Yearly Archives: 2007

The Chef’s Wicked Chocolate Beer

Remember Chocolate Beer?

Now, I’ve had lots of chocolate beers. If you close your eyes, you generally have to think of chocolate real hard to imagine that flavour being there. This is different. This brew exactly fulfils the promise of the words “Chocolate Beer”. It is wonderful! [...] So popular is the Chocolate Beer that we couldn’t get any bottles while we were in Margaret River, but I’m planning on ordering some slabs now I’m home.

I remembered! I ordered! I received! It’s bigger than the boy!

Crates of chocolate beer

I got stuck in!

Opening the chocolate beer

As with all beer, it’s important to pour it into a glass to activate its full flavour potential. Penny advises drinking it from a nice red wine glass to concentrate the flavour more than a stein can achieve. Ah, the sweet aroma touches your nose as you raise your glass, then the chocolate hits your mouth. It has a short flavour, but not so short it leaves you unsatisfied or drinking too quickly to try and get enough.

Drinking the chocolate beer

Does it live up to memory? Pen and I think it is not as good as when we had it in Yallingup, but that is the nature of exporting beer. That is the nature of place. We’ll be back to Margaret River. But until then, this interstate bottled beer is nonetheless quite wonderful.

Thanks to the chef, Danial!

Whisky imported and local

Whisky with Harris:

Glen Ord (Highland) The Singleton 12 year old
Strong bourbon flavour, but you can drink it straight.
Caol Ila (Islay) 18 year old
Smoked rather than smoky aroma. Upfront it’s like Ardbeg with pepper, but it finishes with a bit too much saltiness for me.

Whisky with Rob:

Highland Park (Orkney) 16 year old
Smells refined, tastes rough.
Scapa (Orkney) 14 year old
Slightly fiery, basic whisky flavour.

(I also want to mention the very nice Maxime Trijol XO cognac that Rob bought me for my 30th birthday. It lacks the harshness of most cognacs. It’s like a platter of fruit, the layers washing over your tongue. Recommended.)

Whisky at Enoteca:

Sullivans Cove (Australia) bourbon cask 6 year old
Some whiskies are fiery, but this is fire. Burns away the inside of your mouth, then heats your body, and pushes out of your ears and pores. Like no other whisky I’ve tasted. Recommended.

Star Wars ordering

Channel Ten has been playing Star Wars, which has got me thinking about viewing order again.

As you know, I am an advocate of story order (aka production order): Episode IV, V, VI, I, II, III. This is how the story was told, and this is how it makes the most sense, I think. In this order, it is a revelation that Darth is Anakin, a surprise that Anakin was just a kid when he was “already a great pilot”, ironic that Palpatine is the insidious menace.

Some people prefer the fictional chronological order (aka episode order): Episode I, II, III, IV, V, VI. This doesn’t seem as obvious to me as it does to others. You lose the points that I mentioned above, and more. On the other hand, it sets up its own evasive meanings, I guess. In this order, there is a strong through-line for the story of balance, Episode IV echoes Anakin’s elusiveness in Episode I but with added irony, and the Jedi and Sith interest in immortality is clearer.

Then there is the sense that the original trilogy has become a myth, and can be taken as assumed for a little while, the better to have our misunderstandings exposed. Rewatching the original trilogy after the new trilogy really makes you see things from a different “point of view”. In this order, Ben is shown to be a crazy old man, Yoda’s wisdom is similarly undermined, and you can really hear Hayden Christensen behind that mask.

Channel Ten’s order was what you might call episode (subject to rights) order: Episode I, II, IV, V, VI. This is rubbish, but it does suggest an intriguing order: Episode I, II, IV, V, VI, III. In this order, we cut from the beginning of war to its aftermath, it is a revelation that Darth is Anakin, and there is a building tension concerning what happened to Padme.

But the best ordering I’ve heard came from a friend of a friend: Episode IV, V, I, II, III, VI. Wow! This really ratchets up the drama of the original trilogy, while undermining its meanings from within. In this order, it is a revelation that Darth is Anakin, we cut from this to the explanation of how Anakin become Darth, and the tension following Episode V’s cliff-hanger ending just builds and builds. What do you think?

Care for the future

December 1 is World AIDS Day.

Governments, churches, and the developed world are in deep denial.

There were 2.1 million dead this year from AIDS (1.6 million in Sub-Saharan Africa). There were also environmental casualties: endangered animals being poached, natural “resources” being depleted.

AIDS especially hits people in their prime working ages. In Africa, the sick and the weak turn to lucrative earners like poaching, or easy earners like overfishing shallow water stock. Patrols cannot stop them as they too are reduced by staff falling ill or leaving to care for the ill. Wild foods and medicinal plants are overharvested to help the ill. Logging increases to supply coffins for the dead.

(See New Scientist (subscription required) or The Environment Times for more information.)

In every sense, AIDS can take away a person’s ability to care for the future.

Australia without Howard

I first voted in 1996; John Howard won that election, and the subsequent three elections. I started blogging in 1999; John Howard has been Prime Minister the whole time.

I hated him in 1999, but he was just another politician, and I was young and angry. In fact, that was the time of his one really good achievement: aiding East Timor’s independence. It was in 2001 that he truly became something to be scared of.

Now John is gone. He was a fighter. In parliament for 33 years. While in opposition, he was deputy leader of the Liberal Party from 1983–1985, leader from 1985–1989, then leader again from 1995. While in government, his deputy leader couldn’t depose him. His party couldn’t depose him. Obviously the only way he was going was horizontal. On Saturday, Maxine McKew claimed the victory that Howard wouldn’t graciously concede. History being made as a Prime Minister was unseated. The icing on the cake of the Labor victory.

Some now say it was inevitable, demonstrating the only thing that was truly inevitable: unreflective hindsight. I was worried. John Howard most certainly could have won. Australian voters made a difference. Why? Who knows.

I am hoping that Kevin Rudd is just another politician. I am hoping that we will see a gradual return to politics as annoyance, rather than politics as arbitrary law making, law breaking, rights abuse and fear. It will take time and is not guaranteed. Alexander Downer, Kevin Andrews, and Phil Ruddock are with us yet. And the other ministers who contributed to the climate of fear. Brendan Nelson has been elected new Liberal leader on the fear vote. America and Britain are still governed by dangerous parties. And of course it was Labor who cynically supported the invasion of East Timor, Labor who introduced mandatory detention centres, Labor who did or went along with so many things…

For now, let me just say: goodbye John Howard, and good riddance, you evil piece of shit.

Cotton Wedding Anniversary

We couldn’t do what was planned, because of rain, so we went for a lovely drive up to Warrandyte. Then we went to the Catholic wedding of one of Penny’s cousins. Afterwards, the rain cleared for us.

Monday the 3rd of December 2007—two years later—we drove to Darling Gardens, with Daniel, and exchanged vows and rings in the same spot, again.

Then it was home to drop Daniel with my mum for babysitting, and off to the cousin’s reception.

Pen and Dave (with Dan) on their second wedding anniversary

Senate means Council of Elders

Ah! Isn’t life so much more pleasant when you can turn on the telly after a long day at work and not be assaulted by politicians and their hacks? I feel better already.

We’re almost there. Time for some civics.

If you vote for a candidate in the Senate, and they don’t make it, your vote then passes to the next candidate you have preferenced, and so on, until your vote passes to a candidate who is elected. Even then, it is likely that the candidate will have more votes than the quota required to win a seat, so a fraction of your vote will continue onwards, repeating the whole process, until all the seats are filled.

How you direct your preferences is important! Don’t let a stupid political party do it for you—and when it comes to directing preferences, all political parties get stupid. Remember the DLP getting up in the Victorian state upper house election.

Victoria has twelve Senate seats. Six are up for election. That means three Liberal, two Labor, and one Family First candidate are the baseline you have to build on this Saturday. You have three Liberal, two Labor, and one Democrat seat to work with.

Check out this cheat sheat for below-the-line voting in Victoria (via Damien). Here’s my brief summation:

GOOD

  • What Women Want
  • Independent – Tejay M Sener
  • Independents – John Perkins and Andrew Conway
  • Independents – Tony and Amanda Klein
  • ALP
  • Greens
  • Democrats
  • Nationals – Simon Swayn

SINGLE ISSUE

  • Climate Change Coalition
  • Carers Alliance

LOSERS

  • Independents – Joseph Toscano and Jude Pierce
  • Conservatives for Climate and Environment
  • Senator On-Line
  • LDP
  • Independent – Darryl O’Bryan
  • Socialist Alliance
  • Socialist Equality Party
  • Independent – Norman Walker

EVIL

  • Independents – Joseph Kaliniy and Koulla Mesaritis
  • Liberal
  • DLP
  • Non-Custodial Parents Party
  • Family First
  • Australian Shooters Party
  • Citizens Electoral Council
  • Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group)
  • One Nation
  • One Nation WA – Llewellyn John Groves

(Note to Andrew: your preferred Senate party is only fielding three candidates, so, at the very least you should think about who your next three preferences are going to. (And also note. :-) ))

John W Howard

I’ve heard lots of people, normal and political, say they “feel that there is barely any difference between the Government and Opposition”.

In 2000, I keenly followed the American presidential election campaign. There was a lot of information available to me via the blogosphere (on blogs with regular topics ranging from the quotidian to technology to radical activism) and online media. I came to the same conclusion as a lot of Americans: that there was barely any difference between Gore and Bush.

In the eight months following Bush’s inauguration, I didn’t know anyone who thought that any more. Post September 11, it seems insane to have ever thought that.

The problem was, what we should have been thinking was, there is barely any difference between Gore’s and Bush’s campaign media strategies. As there is barely any difference between Howard’s and Rudd’s campaign media strategies. Because a) we don’t care enough about what matters, b) the media only cares about advertising via entertainment, and c) in an election campaign, the parties involved only care about winning. But that’s not important right now.

What is important is recognising that a Liberal government will be different from a Labor government. That at the coming election, we have a choice. Because we know that Labor governments are different from Liberal governments. We know the Government’s people are different from the Opposition’s people. But most of all because we know the Howard Government has been responsible for the increased oppression of (off the top of my head) Iraqis, refugees, foreign workers, immigrants, the children of immigrants, Muslims, homosexuals, the mentally ill, and aboriginals. That is, foreigners, foreigners in Australia, foreigners in Australia, Australians, Australians, Australians, Australians, Australians, and Australians. The Liberals have made Australia a more dangerous place. The Liberals have made the world a more dangerous place for Australians.

John Howard lies. John Howard evades responsibility. Is that you, Australia?

Don’t lie. Don’t evade responsibility. Your vote makes a difference.

John Howard

It’s been five years since I’ve even mentioned John Howard on this blog.

It’s been six years since I’ve talked about him in a political context. That was before Tampa.

John Howard used to be a symbol in my heart. Now, he is not. There are those he wants killed. Those he has had or allowed to be kidnapped, imprisoned or deported. So many he has impoverished in so many ways. I can’t stand him looking after me any more.

Eight years ago… well, I was a lot angrier then. I guess my anger is different now. I certainly miss the humble John of his first term. Then he would not say sorry. Now he says sorry, but it is not an apology. We are an impoverished nation; our moral economy has never looked so bad.

I don’t know where to start. I don’t even know if I can start. If I will start. But—

If you are going to vote Liberal, don’t talk to me about it. If you are going to preference them, don’t talk to me about it. If you are going to support parties that provide the Liberals support through preferences, don’t talk to me about it. I know. And I don’t want to talk about it.

Stairs

If you’re supposed to be the superior race of the universe, why don’t you try climbing after us?

Destiny of the Daleks (1979)

Daleks don’t like stairs.

The Chase (1965)

[both attributed to Terry Nation, ha ha ha!]

A writer at Top Gear expresses an idea similar to HR Giger on mammal eyes versus insect eyes:

But also, a biped is somehow more friendly. That’s why prop makers gave C-3PO legs and Daleks wheels. We can predict from the body language what a biped is going to do next. A wheeled robot can scoot off in any direction.

Well, in any direction but up the stairs.

A lot of jokes have been made at the Daleks’ expense, but isn’t this, in fact, to cover up our anxiety? They challenge! Imagine: a world without steps, a world without ladders! A world without discrimination against wheelchairs and people with trouble walking!

Human Nature, Car Nature

Why does the posted speed limit matter? Maybe the chosen speed limit is too high or too low. It might just be the default speed of the municipality. Maybe the level of signage or of enforcement is different on different streets. Why do collision statistics matter? Perhaps the street is perceived as so dangerous for pedestrians that nobody walks along it anymore. Just because no pedestrians have been hit by cars, it does not mean that the street is safe.

Timothy Stillings & Ian Lockwood

To understand how shared space works, it is important to move away from reliance on “rights” and laws, and to recognize the potential for conventions and protocols.

Ben Hamilton-Baillie, shared space expert [forum topic: Road priority conventions, 13-2-2007]

If you walk into a church, you don’t start tap-dancing.

Jos Duivenvoorden, Bendigo’s roads engineer

Riding in the City

It can be hard riding in the city.

I wonder at the sanity of the people riding down Lygon Street in peak hour. No room! no room! A week ago I saw a car bump a rider, but not enough to knock the rider off. The rider kept on riding, didn’t even seem to notice. How must it be for regular riders, that one can be so whatever about it?

Riding with a trailer is scary. You’re wider—enough wider. Wide enough to fall off the edge, or catch on something. And you’re a lot longer. You really have to plan your corners. (And the trailer is heavy. I laughed at Pen saying she got dragged backwards down one steep hill. But I tried it myself. The real problem is not getting dragged backwards. My legs are powerful enough to move forwards, upwards. The problem is the weight pulls my front wheel of the ground. I lose stability. I had to get off and walk the bike up that hill. Harder work, but safer.) So it’s scary riding on the road. Those crazy drivers get too close, and you’ve got a baby on board. So we try to stay behind-the-scenes, but sometimes we can’t.

Amsterdam is very different.

There are developed cities that aren’t the same as Melbourne, but they are museum cities, like Prague or Venice.

Amsterdam is very different.

Amsterdam is alive. Amsterdam is a world centre. It hosts one of the world’s big stock exchanges. Major companies operate out of Amsterdam (I used to work for one). It’s a modern western city.

But bikes rule Amsterdam. I’ve seen a cop car jam on its brakes to avoid a cyclist who (rightfully) ignored them. And the city is lovely and flat and easy to get around on the pig iron bikes they all ride (to try and avoid bike thieves).

That’s just… a challenge to the way we think about cities. The challenge is, don’t think Amsterdam is very different, and that’s why they ride bikes, and therefore Melbourne (or your city) could never be like that. The challenge is, think, they have chosen to ride bikes, you could too, and that is what makes them different, you could be different too.

(Don’t think it’s a utopia though, the bikes rule with an iron fist, and pity the poor pedestrian who doesn’t move fast enough.)

Which brings us to…

West Palm Beach (in the United States) has been working on traffic calming since 1992, reducing street sizes, levelling the grade between street and footpath, and removing traffic signs (including street markings). Trips are faster and accidents fewer.

Drachten (in Nederland) implemented a shared space scheme in 2003: all traffic lights, signs and street markings were removed from the city centre. Previously the city had an average of eight accidents per year; this has dropped to zero. At one particular intersection, there were 36 casualties in the four years before the change; in the first two years after, there were only two. Traffic jams in the main intersection, which handles 22,000 cars a day, have been eliminated.

(London) Kensington’s High Street (in the United Kingdom) implemented a naked street policy, clearing it of signs, markings and barriers, in 2003. There was a sustained drop in average casualties per year from 71 to 40.

And many more…

And as of September 12, Bohmte (in Deutschland) has no traffic signage.

And Bendigo plans to follow suit.

It’s about giving pedestrians equal priority to cars. It’s different, but it works. It could happen here!

In 2002 I had a dream that the streets of Carlton had been converted to grass. We all flew.

Bike Riding with the Boy

After quite some time, we’ve started riding again. A couple of weeks ago, Pen procured a bike trailer for the boy. This means we don’t need to worry about bike/rider stability, and, if he falls asleep in transit, he can stay that way upon arrival. (Also, it converts into a pusher.)

Dan and Pen riding

(It won’t attach to my bike, because of my quick release wheels.)

A couple of weeks ago, we rode from home, along Merri Creek, to Coburg Lake (5ish km). We had a picnic lunch there, amongst the family barbecues and wedding parties.

Today we rode the opposite direction, to Dights Falls (5ish km), with Rob.

(Pen has rode more with Dan, in between.)

I’ve often walked with Dan north along Merri Creek: it’s quite beautiful, a lush behind-the-scenes experience. When we rode further north, I saw carp—such big ones I haven’t seen since Japan.

But south is even more beautiful. There are parks and art installations. Behind Heidelberg Road, behind the Rushall retirement village. Past amazing Victorian houses in Fairfield. The creek pushes downwards, and overgrown cave-like walls rise up, like something from Wilsons Prom. It’s like we’re not in the city, but somewhere far away.

Because we don’t think well enough of the city.