26 July 2007

real fashion police

Fashion police really do exist... in Iran. From Agence France-Press and reported in The Age (Melbourne)

Western style a veiled threat to Iran security

Farhad Pouladi, Tehran
July 25, 2007
Fashion police: An Iranian policewoman (right) speaks with a woman about her clothing and headscarf in Tehran.

Fashion police: An Iranian policewoman (right) speaks with a woman about her clothing and headscarf in Tehran.
Photo: AFP

IRAN has launched a crackdown against women who "dress like models" and men whose hairstyles are deemed un-Islamic.

Tehran's police force dispatched dozens of police cars and minibuses into the evening rush hour yesterday to enforce the dress rules at major squares in the city centre.

The new "plan to increase security in society" comes after a pre-summer drive by the police resulted in thousands of warnings and hundreds of arrests.

"We have vowed to continue the campaign to reinforce the plan to increase security in society with new personnel who have received the necessary training," the Tehran police head of information, Mehdi Ahmadi, said.

He said that the campaign would target women who were badly veiled, wore overly tight overcoats, sported excessively short trousers and were "dressed like models".

"As far as men are concerned we will act against those who have Western-style haircuts and clothing. We are also going to act against clothes shops and hairdressers."

Mr Ahmadi said the policy will be to first give a verbal warning to those who infringe the law and, if necessary, they will then be arrested.

In Vanak Square in central Tehran, women were apprehended and escorted to a waiting minibus by female police. Other women were seen adjusting headscarves to cover loose hair.

Women in Iran are obliged to cover all bodily contours and their heads, but in recent years many have pushed the boundaries by showing bare ankles and fashionably styled hair beneath headscarves. Wacky hairdos, favoured by some young men in Tehran, are also widely seen.

By renewing the drive, it appears the police want to send a message that they are serious about enforcing the dress rules.

Many conservatives have applauded the crackdown, but moderates have questioned whether Iran would be better off tackling poverty and crime rather than slack dressing.


We could do with fashion police in Australia to arrest people who wear the following in public - thongs (flip flops) away from the beach, ugg boots, jeans or shorts that hang so low that underwear is showing, and back to front baseball caps.

I need to pack soon for the weekend in Melbourne starting tomorrow for the football. I'm also going to Brisbane afterwards, so my blog is taking a break.

25 July 2007

Is Taiwan a country?

UN rejects Taiwan membership bid
Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian (centre) with the UN application - 20/07/07
President Chen (centre) submitted the application to the UN last week
Taiwan's bid to join the United Nations for the first time under the name Taiwan, rather than the official title Republic of China, has been rejected.

A UN spokesman said the application had been rejected in line with a 1971 resolution, under which the UN switched recognition from Taiwan to China.

Taiwan, which has tried to join the UN more than 14 times, said it deeply regretted the world body's decision.

China views Taiwan as a breakaway province of the mainland.

Though both have been governed separately since the civil war in 1949, China has vowed to use force if it ever moves towards independence.

The Chinese foreign ministry last week said Taiwan's UN bid was "doomed to failure".

Referendum plans

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian submitted a letter of application to the UN Secretary General last week, arguing that Taiwan, as the world's 18th largest economy and seventh largest investor, should not be excluded from the body.

Rejecting the application on Tuesday, the UN cited its adherence to the One China policy agreed under the 1971 resolution, which acknowledges Taiwan is a part of China.

Map showing Taiwan and China

Until 1971, the government in Taipei held the UN seat for China rather than Beijing.

Taiwanese Foreign Ministry spokesman David Wang said the government regretted the UN move, saying it had been blocked "for political reasons".

"The 1971 resolution should be reviewed, as it fails to address the question of the right of representation and participation by the Taiwanese people," he said.

The decision to apply to the UN under the title Taiwan for the first time rather than the Republic of China reflects efforts by the independence-leaning President Chen to stress the island's distinctiveness from mainland China, the BBC's Caroline Gluck in Taipei says.

Despite the setback, the government still plans to push ahead with a referendum on joining the UN alongside presidential and legislation elections next year, despite concerns from Washington and Beijing, our correspondent adds.

Poor Taiwan? If they hadn't decided to claim to rule all of mainland China after losing the Chinese civil war, they wouldn't have this problem today. They should have taken the opportunity in 1949 to relinquish their claim on the mainland and declared independence then or around 1970 before the People's Republic decided to claim their place in the world.

I went to see the latest Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix tonight after work with Emily. We had KFC for dinner before hand (bad us). Might have been better off waiting for it on DVD instead.

24 July 2007

Antarctic meals

Australia maintains four permanent research stations in Antarctica which are staffed year round. I've always wondered what it be would like to live there. Casey station seems to be very comfortable. From AAD website -
Living at Casey is very comfortable and has often been compared to ski lodges, with the odd exceptions. The local 'supermarket' is substituted by a walk in cupboard called "Woolies", where all expeditioners can browse the shelves for soap, linen etc. in a cashless society.

When blizzard days inhibit fieldwork, the main living area (The Red Shed) has indoor climbing, a home theatre, a gym, a photographic dark room, a library and many communal sitting areas for expeditioners to pass the time.

Casey living is very communal and all expeditioners contribute to the day-to-day running of the station. Rosters are set up for Saturday duties that may include vacuuming the living area, shovelling snow, cleaning the cold porches etc. Expeditioners are rostered on to help the chef out in the kitchen ("Slushy duty") to help feed the station. Expeditioners have private bedrooms and share a bathroom between three people. Before the summer melt, water is scarce and therefore all expeditioners are limited to two-minute showers every second day.

Casey aerial

Casey is located in the Windmill Islands - just outside the Antarctic Circle - and is the third Australian station to occupy a site on Vincennes Bay.

They also seem to have a very well equipped kitchen

Final dinner
Celebratory dinners are held to mark various occasions

Two female expeditioners in the kitchen at Casey station
Kim Yong and Sham in the kitchen

And from The Age, a great article about the station chef at Casey and what the staff eat -

Frank Harkin: Antarctica

The temperature is 20 degrees below zero, and the Antarctic ice is lit with an eerie pinkish glow. But inside the main hut at Casey Station, conditions are more conducive to human habitation and chef Frank Harkin is in his kitchen to produce a feast to celebrate midwinter.

"It's been a tradition down here since the stations were established," he says. "From now the days will be getting longer, which is something to celebrate in a place where it's only light for a few hours every day."

Australia has four permanent research stations in Antarctica, of which Casey is one. Station chef Harkin must provide meals for 19 men, including tradesmen, technicians, meteorological observers, a doctor and the station leader.

"Food-wise it's a matter of treading that line down the middle," he says.

"Some people like it spicy, others like it plainer. You're providing real food to real people. It's not like they're going to want to eat restaurant-style food three meals a day."

Which is not to say that Harkin isn't capable of cooking food entirely suitable for a top-line restaurant. In fact, with almost 20 years' experience in cooking, ranging from five-star venues to super-yachts on the Mediterranean, Harkin's broad skills made him the perfect candidate for the job.

Harkin constructs his menus from stores that were stocked in January and will not be resupplied until next March. Casey also has a hydroponic growing system that provides small quantities of fresh vegetables and herbs - from chillies to parsley and snow peas.

"The other day the guys brought in a big ice-cream bucket full of fresh basil," says Harkin. "Nothing grows outside down here, so to just see that vivid green was amazing. And that earthy basil smell was unbelievable."

Harkin's menu for the Winter Solstice feast included a champagne breakfast of eggs benedict, Bloody Mary oyster shooters, Middle Eastern fruit compote, canapes of lobster tartlets and prawn spring rolls.

The "main event" included Thai-style crispy fish salad, Persian spiced quail, roast turkey and beef cheeks. And dessert featured macadamia-nut torte, chocolate and Kahlua mousse and homemade ice-cream. A line-up somewhat different to the husky meat and molten ice consumed by Douglas Mawson and his fellow expeditioners 100 years ago.

I wonder if the oysters were frozen.

I had a haircut today at lunchtime. I was trying to grow my hair a bit longer but it was too difficult to manage.

23 July 2007

the tallest... Burj Dubai

Burj Dubai (برج دبي "Dubai Tower") is now officially the tallest high-rise building in the world.

From The Sydney Morning Herald

Dubai builds world's tallest skyscraper

July 22, 2007
This recent handout picture shows the Burj Dubai (Dubai Tower).

This recent handout picture shows the Burj Dubai (Dubai Tower).
Photo: AFP

BURJ Dubai, a tower rising in the booming Gulf emirate, yesterday became the tallest building in the world at 512.1 metres, developers said.

Burj Dubai, or Dubai Tower with 141 storeys so far, surpasses Taiwan's Taipei 101 which is 508 metres tall, Emaar Properties said in a statement.

The skyscraper, being built by South Korea's Samsung and scheduled for completion at the end of next year, is one of a string of grandiose projects taking shape in Dubai.

The statement did not reveal the final projected height or the number of storeys of the tower, which Emaar has kept secret since its start in January 2004.

But Emaar officials have said the skyscraper, which will have cost $US1 billion ($1.14 billion) by the time it is completed, will be more than 700 metres tall and have more than 160 storeys.

Burj Dubai is the centrepiece of a $US20 billion venture featuring the construction of a new district, Downtown Burj Dubai, that will house 30,000 apartments and the world's largest shopping mall.

Emaar is facing stiff competition in Dubai from developer Nakheel, which will build Al-Burj or The Tower, whose projected height remains a secret.

Developers aren't revealing what the finished height of these supertall buildings will be, as they want to be the tallest.

Phallic? Yes, and the worse case of penis-envy in the world!

I bought the new Harry Potter book today. I waited until today as I couldn't be bothered on Saturday to go to the shops and spend the entire weekend reading it.

Maybe I won't read it just yet...

22 July 2007

swallowed by Singapore

Stephen Mayne, of crikey.com wrote an interesting opinion piece in The Age today.

WHEN shareholders in Perth-based energy utility Alinta Ltd gather to vote on the $15 billion carve-up of the company on August 13, few of them will realise the remarkable historical event they will trigger.

In accepting $4.5 billion of cash from Singapore Power for a suite of Australian electricity and gas distribution assets, Alinta shareholders will lift the total value of Australian business assets controlled by the Singapore Government to almost $30 billion.

This will exceed the value of commercial assets owned by our own Federal Government, which is surely an unprecedented situation for any First World country. How can a foreign power own more of Australia than our own government?

While ordinary Singaporeans have limited democratic rights and still don't enjoy benefits such as Australia's minimum wage (the world's highest), the Singapore state has amassed an empire worth more than $200 billion — and it has now put more of it into Australia than any other country.

there is quite a lot there to read, but the crunch

Planes, child-care centres, shopping centres, department stores, satellites, hotels, power lines, gas pipelines and mobile phones: the Singapore Government owns all that and more in Australia yet this is barely mentioned in public debate.

Does anybody else out there feel a little uneasy about this phenomenon, especially given the secretive, autocratic and undemocratic tendencies of the Singapore Government?

Australian companies, let alone our Government, would never be allowed to buy equivalent assets in Singapore.
Click here to read more.

Yep, it's fine for a dictatorship to own a lot of our assets, especially our critical infrastructure.

I didn't do much this morning. Went to the club after 1pm to watch the game and met up with Nick for a few beers.

After the game, I came home and made apricot chicken to be cooked in the oven, then cleaned the bathroom. I also managed to clean the floor, but it is only half done. Bah!

football - round 16

BRISBANE LIONS 6.2 9.5 17.8 25.13 (163)
CARLTON 2.4 4.6 6.7 6.10 (46)

Goals: Brisbane: J Brown 10 R Hooper 4 J Adcock 3 R Copeland 2 J Patfull J Brennan J Charman W Hamill S Harding A McGrath. Carlton: B Fevola 3 R Houlihan M Murphy K Simpson.

Best: Brisbane:
J Brown J Adcock R Hooper J Charman J Roe R Copeland. Carlton: A Carrazzo R Houlihan L Blackwell A Bentick.

: M Stevic R Chamberlain G Fila.
Official crowd: 27,163 at the Gabba.

I went to the club at 1pm to watch the game. It was awesome. Browny bagged 10 goals - a record. It was just about raining goals.

I usually try to go to Brisbane for the Sunday afternoon games, but not this year.

(first two pics courtesy of my friend Lesa who attended the game)

Leuey rucking







after a win, the club song is sung

21 July 2007

how to write a letter...

From The Smoking Gun, sometimes it is necessary to resort to honesty

Dear Piece Of Trash:

Cleveland pol sends drug suspect profanity-filled letter

JULY 19--Incensed by the most recent arrest of an alleged drug dealer, a Cleveland politician wrote the perp a scathing, profanity-filled letter that referred to the man as a "crack dealing piece of trash" who should "go to jail or the cemetery soon."

In a July 12 letter, a copy of which you'll find below, Councilman Michael Polensek, 57, tore into Arsenio Winston, 18, after learning of the teenager's arrest earlier this month on a felony drug trafficking rap. The letter's writer and its recipient are pictured above.

Winston's bust came in Cleveland's 11th Ward, which Polensek has represented since 1982. Writing that jail or a funeral home would be Winston's next stop, Polensek noted, "Quite frankly, I don't care which one you get to first as long as your dumb stupid ass is out of my neighborhood."

While Polensek defended the confrontational letter in an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Winston's mother said she considered the missive a threat to her son and was conferring with her lawyer. (1 page)

(click on letter for larger size)


I meant to do some house cleaning today, but didn't.

Where did the day go?

The Doctor Who episode tonight was awesome.

20 July 2007

new moon

Saturn now has 60 moons.

60th moon at Saturn

The new one is called 'Frank' for now. Now try and name the other 59 moons.

Last night Emily and I watched the last two hours of Prison Break.

Tonight I watched The Queen which was very well done.

Helen Mirren as HM Queen Elizabeth II, speaking on the phone to her Prime Minister, Tony Blair

I think I better do some house cleaning tomorrow.

19 July 2007

Recipe: Pot au poulet

Here is a recipe from The Age's Epicure supplement by Brigitte Hafner

One of my favourite variations [of pot au feu] is the simple pot au poulet - chicken in a pot.

When I cooked this dish recently I added a pinch of dried mushrooms because I like the colour and subtle flavour. I used a corn-fed chicken from the Barossa, which cost $26. Not cheap, I know, but the flavour was superb and when it comes to simple poached chicken it's essential to use the best. I served the tender chicken in a deep dish surrounded by the vegetables, with some fried sourdough bread rubbed with garlic and a sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley, and a bowl of creme fraiche boosted with a big spoonful of horseradish. It was fantastic.

The leftover broth became an onion soup later that week, replete with some of the flaked leftover meat, carrots, potatoes and grilled bread topped with gruyere cheese.

Considering I fed four people twice from this simple dish, the $26 was well spent.

A French friend from Lyon told me his grandmother used to make a simple country dish called poule au riz - a favourite meal, which he still requests on visits home. She cooks a poule au pot and then makes a rice pilaf using some chicken livers fried in a little garlic and parsley, and the broth from the pot. The pilaf is laid out alongside the chicken and vegetables.

Pot au poulet


1 corn-fed chicken
2 leeks, young pale part only, cut into large rounds
2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
3 turnips, peeled and quartered (or whole baby turnips)
bouquet garni of 2 thyme sprigs, 10 parsley stalks, 1 fresh bay leaf
1 tbsp dried mushrooms soaked in 1/4 cup warm water
3 garlic cloves, cut in half
4-6 waxy potatoes such as nicola or kipfler
inside young leaves and stems of a celery
1 cup white wine
2 litres water or chicken stock
sea salt
1 tsp peppercorns


Put everything into a pot, cover with cold water or stock and simmer gently for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Serve with creme fraiche mixed with horseradish and salt, and sourdough slices fried in butter and rubbed with garlic and sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Brigitte Hafner's pot au poulet recipe. Food preparation and styling by Caroline Velik, pot from Ex Libris.

Brigitte Hafner's pot au poulet recipe. Food preparation and styling by Caroline Velik, pot from Ex Libris.
Photo: Marina Oliphant

I must try this recipe sometime.

Emily came over after work. In fact, she was driving along the road I was walking along and she kidnapped me.

I cooked t-bone steak for dinner, served with mashed potato and broccoli.

18 July 2007

The ultimate food experiences

From The Sydney Morning Herald's Good Living (food and wine) supplement and totally worth reading

The ultimate food experiences

July 17, 2007

From the finest fine dining to the world's best pizza, Terry Durack and Jill Dupleix have found the most indulgent ways to tickle your tastebuds.

They don't call us the lucky country for nothing. But if eating in Australia is on everyone else's list of essential food experiences, what's on ours? Is there life beyond the joys of fish'n'chips on Bondi Beach and Tetsuya's confit of ocean trout?

Yes, there is. There is the special thrill of tracking down the greatest dishes in the world, of tracing traditional foods back to their source and of knowing, just as you put the fork in your mouth, that you are experiencing the ultimate.

We don't just mean rarefied experiences for those lucky enough to get a table at Ferran Adria's El Bulli restaurant in Catalonia for his white asparagus with virgin olive oil capsules and lemon marshmallow. We mean getting your mouth around the finest sushi, the perfect Parisian bistro meal or the world's best noodle soup.

It's called context. Benchmark experiences like these bring home the importance of provenance, tradition, culture and sense of place. It's like sending your tastebuds to university so they'll have a better future.

It's also the only way to truly appreciate the greatness we have in our own backyard.

So here they are: our pick of the ultimate eating and dining experiences. Not so much food to die for but food to live for.

Pasteis de Belem at the Antiga Confeitaria de Belem, Lisbon

You haven't eaten a Portuguese custard tart until you have eaten one in Belem. These scorchy little treats were originally made in the kitchens of Belem's famous Jeronimos Monastery. When the monasteries were dissolved in 1834, an enterprising baker bought the secret recipe from the Sisters and it has stayed in the family ever since. Every day, the Antiga Confeitaria sells more than 10,000 tarts. Sit in one of the blue-tiled rooms and order a bica (strong black coffee) and two still-warm, sweet-smelling pasteis. Dust each with icing sugar, then with cinnamon, and bite through the incredibly crisp, almost brittle-toffee pastry base with its tiny kick of salt and smoke, into the sweet, light custard. Follow with a medicinal mouthful of coffee. Repeat. Rua de Belem 84-92, Belem, Lisbon, +351 21 363 74 23 or http://www.pasteisdebelem.pt.

The DB Burger at DB Bistro Moderne, New York

"As a Frenchman in America," chef Daniel Boulud says, "my duty is to show that we can make the greatest burger on Earth."

By golly, he has done it. The finest, hand-chopped sirloin is infused with chopped truffle, then moulded around a heart of braised, deboned and shredded short ribs, a mixture of root vegetables and a central plug of fresh foie gras. It is then flame-grilled, served on a parmesan bun, slathered with confit tomato and served with fresh tomato and frisee lettuce, next to a gleaming silver cup of French fries or pommes souffles for $US32 ($37). A DB Burger Royale layered with fresh truffles is also available in truffle season (December-March) for $US120. 55 West 44th Street, New York, +1 212 391 2400 or http://www.danielnyc.com.

Fugu at Nibiki restaurant, Tokyo

When it comes to fish, the Japanese like to dice, slice and fillet with death. Every year, they reputedly go through 10,000 tonnes of fugu or puffer fish, the liver of which contains a nerve toxin that is 500 times deadlier than cyanide. Fortunately, only chefs licensed by the state are allowed to prepare it. (Real thrill-seekers go underground, aiming for just enough of the toxin to give them a hallucinatory buzz.) The Yoshida family's 150-year-old Nibiki was famously visited by Anthony Bourdain for his TV series, A Cook's Tour. A set Ume banquet consists of nine different fugu dishes, including a delicate dish of fugu sashimi in the shape of a chrysanthemum and fugu tempura. 3-3-7 Shimoya Taito-Ku, Tokyo,
+81 03 3872 6250.

Pizza Margherita at Da Michele, Naples

The best pizza in the world comes from Naples and the best pizza in Naples comes from the 137-year-old Da Michele. Despite having all the charm of a working man's caff and serving only beer and soft drink, it's insanely popular so be prepared to wait. You can forget about ordering a quattro stagione because Da Michele only does two types: margherita, topped with tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella; and marinara of tomato, garlic, oil and a pinch of oregano. The crust is soft-but-tough, the raised edges, or cornicione, form an embankment to hold the fruity tomato and the base has to be soft enough to be folded a libretto - like a book - and eaten in the hand, never with a knife and fork. Via Cesare Sersale, 1/3, Naples, +39 81 553 9204.

Bistro Allard, Paris

If you close your eyes and try to imagine the perfect Parisian bistro it would look exactly like this 75-year-old Left Bank institution. Everything is as it should be, from the very Gallic, long-aproned waiters to the traditional zinc bar. The menu is a roll call of bistro classics from a dark, blood-stained coq au vin to garlicky Lyonnaise sausage with potato salad and a hefty cassoulet Toulousaine. We love the huge share plates for two, such as duck with olives, and a fork-tender roast chicken. For a less touristy, more Parisian experience, come after 9pm and ask for the front room. 41 rue St-Andre-Des-Artes, Paris, +33 1 4326 4823.

Ca's Patro March, Deia, Mallorca

There you are, barefoot and bikinied, sitting at a table at an eagle's nest of a restaurant, perched halfway up a cliff overhanging the dense blue Mediterranean with a bird's-eye view of Deia Beach. There are no windows, no walls and no roof, apart from a rough piece of straw thatching that throws some much-needed shade. In front of you is a simple, grilled whole sea bass, a plate of scorchy, smoky calamari and a bottle of the local fruity rosé, chilling in an ice bucket. Everything is fresh and local, except for the gadabout crowd who come by foot, dinghy or superyacht. From up here, it's easy to see why Deia has attracted so many artists and celebrities, from Robert Graves to Michael Douglas. Cala Deia, Deia, Mallorca, Spain, +34 971 639 137.

Hacienda Benazuza, San Lucar La Mayor, Spain

This luxurious hacienda, just 20 minutes from Seville, is Ferran Adria's archival restaurant where all his recipes are replayed by talented protege Rafael Morales. Dinner is an unbelievable 30 courses, but do leave room for the seven-course breakfast. Exquisite breads and pastries are served with three different butters (fisherman's, chive and chocolate) carrot and nut marmalades. There are vanilla creams with lemon jelly, oranges in saffron liqueur and papaya with lime juice and papaya sorbet. Salty dishes run from toasted sobrasada and roquefort cheese sandwiches to jabugo ham and padron peppers. La Alqueria, Hacienda Benazuza, Calle Virgen de Las Nieves, Sanlucar la Mayor, Seville, + 34 955 703 344 or http://www.elbullihotel.com.

Cal Pep, Barcelona

Cal Pep makes it onto so many best restaurant lists that Pep-virgins assume dining here must be a refined experience. Ha! Cal Pep looks like a tapas bar, acts like a tapas bar and is the best tapas bar in the world. Queue for a seat at the front counter and watch the brigade of chefs cook up a storm of achingly simple, honestly fresh and adorably good food in front of you. Try the chiperones (baby squid), the trifasico of crisp-fried whitebait, squid and shrimp, or percebes, leathery-skinned goose barnacles that taste sweeter than lobster. The wait for a seat can be daunting, but is always worth it. Placa de les Olles, 8, +34 9 3310 7961.

The Hinds Head, Bray, Berkshire

Heston Blumenthal liked his local pub so much that he bought it - and then left it alone. The wooden-panelled oak-beamed hotel is just a few steps away from his three-starred Fat Duck, but there is no snail porridge or tobacco chocolate here - just classic pub dishes, reworked without deconstruction or desecration. Freshly opened Colchester oysters are a sweet-salty delight and standards such as Lancashire hotpot and oxtail and kidney pudding are a far cry from the gloopy, sodden messes that usually trade under their names. High Street, Bray, Berkshire, England, +44 1628 626 151.

Mak Noodle, Hong Kong

It may just look like another hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant but for three generations Mak Chi-Ming and his family have served the world's most famous wonton noodle soup. Apparently, his grandfather once served the dish to former Chinese leader Chiang Kai-Shek. Today, the recipe remains unchanged. The secret is the broth - not chicken, as one would expect, but a special combination of dried flounder, dried shrimp and pork bones. Slip into a booth for a taste of dumpling heaven for $3.50 a bowl. 77 Wellington Street, Central Hong Kong, +852 2854 3810.

Nominate your ultimate dining experience on the Foodie Forum blog.


The whole of the modern Spanish culinary movement can be traced
to this ground-breaking Basque restaurant, where Juan Ramon Arzak's daughter Elena now tends the stoves. Avenida Alcalde Elosegui 273, San Sebastian, Spain, +34 943 278 465, http://www.arzak.es.

Carlo Cracco takes Italian cooking into the strange land of molecular gastronomy for an unforgettable Italian dining experience. Via Victor Hugo 4, 20123 Milan, Italy, +39 02 876 774.

El Bulli
The culinary mountaintop: an intellectually challenging, technically dazzling experience. Every year, 550,000 hopefuls vie for just 8000 places. Cala Montjol, Roses, Spain, +34 972 150 457, http://www.elbulli.com.

The Fat Duck
"Don't call it molecular gastronomy," cries Heston Blumenthal - then goes and creates the "Sounds of the Sea", a mixture of seafood and seaweed on sand-like tapioca, eaten while listening to crashing waves on an iPod. High Street, Bray, Berkshire, England, +44 1628 580 333, http://www.fatduck.co.uk.

The French Laundry
Thomas Keller effortlessly combines contemporary American cooking with French savoir faire and humour, in the middle of California wine country.
6640 Washington Street, Yountville, California, US, +707 944 2380, http://www.frenchlaundry.com.

Robust, chilli-spiked northern Chinese food in a 21st-century skyscraper with killer views. 28th Floor, One Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong, +852 3428 8342, http://www.aqua.com.hk.

Le Louis XV
Still the height of Provencal gastronomy, with its trolleys of breads, butters and living plants snipped for your personal infusions, set in a Madame de Pompadour room. Hotel De Paris, Place du Casino, Monte Carlo, Monaco, +377 98 06 88 64, http://www.alain-ducasse.com.

Le Meurice
Newly three-starred, Yannick Alleno is wowing Paris with his gutsy flavours and blinding technique, set in a candle-lit, mirrored, gilt-edged room of rococo splendour. Hotel Meurice, 228 rue de Rivoli, Paris, France, +33 1 4458 1010, http://www.meuricehotel.com.

Rene Redzepi raises Nordic cuisine to new heights in a former whale blubber warehouse decked with animal furs. Strandgade 93, Copenhagen, Denmark, 1401, +45 3296 3297, http://www.noma.dk.

A serene, idyllic oasis in the middle of Tokyo, serving exquisite Kaiseki banquets in traditional tatami rooms overlooking Japanese gardens. 3-4-27 Roppongi, Minato-Ku, Tokyo, Japan, +81 03 3585 6600.

I can vouch for the custard tarts in Belem.

Pasteis Pasteis de Belem

One down, many to go (except for the whale blubber and fugu).

Snow was forecast for today, but the sun was out. It was still cold.

Court came around for dinner tonight, after work. And he cooked! It was baked chicken breast wrapped in prosciutto, mashed kipfler potato, broccoli and served with a mushroom and garlic cream sauce.

Hmmm... maybe Emily might cook tomorrow night.

17 July 2007

fried spiders

Last Thursday I wrote about 'eating insects in Thailand'.

From The Sydney Morning Herald... fried spider.

What: Fried spider.

Where: Cambodia.

What is it: An arachnid derived from a species of tarantula called "a-ping". Some people say the habit of eating these creatures may have come about from years of desperation during Khmer Rouge rule when food was in short supply.

How it is prepared: The spiders are tossed in a mixture of MSG, sugar and salt. Crushed garlic is fried in oil until fragrant then the spiders are added and fried alongside the garlic until the legs are almost completely stiff, by which time the contents of the abdomen are not so runny.

The taste is not particularly strong; it's more a textural contrast between a crispy exterior and soft centre. While there is not all that much flesh on the legs, the head and body have a soft, delicate white meat inside. The abdomen, however, is not for the faint-hearted. Inside is a brown paste that is thought to be a heady mixture of organs, eggs or excrement.

A mountain of fried spiders - tarantulas - basted in oil and garlic and fried until the legs are almost completely stiff.
Photo: AFP

Mmmmm.... can't wait to try it... not. Maybe they're not that different to (eating) octopus.

Today was very cold and reports are that it may snow tomorrow.

16 July 2007

Weekend Magazine

Woohoo! I've just discovered that The Australian newspaper's Weekend Magazine is now online. It comes with the paper on Saturdays.

Not all the feature articles are on there, but it's not bad.

Now I'm waiting on The Age (Melbourne) and The Sydney Morning Herald to put their Good Weekend magazine online.

Today was so cold. When I walked to work this morning, it was still - 1 degrees Celsius.

15 July 2007

forbid Starbucks

From Xinhua online
BEIJING, July 14 (Xinhua) -- A Starbucks coffee shop inside Beijing's Forbidden City has been closed amid planners' hopes to serve the tourists more diverse drinks.

The U.S. coffee chain was closed on Friday afternoon at the former home of Chinese emperors and its logo was removed from the traditional Chinese style window panes.

A souvenir store next to the coffee shop was also closed.

A manager of the Forbidden City, known in China as the Palace Museum, said its management had offered to continue serving Starbucks coffee alongside other brands at a planned beverage store that will also sell domestic coffee.

He said Starbucks turned down the offer.

"The company insisted it wanted an independent cafe of its own," said Li Wenru, vice curator of the Palace Museum. He foresees little chance to continue the cooperation with Starbucks.

Phone calls to Starbucks Coffee Company in Beijing were unanswered on Saturday.

Management of the Palace Museum is determined to provide more diverse food, drinks and souvenirs in the forthcoming overhaul of the service area close to the Hall of Preseving Harmony, said YangXiaobo, an official in charge of planning.

"We found through a survey that most visitors -- from China and abroad -- hope to taste some imperial food at the emperors' former home."

Meanwhile, 60 percent of the visitors said they were most interested in souvenirs featuring the Palace Museum itself but sold for less than 200 yuan.

"We're tailoring a new snack menu and developing new souvenirs to meet the tourists' demand," Yang said.

By May 2008, more than 1,000 categories of the new souvenirs will be on sale at franchised stores inside the Forbidden City, twice as many as what is available now, he said.

A news anchor of the China Central Television asked Starbucks to move out of the Forbidden City in a blog article this January, and was backed by more than half a million Internet users.

In response to the online boycott, the museum management promised to reach a solution with Starbucks by the end of June.

A member of China's parliament revived the call at this year's session of the National People's Congress in March, saying the American coffee shop posed a challenge to traditional Chinese culture.

Surely a traditional tea house would be more appropriate than an American chain selling what passes as coffee. After all, you wouldn't expect a MacDonald's inside the Vatican. That would be vulgar.

I didn't do much today.

football - round 15

BRISBANE LIONS 6.5 7.12 14.14 18.18 (126)
MELBOURNE 1.0 3.4 5.8 12.10 (82)

Goals - Brisbane: J Brown 6 R Copeland 3 J Brennan 2 J Drummond M Rischitelli T Notting L Power M Leuenberger A McGrath J Adcock. Melbourne: A Davey 4 J White 2 N Brown R Robertson S Godfrey N Jones C Sylvia B McLean.
Best - Brisbane: J Brown L Power N Lappin R Copeland J Drummond. Melbourne: A Davey N Brown B McLean J White P Wheatley.
Umpires M Ellis K Nicholls T Pannell.
Official crowd 22,708 at the Gabba

What a win! It was worth finding a venue last night to watch the game.

Joel Patfull

Charmo (it was also his 100th game)


Rog (otherwise known as Big Red) - Daniel Merrett



With victory comes the club song

14 July 2007

welfare... comes with a price

From The Australian
Welfare payments to be 'quarantined' - PM

July 14, 2007

PARENTS who neglect their children or fail to ensure their attendance at school will have part of their welfare payments quarantined by Centrelink, Prime Minister John Howard said today.

"The welfare state was never intended to let people evade their personal or social responsibilities, especially when it comes to care for children,'' he said.

But Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd trumped the prime minister's big announcement, today unveiling his own plan for welfare reform.

Mr Howard said the welfare restrictions would help address child neglect and encourage school attendance.

The Howard government will allow the states to request Centrelink intervene to "manage'' welfare payments for families whose children are considered to be at risk of neglect.

This would see some families have their welfare payments quarantined to pay for essential items like food, clothing and shelter, starting next July.

Earlier today in Brisbane, Mr Rudd announced a Labor government would withhold welfare payments if children were abused, not sent to school or if parents were using drugs.

State and territory child protection authorities would be given the power to require parents who neglect their children to spend part of their family and welfare payments on essentials such as food, rent, electricity and gas for the home, and school uniforms and books.

Under the framework, authorities would also have the power to recommend to Centrelink the percentage of quarantining.

In cases involving drug abuse, for example, it could exceed 50 per cent, Mr Rudd said.

Mr Rudd said quarantining would become part of state and territory child protection plans, setting parental obligations against services and support agencies could provide.
Hmmm... both the political parties mean well. The big announcement though, is for political consumption. Obviously the people on welfare affected don't count very much for votes, but you can't argue with the logic.

I didn't do much today. I have no idea what I did for most of the day.

Tonight I went to another club to watch the footy with a couple of supporters of my club. What a great win from my team.

13 July 2007

Duncan M MacDonald - bark once for candidate A

From Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Shepherding King County Elections

This just in from King County:

Director of King County Elections Sherril Huff today canceled the registration of Duncan M. MacDonald, an illegal registration presented to King County Elections by Jane K. Balogh.

When Balogh fraudulently registered her Australian shepherd terrier-mix dog in August 2006, she knowingly and illegally declared her pet was a legal United States citizen, 18 years old, and a citizen of Washington state; a violation of both federal and state laws. Huff forwarded the case to the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office after Balogh returned a ballot in her dog's name in the May 15 special election.

"This incident provides a compelling example of the need to examine processes and to identify and respond quickly to signs of registration fraud," said Huff. "While we are legally bound to follow registration laws and use the tools available to verify proper ID, we still must be vigilant in protecting our voter rolls and act quickly to forward suspect cases on to the proper legal authorities."

The King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office has filed gross misdemeanor charges against Balogh for providing false information on a voter-registration application. A case setting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 11, 2007.

Posted by Chris McGann at July 10, 2007 1:48 p.m.
Cute dog! He's probably a lot smarter than a lot of registered voters.

The system is also at fault for not requiring valid identification for voter registration.

Woohoo! Tomorrow is Saturday.

12 July 2007

Eating insects in Thailand

From BBC News

Unusual appetiser
Areerat Jantao is one of the many food vendors plying their trade on the streets of Bangkok.
Her fare - fried insects - may not be to everyone’s tastes, but she certainly has no shortage of customers.
Many of the girls working in Bangkok’s bars and clubs come from northern Thailand, where insects are highly prized for their protein content.
But Areerat’s snacks are also proving popular with Asian and Middle Eastern tourists, and the occasional – usually drunk – Westerner.

Culinary tips
Areerat sells a variety of fried insects on her stall – including crickets, grasshoppers, cockroaches, water beetles, bamboo worms and ant eggs.
“The bar girls like the bamboo worms best. But it’s quite difficult to fry them without the insides popping out. I know the secret, though – lots of oil and a low heat.
“The Vietnamese and Chinese like scorpions. They want to eat the tails as that’s where the sting is. They believe that eating the sting will make them grow strong.”

Personal favourites
Areerat's most popular offering is a 20 baht (50 cent, 25p) bag of grasshoppers. But she has her own personal favourite.
“I prefer a type of cockroach with lots of sticky eggs inside, which makes them very tasty,” says Areerat.
“My favourites are water beetles," adds her husband Udon, who also sells insects.
"They have more meat inside and they’re quite chewy. I eat them all the time. Sometimes I even eat dung beetles, although not many people want to buy them.”

Taste test
In the interests of research, I had to have some really, so I chose Areerat Jantao’s best-selling grasshoppers.
“They taste just like chips,” she assured me encouragingly.
They did taste like chips, in the sense that they were covered with oil, but the problem was that they were like chips with legs.
And no matter how nutritious these insects are, that’s something which might just put people off having insects for dinner.

Words and pictures by the BBC’s Kate McGeown
Instead of going 'ew', I find this quite interesting. Insects are a great source of protein and an essential part of the diet of people who do not have access to animal protein.

Might try some one day. Well lubricated with beer of course.

Emily and Neil came over for dinner tonight. I made a roast pork belly marinated in soy and balsamic vinegar with preserved lemon and marmalade. Served with mash potato and sweet potato and blanched broccoli.

11 July 2007

don't try this at home...

I love this story about Kevin Richardson who is practically an honorary lion.

Article from: The Sunday Telegraph (1 July 2007)
HE sleeps with lions, wrestles with cheetahs and hugs hyenas - meet the "Lion Whisperer". Thirty-two-year-old Kevin Richardson spends his days - and nights - curled up with massive cats as part of his job at The Lion Park, at Lanseria, outside Johannesburg.

The South African lion whisperer has a natural affinity with some of the most dangerous animals on the planet, many of whom he names and raises by hand from birth.

"I don't use sticks, whips or chains - just patience,'' he says.

"It may be dangerous, but this is a passion for me, not a job.

"I have to rely on my instincts to gauge an animal or a situation, and I will not approach a creature if something doesn't feel right.''

Mr Richardson began working with big cats - and particularly lions and hyenas - 10 years ago after quitting his career in physiology, where he worked with patients who had undergone surgery.

He wants to educate people about the big cats in a bid to save these beautiful animals.

Part of his approach is to bond intimately with the animals and they learn to treat him as a member of their pride.

"They see me as a creature they have adopted. I have also been an adopted parent in a lot of instances,'' Mr Richardson recently told South African television show Carte Blanche.

"I am someone they relate to. I enrich their lives. When I come here it's fun: we take all these animals out into the big, open spaces. If these animals are going to be kept in a captive situation, don't they deserve to have the best care, the best entertainment, the best lives?''

Mr Richardson's job is inherently dangerous. The lions at Lanseria often weigh more than 220kg and the hyenas, which are notoriously unpredictable, have the ability to bite through thick steel.

And all the big cats are fiercely protective of their young - but Mr Richardson has few fears.

"With all the animals I'm near the top (in dominance terms). You have got to be near the top. The moment they see you as a lower-order figure, they will challenge you,'' he said.
And the pictures are awesome.

They are just great big kitties after all.

I bought some garfish and small squid from the fish markets for dinner. They were very nice.