Friday, 30 June 2006

The Incredible Shrinking Artwork

bert Being a huge fan of Derek Trotter (DelBoy) and his dodgy dealings in Only Fools and Horses - which I consider to Britain's best ever sitcom - I just couldn't help but laugh until I cried at this story, in which the 419Eater website chronicles the incredible story of a guy (using the pseudonym of Derek Trotter) who baits "Nigerian Letter" scammers and actually convinces a 419 scammer to produce a detailed replica of a Commodore 64 computer with the lure of a big cash payout. No Commodore 64 computer was harmed during this scambait. We're not so sure, about the fate of an African hamster called Bert!

The Incredible Shrinking Artwork Via: BoingBoing

Wednesday, 28 June 2006

The Tale of the Mystery Marrow

Portelas PotatoesA couple of weeks ago, a neighbour brought me a huge sack of potatoes - fresh, straight out of the ground. There's about twice the amount I would normally buy at once, so to avoid waste, I'm making meals that focus on them.

With them, were two bottles of local, home-made wine. Those can be added to the two that the man who comes to tend the vines in my backyard gave me, another two that my next door neighbour gave me and several that my landlady gave me at Christmas. The irony is that I don't drink. Can't drink. Maybe it is some sinister trick of pre-menopausal witchery (i.e. my age), but I can't even take a small sip without getting a headache.

Ah, but I can cook with wine OK, so I'm kinda having a run on stews into which contain large amounts of potatoes cooked in even larger quantities of wine! The wine goes into the pot first and I boil off the alcohol, leaving only the flavour.

These dishes are ideal for cooking up a large amount at once (usually, I do enough for five portions), which I then serve out into plastic containers that go in the fridge. I get a decent, home-cooked lunch every day, but I have only had to cook once. Not only is this less effort, it uses less energy (gas/electric). If I can really organize myself into action, I try to do this on a Monday, so that it also frees up my time to do other things during the week.

Recently, while I was out, a marrow appeared, mysteriously, which I found hanging in a bag outside my door. One of the local specialities where I live is potaje, a hearty soup/stew, which is based around chick peas (garbanzo beans), potatoes and various varieties of "greenery", like cabbage or Swiss Chard. I didn't see why it couldn't also be done as a marrow variety and I was right. It ain't fancy food, but it is filling and the combination of the wine and the marrow give it enough - and actually very a pleasant - flavour.

humusSo, last night I put a half kilo pack of garbanzos in to soak and this morning I cooked them. 

You can cook only as many as you need and that these garbanzos will keep in the packet, but it is a lot of work (just remembering to soak them in time, is enough), so I tend to cook the whole package at once.

Half of the cooked garbanzos go back into the stew and, with the other half, I made a bowl of hummus. Voila! That's afternoon tea taken care of for the next few days too. :) (Fortunately, I have a small loaf of fresh, crusty bread delivered to the door every morning.) My quick and easy recipe for hummus:

About a quarter kilo of cooked garbanzo beans
4 cloves of garlic
A pinch of course sea salt
About a cup of olive oil

Throw the lot into a liquidizer or food processor. Pulverize until creamy.

If you don't always have lemon, tahini or any of the other things mentioned in the usual recipes to hand, it doesn't matter. Mine is based on an old Spanish recipe and it didn't call for them either. The salt is important though, or it tastes like soap! :)

skins Wasting nothing (even the dog seldom gets scraps from me), after I'd peeled the potatoes to go into the stew, I fried the skins in olive oil until golden, sprinkled with sea salt and served them as a starter with ali-oli (garlic mayo).

Because of the gifts of the potatoes, wine and marrow, I now have healthy, ready home-cooked meals (achieved with very little effort, because most of the cooking was unattended simmering too), for the next few days for little more than the cost of the garbanzos: 80 Euro cents (50 pence/about a dollar).

Tuesday, 27 June 2006

Alfredo for One

alfredo Pasta is something that doesn't keep well once it is cooked, not even overnight, so if you want to eat it for one, you do have to cook only a small amount.

This recipe for Alfredo for One, by Jami Leigh, is perfect: simple, quick and uses fresh appetizing ingredients.

Monday, 26 June 2006

Newton's Cat Flap

He may have gone down in history as the discoverer of gravity and for being one of the greatest scientific minds of his age, but Sir Isaac Newton may have invented something far more important to our moggies. The cat flap.

Newton is reputed to have invented the cat flap in the seventeenth century, so that he would not have to disrupt his optical experiments, conducted in a darkened room, to let his cat and her kittens in or out. Ahhhh!

Via: Kickstart

Tuesday, 20 June 2006

Is this the definition of a placid dog?

Number one rule to avoid boring blog visitors ... Don't talk about your cats and dogs! Yeah, I never did go much on following rules. Just a small thing that happened today, but it did strike me as cute. This is the dog whom locals think is a "dangerous breed" ...

Came back from the store with a bag of snacks this afternoon: just puffed corn thingies that are really no more than fresh air with flavorings, but dog likes them and so we share a bag once a month or so.
It's a game too, because I throw them at all different angles and she gets training that would hold her in good stead, should she ever make the selection for the soccer team, as goalkeeper!

Just recently, Balu has developed a taste for crisps (chips in the colonies) and snacks too and he begs for them worse than the dog.

He's incredibly brazen about it too, because he plonked himself on the corner of my chair, between me and the dog. Or, put more precisely, between the dog and the food, which, you can imagine, could be a very dangerous place to be.

Especially, because when I say that I throw these things up at all angles, that is not entirely deliberately: I'm simply a rotten thrower and they just go all over the place. Ask Holly about the time I threw a stick and hit her on the head.

(She considers me too dangerous for stick throwing games now!)

Anyway, to get back to the snacks. So, I threw one in the air for the dog and it landed short, on the cat. I expected the dog to get it and eat it - both the cat and the snack probably - because it was only inches from her snout.

But no, the cat got it first and the dog just ignored it. Sat back down and waited patiently for the next one to be thrown.

Have you ever ...? A dog NOT grabbing at food seems way beyond polite and incredibly placid for a supposedly "killer dog", don't you think?

Thursday, 15 June 2006

Buddhism for Pets

image According to the Sydney Morning Herald, a couple of days ago there took place what may have perhaps been Australia’s first ever Buddhism for pets event - at which one hundred animals including cats, dogs, mice and mudcrabs were blessed. (Why not? Where I live horses, cattle, goats, sheep, chickens and pets - dogs, snakes, iguanas - are blessed annually in the name of Catholicism.) say "it appears that we are seriously falling short in our spiritual responsibilities to Bodhicattva" (their cat).

"It’s really not good enough that we feed him, indulge him shamelessly, play fetch with him (yes! we have a cat who plays fetch!). We should also be whispering holy texts into his ears, making sure that he hangs around holy objects – whatever they might be – and blessing his food before he eats it."

Buddhism for Pets

Friday, 9 June 2006

Dangerous People

As several sites have reported today, a woman was killed in Tenerife on Wednesday night, when her son’s American Staffordshire Terrier attacked her. I wasn't aware that Staffordshire had been moved to America and another report had called it a pit-bull. Probably kept for intimidation, whatever it was.

I'm sure the story has also been doing the rounds of the press and the TV and, no doubt, with all the usual sensationalism about "dangerous breeds".

Obviously, we don't know the full circumstances - and I am not insensitive the fact that the owner has lost both his mother and his dog - beyond that the son was arrested on charges of reckless homicide, as he had not registered the animal as potentially dangerous. (Though I fail to see how registration would stop the animal doing what it did in it's home.) Nevertheless, people here have an atrocious reputation over how they treat their animals.

In 14 years on this island, I have yet to see anyone here, other than English or German expats or those with Canarian hunting dogs (then only when hunting), who ever take their dogs out for exercise. Most dogs are kept in small spaces, most often on short chains, eating sleeping and shitting in the same 4 foot radius, 24/7. Then the owners wonder why these animals go crazy! Duh!

But, thanks to ignorance and helped by the media, people carry on thinking that there are dangerous dogs, where, in truth, there are only dangerous owners.

As I was out walking my dog this afternoon - no way is she dangerous and she was under control, on a lead which I pulled in close to me as I had to pass what I can only call a pair of "mal educados" (Rednecks).

As I approached, they began talking loudly in disapproving tones, at the air in general, but with clear inference in my direction, about how someone was killed "dangerous dog". Honestly, they didn't have the balls to address me directly, but they had to get their 2 cents in.

Holly merely sniffed in the direction of the guy's wheelbarrow, while passing, not even within arm's reach of him, but he immediately made melodramatic hand waving actions to shoo her off. The stupid thing is, of course, that if they did that to an uncontrolled and untrained dog, then they likely would get their hand bitten. And it would be their own fault, not the dog's, but, of course, they just can't see it.

Thursday, 8 June 2006

Unusually strong talent in the area of Precognition

Just for fun, I took an online test, The ESP Test, which claims it would discover my apparent psychic strength and, it came back with the answer that I have an unusually strong talent in the area of precognition.

Moreover: "This means you have an uncanny ability to look into the future and know ahead of time what is going to happen. You might, for instance, simply know something will happen with a certainty that exceeds what you would expect to have simply knowing the facts of the situation. These little hunches are easy to ignore but for you especially, quite often lead to a true prediction of what is going to happen."

Well, this I knew, before taking the test, of course! Smile

How much we can rely on such tests, however, still remains highly debatable.

If you answer the straightforward questions in the test truthfully (according to what you believe about yourself) and, only taking those questions into account, all it is really doing amounts to standard interrogation methods of echoing your answers. If it takes the true "guessing" questions into account, I can't say.

Still, it's interesting that it did highlight (for whatever reason) the very thing that I do consider that I have "talent" (if it can be called talent) in.

I would have to pay them to find out more about my powers in retrocognition, clairvoyance, telepathy and other areas of ESP, but I am not convinced of the benefits of doing so, when I already know the answers. Smile

Nevertheless, it was a bit of fun. Such tests do, at least, cause you to reflect on what / who you think are and, even if you are only drawing your own conclusions, getting to know yourself better can never be a bad thing.

The ESP Test (Now closed.)

Sunday, 4 June 2006

Foreigners in Spain ...

They have blasphemous thoughts you know.

No, I don't mean religiously, simply that we don't appreciate the nation's passions, like the natives do. I'm glad to discover I'm not the only one though to have been rather taken aback by the sheer magnitude of the reaction to the death of Spanish singer, Rocio Jurado, this week.

The news had just broken when I woke up on Thursday morning and I left TVE1 on, in the background all day. And, all day long they showed nothing else. I mean nothing else at all. On Friday too, from full coverage of the funeral to a re-run of a gala special that went on for hours into the late evening, the entire nation became voyeurs, all too closely, watching the pain of the singer's nearest and dearest.

Tens of thousands of people turned out in the streets, her coffin was carried into the church by the very "brotherhood" that normally carry the figure of her "favoured" Virgin - that carries a significance beyond "full honours" - and, if I am not much mistaken, they declared three days of mourning in the town of her birth.

Two whole days of solid coverage from the announcement of her death, the re-runs, the old interviews, the "laying in state", the coffin being taken to her birthplace, the funeral ... Actually, I thought the helicopter filming over the cemetery was a bit much, considering the family had asked for it to be private ... took over Spain's main, national TV station.

Like the Americans at The Spanish Cockpit, I simply cannot imagine this reaction anywhere else. At least, not for a singer.

What the heck would the reaction be to someone like a president or royalty?

But this is the Spanish way. It is not turning death into a circus, any more than is bullfighting. We foreigners will never understand that and we will always think it is cruel, but the Spanish have a way of facing death that's head on and full-frontal. News reports here are more graphic than most of us are used to in our overly-protected nanny-states and, psychologically, it seems to work.

The first time I went to Spanish funeral - for a friend's father and someone who had been kind and mattered to me - and went through the all-night vigil, the open coffin part (the first time in my life that I had seen a dead person).

Actually, I'd gone to the hospital just after he'd died, only to find the deceased on a trolly in the middle of the room with the family gathered round. Then the man from the funeral parlour came in and did his preparations right in front of us ... It was all a shock to me, I can tell you, but, at the end of the two days, I understood and felt that I could more easily deal with the loss, having been there, confronted it and had to assimilate it.

One must not "speak ill of the dead", but since SC have already put their head in the noose, describing Rocio as "famed singer of that unpalatable sap known as cancion espanola", I will add that I have heard better from the tone deaf at karaoke.

The absolute Primadonna act, I can overlook, because it is just the way. You can't really get up on a stage and put on show, without a bit of it. It makes business sense to do the material that the Spanish audience wants too, although this is a shame. There were times in that re-run gala where Ms Jurado's notes and musical phrasing belied that she would have been capable of much more, with different material.

Nevertheless, I do think "La mas grande" was WAY overdone.

With pointed reference to La Pantoja, who is also described as a "diva de la canción española" and "la reina de la copla" (Queen of song. Aren't they all?), for whom I have no patience, it did make me giggle that Spanish Cockpit also noticed the trend that these singers always seem to be of a certain type and marry bullfighters.

(On a positive note, at least there is a place on the Spanish stage for singers who are "somewhat past their sell-by date", not exactly pretty and getting a bit chubby. It makes a change from a music industry that seems obsessed only with talentless, anorexic teenagers. What I really mean is that there is hope for me yet! :)

But therein lies the key, I think. This generation of both the copla singers and their bullfighter husbands, made their name during the time of the dictatorship in Spain. Both were acceptable to that regime, because of their highly visual tendency to Catholic religious ritual. And, while there was no monarchy in Spain, they were the nearest thing that the Spanish public had to an "aristocracy" to watch.

They have retained that status, even though there are now genuine royals and, indeed, these two "classes" seem to mix and be mixed by the press more than they would, for instance in the UK. A fact, which British surprise at The Duchess of York and her daughter recently attending the Beckham's party, seems to bears out.

That status, I think, is what explains the reaction to Jurado's death, but, I will agree that, especially, to those of us from elsewhere, it leaves you gobsmacked.


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