29 April 2007

Cream and bastards rise

Going through my RSS feeds in Thunderbird, I realised I read NOTHING in 2006. Yes, the whole of 2006. Not only did I read no blogs, I also read no books*. That may have been the first time in my life I didn't read voraciously, constantly, indiscriminately. What should I do about the RSS feeds? Mark them all read so I can clear up the folder in what is also my main email software? Or laboriously go through the several thousands?

At any rate, I've started reading other blogs again. Starting with the ones that I read before I started my own. Which is how I came to be watching this awesome piece of lib dubbing, and craving me some of that music too. A search on iTunes proved unfruitful, and although myspace hosts a streaming version of Flagpole Sitta, it's not downloadable. What to do without resorting to naughty illegal downloads or warming up the planet by having Amazon deliver it in a huge box? Last resort, the official website for Harvey Danger, where I don't find the song, but instead end up bittorrenting their latest album little by little. For free. Clever ploy. I'm enjoying it, and probably will buy a hard copy.

Clever ploy.

*Soon to be rectified. My dad gave me The Language of God for Christmas, but I haven't gotten round to getting it off the shelf yet. And I bought two Ray Bradbury books at the LA Book Fest today.

A bit annoyed; lost the post because one of the sites I was trying to buy stuff from decided to crash my Firefox. It's one of those damn sites that seems to close after midnight for maintenance or something. Perhaps I should take the hint and stop buying stuff from them.

27 April 2007

Why on earth would anyone object to Where's Waldo (Wally)?, number 88 on the American Library Association's list of 100 most-challenged books (via). It's not exactly controversial, is it? It's a picture book, for crying out loud. And one with rather tame images at that. (Unless there's a Playboy version I've not seen.)

Update: Ah, I understand now. There really is a "Playboy" version. I think I even have the edition in storage at home...

An interesting analysis of the original cause of the Darfur war/conflict/genocide. An excerpt:

More recent computer modelling has suggested that rain patterns over Africa are influenced rather by ocean temperatures, and those in turn reflect global warming, and the rise of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In other words, droughts in Africa may be caused less by its hapless inhabitants and more by oversize cars and cheap flights in Europe and the US.

See, Arnie; all the more reason to get rid of your Humvees.

26 April 2007

The Californian State vs The EPA

So, the Governator may sue the EPA over their slowness in allowing California to pass a vehicle emissions law. While I applaud this state's attempts at tackling climate change, I still find it a little ironic that Schwarzenegger is still driving his damn Humvees.

Extracted from the article:
Teased by conference host Michael Milken about his gas-guzzling Hummers, which emit high levels of greenhouse gases, Schwarzenegger said he was having both retrofitted to run on cleaner, renewable fuels.*
But he said making people feel guilty about what they drive was not the answer, and insisted that energy issues and environmental concerns can be addressed with new technology.
"Women who have children like SUVs. We should let them keep their big SUVs and change the technology."

Something is better than nothing. But I think his point about not making people feel guilty about their lifestyle choices is dangerous in the long run. I can plainly see he's trying to please two diverse camps here: the environmentalists and the rich middle-to-upper class (which are sometimes one and the same thing here). Sure, a rich state looking to cut greenhouse gases can push the development of new technology, which benefits us in some ways. But will this be affordable to all? I doubt it. Not in the short term anyway. It also side-steps the issue of simply making those minor changes to the things you do, and how you do them. In particular, his example of the women with children who like SUVs, aside from the patronising tone, is wrong on other fronts. The fact that the SUVs are big means it takes more energy to drive them forward and more materials (often petrochemical in nature) to manufacture. Whatever new technology is used in terms of propulsion or fueling, the fact remains that these vehicles will always require more energy to propel. How about changing the minds and aspirations of people instead? How about setting an example and getting rid of the Humvees altogether to be the role model for a successful have-it-all-but-can-give-it-up-for-the-sake-of-the-planet American instead? (And recycle them responsibly too; maybe the Army could use a donation of what was once theirs.)

*He may be referring to ethanol as the renewable fuel, but even that is fraught with environmental issues. Will you devote the entire surface area of the country to growing corn to fuel the cars?

Frrrog! This* is SO wrong (via).

*You may not want to click on this if you're a die-hard vegetarian/vegan. Or like frogs.

25 April 2007

Do you want to be the Great Grand Overlord of the British Isles?

Feeling bad. Not giving dog enough attention, not taking good care of P, not calling home enough, not IMing the bro for months, not sorting out the BnB website problem, not writing enough manuscripts for the lab, not producing enough data for the great and glorious leader, not doing my part for the environment by incapacitating every Humvee in sight (and that's plenty round here), using too many plastic bags to pick up doggy poo, not keeping abreast of current affairs, not giving our governors hell over climate change and their bloody stupid self-defeating "war on terror", and worst of all, not following the run-up to the upcoming SCOTTISH ELECTIONS.

One small thought on it though: Gordon Brown1 must be pissing his pants. If the Nationalists get their way (unlikely for the foreseeable future, but I'm no Sybill Trelawney), Westminster would have to reciprocate by kicking out the Scots. That would damn well screw his chances of being Great Grand Overlord of the British Isles, wouldn't it? Unless he wanted to be English.

1Am currently fascinated with this Where's Gordon? map.

So, the kryptonite story is old hat now. But the article made me wonder why the makers of Superman Returns used "sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide" as the chemical formula for kryptonite when we already have an element named krypton (Kr), which they could easily have faked a compound name with. They missed a trick there. (Unless there's some kosher DC Comic reason for it.)

Pizza Pie

I was going to discuss the merits of different pizza styles and toppings, but I got side-tracked by the discovery that in Iran, pizzas are now known as elastic loaves (via).

So, instead of yet another dull "I made this, then ate it" post, we'll keep it to just the photo of my very-elastic loaf today:

Pizza, 2nd attempt

Oh yeah, the beer was decent. A not-too-sweet pale ale with a hint of bitterness in the aftertaste. Slightly malty, slight hoppy. From the cutely named Otter Creek brewery.

Cross posted on akatsukieats.

I suffered in Nintendo Hell as a child, and never felt much satisfaction from playing that stupid Super Mario Brothers platform level game. So this amused me no end (via). Caution: plenty of swearing.

24 April 2007

Ospreys don't like to be cuckolded.

Humans are quite vicious as a species, but at least two-timed men don't practice infanticide. Or so I hope...

22 April 2007

Old people rock!

Rocking grannies and gramps! An excellent cover of The Who's "My Generation". Check out The Zimmers, and watch for their single coming out in late May.

And remind yourself of the craziness of The Who here.

21 April 2007

amuse bouche

This novel form of webvertising amused me for a few minutes (via buyo). Then I realised I really like her sense of humour, and I might even buy the book or see her when she comes to the Hammer. This stuff really works, huh. I wonder if I could try it on reviewers of my manuscripts...

20 April 2007

green chana/chickpeas/garbanzo beans

I can't be much of an Asian. I've never had green chickpeas (garbanzo to the Merkins). But I bought them from Trader Joe's anyway. They've sat in the freezer for the last month. The green peas, broad beans (fava beans to the Merkins) and pre-shelled edamame have all been scoffed, leaving behind these green versions of my favourite pulse/legume. Chana masala, made with the more usual yellow version of chickpeas, is a favourite standby in our kitchen. Whipped up with tinned chickpeas, tinned tomatoes and whatever Asian spices I have in the cupboard, every chana masala is an adventure in itself. Especially when I get the chillies out (poor P... his poorly tummy can't take the heat).

So it was with a certain amount of suspicion that I opened the bag of frozen greenies today. We haven't had much luck with American frozen pulses. The broad beans are already too far gone for our preference of firmness. Which means we've been substituting it with edamame, which retains its bite a little better, for our other standby: beans and bacon. Anyhoo, a interweb search pulls up a rather tasty looking recipe for harbhara chaat. Seeing the chickpeas in a cone of newspaper reminded me of my childhood, buying kacang puteh from the little cart outside the cinema. We'd get to choose one cone each. My mother always went for the chickpeas, my father for the cashews, my brother for the sugar-coated peanuts. I *always* wavered between the fried lentils and the boiled chickpeas. Somehow, even though the chickpeas were the "healthier" option, I usually chose them.

Green chana

Back to those greenies. They were a little over-cooked. I swear I only allowed them to warm up in boiling water for 2 minutes. Still. Beats soaking dried beans overnight and boiling for an hour. Not having the best stocked kitchen around, I substituted the onions with shallots and the green chilli with red jalapeno. Amazingly, there was a very old and wrinkled mango and lemon in the fruit drawer, so in they went. As for the spices, I'd be mortified if I didn't at least have cumin, coriander and ginger, so it wasn't too difficult to cobble together some chaat masala, after this recipe. Of course, without the powdered dried mango, it won't be the same.


Served with our current pseudo-Asian rice fave, fake biryani, consisting of whatever long-grain rice we have (usually Thai, but sometimes basmati), cardamom, random nuts (pumpkin seeds at the moment) and cranberries. (Yes, cranberries. Not a fan of sultanas, me. So I can't even make fake British-Asian biryani.) Don't knock it till you try it: sweet/sour dried fruit in rice works. Ask the Persians, inventors of polo, which inspired biryani, which inspired this:

Biryani-inspired rice

I love pretending I can cook. And at times like these, when everything comes together even though nothing is authentic, I really feel like I can tackle anything. (Don't mention the pizza...)

Cross posted on akatsukieats.

Spag-balls and chips

Eh. Remember that post about the four staple meals in Britain? No? Never mind. Suffice to say, I made my annual allowance of spag bol today. Only it wasn't spag bol out of a Dolmio jar (let alone Loyd Grossman's). While looking for inspiration to cook the only mince I dare buy at Ralph's: ground buffalo, I came across this recipe for buffalo meatballs, which sounded far to easy to pass up. Plus, I was getting sick of buffalo burgers, buffalo black bean stir fry, buffalo burgers... And I was making cookies and onigiri at the same time, so something that was quick and could sit on the stove while I baked and shaped and walked the dog (re: the dog; just the walking, thanks. didn't cook her). And as the final nail in the coffin, the string of comments on my crappy pizza photo, which made me crave spaghetti.

on top of spaghetti

The only thing I changed was the concentrated tomato soup, of which I'm not a fan. On the other hand, I love having tinned tommies in the store cupboard for my puttanesca fix. So, a tin of blitzed plum tomatoes went into making the sauce instead. If I wasn't quite so busy with other things, I might have added some 'erbs or accoutrements like capers. Oh there we go with the puttanesca again... Oh, and I added some paprika too. I'm currently having a love affair with my tin of Spanish paprika. Some nearly went into the cookie dough mixing bowl by mistake. Now, that would have been an interesting choc chip cookie indeed.

how many can i fit in one mouthful?

The cookies were something of an impulse bake. Was decanting a new bag of flour I lugged home on the bus (not a trivial undertaking with laptop in hand and other important groceries like milk to carry too), and drawn in by the "Extraordinary Chocolate Chip Cookies" recipe on the back of the packet. I like back-of-packet recipes. They're usually piss easy for idiots like me. But this particular recipe must have been developed for industry or a very big, multi-child family. It called for 4 cups of flour, 1 1/2 cups of butter, 2 1/2 cups of sugar (half white and half brown), 2 eggs, 2 tsp baking soda and a 24oz bag of choc chips (or 4 cups). FOUR CUPS OF CHOCOLATE CHIPS?!? P would accuse me of trying to induce a clogged artery so he could be replaced by an upgrade. Even when the recipe was halved, we still had difficulty finding enough containers for the surfeit of cookies.

Cross posted on akatsukieats.

16 April 2007

Despair, death and destruction at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. We've been listening to Wagner and spying on friends.

WDCH Garden

13 April 2007

We've been out and about with the doggy in Santa Monica.

Hot trash

09 April 2007

It's not Easter without chocolate

Dibs on the blue ones

Not a personal subscriber to the Christian concept of Easter. Full of admiration for those who can give up chocolate for Lent. So, have joined them in a day of gorging on chocolate for no other reason than my love for it. Happy Chocolate Sunday!

06 April 2007

Hey you guys!

P doesn't remember ever watching The Electric Company, whereas I watched it religiously as a child. It was on par with Sesame Street as far as I was concerned, just sans muppets and not so babyish. I don't know what made me seek it out tonight. I started singing the "C is for Cookie" song by Cookie Monster on Sesame Street, then HAD to show P the original on youtube. From there, it morphed into a search for The Electric Company sketches. And it finally dawned on me that all those years ago, I watched Morgan Freeman deadpan his way through a kids' show and never realised it. Sure I recognised Bill Cosby; he had The Cosby Show which we also watched religiously as a family. But Morgan Freeman never twigged my not-very-alert actor-radar. I want to watch them all again, but somehow, I fear I may be disappointed. What strikes one as a child as the very pinnacle of broadcasting output may seem a little condescending and overly simple now. I might purchase an episode or two from iTunes, or a DVD, or just spend the rest of the night on youtube...

Amendement: After dithering about I finally acquired a YouTube account just so I could bring you this:

05 April 2007

Muffin madness

Multiple copies of the LA Times were strewn across our apartment floors for a couple of weeks. Perhaps it's not in good taste to explain why in a food post. At any rate, the food section has provided some inspiration for baking the last few weeks. I've not had an upside-down cake for ages; not since childhood days of being allowed to make pineapple upside-down cake unsupervised. So it was with great glee that I made a lemon upside-down cake a few weekends ago for my BBQ. It allowed me to get all sorts of things going on the grill and make a cake at the same time. Recipes should always be this easy. Unfortunately, no photos were taken. A usual. You must think I fake these posts... I was going to link to the LA Times recipe, but found it's a pay-per-view article. Well, sod that. I'm not going to reproduce it here, because I've no doubt there's some copyright law on that. So, there goes my stupid plan of using this blog as my recipe archive.

Multi-story muffin

To make up for a lazy Sunday of frozen waffles and blueberries, I got up early to make muffins on Wednesday. (If it was a lazy Sunday, does that make this a working Wednesday?) The recipe, again, was courtesy of the LA Times, so no link. It called for Meyer lemons, but we're swimming in mandarins at the moment, so mandarins it was. I like recipes that don't faff about too much during the prep stage. This one required the citrus to be roughly chopped, then food-processed, which wasn't overly complicated for early morning. The rest of the muffin recipe was the usual simple stir-wet-into-dry-but-not-too-much. I don't think I'll use this recipe again. It called for 1/2 cup of butter, which, compared to that epicurious recipe from before, is 1/2 a cup of butter too much. (Maybe the banana in the previous recipe added enough moisture and good fat to hold the whole thing together.) But I like the idea of using my spare citrus in this manner. Perhaps I could bastardise the two recipes and come up with something edible, yet P-heart-friendly. More experimentation beckons.

Mucho muffins

Cross posted on akatsukieats.

04 April 2007

Knicker change

Fooling around with the template. Can't get head around new codes or even where to cut and paste the old link log. Feel stupid. Nothing new then.

One thing the fancy archive links have flagged up is the shocking lack of posts in 2006. Peak blogging occurred in August with a grand total of 8 posts. The decline in posting coincided with a decline in joie de vivre, precipitated by work-related issues. I didn't even have the energy to post about our very lovely vacations in the South-West with our families because I paid very dearly for them. Fortunately, things have changed. A slight change. Like changing your pants. You still wear them, but with the change comes a certain freshness.

01 April 2007

Frozen Brekkie

Freezer brekkie

Best not ask what time I woke up today. I don't even know that. Been living without a clock since moving in. And my last functional watch died last summer. And my mobile phone has done a strange disappearing act every weekend ever since I was phoned on the morning of my last birthday (a Sunday that time) about the location of a chemical in my lab.

Sundays have never been good days for me. I feel as if I should be doing a million and one things, but my body refuses to budge out of the nest I've made in my bed. On rare occasions, I get up early enough to have what is commonly known as breakfast. Sometimes I even bake something for brekkie.

Not today. Courtesy of some clever forward planning by P, we had store-bought blueberry waffles with frozen blueberries on the side. They weren't "leggo of my eggo", but close. There's something about plastic, pre-fabricated waffles that appeal to me, along with equally hydrocarbon-chain-polymer-like hash browns. I prefer the "real thing", but on some occasions, when one has woken up far closer to lunchtime than decent folk should, plastic tastes just fine.

P tucking in

Cross posted on akatsukieats.

Griffith Park

The dog watched horses over there.

Crouch scores a hat-trick against Arsenal? Now, that's an April Fools' joke..