Monday, November 24, 2008

Thou shalt not cuddle a wild panda, even one in captivity

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Panda attacks man in Chinese zoo

Liu, a student at a university in Guilin, thought a panda at the local zoo looked so cute that he had to cuddle it. So he ignored signs and scaled a two-metre fence to enter Yang Yang's enclosure. The frightened panda rewarded Liu's efforts with serious bites to his arms and legs.

IMHO, Liu is lucky not to be rewarded with a Darwin Award. A panda is a wild animal. Cuddling a panda, even one that is captive in a zoo, is Not a Good Idea.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Natalie Dee Blogs about her premature baby

I read a story today on Natalie Dee's blog about her really awful pregnancy and delivery. She had developed pre-eclampsia at 33 weeks and was induced a week later. There's a fair bit of cursing in the post, so those with tender eyes should avert their gazes.

My favourite part of the post is the following paragraph and the accompanying photo:

"Yes, they decided it would be OK to give me a 4 pound baby to take care of. Pretty terrifying. Try to get any sleep at all when you have a baby smaller than a mens' tennis shoe making snorting noises next to you all night. I challenge you to not freak out and have to check every ten seconds that she has not died of smallness."

The Lost Years & Last Days of David Foster Wallace : Rolling Stone

I hadn't heard of David Foster Wallace until my cousin asked for Consider the Lobster in our Secret Santa gift exchange a few years back. Since Wallace was a professor at Claremont College, which is not that far away, I decided to use the professor connection to get he book autographed. I never met Wallace, only chatted with him on the phone, but he was very nice.

I still haven't read Infinite Jest, but my interest in Wallace was definitely piqued. I was saddened to hear of his death earlier this year.

There was a very nice essay in Rolling Stone,
The Lost Years & Last Days of David Foster Wallace, that talked about about his decades-long struggle with depression. His story is beautiful and sad.

My favorite parts of the essay are when it talks about how difficult it is to write. I know the feeling.

"Wallace told Costello about a woman he had become involved with. 'He said, 'She gets mad at me because I never want to leave the house.' 'Honey, let's go to the mall.' 'No, I want to write.' 'But you never do write.' 'But I don't know if I'm going to write. So I have to be here in case it happens.' This went on for years.'"

I am so familiar with this experience. I have spent many hours trapped at my desk playing some useless game like solitaire or slitherlink, not wanting to write, but having to write all the same.

(His friend,) Mark Costello was also worried. "Work got very hard. He didn't get these gifts from God anymore, he didn't get these six-week periods where he got exactly the 120 pages he needed. So he found distraction in other places." He would get engaged, then unengaged. He would call friends: "Next weekend, Saturday, you gotta be in Rochester, Minnesota, I'm getting married." But then it would be Sunday, or the next week, and he'd have called it off.


I know this practice of serial obsessions. When I have spent too many hours trapped behind a computer, I start to fantasize about other doing other things and start having absurd obsessions. I went through a phase when I was shopping for a horse, or planning to get a tattoo in Kyoto, Japan, or becoming a yoga instructor. If I weren't so trapped, I would never consider such things. But I was, and so I did. And so did David Foster Wallace. And perhaps in some twisted way, it helped the writing too.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Future of Progressive Islam? Part II

The last post on this topic ended with questions about the interface between Islam and the non-Muslim world, typified by post-Enlightenment Western European culture. This culture has come to dominate the world, due in part to accidents of history, economic success, and the innovation that has come from multiculturalism.

A program from Wisconsin Public Radio's To the Best of Our Knowledge entitled "East Meets West: Encountering Islam" and "East Meets West: A Culture in the Crossroads" has stories on how some individual Muslims are bridging the cultures. Among those featured are Kumail Nanjiani, Tariq Ramadan, Lupe Fiasco, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Kumail Nanjani is a standup comedian living in Chicago who was born and raised in Pakistan. He has left Islam, but he began questioning the religion as a child. He was told that every missed prayer, in hell the punishment would be a mountain thrown on your back. He took this literally and began to wonder.

Why my back? If it were a mountain, it wouldn't matter if it were on my back. How big is this mountain? Could it be just a plateau? I could take a plateau. And how would this mountain end up on my back? Would there be a giant who threw the mountain at me? Overhand or shot put style? If there were a giant who was strong enough to throw mountains, why wouldn't he punch me? That would really hurt.


These questions naturally led to other ones and more things that didn't make sense. Nanjani gave his parents a DVD of his show. They had known previously that he had left Islam, but the video finally convinced them. On the one hand, they were happy to know that he wasn't an angry former Muslim. On the other hand, they were perplexed because he still seemed like a moral, caring person and couldn't understand how someone with those values could not be Muslim.

Tariq Ramadan is a Swiss-born philosopher who travels throughout the Islamic world trying to build bridges between European Muslims and conservative clerics. In the show he describes himself as:

I'm Swiss by nationality, European by culture, Egyptian by memory, universalist by principle, and Muslim, of course, by religion. These are five dimensions of my identities, but over all I am universality by principle.


Like Martin Luther, he is appealing to clerics to go back to the basics and use the Quar'an and Mohammad's life as the starting point for Muslim theology. This approach, he argues, would lead to a more dignified, simplified Islam, one that makes it easier for Muslims to participate in a modern world by providing a means for them to make decisions about how to live. In other words, to ask and answer one's own questions using primary sources, rather than following directives from an imam. He has advocated for a moratorium on stoning, death penalty, and corporal punishment in Islam. While he is personally against these punishments, Ramadan was asking for a moratorium to open a dialogue with Muslim scholars and clerics worldwide.

Speaking of advice, I heard on the BBC World Service on Saturday morning that one could telephone a call center in Abu Dabi, UAE to obtain advice on religious issues. If I recall correctly, this service is organized by the government of the emirate. They employ an esteemed panel and there is an elaborate process for arriving at the final advice, or fatwa. I couldn't find the story on the BBC web site, but there is an article on the Gulf News web site.

This brings us to Dubai, one of the emirates in the UAE, which will be the topic of my next post.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Future of Progressive Islam? Part I

Islam is not known for being progressive, that is, embracing the modern world, more liberal values, and human rights. Although not an inherent part of the religion, Sharia law, wahabism, and the practice of covering for women have become identified with Islam. Over the last month, I have read some interesting articles and heard some podcasts that hint at what a modern, progressive Islam looks like.

Let's start with how political arrangements, societies, and authority in Muslim countries are fundamentally different from those that follow the Western European tradition of separating Church and State. There was a podcast on CBC's Ideas on "The Stillborn God" featuring an interview with Mark Lilla, author of a book with the same title. Lilla is a historian of ideas and is a professor of religion at Columbia University in New York. In the book and the interview, he explains that Islam follows a doctrine of political theology which is at odds with post-Enlightenment political philosophy.

Political theology is the doctrine that establishes the legitimate exercise of authority based on divine revelation. In other words, we are governed according to the word of the divine and by people who are divinely privileged. In contrast, Enlightenment thinkers, such as Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, argued that government and rule of law should be based on consent. In other words, the populace assents to be governed in a rational manner, because the benefits outweigh the costs. Therefore, government derives is political authority from the people. This is the beginning of the separation of Church and State; one reason that people consent to be governed is so they can be granted freedom to worship as they wish and guarantees on that freedom. (This is important because branches of the Christian church had been in extensive conflict for many years, e.g. the Reformation and Counter-Reformation in England. There were conflicts between religions, but they had less impact on Western Europe than intra-Christian ones.) In political theology, political authority derives only from God. Moreover, the idea of rule by popular consent is a sinful rebellion against the proper place of God in the world. Lilla's main point in drawing attention to this difference is to remind us that the decision to separate Church and State is not inevitable. We in the West should not be waiting around for Islamic states, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, to "wake up" and realize that our way is a better way to organize things.

Given that we have two cultures that disagree so fundamentally over the ground rules over how government should be organized, how can they co-exist in a globalized, networked world? What is the place of second-generation Muslim immigrants in Europe? How can post-Enlightenment cultures explain themselves to Muslim countries? How can a Muslim country participate in the world economy?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

In the words of our soldiers

I was listening to CBC's As It Happens on Thursday night and not surprisingly they had some programming to mark the anniversary of September 11. The "For the Record" segment has people who are involved in stories speaking for themselves, in their own words. They featured a portion of a piece by Sean Smith of The Guardian newspaper in London entitled Endgame in Iraq. He had spent two months filming the U.S. 101st Airborne Division in Baghdad, who had been involved in heavy fighting Sadr City and Shulla. (Warning: There is a lot of cussing when the soldiers are in combat.)



In the video story, he has soldiers voicing their opposition to the war in a very powerful, rational, reasoned manner. The most horrifying parts of the video showed the soldiers interacting with Iraqi civilians. But the most surprising parts to me was hearing soldiers make the same arguments against the war that I do. Soldiers are imagined as unintelligent drones who follow orders. However, the 101st Airborne is a cut above, both in terms of training and the recruits they attract.

They said things like:

It's just a waste of time now. Too much money. Too many lives lost. Too many families destroyed, like mine. I miss them more than anything.


Basically, I think we're in a stupid pointless war, because a lot of politicians either a) can't admit that they were wrong or b) making a lot of money off this war.




I hate it here. It's hot. You're away from your family. It's very stressful. A limited amount of sleep. It sucks.




This war is stupid and pointless. This is not our country. This is not our war. We're in the middle of a civil war that's been going on for a couple thousand years now. this war is costing my country billions of dollars every month. I think the last count was between four and twelve billion dollars per month. This ware is contributing to the collapse of our economy and the devaluization of the America dollar. This war is stupid and pointless and it's ruining our country.


Iraq doesn't really care about us any more. They don't want our help. This country doesn't really want to change. I believe it's time to go home. It's time to stop losing lives. Stop wasting money. Just carry on with our lives. That's all I really have to say. Not much else. I miss my family. I miss m friends that died, the ones I've left behind. I'm done with it. Done fighting. Tired of it. That's all I got.


If this doesn't make you a peace advocate, I don't know what will.

There were no weapons of mass destruction. Iraq was not an imminent (or immanent) threat in 2002. Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. If it was about the oil, then it definitely didn't help. The only things that the US has to show for their time are a lot of casualties (both military and civilian) and an enormous permanent base near Baghdad.

It's time to end the war in Iraq and bring our troops home.

Palestinian women giving birth at Israeli check points

There was story on the BBC today reporting that a soldier was jailed for refusing to allow a Palestinian woman in labor to pass through a checkpoint. The baby was ultimately stillborn. While this is absolutely a tragedy, the most shocking details appear later in the article.

Between 2000 and 2006, at least 68 Palestinian women gave birth at Israeli checkpoints, according to the Palestinian health ministry. Of these 35 women miscarried, and five died in childbirth.


We have to be a bit careful because the statistics come from the Palestinians, but it's not like the Israelis would be keeping track of something like this. In any case, this is a BBC article and I'm inclined to believe them, but they are a bit confusing. It's not clear what "miscarried" means here; was the baby stillborn? or was the woman miscarrying?

Regardless of these caveats, these statistics are appalling. A maternal death rate of 7%! A fetal death rate of 51%! This is just deplorable.

While these statistics describe the phenomenon at a macro level, I can imagine how it happens at a micro level. Soldiers are given rules to enforce at a checkpoint: no one passes without a permit. There is a suspicion that people are faking medical emergencies to get through the checkpoint. There is further suspicion that paramedics are confederates of the fraud or dupes. A young soldier has no idea of what goes on during childbirth and can't tell when a woman is really in labor. I'm not at all excusing the behavior of the soldiers; I'm just saying that are multiple personal stories behind this a story. Putting an end to these tragic events will require strategies and tactics at the macro and micro level.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Gluten-free and lactose-free eating in Milan


I've been in Milan, Italy since the weekend and I've had a terrific time. This is noteworthy because it's surprising for two reasons.

1) I have not enjoyed previous trips to Italy, because I found the country to be disorganized and chaotic. Milan is different. It's a world city, like New York. It's very cosmopolitan, and people are business-like, but nice. Drivers actually stop for you, unlike in Rome and Naples where it's the pedestrian's responsibility to get away. (The traffic is still pretty hairy, but this is due mostly to the scooters who act like bicycles, but move at car-like speeds and to the bicycles who act like pedestrians, but move at sprinting speeds.) Milan also seems like a very safe city. There are lots of women taxi drivers, a phenomenon that I have not seen anywhere else.
In addition, Milan has a great transit system (streecars, buses, and subway), so I have been to many parts of the city.

Coincidentally, a story appeared on BBC NEWS reporting that the Dante Alighieri Society (similar to the Academie Francaise) are calling on Italians to use less English. Words like leadership, weekend, OK, and know-how are being used part of the common language. I had noticed the phenomenon in my time here. Since I only speak guide book Italian, I definitely notice when an English work or phrase pops up. It's similar to listening to francophones in Montreal, but with a lower proportion of English overall.

2) I have a long list of things I can't eat. I can't have gluten, lactose, or caffeine, otherwise Bad Things Happen. Also, I'm supposed to stay away from sugar, starches, and saturated fats because I have high cholesterol and high triglycerides. This doesn't leave much that I can eat-- mostly green leafy vegetables. I can compromise on the second set, but not the first. Italian food is particularly problematic for me with the bread, pasta, pizza, and cheese.

Amazingly, I have been able to find things to eat. Around the corner from the hotel is a very nice grocery store, Esselunga, which has a more than adequate selection of soy products. They also have a selection of prepared foods with a complete ingredient list, so I have been eating from there quite happily.

Yesterday, I discovered a shop, Vivere Meglio, across the street with lactose-free gelato. Yum!

Last night, I discovered a web site with listings of places that have gluten-free pizza. Today, I went on to two of the most highly rated restaurants. For lunch, I went to Be Bop, which was in an area similar to Queen Street West in Toronto. Despite its name, there was classical music playing at Be Bop. Any pizza on the menu could be prepared with a gluten-free crust. I had a wood fired, thin crust veggie pizza (mmm) and lemon sorbetto for dessert. For dinner, I went to Le Specialità, where any pizza or pasta could be made gluten-free and they had dessert options too. I had a very large Pizza Duo Stagione (mushrooms and prosciutto) and Gnocci Frutta di Mare (!!!). For dessert, I had a tart with white chocolate and wild strawberries. I was extremely full and extremely happy.

It's a good thing that I hadn't discovered these places before, because I'd be going home round!

Sendak's Trilogy and The Secret Life of Children


A few months ago, we started reading Maurice Sendak's books to Lentil. We've had "Where the Wild Things Are" and "In the Night Kitchen" for a while, but Lentil wasn't ready to appreciate them yet. We had read certain books over and over again, and we were ready for something new. She loved them. The stories are not at all sensible or logical, and the art is beautiful. She looked at the pictures so closely and was so quiet while I was reading. The book jacket for "In the Night Kitchen" mentions that these books are part of trilogy, according to Sendak. Since Lentil liked these books so much, I decided to hunt down the third.


The local children's book store had not heard of this, so I turned to the Internet. So the third book is "Outside Over There." Most of the reviews on Amazon are positive, but a few parents were horrified by the book. The plot involves a young girl has to rescue her kidnapped baby sister from goblins (who look like babies) while their parents aren't paying attention. In the reviews on Amazon, the parents felt that the book didn't provide reasonable role-modeling of parents and might give their children nightmares; however, they did like the Wild Things and Night Kitchen. I found this odd, because parents are entirely absent from those books, and scary things happen in those books too (Max meets monsters and Mickey is baked in a cake.)



Although the three books don't have the same characters, the books are a trilogy because they are thematically related. According to Sendak, the books are about

how children master various feelings — anger, boredom, fear, frustration, jealousy — and manage to come to grips with the realities of their lives

A recent article in the New York Times, Maurice Sendak’s Concerns, Beyond Where the Wild Things Are mentions that Sendak had relentless nightmares about kidnapping. Sendak is also haunted by a terrible sense of inadequacy, even now as he approaches his 81. Journalist Patricia Cohen wrote:

That Mr. Sendak fears that his work is inadequate, that he is racked with insecurity and anxiety, is no surprise. For more than 50 years that has been the hallmark of his art. The extermination of most of his relatives and millions of other Jews by the Nazis; the intrusive, unemployed immigrants who survived and crowded his parents’ small apartment; his sickly childhood; his mother’s dark moods; his own ever-present depression — all lurk below the surface of his work, frequently breaking through in meticulously drawn, fantastical ways.


As children mature, it is good and appropriate for them to separate from their parents and be able to function independently. The degree of separation and independence, of course, varies with age and the personality of the child. It is fiction to suggest that a parent can be present for every moment of a child's life. I believe that children can have complex internal lives, right before our eyes at an age much younger age than we expect. Last month on This American Life, Episode 361 entitled "Fear of Sleep" was on sleep disorders, both medical and emotional. Act IV was about a boy, Seth Lind, who saw Stanley Kubrick's The Shining when he was six years old and had trouble falling asleep for the next two years. The horror movie particular affected him because the movie was told from the point of view of a young child. As part of the segment, Seth interviews his mother about that period of time. She had no idea that he was so tormented and recalled that he was a happy, go-lucky kid. Later in the segment, Seth is asked why he never talked to his parents about his fear of sleep. His answer was along the lines of: in the end, everyone goes to sleep and you have to deal with it on your own. At the risk of sounding cynical, I think there's an essential truth there. We're much better off giving children support, skills, and freedom, than attempting the impossible task of monitoring them 24/7.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Evil in the World

In Adult Sunday School, we are going through some curriculum on "Living the Questions." The theme for this month is the question, "If God is all-powerful, all-loving, and all-good, how can evil exist?" There are a number of prompts for discussion in the material and I'll be responding to some of them here. I'll start with a discussion of the question itself.

I think the question starts from the wrong place. It assumes that God is in complete control of everything that happens. If this is the case, then we are simply automatons who behave in a deterministic manner. But God didn't make us that way. We were given free will and can act any way we choose. One explanation that I have heard is that God gave us free will so that He could be loved by creations who choose to, rather than being programmed to. It is far less meaningful to hear a trained parrot say "I love you" on cue, than it is to hear a person say "I love you" with joy in his eyes.

Because God gave us free will, He doesn't control absolutely everything. But this does not diminish his power, love, goodness, or presence in our lives. Because we have free will, we can choose good or evil. Adam and Eve were given the choice whether or not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Jesus was tempted by power and by the opportunity to turn away from ministry.

Evil is not a dark menace out in the world. Evil is a possibility in each one of us. Evil is an act that diminishes us as individuals or diminishes humanity as a whole. By using this definition, evil can be both small and big. It can be the resentment that we harbor against a fellow driver. It can be the atrocities committed by a warlord. The challenge for us as humans is to confront evil possibilities in the minutiae of daily life and turn away from it.

Suffering


Why is there suffering in the world? And where is God during suffering?

To build on what I have written above, there is suffering because an individual makes a choice to act in a manner that diminishes themselves, others, or the collective. God is present in the world, as He always is. We can turn to him for strength or we can turn away in anger. Author and Auschwitz survivor, Elie Weisel, was angry at good for a long time after World War II. But in order to be angry at God, one must a) believe that He exists and b) have a relationship with him. I am reminded of the poem Footprints in the Sand in which the protagonist sees her/his life flash before him as a series of footprints in the sand along the shore. The protagonist notices that most of the time there are two sets of footprints, but during difficult times, there is only one set. She/he confronts God about this disparity, and He replies:

The Lord replied, "My precious, precious child,
I love you and I would never, never leave you
during your times of trial and suffering.
"When you saw only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you."


If God is present in the world, does He intervene and take direct action? Sometimes. We really like it when God's actions are undeniable and obvious. For example, Moses and the burning bush, Joshua and the walls of Jericho, and Noah. But it's not always the way we think He does or should. For example, the maltreatment of Job. A friend suggested the idea of "severe mercy." God's mercy can sometimes be severe in the sense that He can use negative events in our lives to bring us closer to Him. I'm a bit uncomfortable with this idea, but it does make one wonder. Sometimes bad things just happen. Sometimes bad things are part of God's plan. It's hard to know.

Does Satan get a bum rap?

Definitely. Satan is a personification of evil and distracts us from the insidiousness of the evil within. It suggests that we look outward for the cause of evil (and the solutions to it). It suggests that Satan is out there in the world and leads to counterproductive ideas like demonic possession and devil worshiping. These phenomena can be explained through much simpler mechanisms, such as our own human foibles.

Satan as a personification of evil is an oversimplification. It's an attempt to explain the world in black and white terms, with God on the side of good and Satan on the side of evil. Things are actually much more complex. There are shades of gray and marginally better or worse choices. The personification turns Satan into a fetish, like a monkey wrench thrown into the great order of things. This concept is misleading, because it causes us to not look for the evil in ourselves.

Lime-Themed BBQ

We had some friends over last night and I used a bunch of recipes off the Internet that were new to me. As I was cooking, I noticed that there was lime in just about every recipe. I guess that flavor must have appealed to me as I was web surfing.

For drinks, I made a Basil Limeade. This choice was inspired by the yummy drink that I had at The Hungry Cat last week. This drink does not keep well and should be consumed immediately. It becomes bitter as more flavors come out of the lime pith over time.

For the main course, we had hot dogs. No lime there, but for the vegetarians, I made grilled tofu with a marinade containing lime. The maple flavor really came through in the grilling. I didn't have any balsamic vinegar, so I substituted rice vinegar. I think this was an improvement.

On the side, I made a Lime Quinoa Salad with mint. This was a low glycemic index salad from Karina the Gluten-Free Goddess.

I was going to make a dessert inspired by The Hungry Cat, but ran out of time. It was going to be a cornmeal cake with pickled stone fruit (very light simple syrup, with ginger, coriander, and basil), with whipped cream top (Cool Whip for those who can't have dairy). This is not low fat or low glycemic index. :) Instead, I bought a mango mousse cake from 99 Ranch Market. It was this week's loss leader, on for $10 instead of the usual $25.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The trouble with categories

I previously blogged about how troublesome categories can be in my post on an area of India where people were being pressured to declare themselves either Hindu or Muslim after centuries of practicing a hybrid religion. These issues of categories seems to come up on our modern age where it's necessary to put people into on group or another, so they can fill out a form or fit into a field in a computer database. Geoffrey Bowker and Susan Leigh Star wrote about precisely this phenomenon in "Sorting Things Out".

Here's another example of the problems that arise when it becomes possible to categorize things at a finer granularity than in the past. This story from the BBC reports on how an "Arctic Map shows dispute hotspots." New technology has allowed us to map the Arctic more precisely than before. As a result, circumpolar countries have more "facts" that they can use to argue over national boundaries. Fortunately, being cold-weather cultures with Northern temperaments, these countries will likely settle things in an orderly fashion.

Pink foam walls reveal national character. | MetaFilter

Traditional Japanese culture is highly formal, stylized, and restrained. Not so, with contemporary Japanese mass culture. This trend is demonstrated in their penchant for wacky game shows. People appear on national television participating in contests that are simultaneously baffling and humiliating, and sometimes painful.

On MetaFilter, a post entitled "Pink foam walls reveal national character" describes a putative game show and the variations that have appeared around the world. The original game show is actually a segment on a comedy program, similar to "What's my line?" In the show "Tunnels no Minasan no Okage Desu," also known as The Human Tetris Game, "contestants strike poses to fit through cutouts in pink foam walls." Bizarre and hilarious. I spent about 45 minutes watching the various YouTube segments.

Versions have appeared in other countries sometimes as part of a comedy show, as a show on its own, with comedians, and with celebrities. Links to versions from Italy, Russia, France, Denmark, Hong Kong, Korea, and Australia are available in the MetaFilter post. The contestants are typically dressed in goofy, tight super hero outfits, except in Italy where they are scantily clad models.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Whither wet nurses?

Rita Arens' post Whose Boobies? on BlogHer caught my interest.

In this and other posts, she is honest about not being entirely successful at breastfeeding her child, because she had difficulty identifying breasts as anything, but sexual. In this post, she mentions misgivings that she and other women have about wet nurses and cross nursing (nursing some one else's child). Some of the concerns that she cites are medical issues, cultural taboos, and intimacy concerns.

While I think these do play a part, to me the most significant factor that has changed is the family structure. In the current age, we think of the nuclear family as a good thing. The basic family unit is now mom, dad, and kids, with little extended family around. We live together, work together, and bond together in these units. A reliance on someone else for bonding or emotional sustenance is a kind of failure, especially for the mom. In the past, and in some places now, a child is raised by an extended family. A baby could be picked up and comforted by anyone. There were many hands-- and many mammaries-- to share the work. Extended families were the social safety net. These arrangements are what is denoted by the phrase "it takes a village to raise a child."

In this analysis, milk banks are a little more acceptable than wet nurses, because only the nourishment is being transferred. Actually, it's illegal in the US to sell breast milk, because trade in bodily fluids, such as blood, is prohibited. Hence, we have blood banks and milk banks. A volunteer blood donation program generally has higher quality blood (e.g. fewer pathogens) than programs where donors are compensated financially for their contributions. (Cue the image of the homeless person with the leaking bandage on his arm and a few dollars in his pocket.) Consequently, one certainly couldn't make a living by selling breast milk. But what about providing wet nursing as a service?

While we're at it, why are men allowed to donate sperm and receive financial compensation? Sounds like a double standard, I say. It's far less medically risky and socially damaging to share breast milk than sperm. There are many children out there who are wondering who is their anonymous sperm donor dad.

Fabulous Five Spice Chicken from Allrecipes

I have a package of five spice powder sitting around. I don't remember what recipe we bought it for, but it has been largely unused. I was looking for a marinade for one of our many packages of chicken from Costco and I had the bright idea of using the five spice powder.

I used the a recipe for Fabulous Five Spice Chicken from Allrecipes.com and it was yummy.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

We visit a boondoggle

The El Toro Marine Corps Air Station was closed in 1999 and a great deal of controversy followed regarding what to do with the land. Many people favoured opening an airport (and closing the nearby John Wayne airport). Everyone else wanted anything but an airport. The latter group prevailed, and that's precisely what they got, according to the monthly Orange County Journalists Roundtable on KPCC's Air Talk.

The plan was to parcel out the land into large parcels and sold at auction. The winning developer was expected to build houses and to use part of the profits to build the Orange County Great Park. Well, the housing market has collapsed, so the park will be a long time in coming. Irvine and Orange County politicians have received a great deal of criticism for this project.

In the meantime, we have the preview park. The most noteworthy feature is the Orange County Great Park Balloon, which is a tethered helium balloon, that one can ride free of charge-- after signing a waiver that indemnified the organization and gave them permission to use photos of one having a nice time.

I thought Mini-Mausburger would enjoy the big orange balloon, so we went.





For the bargain basement price of $14 million, we have displays, chairs, umbrellas, trees in boxes, and some patches of grass. It was funny explaining to our munchkin that this was indeed a park, but it didn't have a slide or a play structure. Considering how little is there, we have received an amazing number of flyers and newsletters in the mail.





As Mr. Mausburger pointed out, the site reminded him of the party where nobody showed up. There are party favours, games, and music, but nobody showed up. We went on a Friday morning and there were about five families with children there. The plans for the park are pretty cool-- fountains, cafes, pavilions, play structures, a tricycle track, lots of baseball diamonds, and lots of tennis courts. Currently, there's an RV storage facility on the grounds and there is (sanctioned) drag racing on one of the runways on the weekend.

The balloon ride was cool-- my motion sickness, notwithstanding. But for $14 million, I would have expected a little more bang for my tax buck. A slide would have been nice.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Montreal woman awakens to find python under bed

This must be true, it was on the CBC. One metre is not that big for a python, but it's pretty big if you're not expecting to see a snake under your bed. I would have loved to have seen this on an episode of Cops.

Oldest joke in the word is about farting

I love jokes about farting. Just the word "fart" makes me giggle. This used to embarrass the heck out of Mr. Mausburger when we first started dating. He has adjusted and tells me lots of nonsense joked using the word "fart." Even now, when I talk about poop (digestive problems, toilet paper, etc) in polite company, he still gets uncomfortable, but rolls with it.



A story on the BBC
reported that the world's oldest joke is as follows:

Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap.

This was found in Sumeria, now Northern Iraq. The funniest joke in the article is about the Egyptian pharaoh. More examples can be found on a recent MetaFilter thread. To this, I contribute my favourite pharaoh joke.

"I have some good news and some bad news," the galley master of the Royal Barge told the rowing slaves, chained to their oars. "The good news is that today's gruel ration will be doubled. The bad news is that the pharaoh wants to go water skiing."

I don't know where this came from, but I'm pretty sure there's a Far Side cartoon to go with it.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Dreamboarding, not waterboarding

I saw this post today, and the first thing that I thought of was waterboarding. It turns out that the two have nothing to do with each other, except for the coincidental use of the term "boarding," but what if...

Dreamboarding is a technique for presenting your dreams or aspirations in a visual format. Kind of like a scrapbooking/collage/dreamcatcher mash up. It's supposed to be done to celebrate the full moon, with the hope that the dreams will come true.

Waterboarding, in the other hand, is a torture technique. I blogged about this previously, but essentially it simulates drowning by pouring water into the victim's mouth and nose.

What if dreamboarding was a peace-building technique where you poured dreams into your enemy until they drowned in them? By immersing him or her in one's hopes, fears, aspirations, love, joy, sorrows, and nightmares, one could win over hearts and minds, rather than alienate them. War is waged only against the "other," that is, against those who are not one of us. There is no "them," there is only "we." Resources, territory, and power are not zero sum games. Peace is not just the absence of war, it's the presence of a stable, just, and fair community of people who are fed, clothed, healthy, and sheltered.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Queen Rania takes on stereotypes

How cool is this! Queen Rania of Jordan has a vlog on YouTube. Her goal is to challenge stereotypes of Muslims. This is one neat lady. She's a Palestinian married to a military man who never expected to be king. Apparently, it's a love match. She has the equivalent of an MBA and has worked for Citibank and Apple Computer.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Radovan Karadzic arrested... finally

The news this week that Radovan Karadzic was finally arrested on eleven charges of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and other atrocities made me recall an article that I had read about a month ago about why Karadzic and Mladic were still at large. The BBC's Nick Thorpe wrote about a Dutch journalist who spotted Karadzic at a cafe in Bosnia in 2005. The journalist reported the sighting to the authorities, but nothing was done. He wanted to write a story about the lack of progress in the case. He interviewed a person from the Dutch military intelligence who advised him not to write the story, if he valued his life. Dutch agents had pursued Karadzic and visited the restaurant, and needed protection from the Serbian mafia when they returned to the Netherlands. Other fascinating details about the power and ruthlessness of the network of Serbian nationalists intent on shielding their heroes can be found in the article.

The stories of alleged war criminals living out ordinary lives also reminded me of the long search for Josef Mengele. After the Nazis were defeated, Mengele was actually in custody in an American POW Camp. However, he was discharged using papers belonging to an accomplice, Fritz Hollman. He worked for five years as a farm hand in the German country side. He eventually escaped to Argentina, with the help of more Nazis. He lived out his life in South America until 1979, when he died at the age of 67, from drowning.

I read up on Mengele after hearing about Marianne Grant's quest to have paintings returned to her from the Holocaust Museum in Auschwitz. Grant was a trained artist who was asked by Mengele to paint portraits of the people who he was studying, such as the gypsies, dwarves, and twins. A collection of her personal art has been displayed in her adopted homeland, Scotland.She passed away in 2007, aged 86, without getting her portraits back.

This collection of articles is chilling and amazing. War is just awful. It turns ordinary people into killers. It turns civilians into victims. And through it all, there is the will to survive.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Economics of POW Camp

I was referred to this journal article on "Economics of POW Camp" as a classic paper in economics. I can see why economists get their students to read it. The article describes a number trade arrangements that emerged spontaneously, and as a result serve to reinforce economic principles. It's long, but interesting.

The article was written very shortly after the end of the war, so memories are fresh. The author was a former POW, with first hand knowledge. The diction and prose is very sophisticated. It uses relatively complex sentence constructions, that are surprisingly easy to understand. I don't know anyone who writes like that these days. I know I don't, because I'm always worried about making complex ideas understandable. Consequently, I write wordy, informal text. The writing in the article is formal and preserves the complexity.

It talks about how systems of trade, barter, and commerce were developed around rations in POW camps in Germany during World War II. Note that these are POW camps and not concentration camps, so the residents were actually fed. The soldiers received basic rations from their German captors, so their basic needs were looked after. The Red Cross also distributed rations that included cigarettes, chocolate bars, tea, and so on. Occasionally, care packages would arrive in the post.

These were soldiers who were used to working in a hierarchy and ranks were preserved and respected within the camps. As well, sections of the camp organized nationally, partly due to Germans having separate camps for some countries, but also the military shadow organization establishing chains of command and lines of communication.

While people did initially barter and trade for goods, the cigarette became the basic unit of currency to establish fair prices across permanent camps and limit arbitrage.

The British eventually set up a store and a restaurant! People came to the restaurant for prepared foods and entertainment.

Probably the most interesting POW camp that I have heard about was the one after the Korean War. "They Chose China" is a film about US soldiers who decided to stay in China after the Korean War. Video of the film is available on YouTube
. These men went on to have wives and families. Some went back to the US after some years, but others never returned. Anyhow, the POW camp was run by the Chinese in consultation with some officers were who selected to represent the men. The Chinese asked the representatives about what Americans liked, and for the most part they provided. They had games, sports, crafts, activities... the list is endless. At one point they had an Olympic games. The Chinese treated the soldiers as guests and provided lots of education about communism and Chinese language. After all that good treatment, it's not surprising that some chose to say behind, especially ones who didn't have good prospects back in the US and UK.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cake Wrecks

A post on MetaFilter alerted me to this very amusing blog, Cake Wrecks. The topic is self-described as "When professional cakes go horribly, hilariously wrong."


This cake was especially appealing to my scatological sense of humor. Perusing the comments, I learned that the traditional Chinese characters say Happy Birthday and that in Japan poo is lucky, symbolically anyways. Apparently, the word for poo begins with the same sound as luck, and that when using squat toilets, producing a long coiled poo is an accomplishment indicative of good health.

The wedding cake that didn't live up to the photograph provided by the bride is worth a look too.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Petition to Urge the Obama Family to Adopt Their New Dog Petition

Petition to Urge the Obama Family to Adopt Their New Dog Petition

I signed a petition today.

The Obama family is reportedly planning on getting a dog next spring, after the election. The petition urges the Obama family to adopt a rescue dog, instead of buying a purebred from a breeder. This petition, in part, is a response to the American Kennel Club's breed recommendations and member poll.

This is something that I can get behind. I'm a big fan of "Animal Cops Houston" and I have seen so many success stories. Rescue dogs (and cats, and horses, and...) make great pets. They are not damaged goods as many people believe. They have the same personality range as non-rescue dogs. Typically, they are up to date on vaccinations and have been spayed or neutered. Some dogs have behavioral problems when they are rescued, but these issues are worked out before the pet is put up for adoption.

If you're looking for a pet, check out the Human Society or the SPCA.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bomb tossed through window of Halifax-area home

Bomb tossed through window of Halifax-area home

...and no one was harmed, because one resident had the temerity to pick it up and throw it back on the street! The bomb came flying in the window around 1am and police believe that it was not a random act.

This is a very interesting story for a number of reasons. One, that someone had his wits together enough at one o' clock to react. Two, this happened in Halifax, not the Bronx or Compton. Three, it wasn't random. I'm dying to know the story behind this. Who were these people who were awake at 1am? Are they adrenalin junkies with nerves of steel? Are they ex-military? Are they drug dealers?

Why do the police think it wasn't random? Are the residents members of a minority group? Are they refugees from abroad? Are their teenage children involved in a neighborhood conflict?

Who knows?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sexual Healing - News - Broward-Palm Beach New Times - Broward-Palm Beach New Times

Sexual Healing - News - Broward-Palm Beach New Times - Broward-Palm Beach New Times

This article is a really beautiful story about a sex surrogate in Florida. A sex surrogate is a kind of therapist who helps people with sexual dysfunction with hands-on exercises. They work on intimacy far more than actual intercourse. The patients are often people who had been molested, raped, or other traumatic early sexual experiences. Or repressive mothers, no kidding.

I had heard of sex surrogates before, but not at this level of detail. The article is long, and the beauty comes from reading about people making psychological breakthroughs and becoming more at ease with themselves.

BBC NEWS | UK | Maternity leave 'damages' careers

The extension of maternity leave to up to a year may be sabotaging women's careers, the head of the new equality watchdog has warned.

I think having a year for maternity leave (or better yet, parental leave) is great. It's a wonderful thing for the baby to be close to parents, especially mothers, in the first year.

The suggestion that a year-long maternity leave is damaging to careers is a problem with implementation. In Canada, parents are also entitled to take a year AND they can split that year any way they wish. This has had a number of lovely side-effects. A man or a woman can take time off for child-rearing, which hedges against hiring decisions like the one mentioned in the article. Also, we're seeing more and more dads staying home with their babies. It helps to establish a bond and increases the confidence of dads in their child care abilities.

Taking a year off can slow down a career for other reasons. One of them is the "not enough runway" problem. You need to get your career trajectory established early on, otherwise colleagues wonder why you haven't reached the level that you ought to by a certain age. This isn't necessarily a problem just for women or parents, but it's definitely an issue for moms.

Finally, a year of maternity leave sounds like a wonderful thing, and it is. But nuclear families are a recent social configuration. For much of human history, and even current geography, extended family groups are much more common. It's not easy for one or even two people to raise a child by themselves. They really need a social support network around them. So, in this view maternity leave is a kind of modern band-aid for our modern work-life imbalance.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Wow-e: Malthusian Fear Mongering Can Be Annoying | MetaFilter

While the latest Pixar/Disney animated film, Wall-E (teasers, trailers and clips) debuted as the No. 1 movie this past weekend and has been met with critical acclaim, including a 97% "Fresh Rating" ...

This thread on MetaFilter was discussing how right-wing thinkers are panning the animated film "Wall-E." This thread links to the original article on ThinkProgress.org.

This amazes me. How is this little robot making the radical right so mad? Why does a message to look after our own garbage make the radical right so mad?

Apparently, the "The Incredibles" had the radical left pretty upset too. The movie supposedly espoused the objectivist principles of Ayn Rand. To the point of having a scene where Mr. Incredible shoulders a giant orb-shaped robot to emulate the cover of the book "Atlas Shrugged."

I had no idea.

You can't be both Hindu and Muslim

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Islam and Hinduism's blurred lines

This BBC news story report on a community in Rajasthan that follow both Hindu and Muslim traditions. They are nominally Hindu, but follow three Muslim practices (circumcision for the newborn male children in the community, eating halal meat and burying their dead). They have done this without conflict for hundreds of years. However, tensions are rising because there is a feeling that one must be one or the other, not both. Consequently, there are people who are "converting" to one faith or another. This is crazy.

Whenever categories are formed, there is always something left over at the end. Geoff Bowker and Susan Leigh Star wrote about this in their book "Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences." They described the miscellaneous categories as "residual" and they are unavoidable. So this elimination of the hybrid Hindu and Muslim can be seen as an effort to reduce "otherness." The impetus comes from both outsiders who don't understand or want to co-opt people to their causes, and from the people themselves out of a desire to reduce ambiguity. It's often difficult to live with a queer label that challenges basic notions about how the world is organized.

Friday, July 11, 2008

BBC NEWS | Africa | Cave warning on Uganda bat virus

"The World Health Organization has warned people not to go into Ugandan caves with bats, after a Dutch tourist contracted the deadly Marburg virus."

The warning to not go into Ugandan caves with bats is an educated guess. Despite extensive investigation and monitoring, researchers were not able to find any trace of the virus in suspected caves. The placed sentinel animals (including primates) in caves for weeks and none of even caught a sniffle. However, the have been able to find anti-bodies to the virus in bats. Hence, the warning to avoid caves. But there is little evidence that avoiding caves is sufficient to avoid contracting the disease and that going into caves is sufficient to contract the disease. Avoiding caves would be a pretty conservative course of action.

Interestingly, the Marburg virus is named after a city in Germany, where laboratory technicians came down with the hemorrhagic fever after handling infected monkey tissue.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

No doubt it's torture, says U.S. journalist after trying waterboarding

"Christopher Hitchens, a Washington-based journalist known for his support of the Iraq war and the U.S. war on terror, has subjected himself to waterboarding."

I have often thought about what it would take to convince someone that waterboarding was torture. My idea was to make a video where babies were subject to waterboarding. Of course, some photoshopping would have to be involved.

Then there's trying it yourself. I didn't think that anyone would actually try this. Well-known right-wing author and journalist, Christopher Hitchens did. He's an ardent defender of the war on terror and the Bush administration. After less than 10 seconds on the table, Hitchens now is convinced that waterboarding is torture. Kudos to Hitchens for being brave enough to try it and brave enough to change his mind. His story will appear in the August issue of Vanity Fair.

BBC NEWS | Americas | Group seeks Bush sewage 'tribute'

A citizens group in San Francisco wants to pay an ironic tribute to President George W Bush when he leaves office - by naming a sewage plant after him.

This is cute. I don't think anyone would argue that the world is a better place after 7.5 years of have George W. Bush in the White House. He's done tremendous damage to the reputation of the US.

Let's see if Presidential Memorial Committee of San Francisco are going to be successful.

Black Bean Salad Recipe | Simply Recipes


A fresh black bean salad recipe, perfect for a summer picnic or potluck. Tomatoes, jalapenos, avocado, black beans and corn combined to give this salad it's kick and fresh flavors.

I wanted to share this recipe with you. I found it through a simple Google search. The only ad libbing that I do is adjust the seasoning in the salad to taste once I'm done.

Every time I make this salad, it's a huge hit and people ask me for the recipe. I once made this for a pot luck lunch at church. It sat on a table right next to another black bean salad. At the end of lunch, my huge bowl of salad was nearly empty and the other one was nearly untouched. This boggled my mind, because the other salad looked pretty much the same to me.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Camisole with built-in bra at Athleta



This post is on a much less serious topic. I just wanted to tell everyone about this awesome camisole with spaghetti straps from Athleta.

I have been looking for a very long time for a camisole with a serious built-in bra, not a shelf bra, but a bra with cups. Call me old-fashioned, but I find the exposed bra strap and camisole (or tank top) not an attractive combination. Also, I'm not a spring chicken, so I need a supportive bra. I finally found it.

This top is great because it has finally allowed me to wear combinations of clothing that I have been wanting to try for a long time. I can now wear that lace jacket over a cami. I actually have something that I can wear under my blouses and dresses that are too low-cut. This cami is fantastic for other reasons too. For one, the straps don't fall down. I can't say that for all my bras. Also, it's made out of a synthetic material that keeps my torso warm. I'm one of those people who is cold all the time, so keeping my core warm has allowed me to bare my shoulders. The length is good too-- no bare midriffs and muffin tops.

I can't say enough about this cami. I'm so glad that I found it.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

What about Tiffany Wright's step dad?

Evil mum jailed after leaving daughter to starve while feeding her pet dogs - The Daily Record

"A mum who left her three-year-old daughter to starve to death in her bedroom was jailed for 12 years yesterday."


The article that I have linked to is is one of the more sensational among those available and includes some of the icky details. I read articles about the mistreatment of children, because they baffle me. How can people do this? As a mom, I realize that good parenting isn't easy, but how hard is it to feed a child? Or give it up for adoption?

And what about the step dad? While the mom got 12 years for manslaughter, the step dad only got five years for child cruelty. Why is he not equally responsible? It's progress that parents are not allowed to treat their children any way that they wish, but we have a long ways to go until fathers are recognized as a parent who is a peer to mothers.

Mr. Philosopher Mom is a stay at home dad and he still gets funny looks at the park. The moms don't talk to him and he gets especially dirty looks when Lentil is having tantrum.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Sarkozy irks female MPs with gift

BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | Sarkozy irks female MPs with gift

The French president includes a grey silk tie in a present to all the country's MPs, prompting calls of sexism.



On the one hand, Nicolas Sarkozy named an unusually number of women to his cabinet. On the other hand, he sent all the Members of Parliament in France a black case and gray silk tie. What's a gal to do with a tie? Some wore the tie around their necks, others wore it as a headband, while yet others brandished it as a symbol of chauvinism in politics. So many options, so little time.

If you put a positive spin on it, all the MPs were treated exactly the same, and are all able to do an equally good job. If you put a negative spin on it, it was pretty inconsiderate to not find a suitable gift for the recipient.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

BBC NEWS | Africa | Ugandan MPs seek jigger arrests

'We are going to arrest people with jiggers for failing to take care of their bodies as per the Public Health Act,' MP Aggrey Bagiire said.

It seems like there are lots of strange stories in the news today.

People are going to be arrested for a jigger flea (Tunga penetrans) infestation?! It's an appalling lack of empathy to treat people who are suffering from an infestation this way. Clearly, they're need in medical attention and not detention. This ranks right up there with the comment attributed to Marie Antoinette-- "Let the eat cake."

People with jigger infestations can have 80-90 or more of these bugs in their skin. Victims, especially small children, often cannot walk or move around, because it's too painful. The only treatment is debriding, usually without anesthetic.


Photo by wokka on Flickr


 

 

 



Photo by Sean FitzGibbon on Aussies Across Africa

Replication of Milgram's obedience study


Professor Jerry Burger of Santa Clara University recently conducted a partial replication of Milgram's famous experiment on obedience to authority. This story is fascinating for many reasons.

One, he got the experiment approved by the the IRB at his university.

Two, his results were similar Milgram's. Burger wrote the following on his web site.

I recently conducted a partial replication of Stanley Milgram’s famous obedience studies that allowed for useful comparisons with the original investigations while protecting the well-being of participants. We found obedience rates in 2006 only slightly lower than what Milgram found 45 years earlier. Contrary to expectation, participants who saw a confederate refuse the experimenter’s instructions obeyed as often as those who saw no model. Men and women did not differ in their rate of obedience, but we found some evidence that individual differences in empathic concern and desire for control affected participants’ responses.

The research was featured in the January 3, 2007 broadcast of ABC News’ Primetime. You can see a short summary of that broadcast at http://a.abcnews.com/Primetime/story?id=2765416&page=1

You can purchase a copy of the broadcast at http://www.amazon.com/ABC-News-Primetime-Basic-Instincts/dp/B000VHY8DW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1201295775&sr=1-1

A paper describing the study is in press at American Psychologist. You can read a pre-copyedited version of the paper here: (Replicating Milgram)"


Stanley Milgram was a fascinating fellow himself and had a talent for designing insightful experiments. He was also the first to come up concepts such as six degrees of separation and the familiar stranger.

What are these maternity doctors and nurses chanting? | Ask Metafilter

What are these maternity doctors and nurses chanting? | Ask Metafilter

[Link is NSFW: graphic childbirth.] What is the maternity staff chanting in this video? They seem to have a few different songs, one for when the woman is pushing and another for once the baby is born. ...


This thread on Ask Metafilter links to a video of a woman giving birth in Japan. A baby being born is a baby being born, but compared to my experience there are a lot of cultural differences in the conduct of the medical staff. The nurses were holding the woman's hand and chanting a song/mantra of encouragement. (The explanation is in the Metafilter thread.)

At one point the father has a particularly stricken look on his face, a kind of OMG-what-am-I-doing-here look. Just before the women all giggle at him. Poor guy. I'm sure it's a pretty common experience for fathers.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sworn to virginity and living as men in Albania - International Herald Tribune

Sworn to virginity and living as men in Albania - International Herald Tribune




Under the Kanun code of conduct, women can become sworn virgins who take on men's roles in society. They are literally trading their sexuality for social power. It's amazing that this cultural arrangement exists and how effective it is-- every one treats sworn virgins as if they were men, even other women are shy with them.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Woman Bouncer in India


The BBC's Geeta Pandey reports from Chandigarh, Punjab, on a woman bouncer, a rare breed in India



Despite facing much initial resistance, patrons of the exclusive night club, Score, seem to like having Amandeep Kaur at the door.

UN classifies rape as a war tactic

BBC NEWS | Americas | UN classifies rape a 'war tactic'

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said violence against women had reached "unspeakable proportions" in some societies recovering from conflict.


Susan Brownmiller wrote about rape being more about power than sex in 1975 in "Against Our Will". Sexual assault (of both genders) as a war tactic or war crime has long been understood by feminist scholars.

Part of the reason that rape is an effective war tactic is the decreased status of women who have been raped, especially in societies where women are chattel. There are reports of rape victims in Congo who are rejected by their families. These practices in turn lead a further weakening of the society.

Maybe rape as a war tactic would decrease if victims were viewed as the same as those who have suffered a violent crime.

Monday, June 9, 2008

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Cattle farms lure Australia women

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Cattle farms lure Australia women: "Ranch owners are facing acute recruitment problems because so many young men are being lured into the booming mining industry."

An increasing number of farm hands in the Australian outback are women (a.k.a. jillaroos). The manager of the world's largest cattle station had these compliments to share:

"The hormones are not playing up with them and they're more gentle and steady with cattle and look after your machinery and motorbikes and stuff and generally are much better than fellas.

"And I'm not knocking the fellas, they do a great job too. The world's changing, the women are getting tougher than blokes, mate, hey?"