Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Battle of the Birmingham sands

Beach two

Stripy deckchairs, fake palms, a big telly, tacky advertising and bloody great no smoking sign, all in front of a newly unveiled restoration project ...

The Carribean or Paris Plages, this ain't. This is a travesty.

Battle of the sands Via: Brum Blog

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Birmingham Beaches

The Bullring Beach

The other item, tacked, for some reason, onto the bottom of the previous report also made me howl with laughter. Under typically leaden skies, with rain lashing down, Birmingham City Council is building ... wait for it ... a beach in Chamberlain Square, next to the town hall (that's as well as the one in the Bull Ring), complete with "tasteful" artificial palm trees! The council is convinced that "The beach will become a major tourist attraction in its own right, rivalling Paris and Berlin." Meanwhile, I'm convinced that Birmingham will become Britain's second-rate second-city laughing-stock, once again.

What's saddest of all is that they keep on wondering why. Bull Ring Beach

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Cosmos quoted in Slate Magazine

image Slate the liberal online news and culture magazine, which was created by Microsoft and now owned by the The Washington Post Company, must be really short on decent sources to quote. Poor things had to scrape the barrel so low ...

That they quoted ... ME!

Yes really, Slate's Susan Daniels, quoted some of the few words I had to say about Mr. Blair on Thursday, in a roundup of bloggers reactions to the idea of him being considered for a job as a Middle East Messenger Boy Envoy.

Ms Daniels left out some of the rude words I uttered, but I'm honoured.

Now, I will try not to let it go to my head, but there's a chance I will be asking you to call me Ma'am in future. That will make up for surely being a persona non grata back in Blighty now that my opinion is known world-wide! 

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Stand up for world peace

It is a difficult thing to do, with so much negativity and bad news in the world, but it is my belief that you get what you focus on. If you focus on being AGAINST war, you still get more war. However small one's contribution, the better thing to do is to focus on being FOR something, like world peace.

Link to video

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

The enemy of my enemy is my friend

British comic, Ben Elton, in his 1989 novel, "Stark", used this quote, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." By coincidence, I watched the mini series in which he played the role of CD, based on his own book again last night and I was just thinking how relevant it all still is, with the sick earth, the food scares, pollution warnings and global corporate raiders.

Elton, to me, is the Dickens of his time, incorporating the most pressing social issues into his act and his fiction. I also think he's a bloody visionary - after all, the previously committed Labour Party supporter was one of the first to voice his serious reservations about New Labour's new "more Britainy sort of Britain" of "all style and no content". This was in 1997 don't forget, before Blair was elected and the country suffered a decade of crap.

"The problem really with politics is apathy I think, particularly the Labour Party. I mean I'm a member and I can't even be arsed to leave!" - Ben Elton 2005

The answer to the question, of course, is that radical comics are the only people who dare say these things. Everyone else is too afraid of the repercussions, even if it's only the loss of advertising revenue from corporate clients whose business interests include shafting the world or supplying the war machine, to report the truth.

And the biggest problem is that people actually believe what they hear and read in the mainstream news media, yet think this is "just comedy."

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Everyone is lonely

image Interesting observation from Seth Godin:

People spend money (and make money) and join organizations and invest time and enormous energy to solve this problem. Every day.

This is true when you look at the sheer number of dating sites and other means available for people to avoid being alone. Though (speaking from experience), there are, of course, some rare individuals who are the exceptions that prove the rule: who choose to be and are perfectly happy to be alone.

Lonely is not a word that figures in my vocabulary and I couldn't even tell you what it feels like, but as unique and special as I would like to be, I simply cannot believe that I am the only odd one out. Do you think that people look for human company, because they lack other purpose and hobbies, perhaps?

Or is everyone [else] truly lonely?

Everyone is lonely

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Easy Macaroni Cheese

image For much the same reasons as I've been looking for rice dishes to cook and freeze, I've also been deliberately looking for pasta dishes that will suffer the same treatment.

This Easy Macaroni Cheese worked when I cooked the pasta and prepared the dish, then instead of putting it into the oven at that point, I froze it in individual portions, ready to be baked later. When you want to eat it, defrost it in the fridge for 24 hours (can't cheat and do this one in the microwave as it uses foil oven-proof trays), then all you have to do is bake it before eating.

I'm glad to say that this worked beautifully, so I shall be on the lookout for other pasta dishes that can be treated in the same way.

Interesting question here about pasta, "What's the point of making pasta in different shapes if it's all made from the same stuff?". The response suggests:

"As we learned from the National Pasta Association (really), pasta shapes tend to be classified by the type of sauce they best complement. Light sauces taste best with thin noodles like angel hair. Heavier sauces go with thicker pasta shapes like fettuccine. And meaty or chunky sauces go best with pastas that can "hold" them, like penne rigate or conchiglie."

Cannelloni and lasagna spring to mind as suitable for the purposes, of course, since, as you can already buy those as frozen dishes, I see no reason why I can't do it too. Those, along with the macaroni though, do tend to be up the heavier end of pastas, which require heavier sauces and, I have an inkling are the ones that will best survive the freezing too. This may not be such good news, if we want to keep to lighter (as in not too heavy on the calories) foods.

Of course, you can use lighter rice or corn pasta instead of wheat.

And cheese substitutes if you're strictly vegan.

Personally, I don't sweat that too much, provided every meal isn't calorie laden and since I don't have much animal fat and, almost never eat snacks, sugar or sweets. Still, the lighter pastas cook so fast they can cooked fresh on the day and combined with sauces that are prepared ahead. (I guess, I can't make everything as a cook and freeze, one pot dish, but I'll give it a good try!)

At least mine wasn't gravity-defying like this insipid looking example - obviously microwave heated (don't do it!) - from a British hospital.

They expect people to recover on food like this?

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Chickpea Potato Curry

image Another success and, another recipe that can be added to the list of those suitable to make and freeze, because it froze and defrosted beautifully with no real deterioration in either taste or texture.

To make the four portions of this dish, I used half of a 1/2 kilo bag of garbanzos with four large potatoes, which doesn't sound a lot and, it didn't look a lot either until I served it, but the portions were more than adequate.

As my garbanzos were the dry variety, I first soaked them overnight and then cooked them separately, before starting on the dish proper.

If you're using cans or jars of garbanzos, then you don't need to do that, of course, but I prefer to do it myself and using the dry is cheaper.

Besides, if you open a jar or can of ready-cooked garbanzos, then you have to use them all at once. If you use dried, you only need soak the amount you want, because the remaining dried ones won't go off in a hurry.

If soaking and cooking small amounts at a time seems like too much bother, do what I've also done on many occasions: soak and cook an entire packet, then freeze the beans you aren't going to use right away.

Then you'll have some ready whenever you want them and, you can pop them, still frozen, straight into a soup or stew as a source of added fiber.

Anyway, getting back to this dish, otherwise I fairly closely followed the instructions given here in this Chickpea Potato Curry Recipe.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

What the ignorant and unthinking really ask for

Like everything else Twain ever wrote or uttered, this is so profound and true. Mark Twain's "The War Prayer", is once again, proof that history just keeps on repeating. What, that he said in 1904, does not directly apply to the situation, one hundred years later in 2004 and still now, in 2007?

When will it change is the question I would like answered.

"In 1904, disgusted by the aftermath of the Spanish-American War and the subsequent Philippine-American War, Mark Twain wrote a short anti-war prose poem called "The War Prayer." His family begged him not to publish it, his friends advised him to bury it, and his publisher rejected it, thinking it too inflammatory for the times. Twain agreed, but instructed that it be published after his death, saying famously:

None but the dead are permitted to tell the truth."
Link to video | Link to Part 2

Via Clipmarks

Definitely Not Made in China

image But it worked! My plan was to try to find more rice-based dishes that would successfully store and, so I came up with the idea to try special fried rice, since only the rice would need cooking in advance (which it does anyway, whether you're going to store it or not), to later be quickly fried with the other ingredients.

By frying, I mean, tossed around in a minuscule amount of olive oil, so this hardly counts as bad frying. This was successful and it performed exactly as you would want it to. I'd expected it would, since you can buy this combination already prepared and frozen, but doing it yourself is cheaper and you stay in better control over what additives there might be in the "final product."

Wanting to find more rice dishes was an aim, because, along with cereals, pasta and bread, this is the food group in the pyramid that we're allowed more of in a healthy, balanced diet. Besides that, rice dishes make a change from yet another of the eminently freezer-suitable stew-type dishes. Always great, but too many similar dishes would make for a very dull menu.

The decidedly non-Chinese ingredient here, of course, being the slices of chorizo I used, since I wasn't able to get the Chinese barbecued pork that is "essential" to this dish if pedantically following the traditional recipe.

You may be able to get the right thing, substitute cooked ham, or use whatever else you like that you have available and that's suitable to add flavor. We can call this Spanish "invasion" into Chinese cuisine a "fair exchange" since  so many things in Spain these days, products, souvenirs, etc., are Made in China. It became a joke and there was once even a comedy show, also named, in English, "Made in China" shown on Spanish TV.

For my four portions of Remixed Special Fried Rice:

  1. Eight tablespoons of rice, boiled in the usual way, drained thoroughly, cooled and separated into four portions ready to store.
  2. One onion (a few shallots would be better, but I've never seen them here), chopped finely and separated into the four portions.
  3. A small bag of frozen, cooked, peeled prawns or shrimp, separated into the four portions.
  4. A generous handful of frozen peas, separated into the four portions.
  5. A small piece of Chinese barbecued pork (or other suitable meat), diced and separated into the four portions.
  6. Four eggs, for later frying.
  7. Soy sauce to serve.

The portions can then be frozen separately until you wish to eat the dish.

All you have to do at the last minute is fry it all together (a wok works best). When it's nearly ready (a couple of minutes), beat one egg in a bowl and add that to the pan, stir until the egg is set to your taste. Douse with soy sauce. Eat. And, whether this is a case of being Bicultural, or confused, or something ..., I'm not the only one to push through the international barriers with the Spanish national sausage, as Ben Curtis writes:

"It only occurred to me halfway through my dinner that I might have a split personality thing going on. Left alone for the evening I didn’t rustle up a very British Bangers and Mash but, instead, and without a second thought, prepared myself Chorizo sausage in white wine ... and mash! Nothing wrong with a good bit of Chorizo al Vino, but with mashed potato?"
You know, it also occurred to me that maybe the reason why men (and strange women like me) like playing in the kitchen, is because it's like a giant chemistry set for grown-ups. Only this time, instead of just making smells and explosions, you get to eat the results of the weird experiments. Sometimes you still get the smells and explosions, but other times they surprise you and work! Surprised

Saturday, 2 June 2007

RSPB website bans use of the word 'cock'

"The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has banned the use of the word "cock" when applied to the male of the species, in case it causes offence. In a move condemned for "taking political correctness too far", a correspondent on an RSPB online forum was surprised to find that his use of the word "cock", when referring to a male blackbird, was replaced with four asterisks.", report The Telegraph.

It's a good job Blogger doesn't have a similar set of filters, or my posts would probably read **** and **** but **** if **** like rabid Morse code! :)

Spanish compounds this problem. Gallo being the male bird that makes a racket, usually just when you're drifting off to sleep, while pollo is chicken. But one must remember not to change the O to A to make this feminine. The girl bird (hen), in both cases is a Gallina, whilst polla is exactly the thing that the RSPB are aiming to avoid! People who ask for salads should too.

The problem wouldn't come up for a blackbird (mirlo) though, as anything other than a chicken, the male one is a macho, the female an hembra. Until you get to dogs, of course, where perra, the feminine of perro, still means bitch in both senses. As in, "My female dog and I are a right pair of perras!"

RSPB website bans use of the word 'cock'

Friday, 1 June 2007

Sometimes it does take a rocket scientist!

108792_6970 Supposedly based on a true story: Scientists at NASA built a gun specifically to launch dead chickens at the windshields of airliners, military jets and the space shuttle, all traveling at maximum velocity.

The idea is to simulate the frequent incidents of collisions with airborne fowl to test the strength of the windshields.

British engineers heard about the gun and were eager to test it on the windshields of their new high speed trains. Arrangements were made, and a gun was sent to the British engineers. When the gun was fired, the engineers stood shocked . . . . . . as the chicken hurled out of the barrel, crashed into the shatterproof shield, smashed it to smithereens, blasted through the control console, snapped the engineer's back-rest in two and embedded itself in the back wall of the cabin, like an arrow shot from a bow.

The horrified Brits sent NASA the disastrous results of the experiment, along with the designs of the windshield and begged the US scientists for suggestions.

You're going to love this ... NASA responded with a one-line memo:

"Defrost the chicken."


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