloween BBQ

28 October 2005

shiseido fights flu

From Japan Times Online: Shiseido unit to sell flu-fighting mask.

(via cerebral soup)

At work. More later.

27 October 2005

apt googlebomb

Yet another googlebomb is doing the rounds. And for once, the target isn't a member of the current British cabinet or the Bush administration. No, this week's ignorant bigots are... Oh, just try it yourself.

(via Mons Graupius)

26 October 2005

we don't want no birds

From BBC news: New measures to tackle bird flu.

Do such measures make you feel safer, that the government is doing all it can to minimise the potential of an outbreak? Or is it scaremongering gone crazy? After the SARS outbreak, no governing body wants to be seen as lacking. After the BSE beef-to-human transmission palaver, nobody wants to be told they lacked foresight/prudence. But are they taking it a bit far, and causing more unease than necessary? As was pointed out not too long ago, more people die annually from the "vanilla"-flavour flu than all the H5N1 cases together.

25 October 2005

torture in mind

There's been some discussion on the use of torture in the blogosphere. (No, not using torture on bloggers although that's not a bad idea.)

And on tonight's episode of Commander in Chief, we hear from the President in response to a terrorist threat: "I don't want to hear that he was tortured." And from her security advisor: "Understood."

This ambiguous statement, of course, comes back to haunt her later in the episode. And I'll stop there before we move into spoiler territory, which may give people cause to pull out my toenails.

eggcellent scare story

From the Scotsman: EU warns of bird flu danger in chicken and eggs.

Ah ha ha ha. I laugh in the face of danger and will have a soft-boiled egg for my supper tonight. Take that, Mr/Ms Scaremonger Media. (The key question is: how will this affect spiceone's and cooksister's EoMEoTE?)

Useless piece of science trivia for the day: the annual vaccine for "regular" flu is harvested from vast quantities of deliberately infected fertilised poultry eggs, the supply of which is now under threat from the new strain of avian flu. Oh the irony!

Doctor Who takes three TV awards


hurrah! d discovers bbcamerica

Rebus is in Furryboot town, where there are hoors aplenty. We're also given a right good tour of Edinburgh's skyline, "genteel" Fairmilehead, and I get to feel homesick everytime they show Lothian and Border's headquarters at Fettes... :(

As much as I like John Hannah and think he makes a fine Rebus, I feel the TV show leads the viewer too much without letting the story develop the way it does in the novels. Then again, I always think that about book/TV, book/film adaptations.

Ach, though I've nevir developed much of an accent, it does me gud to hear some proper talk, like.

24 October 2005

Another mall for Princes St

From BBC news: [Edinburgh] City centre revamp plan unveiled.

What Princes St needs is not a facelift but a face transplant. There's nothing to distinguish it as a unique high street; it's chockablock with the standard, national high street chains. Apart from Jenners, there's nothing to set it apart from any other British city's shopping street. And unlike Glasgow's Buchannan St and environs, it's not shopper-friendly and could do with being "pedestrianised". Unfortunately, it is still a major East-West artery road and the North-South main roads also cross it at some point. A solution may not exist (unless all traffic is routed around the city centre and delivery trucks are restricted to early/late hours only). That said, it'd be nice to get rid of some of those concrete monstrosities. Although I suspect any replacement buildings will be equally hated in a decade or so.

23 October 2005


From theguardian: What can women actually do?

Gordon Ramsay has declared that women can't cook: "Seriously," he cried in yesterday's Sunday Telegraph, "there are huge numbers of young women out there who know how to mix cocktails but can't cook to save their lives, whereas men are finding their way into the kitchen in ever-growing numbers. Trust me: I am only telling you what I've discovered."
At the dewier end of this year, the president of Harvard University, Larry Summers, claimed women can't do science.

Pow! And Pow again!

And for the lesson in how to give your new TV show instant high ratings, see the original article here.

22 October 2005

green curry

Pseudo-Thai Green Curry

Cumin and coriander seeds warmed then blitzed, along with lotsa thai basil, chillies, ginger, garlic and shallots. Paste fried, chicken, aubergine, courgette and pepper slices added. Garnished with coriander leaves and served on steamed long-grain rice.

Edit: It's still going, 2 days later.

calm down, calm down

From BBC news: UK calls for wild bird import ban.

Aberdeen University microbiologist and bird flu expert Professor Hugh Pennington said Britons should not be alarmed by the discovery.
He said the virus had been "doing the rounds of the Far East for about 10 years" but still had not mutated into the "form that we really fear - the form that could infect people on any scale at all".
The head of the Medical Research Council, Professor Colin Blakemore, said the discovery of the virus would have been more worrying in a migratory bird.
He said: "Clearly birds in quarantine are not in contact with domestic birds, with farm birds in this country."

Edit: Fly on over to curious hamster's for a bit of Monty Python.

21 October 2005

yay! decent bread in LA...

I've been pretty lucky so far, living close to Amandine on Wilshire Blvd, where I get my weekly fix of French pastries. There's also a Belgian chocolatier on Wilshire, which is also meant to have good croissants. Le Pain Quotidient in Santa Monica was one of my first stops for a post-beach breakfast when I lived in Venice. (There's a branch in Westwood near all the cinemas too.) And you can get a darn good baguette at the West LA Farmers' Market if you're not too late (plus the baker is a really nice guy who gave me a whole bag of rolls for nothing last week because he had no baguettes left!).

And it looks like a new glut of bakeries are opening across the city. This is all good news for P, who is a big bread fan. And while there's nothing better than home-baked bread, I make it so rarely that we have to find that fix elsewhere. It doesn't help that Flickerite/food blogger/maker of mouthwatering dishes-Santos posts beautiful photos of bread that makes me want to give up my day job and just bake, bake bake...

20 October 2005


From the sharpener, a comment piece about the media in politics.

Which leads me to wonder if David Cameron is the Tony Blair of the Conservative party.

funny coincidence

After yapping on about the recent worry about avian influenza, these arrived in my inbox:

Ah ha ha... Not something I want to do right now...

a real flap

Maybe it's because I'm way over here on the other side of the Atlantic (with a whole continent inbetween to boot!), but the current worry about bird flu in Europe isn't keeping me up at night.

Standard disclaimer: I don't know any better than your regular layman/woman about H5N1, other avian viruses, let alone virus biology.

So let's have a look at what the experts have to say. The WHO has a clearly written FAQ on avian flu and its possible impact on humans.

For the scaremongers, the key worries are that:

  • this H5N1 strain of bird flu causes a high rate of death in infected birds.
  • the H5N1 strain was found in a few South-East Asian countries in 2003, but spread within 2 years north (e.g. Russia, Mongolia), east (e.g. Korea, Japan), and west (e.g. Turkey, Romania).
  • when it infects humans (and it has done so very rarely for a virus so prevalent in bird stocks), it causes serious problems like pneumonia and multi-organ failure even in healthy people, and has a high rate of fatality. Compare this to the "regular" flu virus, which causes deaths mainly in the immunocompromised (e.g. the very young, old and ill).
  • an infected person can pass it on to their immediate contacts (by means as yet undeterminted).
  • most humans won't have immunity to H5N1 because it's a new strain; we haven't had time to develop our own antibodies to it.

And now that you're worried, here's my feeble attempt to allay your fears:

  • Although the H5N1 strain has been infecting birds since 2003, it hasn't killed very many people in the countries that have infected birds.
  • So far, the human-to-human infections have been through very close contact (although I don't know if that's because members of the same family are exposed to the same source of virus, e.g. bird droppings).
  • Cases of human infection have been in people who live in close quarters with their livestock; there's no evidence that meat and eggs we buy in the supermarket will cause infections. (I'm having chicken tonight...)
  • The third hit (mutation of the virus into something that spreads easily between humans not in close contact) hasn't happened yet.
  • Umm, what with all the scaremongering, some governments have woken up and are putting in place measures that the WHO recommended a loooong time ago.
  • Edit: And I'm reminded over in the comments on curious hamster's blog that it's very likely that should the virus cross species and become more transmissible between humans, it will lose pathogenicity (i.e. be less lethal).

As for drug and vaccine treatments, companies other than Roche are making generic versions of anti-viral drugs and there's a promising ongoing vaccine trial in Hungary. My main worry is that with rich governments stockpiling anti-flu drugs (and mind you they work on regular flu, and have yet to be tested on H5N1), developing countries won't get a look-in. But then again, a truly sensible government that has stockpiled these drugs can offer them to any country in immediate need of it with the knowledge that stopping the virus dead in its tracks elsewhere also stops it from entering your shores. This needs cooperation, and even better, a respected world body to coordinate matters. After the ridiculous failure of the US governing bodies (state and federal) to deal with the recent hurricanes, I wouldn't want to wait for the richest nation in the world to get involved. Thank goodness the frontline countries are getting their act together. Hopefuly we have learned lessons from the SARS outbreak, and have learned to forgo national pride and *communicate* with each other.

I have hope for the human species surviving any possible pandemic yet...

19 October 2005

Print-outs can be traced

And another one from nature news (you can tell I'm work-avoiding, can't you?): Laser printer dot code revealed.

Am I the only one not surprised by this? (Tinfoil hat always on...) This is merely the modern version of the crime writer's old standby: the "fingerprint" of a typewriter.

Carp to keep crap out

From nature news: Goldfish enlisted in fight against floods - Fish could stop residents carping about open-air drainage ponds. (pun not mine...)

Sounds like a might fine idea: re-introducing wetlands... Like the name too: SUDS. Ah ha ha. I laugh. And while this sounds like good environmental practice, in the hands of local councils, glorified drains will result.

One plus one equals nothing very much

Cheney resignation rumors fly.

Ooer... Interesting. [Tinfoil hat on] What are the chances that suggestions of Condoleeza Rice suceeding Cheney should he resign should be floated a few episodes in to the new Commander-in-Chief TV series? Has an idea been planted into public consciousness? [Tinfoil hat off]

Speaking of which, if The West Wing is a liberal's wet-dream, is Commander-in-Chief a feminist's? I've only seen bits of two episodes, and the focus seems to be less on the workings of the White House or Presidency, and more on the difficulties faced by the first female president.

It also seems to me that the producers did not think the American viewing public was ready for a woman winning a Presidential election outright (probably true in this country), and introduced a deus ex machina of the incumbent dying, thus allowing the female VP to step up. For reasons as yet undisclosed (political leanings/ability/gender), there is great objection to Mackenzie Allen (asexual name) taking the post, and Machiavellian machinations ensue.

I haven't seen enough to be hooked yet, but the idea behind the series is appealing. And the timing is pretty good too, with speculation about Hillary Clinton being spouted every so often. In a country that's so big, with geography determining political culture, perhaps the best place to stimulate debate and raise issues is a fictional TV series. (Then again, The West Wing has been running for donkey seasons (into it's 7th, methinks), and look where this country's at...)

There's a spoof political blog on the series, but it doesn't seem to be updated regularly.

Crawling lily

A sea lily takes a walk at the bottom of the ocean.

Cool video.

18 October 2005

Dog fails to bite man

From theguardian: Buster the dog sacked for being too friendly.

Not such an uncommon occurence. One of my parents' current surrogate children (read: dogs) is an ex-police dog. (One of our neighbours down the street is an ex-police dog trainer, and now runs a shelter for unwanted dogs.) It is a source of pride for the family; Benjo is introduced to every curious onlooker as our failed narco dog. He's remarkably well-behaved, and has yet to run away from home, sleep on the streets or steal to feed his habit...

17 October 2005

Revered author Ba Jin dies aged 100

From theguardian: Revered author Ba Jin dies aged 100

's a good age to go, though sad that he suffered from Parkinson's.

家 (Family) was such a seminal work, even a banana like me read it. Took me forever though... (almost 6 months)

co co nut

co co nut

Young coconut decapitated.

16 October 2005

crack of spinach

Crack of spinach

The West LA Farmers' Market is a relatively new market, held every Sunday morning. I love the atmosphere: everyone's friendly and there's always some music playing, whether it's taped music for folk to dance to or some live jazz (which is just the thing for Sunday morning).

15 October 2005

Spinach/shrooms/toms on angel hair

Cherry tomatoes and stringy pasta are my favourite quick dinner standby. While cooking up whatever dried pasta you have in, heat up a small amount of olive oil in a pan, add the toms, brown them, allowing some of them to burst, and mix in the pasta. Enjoy this highly unhealthy meal with a glass of vino.

chrysanthemum tea


I love chrysanthemum tea, but I don't like the kind that comes in sachets. My main gripe with them is that they're usually too sugary. So when I saw bags of flowers in a Chinese herb shop in Monterey Park, I just could not resist. To make this cup of tea, I packed the inner glass sleeve of my new fancy tea mug with dried flowers and topped it up with boiling water. If you have a sweet tooth, I'd recommend a small amount of honey (preferably one that doesn't have too intense a flavour).

dim sum

Lor Mai Bao

A lor mai bao from NBC Seafood in Monterey Park, LA, a speciality of the restaurant. Lor mai (eight-treasure glutinous rice) is usually wrapped in leaves and steamed. This version has it wrapped in dumpling skin, which changes the eating experience from attempts at picking up lumps of sticky rice and rushing it to the mouth before it falls apart, to being piggish and stuffing the whole thing into an open gob.

14 October 2005

Resistant virus prompts concern over second line of defence

From Nature (news): Researchers call for more bird flu drugs.

While I'm not 100% convinced the threat of a mosaic/mutant virus will emerge this time, there is one thing that is bugging me about the situation arising in Europe.

In response, countries are stocking up on Tamiflu, the main anti-viral medicine recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). Turkey has asked Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche Holding AG to provide 500,000 boxes of medicine. Romania is reportedly also trying to get hold of thousands of doses. Governments are stockpiling the drug for use if the H5N1 virus mutates to a form able to transfer between humans.

My worry? That we will have a North/South (or is it East/West?) divide, where the rich countries in Western Europe stockpile anti-viral drugs, thus depriving the Eastern European countries which border Asia. We musn't forget that these places form our first line of defence; targeting the disease there will prevent further spreading westwards. Says naïve wee me.

See Nature's bird flu blog for more info.

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12 October 2005


OMG! I want!

Spinach/shrooms/toms on angel hair

11 October 2005

Edinburgh City flip-flops

From BBC news: Longer parking to help city shops.

Ha! I see falling revenues have pushed the Council to review their draconian parking limits in Edinburgh's city centre. We don't normally drive to the shops, seeing as we live but a 20 minute walk away from the West End. But even when we do want to drive in, we don't use the council's lots because it would end up costing us 40 quid in fines cos there's no way you can navigate the crazy pavements of Princes/George St and get all your shopping done in 50 minutes.

On the other hand, I thought the limitations on parking was to discourage people from driving into the city centre. Edinburgh's roads are by no way as crazy as LA's, but there are fewer lanes, which tend to get clogged up by legal and illegal parking.

Kinda sad, but predictable, that the council obviously puts profits over principles.

10 October 2005

buffalo steak on udon

Buffalo steak

A rare chance to cook and eat in one evening. A nice thick buffalo steak, briefly fried on each side, served on a bed of udon (thick Japanese noodles) and steamed veggies.

baked figs

Baked figs on creme fraiche

Bought some figs. Realised I don't particularly like figs raw. So I baked them in some honey. Decided it needed something extra, so sat them on some creme fraiche. Looks kinda disgusting, but tastes pretty good. Would have been better on plain ol' cream or with a dollop of ice cream.

09 October 2005



messages = Scots for groceries.

07 October 2005

P. M. S.

The acronym that many men fear...

A sudden slew of papers in the last week on the subject of the female hormonal cycle, which all try to explain why some women behave differently prior to their menstrual periods. This is a phenomenon with which hetero men use to explain away what they think of as irrational behaviour in women. And how many have witnessed foolhardy men asking a woman: "You on your period, or what?"?

Silly human behaviour aside, some people take the issue of PMS and its associated behaviour quite seriously:

  • Hormonal Cycle Modulates Arousal Circuitry in Women Using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, by Goldstein et al. in the Journal of Neuroscience this week. Their findings? That MRI scans showed an increase in acvitity in the parts of the brain involved in the stress response in the early follicular phase (i.e. start of the menstrual period) when the women were shown unpleasant images. (This was, honestly, quite a yucky paper to read, stuffed to the gills with jargon and completely free of clear statements of facts... In fact, it reminded me of those crappy business-speak articles, and of the Dilbert comic strip. Someone really needs to send up scientists the way Scott Adams has with the cubicle-world...)
  • PMS brain, an article about the work of I. Mody at UCLA (I know... add an "o"... You'd be surprised how many scientists have very fitting names for their subject matter... Mine is one too...). This isn't a paper, which makes it SO much easier to read, and more understandable too. OK, I'm a little biased because they do some REAL science here, looking at the different ways neurons fire electrical signals at different parts of the ovarian cycle, and not that hand-waving guesstimation of brain imaging (I'll eat my words soon, no doubt). They found that a receptor in the brain actually changes its subunits (the components of the receptor), which causes changes in intensity of electrical firing in the neurons. While it's not very accurate to compare a rodent's oestrus cycle to a human, this could provide a mechanism for the above finding. The paper's here if anyone's interested.

So, essentially, the cycling hormones can cause changes in brain activity, and as such, lead to behavioural changes. The mechanism proposed by the second paper suggests a reason why different women have different responses to their fluctuating hormones, with some suffering from depression while others become more aggressive. All still pie-in-the-sky though...

Sharp suited bloggers

For a fine serving of chicken yoghurt fare, you must read this.

Kings Rule (?)

06 October 2005

Equal rights for men now!

From BBC news: Equal rights take a back seat.

I find myself in agreement with the premise of the initial objection... The woman was unreasonable (but is that because she's a woman or that she's just an unreasonable person?). (And let's not forget this was on a First-to-breakdown-Scotrail overcrowded commuter train, where tensions tend to be higher than the norm.)

I want equal rights for women, and with that comes equal responsibility. I don't see why men *have* to be sole breadwinners anymore (in a heterosexual relationship...); every couple should come to an agreement that does not depend on the old gender roles.

I don't expect a man to open doors for me (and am still very unsettled by the way some men *refuse* to let me open doors for them, to the extent that they reach past me to hold the damn door even though I've already opened it... trying not being churlish here, but there comes a point where it feels ridiculous). I'd give my seat up on a bus/train for anyone, man/woman/indeterminate of whatever age if they looked uncomfortable standing.

But at the same time, I find myself vaguely unsettled by the bloke's reasoning:

"You're joking, aren't you? What? You want my seat and the right to vote? Forget it."

What the hell has the right to vote have to do with it? Now he's just being a bit of a dinosaur...

But we should consider his reaction: a little more vehement than I would expect. Are we (modern females, that is) ostracising men? Are they frustrated? The writer of the BBC piece considers himself a minority:

But, I suppose, being a member of THE most discriminated against minority (white, middle-aged, heterosexual males) that my opinion will be dismissed as male chauvinist claptrap.

Is that his perception? Or is it real? Are men discriminated against? By who? Other men? Women? As a female, I know that discrimination against women in the workplace is very much alive and kicking. It gets worse the higher up the hierarchy you go. Is this the same for men? Or is it that they see policy makers publically favouring women with tax breaks or maternity leave for having children? While it may look one-sided, my very biased opinion is that these measures are only slowly narrowing the gap. The Bridget Jones and Carrie Bradshaws they may imagine when they think of modern women don't really exist in RealLifeTM.

What next? Will men take to the streets in protest?

05 October 2005

Spin yourself out of this one...

From BBC news: New Orleans sacks 3,000 workers.

Are you trying to tell me that 3000 people who have lost their homes, belongings and maybe even friends or relatives have now also lost their source of income? What utter rot.

Souffle omelette

Souffle omelette
Originally uploaded by framboise.

It seems too me that I've been eating chicken for most of my lunches and dinners (probably because I freeze the excess dinners for lunch...). And although I found a decent source of beef at Whole Foods, I can't bring my stingy self to pay for it regularly. And I've yet to try the lamb. So, tonight, it's the old standby meat-less, tofu-less, pulse-less recipe: souffle omelette.

It's nothing special; the only difference is you beat the egg whites separately from everything else. Which isn't hard if you're only whisking the whites from two or three eggs. (Bulking up to the 6 eggs normally required for cakes takes a bit more time, and lazy git here tends to use an electric whisk for that.)

Ingredients required to feed two (or one greedy guts):

  • 3 eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • a handful of cheese, grated (I'd recommend parmesan, and whatever else you have in. In this instance, I was trying to use up some cheese left by friends, which consisted of fake mozarrella and plastic cheddar - not perfect, but adequate.)
  • seasoning (salt/pepper; when I'm feeling chefy, I add chillies or Moroccan-stylee spices)

See here for a composite of ingredients.


  1. (Turn the grill on... Whack it as high as it'll go)
  2. Beat the egg whites with a super-clean whisk in a super-clean bowl. Needless to say, both bowl and whisk must be desert-dry too.
    When you get to the soft peak stage (you'll know, cos your triceps will start to complain), fold in the egg yolks, grated cheese and seasoning. (Again, this whole folding malarky must be done carefully so you don't collapse the air-inflated egg whites. The figure of eight action is my preferred method.) It's not necessary to mix it well.
  3. Melt a knob of butter in a pan (non-stick if you believe in such things), and flop the mixture in.
  4. Allow to cook until the base is firm enough to move about when you shuggle the pan, but not so long that the whole damn thing solidifies.
  5. Stick the wobbly mixture under the grill and allow a minute (or two) for the mixture to JUST brown (more golden than brown, ok?).
  6. Fold over and serve.

I committed the cardinal sin of letting my omelette cook for 30 seconds too long, and it was a bit more firm than I like... It should be a wee bit sloppy when it comes out of the whole process. (I also beat my egg whites a bit too much cos I was having so much fun...) But if you're worried about salmonella poisoning, I guess you'd be better off cooking it till it's rubbery and killed all the joy of eating a proper omelette.

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03 October 2005


where cats have wings and pigeons don't

Spoiler alert: no plot developments posted, but you may not want to know anything anyway.

Mirrormask, yet another collaboration by Neil Gaiman and David McKean, was everything I expected it to be. And since I can't write a review to save my life (argh, when will i ever finish that damn piece), here's what the LA Times had to say about the movie. And being a lazy git (already established in previous posts), I shall merely comment on snippets of the review....

"Although the plot and motifs are largely borrowed from "The Wizard of Oz" and "Alice in Wonderland," there is something oddly intoxicating about Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman's coming-of-age fantasy "MirrorMask." The teenager's journey through a nightmarish reverie presents hallucinogenic imagery that simultaneously dulls the senses and hot-wires the imagination, but it never fully engages emotionally."

It's the first paragraph, and already I'm in disagreement. What I enjoy about Gaiman's work is that he takes well-known/established stories, and gives them the subversive Gaiman treatment. Like a slightly warped mind telling bedtime stories with elements of Dadaism and stark reality. As for the lack of emotional engagement, it's an oft-made criticism. But that, for me, is part of its charm. You are but an observer in this world of fantasy. If the reviewer was perhaps refering to a lack of empathy for the characters, then again I'd have to disagree. Right from the start, it's clear that though our protaganist leads a life very different to her peers, the dynamics of her relationship with her mother are no different from the norm. That very ordinariness immediately endears her to half the audience (assuming it's 50% female, with their teenage years behind them).

"As out-of-the-ordinary as the Dark Lands and its unusual inhabitants are, the realization of them fails to transcend the rather predictable story McKean conceived with screenwriter Gaiman (a novelist and comic-book writer with a large cult following)."
"Gaiman and McKean never successfully connect the kitchen-sink emotions of the film's real world to Helena's journey through the fantasy world. While a boon to special effects and low-cost filmmaking, digital images still largely project a coolness that keeps our feelings at arm's length."

Perhaps the reviewer has missed the point of the movie. It's not about twists and turns in the plot (that M Night Shayamalan really has spoilt it for all the other storytellers), it's about the journey, how things unfold. As for the digital backdrops, I rather think that was the whole point of them doing this movie now, when the technology has finally caught up with their imagination. These guys are graphic novelists after all. This movie is like a giant graphic novel, with moving bits and atmospheric music.

So, maybe not one for the mainstream audiences (it has a mere week's run in LA; in only one theatre). But does a "mainstream" audience exist anymore? And if it does, what does it watch? Harry Potter and the difficulty-he-must-overcome-with-the-help-of-his-friends? Cos that's fantasy too, dressed in Hollywood clothes.

But if you read comic books when you were younger (or graphic novels if you were posh), this is definitely one for you. If you can't stand even the mild surrealness of Tim Burton's creations, or don't watch a movie unless it's had the word "gritty" in the review, then you might want to watch something else. That maybe has Sean Bean dying in it. Again.

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More tapioca boba than pearls, me...

Tagged by the curious hamster for a meme on where bloggers write their "pearls of wisdom". Ha! I'm much more likely to cook sago pearls than write wisdom. And since I'm avoiding writing work-stuff again, and waiting for the cable guy (who is now three-quarters of an hour late), here is a photo of my new beloved:

Work station 1

As you can see, she sits on my dining table when I'm at home, although sometimes she joins me on the sofa when I'm watching a DVD on the telly. And next to her, the ever-present cuppa. Rationale? I always try to sit facing a window, even if it doesn't have much of a view (the patio is in serious need of some greenery). Anything else is too claustrophobic.

As for tagging people, well... How about Gunnella, manthatcooks and the meme graveyard (Santos)?

Update: Cable guy didn't turn up. Hacked off.

MCC? Male Chauvanist C***s


Ha! Finally, confirmation of my long-held prejudice that stockbrokers are a bunch of nutters.

To stand in somebody else's shoes

In today's theguardian*, Stuart Jeffries talks of understanding our neighbours and, in particular, their religions. Although I'm an out-and-out aetheist, I understand his point about not just "tolerating" our neighbours' differences, but "understanding" them instead.

I was fortunate enough to attend a secular school as a child, which did not enforce its religion on me, the way some Catholic and Methodist-backed schools in S'pore insisted the entire school had daily prayers. Not that that's a bad thing, per se. Just not for me, thanksverymuch.

But even that lack of school or state sponsored religious teaching did not mean that I was cocooned from the world of believers. The beauty of the secularity of my school was that we had girls from almost every major religion in S'pore enrolled. And religious education (RE) was a class you had to choose to take (not that I did, lazy git). Even then, RE classes covered all the major religions, for everyone.

Anyway. My point? Getting there. From an early age, I was friends with Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians (Jews being quite scarce in S'pore). I never thought of myself as tolerating their different beliefs. I didn't really understand the concept of "tolerance"; it just seemed to me that this state of affairs was quite proper and natural. And that's the way I still think it should be.

From discussions at recess time, to being invited to my friends' homes and churches/temples/mosques, I learned enough about each religion to understand that in the majority, teachings of their religious leaders were all about how to lead one's life in the "proper" way, and had absolutely nothing to do with denouncing those different to them. No, that came from the lay people. The bigots who, to make themselves feel special, divided the world into "them" and "us".

And while we're talking about religious divisions, consider the Old Firm. Why can't supporters of Rangers and Celtic just be completely honest with themselves and admit their rivalry has nothing to do with religion anymore, and more about the fact that they are the only two clubs that play good enough football in Scotland to feel absolute enmity for the other?

*I'm liking the way thefiver calls its own employers: "berliner theguardian"...

01 October 2005

Bombs (2?) in Bali

From BBC news: Bali bomb attacks claim 25 lives.

From LA times: Death toll climbs to 25 in Bali blasts.

Update: Now suspected to be suicide attacks. I find it so difficult to understand why tourist areas are targeted in SE Asia. It makes it less about ideology, and more about economic damage or publicity.