Friday, April 12, 2013


The other day, expecting a technician from my phone/internet provider to arrive to fix the intercom for my unit in my condo building, I decided to do a little tidying.

Now, in my experience, tidying up usually results in many minor and major disasters, not the least of which is that I cannot find anything afterwards.

So, in my attempts to make the kitchen counters and stove-top look less messy, I tucked (among other things) the lidded glass casserole dish containing my precious sourdough starter out of sight into the oven.

Surely I'm not the only one who hides stuff in the oven!

Anyway, even as I did it, I thought to myself that I'm liable to forget they are there when I next turn on the oven. And, sure enough, that very day I turned on the oven to bake some potatoes and --- arrrgh! Yes. I killed the sourdough starter.

ethnobotany resources

Several years ago after my trips to Ethiopia, I found it was very difficult to find information on the plants of East Africa online. Either things have improved or I just happened to stumble upon more information lately. Here are a few of the sites that have been very helpful:

PROTA - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa

Royal Museum for Central Africa

JSTOR Plant Science

Friday, April 5, 2013


Today, I came upon a lovely, share-able art/community-building project that could be adapted for almost any neighbourhood.

Read about it here.

the art of connecting (aka the irritations of being human)

Being a mix of Type 2 and Type 4 personality, I am ambivalent about people. I'm not a grouch -- yes, I am a grouch. I'm not anti-social -- yes, I like being alone. I like people -- often, I'd rather keep people at arm's length.

Or to get serious, I long to be known and loved for who I am, but I avoid intimacy because of my memories of betrayals and hurts.

I've been amused recently to read about the difficulties of living in a more connected way and the irritations of a re-humanized way of doing business.

We all used to belong to rather close communities once upon a time. Everybody knew their neighbours' business and everybody gossiped about the neighbours. Some communities were more or less supportive and inclusive than others. But you had few choices: you either fit in, or you didn't. It could be harsh or divine.

With the rise of individualism, a largely Western ideal, fitting in became less important. And yet, there remains the longing to belong, the longing for community.

Some of us probably try to fill that gap with material things. After all, the promise of much advertising is that if you possess this or that thing, you will be happy and be surrounded by people who at least admire you and want to be you, if they don't actually love and adore you.

Others try to construct for themselves a community, but it's rather arbitrary and fixed. Instead of the random mix of people who found themselves thrown into a community by birth or circumstance, today people belong to churches, or political parties, or build gated communities that only include people of a certain social or economic class. You have to be chosen and you choose the community you want to be a part of. There is much less migration from one social or economic class to another than there used to be.

Perhaps the idea of corporations and huge government grew out of the belief that in consolidation, efficiencies were to be found. Disconnected and scattered people (who have become known in the current parlance as "resources") can be made more efficient if collected into some hierarchical conglomeration, structured according to some rationale and systematized.

In many ways, we come smack-up against the dehumanized face of huge corporations and huge governments in the multitude of frustrations we experience every day. The gutted front-line personnel is totally un-empowered and unable to satisfy you if you have a complaint. In retail, they are usually paid minimum wage and it's useless to rail against them and only serves to add to their misery. So try to find somebody to actually address your concerns higher up. (That is a whole 'nother story!)

People, consciously or not, resist being hierarchical, rational and systematized. No matter how clear and stream-lined the goals and plans of an organization are intended to be, people act in ways that oppose corporate values and intentions. Even in the best organized corporations, with the most efficient organization of authority and responsibility, people perversely act in contradictory if not outright anarchist ways.

Irritations always arise.

Irritations can come from our beliefs in how people should act and our own expectations of how people will act. In other words, I am attached to certain ideals and when people rub me the wrong way, it's uncomfortable. It certainly doesn't matter at all if either I or they are right or wrong. It simply boils down to what I expect or want.

How lovely it would be if people would just fall in with my ideals and wants, whatever they are at any given time. I'm perfectly capable of admitting that that can vary from time to time, and I can also see that it's unreasonable to expect that anybody living near me should alter their behavior to suit me and my fickle expectations. And that is reality.

If, by understanding that my moods can vary and therefore my tolerance for other people can fluctuate, it's easier for me, by first forgiving myself, to forgive others for their irritating behaviors. And I can also understand that the irritating behaviors of people are often not irritating in themselves as much as the irritation arises from me and my reaction to having my attachment to an ideal in that moment ripped away, like a scab on a wound! Neither my beliefs nor my reactions about situations end up being real in any sense, so I might as well relax!

By deciding that I am not going to take myself so seriously, that my story about myself and events is only a story I tell myself after all, life becomes truly interesting.

sourdough update

As my sourdough experiment continues, the second loaf of sourdough bread has been made with some adjustments.
-I didn't cook the millet before hand, adding the grains to the dough raw.
-I also threw in some sunflower seeds, just because I have a lot of them.
-In addition to whole wheat flour and all purpose (unbleached white) flour, I added a couple handfuls of meusli that I had on hand.

This time, I was careful to allow the dough lots of time to rise, which it did beautifully, but again my spontaneous planning (ie, no planning ahead at all) bit me in the butt, because I found myself shaping the dough into a loaf at midnight and realizing that at this rate, it would probably be going into the oven in the wee hours of the morning!

Since another of my resolutions is to try to get to bed earlier, I decided to put the loaf into the fridge where the cooler temperature would slow down the yeast, but hopefully not kill it.

In the morning, it had risen some, but not much. So I let it sit around for over an hour, which probably gave it time to warm up a little. It didn't rise as much as it might have if I had given it more time. Still, I did pop it into the oven, and about 30 min later, I took it out of the oven because it looked beautiful and smelled divine.

The texture of the crust-end slice was excellent, but further into the loaf, the inside of the bread was still doughy and tasted under-done. Hmmmnn. It is a very big loaf, actually, about double the size of bread I used to make in bread pans once upon a time long, long ago...

Obviously, I need to either a) bake according to a recipe or b) risk another experiment that turns out not-quite-right if I continue making  it up as I go along. Guess which route I'm going to take!