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Those Pancakes On Instagram

Wow! OK, so I’m definitely not a food blogger (but I am a foodie, as my Instagram clearly shows), but nonetheless, I am posting a recipe.

Today, I posted a picture on Instagram, of some pumpkin-pecan pancakes (try saying that 10 times really fast) that I made this morning, and a got several requests for the recipe. So here goes.

It all starts with my basic recipe for pancakes. At one point, because I often found myself making pancakes for varying numbers of people, I got tired to dividing it down and timing it up to find the right amounts. So instead, I tweaked my recipe so that it yields enough pancakes for 1 person, about 3-4 pancakes. So simply take this recipe, and double it up as many times as you have people at your breakfast table.

Dry ingredients:

3/4 cup flour (standard kind, not self-rising)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
Wet ingredients:

3/4 cup milk (buttermilk gives the best texture)
1 egg
1 tbsp oil

Now, you can stop here and you’ll get a pretty good batch of plain ol’ pancakes. Serve with syrup and you’re good to go. Simply mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, then mix the wet ones in another, and finally mix them all together, then cook on a hot pan, sticking the finished ones in an oven set to 50° C/120° F to keep them warm while you finish the rest. Or, you can stir in blueberries, strawberries, or other seasonal berries right before you cook them.

For the pumpkin-pecan version, add the following:

1/4 hokkaido pumpkin (also known as red kuri squash)
5-8 pecan halves

Start by deseeding the pumpkin and cut it into chunks. If you’re using organic, you can leave the rind on, otherwise peel it. Place on a baking tray and bake at 200 °C/390° F for 15-20 minutes, or until baked through and soft. Let cool. I usually do this the night before.

If you’re old school, you can mash up the pumpking with a fork, and crush the pecans in a tea towel. Or, if you’re a lazy bugger like me, simply but all the ingredients for the pancakes into a blender or food processor, put the pumpkin chunks and the pecans in, and give it a whirr. Then cook like described above. Serve with maple syrup and coffee.

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Why I Don’t Like Shark Week

Another Shark Week has come and gone. Shark Week, of course, is a week-long theme on the Discovery Channel, featuring shark programs.

And while numerous environmental organizations take the popularity of shark week to launch campaigns trying to make people aware of the plight of sharks worldwide, it is still Discovery’s programs that carry the majority of the public interest.

In the past, Discovery Channel has been greatly criticized for airing fear-mongering programs about killer sharks, and even crossing the line and airing programs that were highly speculative at best, downright lies at worst.

Programs about megalodons (the modern shark’s much larger predecessor) still roaming the depths of the oceans, were entirely fictional, and Discovery Channel has admitted as much, sticking a disclaimer on to the beginning of the program.

But the problem remained, disclaimer or not.

SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM WITH SHARK WEEK?

And the problem was that a channel that in its own marketing claims to be a channel of documentaries, fell into a trap of populism, and aired programs that weren’t documentaries, but mockumentaries, and with that, blurred the lines between fact and fiction, and became plain and clear fear-mongering.

Discovery Channel’s new president, Rich Ross, went on record to state that the channel would not be airing fake programming anymore, a step much applauded by the science community and critics alike.

And while this year’s Shark Week wasn’t as bad as previous years’, it still wasn’t good.

Not that the programs weren’t good, in the sense that they were definitely entertaining and well-produced.

They were.

And it did seem like Discovery Channel had lived up to Rich Ross’ promise, there wasn’t a prehistoric mega-shark in sight.

However, the channel still did err a bit on the side of populism, and featured programs with such “neutral” titles as Monster Mako, Return of The Great White Serial Killer, and Sharksanity 2.

If all of this sounds like cheap horror movies to you, it’s probably for good reason.

Shark week makes sharks the villain

BLOODY SHARKS SELL BETTER

Media that tickle our fear of sharks sells. The megalodon programs were Discovery’s most successful ever.

Jaws didn’t become the world’s first, true summer blockbuster by being scientifically accurate.

And TV programs that focus on the scientific aspects of sharks don’t get as many viewers as programs about killer sharks.

Read more about Sharks Just Being Sharks on dive.in.

PROTECTING THE REAL VICTIMS

Even if sharks generally aren’t the killers they’re made up to be, and in fact are more in need of our protection than anything else.

Because they do. They really do!

An estimated 100 million sharks are killed by humans every year. That’s more than 11,000 Sharks every hour.

Compare that to the dozen or so humans killed every year by sharks, and it is should be apparent who is the bigger threat to whom.

And programs that highlight the predatory aspects of sharks, while not necessarily incorrect, still over-emphasize an aspect of shark behavior that isn’t anywhere close to being the dominant one.

And ultimately, that leads to little more than fear-mongering, which is the last thing we, and the sharks of the world, need.

Shark week has no sharks in the market

PREFERRED PROGRAMMING LIST

Instead of more killer shark-themed programs, I would love to see programs on conservation efforts around the world, or programs on the why sharks are critical to reef and ocean health.

Or hey, why not go all the way?

Make a “Human Week”, showing programs about the greatest predator in nature, mankind?

Now that would be scary.

So I am not a fan of Shark Week in its present form.

Because I am a fan of sharks, and I believe we should respect them, admire them, and protect them.

As we don’t protect what we fear.

This article was first featured on http://www.dive.in.

World Ocean Day

It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a water-nut. Between swimming, snorkeling, free-diving, spearfishing, scuba diving and all the other water activities I do and have done, I’ve spent the majority of my life around, in, or near water.

So today’s important for me. World Ocean DaTGS-20150519-0003
y was first suggested by Canada on an Earth Summit, and was later recognised by the UN. It is a day of celebrating the oceans and promoting their protection.
Because they need our protection. Between plastic garbage pollution, global warming, and industrialized fishing, the threat to the
oceans have never been greater. But there’s also hope. A 20-year-old Dutch inventor wants to clean up the oceans using the world’s largest floatation device (more on this on Scuba Diver Life later this month), and the UK just announced that they are creating the world’s largest marine sanctuary. Good people around the world are mobilising, and have been for a long time, to try and save the oceans we are so deeply dependent on.

So find your favourite oTGS-20150519-0002cean protection cause, and send them a bit of money today, or sign a petition such as the WWF’s to protect the Great Barrier Reef. Today’s the best day to do it. Because as one of my personal heroes, Dr. Sylvia Earle, said it: “No ocean, no Earth. No blue, no green”.

Shoes On The Subway

One day, while I was on the subway in New York, I was fidgeting around with my camera, really just passing the time, when I accidentally pressed the shutter button. When I reviewed the shot, it turned out that as a gritty, black and white shot of a stranger’s shoed foot. Not a great picture per se, but I kind of liked it.

I went on to pulling out my camera on subsequent train rides, and using the Liveview function I was able to discretely shoot pictures of fellow passangers’ shoes. And don’t they say that a person’s shoes speaks volumes about them? Then why not reduce your impression of a person to just that; the shoes.

Return To Egypt

A young girl looks out from an apartment window in a small enclave of buildings about 3 hours drive from Hurghada along the Egyptian Red Sea coastline. Schools are among the public institutions that have seen suspended or limited service since the uprisings in 2011. The government is seeking to restore normal services.

I was back in Egypt recently, on a dive assignment. Travelling to Egypt in the autumn seems to be thing for me now. This is the fifth year in a row I’ve gone here, and my seventh or so trip in total. Which means I’ve been coming here regularly since before the political unrest we westerners have dubbed “The Arab Spring”. I’ve seen the country rise up, I have seen the unrest, and I have seen the aftermath. I have experienced some things first hand, other through the eyes of friends who have been in other places at other times than me. The Arab Spring always felt close to me, partly because of my relations to Egypt and the Middle East, having travelled there and with friends scattered all over the region, but partly also because I barely made it out of Egypt when it all started.

Photo of abandoned oil refinery. © Thomas Gronfeldt
Industry has also been hit hard in southern Egypt.  Here an abandoned oil refinery.

In the west, we talk about how the Arab Spring started in late winter and early spring 2011, but of course, things didn’t go from tranquil to tumultuous in the blink of an eye. There was unrest and demonstrations and fighting going on around the region for months before. And one of these hit a small town that I was supposed to fly out of in November 2010. I was in the deep south, on a dive expedition, and on the day we were supposed to head home, a truck was supposed to pick us up at our camp in the middle of nowhere. Except the truck was late. Very late, more than two hours, which is late even for Egypt. When it finally arrived, we were sped to the airport, and it was obvious that the driver was concerned about something. With my somewhat limited Arabian, I managed to get from him that he had been delayed by a demonstration in one of the towns he had to pass through to get to us. And that it had been violent. As we approached the airport, we ended up in another demonstration. Rioters were on both sides of the street, and were facing off on each other, and we were in the middle. A few stones were thrown and some inadvertently hit our truck. We sped through it as best we could, and made it to the airport just in time to be rushed to our chartered plane.

Empty apartment building. © Thomas Gronfeldt
Empty apartment buildings, waiting for tenants.

That was five years ago, and this time, driving in the same region, I saw how the country has changed. Several years of unrest, and a full two governments have been passed since, and the country now sees some level of stability. Almost too much. The towns we drove through were quiet, almost eerily so, and the marine we used as our base of operations was all but deserted, with cafés sporting a handful of guests at best. The Egyptians we met seemed pleased that things were much more quiet now, in spite of flares of trouble here and there, yet somehow resigned, as if they had to some extent accepted that real change, positive change, was not to come. Compared to a few years ago when I was here, this is a staggering change. Then, there was hope, optimism, even a spark of naïve belief that things would be perfect as soon as they made it through the current hardship. This then turned into a cautious state of hope, as the first elections neared, but now, even that seems gone. Question is if this resignation will turn into despair, and from there, to new demands for change, or if we’ve seen the last of the fighting spirit of the nation, at least for now.

Flags. © Thomas Gronfeldt
A line of tattered flags outside a roadside café, that used to see considerable tourist traffic. These days, few travellers make their way to Egypt, much less this far south, and the flags are left to decay in the strong Egyptian sun.

Ultimately, I can’t blame them. When you taken the bull by the horns and ousted a dictator that has held the country for decades, only to find that almost any alternative out there seems even worse, or at best as bad as what you came from, it is hard to continue to dig deeper and find more spirit to keep fighting for change.

Street scene from southern Egypt. © Thomas Gronfeldt
Street scene in southern Egypt. Most people are inside, seeking  shelter from the midday heat. In the cool of the evening,  they’ll once again crowd the streets.

The tourism industry, so important in particular along the Red Sea coast, as been suffering tremendously. Resort are empty, and new ones under construction show little or no progress from year to year when I travel here. Ironically, because the tourist areas around the Red Sea have been all but spared any unrest, and so have never really been unsafe. I hope that with the current military backed government, Egypt will find stability to make it back on its feet. And I hope the travellers, the investors, and the tourists come back. Because without them, desperation is just down the line. And desperation doesn’t lead to stability.