November 2008


I colleague at my previous place of work was busy telling me the other day to “mark her words”, that front facing baby-buggies were nothing but trouble, and that research would prove her correct. Now while I respect this colleague I filed this idea under “crazy talk”, and moved on.

Well, I’ll now admit I might have been wrong. If this study in the United Kingdom has scientific merit, then my (ex-)colleague could well be right. I was in fact gobsmacked when I read the story.

In a nutshell what the article reports is that children who travel in front-facing buggies, as opposed to the old-school backwards or parent-facing buggies, are more stressed and less socially aware than babies that face their parent. Apparently, face-to-face buggies result in more parent-child interaction, and less ability for the child to follow cues provided by their role model.

Interesting stuff right? Kind of makes sense in some fancy psycho-sociological framework, and probably has a sound scientific basis.

But I’m thinking that the study probably didn’t really get to the nubbin of what could be going on in the minds of these wee people. Let’s look at two stats. First, heart rates of babies in away-facing prams (probably of the three-wheeled “jogger-pusher” types extremely popular these days) are slightly higher than face-to-face prams. Second, babies in away-facing prams “sleep” 27%, while face-to-face “sleep” 52%. What the hell that stat means I don’t actually know. I’m assuming the reporter means that babies in face-to-face prams spend more time sleeping.

Intuitively, this makes a lot of sense. Babies can start out with fairly rudimentary sight, but it improves rapidly. The real issue for an infant is that they haven’t really worked out what it is that they’re looking at. You can apparently help your infant develop by providing them with black and white pictures of general resolution that allow them to improve their sight.

Simple stuff. Babies can see shapes and colours, but they only recognise things up close, like a parent’s face, the breast, etc. Things far away though they see, but don’t yet recognise.

So, and here’s the clincher. If you put a baby in a front-facing pram they’re not looking at something they recognise, but a whole lot of stuff they don’t. Which is probably confusing for them. Not stressful, but new, meaning that their wee brains are working hard to sort out.

Now combine that with moving forward, at speed, towards a blur of colour, sounds, and lights. Worse, some parents run with these prams, meaning that the baby is hurtling through space, with no point of reference.

Is it any wonder they end up feeling like this: (more…)

Or any other olives for that matter. As you can see from the photo to the right these are from the Mediterranean Warehouse in Newtown. I also got one of the worst coffees… And Second Chef got a wee fizzy drink.

The truth of the matter is that I had to stop serving these olives to the Dropkicks on Monday night because they were gradually driving me broke. Them boys loved them some olives with their whisky. And beer. And sometimes wine.

There isn’t really any secret to this marination process. It’s exactly what I saw the chefs do when I worked in an “Italian” bistro in Melbourne, and probably the least complicated recipe you’ll see on this blog.

So here’s what you’ll need.

  • The aforementioned olives. These are kalamata, but you can also buy black olives, green olives, spanish olives, ligurian olives… mmmmm…. ligurian olives…
  • Olive oil. You can decide the quality. We’re on a pit of a savings kick, so we’re using this pomace oil.
  • Salad or another cheap vegetable oil. Using all olive oil is too expensive. You can dilute it with vegetable oil without weakening the marination.
  • Herbs! Here I’m using some rosemary I pinched out of a local garden, some thyme from Commonsense Organics ($2 for a *huge* bunch), some garlic, some fresh chilli, and peppercorns.
  • A small measure of muslin or another light cloth.

And we’re off! (more…)

This says it all.

Awhile back on PA System there was a discussion of mental health service in New Zealand generally, and my main impression was that the mental health system here in Wellington, our capital, is in a word, woeful.

It angers me that a young man like Finn can “slip through the cracks” in a system that is supposed prevent the unnecessary deaths of bright young men. My own experience of Wellington’s system is that woeful is almost too weak a word, with it taking an expert outside the country to provide me with something like a diagnosis on the basis of reading this blog.

That makes me extraordinarily lucky.

Finn wasn’t anywhere near as lucky. He was new to a city with a useless, third-rate health system with poor communication, second-rate medical professionals, and a half-arsd approach to medical care.

It is nothing less than a disgrace that our Capital City continually fails people. It angers me, and it should anger you too. If any one of you reading this lives here in the Wellington region then you too could fall prey to the buffoons supposed to be taking care of us. And don’t give me the “but I had great treatment” line. If you had, think yourself lucky. Having sat in *a lot* of medical rooms and spoken to *a lot* of other people waiting for treatment, then clumsy mistakes and poor treatment is something of the norm here.

And in Finn’s case, it was fatal.

And what’s worse? There is absolutely nothing that you and I can do about. These fckers publish a report, slap each other on the wrist with a wet bus ticket, issue a weak, meaningless apology, and move on to their fat, fcking salaries… And I’m ANGRY. I’m sick of the excuses and I’m sick of hearing tales like this. I’m sick of waiting for someone to tell me something someone on the other side of the world could work out from 600 words on the internet.

Capital and Coast DHB you are FCKING USELESS. If there is ANYTHING that I’m thankful for, it is that I’m not as vulnerable as Finn was…

Although my first impulse is to dismiss this as yet another American-Jesus tale, Vernon God Little probably deserves to be treated with at least some seriousness. This is extremely difficult though because it smacks of the peculiar pretentiousness of an author attempting to emulate J.D Salinger…

This tale portrays Vernon Little, latter-day Jesus in question, as a slightly hapless and angry young man living in flyspeck, Texas, who is caught up in a high-school massacre conducted by his best friend… Jesus! From this point on the only redeeming feature of the novel is wondering whether Vernon, as narrator, did commit the heinous crimes of which he is accused, and whether he is in some sort of elaborate denial.

I mention Salinger because the style of narration Pierre employs strongly evokes our anti-hero from Catcher in the Rye. He’s isolated, socially distant, and confused by events that have overtaken him. Unlike Holden Caufield’s motivation, the child committing suicide at school, the tragedy in this novel is not obscured but is instead laid open just enough to set in train a ’cause and effect’ theme that pervades the story. Vernon is swept up in the machinations of the adults around him and he becomes the scapegoat, or sacrificial lamb, one that must be offered up unto God.

While this heavy Christian symbolism is probably well at home in the Texas setting of the novel, a country known for it’s willing blindness and faith, it tends towards the outright pretentious, and in the end gives the entire novel a disinct odour of redemptive cheese than becomes overpowering.

These criticisms aside, I found the desriptions of Texas highly evocative. I could see and feel the country’s mad heat and weight while I read the book, and smell its putrid, oil-feed gluttony. There are also some outright laugh-out-loud moments at the utter witlessness of the stories denizens, and a believability I found all too real.

On average then, a decent novel. Not quite the American classic the boosters on the paperback would have you believe, but not quite the load of poncance I feared it would be.

what are we coming to?

i’m going to have to think about this and write later.

The old blue steel gets a serious workout in this Daniel Craig punchathon, and it’s when you get to the end of the film and notice that neither of the two famous lines get spoken that the brief Sean Connery cameo becomes all the more important. At least the old goat new how to lighten up.

In a film almost entirely devoid of story, and in what must have been the Capital’s most poorly advertised premier ever, we sat through a sumptuous roller-coaster ride who’s only redeeming feature was the Clockwork Orange tribute scene (and if it wasn’t a tribute, then the director owes a lot to Kubrick.) I’d say that the half-empty cinema was something of an indication of just how ordinary this film really was.

Half of the trouble is that this film is essentially a sequel to Casino Royale, but one so sparse and shallow it became devoid of meaning. The dark and brooding Bond just becomes a bit of an arrogant a[pe]hole, and the girl is undoubtably lovely, but ultimately, dull.

Ah well… at least they make the Americans out to be buffons.

Every day I stop in the morning and ask the bump, “So… do you think today is the day?

“I mean, I’m not trying to hurry you along or anything, but there is a perfectly nice room out here that you’ll doubtless enjoy. It has nice sunlight, and some toys already!

“So… is today the day? Hmmm? Maybe? Maybe not?”

No progress or movement.

Must be a boy.

Puttanesca is one of those dinners pretty much anyone should know how to make. It’s quick, it’s simple, and it’s extremely delicious. It’s also vegetarian bar the anchovies, and they’re optional!

It also requires no more than two hobs on the cooker, which is good if you’re in a wee apartment.

Like most of the Italian recipes people know around the world, this one is probably very different from what they actually cook in Italy, but… so be it.

All you need for this dish is:

  • Olive oil
  • Some pasta
  • Garlic
  • Anchovies
  • Capsicums
  • Decent olives
  • Herbs, any will do
  • A cheap tin of tomatoes

What I’ve heard is that puttanesca means “[lady of the night]‘s dinner”. So it’s something you can whip up easily to entertain a guest you’d rather have the heck out of your house…

And here we go! (more…)

It never ceases to amaze me what makes the news.

Without doubt the loss of life and the loss of property in Southern California is a tragedy. What sickens me is that it makes so much press without any real consideration of why these fires occur. Instead of pointing out the causes, the media focusses on the great pictures of weeping people and destruction, not to mention nice pictures of huge blazes.

Have you ever heard the line from the song that goes, “it never rains in Southern, California”? This is mostly true (although it does actually rain), because S.C. is a semi-arid landscape. In particular, the ecology of the region is called chaparral, and fire is a part of the natural cycle.

As the population of the region has grown it has expanded out into the chaparral and brought with it the trigger for big fires. Munters.

So what we have is a lot of people, some of whom are idiots, living nice and close to nature. The downside is that when planning is done a the human environment – mostly made of flammable materials – is placed right up close to these great, big, plants that easily dry out and catch fire.

Good one, planning dudes.

Just to prove that I’m not the only cook in the house, here is Second Chef’s frittata.

It is extremely delicious, although you’ll have to take me word for it. This one is made with left-over roasted kumara and potato, capsicums, and tomato. Economical and just plain blimmin terrific.

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