Wednesday, 26 November 2008

So it's come to this: Brown Ponchos

APEC is an unusual institution: its members share the attribute that they border the most vast expanse of water in the world. Hardly a unifying factor. It's surely not surprising then that APEC is most known for its shocking fashion sense. All leaders dress in some vaguely national vestments from the host country and force smiles - even more so than usual. It's right up there with spirited economic negotiations, posturing on the environment and the Alexander Downer Perpetual Trophy for Karaoke.

We've sat through these images year after year - usually it's the only vision of a tedious conference that makes it to the TV. And they've mostly been the same: loud, silk numbers from Korea, Thailand or Vietnam showing how poor the world's leaders manage to look in loud, formless attire. That was the case in during boom times anyway.

Last year, however, the cracks started to appear: in Australia the world leaders wore dodgy knock-offs of Driza-bone coats, the always cringe-worthy and staple Olympic Opening Ceremony clothing of Australia that seems to please pensioners and those with a romantic ideal of The Man from Snowy River, but make the rest of us cringe. Unlike the previous attire, these were only made in Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

Signs were there that things were going downhill. The sheen and lustre normally associated with gatherings of world leaders had been replaced by a dash for the bargain bin at Big W. And everyone came out with the same clothes. It's almost like the pending economic doom demanded some cutback in discretionary spending.

It shouldn't surprise us, then, that this year in Peru they all donned brown ponchos. If, as Samuel Johnson said, patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, then surely ponchos are the last refuge of the under-dressed.

It is not just this blogger that thinks they look like potato sacks - the conservative media agrees with me. It might be a nod to the tough economic times we are in at the moment, or it might be a case of diplomatic tit-for-tat, where, after a sleight early in the history of APEC which saw leaders wearing alfoil or curtains or whatever, each host country now tries to make other leaders look like complete tits by wearing tat.

I wonder how much further it can go, but I guess we will find out next year, when Singapore hosts the conference. If they're wearing barrels, the jig will be up.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

The perils of a small tea-spoon

Two things I find about caffeine:

(i) You easily build up a resistance to its effects

(ii) It's quite easy to become dependent on its effects

For me, as a creature of habit I can regulate this. I only have two cups of coffee per day, one in the morning (about 8am) and one in the afternoon, about 2:30 or so. It's therefore difficult for me to up the dosage and increase my caffeine dependence.

Or so I thought.

As befits the pubic sector, we only have instant coffee, and perhaps more amusingly we only have one teaspoon in our kitchen. I don't know if this is some malicious attempt by Mabel, the tea lady, to limit the rate at which cuppas can be produced, or if it's simply that everyone else has nicked our spoons, but it's what we're stuck with.

Worse still, it's a small spoon, much smaller than your stock-standard 5ml teaspoon (check it out in the photo, with my snazzy St Kilda Hall Of Fame mug). Therefore it represents something of a watershed for caffeine addicts: do I accept the restriction of less coffee in one teaspoon (and perhaps tacitly concede that I have an addiction to caffeine and need the intervention of a smaller spoon), or do I "stick it to the man" (or Mabel) and have an extra half tea-spoon anyway, maintaining my caffeine intake (or possibly increasing it through semi-accidentally scooping too much)?

For me it's a no-brainer. I come to the kitchen when most in need of caffeine, and I'll be damned if some quanta-nazi is going to deny me a single milligram of stimulant. To be honest I'd be surprised if work expected anything different from me: they know I need all the stimulus I can get, and there's no money in the budget for me to head to a strip club.