Friday’s Delight And Wonder

cb-lYou can tell it must be Friday from the fact that a pudding just came out of the oven, mid afternoon. We’ll have Creme Brulee tonight, and like almost every week, I can’t help but wonder how many different puddings can be made from sugar, milk and egg, with nothing but the slightest variations in recipe or method.

Creme Brulee: use only egg yolks, use milk and cream half and half, bake in a water bath at 190 C

Pudim Flan: like Creme Brulee but use whole eggs, use just milk, bake in water bath at 145 C

Custard: like Creme Brulee, but stir hot milk into cold eggs and whisk, don’t boil after the mix

Creme Patisiere: like Custard, but be easy on the cream and add a little flour, add more heat when mixing

German Pudding: like Pudim Flan but add corn starch and cook like Creme Patisiere

I am sure there are more desserts, each and every one delicious in its own right, different by slightly different cooking methods, mixing temperature and processes, cream to milk and egg white to yolk ratios. Fascinating, isn’t it?


The Castle and I

DSC_0150Interpol, the NSA and most other intelligence agenciesseem to exchange data about us, our Facebook status, Twitter habit or bowel movement frequently and liberally. However, when we travel, we must submit a letter of invitation, a letter of confirmation, two photos of a specific size, a signed application form, gas bills of the last three years (optionally water bills), substantial payment, and a passport.

I look forward to a trip to the Gujarat, India, but the overhead of those arrangements is just ludicrous, fit to keeping an enormous bureaucratic apparatus comfortably alive. I don’t see which other purpose this serves.

Franz Kafka was right all along with his novel The Castle. All along.


The Man

06-12-2013 07-27-55I haven’t been posting in a while because life keeps getting in the way, but today, life must take a moment’s silence for reflection. I lower the flag here at W7 headquarters and raise my hand for Nelson Mandela.

Of all the people I’ve never met,
of all the people I only new from the silver screen,
of all the people I could never hope to meet or know in person,

Nelson Mandela. You’re the man.

Story Problems

DSC_0731Back in the good old days, an algebraic story problem could very well be John has 4 apples, Jane has two less than Tim, but Tim has twice as many apples as John. How many apples has Jane? A slightly more advanced story problem could be to ask for the final price of a £10 hat after a 10% discount and 15% VAT added.

Apples are a timeless feature without doubt, and the VAT hasn’t disappeared either, but I wonder which story problems modern textbooks have to offer.

How’s this?

John, Jane and Tim each begin downloading Boom! The Final Massacre at 16:00. By 16:20, John has finished downloading 25%.  Tim’s Internet connection is twice as fast as Johns, but Jane’s is one third slower as Tim’s. When will Jane’s download complete?

Life On Earth

DSCF0182Life on Earth is pure heaven, it has emerged. Following a prolonged multinational game of Mine is Bigger Than Yours around the Korean peninsular, human and most vertebrate life on earth were wiped out earlier this week. Mankind’s presently exists in heaven and hell, according to each individual’s believe system and guilt complex, and in accordance with individual’s experiences and expectations.

It’s all the same, a spokesman for The Pearly Gates told us. What did you expect, wings, sit-on clouds and harps?

Representatives of Amazon Cloud Services were unavailable for a comment.

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A Present For You And Me

DSC_0325Almost every evening, I make myself a large pot of tea. Lemon Verbana mostly, and sometimes peppermint. I put the kettle on while still preparing the evening meal, and prepare the pot with a good helping of herbal leaf tea. I’m talking real herbal leaf tea of course, not dust in tea bags. Anyway:

After finishing my supper, I pour myself a mug and settle down in the comfy chair. Unless it is in the dishwasher, I always use the same mug, and I always remember and think of the person who gave this particular mug as a gift.

I’ve lost contact with this friend many years ago, but think of her every evening, isn’t that great?


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The Perks of Being a Lonesome Rider

DSC_1597I don’t particularly enjoy travelling alone, but when I do, I enjoy my sharpened sense for my surroundings.

In the restaurant, I may not have noticed the father-and-daughter awkwardness on the next table, if I had been in good company and conversation myself. The daughter, unsure how to cope with her fathers (presumed) bi-weekly attentions, and the father clearly unfamiliar with making conversation to a girl in the prime of her puberty. Agony for them, and entertainment for me.

My trips up and down the Los Gatos Creek Trail are my highlight though.  There’s a good amount of wildlife and birdlife which I may have noticed while in good company, but hiking alone allows me to focus more than usually on everybody else around me. Those which overtake me and those overtaken by myself. Those who can’t lift there feet off the ground, those who barely move and those who fly past with athletic elegance. Those dressed lightly, those dressed to warmly, and those armed with a whole specially designed belt of water bottles, MP3 players, navigational equipment and emergency rescue kit. Those who push or carry their children proudly and those who drag their reluctant brood along. Those who make eye contact those avoiding it, those who greet and those who don’t.

Human diversity on a plate. Or, as it happens, on a recreation trail.

The birdlife was lovely too, with several trees in bloom and the brightly orange Californian Poppies just beginning to emerge. I spotted several Hummingbirds, a Kingfisher and what almost looked like a Northern Red Bishop (with a lovely song), and a multitude of well camouflaged smaller birds.

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Within The Den

DSC_1449I am reading Lack London’s arctic novels right now. The Call Of The Wild at first, and it’s companion, White Fang, right now. When I read these books first, many years ago as a teenager, I didn’t understand much beyond the adventure, but I now appreciate the superb story-telling and writing Jack’s done. He wrote this stuff around 1900, give or take a few years.

There was no David Attenborough to explain it all, and neither Heinz Sielmann or Professor Grzimek were born at the time (Professor Grzimek was close, being born in 1909, but he wasn’t born as a professor or a natural world TV presenter). There were no tiny or remote controlled cameras to be send inside a wolf’s den in Jack’s days. Watching modern wildlife documentaries makes us think that all this knowledge is only just emerging thanks to modern technology and brave cameramen, but if you think this is so, you should read Jack’s books.

The description of events inside the den and the details of the wolves’ awareness show a great deal of knowledge, imagination and “educated guessing” on Jack’s part. It’s quite something.

The most revolutionary part, in my opinion, is the fact that he never humanizes the animals. He describes them as beings aware of their surroundings, as beings with intelligence, decision-making facility, the capability to learn and that of a consciousness, but he never presents a dog’s or wolves’ thoughts in human terms. There is no trivializing here at all, and a great deal more of realism, and a great deal less of adventure than what I remembered from my youth.

I got Jack London’s Complete Works on my Kindle now. The biggest e-Book I have, cause he was a short-lived yet prolific writer, and I am in love with his work.


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A Lifestyle Choice

DSC_0035As the nights and days get colder, I am thinking about my Guinea Pigs. Well, I am always thinking about my Guinea Pigs, but the cold makes me think about their welfare more than normal.

They have a sheltered spot in the garden. They have a shed and other hiding places. They have space to run, rocks to climb, places to be alone, places to hide and places to huddle up. They have no rain and little draft, no predators, no famine, no drought. Basically, they have nothing to worry about. But then, of course, they haven’t got their freedom. They aren’t free to roam the Andes and, probably worst of all, they aren’t free to mate. They need to get along with each other, can’t call a friend or escape to the pub for a few hours.

Which life would you prefer?

A life in the open wilderness, with all the mating and roaming you want, and all the dangers that come with the environment, or a life in a house with a garden attached, several times as big as the house, with absolutely nothing to worry about, and gourmet food and drink delivered to your doorstep every day.


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Living As Long As Alice

DSC_1112Some say they have been playing the piano all their life, but not everyone had 109 years of it, the considerable difficulties life threw in your way (most notably the Holocaust) notwithstanding.

I saw you playing Chopin on the telly just the other day. Marvellous.

Happy Birthday, Alice Herz-Sommer!

Play yourself a little tune and enjoy your day. You have my fullest admiration and deepest respect.

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There’s No App For That

DSC_1105Imagine this scene if you will: you are emptying the dishwasher, putting plates and things into their places, and the wine glass back on the shelf when, just as you’re reaching up to that shelf, the glass drops, falls 4 1/2 ft or so onto a hardwood floor, and shatters into a thousand pieces.

Dammit, you think, dammit. This was one of the last of my beloved spherical Zwiesel crystal ones left after only 30-odd years.

Out come broom and dustpan, and all is captured. There is no hope of putting it back together, of course, but wouldn’t it be great if I could take a photo, run it through an Android app and find out whether I found all parts? No, I have to walk around barefooted to find the remaining pieces, because there is no app for that.

I found a pretty big shard just this Saturday in this manner, but fortunately it got stick in the sole of my slippers. It’s a good thing wearing those once in a while.


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Russian Vine

russianvineA recent visit to the family bathroom brought my attention to our Russian Vine. Guessing that it has nothing to do with Russia or wine, I looked it up. Wikipedia says it is called Fallopia baldschuanica, a member of the knotweed family.

Our particular one has been wish us for a very long time, well over 20 years for sure. It never had an easy life, too dry at times and too wet at others, rarely given plant feed or a new pot. Just look at it. It’s alive with abundance.

What a trooper.


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