Home Sweet Home

DSCF3808 Yeah. You know immediately the country you’re in when the sky looks like this.

Always nice to be back home. After the going away part and the being away part, coming home again is the third nicest part of being away, really.

 

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More Voices of Reason

E27 Light BulbI am always glad to see that I am not alone. The Energy Saving Trust has now joint me in a call to stop patio heater use (me) and sale (them), as the BBC reports.

Too bad I couldn’t find the article on the Energy Saving Trust’s own web site, but there’s a lot of information out there to understand where a little thing contributed by everyone can make a difference.

Maybe you could try by switching off all non-essential lights for one hour each week. Oh, wear a jumper instead of using a patio heater, or go inside when it’s too cold.

After the Smoking Ban has finally arrived in the U.K. and many pubs improve their sheltered and heated outdoor seating, we might be able to blame the smokers for global warming. Oh, and the cattle, of course.

Lights Out!

E27 Light Bulb

Just wanted to remind you on my latest scheme to save the planet: turn all non-essential lights off this evening for one hour.

You could make it a romantic affair and dine by candlelight, or you could take the dog for a long walk, or fondle the wife, or talk, or maybe listen to the wireless, … The possibilities are endless, and you know it.

Come on!

Make an effort. There are almost 25 million households in the UK alone. It is easy to see how a tiny personal effort can add up and actually make an impact. Today, you start and enjoy a dark hour. Tomorrow, you will tell your friend about it, will you?

Back Home

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11,000 miles and three weeks later, I am as ever glad to be back home. There’s just nothing that beats the own mattress and space, even if the boiler refuses to start.

In addition to a two week business trip, the wife and I spend a week exploring Silicon Valley and the surrounding Bay Area with its gorgeous State Parks, Monterey with the Bay and the Aquarium, the Pacific coast and of course San Francisco.

I’ll share some of our thoughts and (photographic) finds over the next few days. Until then, it’s a matter of sitting here and waiting for my brain to complete the journey back to England.

 

Have You Done Your Shopping Yet?

Basket Have you done your shopping yet? I have, M’am.

For shopping in the local shops and market on a Saturday, I prefer using my old and trusted friend, a wicker basket as old as my marriage, and as big as they come. When this basket is packet with fresh produce, I know its time to stop buying even more.

The most exciting aspect of using this basket, however, is people’s response. Almost every time I use it, a stranger approaches me with a comment like "Oh, we used to have one of those," "I’ve still got one of these up in the loft," or even (shouting while cycling past) "Have you done your shopping yet?"

Being approached in this way is pretty unusual here in England. I wished people went even further and uncovered their wicker baskets. It makes for a nice market shipping experience, gets you in touch with lots of people, and saves a lot of plastic bags. 

Plastic Fetish

Rubbish
It really is insane, don’t you think?

During any of my shopping, but during the weekly run to the supermarket in particular, I pay lots of attention to keep plastic to a minimum: I don’t plastic bag my shopping at the checkout, but use re-usable crates in my car instead. I don’t bag every piece of fruit or vegetable but am quite happy to buy 5 loose onions and 8 loose bulbs or garlic without a plastic bag each, etc.

I carry a wicker basket to the local shops and market, and I always get comments like "oh we used to have one of those, too."

Even though I believe that the amount of plastic that I carry home, and consequently throw away, is little compared to many other people, I am still quite shocked by the amounts.

As reported by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology‘s report on Household Waste (Postnote 252), plastic bags alone make only 1% of U.K. household waste by weight, but 20% of total household waste. I am not surprised about these figures when I watch people at the supermarket checkout. Something must change.

I suggest we all try starting with ourselves, using less and less plastic and recycling more and more of it by simple domestic re-use, or by finding one of the rare plastic recycling collection points.

It’s just insane. It really is.

 

England vs Portugal

London Mela 2005

After visiting Lisbon’s Farmers’ Market recently, I checked out our very own local West Ealing Farmers’ Market.

It’s actually pretty good: a fishmonger who does more than just Cod, Haddock and Plaice. Several meat stalls with a variety of traditional meats, game, and poultry, 2 or 3 bread and cake vendors, flowers, fruits and vegetables, pickles, and much more. That’s pretty cool for a tiny Saturday market, but it can of course not compete at all with Lisbon’s gorgeous offerings.

We are not at a total loss, though. The women of West Ealing with the European, African, Asian and rest-of-the-world mix of London, can well compete with those of Lisbon, and certainly outshine that one particular lady with ease.

It’s a draw. England vs Portugal 1:1

Grundgesetz Ja Grundgesetz

London Docklands (before the thunderstorm)
This is about strong encryption technology, the law, and about a rare reason to be proud to be German.

Encryption technology is available to more or less everyone these days that lets you encrypt a single email message, or a single document, or the entire hard disk content, in a way that is virtually unbreakable. Modern technologies are considered unbreakable even if the technology advances to much much more powerful computers. So far to the technological part.

Current American legislation views strong encryption technology as a defence weapon, prohibits export, and (presumably) flags any bearded user of such technology a potential terrorist. Legislation is behind in the U.K., producing a grey zone in which law enforcement agencies already complain about the unbreakable data on suspects’ computers. The British public shows little interest, and there is a real chance that encryption technologies will be governed by American-style legislation some time soon.

Conversely, some of the leading software developments in strong encryption technology, however, are founded, supported, and endorsed by the German government. How come?

It’s because the German constitution (the Grundgesetz) guarantees in article 10 that the privacy of mail or telephone communication is guaranteed and inviolable. The government funds these projects to provide a free and readily available way for every German citizen to attend to this civil right.

Makes me proud to be German, and should alert every Briton to watch out for the forthcoming advances in the great British surveillance state.

OOTO

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W7 is out of the office, out of town, and out of the country.

I’m even overseas, but that doesn’t mean much when living in the U.K.

Anyway. I do not expect to find time for blogging; regular posting shall resume on Thursday. Until then, take care of yourselves and enjoy the archives.

Godspeed!

Edward the Confessor
Is it just me? I have spent almost 10 years in the U.K. now, with frequent visits to the U.S. throughout those years, yet I have never seen or heard anyone withing me Godspeed. Not until recently, that is.
 

Have a nice journey, or Have a safe trip used to be the common formula, but now… Godspeed?

Is God a speedy god? Is He in the end not omnipresent at all, but wizzes around at amazing speed? How come this word of well-wishing appears to re-surface at the time of renewed religious… hm… euphoria?

I don’t know. It makes me feel like saying Keep Your God to yourself. It is in good hands there, and I don’t mind at all. If only everyone did the same, this planet would be a much nicer place.

Purely Random My A*!

Exhibit_f_lowres_1

Some of you might remember that I was randomly drawn from the electoral role last year to serve as a juror at court. You may recall posts at the start, in the middle, and at the end of my service.

The rules say that jurors must be randomly drawn so as to represent the community. Unlike the U.S, there is no process of interviews in the U.K, just a simple, democratic, random draw.

I had discovered last year already that the random draw is somewhat farcical, as they need jurors available for the estimated duration of the trial. So, they were keen on volunteers for the longer ones.

How surprised do you think I was when I got another juror summons recently? You guess it: not much. Other jurors had already told me, once you are in the random draw, you’re in. Randomly.

A complete farce.

Fortunately I could get off the hook this time, as the law only requires one service every two years. Expect a related post around the September 2007 time frame.

What to Do With Pheasants

Pheasant
I mentioned it before but must mention it again: The Silver Spoon is essential literature for anyone serious about cooking, for it contains excellent advise and no fashionable frills. Just my kind of book; a huge source of inspiration.

In addition to the recipes, I enjoy looking at the drawings that show the different cuts between England and Italy. My favourite must be the pork’s hint quarters, showing 3 English parts (chump, leg and hock), where the Italian cut simply says ham.

The book is also decorated with numerous helpful little drawings and diagrams, my favourite is shown here: What to do with a pheasant.