30 August 2010

Erotic Operandus

For various reasons, I've recently been thinking a lot about my belief in how we should approach our erotic lives and our erotic selves. The following is how I think our erotic credo/philosophy should work.
  1. Ownership. No-one – yes, no-one: parent, friend, guru, god – has the right to tell you what your sexuality should be. It is yours and yours alone to share with others or not as you choose (although, of course, the law decrees there are things which must remain at best forever in the realms of fantasy).
  2. Fear. Don’t be afraid of your sexuality, what other people might think of it, or anything to do with sex. Your sexuality is yours and for you; no-one else. This is all part of liking yourself. If you can’t accept your own sexuality how can you meaningfully engage with someone else’s?
  3. Answers. There are no universal right or wrong answers. Your erotic is someone else’s pornographic and yet another person's tedium. There is only what is better or worse for you.
  4. Communication. Be prepared to talk about your sexuality, anywhere and to anyone – make it a normal part of your life. That doesn’t mean you should flaunt or proselytise your sexuality; just be open and honest about it when appropriate.
  5. Appreciation. Learn to accept a compliment and appreciate the simplest erotic gesture.
  6. Nudity. Nudity is a normal part of life; there’s nothing dirty or unnatural about any part of our bodies and bodily functions. Indeed nudity is good for you; even Benjamin Franklin took regular "air baths". Or to quote my wife's god-father, "If you see anything God didn't make, heave a brick at it".
  7. Fantasies. We all have fantasies, we all have wet dreams, we all masturbate. Brilliant!
  8. Masturbation. Masturbation is normal, enjoyable and good for you! Almost everyone does it throughout their life. Where’s the problem?
  9. Orgasm. Each of us is responsible for our own orgasms.
  10. Sticky Bits. Don’t be afraid of genitals and bodily fluids. They are the stuff of life. Without them we’d none of us be here. Embrace them; make them yours.
  11. Sexual Excitement. By all means take another person’s sexual excitement as a compliment. There’s nothing wrong or threatening about an erection in and of itself, just as there's nothing wrong or threatening about an aroused yoni (it just ain't so obvious). The erection/arousal makes no demands and requires no attention, although the person attached to it may want some attention. Your erection/arousal is your own responsibility and no one else’s.
  12. Responsibility. Only you know what’s right for you and you must take responsibility for getting it. Ask for what you want of yourself or of your partner. Not to do so is denying part of your sexuality. Don’t be afraid; most partners love to be asked!
  13. Cherish. Your sexuality is what you make of it. Cherish it. Make it good and make it yours. Enjoy!

26 August 2010

Morning? Don't talk to me about morning!


I know the feeling. :-(

Quotes of the Week

This week's selection of the amusing and inspiring:
In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life. It goes on.
[Robert Frost]

Take it as a compliment, absolutely! And there’s certainly nothing threatening about an erection in and of itself. It makes no demands, requires no attention – it’s the man attached to the erection who might do that, and any man worth his sodium chloride knows that his erection is his own responsibility and no one else’s.
[Emily Nagoski at http://enagoski.wordpress.com]

Generic anger, envy and despair, coated in a thick, luxurious layer of can't be arsed.
[Emma Beddington at http://www.belgianwaffling.com/]

Good advice is something that old men give young men when they can no longer set them a bad example.

25 August 2010

1599 Huguenots

More from Richard Tames's, Shakespeare's London on 5 Groats a Day which depicts the eccentricities London life in about 1599 in the words of the people of the time.

Huguenot habits are catching on with other Londoners. Because weavers have to spend all day at their looms they brighten their workrooms by growing fragrant flowers in wooden boxes which they hang at the windows and keep caged canaries by them for the sweetness of their singing.

Thrifty Huguenot housewives have shown their neighbours that the tail of an ox should not be thrown away as useless but can be braised to make a hearty stew and the bones and leftovers rendered into a delicious soup.

They also gather scraps of meat to make a spicy, scarlet sausage called a saveloy. This can be eaten hot or cold and has become a great favourite with those whose work compels them to eat on the streets or on the move, such as porters and carriers. It is said that the main ingredient that gives the saveloy its distinctive flavour and texture is brains, but this may be only a rumour.

Love the bit on saveloy; clearly the MacDonald's of its day.

24 August 2010

Capital Cautions

Indigenous food was ever a trap for the unwary. I came across this during this evening's reading ...
A 'sallet' is any vegetable dish, raw or cooked – including a salad, which might come with primroses, daisies or dandelions.

'Good King Henry' is not a loyal toast but a sort of spinach with a peppery punch to it.

'Humbles' (say 'umbles') are entrails, usually of a deer, baked with herbs, spices and suet to make a 'humble pie'. The contents will include not only the heart, liver and kidneys but also the lungs, guts and spleen.

Brawn is a sort of stiff, meat paste made from the head and fore-parts of a pig. It is considered a great treat, usually reserved for Christmas.

'Gravey' is a thick sauce of ground almonds, broth, sugar and ginger and is used to dress rabbit, chicken, eels or oysters.

'Blancmange' is remarkable for the absence of any strong spices in its preparation. The ingredients are boiled rice, capon flesh finely shredded with a pin, almond milk and sugar. The surface is usually decorated with blanched almonds. On fish days it may be made into a main dish by the addition of dried haddock, perch or lobster.

Beware of English mustard. It is incredibly hot and, if you are not used to it, should be tried with caution. Londoners use it especially to override the flavour of dried, salted fish.

From: Richard Tames, Shakespeare's London on 5 Groats a Day

22 August 2010

Round Kent by Train

Bales by Brenzett

We spent yesterday on a train excursion round what seemed like the whole of Kent. Only it wasn't the whole of Kent because there are large parts where there are no trains. This was really a train enthusiasts trip as it was one of the few occasions when a passenger-carrying train is allowed down the branch from Appledore to the nuclear power stations at Dungeness (well as close as the compound gates anyway, which are about a mile from the power stations). But we went along (a) because we like seeing Dungeness and the Romney Marsh and (b) to glimpse a few bits of Kent we don't know. And it really was only glimpse places as even without much by way of stops it was a very long day, trains always go through the arse-end of everywhere and much of the line-side is overgrown with (mostly sycamore) trees. But we got to see the sea along the North Kent coast, the White Cliffs of Dover and Dungeness.

As I say it was a long day, leaving London Bridge station just before 0900hrs and arriving back at Marylebone about 2015hrs. Leaving London Bridge we went (via a coupl of pick ups) through Rochester to Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey where we had our only real leg-stretch of the day. Sheerness looks a desolate place to live especially with it's neighbour the Isle of Grain being little more than a glorified oil terminal.

From sheerness it was back to Sittingbourne and all the way along the north Kent coast through Faversham, Whitstable, Herne Bay to Margate. Then round to Ramsgate, Deal, Dover (for a very short break), Folkestone and inland to Ashford. We sat outside Ashford International while the train operators argued with Network Rail about whether we were allowed to take the loco down to Dungeness - despite this having been agreed in advance (as is required; you can't just charter a train and crew!) and having been done before. Eventually sense prevailed and we were allowed from Ashford through Appledore down the single track to Dungeness; this last leg taking forever due to the 5mph speed restriction, in part due to innumerable unguarded and ungated level crossings across almost unmake-up trackways.

Having stopped at Dungeness for a few minutes and reversed (yet again) we returned to Ashford and thence via Headcorn, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Orpington, round South London to Marylebone.

It was certainly interesting as well as warm and very humid, so somewhat tiring -- but a good day out despite the lack of photo opportunities. I'm glad we splashed out on the comfort of first class (a good well-upholstered, heritage coach) rather than scrumming in cattle class. There are more photos on my Flickr.

Quotes of the Week

The usual selection of quote that have inspired or amused me this week.
Thirty spokes unite at the hub
but the ultimate use of the wheel depends on the part where nothing exists.
Clay is molded into a vessel
but the ultimate use of the vessel depends upon the part where nothing exists.
Doors and windows are cut out of the walls of a house
but the ultimate use of the house depends upon the parts where nothing exists.
So, there is advantage in using what can be seen, what exists.
And there is also advantage in using what cannot be seen, what is non-existent.
[Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 11]

There are intelligent people and thick people. There are energetic people and lazy people. By far the most dangerous is the energetic but thick person.
[Reported as overheard by Noreen]

The Roman Catholic Church is sometimes referred to as "the ghost of the deceased Roman Empire".
[Razib Khan in "Gene Expression Weblog" at http://blogs.discovermagazine.com]

19 August 2010

Quote: Vegetarianism

Vegetarianism is the first turning away from life, because life lives on lives. Vegetarians are just eating something that can't run away.

Joseph Campbell; A Joseph Campbell Companion]

18 August 2010

In which I become Immortal

Time, according to common belief, is unending and infinite.  The Universe, but not time, began with the Big Bang.  For if time had started only with the Big Bang there was no time before the Big Bang in which to create the components thereof.  So time apparently stretches back into the infinite past.  And time will go on for ever; it stretches off into the infinite future.  Or does it? 

Some current scientific theories are suggesting that at some point in the future time ceases to exist, or perhaps becomes frozen (which seems to amount to much the same thing).  Other theories suggest that time has no independent existence anyway; it is but an artificial construct of our existence; it exists only because we are measuring it.  (There's a mind-bending article on the science of all this in the September 2010 issue of Scientific American, but you'll need to subscribe or buy the magazine.)

It seems to me eminently reasonable that something as intangible as time is purely a human construct.  Do animals (cats or dogs, say) measure time?  Does one not need a level of self-awareness, an understanding of self, to be able to measure time?

Logically therefore, if time has no independent existence, I am immortal.  Consider ...

Before I was born (or conceived, or attained pre-natal consciousness, depending how one wishes to measure these things) there was no time.  It was not part of my existence, because I didn't exist and therefore couldn't measure it.

Similarly when I die, time ceases.  Again I am no longer able to measure or observe it.

Ergo I have existed for all time, and am thus, by definition, immortal.

Strange mind-bending things these scientific theories of everything!  Bishop Berkeley eat your heart out!

13 August 2010

Full of Money

I've just finished reading Full of Money by Bill James. Crime fiction is not the sort of thing I would normally read but I started dipping into it out of a sense of duty. Duty because Bill James uses Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time as a pivotal back-plot. But also because James is in real life AJ Tucker one of the earliest to write academically about the Dance sequence. I soon found "dipping in" wasn't good enough and I had to start at the beginning.

I'm not really one for crime fiction. Why do I want to read about gangsters giving each other "acute lead poisoning" and being pursued by dumb cops? Is this different? Yes, it is. To start with there is no blazing gun battle or consequent "lead poisoning" (except off-stage at the end); not that we know that at the outset. It's set in late 1990s London. And the only cop who plays a significant role is a senior female Detective Chief Superintendent, though by many measures she'd still rate as foolhardy if not dumb.

The main events of the story – murder and drug dealing on two inner London housing estates – all take place off-stage, the main one even before the book opens; they're almost a backdrop rather than the raisons d'être of the story. So we have to piece everything together from set of cameos revolving around the DCS, a range of larger and smaller villains, and media types who play out these cameos through a variety of sub-stories. The twists and turns are interesting; the writing is good, and tight; the dialogue civilised and mischievous – all of which kept me turning the pages. Indeed the quotes on the jacket sum it all up rather well:
Engaging reading for mystery fans who like their crime stories gritty, realistic, and unsettling.

James knows how to pick the perfect turn of phrase and uses this gift to evoke dark hilarity, and bring a sense of menace and foreboding even in the midst of seemingly comic situations ... [a] brilliant and thoroughly entertaining mix ...

A gleeful send-up, by turns sinister and amusing, James is probably the most undervalued Brit writing crime fiction today.

Quotes of the Week

Well if last week was quiet, at least on the amusing & interesting quotes front, this week has seen a glut. So here's a selection:

I will also continue my preliminary work on Project Be-less-fat. Because I WAS working on that project and that was all going well and good, and then in the last couple of months that all dropped off a bit because there was stress and bother and worry and comfort needing to be had. I do so wish the words “Yes, it’s been dreadful, we’ve been so stressed out the weight’s simply been falling off us” ever fell out of my mouth, but I, my scales, the gym manager and the owner of our local chinese restaurant know this is very very not true. And much as I know in my clever new-brain that exercising stops me feeling sad or anxious, the only thing that I want to do when sad or anxious is curl up under a duvet and sleep, so it’s hard to balance the two.
[Anna at http://littleredboat.co.uk/]

Don't ever show something is important to you or you feel strongly about something otherwise you will be ridiculed.
Accept all abuse without retaliating.
If someone accuses you of breaking any rules or laws - don't rise to it and defend yourself – you'll only end up in the wrong.
Everything you think is insulting is actually humorous and you're the stupid one for taking it seriously – no good expecting your own comments to be taken as a joke because they won't be.
[Jilly at http://jillysheep.blogspot.com/ on how to deal with internet trolls]

Flora or Fauna?
Do you mean which would win in a fight, which is better company when I'm lonely, or what do I prefer to spread on my toast?
[Times Eureka science supplement, 08/2010, interview with Prof. Jim al-Khalili]

The formalism of post-selected teleportation closed time curves shows that quantum tunnelling can take place in the absence of a classical path from future to past.
[Times Eureka science supplement, 08/2010, in a snippet on time travel]

Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and small people talk about wine.
[Fran Lebowitz]

A well-organized society is one in which we know the truth about ourselves collectively, not one in which we tell pleasant lies about ourselves.
[Tony Judt]

Good taste is the worst vice ever invented.
[Edith Sitwell]

Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak
Whispers the o'er-fraught heart, and bids it break.
[William Shakespeare]

Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.
[Leo Buscaglia]

09 August 2010

'eye 'eewls

High Heels Cause Long-Term Damage says the headline.

We needed scientific research to tell us this?

Twenty years ago I had a colleague who was having serious physiotherapy because she was unable to put her foot flat to the ground, caused by spending too many years wearing 4 inch heels.

08 August 2010


This month's collection of the weird and wonderful from our local auction houses.

Mid 29th century Oak cabinet with two drawers fitted for cutlery above a cupboard flanked by barley twist columns.
[Do we get the time machine as well?]

Five pieces of pewter incl. a tobacco jar, a large musical jug, 2 brass  and wooden folding rulers, [...]
[I think I find the idea of a musical jug even more alarming than the products of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation]

A ceramic flat back-two damsels and knave in boat, pair of brass candlesticks [...]
[Surely if he's in a boat with two damsels he's a knave by definition]

Quantity of Shelley tableware ‘Chelsea, 2 Copeland Spode Italianate bowls, metal dog nutcracker [...] 2 sets  boxed silver plate butter knives [...] quantity of buttons,
wood planes etc.
[Implements for opening metal dogs or for cracking the mutt's nuts?]

Glassware including a charmingly enamelled French milk bottle with wire closure, a pair of 19th century large tumblers, 5 cranberry wine glasses, and 6 other pieces
[I'm curious as to why the French enamel their milk bottles]

An early 18th century iron cannon retrieved from the Thames at The Woolwich Arsenal. The  barrel is approximately 68″ long with a bore of 3″
[Just what I need to adorn the loo]

A rare mid 20th century Songye "Kifwebe" mask (Democratic Republic of the Congo), this important mask was made for a dignitary of the Bwadi Bwa Kifwebe society, the ruling group of the Songge tribe, the heightened striations in white signifies death and reincarnation (there is a monogram atop the left eye, possibly the original wearer/owner).
[Well this auction house does specialise in ethnographic artefacts]

Charming William IIII rosewood cabinet upper section comprising glazed cupboard beneath an ornate gilt metal gallery above 2 frieze drawers and cupboard base flanked by Corinthian half columns raised on a plinth.
[This has to be the pièce de résistance ... I can't even picture what it might look like!]

The taxidermist's art was also in evidence, with:

A stuffed canary
A stuffed ferret
Pair of stuffed Jays mounted in a glass cabinet
A Victorian arrangement of two stuffed owls under a glass dome

07 August 2010

Quote: Flowers

Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.

[Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh]

06 August 2010

Accountability of Religious Leaders

Prof. Lawrence Krauss writes a typically hard-hitting column in the August 2010 issue of Scientific American. I'm not sure if the piece is available online without subscription (I have access as I subscribe to the paper version of the magazine) so here are the key paragraphs.
I don’t know which is more dangerous, that religious beliefs force some people to choose between knowledge and myth or that pointing out how religion can purvey ignorance is taboo.
Last May I attended a conference on science and public policy at which a representative of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences gave a keynote address. When I questioned how he reconciled his own reasonable views about science with the sometimes absurd and unjust activities of the Church – from false claims about condoms and AIDS in Africa to pedophilia among the clergy – I was denounced by one speaker after another for my intolerance.
[In] Arizona, Sister Margaret McBride, a senior administrator at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, recently authorized a legal abortion to save the life of a 27-year-old mother of four who was 11 weeks pregnant and suffering from severe complications of pulmonary hypertension; she made that decision after consultation with the mother’s family, her doctors and the local ethics committee. Yet the bishop of Phoenix, Thomas Olm­sted, immediately excommunicated Sister Margaret, saying, “The mother’s life cannot be preferred over the child’s.” Ordinarily, a man who would callously let a woman die and orphan her children would be called a monster; this should not change just because he is a cleric.
Keeping religion immune from criticism is both unwarranted and dangerous. Unless we are willing to expose religious irrationality whenever it arises, we will encourage irrational public policy and promote ignorance over education for our children.

For my part I'm not sure which is more worrying: Krauss being shouted down at a scientific conference or the Bishop of Phoenix.  Both are very worrying.

05 August 2010


Chillies in a Row, originally uploaded by kcm76.

The first chillies of the season, variety Habanero Tasmanian. Grown from seed (sown a bit late though) on the study inside windowsill in a couple of plastic window-boxes. I'm also growing Bulgarian Carrot (they look like their name suggests) and Hot Lemon (long yellow fruit with a fresh lemony flavour). These are all hot varieties. Unfortunately none of them seem to be very prolific for me so the crop will be small, but judging by the one Habanero I used tonight the quality is good.

Quotes of the Week

It's generally been a quiet week and I've been doing lots of Anthony Powell Society work, hence the lack of activity and only a couple of recent quotes ...
If you allow annoying people to annoy you, then you've allowed them to win.

Nature does not say that cats are more valuable than mice; nature makes no remark on the subject. She does not even say that the cat is enviable or the mouse pitiable. We think the cat superior because we have (or most of us have) a particular philosophy to the effect that life is better than death. But if the mouse were a German pessimist mouse, he might not think that the cat had beaten him at all. He might think he had beaten the cat by getting to the grave first.
[GK Chesterton]