Monday, October 1, 2007

Small Hut, Big Issues - Much ado about roots.

I've posted on kava before, but somebody from Orato Media contacted me about doing a story for their website, so here it is.

It's online here!

Headline: Small Hut, Big Issues
Byline: Much ado about roots.

By Derek Adams

Down in the sleepy little town of Adelaide, South Australia; there's a little inconspicuous shop that's been running for 6 years in between a laundromat and a nightclub, replete with a small sign out the front titled "The Hut".

It's a laid back bar in the central business district, with a few old sofas, guitars, bongos, board games and some sand on the floor out the back. The kind of place where 'everybody knows your name'.

There is however a key difference; they do not serve alcohol.

What they do serve is a ceremonial drink from the Pacific Ocean cultures called Kava.The way Kava is traditionally served is a brownish, watery liquid that's comprised of ground up roots of the Kava plant. It's an unusual tasting beverage; somewhat bitter by itself and it leaves an odd numbing effect on the tongue. It doesn't appear that appetizing to the casual observer or even first time drinker; the taste is an acquired one,however the effects are very relaxing. It's similar to a mild sedative after enough ingestion. It's mellowing enough that it's recommended for those with anxiety. It's a chill-out drink which traditionally is drank socially.

Before you can order any kava for the first time, you're presented with a very generic warning which the owner assures you they have to show. The warning says to use kava in moderation, kava may cause drowsiness and that the sale and distribution of kava in Australia is subject to the national code of kava management, and that you have to be over 18 to purchase it. There is also another warning saying not to drink kava if you're pregnant.

Pretty standard fare in this day and age, more warning than they have to
display for alcohol.

I can tell you that after some kava, I often sleep very well.

I, along with many locals have been frequenting this place for about 5 years happily drinking kava oblivious to any broader issues in regard to the drink.

Until in June this year I heard on the radio: "Due to the crackdown on child sexual abuse and substance abuse in remote Indigenous communities, All kava importation licences have been revoked". This came as a shock to the owner of the kava hut, whom had heard of the ban only 2 days after it had come into effect which she reported to me when I interviewed her.

Kava has a rocky history dating back some 20 years in Australia. In the early 1980's kava was introduced to Indigenous communities in the hope that it would challenge alcohol consumption. Unfortunately it appears this failed and it became another abused substance. In the mid 1990's Kava became a "prohibited botannical" and a black market emerged worth an estimated 8 million in 1997, to combat this, in 1998 the kava management code was created which allowed government monitoring of kava and licences to be applied for.

In 2002 there was a fatality following a kava-containing medicine, this resulted in a voluntary removal of all kava containing medicine from the marketplace.

According to the Theraputic Goods Administration They had been closely following international concerns over deaths associated with medicines containing kava and liver failure. However, the TGA's fact sheet notes that "The forms of kava used traditionally by Pacific Islanders and by some aboriginal communities are NOT believed to be associated with the serious forms of liver damage".

This is exactly what people in Indigenous communities, ceremonial practioners and those who frequent kava outlets in capital cities indulge in.

Kava has been thrown into the fray of a long running national issue;
substance(s) abuse in Indigenous communities. There is no quick fix for the issue and Indigenous
are more concerned with the military entering their communities.

There are some exceptions to the importation ban though, medical/scientific use as well as two kilos can be brought back into Australia for personal use. This is a small attempt to understand the cultural use of kava by people of South Pacific islander descent with no consideration for any others.

So it's not illegal to have kava on your person or drink it, it's just practically impossible to obtain now. There has been no consultation with those with a licence to import kava, and thousands of Australians have been denied the chance to have a relaxing drink of their choice.

The government had the authority to do it under existing legislation, so it was done.

The politics around this move on kava are up for speculation really, but nobody would disagree that it is in response to the Little Children are Sacred report, A report comissioned in 2006 into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse which amongst many other things, details how drug abuse is a contributing factor.

However of the 4 times kava is mentioned in the report, it has been in relation to the cost of purchase (equated to $100 for a small bag) which would not have been from a licenced source, there are no reccomendations within the report which specifically mention kava, in fact cannabis use is recommended to be the main focus of a multi-faceted approach.

The military can't stay up in the Northern Territory forever to police the matter, and the police force is already thin on the ground. A large black market formed last time kava was banned and as such this move will only take away from the household budget of the people whom can least afford it, remote Indigenous Australians.

This year is an election year in Australia and due to the relatively little amount of knowledge in the public arena regarding Kava, I have seen no political party come to its aid. The Kava Hut has started a
petition and a letter writing campaign to re-institute licences for non-medicinal/scientific purposes and support is growing by the day.

it's on, check it out here!

Update 12/10/2007 - made a few suggested edits (actually added more detail) - will add photo later.

Update 4/01/2014 - good lord this is old now but unfortunately still very relevant :(. The orato links no longer work as that content farm is basically kaput, this is the only copy left. Here's a government source that says the kava changes were due to 'concerns of kava abuse in indigenous communities'

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The walled garden is pretty, but annoying.

Apple peeve me sometimes.

I'm a relatively new 'convert' to the mac. It started at work when I was given a mac, an ancient (at the time) g3 (3 years ago), progressed to a g4, then a g5 in relatively little time.

But slowly I found that I liked the "Apple way" of doing things a lot better than the MS way, which in my experience; most of the time means (I'm being very general here):

* Follow the wizard, wizard doesn't work, figure out how to do it manually.

* use MS tool, find it isn't up to scratch upon further inspection, find third party product.

* learn lots of shortcut keys for everyday tasks otherwise you'll be clicking a way through a lot of obscure menus, dialogs and tabs, oh, and the really fiddly stuff? you might find it.

* Never use a 'lite' product.

* If in doubt, google, help files other than office are often useless.

Last year, 2 years after working at my mac-oriented office, I decided to get a macbook pro. I think what clenched the deal is that, if I wanted, I could run windows on it. I could "run back to familiar ground".

I haven't installed windows on boot camp (although i did get parallels after about 6 months because I wanted to play with the whole virtualization thing :) )

Most of the time when apple have disabled something, I've seen it's been for good reason (apart from the powerbook screen spanning thing, but there's a hack, and it works :) ).

but reading about this iPhone voiding your warranty pish posh has arced me up.

For goodness sake, you have entered the phone market. Phones need to be available to ALL NETWORKS, not just ones you enter special deals with, in markets you choose.

This is like region-coding, stupid DRM-y, management/marketing dictating technology requirements that the IT industry should not go down... any further.

The ACCC... I remember reading that the ACCC were going to do something about Region coding, but it appears that they have done nothing but other than point out that it's nasty and intervene in a sony case (good, but not quite good enough).

Steve jobs talking about it being a "Cat and mouse game" and that they experienced the same thing with fairplay.

... No you didn't. You entered a deal with the record companies to make sure "fairplay" (what is it about doublespeak that is so appealing for DRM names? PlaysForSure anyone?) wasn't broken for a significant amount of time otherwise they'd be fined (Can't find the article for the life of me, I assure you it's on arstechnica).

Stopping people elsewhere in the world, let alone people in the same country using your phone on other networks is just monopolistic.

Don't get me started on the "no devkit for iphone". people aren't buying the web 2.0 apps bit, and clearly evident by the amount of hacks available.

coupled with the blocking ipod synching with linux, the need to purchase ipod games again for the new ipod and the one which really takes the cake is...

disabling video out for non "blessed" accessories.

What's going on apple?


I looked at the process of getting ubuntu on my macbook pro the other day... it wasn't pretty... but I will keep tabs on it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Idea for iPod car chargers and FM transmitters.

Now to a much less serious matter than my previous post, Whilst coming home today, I had an idea for an ipod accessory; because world knows that's EXACTLY WHAT WE NEED!

I don't know about you, but with my music collection I like to use the "My Rating" function of iTunes and subsequently, my iPod. It's a great feature; it helps you cull your music collection to exactly what you like listening to and when you feel like it, listening to stuff you haven't in ages. It's great for playlists too.

The only way you can access this very useful function on an iPod is whilst listening to the song, click the middle button 3 times, and then twiddle in a circular fashion about with the inexact scrollwheel about how many stars your rating it and either waiting for it to timeout, or pressing the centre button again.

So, this is not something I would not recommend doing whilst driving as I have done previously (I know, bad nerd! No cookie!), it's not exactly the safest thing in the world to do.

As I don't want to be wrapped around a tree because of my iPod, I was thinking in traffic on the drive home:
There has to be an easy, safe way to do this.

Well, Ive thought of one. There's basically only one way to have hands free access anything. that's with your voice (feet are in use!).

I hear your groaning through the Internet "But, Angry Nerd, Voice activated anything sucks, it never gets anything right!". You're right! the majority of it does; however there would only ever be SIX combination for it to register.

There's only so many ways that you can say zero, one, two, three, four or five, in so many accents, in english (depending on technical limitations, you could make regional models), so I figure it could be done pretty easily, it's not like with a mobile phone, trying to understand the various pronunciations and subtleties of peoples names.

0-5, not asking for much.

How 'bout it Apple?

or Belkin/Griffin?

Another point I'd like to make is for FM Transmitters.

They're annoying, they get interference from airconditioners, the engine running just about anything. As far as I know this is for FCC compliance (I'm in Australia, but... yeah.) or they just plain out suck. I actually went to the trouble to get a reasonably powerful transmitter, and that worked fine, but it isn't exactly portable.

solution? if you're stuck, sure, use the fm transmitter.

but would it kill you to add a line out?

It's not right to use the headphone jack, can't you just add in a line out jack to these products, so if we so choose, it can be connected easily, without any interference to whatever device we like.

Use these ideas please! if you do, drop me a line telling me about it :).

Kava Importation Ban in Australia

This may come as a shock to you, but there's not a lot to do in Adelaide on a Saturday night. If you're not a clubber or you're tired of going to the same old pubs (gigs if you're lucky), there's not a lot of places you can go if you just want to wind down. Sit down and relax and not have to listen to pop hits from whatever era, or alternatively people screaming incoherently into a microphone, a place where you'll probably hear some Bob Marley.

Well, that place exists in Adelaide. About 4 years ago some friends of mine introduced me to The Kava Hut, it's a great chilled out place where you can go to do the above, have a nice relaxing drink of kava (Ironically Wikipedia has a suggestion to list it under "legal drugs").

However, due to the Australian Federal Government's crackdown on child sexual abuse and substance abuse in Indigenous communities, they've decided to revoke all kava importation licences across Australia.

This ruins hundreds of Adelaideians Saturday nights, not even to mention the rest of Australia.

It annoyed me enough to actually do an interview about it, here it is.

This ban on kava is ridiculous and reminiscent of a big brother state. It is a poorly thought out, kneejerk reaction to be seen to be "Tough On Drugs" because most people don't know what the heck kava is, and hey, if you didn't know about it, it must be bad right? Wrong.

Many other points are explained in the video. Spread the word, Internets.

I suggest heading down to 254 Hindley st Adelaide and going to sign the petition, while you still can or writing to your Australian Federal MP.

UPDATE: I've put a copy of the petition online Here for download and mailing. Send it in a stamped, self addressed envelope to:

Kava Hut
254 Hindley Street
Australia 5000

And for people outside Australia not prepared to snail mail anything, send an angry email too, exactly how stupid the government is being about this.

11th Jul. I also just found a press release from the Minister of finance from the Government of Tonga where he was worried about the ban. It says that it will be banned in 3 months, but from my understanding the licences have been revoked on the 25th of June 2007.

Thanks to Taryn for proofreading :)

Update 2014 - well, I think this petition went nowhere :(. I suggest you read my article on the politics of kava about 3 posts up :D.