Thursday, March 29, 2007

oh, we're gonna laugh!

"am I excited you ask? well, does a butterfly taste with its feet? do you have maternity binskies? does a kick in the balls hurt? the answer is yes, if you were wondering."

"i just saw an account at work with the name Mr. and Mrs. Balls. hahahahaha. i would NOT change my name if that was my husband's name. how do you even say your name seriously. 'table for Mr.Balls. that's b-a-l-l-s. BALLS.'"

privatisation of a public good

Now on tap at upscale restaurants – tap water


Associated Press

BERKELEY, CALIF. — Bye-bye bottled water. Hello eau de tap. A new trend is in the pipeline, with some upscale restaurants ditching packaged H2O in the name of conservation.

The bottled water backlash, which recently spread to the venerable Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, is spurred by environmental concerns over the energy used in transportation as well as the disposal of all those containers.

“We just decided this was something we had to do,” said Mike Kossa-Rienzi, general manager of Chez Panisse, where owner Alice Waters has pioneered the eat local, eat fresh concept. “It just makes sense to us to not have to use all the energy and resources to bottle water in Italy and then truck it to our restaurant and then after that deal with the recycling of it.”

Chez Panisse stopped serving bottled non-sparkling water last year and expects to stop serving bottled carbonated water in a few weeks, just as soon as the restaurant's new carbonator is installed, said Mr. Kossa-Rienzi, who visited a San Francisco restaurant, Incanto, to see how it made the switch some years ago.

Across the San Francisco Bay at Poggio in Sausalito, Larry Mindel has been serving filtered tap water — he has a machine that filters and carbonates — since the restaurant opened in 2003.

Environmental concerns are one factor. Another is price. Even though he could charge diners double or triple what he pays for water, he said it gives him a “stab” to pay so much — or charge others — for something that falls from the sky.

“Haven't you gone to a restaurant and they just expect you to order two or three bottles of water and it's $27 by the time you're done?” he said. “I just thought that from a consumer's point of view that they were getting shortchanged.”

While lots of restaurants serve tap water, the trend of upscale places going exclusively to tap appears to be new, said Gigi Kellett, associate campaigns director for Corporate Accountability International, a Boston-based group that is campaigning against bottled water as privatizing a public resource.

Not surprisingly, the notion of giving up the bottle fizzled with the International Bottled Water Association, based in Alexandria, Va. Spokesman Stephen Kay argued the switch wouldn't have that big of a conservation impact and restricts customer choices.

On the other hand, Susan Leal, general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, said the switch will let city water shine.

“They're taking a step against the, I believe, deception that's going on out there, which is that somehow bottled water is superior to tap water,” Ms. Leal said.

Switching to municipal water can put a damper on profits since there's a healthy markup on bottled water — no sommelier savvy required.

Back when he banned the bottle, Mr. Mindel recalls other restaurateurs raised their eyebrows and asked if he knew what he was doing. In fact, said Mr. Mindel, he did.

“It's not like we've got bad water here. Our water's terrific,” Mr. Mindel said. “I don't think we've had one single person that's said, ‘Oh, can't you bring me Perrier?'”

Customer Joan Nitis certainly endorsed the no-bottle approach Wednesday as she lunched at Poggio with Anita Pira.

“I love that,” she said. “Usually I don't have water in a restaurant, but here I do. It's just refreshing.”

Ms. Pira appreciated not having to pay extra for water.

“We can buy more wine,” she said with a smile.

i really hope that drinking tap water becomes fashionable because bottled water in canada, the us, and europe has really bugged me for some time. if you have clean drinking water coming out of your tap, then drink it. paying for it to be processed, bottled, and delivered is just silly, not to mention wasteful. if you can drink water coming out of your tap then it means that you are living in a wealthy country and there are so many millions of people who are dying because they cannot.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

ginger snap!

i baked ginger snaps last night and they were truly delicious. this baking kick i am on lately makes me want to open a bakery. those crave ladies are really on to something and i think it would be so much more rewarding to work for yourself. but international development isn't really welcoming to the entrepreneurial spirit. actually sometimes i think it kills your spirit instead of inspiring any new ideas.

whoops, let a bit of frustration slip out there.

my answer to the question Should HPV vaccinations be extended to young men? is yes. i understand the reasons behind not approving a vaccination without first testing it among the population that will use it, but how does anyone expect to stop the transmission of a sexually transmitted disease if both genders are not targeted? just seems silly. and why do women have to be the ones who have the vaccine? we get another poke or cancer, just doesn't seem fair. but a vaccine for hpv, which causes cervical cancer, i give that two thumbs up.

i am wearing linen pants today for perhaps the first time in my life. and how is it that i have not discovered the beauty of linen before now?! they are like pyjamas. at work. pyjamas at work!

this past weekend i went horseback riding. thought i should mention that. loved it. want to go back. i forgot how much i love being on horseback. when i am rich and famous or marry someone rich and famous, i will spend my fortune on horses. and eradicating guinea worm. it would be a nice existence.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

not that i'm counting

3 sleeps until my sister arrives.
4 sleeps until the rest of the fam arrives.
5 sleeps until i can eat chocolate.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

one afternoon

i'm writing this on the back of a job description i've printed this morning as i sit on an uncomfortable bench at the unhcr offices of nairobi. i'm in the waiting area, trying to make myself comfortable while simultaneously exercising patience, along with about 100 people waiting to be interviewed to determine their refugee status. i cannot recall a time where i've felt this much hope in one place. people from all over east africa are dressed in their best clothes, anxiously awaiting information that will undoubtedly dictate their future. adults sit quietly and still as children play in the concrete compound, unaware of why they've come here or the importance of the meetings their parents are about to have. men wash themselves in preparation for prayers while women from 15 to 65 chatter in languages i cannot identify let alone understand.

i find myself wondering about each person's story, where they've come from, why they are claiming refugee status, and mostly, where they will end up. i often say that nairobi is a transient city, with people from all over the world constantly entering and exiting this expat community that is host to un and ngo employees, business people, and tourists. but nairobi is also home to another transient community that is often forgotten or ignored, those seeking refuge.

they've come here today believing that the un can help them, they've brought their documents in closely guarded envelopes and folders. they want to talk to me thinking i might be able to influence the decisions about to be made. because i am white. because i have official identification hanging around my neck. and maybe because it is worth a shot if you're future is what is at stake.

i am struck by the sense of family here. fathers (or perhaps grandfathers, age is so difficult to determine among people of other ethnicities) of young girls in matching dresses purchase plates of food for them to share, possibly foregoing his own lunch so children don't go hungry. girls, who under other circumstances would be in their school uniforms, tucked away in their desks in classrooms, are entertaining themselves by playing a game of cat and mouse with discarded plastic bags. brothers try to teach their infant siblings to walk, pacing up and down the concrete slabs, careful to avoid the large cracks and steps and family units, however broken or reconstructed, stick together, waiting for their number to be called. i suppose if you are to be resettled in another country, your family is the foundation upon which you will begin your new life.

one interview, two interviews, three interviews later, people are still here. and this afternoon that is punctuated by the smell of roasted goat meat and the flickering of al jazeera on a muted television will change the course of so many lives. and the the lives of generations yet to come. and this is only one afternoon.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

cookie crumbs

(march 20, 2007)

i have been in the baking mood lately. i have had 2 butternut squash(es?) sitting in my pantry (or larder as we discovered people from that other commonwealth country in the northern hemisphere call it) and i really wasn’t sure how much longer they would keep so i had my housekeeper cut it up today so i could make some cookies with it. i was trying a new recipe and it did cross my mind that cookies with squash in them might not turn out so well, but i think the existence of squash on the list of ingredients was the least of my worries. the cookies flattened out too much, got stuck to the cookie sheet, and crumbled when i attempted to remove them.

cumbly cookies are not such a problem. the real problem lies in the little known fact that there are actually no calories in crumbs. i know, perhaps you had not heard this before and you are right now questioning everything you thought you knew about the universe, including doubting those other well-known theories like gravity and relativity. but ‘tis a fact long acknowledged that there are no calories in crumbs.

of course the problem i faced tonight is not that there are no calories in crumbs but that when you bake dozens of cookies that are all crumbling, that leaves A LOT of calorieless crumbs to be eaten. and eaten they were. but even if cookie crumbs don’t have calories in them, they still make you feel really gross after eating so many. yuck.

and the worst part is that i am still wondering what went wrong with the cookies. why would cookies go so flat and crumbly? i will pass this one over to the resident baker for her contemplation and assessment.

but those crumbs sans calories? delicious. really too bad they didn’t stay in a more stable form.

if i being honest, i am quite alarmed at the wealth of words i could come up with tonight to discuss my baking mishap. i sound like an old gran. a hip old gran sure, but still an old gran. does it count that i was drinking a beer while i was baking? cause i was. so there.

by hand from scratch

(march 16, 2007)

i watched a movie called Between Strangers tonight and it was so nice to watch something that takes place in canada and is not simply filmed in our country with our cities acting as stand-ins for their american counterparts. they talked about the Gardiner and at one point they were in a Chapters store. it really made me think about how canadians don’t see themselves represented on the big screen and i wonder if this has something to do with our identity and all the criticisms we fend off about not having much of one. did anybody see The Republic of Love? another good canadian movie based on the Carol Shields book of the same name.

i made minestrone by hand from scratch and it turned out marvellously. but let me offer a cooking tip here: use good noodles even if you are going to be putting them into a soup. i didn’t get the good ones cause i figured it would not make much difference as they would only be an element of the larger whole. should have used the good noodles. i will serve this soup tomorrow at my potluck dinner party along with mangolicious tilapia. not sure if they really go together. but i also drink red wine with everything even if white would be more ‘appropriate’ so what do i care. now if only those mangoes would hurry up and ripen.

i managed to redeem my god awful run of tuesday evening with a shorter but much stronger run this evening. i am still going too fast to lengthen my runs to anything over 45 minutes comfortably. gotta work on that. but i was feeling good and my lungs didn’t feel like they were bleeding this time. you know what sucks? when you are hoofing it up a hill and out of nowhere a kenyan who is clearly on their way home from work, sporting their work clothes, non-running shoes, and their kenyan style umbrella* in their hand merrily passing you with their sprightly steps without even breaking a sweat.

i received The Kooks cd in the mail over a month ago and i have only really given it a proper listen this evening. good stuff. very good stuff. end-to-end cd listening good stuff.

i just realised that every single paragraph i have just written began with i. mmm… i suppose that confirms the opinion that blogs are really just little soapboxes that we can use to talk about ourselves in a rather narcissistic manner. or ramble on about your daily activities assuming someone will take the time to read about movies you’ve watched, things you’ve cooked, runs you’ve redeemed, and music you’ve listen to.

*kenyan style umbrella = similar to a golf umbrella in size and seems to be the only type of brelly sold in this country

habari ya leo? nzuri sana, asante

juzi nilienda mkahawa kwa rafiki yangu. tulikunywa kahawa na chai na tulisema halafu tulirudi nyumbani na nilisoma kitabu na nilikula vita vingu. rafiki yangu anarudi nyumbani na tulikula pamoja na rafiki yake. yeye anakaa pamoja rafiki yangu na mimi.

jana nilienda kazi lakini sipendi kufanya kazi. nilipenda kulala jioni lakini nilihitaji kuenda kifaransa. sijui kifaransa na sipendi kusema kwa sababu sitaki kifaransa. halafu nilikuja nyumbani na nilipika mboga na nilikula na nilikunywa maji na chai. nilijifunza kiswahili. ninafikiri ninajua vitu vingi na ninafikiri nitaenda sokoni na nitanunua chakula kama samaki, nyanya, maharagwe, mayai, mvinyo, matunda, avakado, dhania, na pile pile. sitanunua koko kwa sababu lent.

asubuhi nilitembea kwa kazi kwa sababu karibu na nyumba yangu. nina vita vingu kufanya kama kutembelea na kufikiri na kuenda chakula cha mchana. jioni nitacheza mpira na kuoga.

kesho tutapika keki pamoja tangawizi na kwa hivyo sitalala kwa sababu nina tatu vingu kufanya. rafiki yangu ataenda na atatembelea pamoja mimi. yeye atasaidia kutakataka halafu tutalala.

Monday, March 19, 2007

socially conscious spending

i went to this shop called amani on the weekend. although you cannot yet shop online, check out the website if you like. most of their stuff is not on it, but their basics are and i enjoy them. i bought a handbag and although it was overpriced for kenyan standards, i felt good spending money on yet another bag and supporting a women's sewing project.

it made me think that i need to be creative in whatever job i do. and not just think of new ways of doing something but actually making things. sewing. kniting. crafting. baking. creating.

just a small thought on a rather quiet and melancholy weekend full of too many big thoughts.

Friday, March 16, 2007

fresh batch of undies

last night i had written something to post today and then i forgot it at home on a flashdisk. i also forgot my phone, which makes me feel liberated and out of touch at the same time. i think i was flustered with the presence of a half dressed german in my kitchen this morning, eating my grapefruit over the kitchen sink.

instead i will post about the package i just received in the mail. oh how i love mail. this time my package included the following:

  • new jann arden cd (where did she go? there is like half of her left but she does look damn good)
  • 3 pairs of comfy knickers a la old navy
  • 2 dip mixes (right in time for a potluck dinner party that i am hosting tonight)
  • a letter from una desmadre mexicana (jaja, ya sabes que es broma)
  • a nice note from my mama

un mil gracias!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

the mean streets of nairobi

i went for a run last night. and i am pretty sure that i left part of my lung on the road. it was that tough. i couldn't get my pace right and i think it had something to do with the music choice, i went too fast too soon and paid for it on my way back in.

i also think i should invest in some running shorts/capris that are little longer as the length of my shorts might be considered indecent. but i just get too hot in my long pants. too bad there is not a winner's in a thousand mile radius. (i have no idea how far a thousand miles actually is, it could be somewhere in mali or the midwestern us for all i know, but it seemed like the appropriate expression to use there).

as i was running i was thinking about how the running room-ers in calgary yell out all the potential dangers on the pathways - 'bike,' 'ice,' 'dog,' 'pole,' 'curb.' then i thought how hilarious it would be if i yelled out all the potential dangers on my runs (and not just because i run alone and that in itself would be even more indecent than the length of my shorts) - 'armed soldier,' 'potentially rabid dog,' 'speeding semi truck,' 'ditch filled with stagnant water,' 'smoke from burning garbage,' 'exhaust,' 'crumbling speed bump,' 'rocks and other debris,' 'setting sun.'

Thursday, March 08, 2007

playing catch up

i feel as though my life is getting away from me and i am struggling to catch up to it. for someone who likes to have some level of control over things, this is a titch unsettling.

between my current workload, waiting to hear about a contract extension, the job search, house guests, lack of sleep, a missed french class, a day off work, spending money on taxis, taxis, and more taxis, and feeling like a sausage - i need to rebalance.

i had spent a few weeks trying to rebalance only to be right back where i started. well, i am a lot less hung over this friday than i was last friday so i suppose that is something. nothing like having to leave work due to a creeping hang over.

so let the rebalancing begin. or start again.

Monday, March 05, 2007

in 1 weekend

2: house guests
7: bags of mini cheddars delivered
10: episodes of grey's anatomy
3: consecutive nights of late nights
1: lunar eclipse
7: kilometres driven on roads that demanded a 4x4, in a car
4: girls in pyjamas sitting around watching izzy and meredith and yang around 1 laptop
1: encounter with the coup
0: clever things i could think of to say to the coup
2: naps needed
1: possible self-induced illness
30: minutes before i had to be at work that i rolled out of bed on monday morning