A spinoff in proper "Rhoda" style of my patented e-mail blastograms, this blog was created with the intention of keeping friends and family updated on and amused by my life.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

DRC 'Fun' Fact

I'll be the first to admit that my knowledge of all things African is pretty limited. Sure I've been to Morocco, but that hardly counts as Africa (except that it's physically on the landmass). But through my work at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), and with many of my friends at the LSE who are interested in Africa, a flatmate who studies African politics, and two friends who just moved there (one to South Africa and the other to Tanzania), my interest has officially been piqued.

As I've been working on my dissertation (which is due all too soon), I've been trying to bone up on (aside: where does that expression come from?!?!) my African geography and general knowledgebase. Which is why, when an old friend from school who is now into her third year of med school said she was interested in maybe spending a year in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), and we both joked that it would be too dangerous, I decided that I needed to find out more about why exactly it would be too dangerous. So Wikipedia, there I went.

And the interesting DRC fact that I learned:

"The Belgian Congo, which was also rich in uranium deposits, supplied the uranium that was used by the United States to build the atomic weapons that were used in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945."

I had no idea! I thought that we had rich uranium deposits in Nevada that we sourced from in that era. Since there was no source cited, I thought I'd do a little search and indeed, iafrica.com backed up this assertion.

So now I just need to figure out why, besides the uranium, the DRC is a dangerous place... back to the Wikipedia (oh, and the dissertation)!

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

苦菜酥红豆 (Kucai su Hongdou)

In Kunming, one of my favorite dishes was the 苦菜酥红豆 (Kucai su Hongdou) or Flakey Red Beans with Bitter Vegetable (sowthistle, if we are to believe Google’s translation services). After a couple of experiments, I’ve come up with my own version of the dish, which goes a long way to help staunch those cravings for delicious Yunnan food! If you’re looking for an interesting new dish, I’d highly recommend giving this one a try. It’s not your ‘typical’ westernized Chinese food!


1 can (15ish ounces/400ish grams) kidney beans (alternately, soaked and boiled beans, same amounts)
1 cup kale roughly cut into 1cm strips
½ cup flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ‘chicken seasoning’ (alternately, a ½ tsp cayenne pepper)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
5 dried red chillies cut in half
1/3 cup peanut/cooking oil

After opening the can of beans, drain juice and rinse with water. In a medium-sized sealable container, combine flour, salt, baking powder, and chicken seasoning. Add beans and shake well until beans are coated in flour mixture.

Add oil to wok, and then garlic and chillies when at heat. Then add the coated beans to the oil stirring infrequently from the bottom and lifting careful so as not to break the beans. Don’t press down on the beans or you’ll mash them! Add more oil if wok is dry at this point—the beans will absorb a lot of oil at the beginning. After about one minute, add the strips of kale to the beans. Continue to stir fry until the beans move from oily/mushy to brown and crispy and the kale is wilted. Serve with rice and other delicious Yunnan dishes (more recipes to follow!). Let me know if you try it and if so what you think!


Diegogarcity and an Excuse to Procrastinate

It's amazing how productive one can be when trying to avoid other tasks (ie, writing a dissertation...). Or maybe reading the IHT isn't that productive, but I saw several fascinating articles that were worth mentioning.

First, in a fit of diegogarcity (alright, a slightly hijacked usage of the term, expanding its meaning from a word that we suddenly see everywhere to a concept we suddenly see everywhere), I noticed several interesting articles about a renaissance of sorts in Northern Africa. Ancient writings bring new interest to Timbuktu was a fascinating article that explored the 're-discovery' of ancient texts that have been stored in what was once a cultural centre but is now synonymous with the middle-of-nowhere. Perhaps that's a small part of what is causing European governments to ask: Will North Africa gain from closer ties to Europe? And vice versa, of course. This article mentions specifically Sarko's and Prodi's plans to develop North Africa as a way of deterring immigration to their respective countries (France and Italy). I had not heard of a desire to create a Mediterranean Union before, but I like the idea (as long as it's not a second class substitute to allowing these countries into the EU).

And somewhat related to that story is one I just found about Chinese foreign policy in Africa: Is China Changing Africa or is Africa Changing China?, written by an LSE professor, Dr Chris Alden. This unique perspective offers that:

Ironically, deepening Chinese engagement has caused China to drift away from its once rock-solid principle of domestic non-intervention to support for internationally-sanctioned intervention in selected conflicts or post-conflict areas like Sudan and Liberia. One has the sense that Beijing is feeling the hot breadth of Africa's worst governing practices and is in the midst of absorbing a swiftly applied series of lessons meted out by petro-elites and pariah regimes.

And with regards to globalization, I thought this article about locally produced food, Homegrown isn't always best, was interesting. While there is still a lot to be said for eating seasonally and supporting local communities, I suppose we really do have to take a macro systems view when it comes to food production/distribution. In order to reduce our carbon footprint, we can't just look at transport, but also all the factors that go into production. Consider this tidbit from the article:

[Scientists] found that lamb raised on New Zealand's clover-choked pastures and shipped 11,000 miles by boat to Britain produced 1,520 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per ton while British lamb produced 6,280 pounds of carbon dioxide per ton, in part because poorer British pastures force farmers to use feed.

I should note that this study was done in New Zealand and we might want to question the political motives of the scientists, but an interesting thought nevertheless!

And on the Asia front, I was disconcerted to see the Thai police resorting to punishments based on really puerile gender stereotypes. The idea: Less-than-purr-fect Thai police to sport Hello Kitty armbands as punishment. Give me a break!

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

I Heart Ulrich Beck

Ever since I first started reading "Cosmopolitan Vision" by Ulrich Beck, I knew I was obsessed. His view of the world is so enlightened, informed, grounded, and generally positive. His public lecture at the LSE sealed the deal.

Which is why I thought I should give his book 'What is Globalization?' a look for my dissertation that has to do with globalization.

I saw this quote, which he gives tongue in cheek, in his introduction, and I couldn't help but smile:

"Businessmen [sic] have discovered the road to riches. The new magic formula is: capitalism without work plus capitalism without taxes" (5).

He then goes on to elaborate on how globalization is allowing big businesses to be incorporated somewhere with low corporate taxes, employ people where pay is lowest, and yet still receive government benefits in their socially responsible countries in which they reside. A situation where ironically "the very losers of globalization will in future have to pay for everything--from the welfare state to a functioning democracy--while the winners of globalization post dream profits and steal away from their responsibility for future democracy" (6).

Ok, so that's less funny, but the man isn't afraid to call it as he sees it!


Friday, August 03, 2007

A Moroccan Aside

Well, I've been working on my dissertation of late, and part of that required some background research into Morocco. I found out some interesting trivia that's not exactly relevant to my dissertation in the end, but worth sharing nevertheless. It is fun facts for wHeNeVeR, right?

  • Morocco is the world's third largest producer (after the US and Russia) and the largest exporter of phosphates.

  • Morocco was the first country to officially recognise the US as a country in 1777 after it declared its independence from Britain. Indeed, the Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship is the US's oldest non-broken friendship treaty dating back to 1786.

  • Essaouira, a formerly important port on the Atlantic coast, was home to a large Jewish community that escaped there following Spanish persecution under Queen Isabella.

  • In 2006 a free-trade agreement went into effect between Morocco and the US. However, because the dirham is linked mainly to the Euro and the dollar has been so weak, trade between the two countries is still quite minimal.

  • Tourism is one of Morocco's key markets for development, with a government goal of 10 million tourists per annum by 2010. Figures stood at 6.1 million in 2005.

Who knew?

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Immigration. For real this time!

Two posts ago I threatened to talk about immigration policy, which was actually very relevant to the ideas of global cities and even terrorism, but the post was running long so I cut it out. But I just read yet another article that got me riled up about US immigration policy, so I thought I'd do a quick post to share my disgust at current American policy towards immigrants. It's a globalizing world people! Putting up walls and creating childish policies that create tit-for-tat responses with our allies is NOT the solution!

My list of immigration articles/issues that have frustrated me (and I'm being nice here) over the last month or so:

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