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Stateside with Rosalea: Happy New Year!

Stateside with Rosalea

Happy New Year!

By Rosalea Barker

It's the last day of 2003 here in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the early morning TV news showed the fireworks in Sydney, while the local radio news jockey described "people waving lightsticks and dancing in a public square" in an unnamed New Zealand city, as well as the events across the ditch.

Although it's currently cloudy here in the East Bay, by celebration time we're assured a storm will have ridden into town - tropical moist air sucked up from Hawaii and then forced into high winds by a cold airstream simultaneously coming down from the polar regions. It'll be the fourth or fifth such storm in the past couple of weeks.

Speaking of poles and San Francisco - how about this great story on the BBC News site, about how the earth's polarity might suddenly flip - sending compass needles pointing to the complete opposite direction: All those upside-down maps of the world that Aussies are so fond of won't look so stupid then, now will they!

Well, here's my usual daft list for the outgoing year - it's not like I note things down throughout the year, so it mainly consists of what had staying power or was most recently on my mind.

**Most interesting new food** You've heard of upside-down cake? Well, how about inside-out stuffing? There's a product called Stovetop Stuffing, which you cook in a saucepan, and to which you add vegetables, then top with pieces of meat - such as chicken breasts and thighs - to create a meal. Whatever happened to stuffing that goes inside the meat in order to flavour it?

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It shouldn't have surprised me - stuffing is usually served as a side dish at Thanksgiving dinner, so why stuff it all in only to scoop it all out later? This Thanksgiving, my host cooked a fabulous Cajun stuffing that was a delicious meal in itself.

**Most interesting website** This is the personal blog of Mohammad Ali Abtahi, President Khatami of Iran's "Vice President in the Parliamentary Legal Affairs." It's very witty - sometimes unconsciously, I'm sure, as his report of attending the 3,000 year anniversary of the Zoroastrians attests.

But my favourite of his ruminations (rumi-nations?) is the one from November 22 where he recounts a friend's philosophy that ³there are two squadrons of life. One is delighted by the width of the life and the other thinks about its duration." As one who'd rather live broadly than forever - and whose shape embodies that philosophy - I can only agree with the Veep that eating, and enjoying eating as much as possible, "looks good and reasonable."

**Longest eyelashes** This award totally has to go to the ranch hand who sat across the aisle from me on the Texas Eagle, from Chicago to Forth Worth. Dusty-haired, his shirt stained with oil from fixing machinery, he looked like a reincarnation of James Dean. I hardly dared open my Texas travel book in his presence, with its fancy cowboy boots on the cover, since his boots were ordinary and scuffed, his jeans threadbare.

He was returning, he said, from a visit home to upstate New York, where he'd once wielded a chainsaw in the forest around the Finger Lakes. A couple of years ago he got it in his head he wanted to be a ranch hand instead, so he took his mechanical skills to Oklahoma and got a job there. Was he for real or a midnight cowboy riding the rails? Whatever - they were still the longest eyelashes I've seen in a while.

**Most reassuring television moment** Speaking of dusty-haired, the news of the exhumation of Saddam Hussein was released just as the Sunday morning political shows were going to air. (Golly, what a coincidence!) One can only imagine the panic that stalked normally Sunday-sleepy network control rooms as pre-recorded programming was thrown out the door and live satellite links had to be arranged from near and far.

One local station, not affiliated with a network, ended up with colour bars going to air as they ran out of gold bars for the meter and their link was lost, and Dan Rather, over on CBS, was reduced to assuring his studio crew on-air that it didn't matter they couldn't get that camera shot, the correspondent could come and sit over here by him.

Finally sanity was restored in the form of a rivalry as old as the medium itself. Before the last live news conference in Baghdad could come to its natural end, some sports director getting ready for the next program on CBS seemingly demanded and got his satellite feed of a football stadium.

Damn News, so they think they run everything, huh?

**Year's best quotation** It dates back to events in 1967, when the president of the University of California was relieved of his post by the university's governing body three weeks after President Reagan took office. Clark Kerr later said he came into the job of president "fired with enthusiasm" and left the same way.

Kerr died on December 1, 2003, and if you are at all interested in the way public education became a force to reckon with in the United States then you might like to read some of the articles linked to at:

**Favourite purchase** A recent one. There's a doll shop in Monterey near the aquarium and it has a huge collection of porcelain dolls. Doll-deprived in my childhood - largely because I was more interested in playing with my brothers' trucks and reading - I thought I'd treat myself to a lovely Indian doll. She has long black hair, a demure outfit that includes boots, trousers and a tunic top, and a necklace of stars and moons.

When I started thinking what I would call her, it occurred to me that, though she is dressed as an American Indian, she should be named after the astronaut who lost her life earlier this year when the space shuttle met its demise. After all, Kalpana Chawla once very graciously laughed at one of my jokey questions, on an earlier mission she undertook in the Columbia.

Back in 1997 she was with a crew from several Asian countries who were interviewed by NBC Asia as their orbit went over Hong Kong. Among the questions emailed to NBC by viewers was one from me, asking if they ever got stuck in a traffic jam now that there was so much stuff going into and out of orbit.

Well, let's hope the laws of gravity still work in 2004, or there really will be a rain of satellites upon our heads. The earth's weakening magnetic field is already playing havoc with some of them. Not only that, but they are the scariest tools in the modern warmonger or terrorist's arsenal. And I don't just mean their PR kit.

Live broad and prosper, my friends!

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