the ritual of dinner

October 10, 2010

I’m reading “The Ritual of Dinner” by Margaret Visser that I just got from some friends. It is about the customs of eating together and how they came to be. How could you not love a book that starts with …

“Violence, after all, is necessary if any organism is to ingest another. Animals are murdered to produce meat; vegetables are torn up, peeled, and chopped; most of what we eat is treated with fire; and chewing is designed remorselessly to finish what killing and cooking began. People naturally prefer that none of this should happen to them. Behind every rule of table etiquette lurks the determination of each person present to be a diner, not a dish. It is one of the chief roles of etiquette to keep the lid on the violence which the meal being eaten presupposes.”

I’m looking forward to the rest!


no bull in catalonia

August 5, 2010

I’m very proud of the Catalan government for banning bull-fighting (by 2012) in the autonomous community of Catalonia. The parliamentary vote (67 for the ban, 59 against) was historic in a place that romances the torture of animals; I agree that the art of the matador is elegant, colourful and beautiful, but let’s not overlook the actual act that is being committed.

bull being tortured to death

I am not against people eating meat per se, but to cruelly kill an animal slowly and tauntingly for the pleasure of thousands seems a bit barbaric to me. Now when will the rest of Spain catch up? I won’t hold my breath – tradition is slow to change.

blue blood sucking

May 17, 2010

I just watched a documentary on the relationship between a shorebird and a crab-like creature – the red knot and the horseshoe crab. The birds depend on the excess horseshoe crab eggs as fuel for their multi-day migration from the southern hemisphere to the arctic where they mate.

The horseshoe crab has a very interesting history – it is a very old creature and scientists, ecologists and medical researchers are very interested in it for various reasons. In particular, its miracle blue blood is of great interest to medical researchers and led to a disturbing scene (to me) in the documentary of a row of horseshoe crabs being bled. I couldn’t help thinking of the ethics behind this practice even though the blue blood is life-saving for humans. In fact, this catch-bleed-return policy is not without trouble; there is a 10% to 15% mortality rate.

The medical research and blood extraction is not the horseshoe crab’s worst problem. It was (and still is) over-harvested for use as bait for eel and conch traps. Millions of horseshoe crabs were harvested (easily since they crawl to the beach to lay their eggs) until the effects were seen on the red knot population that depends on them for food. Currently there is a moratorium in some states and the outlook seems promising, but the timing is critical – will the horseshoe crabs rebound before red knots go extinct?

drill baby drill

May 13, 2010

Imagine if John McCain was running things. Little disasters all over the place. Drill baby drill. When will we learn?

alice in wonderland

March 27, 2010

I saw Alice in Wonderland in 3D tonight. It was better than I expected even though 3D is not my favourite way to watch a movie. I like that Tim Burton didn’t overdo the effects and I felt fairly immersed for the most part. It feels like 3D falls apart when the camera quickly pans across a screen. It gives the impression that the bits are rushing to catch up to the focal point of the scene. I’m not sure if this is a shortcoming of the technology or artistic creativity (that I just stomped on). Either way, I feel it ruins the illusion.

Besides the technology, the human actors were also very believable 🙂 – especially the Red Queen, the Mad Hatter, and Alice. The actress who plays Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is fantastic; she reminds me of a young Gwyneth Paltrow. I seem to be one of the few people I know who has never read the books but I am now tempted. Bye…going down the rabbit hole…be back soon.

earth hour sucks

March 23, 2010

Earth hour sucks because:

  • people think that by turning off their lights for an hour they are now environmentalists.
  • people think that they have done their part for the environment and can slack off for the rest of the year.
  • people I know are planning a huge candlelight party with a large carni-BBQ with cold drinks and don’t understand why it’s ironic.
  • the popularity of Earth Hour has made it into a trendy meaningless fad.
  • I think I was correct about the impacts of token behaviour.
  • I heard someone lecture a person in India about how they should be more ‘green’ like us Canadians.

Yeah, Earth Hour has some good points like communicating as a symbol of the changes we can make. So, I’ll do it anyway since I’ll probably be asleep.

burning garbage

February 17, 2010

One of the issues in Goa and especially in Mapusa is the way garbage is dealt with. Garbage is dumped in a huge heap on each street on a spot designated by a concrete circle or square. To deal with the sheer volume of garbage in the city the garbage is periodically lit on fire.

There is no discrimination in what is lit – paper, leaves and other organics, plastic – anything goes. The inevitable stench from plastic burning with all the associated dioxides is often in the air. The garbage situation and the annoying habit of some individuals who insist on throwing their garbage on the street is the worst part of my trip to Goa.