Tuesday, May 27, 2008

summer movies

Three summer movies!

CATUION: mild spoilers.

Chronicles of Narnia:
Begining and end I followed, but what happened to the middle? I grew up with this series and sometimes it felt like they were basing it off a different book! Also... what's with the teenage Caspian? He's supposed to be a kid, right? Entertaining, and once I got past the inaccuracies I enjoyed it. It's a renter in my opinion though.

Indians Jones:
Just saw it. Loved it. So glad I saw it in theatres! Exactly what I wanted from Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Harrison Ford. I forgot how much the first three scared me the first times I watched them! Jumped a few times and for sure squealed once (most likely more). There's creepy crawlies, surprises, supernatural elements, explosions, running, jumping and chases; just like a good Indiana Jones movie should. See it in theatres if you liked the other three, don't bother to see it at all if you didn't.

Iron Man:
Excellent. Loved the action, special effects and acting. It was a bit predictable, but then, it's a superhero movie based on comics, so that's expected. The acting was great, there was a fun element of comedy and there was a serious element of social justice. I loved it, and if you have extra change, reccommend it as a theater movie for sure!


Monday, May 26, 2008

rising prices

There has been a lot of news about oil shortages, and the prices of oil have risen by a lot. We've all noticed this. For example, in 1998 gas prices were about 70 cents/litre. Now, in 2008, prices have been an average of between $1.22 and $1.35/litre. For some people, it's become just too expensive to drive a car. This makes us all angry. We curse at the gas stations, we shake our fists at the pumps, and we grudgingly climb on our bicycles or walk to work, grumpy and nostalgic for the "good ol' days" of cheap oil.

This blog isn't going to be about gas prices. We can live without gas.

We can't live without food.

However, that is exactly what people around the world, especially poorer, developing countries, are facing. Over the past few years the prices of wheat, corn, rice and other basic foodstuffs have doubled or tripled, with much of the increase taking place just in the last few months. Last year wheat prices rose 77% and rice 16% (check out the chart). These were some of the sharpest rises in food prices ever. This year the rise has accelerated, as since January, rice prices have soared 141%, and the price of one variety of wheat shot up 25% in a day. A day!

Josette Sheeran, the head of the UN's World Food Programme, the largest distributor of food aid, is worried.

“For the middle classes it means cutting out medical care. For those on $2 a day, it means cutting out meat and taking the children out of school. For those on $1 a day, it means cutting out meat and vegetables and eating only cereals. And for those on 50 cents a day, it means total disaster.”
The poorest are selling their animals, tools, the tin roof over their heads—making recovery, when it comes, much harder.

Just over 1 billion people live on $1 a day, the benchmark of absolute poverty; 1.5 billion live on $1 to $2 a day. According to Bob Zoellick, the president of the World Bank,

"food inflation could push at least 100 million more people into poverty, wiping out all the gains the poorest billion have made during almost a decade of economic growth."
Hundreds of millions of people were starving and malnourished last year; the only change is that as the scope of the crisis has grown.

Now… here’s some reasons why:

First, there has been a run of bad weather in key growing areas. In particular,
Australia, normally the world’s second-largest wheat exporter, has been suffering from an epic drought. This is just exports. In the poorest countries in Africa there have already been riots, as people can no longer afford to buy food.

Next, people are eating a heck of a lot of meat as a lot more people in emerging economies have become rich enough to start eating it. It takes 700 calories of grain to produce a 100 calorie piece of beef. More people eating beef means more grain going to animals. (I’ll touch on why raising beef is bad for the overall environment later).

The third reason is big: oil is very expensive. A lot of energy goes into producing fertilizer, running tractors and transporting farm products to consumers. Rising oil prices forced up agricultural costs. Oil is expensive because it’s getting harder to find, making it a rare commody.

So we’ve moved on to the big-daddy reason for the food crisis:

Lets focus on grain biofuels for now. Changing crops into fuel was the big environmentally friendly move which was supposed to wean us all off crude oil and onto cleaner, greener ethanol. Not so fast. According to the
New York Times, “producing a gallon of ethanol from corn uses most of the energy the gallon contains.” Shoot, not so efficient. So lets try sugar cane like
Brazil… and cut down the Amazon? Hmm. Biofuel isn’t the solution it promised to be. It's also taking up all the land normally used to grow food, making less space for food growing. This means the grains that go into biofuels are not going to hungry people. Thus, there is less food to put on the table. There is less food available for those who need it. Already high prices go up because there is a shortage. Supply and demand raises already unreachable prices.

So people are selling their homes and starving because … we have failed to aid those who have had crop failures, we eat too much meat, we’re addicted to oil, and we’ve taken away food crops to feed our oil addiction.

Check out this
National Geographic video. It makes me want to cry.

PS> click hyperlinks to view my sources.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

"Town moves against Islamic school"

This article just in from the BBC news makes me sick. If you're the kind of person who doesn't like reading criticism against the opinions of others, don't read this blog, because I'm pissed at what's happening in a little town called Camden. You can find the full article here, but I'm going to summarise it because I'm fuming.

"Don't let them take Camden."

"[the school] will change the character of the town."

"They're taking us over"

"Why hasn't anyone got any guts? They've got terrorists amongst 'em... They want to be here so they can go and hide in all the farm houses... This town has every nationality... but Muslims do not fit in this town."

On the outskirts of this small town the Quranic Society has proposed building an Islamic school for Muslim children. The people are against it, and their reasons are the basis for my anger. Although some reasons are planning based (most of the children do not come from Camden, but will be bussed from Sydney), most are racial. Here's what the townspeople have to say:

Now, I'm not saying the school has to be there, that isn't my point. I realise it will be a pain to have out-of-town children bussed in and out. So what? Those kids don't want to be on a bus for two hours daily either! I don't know about the planning aspect of this situation. What has me angry is the attitudes of the people who, instead of seeing children, see "other". It has become a "them" and "us" issue. These attitudes make me angry, these attitudes lead to hate and injustice, and these attitudes make me lose faith in my fellow humans. I feel helpless to stop injustice.

Humanity lost.

I had been posting a blog called Humanity Lost (which focuses on social justice issuse, mainly in Somolia for a while, but slowly branching out to cover a broader spectrum is global problems), but it's a pain to write on two pages, so I've decided to combine them.

This means that this blog is going to be much more diverse, containing both stuff from my life, and social issues. If you're only interested in one of those things, you'll just have to sift out the stuff that interests you from now on. Sorry guys. :P

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


... I've been busy. There have been a few long weekends in a row this month and Chris and I have taken advantage of them by traveling around Korea in various ways.

We took a ferry to Geoje Island and met up with JJ and the Repps. It was an amazing island! We stayed in a minbeok near the beach and took a lot of pictures. It was windy and cold the first evening, but the next morning was beautiful! JJ rented a car and we toured around a bit. Chris and I want to go again, possibly this coming weekend. Anyway, the island is beautiful and I'm excited to go again when I can SWIM! Woo hoo!

This past Saturday I went on a hike, just me and my sketch pad. I found a beautiful spot and, instead of sketching, I wrote. Later, I will post what it is I wrote, but for now, just imagine Rivendell from the Lord of the Rings (in spring, though without flowers) and you've got the picture.

Sunday I wanted to hike again, but also wanted to get to hang out with Dan and Ash since they're leaving soon. So, we decided to do both and hike to their house for dinner. We left before lunch, at about 11ish, and with a half-hour break to play chess in a tower ruin overlooking the city far below, we managed to get to dinner a little after 5. It was exhilerating, scary (at some points), and exhausting, but worth it the whole time.

Next adventures: hopping on Chris' motorcycle and taking a weekend in Geoje with (possibly) JJ and our swimsuits, and climbing the big hills on Chris' island! Woo hoo!

PS> Yes, that is Chris on the edge of the cliff in that picture.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Deciding to go more natural

I've decided that I waste too much. Now, this isn't a new thing, I've been trying to cut back on the garbage I produce and the negative impact I have on the environment for a while, but I'm going to take it to a whole new level for a while and see what happens. This has been inspired by No Impact Man and Chris, but also by my concern for the products I have been using daily. Chris posted Tips From No Impact Man and I checked some of them out. Facinating. Here are some of the changes I'm going to try to start making:

I will try to...
1. use Baking Soda to exfoliate my skin. Wash your face, then apply a soft paste made of three parts baking soda and one part water. Massage gently with a circular motion, avoiding the eye area; rinse clean.
2. use Baking Soda to unclog my shower drain. Pour 1/2 to 1 cup of baking soda down the drain, then slowly pour 1/2 to 1 cup of white vinegar after it. Let sit for five minutes (covered, if possible). Follow with a gallon of boiling water.
3. use Baking Soda to scrub pans. Sprinkle soda on crusted casseroles and roasting pans and let sit for five minutes. Lightly scrub and rinse.
4. use Baking Soda to brush my teeth. Use a paste of baking soda and water.
5. use Baking Soda to deodorize. Dust baking soda under your arms to absorb body odor.
6. use Baking Soda to wash my hair (along with Apple Cider Vinegar conditioner). The directions are too long to post here, so if you're curious they're
here. Hopefully I end up smelling like apples or apple cider, and not vinegar!
7. There's something about reusable pads ... but I don't think I can make the switch. If you're curious, the info is
here. ;)
8. make my own
soap. Alkali
(lye, urine or ash ) + oil = soap. This may be a bitmore difficult since I have no idea how to find lye in Korea. I'm also afraid of handling lye, don't want to pee in my soap, and don't have a woodstove (and therefore ash) to provide an alkali. Hmmmm. Suggestions?

Anyway, that's the plan Stan. And people think I'm weird because I'm a vegetarian! I'll let you all know how it goes.