31 January 2013

More Missed Delights

Our irregular round-up of articles you may have missed, and wish you hadn't.

First off here's London's Mayor, Bumbling Boris, from about 10 days ago on snow and winter weather. Actually he makes a lot of sense, which despite his reputation as court jester is not unusual.

Help! My brain is trapped ...

An interesting article about the much overlooked third kingdom of life, the Archaea, and their discovery.

It seems, at least from this article, that, as many of us suggested, mental attrition is going to be the biggest fallout from the Fukushima disaster.

So just how do you photograph one of the world's largest and oldest trees, a Giant Sequoia? And get a stunning result as well. (Click the image for a larger view.)

So you thought I was loopy? Well at least I haven't collected bread bag tags and organised them into a taxonomy and phylogeny. Methinks someone needs to get out more ... or maybe not, 'cos they'd only by more bread.

So, according to the Chief Inspector of Schools Britain's brightest pupils are being failed by state schools. That's so perceptive of him. As with many of the ills in modern British society, I blame Harold Wilson — and that's something I want to write more about when I have some time.

In another surprise finding scientists have discovered that babies walk better naked than they do in nappies. Who would have thought that a load of towelling (or equivalent) between their legs would have made a difference? Duh!

Next here's a long but interesting article on our rituals and how they divide into essentially two categories: "doctrinal" (large group & public) and "imagistic" (smaller group & more personal), although both are about gluing society together. But what about those rituals one performs alone? They don't seem to obviously fit this theory.

Finally a rather sad tale of someone who can no longer live in our multi-ethnic society. I can understand this, especially as it is written about another area of the borough in which I live. But it is sad that it has come to this. Why can we not get our immigrant communities (many of whom are now second or third generation) to integrate better?

29 January 2013

Are we sure?

Yesterday we were in Norwich for the funeral of a close friend of my parents. Well we didn't actually go to the cremation, which was earlier than we could get there, but to the following memorial service. The service was low-key and humanist, which is what Brian would have wanted, and held at Colney Wood Burial Park — a woodland burial site on the outskirts of Norwich near the university. This is where my father is buried, and it was apparently his funeral which made Brian think this was what he too wanted.


Even on a cold winter's day, with some snow still on the ground, the wood is a delightful place full of pine and beech trees. Imagine how delightful it is on a lovely Spring day when the bluebells are at their best! The park is sympathetically managed as a native woodland; the only rules being that one is not allowed to put up memorial markers of anything other than native wood and a small size, only unwrapped cut-flowers, and no planting of anything which isn't native. All the woodland paths are natural and there is an absolute minimum of brick and concrete (essentially just the footings of the buildings). I always think the three, rather apical, wooden buildings, set discretely amongst the trees, are very American Indian — they're almost like a small huddle of wigwams, which is quite in keeping with the quiet, gentle ethos of the place. (I must try to photograph them when next we're there.)

This is so much nicer a place to be buried than in the average cemetery. It's a shame there aren't more such. Every town really should have one.

One humorous (well to me anyway) thing I noticed as we drove in the gate yesterday was this notice.

Dusk

My father, whose grave is not 100m away, must be gentry revolving.

A sad day, but such a delightful place.

28 January 2013

Weekly Photograph

This week's photograph from my collection is especially for Katy:

Prospect Cottage Panorama
Prospect Cottage Panorama
Panoramic view of the late Derek Jarman's cottage at Dungeness
31 August 2010

Click the image for larger views

27 January 2013

Reasons to be Grateful: Summary

So I've spent over a year (actually 60 weeks) documenting each week five things for which I was grateful, or which made me happy, that week. And at last I've gotten round to documenting the findings. So what did I learn? What difference did it make?

Sprats
Conclusion: Frankly, it's a Load of Sprats

First let's summarise the 300 observations made during the experiment.
[Yes, sorry Sue, I'm going to be an anally boring scientist again!]

Results
I've broken the observations into 10 broad categories as best I can.

Category
# Obs

%
Food & Drink
102
34%
Hobbies (a)
65
22%
Weather & Seasons
29
10%
Personal & Medical
27
9%
Places
20
7%
Family & Friends
15
5%
Anthony Powell Society
8
3%
Celebrations
7
2%
Arts
7
2%
Miscellaneous
20
7%
(a) Includes such as natural history, photography, the garden, family history ...
(b) Includes photographs of sunrises and sunsets as well as "sunshine"

Observations
  1. Should we be surprised at the dominance of food and drink (and that was overwhelmingly food, by the way)? Given everything else about me, probably we shouldn't. Worrying perhaps, but hardly surprising. No wonder I'm the size I am.

  2. What did surprise me was the high score for hobbies. In retrospect I shouldn't be surprised given the amount I watch what goes on in the garden etc. and the number of flowers I seem to photograph.

  3. I was also surprised at the amount I seem to notice and care about the weather, and not just the fact that because I have a tendency to SAD I like the sunshine.

  4. There seems to be confirmation that we've never been a close family nor do we do grand celebrations. And I guess this also confirms that I don’t have a wide circle of close friends and that I don’t get out enough. Well who would have guessed?

  5. One thing I have been doing for a couple of years now, partly aligned to the hypnotherapy, is keeping a very qualitative track of my mood — on a rough scale of -3 to +3 (0 is OK, -3 the depths of depression and +3 totally manic). Over the period of the experiment the 365-day rolling average score has risen from 0.28 to 0.56. Well at least it's going in the right direction, and I wouldn't expect that average to get above 1 unless I'm permanently manic. And that ain't ever likely to happen. I would expect to stabilise at about 0.75 to 0.8 — there will always be ups and downs, one just hopes for a preponderance of ups.

  6. Also over the time period of the experiment I have seen a small decease in my weight and by fasting blood glucose level. Not enough of either and hardly statistically significant, but again at least in the right direction.
Conclusions
How much of this is attributable to the experiment? Well who knows? There are just too many variables and too few hard measurements. This in itself was perfectly predictable, and even predicted.

What does this tell me that I didn't know or couldn't have guessed? Frankly bugger all!

That doesn't mean it wasn't interesting, and sometimes a challenge, to do. But beyond that I doubt it says anything very useful at all. But that's the nature of experiments!

So yes, in summary, it's a load of sprats!

25 January 2013

Weekend Amusement

One of this week's BC comic strips ...

23 January 2013

Word : Dzo

Dzo (or dso, dzho, zho, zo)

A Tibetan hybrid of yak (Bos grunniens) and domestic cattle (a domesticated form of aurochs, Bos primigenius). The word dzo technically refers to a male hybrid, while a female is known as a dzomo or zhom.


See also Wikipedia.

22 January 2013

Five Questions, Series 3

OK, so ... we're going to do the "Five Questions" routine again, just like we did a couple of times last year. Just to keep us all on our mental toes, you understand.

However series three is going to be a bit different. It is more in the vein of those daft "back page" interviews with Z-list slebs you see in magazines — only hopefully a bit more interesting; maybe more like those really good off-the-cuff job interview questions.

No, don't panic! You can take this as seriously or not as you like (well you can all of them, but this one especially so) although the questions should still make you think!


The five questions are:
  1. Please describe yourself in 25 words or less.

  2. What are three things about you that most people either don’t know or wouldn’t expect?

  3. Of the things you’ve done in your life so far, what are you proudest of?

  4. What’s an as yet non-existent thing about which you’ve thought "why hasn’t someone created that yet?"

  5. If you could get everyone who reads this to do one thing, just once, what would you get them to do?

Again, like series one and two, I think they're going to be deceptively tricky. I certainly don't know in advance exactly how I'm going to answer them all, though I have a few ideas. (It's called preparation!)

Anyway I'll answer them one at a time over the coming weeks. The first in about a week's time. (Well thinking doesn't come cheap or easy, you know!)

And as I've said before, if anyone has any more good questions, then please send them to me. I'd like to continue to do this two or three times a year so good, but potentially fun, questions are needed.

Watch this space!

21 January 2013

Weekly Photo

This is the first in what I hope will be a weekly series of my photographs. Some may be new ones, some may be old ones; some may be stunning, others will be ordinary; some may have a story attached; some may even be ones you've seen before (although hopefully not in this series). All the photos will have been posted on my Flickr Photostream so you'll be able to click the image for larger views.

Frost with Berry
Frost with Berry
Frost and ice on the hedge outside my doctor's surgery
17 January 2013

20 January 2013

You May Have Missed ...

Our regular-ish look at things which have interested or amused me, but which you may have missed.

Let's deal with the medical and scientific items first ...

Tamiflu — the wonder drug that kills off 'flu. Except it doesn't. Here are five things you should know about it.

Can't think why anyone would want to make tea from coffee leaves. Until someone decides it has health benefits. Maybe — it seems the jury is still out on the importance of antioxidants.

So what really does happen if you drop a steak from an altitude of 100km without a parachute?

There's this cunning Japanese way of multiplying big numbers quickly. Mind-bogglingly strange to us westerners, but it does seem to work.

Well who would have guessed? Apparently cats take on their owners' habits — both good and bad.

So now let's degenerate into the more secular ...

So just why is it that we British are revolted by the idea of eating horse? It doesn't seem very logical.

There's been a bit of a kerfuffle this week — at least there would have been if anyone had understood it. The Health Minister, Jeremy Hunt, has decreed that all health records will be shareable throughout the NHS within a year. And about bloody time too! This is the sort of JFDI leadership the NHS needs, especially as it will save a shedload of money. But I spy a large squadron of pigs taking off from Heathrow Airport. The intention may be good, but it won't happen; neither the government nor the NHS have the first clue about running the massive IT projects this will need; they won't take advice from industry experts and they won't pay for quality suppliers. And then there are the wallahs that worry about privacy — how is it more important that no-one knows anything than we get quality healthcare?

Meanwhile Will Self has been staring at The Shard and wondering why we do this to ourselves.

Le Mont Saint Michel (Manche-FR)

Aerial views of another sort ... here are some stunning photographs taken from kites.

Hopefully this may be one up for women's liberation in sport. Apparently Women's Cricket wicket-keeper (Sarah Taylor) could be playing for Sussex (men's) 2nd XI next season. About bloody time too! This should have happened years ago. There is nothing in the laws of cricket which says anything about gender restriction. I threatened to do this at club 3rd XI level some 35 years ago (the wife of one of our players was a good cricketer in her own right) and I got roundly condemned for the very idea. Couldn't see what the fuss was about then and I still can't, especially as there have always been mixed hockey games.

Finally, following up on a previous post, last Sunday (13 Jan) saw the annual "No Pants on the Subway" events — not just in London but around the world. The Telegraph has the pictures.

19 January 2013

Quotes ...

Another in our series of quotes I'm come across recently when have interested or amused me. In no special order ...

Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.
[Tom Robbins]

[A] thrombosis of traffic, wherein the veiny and arterial roads of the metropolis are blocked by the embolism of roadworks and by clots that have broken down.
[Mark Forsyth, The Horologicon]

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.
[F Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-Up]

Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.
[Voltaire]

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.
[Sir Arthur Conan Doyle]

Tomorrow (noun). A mystical land where 99% of all human productivity, motivation and achievement is stored.
[Unknown]

People died for my right to offend you ... we need both love and anger to be free. And you may continue to hate me ... Free-thinking is always problematic. But if you take away my freedom ... ask yourself who really wins?
[Suzanne Moore]

A catless house is a soulless house.
[Patrick Moore]

Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are.
[Bertolt Brecht]

What Does Your Personal Hell Look Like?

I was prompted a few days ago to think about what really would constitute a living Hell for me. No forget all this fire and brimstone stuff of the (supposed) afterlife. We are quite good enough at creating Hell here in this life.

But on the basis that one man's meat is another man's poison, how much would we actually agree on what would constitute Hell here on Earth? Brave New World and 1984 would be a damn good start!

Well this is the start, at least, on what mine would look like.

There is no wine, beer or gin. The only liquids available would be Pernod, absinthe, pastis and ... errr ... water.

The only foods available are jellied eels, tripe, sweet potato, pumpkin and egg custard.

Everyone is perpetually rude, selfish and unable to speak English. (Nothing new there, then.)

All officials are little Hitler control freaks and over-officious bullies. And then there are the managers!

Basically nothing is allowed; everything is banned, so whatever you do you're breaking some law or another.

Cigarette smoke clings everywhere.

There are no antibiotics, analgesics or deodorants.

It is cold. So cold I have to wear clothes all the time — because there is no central heating and no sunshine. And all the clothes I have to wear are made of plastic, rubber or nylon.

There are no cats, no birds, no gardens, no trees and no seaside. The sky is never blue. Maggots abound.

I have to travel everywhere by underground or by bus.

All women look like low-class tarts and wear a thick plastic skin of make-up.
All men are shaven headed thugs or greasy oiks — which is about how they behave.
There are children everywhere, screaming. Their batteries cannot be removed and they never run out of charge. They all have lice.

There is no internet nor any cameras — except for CCTV everywhere.

All TV is an endless cycle of inane soap operas and game shows interspersed every 5 minutes with ever more inane adverts.

There are no books and the only music is Mozart.

I'm forced to be homosexual, religious, play golf and put in the army.

I'm sure there's more ... Aarrrgggghhhhh!!!!!!

Why is it much of this sounds so horribly familiar?

18 January 2013

17 January 2013

Make up Your Mind!

Have you ever noticed how we always get, even through "official" sources, lots of variation in the stories covered by the media?

Yesterday's horrific helicopter crash in Vauxhall was a case in point.

Everyone agrees that the chopper hit the crane on a tall building under construction. But no-one could (initially) agree where the wreckage landed:
  • In the road below the crane
  • In Wandsworth Road, 150m away
  • From an aerial view (via I suspect Google Maps) that site looked more like 300m even in a straight line
  • But the crash site was indeed in Wandsworth Road, not where first shown but more like 4-500m away from the crane
And then there was the workman (or was it two men?) who should have been in the crane at the time of the crash. Because he wasn't in the crane he had a lucky escape. But why was he not in the crane?
  • He was late to work because of being held up taking his daughter to school
  • He wasn't allowed into the crane because of the fog (aka low cloud) obscuring visibility so there could be no crane activity
  • And this morning apparently it was two men who both overslept

FFS guys, get it right. If you don't know, don't make it up! — say you don't know.

But of course Joe Public thinks admitting to not knowing is a sign of weakness, so they guess. Whereas in fact admitting not knowing is a sign of strength and maturity.

Let's just hope none of these people have to be witnesses in court!

16 January 2013

At Last!

This morning sees an unusual juxtaposition ...

It is January.

There is snow remaining on the ground (just).

It is cold; the mercury is below freezing.

There is a really hard frost on everything.

There are even roses with frost on them.

The air is still and there is steam rising vertically from everyone's boiler vents.

I shall be wearing a sweater.

No, it isn't Siberia ... it's WINTER. In England. At last!

And this is how it should be.

15 January 2013

Word: Comminuted

Comminuted

1. Reduced to minute particles.
2. (Surgical). Of a bone: broken or crushed into several pieces. Hence a "comminuted fracture".
3. Smashed up, as in "comminuted orange" (used to make fruit juice) which is often just whole oranges smashed to a pulp.

Oxymorons of the Day

Yesterday seems to have been quite a good day for oxymorons. We had:
  • Selective comprehensive schools (courtesy of BBC TV)
  • Lincolnshire Scotch Eggs (courtesy of M&S)
  • Flat-rate pension (that is only flat rate if it applies to you; courtesy the government)

13 January 2013

Things You May have Missed

Another in our irregular series of links to articles which interested or amused me, and which might do the same for you. So in no special order ...

It seems the Roman shipwreck which produced the amazing Antikythera mechanism may well have many more secrets to reveal. And it may even be two ships. Coverage by USA Today and by Discovery. Incidentally I have yet to see convincing dating evidence of the Antikythera mechanism to prove it isn't a fake.


It is being suggested that the Vaux Passional (which is in the National Library of Wales) contains a thumnail sketch of Henry VIII as a child. Yes, maybe, with the eye of faith!

Still on things historical, the London Underground is celebrating it's 150th anniversary this month and as you'd expect there is a plethora of articles. The two which caught my eye were both in the Telegraph: a pictorial history and 150 fascinating Tube facts.


Coming up to date there is an interesting item on Scientific American blogs about plastic money. No, not credit cards, but plastic (or plasticised) banknotes. It seems like the obvious way to go, but as always the UK is being conservative and slow at adopting the idea.

On the medical front (or maybe I mean back?) we've probably all heard by now of the new idea of faecal transplants as a method of resolving serious gut infections. But now researchers are trying to take the "ick-factor" out of the idea by manufacturing "pseudo-poo". Seems obvious and rather less yeuchy as well as allowing better controlled dosages and better protection against side-effect infections.

Finally several people seem to have picked up on some old work suggesting that many common houseplants actually remove nasty chemicals from the air in your home. Choose from quite a long list.

That's all for now. More anon.

11 January 2013

Weirday

What is it that makes birthdays so strange? Today seems to have been one of the odder ones, but for no very obvious reason.

We've never been ones for making much of birthdays in my family, so I always expect them to be much like any other day. The trouble starts when other people think birthdays are special days. Which is very nice but not what I expect. Maybe I'm just getting old but it seems that these days everyone is much more wanting to make something of birthdays; I'm sure this wasn't so when I was young. Maybe it's just because we're now much more open about things.

In the past I've managed to avoid some of this, especially in the last few years I was working when I had a policy of taking the day off work. But now that things like Facebook tell the world when your birthday is, there isn't much hiding. And yes, in many ways that is nice but I'm still not used to it.

But although a quiet day, this has been one of the odder birthdays.

It started with an alarm clock and the usual unwillingness to engage vertical hold. Oh and I need to do a pee sample for the doctors to check I really have gotten rid of the bladder infection.

Then off to do the weekly supermarket run. Well this is better than it could be as (a) it is always quiet at 9am on a Friday and (b) I get to have breakfast in the café. This morning, being a special day, I indulged in a full English breakfast rather than the usual bacon roll.

Just as we were leaving the supermarket (luckily after we'd paid!) the fire alarms went off and the store was evacuated. Frankly it could have burnt down as it was nearly 10 minutes before a solitary fire engine arrived.

Home about 1040 to news that one of my parents' closest friends had died. Not unexpected as he was in his late 80s and had been ill for some time. Fortunately, when I rang, my mother already knew, so I didn't have to break the news to her.

... And a short doze in front of my PC ...

A scratch lunch of the remains of last night's stuffed peppers with bread & butter — not bad cold, but better hot. This was followed by teh grand opening presents. Oooo goodie! ... Another bottle of gin! Plus an early music CD and some books from my wanted list. And what!? No-one gave me chocolates. Which is probably as well.

While away the afternoon doing this and that — ie. nothing — followed by a shower and shave. So exciting I could hardly stand afterwards.

Then to cook my birthday dinner. A massive quantity of seafood (prawns, mussels, scallops and sprats) and linguine in a tomato, lemon and chilli sauce. Dead easy and though I say it myself it was bloody good — better than many restaurants. Devoured with a rather nice bottle of Roger Brun Réserve Grand Cru Champagne (from Nick Dobson Wines).

Dinner was rapidly followed by a long phone call with my closest aunt — mostly about family things and our researches into our ancestry.

So now to switch off and read for the rest of the evening.

And I still don't know why it is that birthdays are quite such strange days!

Underground Fun

Is anyone up for a giggle on Sunday? If so it is No Trousers on the Tube Day 2013.


See Annie Mole's Going Underground blog or Facebook for more information.

Sadly, as usual, they've arranged it at a time I can't do. Boo!

Something for the Weekend ...

Well at least ours come and ask in person, indeed one is doing so right now ...

09 January 2013

Lunnun Adventure

Yesterday Noreen and I ventured into central London to have lunch with our friend Patric.

Lunch with Patric is always most enjoyable. As one of the country's most senior Heralds he mixes with everyone from the Queen down. Not that you would ever know; he's a perfectly ordinary guy, albeit one who went to Oxford and trained as a barrister. He's just as happy meeting in the pub, a café or a small Italian restaurant as he would be at the Ritz or a gentleman's club. Meet him in the street and you'd pass him off as just another eccentric Englishman in an overcoat and a flat cap!

And so it was that Patric introduced us to a small Italian restaurant in Shepherd Market on the southern edge of Mayfair. Da Corradi is tucked away in the alley which runs from Shepherd Market into Curzon Street. It is friendly, unpretentious and small; the ground floor eating area is not spacious and only about 20 covers, but there is a larger area downstairs.

Da Corradi

The food was excellent, generous and not at all expensive. Between us for starters we had minestrone, insalata tricolore and antipasto (which was enormous!). Then for main courses we all had pasta: spaghetti with meatballs in tomato sauce, cabonara and fusilli with salmon. Again the pasta helpings were so generous we passed on pudding. That with a bottle of house wine (a perfectly acceptable Pinot Grigio), some soft drinks and tea amounted to only just over £90 including service. Extremely good value especially for that area.

What's even better is that they are open from early to late, so you can get full English breakfast right through to a meal after the theatre. They also have a sandwich bar. We shall be going back!

We arrived at the restaurant about 1230, had a leisurely lunch and left about 3pm. This was good because Patric is always interesting to talk to and usually has some unconsidered trifle or tale of genealogical whimsy with which to amuse. Amongst other things we were discussing the correct original recipe for Buck's Fizz, which Patric has unearthed via a serendipitous route. It is also interesting to see his professional approach to genealogical research and where (and why) he is prepared to accept connections "on the balance of probabilities" rather than needing to have "100% detailed forensic certainty".

In fact lunch was sufficiently good and protracted that we ended up not doing anything else while in town other than a preprandial walk round Shepherd Market. Nevertheless my camera spotted a couple of oddities. The first was in Shepherd Market itself ...

Nude Gold

... and yes, it really is a jeweller's!

The other was seen on the Marylebone Road.

Thai Hmmm

One wonders what other services they offer?

Altogether an enjoyable, if short, day.

06 January 2013

Reasons to be Grateful: 60

So here we are at the final week of my great experiment documenting five things each week which have made me happy, or for which I'm grateful.

It's been a bit of an up and down week, although the general trend has been upward. I started off still feeling distinctly not yet the thing and worrying lest the bladder infection returned when I finished the second course of antibiotics. And I was worrying because I knew we wanted to make the day trip to see my mother and this would be a tiring day.

But we did get to see my mother and, despite some anxieties, I have survived and the infection hasn't returned. Long may it stay that way!

So from quite a long list this week here are my five choices.
  1. Feeling Recovered. Yes, in the last couple of days I do definitely feel that some form of proper humanity might be possible and I could be firing on all cylinders again. This has been helped by some good sleeps. So fingers crossed.

  2. Lamb Curry. Earlier in the week Noreen did a lamb curry. This is the first curry for almost a month, since before I was ill, and it was good. Much enjoyed.

  3. A11 Sunset
  4. Sunset. Returning from seeing my mother on Thursday, slightly earlier than usual to get on the road before dark, there was a gorgeous grey and gold winter sunset. And as the A11 southbound is aligned roughly SW you are driving towards the sunset. The photo really doesn't do it justice.

  5. Elveden Corner Gammon Joint. Having left Norwich early on Thursday we had time to stop at the Elveden Estate Shop which we haven't been able to do for quite some time. I've written about Elveden before (see here). What I found there were some smoked Corner Gammon joints at a very good price — it was cheaper than the Collar, which I'm sure it shouldn't have been. Corner Gammon is a cut I've not seen for a lot of years — no-one now seems to know any cuts of bacon beyond Back, Streaky, Gammon and Collar (if you're lucky). Corner Gammon is a flat-ish triangular cut (see the diagram, which isn't quite how I remember jointing bacon from my youth but near enough). We had it hot last night, and have just had a cold cut with salad this evening — both enjoyed with a good slurp of cider. A really flavoursome piece of pig.

  6. Adnams Ghost Ship. I shall finish with one of my favourite beers ... my Christmas beer stock was cans of Adnams Ghost Ship. This is a lovely pale ale with some very nice, fragrant, citrus flavours. So far I have hardly touched the stock, so it should keep me in beer for some while to come. Cheers!
So that's it! Sometime during the week I will try to analyse what this has told me, and gauge how successful it has been.

Now what am I going to do to stay out of trouble?

05 January 2013

Back to Work Cartoon

Well, it's back to work for many people on Monday, and the start of a new year of unachievable targets. Just remember that over the holidays all the facilities have been upgraded ...

04 January 2013

Recipe: Vegetable Crumble

Want something healthy(ish) for the new year after the excesses of Christmas? Why not try one of Noreen's specialities: Vegetable Crumble. It is simple, although the preparation is a bit labour intensive. And because it is unusual it seems to wow! most vegetarians.

Earlier today we mentioned to one of our friends (who has been a chef!) that we were going to have veggie crumble tonight. He was incredulous. You would have thought we were going to cook Martian Squid or something. Even when we explained it ...
"You know what apple crumble is?"
"Yes"
"Well then you know what vegetable crumble is. Just add sauce."
... our friend still wasn't wholly convinced.

So for all the unbelievers out there, this is how it goes. (As usual I'll leave you to work out the quantities and ratios to suit you.)

Vegetable Crumble


You will need:
  • Enough potatoes for however many you're feeding
  • A selection of vegetables. Almost anything is OK but root veg, beans (especially butter beans), cauliflower, fennel, mushrooms, onions work well. Leafy veg, peppers, tomatoes aren't so good but will still work as long as they aren't the main veg.
  • Some sauce: choose from cheese (especially good), mushroom, onion, tomato; or even herb or garlic
  • Crumble topping
  • Grated cheese (optional)
  • Salt & pepper

This is what you do:
  1. Decide what sauce you're going to do and leave any veg for that aside. If you're using canned beans hold these back as well.
  2. You need to prepare and pre-cook the veg in bite-sized-ish pieces. Steam (preferably) or boil the veg until only just done. As the veggies will cook at different rates, this ensures that all the veg is properly cooked, with none over- or under-done.
  3. While the veg cooks make the crumble topping, just as you would for apple crumble only with no added sugar.
  4. Also make the sauce. Just a standard cheese, mushroom, onion, herb or garlic white sauce. Or a tomato sauce (as for pasta or pizza); chunky is good. The choice is yours.
  5. Put the hot cooked veg in a large casserole together with the drained, canned beans. Season and cover with the sauce; ensure everything is mixed up a bit.
  6. Add the crumble topping, and (optionally) some grated cheese on top.
  7. Cook in a moderate oven for about 45 minutes to ensure the crumble is done and everything is hot through.
  8. Serve on its own as a rib-sticking veggie main course, or as the vegetable to accompany roast meat.

Notes:
  1. We often do this with whatever vegetables we happen to have left in the fridge; it's a good "use it up rather than throw it out" dish.
  2. Do NOT over cook the veg. Remember it will get a bit more cooking in the oven.
  3. If you (choose to) make too much crumble topping, it freezes well, can be cooked almost from frozen, and as it's unsweetened it can easily be quickly adapted for fruit crumble.
  4. This reheats well the next day (with a bit more grated cheese) for a quick lunch.
  5. An alternative is to use roasted vegetables, but that needs a bit more thought and preparation.

Quote : Rules

Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.

[Dalai Lama]

Another Ketchup

Despite being a holiday period there seem to have been quite a few interesting news stories around in the last week or so. Here are a few you may have missed.

It seems we should be supporting the real Chrsitmas trees as they are especially good at absorbing "greenhouse gasses".

Here are two amusing and competing theories about the relationship between Santa and his elves.

Next we have an interesting, curious and perfectly serious item about the amazing powers of earthworms to refine rare metals. Very strange.

For astronomy fans it looks as if 2013 might be an interesting year with not one but two bright comets predicted to be visible, even possibly during daylight. Definitely a couple of gigs not to be missed. Watch this space for more details as the year goes on.

Who would have thought that the chilly seas off Scotland would have the world's largest reef of a rare shellfish.

Are you a werewolf? No, thought not. But there are a very small number of people in the world with a very rare genetic mutation that really do make them look like one.

More research on the causes of earworms, and how to kill them off.

How do you spot randomness? Well first you need to know what it looks like, and it isn't like you think it is!

What makes chocolate so chocolate-y? An interesting diversion into the key components of chocolate and how it is refined.


And finally a copy of an old "sex manual" attributed to Aristotle, and which was banned in the UK for 200 years, is to be auctioned later this month.

More anon!

02 January 2013

Word : Chota Peg

Chota Peg

According to the Online Encyclopaedia:
"A miniature jug used for individual servings of alcohol, dating from British colonial India at the end of the 19th century. Chota is the Hindi word for 'small measure'."

Samosapedia, "the definitive guide to South Asian lingo", gives it slightly differently:
"A standard pitcher/tankard was marked by wooden nails called pegs or pins in 17th/18th century Great Britain and a 'peg' usually marked an individual quantity of drink. This measure was later adopted to make individual whiskey/brandy containers during the Raj that measured about 2 ounces (about 60ml). A Chota Peg was half the size, about an ounce or 30ml."

Hence by derivation chota peg became British Army slang for an alcoholic drink, especially whiskey or brandy and soda, or gin and tonic.

01 January 2013

Quotes

Happy New Year to all our readers. Here's hoping your 2013 is better than 2012!

I thought we'd start the new year with a few quotes encountered over the holidays.

[E]ven in these reduced days the British crown retains technical sovereignty over a number of desolate penguin colonies.
[The Heresiarch at Heresy Corner]

The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.
[George Bernard Shaw]

In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
[George Orwell]

To have doubted one’s own first principles is the mark of a civilized man.
[Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr]

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.
[Philip K Dick; How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later, 1978]

Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform.
[Mark Twain]

And now on a lighter note ...

Even when freshly washed and relieved of all obvious confections, children tend to be sticky.
[Fran Lebowitz, quoted in Jane Brook, Kitchen Wit, Quips and Quotes for Cooks and Food Lovers]

And finally perhaps the best advice for the new year ...

Yield to temptation. It may not pass your way again.
[Robert A Heinlein]