30 June 2005

Minor housekeeping

On par with a quick dusting so you can see the TV screen again.

Since it's all-change on the real life front, I thought I'd update this blog a little bit too. I've borrowed (or stolen) from chicken yoghurt the idea of placing news snippets that I don't have the inclination to yak too much about in wee boxes, along with a few choice/lazy comments about the story. The bloglines clipblog I've been using occasionally doesn't quite work, since it stores the news clippings on its site, and I can't work out how to interleave it with this blog. I also stuck on the "Blog this" extension onto Firefox, which cuts down the onerous step of cut and pasting the URL of the story.

Another wee change is the time zone for the blog. Having tried to change it to US Pacific time, I found it retrospectively changed all my UK entries as well, once I republished the index. So I've given up trying to be multi-national, and am sticking it on GMT. That way, I'm covered for blogging here, there, and over the summer/winter transition. Not that the time or date really matters... But sometimes it's useful to know that the piece you're reading was written at 2am by an irrational insomniac driven crazy by traffic noise and feeling p-ed off about something.

01 Jul '05 update: I've just realised that the unclicked link is a similar colour to the snippet background. But since I've clicked on all the links that I'm posting on (and don't want to clear my cache just to check this), I can't tell if there is enough contrast to read. Drop me a line if it's awful. (I know the blog, as it stands, doesn't meet web standards for readability. I'll try to rectify that on my next nothing-to-do day.)

SPL blots copy book

From BBC news: Dundee United to lose top striker.

I cannae believe the SPL has so much say over who can and cannot get a work permit to play footie in Scotland. And that they claim Jason Scotland is "not of the highest calibre". He is Dundee United's best player, for crying out loud! And he scored the crucial goal that kicked Hibs out of the Scottish Cup.

Methinks the Guardian's Fiver team had a point, when they pointed out that the panel included five ex-Hibbies.

If such a panel were to decide on all our work permits, we'd never get anywhere. Places like Scotland would never benefit from the much needed influx of foreign talent to replace their vast migrate-to-the-south-to-make-more-money graduate population.

That SPL panel should have declared a conflict of interest, or at the very least, appointed impartial, non-partisan people.

Land of the free

And the home of the car.

Obligatory freeway shot

Service will resume shortly. Meanwhile, for your reading pleasure (or voyeuristic streak), I've put up a post on LA on the other blog.

20 June 2005

Parting shots

Passport in hand, flight booked. I'm off in a week.

Things are getting a bit harried. And as fate would have it, everything is happening around the Royal Highland Show weekend. I'm on bull-washing and bottom-wiping duty again, which will probably tire me out enough to sleep the entire 11 hour flight. (Sorry about the carbon emissions, btw. I have been particularly good over the last 6 years though.)

So. Unless something phenomenal happens in the meantime (like Australia coming bottom of the NatWest ODI series), I'm setting this blog to stand-by until I'm back on the interweb (word stolen from curious hamster).

Lots of navel gazing follows. Stop reading now.

This move has started me thinking about residency, citizenship and where your true home is. I've pretty much hunkered down in Edinburgh over the last 11 years. In many ways, I consider this to be my home. But what with one thing or other (bloody PhD years), I've never qualified for permanent residency. So I can't officially call it my home country, even though I know it better than the country I am a citizen of.

A few posts ago, badly dubbed boy commented about Rose (from Doctor Who) and how she was just like people who move away from home and return so different they might as well be aliens. I think I've become one of those.

I never intended to stay away when I first left. All I wanted was to get a flavour of living somewhere else. My wanderlust years. Then I realised what freedom I had here. Not freedom from parents and family; they've always been supportive without hemming me in. But freedom from fitting in, conforming, the 5 'C's (don't ask).

Here, I can have a partner instead of a state-proscribed husband. I'm not constantly assaulted with propaganda telling me to procreate. Most of my peers from home-home have moved on to the next grown-up step of their lives. They earn real money, live in nice pads, have well-behaved kids, and have become the equivalent of the British shiraz-quaffing class.

We've diverged from each other in terms of needs and wants. I'm still a dippy-hippy and my intention is to remain so (more likely in my field of work than any other). And to do that, I can't go home anymore. I could never fit into the workplace there, wrong skill-set. Also, I've only recently discovered that I have opinions, sometimes quite strong, on the way my life is affected by government policies. I don't want to lose that new voice. And to do that, I can't go home anymore.

So why call it home? That comes from force of habit, calling it home during my undergraduate years. It isn't really my home anymore. I might be able to visit it, but I can't live in it. So, what to call it now? My country of birth sounds too distant. I lived 17 years of my life there, maybe three or four of them in a conscious state. It shaped me in many ways, although I've unlearned many of the good habits they tried to instill in me.

Whatever I end up calling it, there's no doubt about where my true home is. Edinburgh may be cold and windy most of the year, but it's here that I've had the warmest years of my life. (Eek, contrived metaphor!) And while I have a physical home in the form of my parents' house at [substitute word for country-of-birth-that-used-to-be-home], I've made one for myself here as well.

So why leave? I guess wanderlust struck again. I've stagnated over the last couple of years. Every little thing feels like a chore, and I don't have the impetus to do anything. I've stopped going out and socialising. I'm suffering from a serious dose of fear of the unknown. So I'm doing it again; bullying myself into trying something new.

A year ago, I would have refused to go to the US, even on holiday. I confused the country and its people with its current government1. I'm neither pro- nor anti-America. I'll take it as it comes, thanks very much. Besides, a change would do me good. I might even learn where my true home is.

See you in a few weeks.

Edit: 1 Funny how others have commented on this recently (links to follow, my back is killing me and I can't type for long).

19 June 2005

91 off 65 Australian balls


Results so far of the NatWest Series ODIs: one (expected), two (unexpected), three (unbelievable). Is this the new Aussie strategy for reverse psychology before the first test in 32 days?

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18 June 2005

Blimey, it's subarctic in Hell today

Originally uploaded by framboise.

This hasn't passed me by. Oh no. It's just that Doctor Who completely took over this evening and I haven't had a chance to let it sink in. Plus, I thought it was a very belated April Fools' joke. Australia can make all the excuses they like, but this day will go down in History (so special the 'H' needs to be capitalised).

On a sadder note, the mini cricket balls and bat are now stashed away in a box. Dogs and walkers on East Lothian beaches will now be safe from my ridiculous attempts at spin bowling. (OK, I can't even get it where I want it, but spinning is so much more fun.)

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Everything must come to dust

Massive spoilers ahead. (I'll stick a photo of Rose here in case anyone reading this hasn't seen The Parting of the Ways yet.


Tonight, the Doctor finds redemption. That was, for me, the highlight of tonight's episode. After his display of hysterical hatred of the Geocomtex Dalek in the Dalek episode, we were made to wonder how far the good Doctor would go to eliminate the Daleks, how much to the bad he would slip, how much he would become like the very thing he hated. A destroyer. Tonight, however desperate the situation, the Doctor held his hand. He could not find it within his conscience to destroy an entire world to eliminate the Daleks. He could not be an exterminator. This whole season has been about the Dcotor's mental and emotional state following the loss of the Time Lords. From the very first episode, with the Nestene, we see a defiant character. He feels guilty about the fall-outs of the Time War. He's had to make tough choices (but thankfully not in a Blairite way), and looking back now, this makes the resolution of The Empty Child all the more poignant. "Everybody lives."

Jack too, finds redemption. From the first time we meet him as a buccaneer in The Empty Child, he's grown. And while he still obviously thrives on adrenaline and has no qualms about using violence, he has shown himself to be capable of caring for someone other than himself. Like Rose and the Doctor, it doesn't even occur to him that they can escape in the TARDIS. He's willing to stand and fight. Although he might have an ulterior motive since he's from the future and thus could be a paradox should the Doctor blast Earth with a delta wave. (Although, as the Doctor explains, there are outposts of humans elsewhere. Which allows Jack to be a good guy again...) And it is particularly touching when he bids both Rose and the Doctor goodbye in the exactly the same fashion. (And how many complaints will we get on Points of View for that one?)

On to Rose. What a deus ex machina! It's the third wish scenario. Having said that, what a fantastically strong character Rose is. To have the bravery and strength to attempt to use something as vast and powerful as the Time Vortex. To be able to deal with the task at hand calmly and rationally. First, the message. Then the dispersal of the Daleks. And finally, just because she is human and has feelings, Jack. Would anyone else have the moral courage to stop there and not abuse the absolute power?

To take it back a little, it was also a very courageous and selfless thing that Mickey and Jackie did. They could have prevented Rose from going back. She was, to all intents and purposes, pretty likely to perish along the Doctor. She made it clear that the Doctor was fighting a losing battle 200,000 years in the future. Instead, they could see beyond keeping Rose for themselves, and gave her not only the freedom to go, but their assistance too. It's nice to get some storylines that celebrate humanity.

Comments on the very end to follow. Liked it though. Very cool.


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Incensed over incendiary devices

Chicken Yoghurt has posted his thoughts about yesterday's article in the Independent about the UK government's response about the use of napalm in Iraq by the US army. (How's that for a convoluted sentence? In short: the US army used/did-not-use* napalm in Iraq, and lied/did-not-lie* to the UK govt about it. Chicken Yoghurt is not happy about both. Better?) Anyway, read the post and follow through Chicken Yoghurt's links for the full story.

The wikipedia page for napalm refers to an article as long ago as the 22nd of March, 2003 in the Sydney Morning Herald. An excerpt from the article includes a quote from a potential whistleblower (in italics):

Marine Cobra helicopter gunships firing Hellfire missiles swept in low from the south. Then the marine howitzers, with a range of 30 kilometres, opened a sustained barrage over the next eight hours. They were supported by US Navy aircraft which dropped 40,000 pounds of explosives and napalm, a US officer told the Herald. But a navy spokesman in Washington, Lieutenant Commander Danny Hernandez, denied that napalm - which was banned by a United Nations convention in 1980 - was used.

"We don't even have that in our arsenal," he said.

The US military powers-that-be later issued a statement of denial to the SMH:

The Pentagon subsequently issued a statement to the Herald:

Your story ('Dead bodies everywhere', by Lindsay Murdoch, March 22, 2003) claiming US forces are using napalm in Iraq, is patently false. The US took napalm out of service in the early 1970s. We completed destruction of our last batch of napalm on April 4, 2001, and no longer maintain any stocks of napalm. - Jeff A. Davis, Lieutenant Commander, US Navy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense.
Another article, highlighted by Chicken Yoghurt, is from the San Diego Herald Tribune, and quotes a Colonel from the US Army:

"We napalmed both those (bridge) approaches," said Col. Randolph Alles in a recent interview. He commanded Marine Air Group 11, based at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, during the war. "Unfortunately, there were people there because you could see them in the (cockpit) video.

Even more worrying is the following passage:

Apparently the spokesmen were drawing a distinction between the terms "firebomb" and "napalm." If reporters had asked about firebombs, officials said yesterday they would have confirmed their use.
What the Marines dropped, the spokesmen said yesterday, were "Mark 77 firebombs." They acknowledged those are incendiary devices with a function "remarkably similar" to napalm weapons.
Rather than using gasoline and benzene as the fuel, the firebombs use kerosene-based jet fuel, which has a smaller concentration of benzene.

So, napalm in all but name. Sure, they'll admit to Mark 77 firebombs, which don't have napalm because they use an even more efficient fuel.

I'm not familiar with the San Diego Herald Tribune, but the SMH is a reputable paper, and not one to be sniffed at. I wonder why this was not brought to public consciousness here when the first allegations were made. We got a second chance just before the General Election in May. Follow the exchange of letters in the Guardian: one, two, three.

We probably all missed it first and second time round because there was so much else going on.

* delete as appropriate

17 June 2005

Parliamentary pixies

It's Friday afternoon. Time for some amusement. If you have kids, or babysit for others, read them this modern fairy tale by blood & treasure. Start them young, teach them well.

princess tony

15 June 2005

Caramelised onion frittata

Caramelised Onion Frittata
Caramelised Onion Frittata
Originally uploaded by framboise.
Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard,
To give her poor dog a bone.
But when she got there, her cupboard was bare,
And so the poor dog had none.
See the rest of the rhyme here. =====================================

Thanks to Nigel Slater, we dogs got our bone tonight despite an empty larder. Three key ingredients: onions, eggs, Parmesan cheese. I could reproduce his recipe here, but he's unusually exact with weights, and I reckon this recipe could work with almost any proportion of onion/egg/cheese, completely dependent on what's in your kitchen. So here's our version:


  • 3 onions, sliced (one more would have been better)
  • 4 eggs (large)
  • handful of Parmesan cheese (grated ~1 inch off a chunky block. vague, i know.)
  • couple of tbsp of olive oil
  • small knob of butter


  1. Fry the onions in the olive oil over a medium-high heat until caramelised at the edges. Could take anywhere between 10-15 minutes, depending on flame. Stir every now and again to stop it from burning. Switch the grill on to heat up.
  2. Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a largish bowl, season with some salt and pepper, and mix well. Grate the cheese into the bowl. When the onions are caramelised, add to the bowl and stir well.
  3. Melt a little butter in a non-stick pan over the lowest possible flame. Pour in the eggy mix and cook very slowly.
  4. Once the bottom of the frittata is firmed up (the top should still be runny), stick it under the grill for the top to solidify and brown a little. A minute should do it if the grill is hot. (If you don't have a grill, you could try sticking the pan lid on and flipping the whole thing over so the frittata sits on the lid. Slide the frittata, uncooked side down to continue cooking for a couple of minutes.)
  5. Serve with a mixed salad or whatever is left in the veg box (broccoli in our case).

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A plastic panacaea

Miss Eclectech and Mr Doghorse have yet another excellent animal video: a tribute to Charles Clarke, paragon of NuLab. (via Chris Lightfoot) Eclectech also has a site detailing communication with the local MP and the profoundly deaf Home Office.

It is the card that proves you have a national identity!
Indeed without one you'll a become practical nonentity

Lyrics (and music) by Mr Doghorse

I'm afraid that this time, I cannot put my vote where my mouth is, for I shortly won't be resident in the UK, and thus unable to put my name to either the NO2ID or equivalent Pledgebank petitions.

As it stands, two countries already have my fingerprints on record. My home country scanned my thumbprint when I was 12 and stuck it on an IC (which I had to bring to every school exam), and the US embassy has recently taken a scan of both my left and right index fingers (so I can enter their locked-down country). I didn't have much of a say in either. In the former, we were simply taken out of class one day when the IC van came calling, photographed and scanned. Heck, I even have a reference number (memorised) that uniquely identifies me along with my entire life history (almost failed Art, needs to improve chinese, will never succeed in later life). I'll bet when RFID technology becomes cheap and small enough, I'll be summoned home to be microchipped. Maybe someday, when I'm not so bitter and more rational, I'll post about the lack of liberties there, and how/why the population is happy for the status quo to remain ad infinitum.

14 June 2005

Downing Street Memo, the Sequel

Have I slipped into some cross-dimensional wormhole?

Chicken Yoghurt gives some attention to a largely ignored leaked memo from Downing Street, and highlights the scariest excerpts of the transcription by the Sunday Times. While this is no joking matter, and provides further evidence of Tony Blair's duplicity, the whole sordid affair could almost be fictional. (See Terry Pratchett's Jingo for a prime example of leaders taking their people to war on false premises as a diversionary tactic to keep themselves in power. D'ya think the govt reads his books for inspiration?)

The excerpt that makes me quake in my boots:

14. It is just possible that an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject (because he is unwilling to accept unfettered access) and which would not be regarded as unreasonable by the international community. However, failing that (or an Iraqi attack) we would be most unlikely to achieve a legal base for military action by January 2003.

Conspiracy theory? Heck, there's even a website for it.

12 June 2005

Debate on rebate

There's an excellent post by Nosemonkey on The Sharpener on the subject of Britain's EU rebate. I'm very glad of the existence of The Sharpener, with contributors from more than one political angle. It's where the best posts of other blogs end up if they've been good and brushed their teeth before bedtime. And while I enjoy reading the blogs of the contributing authors, I'm soon going to run out of time to get through them all, which makes this Pick-n-Mix bag all the more valuable.

Back to the post. The nasal primate draws an amusing analogy between a member of a gentleman's club and Club EU. And excellent and informative article though it is, it's in the comments where the meat is. Putting the GDP and GDP per capita comparisons between Britain and France aside, one particular comment stood out: should the CAP be scrapped, Africa's ability to compete more fairly with Europe would be improved.

It made me think about why the CAP exists at all. I think it sprang from an era when Europe had a strong need for self-reliance in food production. This has since been achieved, but probably at the cost of keeping African produce out of our markets. (Although you can find evidence to the contrary in any supermarket's vegetable counter. Mange tout, sweetcorn and fine beans are some examples of veg that fly in from Zimbabwe, Kenya or Morocco. But that only proves that supermarkets are b*st*rds, both to the environment and local farmers...)

I really don't know what to think about the CAP, its costs or benefits to EU member states are no longer apparent. On the one hand, a liberal lefty would argue that the money Britain puts into the common coffers is crucial for redistribution to more needy EU members, so stop being a money-grabbing doodah, Tony. On the other, the CAP is no longer necessary, we're merely propping up farmers who have learned to play the game, and we should instead look into fair trade within the EU and with Africa.

On a more personal level, I've heard what it's like for a small farmer to be out-competed by lower labour costs elsewhere. Raspberries from Romania are a hot topic in many Perthshire kitchens come late summer. Every now and again in recent years, a farmer with a side trade in raspberries (picked during the off peak season when ships and coos can look after themselves) finds that the bother of hiring short-term labourers to pick raspberries, box them in perfect condition in plastic cartons and store them in refrigerated units, is no longer worth it when the supermarkets won't pay enough to cover costs. So these fields get turned into grazing land, or get "set aside" for EU rebates, or are sold at auction to developers with an eye for future planning permission from the Council to build yet more identikit "executive homes".

What's the point, you ask? Well, for many smallholders, every aspect of their farm has to succeed if they are to re-pay the bank. And if they're out-competed, they have to find other avenues to survive, which usually results in land sales (changing the landscape of Britain, yadda ya) rather than diversification. The CAP has succeeded in improving European farming, but seemingly at the expense of British farmers. Food output in Britain has been declining for years, and while probably wasn't truly self-sufficient before, it definitely isn't now.

Back to that EU CAP thing. On the surface, if Britain doesn't benefit from the CAP, shouldn't it get its rebate, or be exempt from payments? If the rebate is scrapped, who loses out? There will be even less public money to spend on an already failing system. I'm curious (but don't have the impetus to find out): what is the net input/output for every EU member state? For all I know, it could be a net drain on ALL members, with the bureaucrats benefiting with well-paid jobs and impressive CVs to move on to the private sector. (Someone tell me I'm wrong... I hate being so cynical.)

On a different level, if the CAP is scrapped entirely, what happens to the food producers we've come to rely on? Won't those bloody supermarkets just get in more cheap produce from Africa and South America? On the one hand, good for the farmers there. But on the other, it's not the needy farmers who get the trade, it's the ones who can produce picture-perfect sprayed crops (tied in to suppliers of sprays and resistant seeds) who flourish. Also, it means more land is devoted to production of our luxury goods as opposed to essentials for local consumption.

Wee disclaimer: Title of my blog says it all. Akatsuki talks rot. But in writing this post, I have learned more about the crazy job-creation scheme that is the CAP and gained a healthier respect for those who stick their necks out with strong opinions, often based on a lot of background research of the facts. I can't even get through my 200-page Very short introduction to the EU (I've been stuck on page 3 for a whole year now).

14 Jun '05 update: Just before I go out for yet another typical British rainy BBQ, a couple of links to two idiot's guides to EU spending by the Beeb:

The second link answers my question of the net in/out flow of dosh per country, and makes me wonder why Germany isn't whining away like the French and British. While the first link has a chart of per capita givers and takers, which is probably a better comparison. So why doesn't the Beeb use that in their front page article today instead of the raw figures? Ach, who knows... Elsewhere, Nosemonkey has put up a link to some serious figure analysis on his Europhobia blog, and makes me wonder if Lord Vetinari has jumped through the UU's dimension portal and started ruling Luxembourg...

11 June 2005

You are on Channel 4400

Floor 500
Floor 500, no longer walled with gold
From the BBC's Doctor Who site.

Please do not swear.

Spoilers ahead. Some random thoughts follow, which sorely need editing.

What a super episode! The long build-up by RTD has really paid off. Great long game! We are reminded at the start that at the end of The Long Game, the Doctor assures Cathica that "the human race should accelerate. All back to normal." This makes his realisation that his fix-it-and-leave attitude left the Earth in limbo all the more poignant. Instead of the Fourth Great Human Empire, 100 years of hell for humans. "I made this world."

Jack as the "doer" of the team, making it possible for the Doctor to keep from having to shoot anyone. "Do I look like an out-of-bounds kinda guy?!"

Lots of little in-jokes, like Captain Jack's transformation into Nice Tim, with clothes that are difficult to keep clean. Ariel, anyone? And as for the opening lines, as much as I hate reality shows, even I knew what they were referring to. Anne Droid? Aimed at small and big kids alike.

We get more social commentary from RTD, with Endemol as the Big Bad Wolf, the implication that reality TV detaches viewers from reality.

This has been a season of many such insights into the Doctor's psychology, showing his feeling of disjointedness with the death of the other Time Lords and his family. We are also made aware that the Doctor's many actions, however well-meaning, have consequences, something that previous seasons of Doctor Who did not cover. This is clearly a different Doctor, one that some have called a soap-Doctor. But I have to disagree. This Doctor is much better than previous arrogant incarnations. He is a better role model for the young viewers, and a more rounded character for us non-fanboys to get to know.

Like the previous two-parter, we're left with so many questions. Could the self-sacrificing Controller and her dexterous transmissions during solar flares be behind the "Bad Wolf" warnings? She's the one who transported the Doctor onto Satellite 5, but would she also have been able to transmit into the past/future? Highly unlikely, which still leaves wide open the question of who is dropping the references? Is sweet Lynda-with-a-Y leaving the House with the Doctor significant? Will she be the new companion after The Parting of the Ways? What happens to the Transmat-ed humans? Could they be turned into Daleks, hence explaining the vast fleet? And how have the Daleks been manipulating humankind for hundreds of years? Was the Jagafress a Colonel Grievious?

They survived through me.

Update: I'm liking the search results for "bad wolf" on bbc.co.uk's search engine (great diversion, btw):

What is the mystery that's haunted the Doctor and Rose? Find absolutely nothing out on this website dedicated to Bad Wolf

Also, the Doctor Who pages have a slightly different trailer to what aired after Bad Wolf. Apparently, variations of the trailer will be played everyday until The Parting of the Ways. Oooh. I can't wait!

13 Jun '05 update: The Curious Hamster has been making fine pastry confections again, sparked off by the Bad Wolf episode and the shocking scene of the Doctor carrying a gun. In mitigation, not only did he fail to fire it, but even gave it away to the man he was pointing it at. However, if the Curious Hamster is right, the damage may already be done. The point he makes about the use of weapons in Star Trek is a good one. Even liberal Hollywood appears to condone the gun toting, albeit with a "stun" setting. I was not immune to such TV influence in my youth, and have made my fair share of Lego pistols, AK-47s and phasers (possibly influenced by my favourite shows at the time like Starsky and Hutch and Hawaii-Five-O). But something must have gotten through that guns are not the solution. Nowadays, I shake my head when I see unnecessary violence and gun use before the watershed (eg all them cop shows on BBC's weekend schedule when there's no sport on), and flinch when I see policemen in London toting rifles. It may seem a different world that we live in now, one where violence is more in your face. But in reality, it was ever so. I like Doctor Who for what it is and was, a show that seeks to inform through entertainment. And the message in Bad Wolf was not a bad one for young minds: guns, though they exist, are not the solution. Slippery slope? I don't know.

And if you're the kind of person who hates spoiles, DO NOT go to the BBC's Doctor Who site this week. For you will be sorely tempted to have a look at the daily sneak previews that may/may not give the story away. As their webmaster suggests, remain pure. You have been warned...

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10 June 2005

Drop the debt

It's Friday afternoon, and I'm in a flippant mood. Have a read of Freedom and Whisky's suggestion here.

Me, I'd call it in. In the ensuing stock market crash, we could revert to the Dark Ages and feel free to wear hoodies again.

Foot in door

Liverpool scarf

From BBC news: Liverpool get in Champions League.

I'm obviously not a true-Red 'cos I think UEFA has been very generous in not only giving Liverpool the chance to defend their Champions League title, but also seeding them (though not going as far as putting them in the group stages). Now, a true fan would probably be having a good whinge about having to start at the very bottom. And the fans are blaming UEFA for the poor placing, FA for not giving us the fourth spot (double standards there, FA. you were willing to do it for Chelsea/Arsenal last season), and have forgotten that the true culprits are the members of Liverpool's highly inconsistent squad. Failing to score in 13 Premiership games makes them more like mid-table teams than top flight. Also, have a read of what an FA twat had to say about UEFA cleaning up his mess for him (bottom of page). In related news, a huge sigh of relief that Dietmar Hamann is staying for another year. He has been one of the constants of LFC over the last few years, something that cannot be said for some 'waste-of-space's.

As a knock-on to all this kerfuffle, everyone must now feel a little sorry for the Liverpool B-side, who have been told they won't be getting Liverpool's spot in the Euro Vase after all.

Update: And carrying on the knock-on effects further north to Scotland, the shambles that is the SFA has turned the Tangerines' blood red.

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Logan encased in lingonberry

Longan floating in lingonberry
Longan floating in lingonberry
Originally uploaded by framboise.

It's warm (you just can't extend to hot, not in Scotland). And dry. In fact, we've had so little rain that there's a hosepipe ban in the South-East of England. Expect one to follow shortly for Yorkshire. We may not be as close to drought conditions as the South-East, but we've been experiencing unseasonally good weather lately, as evidenced by the remarkably sunny shots that now seem to populate my photos folder.

Warm weather tends to change the way we eat. Less soup, more salad. Heavy reds remain neglected on the wine rack, replaced with rosé and beer. And I feel less inclined to bake, and start craving jellies instead. After my not-so-successful attempt for IMBB 15, I was a little reluctant to use my supply of Konnyaku powder again. But I could not resist after seeing all those lovely gigis that Santos has been making.

So, winging it again, sans-recipe, here's something I made earlier.


  • 20g Konnyaku powder (I use the Redman brand, obtained via sources in S'pore)
  • 100g caster sugar (up it to 150g if you have a sweet tooth, or leave out if you're using a sweet cordial)
  • 200ml ligonberry syrup (from IKEA, but use any squash/cordial you have lying about. Tried it once with lemon concentrate; yum!)
  • a 20oz (~565g) tin of longans, with syrup
  • water to 1500ml (or 1300ml for a firmer jelly)


  1. Begin by draining the longans, and reserving the syrup for making the jelly. Place the longans in mini jelly moulds, or arrange in a pretty fashion in bowls. Top up the syrup with water to give a total volume of 1500ml in your pot.
  2. Mix the Konnyaku powder and sugar, and slowly add to the liquid, stirring as you go to prevent clumps from forming.
  3. Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring every now and again.
  4. Once it starts to boil and roil, turn the flame off, add the syrup and just keep stirring for ~5 minutes. Don't worry, those bubble will go away.
  5. Pour some jelly mixture into the moulds/bowls, but only to midway up the level of the fruit. This way, by the time you get back to the first mould, it should be very slightly set, thus stopping the fruit from floating up (ie the base of your jelly when you turn it out). The packet suggests adding the jelly mixture in thirds, and who am I to argue with Engrish instructions.
  6. Allow to cool before placing it your fridge, where it should sit for about 3 hours to set. Of course, being an impatient lot, we let ours lie for about 2 hours before greedy-guts snaffles them anyway. Enjoy in the sun.
Ahh... Perfect. Howzat
Alt view of castle from the north Peely wally

Ideally, we should have some granita with this. But I'm lazy, and have left the granita making for another day... (By which time the jellies would have been scoffed, but c'est la vie.)

Update: Green tea granita (made following Santos' suggestion of freezing tea in a ziplock bag and bashing it with gratuitous violence) was applied to some cubes of the lingonberry jelly along with left-over longans from yesterday to give the following result:

Longan, green tea and lingonberry

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08 June 2005


Originally uploaded by framboise.

I was growing tired of looking at the grey-tinged spring blossom, so I thought I'd put up a more summery photo, which precipitated the change in colour scheme to reflect the sunny weather we're experiencing at the moment (interspersed with rain, of course... this is scotland after all...). If the contrast is too awful for reading purposes or if the whiteness of the background is blinding you, please drop me a note in the comments, or email me if you're one of my (few) friends who won't get with the blogging thing. The blogroll is also updated. I couldn't get the hang of changing the style for bloglines' auto-blogroll, and had to type in all the URLs and blog names. I apologise for any mistakes, and again ask that you leave a comment if you notice an error.

Seeing as the flower photo was taken on our sunny day trip to Lindisfarne a couple of weeks ago, I uploaded a few shots to Flickr: Lindisfarne set (or see below). We didn't do anything on Holy Island. That's the problem when it's so nice and sunny; you want to be outside. It's a great place to just wander around and do nothing. And if you're seeking a few moments of shelter from the baking sun, there's a birdwatchers' hut somewhere between the castle and the white wigwam-thing (either a marker for the local boats or something for tourists to aim for, who knows...). For about ten minutes of keeping quiet, we were rewarded with a flotilla of signets (counted 8 following their mom) and a small family of coots (the chicks are so colourful!). On the far side, we think there was a pied-billed grebe, but could not make out the markings on the neck with our piddly pair of binoculars. (Edit: Nah, I think it was just a wigeon.) And later, in a wee bay, I think I spotted some dunlins, but the hands were shaking too much to hold the binocs steady.

And for lunch, some yummy crabmeat sandwiches. No photos, unfortunately. (I'm not allowed to take photos of food in public anymore... It's embarrassing, apparently...) A very pleasant afternoon was spent playing frisbee and watching two families try to play cricket on the rocky beach (the ball kept running into the mussel-strewn muddy rocks).

If you're planning a trip to Lindisfarne, make sure you check the times of high tide (either online or at the wee signs posted before you cross the causeway). And when walking across the marshes, watch out for pirri-pirri burs (heh, or see above). The burs may look cool stuck to your socks or trouser legs, but try not to spread it about; it's very invasive. Another plant to look for is the good old Southern Marsh orchid, Dactylorhiza praetermissa. The two main attactions on the island are: Lindisfarne Castle with walled gardens by Gertrude Jekyll (pronounced Jee-kil, as opposed to Jeckyll of the and-Hyde fame) and the ruins of Lindisfarne Abbey. The Priory is still in use, and robed monks and habit-wearing nuns were in evidence. And if anyone ever finds out what that white wigwam-thing is, drop me a line...

Castle onna rock I see you Castle still onna rock
Ships Head on grass Scruffy man in catalogue pose
White wigwam Ten fingers intact Tide markers?

20 Jun '05 update: Lindisfarne was on 55 degrees North last night. Premise for the episode? Black man in predominantly white village assumed to be sole murder suspect. Granted, there were eyewitness accounts of the victim asking Errol to get lost. But the automatic assumption was that he was harassing her. It may not be overtly racist behaviour, but in the boondocks round these parts, a foreign face gets more strange looks than in the cities. (Or maybe it's just because I dress weird...)

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07 June 2005

Navel oranges 1

The Curious Hamster has clearly been up late partially baking pastry (it's description, not mine, and given that it is a hamster, naturally nocturnal anyway). And I'm wondering if there was something introspective in the Scottish air last night.

[B*llsh*t On2] On one of our infrequent evening walks yesterday, I voiced aloud to P a concern that, really, deep down, I am one evil-minded, cunning, selfish latent-Thatcherite. Despite my attempts to pass myself off as a wishy-washy, Malbec-quaffing, chickpea-eating liberal, I can think the most devious thoughts. I'm as capable as right-wing nationalists of generalising vast swathes of people, if not by their country of origin, then by their political allegiance (see, I've done it again!). Example: I am liable to think that my native race is mainly concerned with profit and puts status ahead of genuine worth (and before anyone else thinks it, I'm not a banana). I silently curse queue jumpers, people with massive baby strollers/prams that run over my feet, tourists walking three-or-more abreast, those Tattoo coaches that make it impossible to cross town during the Festival when you're late for an experiment, and tall people who sit or stand in front of me, thus blocking my view. And I openly rant and rave about, amongst other things, people being people.

P and I agreed that I am inherently selfish, but I hope to [insert deity of choice or favourite law of physics here] that consciously stopping myself from acting out every depraved thought is what makes me not just human, but humane. And while I may fail everyday to live up to my ideals, it's a far better scenario than to just give up entirely. [B*llsh*t Off]

1If you came mistakenly hoping to read about navel oranges, my favourite of all the citrus, I apologise, and send you here instead. Ah, the happy mutation that gives us those little orange buds to fight over when splitting an orange... (Oh damn, I'm doing it again!)

2Courtesy of anthony.

06 June 2005

Dead parrot

From BBC news: Jack says no to poll.


Also from the BBC, an idiot's guide to the EU constitution:

Division of Responsibilities

What the constitution says:

The EU already has rights to legislate over external trade and customs policy, the internal market, the monetary policy of countries in the eurozone, agriculture and fisheries and many areas of domestic law including the environment and health and safety at work.

The constitution will extend its rights into some new areas, perhaps most importantly into justice policy, especially asylum and immigration. It does away with the old structure of pillars under which some policies came under the EU and some under "inter-governmental" arrangements.

What it means:

It means a greater role for the EU in more aspects of life. In some areas, the EU will have exclusive competence, in others a shared competence and in yet more, only supporting role.

I've just realised the Lib Dems' manifesto on immigration and asylum was a bloody cop-out.

From the BBC comparison chart of the three main parties:

Back common EU asylum policy with fair sharing of asylum settlement; allow asylum seekers to work so don't rely on benefits; quota for immigrant workers from outside EU based on skills.

Glad I wasn't taken in. This time...

Celeb spotting

This could explain why I saw Natalie Portman at the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London two weeks ago.

And I subsequently sent my brother on a wild goose chase round the gallery. (Ha!)


A check of my Flickr statistics showed that my most viewed images weren't even taken by me; they're screenshots of Bad Wolf on the BBC's Doctor Who site. I think I'm going to crawl in a small hole and bury my camera for good...

Müesli feelings

From BBC news: Baby step forward. (via Europhobia)

It's great that majority of the Swiss people have acknowledged the need for gay couples to have the same partnership rights as conventional married straight couples. [Rant on] I don't personally know any gay couples with children, but from what I see of heterosexual couples with children who they don't appreciate and cannot care for sufficiently, I don't see why having two mothers or two fathers who are determined to be good parents is a bad thing. Surely those who have to adopt or go through fertility treatment have an extra period in which to reflect on whether they really want to take on the responsibility of having kids. How does that compare to a drunken one-night stand that results in an unwanted pregnancy? [Rant off]

04 June 2005

Crowds descend on SW8

As previously threatened, a post on the Chelsea Flower Show. Almost two weeks late. (Ach, can you blame me? I've been busy...)

Perhaps it was down to my crankiness from sitting indoors in a hot and unventilated room with ~300 other people for an entire afternoon when it was nice and sunny outside, but I was distinctly underwhelmed by the showing at Chelsea. Firstly, was it wise of the organisers to sell so many tickets that a short-*rse like me couldn't see most of the courtyard gardens? The showground is notoriously small, but in an effort to boost already great profits, more people are packed in every year. We had evening tickets, which meant we could enter after 5.30pm. This gave us just enough time to look at the show gardens, but we had to give the Grand Pavilion a miss. (No great loss as I'm not that keen on vast displays of perfect delphinium specimens anyway.) But even in the closing hours, there was barely any room to view the smaller gardens. The courtyard displays (probably the most popular due to space constraints on most British gardens) were packed so tightly that once you got close enough to see the garden, Sod's Law dictated that a 7-footer would worm his way in front of you.

We came to realise quite quickly that the gardens don't look as impressive as they do on the box, which brings me to my second dissatisfaction. The point of such garden shows is to inspire us proles and set the trends for the year's gardening. But I felt no such vibe. (OK, that may again be down to my poor mood that day added to the prospect of another 2-3 years of no garden of my own.) Perhaps the innovations have all been made, and there is nothing new for the doyennes of gardening to show us. Rehashed cottage-style gardens abounded this year, over-stuffed with plants. Although, on plus side, there was more realism with over-grown looking gardens. A familiar look for those of us with insufficient space to cram in all our favourite plants.

My third gripe is about the ridiculous queue to see the three or four gardens under the TV interview platform. My cynical mind suggests it was to make that part of the showground look exceptionally busy for the evening broadcast, as the gardens we had to queue to look at weren't particularly spectacular. There were two queues: a hardly-moving slow lane right next to the gardens, and a fast lane going along three terraced platforms where you couldn't really stop to take any photos. Perhaps it was the proximity of the gardens to each other which made the queueing necessary, but good showground planning should have prevented that, not excacerbated it.

Tunnel Wine bottle fountain That tunnel

All the complaints aside, there were gems to be found. (Around 7pm when the crowds dissipated, and my annoyance about a wasted afternoon abated after an ice cream...) I fell in love with the sweetest looking poppy ever: Patty's Plum. (The pool structure behind it looked inviting too...) And although it was absolutely mobbed, the Real Rubbish garden looked spectacular. It wasn't very clear which materials were recycled or pieces of rubbish (and the leaflet I picked up is now lost in the mess of papers that is my living room), but that's the beauty of it.

Patty's Plum Wet float Pretty rubbish

Diarmuid Gavin's lavender bushes were mocked by the Titchmarsh, but I quite liked them. I can't imagine who would go round pruning them once a year to maintain the ball shapes though. And I loved the wee hobbit houses he scattered in his plot. We used to hate his Home Front concrete structures, but will concede that they look nice. That is, if you're rich, have a massive garden, and are prepared to whitewash the massive structures once a year on top of the weeding. The planting was simple, with box(? leaflet somewhere...), lavender, and a few designer cabbages, and the overall greenness was soothing. Another eye-catching planting scheme was used by Kate Frey for the Fetzer Wine Garden. It was packed a little too tight to be realistic, but the mass of yellow, orange and blue flowers had the most cheery effect of the lot.

No hose-pipe ban yet Unfurling Hobbit home

The star of the show was, of course, the Chelsea Pensioners' Garden, by Julian Dowle. Including a wee veggie patch, it not only remembered the war-time need for home-grown vegetables, but also a growing trend for people to grow at least their own herbs and salads in whatever patch of green they own. I wish our vegetable garden as good; we were quite chuffed to find our favourite sweet peas rambling on the fence, but were a bit surprised to find them flowering so early. Another war-themed garden was the chic Peace is Special garden by Jennifer Hirsch. Paving stones and wall decorations were riddled with bullet holes, and dates of significant battles carved into the paving stones evoked a sense of sorrow and loss. Not one to have in your own backyard, perhaps. But one very apt for this 60th anniversary year of the end of WWII. Another melancholic garden was In the Grove by Christopher Bradley-Hole, created in memory of the late Sheik who had sponsered many gardens at Chelsea over the years.

Veggie garden Bullet holes In memoriam

Overall impression of the SW8 show? Crowded, maybe too much so for comfort. Recommendations for anyone planning to visit: Book early (or join the RHS for a member's pass) and either get there really early or wait till late (after 6pm). And if you're short, bring a periscope...

I have no chance of ever recreating any of these show gardens (notice how I failed to mention the Merrill Lynch...), but the possibility of continuing with our vegetable gardening is looking up. The Newcomer's Guide to LA book that I bought through Amazon holds a wee glimmer of hope: they have community gardens in La-La Land (that's allotments in British English). Wahay!

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Who can look me in the eye?

Screenshot of the BBC's Doctor Who site.

Spoilers ahead.

A nicely balanced episode, with moments of comedy interspersing the rather more serious story of Blon the Slitheen being willing, again, to exterminate the entire human race to get what she wants. The last time we met the Slitheen family, they were prepared to wipe out the whole planet for the sake of a small profit. This time, Blon/Margaret comes close to blowing up the planet to generate a wave on which she can surf back to "civilisation". The way Blon/Margaret was trying to manipulate the Doctor, to appeal to his better nature, was uncomfortable. She had a point; his taking her back to Raxacoricofallapatorius (sp?) meant he would be complicit in her death, and not a quick or painless death it would have been either. True, a moment of empathy led her to spare the life of Cathy Salt, but that was partly from the self-pity she felt, stemming from her loneliness on Earth and the loss of her own family. Shame she couldn't find the same empathy for all the other people she killed, or was planning to eliminate. The end result, while very much a deus ex machina, was more satisfactory than either sending her to her slow soup death or letting her go free to wreck more havoc. (And who did she say she got the transponder from?)

It was good to see Mickey again. His reference to the Doctor as "big ears" made us laugh (cross between Big Ears of Noddy and the Big Bad Wolf?). But as RTD explained in Doctor Who Confidential, his exasperation with Rose highlights the side-effects of the Doctor's actions. You can't help but feel for Mickey. He's been left behind while his erstwhile girlfriend goes off on exciting adventures, and grows into a whole new person. From personal experience, that never helps a relationship, and usually ends in an acrimonious split.

Blaidd Drwg Nuclear Project

On the bad wolf front, it's payoff time. Tonight, the Doctor finally notices the many occurences of Bad Wolf references, as does Rose.

Doctor: "Blaidd Drwg. Bad wolf."
Rose: "I've heard that before. Bad wolf. I've heard that lots of times."
Doctor: "Everywhere we go. Two words. Following us. Bad wolf."
Rose: "How can it be following us?"

Elsewhere, badwolf.org.uk is now live. The intro opens with an unnerving distorted recording, with snatches of the Disney tune "Who's afraid of the big bag wolf?", and apparently, also contains of a distorted reading of William Blake's "The Sick Rose" (via wikipedia).

The Sick Rose
O rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy,
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

We were reminded tonight that the TARDIS is alive, and amongst a long list of speculations, is one of the TARDIS trying to warn the Doctor or Rose of impending doom. Who is behind the badwolf.org.uk site? Is it Mickey (unlikely as the Theories page also lists him as the potential bad wolf), someone from UNIT, perhaps even Adam? If you go to the Disclaimer page, highlight the bottom of the page. The webmaster is desperately trying to warn Rose...

Rose - Are you there? Are you getting this? You've got the point, haven't you? Rose...?

Edit: I may be very late to catch on, but the UNIT website has some new pages, accessed by typing "badwolf" as the password instead of "buffalo". But can you believe it?

The Bad Wolf is not real. The Bad Wolf is not real. The Bad Wolf is not real.

06 Jun '05 update: LOL... I wish I had a job like that. (via Scaryduck)

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02 June 2005


This is going to be a lazy link post. Chicken Yoghurt says a lot of what went through my mind when Bob Geldof announced the plans for Live8. He makes the excellent point about the naïvety of Live8 organisers. When you think of how Tony Blair turned on his selective-hearing aid after the election, do you really think the other G8 leaders will even notice a million protestors on the streets of Edinburgh or a bunch of young people enjoying themselves at pop concerts? (And that's even with Tony Blair on the side of Africa...)

[Rant On]The organisers and supporters of Live8 may have altruistic purposes in mind, but who will benefit from it? Who will go to these concerts? Most likely fans of the bands/pop groups (Chicken Yoghurt highlights the predominance of white artists). What will these concerts achieve? Back-patting for those who attend, endless praise from the media about how all these rich-as-Creoste pop stars gave their time for free, and maybe a few seconds of attention to the inability of our super-rich nations to cancel unfair debts that have resulted from years of exploitation. To the cynical mind, it all smells like a massive PR exercise for all involved.

This isn't sour-grapes 'cos I won't be here by then. It's about being annoyed that they think that people need to be bribed to care. And that their good intentions are misguided. They probably think that the raising of such issues by celebrities and making those (unethically-made) wristbands trendy will raise awareness. But the reality is probably closer to the comments gathered by the Guardian at the Hay-on-Wye festival:

An 18 year old:
"We bought the Make Poverty History one this morning in Hay-on-Wye. Many of them you have to buy on eBay. I don't know what Live Strong stands for, but it is the one that everybody has and it came in a smaller size, as I have very skinny wrists. They make the charity more cool."

A 12 year old:
"I wear them because they're trendy and it supports charity. This one is hard to find. I've also got Beat Bullying, Breast Cancer and Make Poverty History. If I knew it was unethically made I wouldn't buy any more but it wouldn't stop me wearing it. Loads of people are buying fake ones from the garage for 99p. They have nothing to do with charity."

A 10 year old:
"I wear the bands because they are cool. I've got the most in my class. My favourite is the anti-racism one - it's the most famous, every single person in my whole school is trying to get one. They are banned in school but we still wear them."

You reap what you sow. [Rant Off]

Oh, and there's no way a million people can fit in Edinburgh. Are they going to p*ss on the streets? 'Cos even I have difficulty finding loo facilities here.

06 Jun '05 update: From the BBC, news that the poor man has probably lost it. For those who watch Doctor Who: "Pity the Gel(do)f".

01 June 2005

Bibimbap-inspired dinner

Ghost cook
Ghost cook
Originally uploaded by framboise.

Following our introduction to possibly the second-best fried rice I've ever had (Grandma's can't be beat), we gave it a shot with the minimal contents of our fridge. Ideally, we should have used bean sprouts, carrots, cucumber/courgettes, shiitake mushrooms, and other pretty veggies, but we only had broccoli, chestnut mushrooms and onions in our very depleted veg basket. The vegetables were fried briefly in some sesame oil and added to some cooked Thai rice (short-grain or glutinous rice might have been better). Two sunny-side up eggs (fried on the stove 'cos we didn't have a hot enough pot) were stirred into the veg/rice mix quickly, along with some miso paste and sesame oil. Despite not having any of the correct ingredients, nor using a hot stone bowl, it worked reasonably well. I only realised later that we should have added some ground/minced beef to the mix, and kicked myself for not using the ostrich mince that's been sat in the fridge for a fortnight. Never mind, eh.

To go with the rice, some bulgogi-inspired marinated beef. Again, no recipe, so total guesswork led us to try marinating slices of beef steak in a couple of tablespoons of red miso paste, a tablespoon of rice wine, a tablespoon of sesame oil and a good sprinkling of sesame seeds. Oh, and lots of black pepper and some nanami. Fried on a tabletop gas stove, in the only pot that fits my stove: the steamboat! Shovelled down throat while watching football. Bliss!

Miso-marinated beef
Miso-marinated beef
Originally uploaded by framboise.