Wednesday, March 30, 2005

mmm, chocolate

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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Off with her dreads

I've had dreadlocks for over three years, and I've been psyching myself up for a while now to cut them off. I really liked them, loved them even, but they were often a pain and impossible to make look respectable (not that that's a look I often go for). And I missed being able to have fingers run through my hair (my fingers or someone else's), plaits (although it will take a while before I can do that), and dying my hair (the colour never took on the dreads). I couldn't cut my dreads off before now, because then it would look like I was just cutting them as soon as I stopped being a student, and I don't for a minute believe that to have a good research or academic position I shouldn't have dreads. But, I don't know, I guess it was just time.

So, here I am before the deed.

We decided that of course it would be hilarious to have a dreadlock mullet. I mean, who can resist a mullet?

The worst bit was unknotting the stubs of dreads that we'd kept. Oh but what a fantastic hairstyle it created.

The next day I went to the hairdresser's and said: "I just cut off my dreads. What can you do with this?". As much as I dislike short hair on me, I'm rather impressed with what she managed. Not that you can really see it in this photo. It's kind of a bright red choppy short bob.

I don't know what to do with the dreads. At the moment they're in a Trader Joe's bag in the boot of my car. D wants me to donate them to rastafarian cancer patients, but I can't really see them wanting them. I might sew some of them (there's 77 of them!!!) to my rasta hat to wear to parties. Or, instead of telling people I've cut them, I could just send a dread to them in an envelope. But I'm not sure that I know 77 people who would appreciate that.

It's so weird. I can't stop playing with my hair. And a few people have failed to recognise me, which is amusing.

I'm kind of missing them.

Also, sorry I haven't posted for a while, but I just hadn't gotten organised with the photos, and having cut my hair on Friday it didn't seem right to blog about anything else in the meantime.


Thursday, March 24, 2005

Belgium does me proud

And here I was doubting the validity of my news sources. And yet this piece of news was not on BBC world news, nor was it on Stuff. Luckily I listen to Triple J as I work.

The world's largest chocolate Easter egg has been created in Sint Niklaas in Belgium.

I grew up in Belgium, and we had a chocolate factory right behind our house. We used to get the best chocolates for Easter. I remember this white chocolate rabbit one year...

OK, I admit it. Maybe Belgium does have something going for it.


Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Here's a meme from Jon's blog.

- Six Feet Under (just starting watching series 2)
- Shortland Street (90s era)
- The Simpsons
- Kath and Kim
- The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

- road trip to Mexico or Canada
- find a sport that doesn't involve thumbs and get into it (so thumb wrestling is out)
- figure out what I'm doing next year
- wear my Tintin in the Congo t-shirt (Americans: is it true I will get beaten up if I wear it in this country?)
- put haloscan on my blog

- Kate Winslet
- Che Guevara when he was Motorcycle Diaries age (or, Gael Garcia Bernal will do)
- Terry Pratchett
- Ani di Franco
- Jon Stewart

- Galapagos Islands
- Great Barrier Reef
- Madagascar (anywhere in East Africa actually, hell, anywhere in Africa)
- Milford Sounds
- Greece

- golden syrup pudding (such a favourite that it is named after me in my family)
- Kapiti white chocolate and raspberry icecream
- chocolate mousse
- creme caramel
- pecan pie with cream


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

I used to read the news

My workday morning ritual used to be:
1. Check emails
2. Read Dilbert (gotta love that Dogbert)
3. Read BBC World news and sometimes Stuff for NZ news
4. Think about doing some work

Now 3 is replaced with:
3. Read and comment on blogs

I'm wondering whether blogs are just as worthy as news sources. Surely. Plus I listen to the news on Triple J internet radio (and who wouldn't be fascinated by Australian news - e.g. MP Tony Abbot finds his long lost son working in parliament, and then it turns out he's not his father after all - riveting stuff) and I read The Onion, so it's not like I'm completely out of touch.

But if anything important happens, somebody tell me, OK?


Sunday, March 20, 2005

Creationism vs Evolution

Having dealt with the Pavlova Debate, I feel it's now time to tackle the Creationism vs Evolution debate.

No, not really.

But, the other day, I came back to my desk to find that my cousin had been IMing me. So I wrote back: "Sorry, I was teaching". And then, trying to be impressive, I added: "GIS for Ecology and Evolution".

"Pah, evolution", he said. "Don't get me started".

So I changed the topic but then I couldn't help myself. "So you're a creationist then?" I ventured.

"I'm no trousered ape" he said. Which I took to mean yes. "There's more evidence against evolution than for evolution", he added.

Now, a great deal of my family members would agree with him. And they are all educated, sane, intelligent people (they are related to me, after all). But while I admit that there is an awful lot about what happened millions of years ago that we just don't know or understand, still, to me, saying you don't believe in evolution is a bit like saying you don't believe in gravity.

So I changed the subject and asked him about his 18 month old and he asked me about my love life (as he is wont to do) and that was that.

Interestingly, that night I was up to the chapter in Bill Bryson's book about what we know about evolution.

I'm really just mentioning all this because I really was a little bit lost for words. I mean, what was I supposed to say? "You are too a trousered ape"?

I'm also mentioning this because it gives me an excellent excuse to post this link to the Creation Science Fair 2001. My favourite is "Women Were Designed for Homemaking", especially this bit: "social sciences show that the wages for women workers are lower than for normal workers, meaning that they are unable to work as well and thus earn equal pay".


Friday, March 18, 2005

Not your average night out

Last night I went to a rather enjoyable little piano bar in Oakland called The Alley. The pianist knows every golden oldie ever written and patrons sit around the grand piano and sing along. He only plays pre-1960 though - so no Beatles. I sang When Irish Eyes Are Smiling (in honour of St Patrick's Day), and my friend S. got us to sing Loch Lomond for the same reason. I had to point out that at the top it said a traditional Scottish song. One guy sang The Teddybears' Picnic and was so surprised that I knew the lyrics. It was all lots of fun and it reminded me of all the singalongs my family used to do when I was growing up.

Anyway, at about midnight my friend E. turned up on her bike, having cycled from the BART (metro). We didn't think it would fit in my car, so D. decided to cycle to a pub a little bit closer to Berkeley, and then the rest of us would follow in the car. He got there 10 mins or so later, got his friend to order a couple of pitchers of Guinness, and sat outside with the bike (he didn't have the lock) to wait for us. At which point I rang him.

"You idiot", I said. "You have my car keys."

"F*ck!" he said, and then he burst out laughing.

30 minutes later we were still waiting by my car. Turned out he got hideously lost and cycled through the hills of Oakland totally disoriented and crossed the freeway twice. By the time he finally found us, out of breath and barely able to walk, the bar with our pitchers of Guinness had closed. With the help of some handy safety barrier tape (you know, the kind that says Danger, Do Not Enter) that was around a nearby pothole or something, we managed to get the bike and all four of us in the car.

And finally, we managed to find a pub with Guinness that stayed open after 1am, so we had a quick one there. The whole time D. kept on doing pathetic little coughs as if to remind us of the great ordeal he had just been through.

Oh how we laughed.


Thursday, March 17, 2005

Happy St Patrick's Day!

I know it's over in a great deal of the world, but hey, it wasn't me who decided where to put the international dateline.

Anyway, I feel I'm having a very international St Patrick's Day. Not activity-wise mind you, I fully intend on visiting an Irish pub tonight and having a guinness or two. Maybe sing along to some Pogues (do they do that here?). But attire-wise: my green socks are from New Zealand, my green shirt is from Thailand, my green tagua bracelet is from Colombia and my green underwear is from Australia (ok, so that last might be too much information). I'm only not wearing my green hat from Guatemala because it doesn't fit over my dreads. That, plus it would look weird and I wouldn't people thinking I'm weird.

Here's an exercise for you. Think of any colour (say, green) and remember all the clothes you used to have of said colour and wonder what happened to them. I used to have these wonderful forest green velvet doc martin shoes - I gave them to a friend when I left NZ. And I find myself remembering with fondness a lime green crocheted cardigan with holes in the elbows. What on earth possessed me to get rid of that?


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Anzac biscuits and pavlova

I'm now going to take a break from working until insane hours every evening (last night I walked home after 1am - past a scene on Telegraph involving five police cars - so maybe that wasn't the best plan in the world), because I have to go home and bake Anzac biscuits for tomorrow's morning tea which isn't even supposed to be mine to take care of but my colleague is conveniently in the Philippines when it's his turn so I have to come up with morning tea for 20 people. By the way, if you don't know what morning tea is you're probably American and I don't care to explain it to you. In some circles it's also known as playlunch (ok, that's possibly only primary school circles circa 20-something years ago).

I don't know why I decided on Anzacs, which incidently are named after the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps because they were originally sent to these soldiers when they were in Gallipoli during the First World War. Some claim it as an Australian recipe, some as a New Zealand recipe. Sorry, I can't even find an interesting link about this. They are great biscuits though, and easy to make.

But it does bring me to the Great Pavlova Controversy. Pavlova is a meringue dessert named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. Australia (Perth, specifically) thinks they invented it. In fact, they're mostly not even aware there is a controversy. But the truth is, the pavlova is a New Zealand invention, or, at the very least, it seems likely it might have been.

Mmmm, pavlova...


The Bloggies

I randomly found out today that the Bloggies have just been. This is great. It means I now have a place to find a heap of blogs that have won prizes and therefore must have something going for them. I've decided as I check them out that if it's one I want to go back to it gets a link from me. So yeah, I might eventually get more links on this page.


Planet Earth

I just took the Ecological Footprint Quiz again. My total footprint is 19 acres, and if everyone lived like me, we would need 4.3 planets. In my defense, the average ecological footprint in the US is 24 acres per person. Also, it's almost all due to my air travel, and that's also about the only thing I could substantially change to reduce my footprint. I already eat fairly organically and local and vegetarian, hardly ever drive, and live in a green design home. If I never flew, I would only need 1.7 planets. But then, I wouldn't be a flying kiwi, would I?

Also on the topic of our planet, my bedtime reading at the moment is Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. I highly recommend it. If you've read any of his other books, you'll know what great writer he is. What I like about this book is that he doesn't only explain what scientists know about the world, but how they figured it out, and what happened to them along the way. And I particularly enjoyed the chapter on measuring the earth, but then, I would.

If you haven't heard of him, he's mostly known as a travel writer, but also wrote a very enjoyable book on the history of the English language called Mother Tongue. I should read it again.


Sunday, March 13, 2005


I just saw this disturbing and amusing movie Dumplings as part of the Asian American Film Festival. I would recommend it, but only if you're not too easily grossed out. You know that Asian custom of eating eggs with the baby chickens still in them? Well, that's not the worst of it. Let's just say I'm not planning on going to yum cha and eating dumplings any time soon.

Bai Ling, who plays the main character Auntie Mei in the movie, was there in person and spoke afterwards. She told some nice little candid anecdotes about the filming of the movie. Very entertaining.


Friday, March 11, 2005

100 things about me

It seems the trend in blogging lately is to write 100 things about oneself. So I have. By the way, it seems nobody can comment at the moment, which is sad. Anyway, this was all written after a wine or three on a Friday night, so here goes.

100 things about me

1. I have three tattoos
2. I tried twice to have a belly button piercing but my body rejected it both times
3. I almost got arrested for kissing in public in the Dominican Republic
4. I met somebody recently who had the same experience, in the same place (the monument in Santiago de los Caballeros)
5. She may have been having me on, but it’s a good story anyway
6. I have been to 34 countries (but having read my profile, you already know that)
7. I have lived in 8 countries on 4 continents (if you count North and South America as separate continents; not everybody does)
8. I have never been to Africa
9. I have seen the great pyramids of Egypt
10. The plane stopped to refuel in Cairo, and we weren’t allowed off, but the pyramids were lit up when we flew over
11. The last time I ate red meat was on World Vegetarian Day in 1998
12. I am a seafood vegetarian, have been for years, but quite a lot of my family still tries to feed me meat
13. I have had three great loves in my life (so far), for which I feel blessed
14. I am a godmother twice over, and I love the fact that I’ve been chosen to be one
15. I love that I can go and live in New Zealand whenever I please
16. I love what I do for a living
17. I probably would have been earning three times as much if I’d stayed in the corporate world
18. I met Short and Sweet at said corporate job
19. Also the mother of my godson
20. And the workplace paid for me to do my masters degree
21. So I wouldn’t be where I am today without my sojourn in the corporate world
22. I’ve had one marriage proposal
23. It was repeated on many drunken occasions
24. Although when I was 14 a Russian sailor in Calais went down on one knee and took my hand and said something, it may have been a proposal of some kind
25. I am the youngest of four sisters
26. I’ve always felt like I had a lot to prove, but haven now gotten my PhD, I should be over that
27. I’ve always felt that I’m the honorary boy of the family
28. A lot of my childhood memories involve being ganged up on by my older sisters
29. Like when they would tie me to pretend railway tracks and I had to free myself before they rode over me with their bikes
30. Or when they would use me as a marker to see how far they could jump off the swing
31. But I also have wonderful memories of creating books together
32. And building an igloo once under the clothesline
33. And making up games
34. The Editter was always really bossy though
35. There was this game where she would tell us to go to sleep and then we had to make up dreams to tell her
36. A remarkable number of my friends come from families of four
37. I love maps
38. I didn’t do terribly well in geography at school
39. I can read a map
40. I seem to have more of a male brain in that respect
41. But I still have no sense of direction
42. I used to be in a band called Mibutt
43. I played flute with Mibutt
44. Mibutt was really tight
45. We played in a Battle of the Bands and came nowhere
46. I also played ukulele in Queenie Wahine Papaya
47. There were lots of short-lived bands in Hamilton, and I was involved with some of them
48. I once submitted a story to New Idea (I think it was), but it was rejected
49. I don’t take failure well
50. I once passed a violin exam only by promising I wouldn’t continue
51. I was amongst the top students for music theory in my town when I was in high school
52. I didn’t turn up to the ceremony to get the medal from the mayor cos I didn’t realise what a big deal it was
53. I broke my thumb in a motorcycle accident
54. I was sitting the test to get my over 250CC license
55. I failed
56. I’ve been too scared to ride a motorcycle since
57. I once fell out of bed drunk and landed on my face
58. When I’m drunk I think I can speak other languages better than I can
59. I actually do speak fluent Spanish and Dutch
60. My German and French could use some work
61. I wish I could speak Maori better
62. I’ve had dreadlocks for over three years
63. I’m going to cut them off soon
64. I hate having short hair
65. I’m a yellow belt in hapkido
66. I don’t think I’ll be able to practice martial arts again, what with my broken thumb
67. I adore the ocean
68. I was almost swept out to sea at Hot Water Beach when I was five
69. I was scuba diving in the recent tsunami in South East Asia
70. When I tell people this, I almost feel a little guilty that me and mine escaped unscathed
71. My uncle gave me all his scuba gear shortly before he (unexpectedly) died, and it means an awful lot to me
72. My favourite thing about scuba diving is doing somersaults underwater
73. I spent years avoiding water sports because I had such bad eyesight I couldn’t see anything
74. I got laser surgery in Colombia
75. Colombia is one of my favourite countries, and has to be one of the most underrated countries in the world
76. I met some of the FARC (revolutionary armed forces of Colombia) once
77. My sister (the Editter) tried to teach them how to play backgammon
78. She thought they were the neighbours
79. The only bad thing to have happened to me in Colombia is that a taxi driver stole my wallet
80. I was throwing up out the taxi door at the time, so I guess I only have myself to blame
81. Aguardiente makes me behave strangely
82. I love weddings
83. I love all ritual celebrations
84. I make silver jewellery
85. I’m impatient and get bored easily, so I’m not very good at making similar pieces or even at finishing stuff
86. My favourite piece was a hairclip I made for a friend with Colombian silver and New Zealand paua shell
87. I think the New Zealand flag should be changed
88. I don’t particularly like any of the designs they’ve come up with though
89. I’m struggling to think of ten more interesting things
90. I probably think I’m more fascinating than I actually am
91. Although I have to admit I’m fairly fascinating
92. I’m probably the most fascinating person I know
93. That was reference to Napolean Dynamite
94. I can’t believe I’ve watched Napolean Dynamite three times
95. I hated it on first viewing
96. Now I find myself quoting from it
97. Delicious sea bass, anyone?
98. I cannot bring myself to end on this tone
99. I love books, and I read constantly
100. One day, I think I will write a book of some description



Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Babies, babies everywhere

Not much to say really, except that everyone seems to be having babies lately. Two of my friends have had babies this year already, and it's only March. And a whole heap of my friends have toddlers, I'm having trouble keeping track of how old they all are. It seems that the era of twenty-firsts is well and truly over, and the era of weddings seems to be coming to an end, and we are well and truly into the era of sprogs. I guess that's what happens when you're 34.

It makes me wonder whether I'll do the baby thing. I'm not stressed about it, it will either happen, or it won't. It's certainly unlikely that I'd be doing a postdoc in Berkeley right now if I had babies. But I would also quite happily make room in my life for a family. The biological clock thing is a bit unfair, I must say. But on the whole, I'm not one to worry about such things.

Babies can be unfeasibly cute sometimes, though.


Sunday, March 06, 2005

Why I love living in the Bay Area

While most of the rest of the Northern Hemisphere is buried in snow, here in Berkeley it is 20C (68F) and forecast to be sunny all week. Yesterday we went to Stinson Beach and played frisbee and waded (ok, so the water was freezing) and had icecreams on the way home.

I even like walking to work, there's a feeling of history at UC Berkeley, even if some of it is a little cheesy like the Free Speech Movement Cafe. I like that there are places here that are iconic, like the People's Park and the Campanile, and even the shops on Telegraph.

I love the views of the bay and Golden Gate Bridge. And even though I don't go into San Francisco much, I love that the city is right there.

Anyone want to come and visit me?


Is your name Matthew?

It seems that people named things like Matthew have a problem with having such a common name. The other night I was given two sets of instructions by two different Matthews.
  1. Replace M with Hew in my posts (if that's the Matt I'm talking about). So I have. He has no problem with people knowing it's him I'm talking about, after all, in the Which Deadly Sin Are You quiz he got pride. I got sloth, no surprises there.
  2. In all other instances. if someone is called Matthew, replace that with Turtle. A bit left field, but there you go.
And speaking of names, I must give you this link of Babies Named a Bad, Bad Thing, courtesy of Not Without My Handbag.


Friday, March 04, 2005

Words that Americans don't understand

So we all know that when we're in the US we need to say garbage or trash instead of rubbish, faucet instead of tap, mom instead of mum, sidewalk instead of footpath, period instead of full stop, restroom instead of toilet, etcetera. But it turns out there are many many words that I didn't even know Americans didn't use until I used them.

I either get puzzled looks or laughed at when I use the following words:
  • wonky
  • porridge (they know this one, but are surprised to find it's the same as oatmeal)
  • hassle (meaning tease)
  • aircon
  • teatowel
  • lounge (as a room in the house)
  • bench (in the kitchen, not something you sit on)
  • lovely
  • morning tea
  • park (as a place to put your car)
  • to take the piss
  • snog
  • pash
  • fancy
  • root

In illustration of the last few, some anecdotes. I was having breakfast in a cafe with some friends, and I guess we started talking about grammar (as you do). I think I mentioned the excellent book by Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots and Leaves, of which the title refers to a little joke about a panda. [By the way, I just discovered the Punctuation Game on the above website, and I'm proud to report I'm 100% stickler.] Anyway, so I told the New Zealand version of the joke, as follows. "Why are New Zealand men known as kiwis? Because, like the kiwi, the NZ male eats roots and leaves." To which my breakfast companions said, "What's root mean?" Thanks to Austin Powers, they have at least heard of the word shag. I then asked them what word they use in American then. In somewhat muted voices (i.e., a touch quieter than they had been, which was still louder than anyone else in the cafe by far), Hew & L simultaneously exclaimed, "f*ck!". To the consternation of the young children sitting at the next table.

Then the other night I innocently asked a friend how long he'd fancied this girl he'd just started dating. Everyone fell about laughing and then Hew asked what he no doubt thought was a hillarious question. "So, would you say, 'Do you fancy a snog?'?" (hmm, struggling with the punctuation on that one. Never mind, I'm sure the Editter will correct me).

I mean, of course you would say, "Do you fancy a snog?".

Who hasn't at one time said that?


Thursday, March 03, 2005

Six Feet Under

I'm not sure how I managed to never see this. I'd heard of it, and I'd heard it was good, and for some reason I'd assumed it was British (maybe to do with the being good bit). I'd just never seen it.

Now I live in a house with no tv, so last night I decided to rent a DVD to watch on my computer. So off I trotted to the local video shop (half a block away, free popcorn - have I mentioned I love my new neighbourhood?).

I didn't mean to, but I enjoyed Six Feet Under so much that I watched both the pilot episode and the second episode and didn't get to sleep until after midnight. The video shop has the entire first two series. I wonder how long it will take me to get through them?


Wednesday, March 02, 2005


I was going to say a few words about my PhD graduation the other week. I couldn't decide at first whether to go to graduation or not, but then I decided it was a good excuse to go back to Perth and finally the floppy velvet hat clinched it. It was truly a flying visit with only 5 nights in Australia. My parents came over for 4 nights (from NZ).

The graduation ceremony was on the Thursday evening, outdoors, and being summer it was still light when it started. The ceremony kicked off with a couple of speeches, the Australian National Anthem (no, not Waltzing Matilda), and a special song dedicated to all graduands: Mariah Carey's Hero (groan). I was about the 8th person up, and had to stand on stage while they read out a summary of my research. It sounded quite interesting really. Then I got handed my degree (already framed!), shook hands with the vice-chancellor, and sat down. And waited for the other 250 or so people to graduate. The guy next to me snored through the last 50 or so.

At the end (it was dark by now, and a little cold - thank goodness for the cape) there were fireworks while they played Icehouse's Great Southern Land. And so now I am officially a Doctor, floppy velvet hat and all.

Posted by Hello


Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Rapture

The rapture: When all the believers in Jesus Christ, who have been born again, are taken up to heaven.

Not that I'm saying anything one way or the other about this, it's just that it was brought to my attention lately. There is of course the really quite badly written Left Behind series, which I started reading last time I was in NZ out of curiosity. I got up to the bit where a whole lot of people, including all children, have disappeared suddenly, causing chaos and confusion to those left behind. Said people were trying to figure out what had happened, and theories ranged from spontaneous combustion to biological warfare. I never did find out what it really was...

Last week the incomparable Jon Stewart from The Daily Show brought this website to my attention. It's an email that will get sent to all those left behind after the rapture. If only this had happened in Left Behind, it would have saved all kinds of confusion. I'm thinking though, how embarrassing would it be if you sent this letter to all of your friends and then didn't get taken up?