Friday, 31 March 2006

Darker Roast Coffee = More Caffeine, right?

"Actually, no. Many people, myself included, have had that misconception for most of our lives. I discovered the truth the other day while visiting my favorite café. After having finished a cup of my usual dark roast coffee, I asked for a lighter roast refill, citing that I wanted less caffeine. She immediately corrected me."

Darker Roast Coffee = More Caffeine, right?

Sunday, 26 March 2006

The Me Me Meme

000_1161 Picked this up from the Diamond Geezer over here, because I thought it was fun and, for once, it contains questions I can actually answer.

Name seven things in your fridge:

I never realized what an international selection of contents there was in my fridge: Capitan Mani Crema de Cacahuete sounds Spanish enough, but underneath (in English) it says "The Original Peanut Butter". Yeah, even here.

Then we have Corned Beef from Argentina, Hot Dog sausages from Holland, Wild-Preislbeeren (Cranberry sauce) from Germany, Marmite all the way from England, Mojo Palmero Picante (Hot sauce) from the neighbouring island of La Palma and Miel de Palma (Palm Honey or Sap, not unlike Maple Syrup), from La Gomera.

When was the first time you went abroad?

1975 to Benidorm in mainland Spain. Back in those days it was still "abroad".

Who were the last five people to send you a spam message?

Alba, Cristina Rowland, Irvin, Debbie Easley and "root" sent me a (no subject).

If you were a type of chocolate biscuit, what type of chocolate biscuit would you be and why?

I'd be a Bourbon biscuit, because then I'd be related the Spanish Royal Family!

Describe your best friend using only Madonna song titles:

Like A Prayer. For a start she's a former gospel singer and a christian (though I don't hold it against her). Secondly, we've both sung this from time to time, as well as La Isla Bonita. Did you know that "La Isla Bonita" is what they call La Palma? I'm sure Madonna does, because it's where Manolo Blahnik was born.

What's the funniest thing you've ever seen a kitten do?

Little white kitten we had when I was a kid suddenly decided to run round and round the room like a small horse in a steeplechase. One of the hurdles was the tea trolley and on the bottom shelf, right where it galloped was a "water jump". Well, a trifle, with cream and bright pink blancmange. Yep, splash, splosh ... Kitten spent the next few hours thoroughly licking after leaving huge, deep footprints in said desert. We just ate round the bits with the holes!

The good news: I'm not going to tag anyone. Just pick it up if you think it's fun.

Friday, 24 March 2006

How small is a small kitten?

One of the things I have always regretted when I took in three munchkins, is that in my haste (no, sorry our constant busyness, because I had a lot of help from Holly the hound) to maintain the continuous factory production line of feeding, face washing, bum licking (Holly's job) and so forth, in triplicate, is that I did not get to take any photos of them while they were still very small.

When I first got them, you could have lost all three in a shoe box, they were so tiny.

Kittens, just like real babies, I guess, all sleep, eat, shit ... rinse, repeat, in a continuous cycle.

And the three of them are all, still, at five years old, perfectly synchronized. Back then, as soon as I'd fed, washed, shown them the bathroom and got them all snuggled back down again with a refilled hot water bottle, it was almost time to start preparing the next feed, ready for when they'd wake again.

It was an experience I wouldn't have missed for the world.

Balu, who was the largest of the three when I found them, was the same length (from nose to bum) as the distance from the base of my palm to the first joint in my middle finger - some 12 cms or approximately 4 1/2 inches.

At that time, Balu had not yet developed any distinct markings. He was white underneath, but just a a soft donkey brown colour all over the rest, which made him resemble a little teddy bear, hence the bearlike name. It was apparent, unusually, at that early age, was that Balu was going to become one big mass of fur.

Thursday, 23 March 2006

Lack of proper kip killed dinosaurs

Forget meteorite strikes and global cooling - the dinosaurs were killed off by a lack of proper kip, according to Niels Rattenborg of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. And it wasn't because they were too knackered to run away from extinction-causing threats, either - they didn't survive "because their reptilian sleeping patterns meant their brains did not learn new skills properly".

Lack of proper kip killed dinosaurs

Boy, do I know how they felt!

Tuesday, 21 March 2006

The Politics of Birth Rates: Declining Birth Rates Among Liberals Foreshadows Conservative Future

"When secular-minded Americans decide to have few if any children, they unwittingly give a strong evolutionary advantage to the other side of the culture divide."

Scary thought, but I fit the liberal profile perfectly, having decided about 30+ years ago that there was no earthly reason why I should procreate. Had the situation arisen to make it possible, my wish would have been to adopt a child who already needed a home, rather than make yet another, who was bound to be an ungrateful little bugger. I don't delude myself that there is anything special about my genes. In fact, I wouldn't wish them on anyone.

This is a decision I am most happy to stick by, because I think it's responsible not to fill the earth up with yet more humans making yet more demands upon an already stretched planet. And I'm too old to change my mind now.

The Empty Cradle seems to suggest that State intervention is necessary to combat the effects of an aging population and that we must provide incentives for young families. Unfortunately, I think that would create more problems than it solves. Even if doesn't lead to overpopulation, it will still encourage a conservative bias. And the whole idea of State intervention for anything, let alone letting them dictate our procreation habits, is wholly unpalatable.

Under present circumstances, it does seem that we don't have enough active population in work to take care of the global aging phenomenon. But, even if there were more people of active age, there wouldn't be work for them.

No, clearly the whole way we look at this needs to change. But how? Obviously, I don't think young liberals should emulate rabbits to redress the balance, but neither can I imagine a way to persuade right wingnuts to stop going forth and multiplying. What can be done to redress this dangerous imbalance?

Allowing free movement of people between countries and continents, adding variety and strength to the gene pool - just as has happened for hundreds of thousands of years already - seems as good a place to start as any to me.

The Politics of Birth Rates: Declining Birth Rates Among Liberals Foreshadows A More Conservative Future

Thursday, 16 March 2006

Boffin in aquatic pachyderm claim shocker

"The good burghers of Loch Ness and its environs will doubtless be delighted to learn that the legendary monster on which the region's entire economy is based was probably nothing more than a circus elephant taking a dip.", say El Reg.

What the heck are they smoking at Glasgow University?

Loch Ness monster actually circus elephant | BBC Report Via:

Sunday, 12 March 2006

Clever Doggie

The owner is undoubtedly stupid (yesterday, I managed to completely misplace a cat, because I'd shut it between the layers of one of our psuedo double-glazed windows), but my dog certainly isn't short on brain cells!

Bless her, she's a real help.

One day, when it clouded over (yet again), four out of five cats came indoors swiftly and voluntarily. That left just one outside, who was sure to follow soon and, for reasons of her own, Holly decided to sit by the front door and wait.

Since she sat there and I certainly didn't want to hover round the door calling for ages, I casually remarked to Holly, as I went back to my desk, "Let me know when the last one arrives."

Don't you hold conversations with your animals then? :)

It didn't really cross my mind that she would listen, understand or answer.

However, about ten minutes later, she let out two short barks, so I went to the door to look. Yup, there he was, fifth and final cat waiting by the door to be let in. This I did, after which the "watch dog" abandoned her post. Job done.

Just a coincidental fluke? Nope, I tried it again next time we were waiting for a different last cat to come home at dinner time and I got the same result.

It works for keeping an eye on her "kids". She also "tells them off" when they fight, run around indoors or scratch the furniture. I've had no success yet with requests for help with the housework, but we're working on it!

Thursday, 9 March 2006

I said screen, not scream

Notwithstanding that neither we the people, nor they the boffins have the foggiest idea what will happen next in the ongoing avian flu saga, I still maintain we have an "above average" risk, given that my cats have open access to two flocks of assorted free-range poultry, within 20 yards of the front door.

For that and a number of other reasons, my plan is to make (hopefully) cat-proof screens for the windows and doors of this house. Once the grapes begin forming on the vines in the backyard, I will have no option but to keep the moggies in anyway, because my poor old Mico is allergic and comes out in a really nasty skin rash. The latest reason is to keep the bugs out.

We've had so much rain here lately that it looked like the fields would turn into rice paddies. Finally, when the sun came out and the air was warm enough to open windows, the rising humidity brought in great plagues of tiny flies, like fruit flies, carrying out bombing raids on my head and hovering around the computer. I can't work with that going on.

But how hard can it be to nail a frame together and tack some netting on it?

Probably not very, once I get the materials. IF I ever manage to get the materials! Before I can do that though, I need to know what the standard wood sizes are, so I can select the appropriate size and do all my accurate measurements.

Three of the windows have the slight complication of "double glazing". Well, not as you'd know it, but this house has old, wooden windows with cute little shutters. Once those got old and warped and would no longer properly close, they didn't remove them, they just put new sliding aluminium windows on the outside of them.

So, whatever screen I make has to fit between the two and be easily moved to open and shut the outer window. Since only half of that can be open at any one time, I intend to make the screens to precisely fit the open half, so they can slide in the gap, but fit snugly into the open space, using the window catch to lock them in place. For that, they will need to be a pretty exact fit.

Since I don't do a fat lot of DIY now, all I have to go on is a casual remark that one of the guys at the hardware store made one day, that wood sizes come in "pulgadas", that is INCHES - those Imperial English things, which makes absolute zero sense in a metric European country, but so long as I know.

So, today, I made the grave mistake of phoning the hardware store to ask them what the standard sizes are. All I got back was a lot of waffle and the usual Canarian diatribe about, "Can't you come down here?" We'll, I'd rather not, really. They are standard sizes, for heaven's sake. You'd think ...

This is typical. Nothing can ever be done here by phone, email, fax or anything other than several time wasting visits. This is when I get frustrated with the local ways, enough to make me want to scream, but it is a system they refuse to let you buck. They better cut to size and deliver once I have my carefully laid plans ready. Or, do you think I am asking too much?

Wednesday, 8 March 2006

It is impossible to be a law abiding citizen

Something which has been on my mind for a long time is the fact that the more laws we get the less likely it is that one can stay on the right side of all of them, all of the time. I'll bet somewhere, it is actually possible to break one law by abiding another!

Even decent people will just give up and stop caring about the bloody law to avoid the headache of confusion. It encourages cheating. And I have stated that I think the "nanny state" idea is bad news. If you treat people like irresponsible little children, they will not disappoint you. They will behave like them.

Rich at Uncommon Sense, says, "All I really care about is whether I'm actually hurting other people or are in serious risk of doing so." This really echoes my thoughts on another matter, the cartoons and the free speech issue, in that common decency and respect ought to come first. Again, we need less regulation and more conscience.

We ought to fight this nonsense at every turn. But will we? The other worrying aspect, which is what most people deny or fail to acknowledge, is that in order to hold onto their own power, it is in politicians' own vested interests to keep us fighting amongst ourselves and, thus, be less likely to challenge them.

You Aren't Worth It

Tuesday, 7 March 2006

Authority can all too easily pressure good people into doing nothing

Interesting discussion by Terry Prone in the Irish Examiner. The Tenerife air disaster gets a mention. Cats get a mention too, but those are not the prime reasons drawing your attention to the article.

It actually discusses the psychological factors (authority and collegiality) that persuade "ordinary decent folk" into doing some quite shocking things or, into doing nothing about situations where they NEED to speak up.

I learned something about these phenomena when I attended a part-time course in psychology at Birmingham University in England. It is an interesting paradox of human nature that, at once, gives us the "bravado" to take risks in groups and yet, at the same time makes us feel puny and powerless against "leaders".

Individually, we are well aware of the morals of the case and may be asking "Why doesn't somebody DO something?" about a bad boss, a negligent doctor, a lying president ... While, collectively, we are terrorized into inaction.

The question is, how can this human nature be channelled and more potential whistle-blowers be reassured into taking more appropriate action?

Authority can all too easily pressure good people into doing nothing

Friday, 3 March 2006

How many vets does it take to find a cat testicle?

Changing the subject drastically and, at the risk of offending the entire global feline population, you can't help but see a little humour (as well as feeling a great deal of compassion) for this poor little chap with the missing testicle.

It probably isn't something one thinks about often, but it may well be a more frequent occurrence than one suspects. So in the interests of the health of any male kittens you might home, it is as well to be aware of the implications.

To take the joke a little further, there is a reason why I call Balu "Fluffball", in the singular, apart from him being a great big one generally, and that is because, at puberty, only one of his little "pompoms" decided to come on down and see the light of day. Ever so cute it was too, covered in soft, pale apricot coloured fur and looking for all the world like a mini-powderpuff.

Long ago when I got Thomas, family friend and vet to the famous (well, he's mentioned in Beryl Reid's bestseller, The Cat's Whiskers), Brian Woodward (who, coincidentally, also now lives in Spain), told me to wait and bring the lad in to be fixed once his nuts were about the size of marrowfat peas. Good guide.

So, with Balu, I dutifully waited, but we only got one marrowfat pea.

We waited a bit longer: longer than I would have liked, just to see if the other one would appear by itself, but it never did. In his case, the shy one was not too far away and was easy for the vet to locate and remove, though it did take a bit more of an operation. The matter could have been much more complicated.

Thursday, 2 March 2006

We don’t have winter here!

As I sit, wrapped in four layers of clothing in my unheated (and leaking everywhere) house that was built only for hot weather (only three months of the year here in north Tenerife), this had such a ring of familiarity:

"Either every year for the past few generations has been miraculously colder than the last, or the locals are suffering from some serious short-term memory loss which has resulted in complete ignorance when it comes to indoor heating."

Personally, I go for total denial.

But I can't even pretend to understand why.

There is no doubt that the climate has changed here in recent years, but if it gets cold in Tenerife - and surprisingly it does and always has - then it must have always done so in Cádiz.

There are some old houses in high areas in Tenerife that have fireplaces. This one does, actually, but it was blocked up long ago and the cooker has been placed in the alcove.

New houses don't have chimneys, other than the ones rising up from outdoor barbeques, but it definitely gets cold.

My mother comes here every Christmas with heavyweight, warm clothes she would never need in her centrally heated house in England. In fact, she leaves them here. I think I have more of her clothes in my cupboards than my own now. The thick fleecy track pants I am wearing are hers!

When she was wearing these trousers with my chunky boots, an oversized T-Shirt and in a moment of warmth, slipped her fleece jacket off the shoulders, she only lacked a baseball cap to be a perfect picture of the only 81 year old "rapper" in the known world. The spoil-sport wouldn't let me take a photo!

Because of the cold, tiled floors, we bought her a poof to take her feet off the floor and when she sits to watch TV or knit in the evenings, she wraps up in a microfiber blanket. I've got it round me now while I sit at the computer. Now I'm the one doing a perfect impression of a "little old lady".

Today has been awful, again, weather wise in Tenerife.

Earlier in the afternoon, just as I was taking madam dog out for her ablutions, wrapped in my newly acquired waterproof with the hood that a lifeboat man would be proud of, hiking boots, et al, I met one of my neighbours coming up the hill.

The roar of the waterfall coming down our apology for a road and the normally dry barranco under the bridge at the end of my drive was so loud, I could hear it from the house.

The road was running a great torrent of muddy water.

But, what do you do? The neighbour had to get past it somehow, because it is the only way to her house across the valley. We wrapped her normal suede shoes in carrier bags and I went with her up the road to ensure she didn't slip. My boots may be non-slip, but at ankle high, they were useless when wading knee deep in fast running water. Picture it, with my track pants rolled up like a holiday-maker on a British beach!

So, I now have a perfectly useless, totally soaked pair of boots, sitting on top of the dehumidifier (that I keep going 24/7/365). I'm freezing, but with scant hot water, can't get a bath to warm me up and wouldn't like to get out into the cold air. Welcome to sub-tropical paradise!

Wednesday, 1 March 2006

English thug beats up innocent Canarian!

Wow, I missed this piece of hot news back at the end of January. My own five, all pure Canarian street cats, are cowering indoors at the news of this awful imported threat. Or is it just because my bunch of pussies don't want to go out in the rain?

English thug beats up innocent Canarian!

Cook the crap out of all poultry

These unappetizing, government-issued warning posters in Hanoi read, more or less -- "To minimize the risk of contracting bird flu, please boil the absolute living fuck out of all poultry before you eat it."

Reminds me of my mother's cooking, more properly described as cremation.

Bird flu warning in Vietnam

Bad Dogs and Sex With Foreigners

Onemanbandwidth reported that "New Laws went in effect today in China that might get unruly foreigners a ticket back to their native country."

China may fine, detain or ship out foreigners who buy or sell sex, steal or fail to control their mutts.

Obviously we would view that as racist and unfair to apply such rules to foreigners only, though since it is the "unofficial policy" already in Spain, it may as well be made the official one so everyone knows where they stand.

Everyone in Spain is supposed to control their mutts, but it seems that only the foreigners do so and the locals only think the rules do not apply to them.

Personally, I think I would prefer a openly racist rule, rather than keep getting nasty stares simply because of the ignorance of locals.

As for sex with foreigners. Don't get me started on that.

Oh, OK. I slouch around in baggy track pants, old jumpers and hiking boots the whole time. I make no effort whatsoever (there is no point in the countryside, with a house full of animals and no hot water), I'm pushing 50, but I am still "an English girl". This, to locals, makes them think they have some right to be "all over me like a rash" and that I must be a raving nymphomaniac! NOT!

Having watched a mini-series over the last couple of nights on people trafficking, kidnapping and forcing girls into prostitution, it is clear that China's action on this is responsible. We're all shocked and make appropriate noises that it goes on "in those countries" (easy to write off as someone else's human rights problem), but the fact remains that if the demand wasn't there from customers from the west, the problem might be easier to control.


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