Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wine Tasting Party Chez Helgahume

Last Saturday, I hosted a mystery wine-tasting party, where twenty friends and I tasted seven different types of wine. Each label of wine was totally hidden, so that we needed to determine our preferences based on taste alone.

The evening was a ton of fun, and had some surprising results. So, for your amusement (and reference), here is what everyone said!

The big surprise of the evening was how well the Ontario Pinot Noir did... but hey, you can't argue with tasty! ;-)

So these are the results for the wine tasting party. The next such party is scheduled for June 6, so if you want in, email me!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Just Finished

This morning, while avoiding cleaning up after last nights' wine-tasting party, I finished "The Omnivore's Dilemma".

For me, it is a very good sign when I am compelled to restart something immediately after having finished it. The last time that happened was while watching Cronenberg's "Eastern Promises", a film so indescribably brave, visceral, and cunning, it demanded an immediate rewatching, lest my feeble human mind had missed, or failed to fully appreciate, something meaningful.

(Who am I to argue with living, breathing art?)

Nonetheless, a similar occurrence has happened with "The Omnivore's Dilemma" -- the book is so dense with information and insights, I hope a second reading will help me digest it (oh no! return of the puns!!! I'll stop now.)

So here, I will leave you with an example of a story in the book, one that made me laugh aloud this morning. Pollan describes his abalone hunting adventure, which sounds both dangerous and comical. For those of you unfamiliar with the absurd activity of abalone hunting (as I was), it involves wading deep into freezing water, upturning submerged boulders and quickly jamming one's hand into the crevice to catch the abalone shell... but often ending up instead with a mittfull of slimy anemone, or sea urchin spines. Sea lions will watch, mockingly, but are better company than the alternative -- man-eating sharks.

Is it just me, or does this sound like a Bugs Bunny cartoon waiting to happen?

Anyhow, there will be more posts about the cool tidbits I find. Also, count on a report on the wine party... results are being compiled now! :-)

Friday, May 01, 2009

Things I Miss about New Zealand, part 14

I miss how totally blasé New Zealanders are about the fact that they've had two elected female Prime Ministers.

Not only were they, as a nation, sufficiently progressive to elect a capable and qualified female Prime Minister (twice!)... they've even gotten over thinking there's anything unusual about it. Moreover, Kiwi news reports would focus on what Helen Clark would SAY, not what she was WEARING. Imagine!

Aside from the political sphere, New Zealand has a culture that rewards assertive women. This is likely a functional byproduct of many different aspects of NZ culture, including population, isolation, founding cultures (Maori, Pacific Islanders, British, Dutch), and interestingly, the relative lack of men.

For instance, if a (hetero) Kiwi gal is at a bar, and thinks that guy over there is cute, she can't just play with her hair and hope he comes by to say hi. Since women outnumber men, chances are other girls have spotted him too -- so if she's hoping to talk to him, she'd better hop to it before someone else beats her to the punch.

Also, I suspect the lack of men also compromised the (old/white) boys-on-top corporate model that we Canadians know so well, creating a vacuum for a few assertive, qualified women. Once those pioneers are settled, a few more women join in. Soon, a woman in charge is no more surprising than a man in charge, with *merit* being the overwhelmingly dominant evaluating factor in either case.

The equality then begins to perpetuate itself; when you're running an OECD-class country with only 4 million people, there's simply too much work needing to be done to play favourites about who does it. Man? Woman? Gay? Straight? Maori? Pakeha? Ach, who cares, just get the job done. Or, as the Kiwis say, "Give it a go!"

(Note, I am NOT perscribing having fewer men around -- I happen to be a very big fan of men. Do consider, though, that in a world with fewer princes, Rapunzel might well have figured out have save her damn self!) ;-)

In my experience, I found Kiwi culture to be, on the whole, much further along in the path to equality between the sexes. Not to say that New Zealand has everything figured out -- there are other social issues, such as racism, that Dave and I encountered much more acutely there than here -- but seeing a society in which women were that much more respected and active, I was inspired.

Men and women are different, but equal, and both have valuable contributions to any aspect of life. A profession dominated by one sex, either one, is poorer for its monoculture.

Compare that to Canada, who is comparatively backwards. Our national stance on women's rights has been crumbling in an alarming silence. I'm not sure which sickens me more -- that Bill C-10 got passed, or that I didn't hear about the (farcical) "Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act" portion until now, completely by accident. For those of you unfamiliar with this act, it revokes federal public service employees' rights to complain to the Canadian Human Rights Commission when pay equity is not honoured, and FINES unions that assist the employee. Let's think -- who is at risk for pay inequity? Working women. This is clearly a blow to closing the pay gap between men and women. Moreover, the fact that Ignatieff helped C-10 along deeply sours my hopes for him as a prospective leader.

(And furthermore, why wasn't this all front page news? Where is the outrage?)

Yep, sexual equality in Canada is a ways away yet. But I'm grateful for New Zealand, who shows us that not only can men and women work together as partners, but perhaps eventually we may not see anything unusual about it.