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Archive for October, 2010

Ms. Yubari, a crossword and . . . a purple rabbit?

Today was Trick or Eat, Meal Exchange’s annual food drive. Every year I dress up as an obscure pop culture reference that no one gets, except this year, I thought that people have seen Kill Bill. Boy was I wrong.

Anyways, today’s random fact came from the weapon Gogo uses, which I recently discovered is called a meteor hammer.  It’s kind of brilliant, because as long as you don’t get to close to the person you are trying to kill, you will have the upper hand (assuming you know how to use it).  Wikipedia has a pretty good description of basic maneuvers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteor_hammer

Man, when people devote their lives (and brain cells) to killing others, amazing(ly weird) things are invented.

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While I was in Bogor, Indonesia this summer, I spent most of my time at the CIFOR (Centre for International Forestry Research) building, which had a fully stocked, cheap cafeteria with consistently yummy options.

The first day when Marie and I left CIFOR to make a visit to the university, IPB, we noticed a marked paucity of any food options.   We suddenly realized that it was Ramadan, and so no one, including us, would be eating until 6 pm that day.   Being genetically half hobbit, I need at least six meals a day, and I was not prepared for this.

The situation resolved itself at 6 without my stomach eating my spleen as I feared it would, but I went home feeling extremely worried.  How on earth would I get through weeks without food when the sun shone?  Being one from a politically incorrect family, I’ll just say it: I didn’t like it very much.    No one keeps Gu from getting her six meals a day!

Bogor, at least where we lived, was one of those smaller towns with those quintessential open gutters lining the unpaved roads and the shops selling single packets of shampoo.

Bogor, Indonesia

I noticed that it was a *big* deal for the children to get dressed in white robes, and pretty much the entire town would come out at 8 pm every night for prayers, once Ramadan started.  The streets would be pitch black, but everyone would be either praying, or the younger kids would be playing outside or buying puffs of tofu from a street vendor for ten cents.

I remembered when the Olympics hit Vancouver, and on the last day, the entire country held its breath as we spanked defeated the Americans in men’s ice hockey.  Here’s one of my favourite videos:

What’s not to love about a Canadian-flag-turbaned-middle-aged-Sikh-man hugging and screaming a probaby-a-stranger-and-also-conspicuously-half-naked-college-aged-caucasian-and-also-probably-not-Sikh-man?  It’s everything great about being Canadian, wrapped up in a youtube video.

I started to notice that one of the great things about the Olympics, and the hockey game specifically, was that it allowed the country to channel our collective psychic powers on a greater good.  Hell, even my extremely Chinese mother looked up “power play” for that game.  In Canada, a land of immigrants, we are all so varied it is difficult to find those things that tie everyone together, and I think that after the Olympics many were still craving the feeling of national unity and a sense of community that is almost impossible to cultivate.   The funny thing is, it takes something as trivial as a game where people shoot rubber pucks around to bring us together, because anything more meaningful than hockey would surely elicit a greater degree of discord.

Imagine if an entire community could come together over something as powerful and substantial as spiritual faith.   For Bogor, every night, especially during Ramadan, was like watching the gold medal hockey game.  Every night was the collective channeling of energies, and every night was a chance to share in something more significant than menial individual worries.  Ramadan was not about getting cranky from a lack of food; it was a celebration, and it involved everything from special desserts to widespread participation in a common celebration.  And it happened every night.

I eventually came to believe that Ramadan was quite beautiful, and my stomach soon adjusted to the idea that meals were sometimes less predictable than would be back home.   CIFOR did serve us amazing food during this month, and one of the best parts of Ramadan was the amazing, syruppy goodness that is kolak.   O, the simple joys.

coconut milk + palm sugar = kolak

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*Ripped from my facebook wall*

For a Halloween inspired exercise, try coming up with a more original costume idea than 80% of women by using the following phrase: sexy (insert noun here). I used an online random word generator and came up with:

Sexy drama, sexy brightness, sexy watch, sexy alcohol, sexy establishment, sexy pharmacy, sexy orchestra . . .. I should have stuck to concrete nouns I guess .

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I was on http://www.TED.com today and lo and behold, this was a featured talk.

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Today our guest lecturer in Conservation gave a talk on “effective” bio controls used within Canada to attack invasive plant species. By effective, we are talking about the introduction of up to seven insects to wipe out a plant with pretty flowers, which will be replaced with an equally rapacious weed with no flowers that is also an introduced species considered invasive.

She proceeded to end the lecture with the sign off: “Biological controls are the only way to control invasive species effectively in the long term” (I think I’m paraphrasing). Doesn’t that mean we are all doomed?
I don’t get it.

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***Disclaimer**** I am no expert on foreign policy.  I am also no expert on biological management.  *But* I am an expert on combining unrelated topics in ways that are confusing.

In a conservation biology course I am taking, we are discussing invasive species, common examples of which include zebra mussels which clog the Great Lakes intake pipes (where I used to live) and English Ivy which chokes trees in the Pacific Northwest (where I now live).  The process itself takes several steps

If the species that is invading is considered pesky, and depending on where you are in the process, management will take different courses of action in dealing with them.  There are generally three methods: prevention, before a species “lands,” eradication, before a species establishes, and control, when things have gotten too out of hand to kill everything and requires an effort simply to reduce the potential damage.

On the weekend, I attended a talk by Robert Fowler, a former Canadian diplomat held by the North Africa franchise of Al Qaeda for over 120 days.  He has come under some flak for suggesting that Canada, and by association, the rest of the world, pull out of Afghanistan and focus on controlling Al Qaeda’s expansion in Northern Africa. The link is below

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/fowler-blasts-ottawas-inaction-in-africa/article1514913/

There is a lot of tension amongst US policy makers over whether or not the American withdrawl date of July 2011 is appropriate or not.  Why all this disagreement?

If Al Qaeda were analogous to a pesky  invasive species, then General Patreus and Mr. Fowler could perhaps have different views on status of their “biological establishment” within Afghanistan.  Mr. Fowler might view establishment as already having taken place; he has given up on the likelihood of eradication within the Middle East, and he is focused on the control of their spread and mitigation of damage in North Africa.  Those that are critical of the pullout date might believe that either eradication is still possible, or that the mitigation of damage later on is too costly.  Doesn’t part of the disagreement stem from different perceptions of their status of establishment?

Maybe a little too simplistic, but it is nice to see that zebra mussels have something to tell us about one of the greatest threats to international peace in the 21st century.

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Check out this article about the increased rates of food bank users in places where they would not have turned up a few years ago. In my other life I work for Meal Exchange, and in the beginning it was difficult for me to even grasp the idea that you could keep up the pretense of being relatively affluent (most university students) and yet still not have enough to eat. It seems like this is not only a problem on campuses but one that can pretty much strike anywhere.

http://www.economist.com/node/17257857?story_id=17257857.

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