Sunday, May 27, 2007


Another lovely weekend coming to a close. Saturday began with our usual trip to the markets. A recent frost has spelled the end of many of our favorite fruits – the plum people were gone this week – so sad! Now just lots of apples…

Then laundry (which no longer actually dries when out on the line) and dinner at an Italian restaurant we just recently discovered. Saw the documentary “Wordplay” last night about The New York Times' crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz and the national crossword puzzle convention – really enjoyable and quite funny, even if you’re not a puzzle fan.

This morning slept in and woke to Brian making me the most perfect looking mushroom and four cheese omelet you’ve ever seen. Then we had lunch outside of Canberra with our friend Joshua at a little art gallery that once a month serves wood-fired pizzas. Yum! Joshua brought a bottle of red wine to our lunch (a Marquis Philips Shiraz to be specific) and while the wine was quite nice (and long gone), we are still puzzling over the label.

The label consists of the odd creature shown below and states,

“The mythological creature on the front label, the Roogle, represents the lasting friendship and the shared destiny that link our two countries.”

The winemakers are located in Australia and the distributors in the US, but their choice of image is well, a little creepy, and I’m just not sure what they are saying. We often comment on the similarities between the US and Australia (and therefore of Americans and Australians) but the sentiment conveyed on the label reads more like a political / marketing statement than a genuine expression of camaraderie. What is our shared destiny anyway???

Saturday, May 26, 2007

More about My Job

I really, really like my job. In fact, I feel that I have quite a privileged role at the moment. I work in academia but I don't teach (I wouldn't mind that at all though) and I do research, but it's what you might call action research. I come up with cool projects and then I talk to lots of people and try to make them happen. And I write, a lot.

Yesterday we held the first stage of a project called Weeds, Wetlands and Wildlife. It's a landscape rehabilitation project on the ANU campus that will remove a bunch of invasive species and will then reintroduce natives with the intention of recreating natural wetland and grassland environments. This will not only create a beautiful space in place of an overgrown and neglected mess; it will create a home for birds, frogs and other critters and create a green corridor to Black Mountain Nature Park. It’s a great project because it involves the ANU, the National Botanic Gardens, and several other organizations, both government and non. And it meets my job "duties" by fostering opportunities for students to take an active role in campus community projects and feel a sense of investment in the campus.

I am also planning a big event for World Environment Day on June 5th. It’s our second annual Great Green Debate, last year with a climate change topic, this year a water topic. "Securing Our Water Future: Social Change or Technological Innovation?" I’ve managed to get quite a few big names and interesting presenters including the Western Australia Greens Senator and a variety of people doing research on water and technology and behavior change. Last year was hugely successful and I hope we can do it again. We'll have drinks and a semi-formal sit down dinner for sixty guests including the speakers, students and invited guests. So event planning has been my full time job for about the last two weeks. It's all coming together nicely at this point....

Friday, May 25, 2007

Winter Coming

Brrr....getting much colder these days. Having to "rug up" before heading out of the house in the mornings - ie gloves and scarves and fleece. I'm feeling the cold more than I did last winter and it's not even fully winter yet. Our last place had a second story and townhouses on either side so we were pretty well insulated. Which believe it or not is a luxury in Canberra. It is a well known fact that very few houses are adequately insulated and our new place is no exception. We love the location and really like the flat but we were roasting in the summer and now freezing in the winter. As I write this it is probably, no joke, about fifteen degrees warmer OUTSIDE than it is in here. In fact, the other night I scraped some freezer burnt mango sorbet into the sink and it was still there intact in the morning! We have individual heaters in each room and try to only heat the rooms we're using, hence the cold kitchen overnight, but still! I can't complain about the weather outside however, in fact we quite like the winter here. It'll be cold in the mornings and evenings but during the day you are pretty much guaranteed blue skies and spring-like weather.


Very cool things happening at ANU on the green front.

We've just established a new $3 million loan fund designed to support measures that reduce the University’s environmental impact. Our Green Loan Fund is the first of its kind at an Australian university. Departments can apply for loans of between $20,000 and $250,000 for sustainability projects, such as cutting down on water use or reducing carbon emissions.

The ANU has also signed a three year agreement to purchase green energy which should prevent 15,800 tonnes of carbon emissions per annum from entering the atmosphere by 2009. This along with other greenhouse abatement activities will see the ANU reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the end of 2009.

We've also just invested in a new
HotRot composting facility to compost food scraps from residence halls and other organic matter from across campus. It should generate 400 tonnes of compost each year.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Campus Gardening

A recent photo of my campus organic garden (looking slightly shabby here). Members of the Sustainability Learning Community here are harvesting peas and tomatoes before preparing the beds for autumn seedlings.

The Canberra Environment Centre, a local NGO, has just moved in next door to our garden. One of my master's research supervisors is the director and together and we've put in a proposal to create permaculture gardens around the rest of the site and to acquire rainwater tanks. The idea is to make the whole block into a Sustainable Living Precinct. We'll have the Environment Centre with its resource library and workshops, the SLC garden, permaculture gardens, rain catchment systems, and the ANU bike coop. Neat eh?

Murdoch Changes His Tune

Conservative media mogul, Murdoch, has completely reversed his views on climate change. He announced that his empire will not only cut its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2010, but that he will use his influence to inspire his audience to change their behaviour and reduce their own impacts on climate change. He says, “This one is clear. Climate change poses clear, catastrophic threats. We may not agree on the extent, but we certainly can't afford the risk of inaction.”

Fascinating isn’t it? I can barely get my head around this one. Murdoch’s right wing papers have in the last year, endorsed Hilary Clinton AND admitted that climate change requires action.

This puts The Australian, a very conservative Murdoch paper, in a sticky position. They have been virulently anti-environment and anti-climate change for many years and now their parent company has changed its tune. The extent of their anti-climate change sentiments has been so great however, that it will be very interesting to see if they continue reporting with their heads in the sand or follow the cues of their leader and eat their humble pie.

The only way that I can account for this change of attitude is a recognition that public opinion is clearly swaying, and therefore Murdoch and his legion are attempting to stay ahead of the game.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I Must Be Hungry

Foods I Miss From Home

My Mom’s Cookies. Any and all varieties. Those of you who’ve tried one know what I am talking about.

Mexican. This includes my favorite Cleveland Mexican restaurant, Cozumel; my favorite Minnesota Mexican restaurant, La Casita, and its nachos with queso dip and half price strawberry margaritas; and finally, Chipotle veggie fajita burritos with black beans.

Black Beans. These get special notation because they are a staple of my Mexican cooking at home and they do not exist here. I refused to believe it for many months, but its true.

Warblers Roost Mead. Nectar of the Gods.

Thai Ice Tea. There are lots of Thai restaurants here but none of them serve Thai Ice Tea. This leads me to believe that the creamy and caffeinated sweetness is not actually a Thai phenomena.

Fake meat. That is, a particular variety of faux sausage that makes the best vegetarian "sausage" and egg bagel sandwich ever.

Ben & Jerry’s. ‘Nuff said.

Foods I'll Miss When I Go Back Home

Asian food. There are Asian restaurants everywhere so I have my pick of Indian, Thai and noodle houses whenever I want. A vegetarian’s delight.

Laksa. An Asian dish that gets special mention as I'd never heard of it before coming here. Red curry coconut milk soup with veggies and tofu – yum!

Turkish. Not so many Turkish restaurants around MN or OH that I know of, and Turkish pizza has won my heart. Picture pide bread stuffed with cheeses and herbs….yum.

Iced Coffee. I’m not talking coffee poured over ice here. This magical creation involves espresso, milk, ice cream and cream…..mmmm… favorite summer treat.

Tarts. Cookies don’t really exist here and the cakes aren’t always the best, but tarts add a whole new dimension to dessert. Oh, well that reminds me, the cheesecake at the National Library of Australia is the best.

Tim Tams. The ubiquitous Australian chocolate biscuit. People think I’m CRAZY because I like to slather them with peanut butter :)

Locally grown fruit from the farmer's market. A Saturday morning ritual outing.