Tuesday, 31 July 2007

visiting fun

My aunt and uncle and three cousins are visiting London for five days. Ant and I went over to their hotel on Sunday afternoon to see how their jet lag was treating them. We went out for a Persian meal at a little restaurant nearby. We shared a platter of starters, which were delicious. We ripped and shared very hot, fresh flat bread and dipped it in hummus or three other dips: chicken, peas, and potato; eggplant and onion; or eggplant and tomato.

James and Andrew (and Dave and Ant) had lamb dishes for their main courses--perhaps it was a man thing. I had a chicken dish served with salad.

After dinner we had Iranian tea in tiny cups, served with sugar and lemon.

city walk #38: holland park

On Saturday Ant and I went on a walk in Holland Park. For my Easter present, Ant gave me a deck of cards of London walks. Each of the 50 cards has a map on the front and directions and information on the back (shown at the top of the picture). I plan to do quite a few walks over my holiday. Since Easter Ant and I did the Borough market and Tower Hill card and I have done three others on my own (Knightsbridge, Harrods, and Belgravia; Sloan Square and King's Road; and Battersea Park). The fold-out card at the bottom of the picture is the overview card showing the locations of all the walks.

Just west of Knightsbridge, the Holland Park walk includes the very peaceful Kyoto Garden, The garden has a waterfall, very fat Koi fish in the pond and very well manicured trees.

At the end of the walk we strolled along Kensington High Street to Sticky Fingers, a restaurant owned by former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman. We ordered drinks: a chocolate milkshake and a berry smoothie.

I really like the deck of walks cards. I only have to take one card with me when I go out. I don't have to take a guide book, thus avoiding looking like a tourist. The 50 cards cover lots of areas; some are more touristy hotspots (like Covent Garden or the West End) but others are just explorations of different London neighbourhoods (like Hoxton, Hampstead, or Stoke Newington).

Saturday, 28 July 2007

about me (miscellaneous 3)

* TV watching: news, House, Shark, Taste
* listening to: Ginny Owens, Jackson Five
* last film watched: Transformers
* just finished reading: Purple Hibicus
* next book to read: Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures

Thursday, 26 July 2007


According to the FIA (Formula One's governing body) and the World Motor Sport Council, it's all right to illegally gain information as long as it is not used. Shocking!

public versus private; capitalism versus socialism

"In the affluent society no useful distinction can be made between luxuries and necessaries." J.K. Galbraith (the Globe and Mail's thought of the day)

J.K. Galbraith (1908-2006), it turns out, was a Canadian-American economist. I hadn't heard of him before, and when I read this quotation it grated on me. So I did a little reading about his ideas(1). I found that I quite agreed with most of what I read. Our consumerist culture means that the private sectors are getting richer and richer and the public sectors struggle to run. Sometimes I think of this when I compare Ant's and my workplace. Our school buildings are quite spacious and well maintained, but no business, and certainly not a world class bank, would ever consider working in such a dingy environment. Ant has described to me the desk chair he has--an executive chair with a little hanger attachment on the back for his suit jacket and I think about how I asked to beg to get a new desk chair and was allowed to choose one of value up to £30. Or how the whole staff was without printing facilities for a week last term because we were out of printer toner. No business would ever allow that to happen. There's a huge gap between the public and the private sectors.

Galbraith said that in a capitalist, or affluent, country the luxuries are well marketed by the private sector and the necessities are "underprovided" by the public sector. We have more and more money to buy luxuries but our hospitals are not the cleanest and underfunded. Most parents can buy their kids an expensive games console, but the schools struggle with their operating budget. I have heard some people say that the way to fix this is to run the government (or the school system, or healthcare) like a business. Instead it seems to me (and based on Galbraith's ideas) that we need to become a little less capitalist and start investing in improving public goods and necessities.

I'm not sure what today's quote from the Globe and Mail is supposed to say, then. There is still a distinction between the luxuries and the necessities, although perhaps people no longer seek to provide for their needs while limiting their pursuit of their wants. Here's a different Galbraith quote to chew on instead.

"Let's begin with capitalism, a word that has gone largely out of fashion. The approved reference now is to the market system. This shift minimizes — indeed, deletes — the role of wealth in the economic and social system. And it sheds the adverse connotation going back to Marx. Instead of the owners of capital or their attendants in control, we have the admirably impersonal role of market forces. It would be hard to think of a change in terminology more in the interest of those to whom money accords power. They have now a functional anonymity."(2)


(1) Here's an excerpt from the Wiki article.
In The Affluent Society Galbraith asserts that classical economic theory was true for the eras before the present, which were times of "poverty"; now, however, we have moved from an age of poverty to an age of "affluence," and for such an age, a completely new economic theory is needed.

Galbraith's main argument is that as society becomes relatively more affluent, so private business must "create" consumer wants through advertising, and while this generates artificial affluence through the production of commercial goods and services, the "public sector" becomes neglected as a result. He points out that while many Americans were able to purchase luxury items, their parks were polluted and their children attended poorly maintained schools. He argues that markets alone will underprovide (or fail to provide at all) for many public goods, whereas private goods are typically "overprovided" due to the process of advertising creating an artificial demand above the individual's basic needs.

Galbraith proposed curbing the consumption of certain products through greater use of consumption taxes, arguing that this could be more efficient than other forms of taxation, such as labour or land taxes.

Galbraith's major proposal was a program he called "investment in men" — a large-scale publicly-funded education program aimed at empowering ordinary citizens. Galbraith wished to entrust citizens with the future of the American republic.

(2) "Free Market Fraud", The Progressive, January 1999

Sunday, 22 July 2007


Yesterday we hosted a BBQ. Matt mowed the lawn and Mot managed to get our ancient BBQ to produce flames. We cooked burgers and sausages and chicken wings. Unfortunately it started to rain at just the wrong time! Mot continued his work and Natasha went out with the umbrella to collect the food.

After eating we went off to see Transformers. Ant and the other men of a certain age really enjoyed it. I don't remember watching too much Transformers as a child, so I was less enthralled. I think that happened because I just let my brothers watch TV on Saturday mornings while I did something else.

Friday, 20 July 2007

end of term party

What a relief to be finished school for the year! It feels great to have 6 weeks of holiday stretching ahead of me. On Wednesday evening the staff went on a boat trip. We met at a pier in Kingston and the boat went down and then back up the Thames between there and Richmond. It was so peaceful and relaxing to be drifting along the river. The photo I took is not a great one, but you can see that the river is calm and the surroundings were residential.

We saw quite a few rowers and kayakers. It made me want to be out on the water. I've kayaked a few times in Halifax and loved it. Once was for Sonya's bachelorette trip and one was with the Tall Ships' Parade of Sail. If it seems viable this summer I'd like to go out in a boat at some point. One of my colleagues was an Olympic rower and she said it made her want to get out on the water again as well (which is something she hasn't done in years since becoming a teacher and having kids). In my end of term relief and euphoria I suggested we go hire a boat together. What was I thinking? She was an Olympian! Sheesh. I was trying to make friends but maybe I have bitten off more than I can chew with that suggestion.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

last week of term

The maths department all went out for a drink last night to celebrate the last three days of term. Tomorrow is our final day! We have a half day and then the staff will have a BBQ on the grass after the students have all gone home.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

about me (miscellaneous 2)

* time I wake up: 5:40 am on weekdays
* phobias: heights, seasickness
* number of overnight hospital stays: none
* favourite drink: gin and tonic
* favourite fruit: apricots
* favourite vegetable: spinach (but I love them all)
* favourite game: Settlers of Catan

Friday, 6 July 2007

happy birthday, Ant!

It's my lovely hubby's birthday today. His dad is visiting and we celebrated by ordering in from our favourite restaurant. (I am still feeling a bit under the weather so we kept things low key.) Ant's been such a huge support to me lately and we're really proud of our accomplishments together. The last year has been a good one for Ant: he was awarded his Masters degree and he got his first full time job. I'm happy to wish him another great year full of blessings!

Monday, 2 July 2007

about me

* favourite accessory: new glasses
* next book to read: Purple Hibiscus
* currently listening to: Sarah Harmer
* today's favourite item of clothing: "make tea not war" vest
* favourite GP driver: Kimi Raikkonen
* one year plan: buy a house
* two year plan: become a British citizen
* five year plan: move to the EU
* ten year plan: move to Canada
* one-of-those-years plan: get a PhD
* future car: Audi TT