30 September 2005

weekend

Doing anything this weekend? I wish I wasn't...

Even on regular days, I'm not exactly a sociable animal; more like a hermit crab. But this weekend, the need for solitude is greater. For I have just purchased TP's Thud and NG's Anansi Boys. And I rented Donnie Darko - the director's cut last night, and was too tired to watch it.

Unfortunately, despite the last two weeks' respite, my fledgling social life is kicking off again. Tonight: drinks and Corpse Bride. Tomorrow: some work, picking up a colleague's Jeep from somewhere in SM, and dinner with the neighbours. Sunday: NG is giving a wee talk at the West Hollywood Book Festival. And I haven't been boarding since getting back from Scotland/France... What's a lazy gal to do? Tell everyone to bugger off? My books and I need some quality time together...

I'm not really complaining. This is, after all, why I upped sticks: to get out of the house more, to have a social life, to be more physically active, to bask in enough sunlight to banish the last ten years of SAD (although why we can't have the sun and cool weather, i just don't know), to experience the craziness that is la la land.

Update: Books finished. Both fantastic reads (but I'm biased; having read most of what both authors have written). Jeep safely delivered. Corpse Bride was super. Only thing I didn't manage to do was go to the beach. Oh well; it'll always be there...

Update 2: Went to the WeHo Book Fair, yapped about it on the other blog...

Update 3: Donnie Darko is a bleak film indeed. But I enjoyed it. Since it's probably been reviewed to death already, I won't bother (lazy git and all).

Update 4: My, I've been having fun. Been to see Mirrormask. Enjoyed it.

Twa-faced Broon

Gordon Brown is a two-faced git (via nosemonkey).

And this is what he said only a few days earlier. So, home-ownership only for the deserving, eh?

29 September 2005

Wildfires: my second encounter

Wildfires Rage Across Southern California

More on my LA blog.

Labour holds Westminster and Holyrood seats despite swing

From BBC news: Labour keeps Cook's Commons seat.

A swing of 10% to the SNP is not to be sniffed at, but I guess NuLab will be taking the win as a mandate to carry on regardless. Shame that... And although the SNP issue of bringing back essential services to St John's Hospital in Livi was well-intentioned, could they have managed to do it anyway? (says a super-pessimist...)

The other one came as a surprise to me. Thought there was a general shift towards the alternative parties in Holyrood. Shows you how much I know. Don't place any bets based on my predictions...

2008 Presidential Candidate

Sick of the Republicans? Fed up with waiting for the Democrats? Can't stand to waste yet another vote on Nader? Well check this out: A Presidential candidate for 2008 (via nosemonkey).

Hollywood gets it wrong again

28 September 2005

Changing drug resistance of the AIDS virus

From BBC news: Aids virus 'could be weakening'

I'm not familiar with the HIV field of research, nor have I read this particular paper, but I strongly suspect that this refers to a small cohort, probably in Belgium (facts need to be checked when I have access to the paper). The way the AIDS virus is spread probably means that in different populations, the strains are vastly different. While it sounds like the recent viral samples they've extracted from their (untreated?) patients are more sensitive to drug treatment in cultured cells than virus samples collected 15-20 years ago, there's no guarantee that the viruses in other populations are undergoing the same "attenutation" (or weakening). While I'm happy for those who have the weaker, more treatable, virus, I've seen reports that the exact opposite is happening in other studies, where an increase in drug-resistance is seen.

Let's just hope those who pretend that AIDS is an epidemic that will just go away of its own accord fail to latch on to this particular finding.

Update: The BBC page has an audio link to an interview with Dr. Eric Artz. In summary, he refers to the way viruses lose pathogenicity (i.e. are less lethal) over time as the mechanism for survival of the virus. And suggests this may be happening with HIV-1, and could mean the virus will cause fewer fatalities in several decade.

My understanding: With viruses that are dependent on their hosts to survive and replicate, the adage "survival of the fittest" is not always true. A super-strong virus that ends up killing its host soon runs out of warm bodies to infect (in an idealised world, where local populations stay local and don't move about too much...). Case in point: the ebola virus. My guess is that these viruses die out with their local population of hosts, and the weaker mutants, which don't cause immediate death, will survive another day to infect another host.

Update 2: Having skimmed through the paper, it looks like they looked at two different scenarios: one where they allowed pairs viruses to infect cells in culture and compared the historical and recent viruses' abilities to replicate in competition with each other (indicator of their pathogenicity, don't know how it works), and another where they treated uninfected cells in culture with entry inhibitors, then infected them (measure of drug-resistance).

Their findings? Recent viruses are less "fit", and lose out in direct competition with the historical ones. And recent viruses are a little less able to infect cells treated with entry inhibitors.

[Disclaimer: This is super-simplified and over-generalised. I really don't know anything about viruses, let alone the ins-and-outs of HIV-1. Other factors to take into account include period, method and range of infection, immune response, disease progress and bloodymindedness of humans and drug companies...]

And as is pretty obvious, I'm work-avoiding... Pseudo-science on a blog being easier to write my own stuff.

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Help the aged... Right out of the conference.

From BBC news: Labour issues apology to heckler

In the post-match interview:

"I'm going to personally apologise to him," Mr McCartney said. "I'm going to personally meet him if he takes the opportunity."

(Emphasis mine.) Umm... I don't know what Ian McCartney is normally like, but I think that was a poor choice of words. It should have been "...if he GIVES ME the opportunity". And I hope when Mr Wolfgang meets Mr McCartney, he gives that young whippersnapper the good hiding he deserves for his insolence. (Oops. No longer allowed under Nanny-Lab.)

Elsewhere, the curious hamster makes a sound prediction.

danger down under

From the BBC's news magazine: Danger Down Under

This brings to mind TP's continent of XXXX (or FourEcks*), where there are no longer snakes; the slithering reptiles having been eaten by the spiders. And don't even bother trying to list all the other dangerous species. Not even the sheep are completely harmless...

Och, yet another mirror of Roundworld in the Discworld... ;)

*See The Last Continent.

27 September 2005

An experiment in brown

An experiment in brown
Brown, brown, brown
Originally uploaded by framboise.

Slowly getting back to some semblance of a normal life. Felt alert enough tonight to cook without burning the place down, though how one can achieve that with an electric stove, one can only wonder.

Something other foreign postdocs have noticed (i.e. moaned about during lunch) is the way a lot of the meat here leaks copious amounts of water when fried. While that's happened to me only twice, I've not had that problem since I found a decent source of meat. Whole Foods has a half-decent meat section, where they stock organic beef, some of which has even been hung long enough to develop some flavour. Although the price is considerably more, I'd willingly give up alcohol to have good meat (not that I have to just yet). Same with the chicken. Since finding organic chicken not only at Whole Foods, but also at Ralph's, my frying pan has been almost spit-free. This isn't the best-controlled experiment, as I've not really explored the non-organic options. But since I eat organic meat for the simple reason that it's the only way to be sure the meat is hormone- and antibiotic-free here, I'm not exactly going out of my way to buy the regular stuff.

So. The experiment in brown. I don't know why it is that, surrounded by colour, I could only think to buy some mushrooms to have with my chicken. As for the chicken, easy-peasy:

  1. Heat some oil in a pan over a medium-to-high heat. Place some chicken thighs (or legs) in the oil, skin-side down. Allow the chicken to develop some colour (golden brown is the aim, not charred brown), and turn over. This may take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the heat.
  2. When the chicken is browned all over, turn the heat right down so that the oil is gently bubbling. Get yourself a few cloves of garlic, with skins left on. Smash with the blade of a largish knife and throw into the pan. Stick a cover over the pan and let the chicken cook. Again, depending on size of chicken pieces and heat, this could take anywhere between 20 to 30 minutes. More if your chicken was more closely related to a turkey (embarrassing story from my childhood somewhere there...).
  3. While the chicken is cooking, look through the veg box/fridge to find some inspiration for an accompaniment. If you're me, realise that you've got no colour in the kitchen, and resign yourself to slicing some mushrooms.
  4. Dig out a half-open bottle of Chablis some friends left in your kitchen when they left the country, and taste to check it's not gone off. Pour out a decent measure and refrain from drinking on an empty stomach.
  5. At the same time, dig out the genuine creme fraiche bought almost 3 weeks ago from a Trader Joe's and sniff it to check it's not gone off either. Amazingly, it hasn't... (There's something odd about the way milk, yoghurt and cream lasts so much longer in the US. Preservatives? Better storage? Whatever it is, it's freaking me out...)
  6. By the time you've finished rummaging around the kitchen, the chicken will be ready. Add the mushrooms to help soak up some of that lovely chicken fat. Or if you're conscientious, and fat-conscious, drain the fat out of the pan first. But make sure you're not removing the "jus"...
  7. Remove the chicken, garlic and mushrooms from the pan, and add the large glass of wine. Let it bubble away on a high heat.
  8. When the wine has "reduced" (read: evaporated. what a waste...) to half its volume, add a huge blob of creme fraiche. Make that three very generous tablespoons. Or more.
  9. While it's bubbling, realise you forgot to season the sauce, and decide it doesn't matter anyway. Squeeze a forlorn half of a lemon into the sauce. Actually, make it a quarter unless it's a very small lemon.
  10. Serve. With any other brown accompaniment you can find. In this case, bread frozen a whole month ago and defrosted in the microwave.
  11. Eat. Feel fulfilled that you've survived another session in an alien kitchen.

And because your dishwasher hasn't received his visa yet, do the dishes... Cos they won't keep for another 3-4 weeks.

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I know that loo...

From the BBC's news mag: A public inconvenience.

My first thought when I saw the photo: I know that loo! How sad is that? It's the women's public toilet in Dunbar. Although that is an exemplary toilet, I'm afraid to report that the facilities in nearby Yellowcraigs beach (between North Berwick and Gullane) leave a lot to be desired. They're the kind you can imagine being kidnapped from, being situated between sand dunes and a dark copse. So when we're driving through East Lothian, and we're caught short, we always aim for Dunbar...

Blairgowrie man is world champion

Here's a first for Blair(gowrie): one of their local sons is the current world champion.

Of stone skimming.

Yes, you read it right. To be added to the list of top-class sporting events: World Stone Skimming Championships! Held on Easdale Island, on the west coast of Scotland, they take stone skimming seriously enough to have regulation stones.

A reliable source (read: P) informs me that it made the news (i.e. the evening news in Scotland), and gave him a jolt when he recognised the champion stone skimmer as a classmate of his brother's. (Other trivia you didn't want to know: the champion's brother was in P's year in school, and good at footie. Ach, small town people... They all know each other... I lived in a country with only 3 million people and I hardly knew anyone except my classmates. And I only ever met 2 people in school who went on to fame, don't know about fortune...)

A bit of research (read: searching the Scotsman's website) found these two articles. Knock yourselves out (you may need to register):

So, well done, Dougie Isaacs!

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Recycle those coffee cups

Feeling guilty about throwing away all those disposable coffee cups?

Santos of tsogb has a super way to recycle paper coffee cups from your coffee chain of choice.

Or if you don't bake, how about using them to sprout seeds or pot-on seedlings? (Oops, wrong time of year in the Northern hemisphere for that sort of thing... Next Spring, eh?)

26 September 2005

It's never dreich in LA

The BBC promotes an interesting book in today's Magazine: The Meaning of Tingo (author's website here). His latest blog entry would bring a wee smile to the face of most Scots:

... Scottish weather words I found, most of them, unsurprisingly, to do with rain. Dreich, ‘a miserably wet day’; plowtery, meaning ‘showery’; and drookit, ‘soaked to the skin’.

Most of the Scottish words I know are related to the weather, closely followed by words about drink or being drunk... Now what does that say about me, or the state of Scotland? (Not 100% sure, not being a true Scot, but plowtery may be pronounced "ploootery", and drookit as "dreekit". Don't quote me on that...)

The book is available for pre-order on Amazon.com and .co.uk... I think it qualifies under my new strict guidelines for buying books. i.e. I have to want to ship it back to the UK when I'm done here. That's probably been the hardest thing to resist over here, especially since I live very close to a good secondhand bookshop.

Speaking of bookshops, tucked between many trendy restaurants in Westwood is a murder/mystery/crime specialist bookshop. I wandered in last week out of curiosity, as I'm not a huge fan of crime novels. Not recognising any works or authors on the tables, I went off in search for Ian Rankin's books. Different covers. For some reason, publishers think that British and American readers have different preferences for cover art. Same thing with Terry Pratchett's novels; they lack both Kirby's and Kidby's paintings.

Edit: Just thought to check if the bookshop has a website. Turns out they have a blog. They sure arrange a lot of signings.

25 September 2005

Scotland's murder rate

From the Guardian: Scotland has second highest murder rate in Europe. Another depressing report on Scotland's crime rates (top for violence too).

Another study from the University of California, to be published later this year, will claim Scotland has a higher homicide rate than America, Israel, Uzbekistan, Chile and Uruguay.

So, statistically, I'm less likely to be murdered here than in Edinburgh? Don't think so, matey...

Sign of the times?

From the Guardian: Suspicious behaviour on the tube (via Nosemonkey).

Having found some time to browse the blogs I've not had time to read over the last two months, I'm starting to regret spending my Sunday on the computer. It's sunny in LA. I should be on the beach. But instead, I'm sitting on the patio, reading about the enormous pile of horse dung that Britain is turning into. It stinks.

If you want to feel really pissed off, read the article above. It is a scary account of the loss of liberty and privacy in London today. Orwell wasn't bloody far off when he wrote 1984. And while I haven't been to London since the bombing, my brother lives, studies, and commutes in London. He would perfectly fit the description of someone acting suspiciously, as defined by the Met:

[David Mery was] stopped and searched because:
  • they found [his] behaviour suspicious from direct observation and then from watching [him] on the CCTV system;
  • [he] went into the station without looking at the police officers at the entrance or by the gates;
  • two other men entered the station at about the same time as [him];
  • [he was] wearing a jacket "too warm for the season";
  • [he was] carrying a bulky rucksack, and kept [his] rucksack with [him] at all times;
  • [he] looked at people coming on the platform;
  • [he] played with [his] phone and then took a paper from inside [his] jacket.

And so would almost every 20-, 30-, 40, 50-something year old male with a knapsack-style laptop bag. And so would I, but being female I guess I'd be slightly lower on the dodgy-scale. Although I'm outraged about what happened to David Myer, and the fact that he now has a police record he does not deserve, I can't say I'm surprised. My bro has had his bag searched several times. And so have his friends. I'm loathe to ask if there's a trend amongst his friends between the number of bag searches and the darkness of their tan. I'm afraid to hear the answer.

And there I was complaining about the ridiculous number of security checks I've had to go through to get to the US... Imagine being stopped and searched just to get from point A to B in your own country. Oh, hold on... These folk would know all about it...

Ambition and aspiration

From BBC news: Ministers 'back' Brown for leader.

"My vision is to build a home-owning, asset-owning democracy, a Britain of ambition and aspiration, where all and not just the few have the chance to own their own homes, buy shares and build up assets," said Gordon Brown...

Oh lawdy-lawd... "Ambition and aspiration"? Fine sentiments, Mr Brown. Sure, we all want to own our homes, and be worth something. But just watch that "i want, i want" culture aspirate the last drops of socialism out of the British. Methinks you are trying to appeal to the last dredges of Old Labour supporters, while using the aspirational language (read: spin) that New Labourites understand so well.

Are we moving towards the American model of self-sufficiency? While a nanny state is not desirable, neither is a health service run by profit. Sure, reform of the NHS, welfare and education systems are needed. But not in the direction New Labour intends... Through my naïve eyes, these bodies are top-heavy; full of well-educated, well-meaning managers, who are essentially bureaucrats, pushing memos and papers from office to office. Is it too simplistic to ask that many of these people be replaced with those who do the real work (you know, nurses, docs, teachers, care workers)? And while the managers are happily imbibing chardonnay/cabernet sauvignon (which grape are we casually insulting now?) in their Wimpey/Barratt houses, and climbing the property ladder, support staff find it almost impossible to convince banks to even give them a mortgage...

Oh dear... How did we get here again?

Monet aux Pixels

bleu et or Cut
Negative Colour palette

If you were in Rouen this summer, you would have seen a light show (Cathedrales en Lumiere) projected on the west facade of Rouen's Cathedral, famous for a series of experimental paintings by Monet. The series is scattered all over the world, and I've only seen a few: a few housed at the Musée d'Orsay, one at the Louvre, and one or two others (can't remember which ones), which were part of the touring Monet exhibition a few years ago at the National Gallery in London. They give an insight into how Monet experimented with his technique, as artists are wont to do. I don't get all the art-farty significance of it all, and can only say "Oh look! Pretty piccie!". All the same, I was sorry not to be able to show P the gorgeous collection of Impressionist art at the Musée d'Orsay due to poor planning on my part (and being ill too). And as a double-whammy, my fall-back, the Orangerie, was closed for renovations. It looks like they're expanding the place. Hope the builders they've got in are more careful than the norm: there are some precious Monet murals of water lilies in the basement. Now, you wouldn't want a burst main to flood that particular cellar, would you?

Some links to online images of Monet's Rouen Cathedrale series (will add more later; feeling lazy):

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24 September 2005

flightplan

Saw Flightplan last night. Was pretty good, if you like Hitchcockian thrillers. Could not stop from drooling whenever the Bean appeared on screen, which kind of spoiled the odd moment of suspense...

Small irony in choosing the Bean to play an airline captain since he's afraid of flying... (useless trivia gleaned from hours of lotr dvd extras)

Not sure if the new Airbus 380 was used as a model for the plane, but it's not so far-fetched to imagine a child getting totally lost on an airplane that gargantuan.

Minor nit: Since Kyle Pratt was an aeronautical engineer, who designed the propulsion engines, shouldn't she have been flying in at least business class? Didn't really notice anything else... Too busy mopping up the drool.

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KitKat vs Tunnock's wafer

Santos writes about a whole snap* of KitKats, which, despite knowing they're probably full of E numbers, make me crave that feeling of teeth sinking into the yielding, softly crunching wafer, accompanied by the brush of the lips with a smear of chocolat. Which lasts all of 5 seconds, after which the whole finger is consumed, never to see daylight again.

Not that I've had a KitKat in many, many years. For they are manufactured by that naughty conglomerate: Nestlé. I've been boycotting these guys so long, I've almost forgotten why! But fortunately, a brave (or foolhardy) food blogger subjected himself to a gawd-awful Lean Cuisine meal recently, made by the self-same company, and included this link.

And the irony? My dad used to work for Nestlé. I grew up on Nestlé powdered milk. I spent my childhood eating food manufactured by Nestlé's subsidiary: Maggi. And I even had dolls from Switzerland, thanks to my dad spending months at a time out there. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

Although I've been KitKat-deprived for years, fortunately for my junk food cravings, I was living in Scotland: home to Tunnock's, makers of the Caramel Wafer. The Caramel Wafer (and it deserves those capitals) is one you either love or hate. Unlike a KitKat, it takes some time to devour (savour, if you wannae be posh about it). That thin layer of sticky caramel makes it all the more special; sticking the soggy wafer to your teeth for the rest of the day. And while the chocolate coating has as little cocoa in it as KitKat's, it's a wee bit thicker and less sweet. Now, that I miss! A lot!

*as suggested by manthatcooks

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23 September 2005

Fauchon

Fruit viewing
What we should eat
Cakes!
What we prefer to eat
Macaroons from Fauchon
What we can afford
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Je mange, donc je suis

Cidre

Obligatory food post. After all, I'm just back from France: home of the gastronomes.

There's something about eating in company that makes it very difficult to take photographs of the food. (Anyone else keep their food blogging a secret from work mates?) So, I'll have make do with a list of salivating dishes and a discreetly snapped steak tartare (eating with P that day, which made things easier).

Being in Normandy, a lot of the food had a strong apple theme, with butter, cream and cheese being the backing singers. One meal that stood out in particular was a lunch during the conference, at which braised chicken was served with slices of baked apple. Dessert was a light, baked cheese mousse layered with apples, and garnished with what I first thought was a green cherry, but turned out to be a preserved miniature apple. I've since found out that there are very few producers of preserved mini apples, which made it even more special.

We were also treated to a banquet in a proper château, which, while impressive, was outdone by the food and the entertainment (two wandering magicians). The highlight of that meal, for me, was the palette cleanser of a shot of calvados poured over two scoops of apple sorbet. (There's a name for this, but I've forgotten it... Something to do with alcohol killing the neurons that were making the synaptic connection... Update: It's called Trou Normande.)

Speaking of alcohol, I'm no fan of cider/cidre, having had the standard fresher's (next-day) reaction to a night of cheap pub cider. My second attempt involved a bottle of Scrumpy Jack from Cornwall, which left my tastebuds complaining for the rest of the evening. In fact, the only use for cider in my household is for the annual end-of-year baked ham. And it was even supplanted in recent years by coke (another awful drink I've never truly understood). So it came as a pleasant surprise that cidre is not only be drinkable, but also hangover-free. So that makes it three decent drinks you can make from apples...

Other delights of Normandy include huitres (oysters) (although I'm informed that those from Brittany are just as good) and cheese. I'm not one of life's creative fairies, but a box of Pont l'Evêque could give me cause to write a symphony in ode to the sublime fromage.

And for those with a sweet tooth, those Normandes do some fine chewy caramels, along with a rock; flavoured with apples, naturally... The galettes (buttery hard biscuits) are also pas mal.

steak tartare
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22 September 2005

Vegemite vs Marmite on Flickr

I [heart] Marmite

Saffron has uploaded a Flickr tag fight between Vegemite and Marmite, and it looks like Vegemite is winning... I suggest all Marmite-lovers get their cameras out and fight the good fight!

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21 September 2005

Campaign to reduce cyclist deaths

From BBC news: Campaign to reduce cyclist deaths.

"We will have officers out at various cycle routes across the city over the next two weeks who will be speaking to cyclists about road safety issues and ensuring they are not breaking the law."

--Superintendent Colin McNeill, Lothian and Borders Police

How about targeting motorists and drivers of the lethal white van to make them aware that they have to give cyclists more room on the road? Or that cycle lanes must be respected, and even if you're just nipping into the shops for 5 min, once you've parked in a cycle lane, you're increasing the risk of a cyclist who has to swerve outside the cycle lane for your laziness?

20 September 2005

19 September 2005

Elgin and its environs

www.flickr.com
This is a Flickr badge showing photos in a set called Elgin. Make your own badge here.

Amidst all the rushing around over the last fortnight, I had some time on my hands before P's brother's wedding. And since I've never seen anything of Elgin other than the town centre at night, I thought I'd have a look at the ruins of the Elgin Cathedral. From the little I remember of the explanatory placards, it was built some time in the 11th century (maybe later) and was abandoned as a place of worship four centuries ago. And ever since then, the sandstone it's made of (like almost everything else in Scotland apart from bloody granite-shoot-me-now-it's-so-depressing-Aberdeen) has been crumbling. It's a war of attrition for Historic Scotland to keep buildings like this safe for visitors, let alone intact or preserved in any way. All the same, they've done a great job, especially in the two main towers, which you can visit. I find it somewhat incongruous that while the stonework is falling to bits, all we can do is stick in new floorboards and windows to spruce the place up. Anyway, it was a pleasant diversion while I was kicking my heels waiting for events to kick off

Pavlova Bubbly 2 Wedding cake

Sidenote: What do other partners of groom's/bride's men/women-in-attendance do at weddings? The best man's gf and I were pretty much at a loose end all day and night while our men were obliged to dance with every single female in the room except us. All the same, it was very nice to see the extended family and friends.

18 September 2005

BBC attacked yet again

Galloway vs. Hitchens

From BBC News Video and Audio: Galloway vs Hitchens.

Eh, what fun. Skipping sideways for a moment, I thought for a second that I'd met GG last week at the airport in Dyce, but probably not. I'm not very good at recognising people I don't know personally. And I worry constantly that I won't recognise people I'm supposed to meet.

So what happens now?

From BBC news: Merkel ahead in tight German vote.

Another suitcase in another hall;
take the pictures off another wall;
Where is Germany going to?
Don't ask anymore.

Apologies for bursting into bad ALW music... What on earth are the Germans going to do now? I'm guessing a "grand coalition" is a euphemism for a mess of a hung parliament. And from the point of view of a female, why are the only women successful enough to lead a political party mainly conservative (small and big "c")? It's that need to have bigger, brassier balls than their male peers, isn't it?

Ashes regained

From BBC news: The day the Aussies were beaten

Back online after a week on "holiday" (more on that later). Don't want to gloat. But am pleased that the English cricket team has finally cracked Australia. It was, to one who could not see any of the play, a close one. Both sides weren't playing their absolute best the whole time, with Australia sorely in need of McGrath for much of the series. I was particularly impressed that England did not fall to the usual feeling of inadequacy, and rose to the challenge of superior Aussie bowling in the final test.

It's a nice feeling indeed, not to regret what may have been. It all came right in the end.

Onward to winter and India!

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09 September 2005

Roast lamb and tequila


Roast lamb
Originally uploaded by framboise.

P cooked what will probably be our last lamb roast for a wee whiley. It was simply delish. Something about Scottish lamb just cannae be beat (although I'm sure the Kiwis will beg to differ). It may have something to do with the sheer difficulty of getting enough to eat in a typical Scottish spring/summer. But the flesh is tender and the flavour rich (but not smelly, Mom... you really need to try it). In fact, it's so good on its own, you don't need to marinate it or do anything else to it. Maybe a sprinkle of salt, pepper and your favourite spice (I like cumin and coriander, but P was trying to use up our stash of "Good with everything salt", which has rosemary and lavender). Set the oven to 220°C, roast the shoulder of lamb (nae bone) for 20 min, turn the temperature down to 200°C and continue to roast for 15 min for every 500g. Rest for 10 min before carving, or all the juices will piss out and leave you with dry meat. Easy peasy. (OK, after reading this, P has confessed to leaving the lamb in for an extra 10 min because we had guests, who may not have liked it too pink...)


Because of time constraints, there wasn't our usual mashed potato with nutmeg. But the cous-cous (also so easy to prepare) worked in a very Moroccan way. The veggies, while plain-looking, were pretty tasty: steamed, then sat in the oven for a bit with cracked coriander seeds. (You can tell I like my coriander, can't you...)


For dessert? I bought a bottle of Sauza Tequila Gold back... So K and M brought margarita mix. I'd never tried it with calvados before. But I can assure you it works. I was also relliably informed that a small shot of Cointreau or Grand Marnier or even Amaretto works well too. And my little tip for the evening: stick the bottle of margarita mix in the freezer while you're eating your tea... It chills it enough so you don't need to add ice (of which there was none since the main ice-maker, me, was away). Bliss.


Sports-mad

It's been a crazy wee week... I think we must have gone into every single women's clothes shop in Edinburgh to find me something to wear for a wedding on Saturday. Fortunately, it's not my own, so I can afford to look a little less than perfect (ha! like I ever could...). But all the same, when photos have to last as long as the marriage, you don't want to look like a gimp in someone else's album...

On the not-so-girly front, I think I chose the best week to come home. There's been footie (yay Scotland, silly England) and cricket. OMG the cricket! I missed it so, so much... And although it's great to watch the Ashes on telly, and not have to wake up at 3am, LA time, to catch the start of the day's play, I feel like I'm missing something... I think it's that feeling of despair. For once, although I'm still apprehensive about England's chances of winning outright, I don't have the "Oh well, we'll never be as good as the Aussies" thought constantly nagging me. It's a pleasant sensation indeed.

I reckon it's going to be down to the Hoggy-baby, Freddie and Harmy trio versus the Warne, Lee, McGrath trinity. Whatever they say about the Oval, this is going to be a bowler's test...

Come on England!

07 September 2005

Back in Embra


Cheviots
Originally uploaded by framboise.
For a wee visit, then off to Elgin, Rouen, Paris and back to LA. Never have I travelled so much in such a short space. I've neglected my duty as a circadian biologist, failing to collect blood samples to measure my cortisol levels (which are probably at a constant high at the moment).

Something that struck me on the flight back was the sudden surge in cricket commentators in the newspapers. Suddenly, everyone's an expert on the Ashes. And nobody looks at me in a funny way when I talk about England's all-new bowling prowess. Hey guys, where were you in the slim years? Hope you all stay the course, 'cause following British teams ain't for the faint-hearted. Look at Scotland's rugby and football teams: heartbreakers all (OK, tonight's result was a bit of a fluke). And England's aren't any better either, what with a seriously demoralised post-World Cup rugby team, and an inconsistent football team that could not beat Northern Ireland (good on them, btw). And now the cricket... Please Vaughn and gang, I don't want to be left sobbing after yet another close call.

But should you guys succeed... Well, you deserve:
Tricolour