Troubling lovebirds

As I stare at the blank page on my laptop, I can’t help but get distracted by the birds chirping away in front of me. My new life in Australia started pretty well with great housemates and a cold Autumn. One of my housemates breeds lovebirds—not only because she likes them but also because they make good money.

She’s been doing it for a while now, and so it wasn’t my place to comment or raise eyebrows. She’s even sold a few birds, for about 20 dollars each.

Not a bad deal, I thought when I first heard of it. But the more I observe, the more I’m reconsidering. The marketer in me has begun evaluating the return on my housemate’s investment. Considering bird feed, the cage, nursing the eggs, nurturing the young, the cleaning efforts, and the constant attention, breeding and maintaining birds is an arduous task for which 20 dollars seems a laughable loss.

But it’s her business, and she’s been doing it long before I was in the picture. So I held my silence.

However, as I watched the birds today (for lack of anything else to do), I started wondering why people paid, however much they did, to own these birds. Why would anyone pay money in exchange for years of caring and, in a sense, servitude to birds they could crush in seconds?

Beauty—that’s the obvious answer to most problematic questions. But that can’t be all.

Some people, like my housemate, look at it from a severe business perspective. Of course, she loves the little chirpers and caresses them in her palms, cooing and cuddling even when not so appropriate. She likes spending her time with and for them. But when it’s time to give them up, she’s ready for the next batch.

Some others treat bird raising as a hobby. But even they who look at bird raising as a pleasurable activity still spend a lot of time, energy, and money on maintenance—which makes me wonder why. Why would they expend so many resources to observe caged creatures that grow so finicky the moment you make a sudden movement around them. I only switched my crossed legs, and the two birds in the cage wailed out as if I were slaughtering them. Their behaviour is understandable, too. If I’d been locked up all my life and only given food on certain days and times in a day, I’d become paranoid also. I’d feel so tortured in my mind that I won’t be able to think straight or trust anyone enough to share a conversation.

How is it then, I wonder, still watching the flustered birds, that someone who acquires these birds, makes them sick, and gains pleasure in watching them every day isn’t a troubled soul themselves?

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Cars

Jaguar showroom in Austin, Texas
Jaguar showroom in Austin, Texas

All lined up to go

as youth army in battle

puppets of the rich

The connector

Woman from the neighbourhood
some kids in a school up north
employees visiting from nearby
and travellers just passing by
a retiree who was bored at home
conscious youth wanting a jog
owners leashing their animals
and dogs walking their humans
connecting a scattered world
cold, steel, and hard on the outside
bridging the lives of the unknown
a testament to society, stands a bridge 

Fining wine-ing

What do you do when you’re snuggled in a comfortable seat with unlimited movies and a hearty prepackaged meal on your hands?

Well, I decided to order some wine and start binging, because for the next 13 hours, I had nothing else to do but wait for my flight to touch down in San Francisco.

I was travelling from Sydney for a work event and I couldn’t have asked for a better meal or hospitality. Unlike most people’s claims, I’ve always thought airplane food quite good. Despite being a picky vegan, I’ve managed to find the meals palatable and enjoyable.

So of course I was going to complement it with wine. A white sauvignon blanc, please, I asked. And with a wide smile, the cabin staff member handed me a two-serve bottle of wine. Settling myself in a more comfortable position, I glanced at the label as I always did.

“Made with the aid of egg whites and traces may remain.”

My heart stopped in mid air. Egg whites in wine? Wasn’t that illegal? Why would anyone combine grape juice with eggs? What abomination?

Questions bombarded my already heavy head. Everything I knew and loved about wine came to a sudden halt and I started questioning my entire affliction to the grape nectar. I started searching my brain for any information I’d heard or read of that justified or even explained the use of dairy in winemaking. Alas, not even my memories of winery visits and tastings revealed anything to shed light on this phenomenon.

I waited for what seemed like an eternity for the cabin member to pass my seat again. I returned the unopened white and asked for a red instead—a syrah, this time. With another, judgement sans smile, he handed me a bottle, twisting the cap open as if to indicate I couldn’t change my mind anymore.

“Made with the aid of egg whites and milk and traces may remain.”

I drank the wine. I was having bad headache and it wasn’t the time to research or argue with the flight crew about my dietary preferences in alcohol. In a moment of deep sadness, guilt, and weakness, I drowned the wine and slept like a baby for the next 12 hours.

Three days later, still battling jet lag, I looked it up online. According to some articles, winemakers use egg whites, milk, and even fish bones to help separate the natural sediments in wine. Grape starches, peels, and other natural and goopy stuff that occur during the ageing process stick to these dairy products and sink to the bottom of the barrel. This makes it easier for winemakers to filter those sediments from the wine that goes into bottling. The entire process is called fining—refining the wine from the undesirable lumpiness of the residue from crushed grapes.

So there we have it—although the eggs and milk don’t leave any trace in the actual wine that goes into our bottles and glasses, dairy is an ancient part of the wine process.

What’s interesting though, is that most modern winemakers have found vegetarian alternatives like seaweed and volcanic clay for their fining processes. And when they use dairy, they say so in their labels—it’s even required by law in Australia and New Zealand.

Ha. And I used to think “vegan wines” was just a modern marketing stunt!

Considerate flying

I’m not what you’d call a frequent flyer, but I’ve had a decent share of airport walks and reconstituted airline oxygen. And I’m no stranger to weird neighbours, pesky kids, and smelly socks.

Remember when the person seated behind you jabbed their TV monitor so hard that it disrupted your sleep?

I do.

Or when the person next to you is watching such an inappropriate movie that you want to curl up and look away?

Yes.

Well, these are the little things that create big impacts. That’s why I loved what I saw on my recent Alaska Air flight.

Alaska Air
Alaska Air

And of all the airlines I’ve travelled on, Alaska Air stands a class apart. And it’s not just because some of their domestic flights offer complimentary beer. They prioritise passenger comfort—even their crew uniforms are casual and comfortable.

The first time I only booked on Alaska, it was because the other budget airline I was leaning towards increased prices just before I purchased. I had to forego my preference at the last minute and settle for Alaska. But hey—free Biscoff and beer—what a lucky scenario!