the ultimate price

“This is who she was, absolutely who she was and what she believed in: cover the story, not just have pictures of it, but bring it to life in the deepest way you could.” – Rosemarie Colvin, mother of Marie Colvin.

Marie Colvin lived that philosophy to the very end. Her last dispatch from Homs — her last dispatch ever — is haunting and overwhelming. If you haven’t read it, do it now.

A baby born in the basement last week looked as shellshocked as her mother, Fatima, 19, who fled there when her family’s single-storey house was  obliterated. “We survived by a miracle,” she whispers. Fatima is so  traumatised that she cannot breastfeed, so the baby has been fed only sugar and water; there is no formula milk.

That baby must be wondering what the hell she’s gotten herself into.

A damaged house in the Bab Sabaa neighbourhood of Homs. REUTERS/Moulhem Al-Jundi

insert salacious headline here

Interesting ethical debate of the day: how journalists use one another’s work online. It’s prompted by this article, an excerpt from Charles Duhigg’s new book The Power of Habit.

If you’re into journalism ethics, check out the debate. If you just want to know how Target is arguably scarier than Facebook — and also how you can stop biting your nails — just skip to the story itself.

Via j-source.

belly laughs at twenty to nine

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, The Current had a discussion about online dating this morning. The host, Anna Maria Tremonti, interviewed a couple who met in an Internet chat room in 1996. He lived in the U.K. and I didn’t catch where she lived, but I think it was in Canada. After a week of chatting, he bought her a ticket to visit him in England. An excerpt of the interview, paraphrased:

Anna Maria: Weren’t you afraid he was an axe murder?
Her: That’s what my friends were worried about, but I figured that an axe murderer doesn’t buy someone a plane ticket.
Him: Plus I’ve never hurt an axe in my life!

I laughed most of the way to work.

Speaking of axe murdering… well, murdering, anyway… here’s a cheerful (but sort of fascinating) read.

WORLD PEACE

It was glorious.

The testosterone. The food. MIA flipping the bird.

Plus I was right and the Giants won.

We had a great Super Bowl party, complete with pounds of meat from a variety of animals, dripping in BBQ sauce. Also: hummus, baba ghanouj (however you spell it), caramelized onion dip, curry dip, chips of all kinds, veggies, apples with caramel-skor dip, Katie’s mystery dip, deadly mini-marshmallow squares, and… beer nuts. Which, I learned, have no beer in them.

Combine in a 12-inch skillet:

  • 2 cups roasted, salted peanuts
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup water

peanut soup.

Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. When the sugar syrup starts to go granular, this is your chance to add seasonings. I did one batch plain, and to the second batch, I added:

  • cinnamon and cayenne pepper to taste

Crank the heat to medium-high and stir constantly, as the sugar starts to caramelize. If the sugar starts to smoke or burn, you were too enthusiastic. Turn down the heat.

caramelize-y.

Once about 1/2 to 3/4 of the sugar is caramelized (so some of it still looks granular), remove from heat and spread on a greased or parchment paper-ed cookie sheet. Allow to cool for 30 minutes in your kitchen, or two minutes on your balcony in the midst of a Canadian winter.

go sit outside and think about what you did.

Once they’re hardened, you can bash the big clumps apart with a wooden spoon (it’s therapeutic). Store in an airtight container. Give them to your amigos and secure your rightful spot as favourite friend ever.

clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose

The Patriots' Rob Gronkowski brings back the old-school touchdown spike. Al Bello/Getty Images

I am “doing” the Superbowl this year. As in, I am actually paying attention for the first time ever. Giants! Patriots! Linebackers and tight-ends! Eli Manning? Tom Brady!

Okay, it mostly means I plan to cook stupid amounts of food based around blocks of cheese and pounds of meat and the glorious sound of a bubbling deep-fryer. (For inspiration, I am turning to one of my besties and her detailed list of game day recipes. You should too, here.)

Right now, everything I know about football I learned from Friday Night Lights, so my actual participation in the watching of the game will probably be limited to making snide comments about the players’ tattoos and facial hair. If I do get roped into a conversation about the actual game, I’ll have to refer to field positions by the names of the characters on the show.

Well hi there Tim Riggins.

To avoid having to refer to the fullback as “that position that the really cute drunk guy plays,” I’ve been doing scattered football research. I have found some amazing things. Here is your one-stop shop for random conversation starters for non-fans, if you get roped into watching the game on Sunday:

  • Tebowing, obviously.
  • Rob Gronkowski’s reinvention of the spike.
  • If you’re not into the game itself, check out this primer on the reasons for the outrageous costs of advertising during the game. (In a nutshell: “…nonfootball mass entertainment has been in a decades-long spiral of decline that was only temporarily halted by an ice-world knee-clubbing.” Brilliant. Except I don’t think the author takes into account the aura that surrounds a buying a spot during the big game. People google “Super Bowl ads” and then settle in for a long evening on YouTube.)
  • And then there’s this fun fact — Americans will devour 1.25 billion wings on Sunday… that’s about 312 million chickens for one day of feasting.

Now, when I say I’m doing the Superbowl for the first time, it’s a bit of a lie because there is one tradition that I have squarely participated in for years: the commercials. One of the few bad things about being Canadian is the fact that we don’t get the Amurrrrricahn commercials… so thank god for YouTube. My favourite from last year:

So anyway. Go…. Giants, I guess? I do love me an underdog. I call it for the Giants by 10, solely because I’m copying the DJ on Montreal’s 94.7 Hits FM.

let there be light

Thoroughly enjoyed this Opinionator post by Tina Rosenberg. Africa has skipped landline technology altogether and moved straight to cell phone networks (which are far better — and cheaper — than the networks we have in Canada, by the way). Now, some areas seem poised to do the same with electricity, by skipping nationwide power grids altogether.

I attended an environmental fair in Nairobi last fall, and I was surprised by the number of booths touting solar lanterns designed for the rural poor (some of which also had an outlet to charge mobile phones, brilliant). However, they all had a similar pitch: buy this lantern and you’ll save money in the long run, because you no longer have to buy kerosene. From my non-expert perspective, it seemed that there was a major hiccup in the plan: where would Kenya’s rural poor get the cash for the initial investment in the lantern? The “saving money over time” pitch means nothing to someone living hand-to-mouth, and a major challenge to poverty alleviation is lack of personal savings.

However, from that Opinionator post, it seems like some initiatives have found creative ways of getting around this issue. I especially like SociaLite’s idea of paying for a service (light), instead of a product (a lantern).

In terms of problems of distribution (how do you get your product out to all of these remote villages), one idea is to ask yourself what you can find in even the smallest villages in the world. Easy answer: Coke. India’s government already jumped on this idea, using Coca-Cola’s distribution network to deliver the polio vaccine to remote areas.

Also, the water bottle light-refractor is just plain neat.