Category Archives: explorations

Open Library

A kind of ‘Open Sesame’ to the Aladdin’s Cave of published books. The way humans are going on we’re soon going to have to open another planet next door just to store the books. Open Library is an ideal option for the LibraryThing you have going on. Oh. You don’t have LibraryThing. You do have books? Oh, you don’t have books…

From the Open Library project:

One web page for every book ever published. It’s a lofty, but achievable, goal.

To build it, we need hundreds of millions of book records, a brand new database infrastructure for handling huge amounts of dynamic information, a wiki interface, multi-language support, and people who are willing to contribute their time, effort, and book data.

To date, we have gathered about 30 million records (13.4 million are available through the site now), and more are on the way. We have built the database infrastructure and the wiki interface, and you can search millions of book records, narrow results by facet, and search across the full text of 230,000 scanned books.

Open Library is a project of the non-profit Internet Archive, and is funded in part by a grant from the California State Library. We have a small team of fantastic programmers who have accomplished a lot, but we can’t do it alone! This is an Open project – the software is open, the data is open, the documentation is open, and the site is open.

They also have an ever expanding selection of scanned/full text books (free download or read online), so you can avoid those nasty overdue fines…

bombed back to the dark ages…

Driven by by the dual forces of my Dad being able to turn his hand to any sort of manual skill, and my paranoia about the world being thumped back to the dark ages, I’m very interested in how to survive in primitive contexts. Seems I’m not the only one to have wasted invested hours thinking about what would be the useful skills to have at your finger tips if you were time jumped back to 1,000AD. Jason Kottke, with Survival tips for the Middle Ages, picked up from Marginal Revolution’s Time travel back to 1000 A.D.: Survival tips.

First, a quick snapshot of 1000 AD. China and the Muslim worlds look like they’ve got it going on. England is waiting for William the Conquerer, the Pope is on the throne in Europe, and the rest of the place looks like the set of Jabberwocky. Actually, for the most part, commentary on the Kottke/Marginal Revolution sites bear startling resemblance to Jabberwocky, perhaps the film was a documentary.

I think survival skills are a topic worthy of consideration – I believe it is very possible we might well be headed there given our ongoing addiction to oil. The original question was – ‘How would you survive if suddenly transported back to 1000 AD? Leave your suggestions for survival in the comments.’ I intend to refine the question somewhat to include what skill sets would you be able to bring to today if you were suddenly transported to an economy that money was of extremely limited value?

I have lived in places where money was of very limited value. Most island communities are like this even today – money only has value if there is somewhere to spend it, borrow it, lend it. The old adage that it’s made round to go round is absolutely core to its value. In a barter based economy, skill sets and personal social contracts are the order of the day.

So, what would I bring to the table? Some of this stuff I did years ago, so my skills are a bit rusty, but I could pick them up again fairly quickly. If I could bring a few things with me, a good knife, a ball of nylon cord, and some vegetable and kefir seeds would be the items I’d start with. It’s a bit like building a CV for the dark ages.

  • Rotational cropping with nitrogen fixing plants (clover), coupled with composting and earthworm husbandry.
  • Plant propagation skills which include harvest, storage, preservation, and seed storage.
  • Bee-keeping, honey processing.
  • Hide preparation, preservation, and tanning for leather
  • Clay processing, building, wood firing, and salt glazing pottery
  • Brewing alcohol, including distilling spirits that can be safely consumed
  • Growing sour dough yeasts and making bread

And I’d probably be a dab hand at catching fish, and not too bad at aquaculture, given the right temperatures and species. I can read and write, albeit not in latin, and my maths is sort of ok-ish, so I think my best bet in Europe would be to head for a monastery if I wanted to preserve the ‘good life’. I can draw out labyrinths, so perhaps I’d find a gap somewhere in some monastic order. I think realistically, I’d do better heading towards the warmer climes, and finding a nice fishing village looking for someone who can take raw agricultural, horticultural, and aquacultural materials and create some added value. The trick in barter cultures is to be able to add value – everyone can catch a fish or raid a nest – the creator of a good gin is a valuable person to have around.

But Europe? Europe? Honestly, why would anyone want to go to such verminous and pestilential place, filled with oppressive regimes and bizarre religious activities? And it was no better in 1000 AD. My venue of choice for a flashback to 1000 AD would be the Cook Islands. Frankly, my dark ages CV would be of limited value – reading and writing and to an extent, maths – irrelevant; the plant propagation/fish farming would be of value; I don’t know that there’s viable clay for pottery – if so, great; tanning would be pretty much limited to dog or perhaps shark hide, bread depends on grain/flour, I’m unsure about the presence of honey bees (doubt it somehow); alcohol might be an option. What I could bring to bear is art and craft skills, and once I’d refined my limited Maori into Cook Island Maori language, story telling could be a good thing along with helping out with hunting and fishing. At least it would be clean, warm, healthy, and ok, so it wouldn’t have achieved the levels of ‘civilisation’ of Europe, but really, who cares? The end result is a planet that has a severely compromised immune system and a diminished resale value. I’ll take fresh fish and tropical fruit, washed down with clean water, on a tropical island surrounded by friendly, smiling people any day. That’s what I call civilisation. You can keep the horrors of the cathedral/plague ridden/crusade driven insanity.

How would you survive if suddenly transported back to 1000 AD? Leave your suggestions for survival in the comments.

so, where’s all the money gone then eh?

I don’t understand why New Zealand has this on-going issue with literacy. I have an opinion or two, but I don’t understand it.

My parents learned to read and write using a slate. I still have my grandmother’s school exercise books that she wrote when she was 8-10. There’s a message there – learning has been valued in my family for generations – or the books wouldn’t have been saved. As an aside it speaks volumes for the quality of paper in those days. Mum and Dad taught me to read and write before I went to school – I wrote and made drawings in the white space in newspapers, and on the brown paper groceries were wrapped in in those days. There wasn’t a whole lot of money in our house. I learned more words at school (the teacher used flash cards) and I was able to access more books. Dad cherished books, and would read us comics (yay) and articles from the newspaper (somehow not the same). We were given books as gifts. My parents never attended high school, however my siblings and I can all read and write. Our children (and their children) can also read and write. Could there be a gene for it?

Over the years tens of thousands (if not millions) of dollars have been spent (wasted?) on literacy. And the issue is still here – worse now than ever. I don’t have the figures to substantiate the worsened condition, however, I offer that if, after the investment, the issue exists at all then the issue has worsened. I am concerned that literacy may have become resistant to the financial drugs that have been applied.

Technology doesn’t appear to have offered any sort of wonder drug either. I’m old enough to remember when Sesame Street first aired on New Zealand tv. I recall the clapping of hands from the teaching community that – at last – we were going to see a new generation of bright, clean, literate kids in schools. Not that there’s anything wrong with hand clapping, or freshly scrubbed youngsters with reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic skills. A little later we had the Spanish component of the drug removed, and the Maori upgrade applied. And I think this was a good thing too – reaches further into our national heart and spirit.

I became involved with teaching when I discovered one of my work mates (aged in his early twenties) couldn’t read and write sufficiently well to be able to withdraw $70 from the bank. He’d had to run back and forth between a couple of branches, withdrawing $10 at a time…

I can understand people arriving in New Zealand needing assistance with practical New Zealand English. I have worked with students who’re highly educated in their own country and context – an electrical engineer with a Masters degree from Taiwan, a high court lawyer from India, a business executive from Japan, an architect from Iran, a vet with a double doctorate from Yugoslavia, and others. They didn’t have any literacy issues – they did have English issues.

When I began learning how to help people learn I was told that ‘If the student hasn’t learned, the teacher hasn’t taught’.

I’ve often writhed with this when I’ve had students come back with less than stellar performances, leaving me wondering what else I could’ve, should’ve done. I’ve spent many an hour outside of the classroom building better resources, tuning my writing, reading texts to improve my practice – whatever I could come up with to try to get the seed to germinate and grow for the student(s) concerned.

I can remember talking to a daunting ‘guru’ who somewhat pointedly let me know it was my post-colonial attitude that caused me to blame the victims. At the end of our conversation I think we wanted me to feel guilty for every education malaise in New Zealand since the arrival of humans. Not that he had any solutions either, although I suspect he would’ve been very adept at dealing with any surplus funding.

On the one hand I don’t understand why New Zealand has any literacy issues, and on the other hand I don’t understand where the money has gone. Recently I’ve spoken to a number of people expressing my incomprehension that the issue is still with us. Not one had any better answer. Oddly, no one mentioned needing more money, or more technology. Today I finally had an inspiration. Saying “If the student hasn’t learned, the teacher hasn’t taught’ is tantamount to saying, ‘If the patient succumbs, the doctor hasn’t practiced medicine’.

Kate ‘08 – changing a life, one day at a time

I’ve so been looking forward to writing this posting. It’s number 500. And somewhere in the first few paragraphs it’ll topple over into 200,000 words. I started writing here on 1 August 2005 – it’s literally been a life changing experience. One of the life changes started in March 2006 – Marica and I worked to run Blog Hui – New Zealand’s first international weblog conference. One of the speakers at the conference was Kate Quinn (then Rodgers). Kate grabbed her Mum, and they flew out from Perth, Australia, and into our hearts. We’ve stayed in touch, Kate’s writing is a regular stop off point for my daily reading. Kate’s life changed when she and Chris got married and they changed house, and everything seemed pretty much on the go.

Not everything, however. Kate had been struggling with her weight, and in January of this year (2008) Kate wrote of how, about a year ago, things reached an absolute crisis point. Kate found herself, in hospital, in pain, and wondering what had happened to her that amongst other things, she was now 147.5 kg (23 stone or 322 pounds).

I was left in the hospital overnight, and Chris went to sleep at his Mum’s house. I had plenty of time to reflect on what had brought me to this point. What made a happy child turn into a depressed adult carrying years of fear and pain in a pile of lard on her skeleton? Was it the years of bullying for being fat (I was a stocky tomboy, not fat at all in reality), holding in my emotions to put others first, having been called a selfish bitch for years no matter how much I put others needs before my own, being emotionally abused by drunken loved ones. Bottling it all up, and the bottle had to expand to contain it all.

I was gutted for Kate and her painful admission, and yet heartened by her courage – that aspect of her character wasn’t a surprise at all – after all, she had jumped on a plane to come and talk with us – if that doesn’t take guts I don’t know what does. At Blog Hui we wanted to (and did) cater for the widest range of food preferences possible, and Kate had requested vegan/vegetarian. After the crisis, Kate and Chris decided to make a transition from vegetarianism to raw veganism. Raw!

Now, that really got my attention. Raw. “What does that mean?”, I wondered. I thought about a character in the movie Notting Hill, who was a ‘fruitopian – I only eat fruit that has dropped from the tree’, and I had a vague memory of characters in Samuel Butler’s ‘Erewhon’ that only ate cabbages that had died of natural causes. That’s just stupid. Time went by. Recently, Kate posted a picture of herself and I was completely stunned by how great she looked, and in light of the crisis posting, I was more than a little intrigued by how Kate had made this change in her life. Inquiring minds want to know, so I flicked Kate a note, and she’s graciously agreed to the following interview:

Lynsey: I have friends who’re vegetarian – they work on a ‘no faces’ principle – pretty much anything else is up for grabs. Talk me through the continuum vegetarian > vegan > raw – what are your definitions – what meanings do you work to? Can raw include yoghurts and the like? How about honey?

Kate: Many people who eat chicken and fish but not red meat call themselves vegetarian, resulting in confusion over the meaning of vegetarian. To say it loudly and clearly: a vegetarian will never eat chicken or fish, and anyone who eats those and calls themselves vegetarian is merely damaging the reputations of genuine vegetarians. Don’t do it!

Sorry, but it is one of my pet peeves :)

I became a vegetarian when I was 10 years old, when it occurred to me that the meat on my plate came from the animals I saw when travelling through rural areas. I clearly remember making the announcement to my school friends; they laughed and said I wouldn’t last a week!

As a vegetarian I consumed dairy products including milk and yoghurt, cheese, eggs and honey. I was not concerned with processed foods that contained these however I would never eat anything with gelatine. The only leather I wore were Doc Martens boots and I rarely used wool or feather products. As a teenager and young adult, if I went to restaurants that noted “vegetarian” beside a fish or chicken dish, I’d challenge them! I remember calling up one restaurant after being very pissed off about a junk mail flyer/menu I received in the menu, and the owner being annoyed that “us vegetarians” wouldn’t make up our minds about what we would eat! Quite simply, vegetarians don’t eat flesh products – and fish is flesh – and will eat either or both dairy and eggs, or neither. Protein is not as important as people are led to believe, but I’ll answer the ubiquitous “Where do you get your protein” question anyway – from greens, tofu, tempeh, pulses and other plant based sources.

At the beginning of 2007 I had been transitioning to a vegan lifestyle for a few months, which involved reducing processed products that contained animal products from my diet. Vegans do not eat anything that is made from animal products or by-products from the slaughter industry, and I personally do my best to ensure products I use do not contain animal products (eg. glue). Honey and bee products are included in this.

As yoghurt is a dairy product and often contains gelatine, it is not vegan however there are plenty of soy yoghurts available and quite a few are preferable over dairy yoghurts.

Raw foodists are not necessarily vegan, but those who are create “cheezes”, yoghurt and “mylk” using nuts and seeds. Almond milk is my absolute favourite!

Lynsey: Where did you get the raw idea?

Kate: In my 20s, I naturally started going off cheese, milk and eggs. Cheese was a very hard addiction, primarily the culture of Cheese n’ Wine nights that I would have with my friends. I would only ever drink milk in tea or use it in baking, and about 5 years ago I went completely off eggs (I find it very anti-femininist eating the ovum of a female from another species) so I’d use egg replacements in baking. However, I started to react to cheese and milk with really bad reflux and nausea anytime I had anything that contained them. So at the beginning of 2007, I started transitioning to a vegan lifestyle.

Rolling back a bit, my hubby Chris attended the FotoFreo conference in March 2006 (coincidentally while I was at Blog Hui!) and the keynote speakers discussed raw food, spirituality and photography. Chris got chatting to them afterwards, talking nothing about photography and all about raw foods! When I returned from NZ he was very hyped about it and wanted to go down that path rather than just be vegan (I don’t know why, ask him). That Christmas, I bought him an EziDri Dehydrator and we… put it on a shelf and forgot about it to prepare for our wedding :)

Looking back to the time when we were planning our wedding, I honestly don’t know how I’m still alive. Living 56kms from my work, and with roadworks the entire way, I spent at least 3 hours a day in the car. We would leave running late for work in the morning and pull into the service/petrol station and buy breakfast – usually a chocolate muffin, Snickers and 2-3 cans of V or Red Bull. And that was just me. On top of this was extreme stress from work, the wedding, family, money, trying to sell our house etc. We slept only a few hours each night, ate crap all day, and ran on auto-pilot.

We had never ever been that bad in our lives, only a couple of years before we were eating 100% organic (except the weekly pizza and Cheese N’ Wine nights) and actually exercising. I was still fat though as being vegetarian does not mean you’re lean and healthy – there’s plenty of vegetarian (and vegan) junk food out there that can keep you fat!

We had a three-day honeymoon “down south” in WA, and in a small country town wandered into a kitchen wares shop – and there was a book on Raw foods. We picked it up immediately and back at our bush cottage decided that raw was the way we’d go.

Amazing synchronicities occurred after that. We found a rental house 5kms from my work after fruitless searching for months, after I had a dream where the front of the house was vivid in my mind. I probably saw it online but my intuition/subconscious was clearly telling me this was the place. 2 minutes down the road is a wholefoods store and cafe selling raw food (salads mainly) and 7 minutes away is a raw food specialty store (Perth is very privileged as a store like this doesn’t exist anywhere in Australia to my knowledge).

We finally made the plunge in June 2007 after signing up for a 3-day raw food retreat that was advertised in Nova Magazine, which I only happened upon by chance. I cleaned absolutely everything out of our cupboards, giving away long life products like flour to family members and eating up anything else in the weeks prior. On returning from the retreat, we stopped by a farmers market and bought the biggest load of fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds I’d ever bought (even after regularly getting organic fruit and veg boxes years ago) – and within a week we had eaten the lot!

Lynsey: Did you consult a doctor before going raw? What about ongoing medical monitoring?

Kate: I didn’t consult a doctor. I don’t have a family physician and as we had moved / been busy I hadn’t really bothered with any specific doctor for years. We did consult a naturopath however who advised us on the best ways to get all our nutrients, vitamins etc. I am seeing a doctor this weekend and will be asking to have all my vitamins and minerals tested.

However, apart from an ongoing health issue that being raw hasn’t affected positively or negatively, I feel absolutely fantastic!

Lynsey: Some one word questions. Wine? Beer? Coffee? Tea? Infusions? Hotchocolate?

Kate: I occasionally have alcohol, drinking wine that is not refined using egg or isinglass as long as I’m sober enough to make that judgment.

When I went raw, I went cold turkey off caffeine – after all the energy drinks I was consuming, I wanted to be off it entirely. I still love the smell of coffee but have absolutely no desire to drink it. On about 2 or 3 occasions I’ve had a black tea at work but I don’t like the taste and so I have a few sips and give up. I keep a selection of herbal teas and herbal elixirs at work, drinking them maybe once or twice per week. I don’t make tea at home because we only have a stove top kettle and the dehydrator sits on top of the stove :)

Hot Chocolate – it can’t be replicated as such but it is easy-peasy to make a chocolate drink with Almond Mylk (Mylk because it’s not “Milk”…) and raw Cacao power (pure chocolate and a superfood). Add a hint of spices and cayenne, and you get a pretty fiery drink that will warm you up in winter.

Lynsey: At work I’m a munchie kind of guy – I have this macaw thing (here and here) going on – bean sprouts, carrots, bananas, nectarines, oranges, grapes, mandarins; dried fruit: dates, pawpaw, apricots, mangoes. Brazil nuts, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds. Lunch is usually a salad-y thing, or, if I’m working through, miso soup. I’m kind of snacking all day – nibble of this, bite of that. It’s not that I’m really hungry, it’s more about if I don’t I get bored and chew up the phone, mouse and/or keyboard. How does all the dried fruit, nuts, and seeds fit into the raw world?

Kate: It sounds like you’re on route to being raw, Lynsey! The only changes you’d make is to dry some of the fruits yourself or ensure they have been dried at about 40 degrees celsius to keep the enzymes intact, and that the nuts are raw – unsalted and not treated with heat to get them out of their shells. Although with both things I’m pretty easy going and I don’t usually worried about dried fruits but I don’t have salted, heated nuts (they now taste pretty gross to me actually).

I nibble all day too – I like your Macaw analogy :) When I first went raw I’d take in quite a lot of these things but then started just eating fruit throughout the day. I’m now starting to think of bring in a lunchbox of miscellaneous dried fruit and nuts now that its getting colder and I’m getting hungrier.

I dry my own apples and they are absolutely delicious, but don’t really bother with other fruit because you need such a huge quantity to make it last. I sometimes eat dried apricots, peaches, figs, and sultanas. I also eat Goji berries, which are a superfood (apparently) but past the marketing hype that’s currently going on, they just have a really nice taste and are pretty to add to raw desserts.

I have miso paste which I rarely use, but have since being raw had one or two bowls of miso soup. It is one without bonito, which is a tuna product.

Lynsey: Salted peanuts are a key that really fits the lock for me. They have everything going on – portability, salt, fat, flavour, texture, repeatability, the ease (convenient) factor and you can always eat ‘just one more’ – there’s always room. I can’t afford to eat a single one or I’d eat them by the kilogram until they’re gone, with the corresponding weight gain. Mind you, I’m not much better with baby carrots – they’re the same but without the salt/fat 😉 … Do you think this is a kind of food ‘allergy’ or food ‘orgy’ i.e. just a sign of no will power on my part?

Kate: An alternative to salted peanuts – in one word, Edamame.

Edamame is not raw, but it’s healthier than salted peanuts. It is the soya bean in the pod, and has had the shell cleaned with a bit of salt in a mortar and pestle then is lightly blanched. They are so incredibly yummy and give the same salt rush as the peanuts do. Check out your local Japanese restaurant or Asian grocer and see if they have any, it is worth trying.

Peanuts aren’t raw anyway, even “raw” ones have had some heat-based processing. I had a couple recently in a mixed nuts bag I bought and didn’t like the taste even though I used to love them (especially with beer, which hubby has discovered goes very well with Edamame!).

You can caramelise nuts, or make savory nuts, by mixing nuts (esp almonds and pecans) in a seasoning and dehydrating them. I haven’t been enticed to do this yet!

Lynsey: What’d your folks/friends say when they found out?

Kate: Generally, saying that you’re a raw foodist comes with a positive and curious response. I’m often asked how I can eat cold food all the time, as many people associate raw with cold and out of the fridge. That’s not the case. I eat “Lasagne” straight of the dehydrator and it’s deliciously warm, and using spices in dishes brings out a heat that warms you up even in winter. Mind you, I am in Perth and our winters are usually about 16 degrees celsius.

My mum Helen was all for me living a raw vegan lifestyle and has since become raw herself, greatly alleviating her chronic asthma and lessening heartburn/reflux she had experienced for years.

Chris’ parents think its another of our “fruity” ideas and are happy to go along with it but won’t eat any of our food (they’re fussy, traditional English food eaters).

The rest of our family are just fascinated, and are loving seeing the results. I don’t know if any of them would go so far to follow in our footsteps, but I’d love them too as quite a few are also overweight (genetic, probably not – I’d say we’ve all inherited emotional eating habits) and I worry a lot about their health. But I’m no preacher either so I don’t try to force anyone and simply lead by example.

My boss at work, an ex-chef now IT manager, on overhearing me telling a friend said monotonously – “I knew people like that once, they were weeeeird” :)

Lynsey: Our family traditions are tightly woven in and around food – as an example we want to know what you ate for dinner long before who was the celebrity you dined with. Did going raw mean you have to tweak any food cultural practices and protocols? What – no Easter eggs?

Kate: Oh, we had Easter eggs – they were vegan but not raw! I’ve never been one for Easter eggs anyway, the chocolate is always crap and would always give me migraines (true! I was always miserable at Easter).

Being only children, family do’s are generally woven around our parents with us doing the cooking. We haven’t had a raw family get together yet, as we were away at Christmas and this past Easter we just chilled out in Kings Park, each with their own picnic.

Previously, we’d entertained with a vegetarian lunch and fish as a main for everyone except Chris and I. Growing up, myself and a few cousins were vegetarian so there were always plenty of options.

Our wedding menu was completely vegan, with the menu designed by me and superbly catered by our friend Nigel at Big Belly Bus Catering in Perth. I was so scared of the reaction and only told our parents (who were also scared that family would be insulted) but everyone raved about it and even wanted the recipes.

Lynsey: Your hubby – Chris – what’s his take on raw?

Kate: As I said above, it was pretty much his idea. He has lost alot of weight and looks great now, but is worried about maintaining it so is eating cooked vegan products outside of our home e.g. falafel at work or going out to dinner.

Lynsey: What happens when you travel – can airlines cope with vegan as a fall back, or are they ok with raw?

Kate: Airlines are great with vegan food – even if you’re a meat eater you should order it because it smells and looks a lot tastier than the meat ones but they assume you’re healthy and give you an apple instead of chocolate or candy!

We’ve travelled twice now being raw, the first time last September and I was so sick with a virus that I ate the vegan meal (after not having anything cooked or high-starch since June) and it just made me much worse. Then Chris and his colleague travelling with us caught it, and the conference attended barely had anything vegetarian let alone raw vegan so we survived on tropical fruit, fruit salads and green salads from the hotel. By the end of the week, we were so hungry for something solid that we bought a falafel at a nearby supermarket. It tasted so bland and boring but it filled me up.

After that, I started thinking that eating a bit of cooked food here and there wasn’t so bad, and would do it occasionally. However, it was bad and it made me feel rotten. It just showed how easy it is to have bad habits over good habits, and because of this complacency I have now been struggling to have a day where I only eat raw foods.

We made better choices when travelling to Melbourne for Christmas. I made a little book for raw recipes that didn’t require anything other than a fork, we purchased a great little hand blender, and we stayed in self-contained accommodation the whole time. I did eat cooked foods during this time, how could I not as Melbourne is the haven for vegan eateries and I was like a kid at a fruit counter! (ok, kid at a candy store, just trying to be healthy funny).

It worked out great though, check out what we had for Christmas dinner.

Lynsey: How easy from a practical logistics perspective is it to be raw?

Kate: What’s for dinner tonight?

You can’t get easier than raw food – honestly. For dinner, I might have some fruit and if I want to be fancy I’ll actually cut it up and garnish it with mint. Or I’ll make a salad. Sometimes we will make a pate, patties or soup: all very quick to prepare as you just roughly chop the ingredients and put it in the food processor.

If we want more gourmet raw food, we will have pre-prepared some patties, onion bread, cookies, cereal, or crackers on the dehydrator usually giving them about 18 hours drying time (average). Any of those though we make to eat during the week. Cereal is created by sprouting buckwheat (about 1.5 days) and then drying it. Top with almond milk, sultanas and fruit and you’ve got a breakfast that’s better than corn flakes.

Almond Milk is quick and easy once you get the hang of it. Blend 1 cup of almonds to approx. 2 cups of water in a high speed blender such as the Vita-Mix. Then pour into a nut milk bag over a bowl and squeeze the Mylk out. It is kinda like milking a cow, without the cow attached :) What I mean is that it has the same kind of milking action. You don’t have to strain it through, it just means your milk is thicker and nuttier. Once strained though it has the consistency of a Low Fat Milk but is very creamy and flavorsome. To make the chocolate drink, you pour this back into the blender and mix in some carob or cacao powder. Easy peasy!

Tonight, I have a couple of patties on the dehydrator (which I’ve been snacking on all day) so we’ll probably finish them off with some salad. I should make up a raw Brownie or we’ll go easy and have Raspberry Sorbet. All that talk of Almond Milk now has me wanting some, so I think I might make that too.

I’ve bought a tonne of books too for ideas and recipes, but now have the select few that I love regularly and I now feel confident with the ingredients and textures that I’m making up my own recipes.

Lynsey: I’m frighted about the vibe – you know, whole earth sackcloth, macrobiotic sandals and socks, and unshaven – and just wait ’til you see the guys! How has your day-to-day life changed being raw?

Kate: Some raw vegans have that vibe (some now-meat-eating-leftover-hippies are like that too!) but the people I have met in Perth’s raw community are all down to earth, normal people. There’s a few IT professionals, multimedia people, students, retirees, natural therapy practitioners. These are only the people who come to our picnics too. Online I’ve met people from all walks of life and very few are anything like the stereotype you’ve described. However quite a few, including Chris and I, are into organic fibres like hemp and you can get some gorgeous hemp clothing now. Chris has a couple of business shirts, one which he wears to photography jobs because its breathe-ability means he doesn’t get so hot. I’m waiting to lose enough weight to buy some hemp clothes – as it’s assumed only skinny people want to wear it! But then again all fashion generally assumes anyone over size 14 wants to wear a bedsheet anyway.

Lynsey: I guess if you changed your mind about ‘raw’ you could always sneak out for a burger. It’s about what you eat, rather than a permanent, get a tattoo thing, right? Have you ever snuck out for a burger? Ever wanted to? Anything you miss? Have you got a tattoo?

Kate: I’d never want a burger, I’ve been away from that so long that it just doesn’t even occur to me as being food. However, I seriously miss tofu and tempeh! I love both of those and since I haven’t been eating all raw each day, I’ve been getting teriyaki tofu at the local Japanese place. Of the non-raw foods that I’ve been eating recently, it’s been water crackers and hummus (convenience food), Japanese because the local Japanese place is just so yummy (wish I hadn’t discovered them) and then steamed veggies if we happen by Chris’ parents place on our way to our 2nd, night job.

I remember reading in a Fiona Horne book years ago, about how she got her tattoos to mark a significant change in her life, and that tattoos were culturally applied in this way too – to signify the passing from one phase into another. That has always stuck with me, and so getting a tattoo is something I really want to do. There are some specifically vegan tattoo artists, but alas not in Oz. I have no idea what I’d get yet but it would be very personal and special. I don’t think many raw foodies would agree with this either because it contradicts some principles of natural hygiene. However, I prefer to go with my intuition and I like the idea (for now, at least).

Lynsey: So help me, I have to ask. With all the raw talk, I initially thought it was about – you know – *that* kind of raw. So, ah, is it true that, um, raw – you know – puts lead in your pencil?

Kate: I named my blog “In The Raw” because of the double innuendo, naked food/naked body, but also because I’m blogging so personally that I’m really putting myself on the line. But the title is used by some other bloggers and in a book, so I’ve been wondering if I should change the title. What do you think?

As for libido, well at first we both certainly had more energy and stamina that the bedroom really did spark up. However, it’s been rather boring lately as we’ve been busy working etc. We more often go to bed snuggled up to our laptops than each other… and we’ve been married for less than 1 year! (Together for 9 years tho).

Lynsey: How can someone get raw?

Kate: Start by unbuttoning your shirt….

Seriously, if you want to go raw or do a 30-day trial e.g. this one at Steve Pavlina. I recommend doing your research first and take it slowly. Make sure that you have a plan of how you will do it, and that you are doing so for the right reasons otherwise you will just go back to the way you went before. Breaking bad habits is hard and without the conviction you will fail. I’ve been floundering but I still consider myself a Raw Vegan and I’m still committed to eating primarily this way because I know – now from experience – that it is better for me, and I know it is the only thing that has worked for me in regards to weight loss.

Lynsey: Thanks, Kate, you’re an inspiration. Readers will be interested to note that, as of publishing, Kate notes she has progressed 25% of her weight loss goal. Changing her life, one day at a time.

using tiddlywiki for teaching

As I was heading off to lunch today (roast beef, couscous, roast vegetables and an apple, yeah, all good thank you), I was talking to a colleague about a recent National Geographic article. She mentioned her Dad had hauled out a NG from the dawn of time with an article they’d been discussing. Yes, they’re *that* kind of people…

I remembered back in my early computing days I’d laboriously entered in a magazine article index database program from a Compute! magazine, and having got the program finally debugged and working on my beloved Apple IIe. I then entered in a couple of years worth of NG issues. And then I clicked that the problem was in the searching. Was the article about big cats > in Africa > their impact > on ecosystems > and human geography > or was it about the photos > or what?

About 20 years goes past. Enter tiddlywiki. I figured they’d make a great way to teach wiki, database, data mining, tagging, and a host of other meaty goodness in geog/language/computing/et al classes. Tiddlywiki would also be a great tool to use because of its low demand, and it’s a free download.

My approach would be to grab a year’s worth of NGs (I sold about five year’s worth at a garage sale for $10 just before xmas – shop around). Get the students in teams and distribute the mags accordingly. They can read the articles, and start to tag them, using post-its. Once the students had teased the articles out, each group can tiddlywiki with a tag cloud plugin. When everyone has done the exercise, build an uber-tiddlywiki, and import the respective tiddlers to form a catalogue of the year’s editions. There’ll be a geek or two who can make it all work consistently, and an artist or two who can look at the css to be unique and beautiful – there’s room for everyone to come up with some input. And the tiddlywikis lend themselves to digging deeper into the information, while permitting links ‘out’ into the net – to other resources and information.

The next exercise would be to use a tiddlywiki in the same sort of way in a language class – analyse a Shakespeare play from different perspectives, and then slurp it into an uber-tiddlywiki, and then copy it to everyone so the notes were built by all, and shared by all. I’m usually not a big fan of collaborative work for assessment purposes, as my experience has been that the work load is not always evenly shared. But in the assembly and analysis of material for notes – there’s an opportunity for everyone to make a contribution, and the keen people are not penalised.

technological singularity

The Terminator - Buy at AllPosters.comI realised, in the shower (where I do all my thinking), that none of the software I use at work does any work for me. Basically all it does is provide a digital alternative to me writing things down on paper. Or typing on paper. Or adding up on my fingers and toes. In short, I don’t think we’ve come very far from when I first started work, way back when.

One of my first jobs involved me doing labour reconciliation by hand. This meant I had to take the completed job sheets from a joinery factory we made kitchens, bathrooms, and laminated tops, and add up all the budgeted hours forcast to complete the jobs. This required me to tease out the hours costed into the components. Next, add up all the hours it took to produce the work completed. Finally, taking one from the other and a secret incantation or two and I ended up with a percentage number that was an indication of whether the factory was operating on time budget or not. Doing this by hand – and I mean ‘by hand’ – without the use of a calculator was a lengthy exercise, and one fraught with fear on my part as maths was not my strength by any stretch of the imagination.

I’d expect that today there will be some swifty software that allows you to enter at the dispatch point the products shipped and it would give you a real time indication of the effectiveness, and be able to give you the ratios with yesterday, last week, last month, last quarter, last year, etc. It wouldn’t be that difficult, and I would think it would be incredibly valuable for manufacturers. I did get quite good at calculating in hours and minutes, and this has helped me with my current role where – some 30+ years later the software that I have to use for logging my time is incapable of doing the calculation for me. Amazing.

Back to the shower I could see that, in my current role, the only thing missing was a green visor and armbands to stop my sleeves from wearing. If I added a nice wig and some buckled shoes I could scoot out at lunchtime and meet Captain Cook. Sure, I’d have to wash the ink spatters from my goose-quill pen off my hands, but really no difference. Same back to the time of Marco Polo. The software is a long, long way from being intelligent. Worse, much of it is made in the image of its creator – i.e. dumb, dumb, dumb.

So, I’m afraid, (or perhaps not, if Terminator is an indication) that the technological singularity is quite some time in the future. The technological singularity is the last tool humanity ever makes. It’s the smart tool, the one that’s smart enough to make another tool. From wikipedia:

Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an ‘intelligence explosion,’ and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make.

Whilst this sounds like a great idea, I suspect our predilection for forming committees, having meetings, not taking minutes, not going to meetings, and goodness knows, the critical cuppa tea break will be our final barrier against super or even just ordinarily intelligent machines. The numbing boredom should be enough to paralyse any alien stupid enough to try to land, let alone attack.

myth busted!

The Odd Couple - buy at AllPosters.comGoldfish (Cassius auratus) are not my favourite fish to keep. They’re ok, but they don’t have the same levels of engagement that other species – perch (Perca fluviatilis) for example, or rockfish (Acanthoclinus littoreus – and other fine species by that Forster guy), if you’re a marine aquarium buff. Despite popular opinion, goldfish not that easy to keep, and to keep them very well so that they thrive and are fabulous is quite demanding. The more exotic (i.e. bulgy eyes, fluffy fins) the more demanding they are. I think of them as the orchids of the aquarium world. And, yeah, give me the species varieties (or even a different species entirely) any time.

The other thing about goldfish is – again, despite popular opinion (reserved for people with no knowledge or experience of goldfish) is that they have rather more than a three second memory span. To feed the goldfish in my old pond we used to walk over the bridge to get to the food supply. The noise of walking, particularly my father’s heavy work boots, would bring the fish from all corners of the pond. Day after day. At least one of the fish had a memory, and then probably txted the others. What else could it be?

According to the Australian journal, CampusReview (26.02-03.03.2008, p.20), 15 year old Rory Stokes, a South Australian school student, conducted an experiment to test the 3-second rule. Over a period of three weeks Rory trained the fish by dropping a red lego block in tank with the goldfish, waited 30 seconds, and then fed the fish. He timed how long the fish took to swim to the food. Over the three weeks the time taken dropped from more than a minute to less than five seconds. After the three week training session, Rory stopped using the lego block. Six days later he dropped the lego block in, and despite having not seen the lego block in the intervening the fish swum up to feed in 4.4 seconds. He concluded the fish remembered for more than three seconds. Apparently Rory told ABC Radio that when he repeated the experiment six months later the fish were slower, but still remembered.

Yeah, but what if he’d used a green duplo block six months later? If that’d worked, would the fish be entitled to honorary PhDs? I’m not sure if the experiment is all that sound. I bet I’m not the only person who can look back on cramming for exams and then walking out after the exam with nothing more on/in my mind than getting a feed and playing with lego. So, maybe it’s more about the food and the lego than about the memory. In fact I’m off to check on dinner right now.

texas textures

The images flickering past in the header as you reload the pages are extracts from some of the many images I grabbed on our recent visit to Austin, Texas. Sure, Austin is the capital of Texas, and Texas is big enough to be a country in its own right. Some might think it’s big enough to be a world in its own right, but I’m not so sure about that.

One evening Trevor took Marica and I down to the lake. It was one of those sultry evenings – you know the kind – when you want to just do stuff, but not so much as though you’ll waste any energy on doing it, because it’s too damn hot. I didn’t think it was too hot, however, I was keen to breathe some night air. It was about the right temperature to be laying back and taking another sip of your mint julep or margarita. Or an icy beer, with about three wedges of lime. We were have a great time fooling around on the wharf, taking photos, dreaming dreams, telling stories, laughing, and watching the sunset.

An elderly man approached me – he would’ve made a great stand-in for Colonel Sanders – although not as heavily set. His cheeks had the transparency of age – skin that’s known the touch of a razor for probably 50 or 60 or more years, and his eyes were blue and sharp. He reminded me of the old man in Whitman’s, I Sing the Body Electric, from Leaves of Grass.

He was a little shy, a little nervous, and then, “What part of Texas are you from?”

I was highly entertained, and I loved the approach. Apparently all the world was Texas, (or wants to be). I grinned. “We’re all from the south, in fact, the deep south.”

His eyebrows raised. I guess my accent was not immediately obvious as Texan, even from the deep south. “We’re from New Zealand, and Trevor – he’s originally from South Africa – but he lives here now.”

The old man smiled, happy to be dealing with fellow Texans, even those from the very deep south. He proceed to tell me stories about how this wharf was something he’d managed to get made through his negotiation skills in his younger days when he worked as an attorney. How his family had paddle wheel boats on the lake, how his mother had taught countless children how to swim in the lake during World War II, and how, as a young man, he used to swim across to a spot on the other side of the lake for a spot of lunch, and then swim back. I though his stories were wonderful – it’s so nice to meet someone who has spent their entire life in a place, and listen to them telling of the changes and how their lives have been shaped by their environment, and how they’ve responded.

It would’ve been nice if time had stretched longer – his phone rang – “This’ll be my spouse looking for me…but I like to come down here to see my wharf…” He spoke briefly and ended the call. We shook hands and he left. I would’ve liked to capture his story on tape – he was modest and yet clearly his accomplishments were many, and his pride and satisfaction with his achievements seemed well founded.

The sun had all but set – just a few faint pinkish clouds. We left the ducks and the other waterbirds to enjoy the night in peace.

blast from the neo-victorian past

Goodness – I’ve reverted to my ‘old’ template – the one where I’m going through my steampunk sepia phase. Nice, but a little dated now. Still exploring those nice templates and trying to avoid the critical errors. I say ‘trying’ to avoid, but not ACTUALLY avoiding them. Grrrrr. Template could be restored at any moment, meanwhile back to a civilised cup of tea and a club sandwich, and perhaps a little Mr Wells or Mr Darwin…

Update – later that same week – oh how I’ve come to hate upgrades of the software and the subsequent display issues…. grrr!

Everyone has something to learn, everyone has something to teach

Way, way back in the 1970s – yep, I had flared trousers and pet dinosaur – I was interested in what we called ‘learning exchanges’. The concept is simple enough. I know how to put in a fish pond and water garden, you know how to write ruby on rails, we get together and swap/share the information. Money may, or may not, change hands. Generally not – the concept was ‘exchange’. Barter.

The weak link in the chain (especially in the 70s) was how to let people know what was available to learn, and what could they offer to teach. The School of Everything has attempted to address this using a Drupal implementation. It’s sort of a cross between a crappy poster in the supermarket for piano lessons and the labour exchange.

School of Everything is a site where teachers can advertise, and everyone can browse for someone to teach what they’re looking for.

It’s free to use, whether you’re teaching, learning or both. To contact teachers or advertise your own teaching, all you have to do is register.

Limitations: UK only (at the moment), teaching is not for free. Not entirely limiting however, and it’s great to see a web-2 variation/inspiration on an old idea.