Monday, March 31, 2008

Crunch Munch

One of the things that always catchs me by surprise in life is those times you realise you've been missing something you hadn't known.

Take toast for example (yes I said toast). We've had the same toaster for a very long time. I also bake most of our bread. For toast I do this fairly yummy oatmeal bread (a mix of flours and rolled oats). Its a surprisingly light bread.

However, it never toasted very well. We'd put it in a couple of times and it would dry out nicely and make perfectly good toast. Dry, nice texture, just not overly brown.

Then recently our aged toaster packed it in. Just stopped working. I checked the fuses and what wiring I could get at, but no luck. Tinkers don't exist any more and any decent electrician who would even look at the job would charge far more than the cost of a new toaster. Its perverse, but that is our modern world.

So I went out and bought one of these. A thing of functional beauty. Yesterday, with a fresh loaf of bread we road tested it. What came out was astonishing. Brown and crisp on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. The flavour was even improved. It was a marvelous realisation. I'd had the toaster from before I started making bread. I'd always thought it was the bread. I never knew toast could be like this!

Sometimes, just sometimes you can blame the tool...

Monday, March 17, 2008

On feeling stale

I haven't known quite what to do with blogging lately. I am feeling stale and a tad on the boring side with my posting. I still enjoy reading, but have had to push myself to post. I think it shows. I don't intend giving up, but just need a bit of a break. I'm traveling this week anyway, then heading to the cottage for the long weekend. Nothing like a bit of windswept rambling through the Derbyshire Dales to clear the head.

So, though I will still be stopping by, I think I won't be posting for a bit. If you have any grand ideas for what you'd like to read, do let me know. Otherwise, ta for now!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Things that make you go Hmmm...

I don't talk about work much, my employer knows I blog, but has asked me to be discreet. However, I've let some things drop. I work in the Media industry, in that great wide work that inundates us with news, entertainment and advertising. I also work at the top of my field, with global oversite of a range of functions.

Yesterday was interesting. I spent time with our South African MD, discussing the issues and challenges which are unique to that nation. Some of it is fascinating, the challenges of using business to help address some of the wrongs of the past.

The bit of conversation that stopped me was about power. Electric power that is. South Africa doesn't have enough. They haven't been investing in infrastructure as the economy changed and people actually have started to rise out of poverty.

There is a huge internal conversation going on in the country about what to do about it. The thing that stopped me was when we got onto nuclear power. We're consulting the goverment about how to have the discussion. The problem is, in four of the fifteen languages there is actually no work for "nuclear".


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Animal Justice

So, we have had a sole male Guinea Pig for a while now, almost two years. We bought him when he was still an adolescent, so all he's known is us and our house. As Ali Baba just turned seven he was allowed a pet as well. We debated letting him have another indoor pet, but LL wasn't thrilled with the thought of another cage cluttering up the house. So, he had two options, get a Guinea Pig indoors, or have rabbits or chickens outdoors.

He wasn't keen on the idea of having to go outside every day to take care of it, so a second Guinea Pig it was. However, everyone we talked to said Adult Males just won't get along with another Adult Male in a closed cage, they will fight and very likely hurt each other. A female adolescent wasn't a good idea as our dear current male will likely molest her. The best bet, we were told, was an adult female who's had a few litters. She'll be calmer and know how to react to him.

However, we didn't want to start raising little piglets, so that meant our Boar getting the snip. Off to the vet he went, it all went fine, and we waiting a month to let it settle down. Last weekend was when we brought home our new girl.

Its been very traumatic in this boy's household, though it is now settling down. Clearly she was a scared little pig as she scuttered away to hide in their "home" in the cage, and just wouldn't come out. It Tom went in, it was for seconds before he came running out, obviously nipped. If she came out, he strutted and waggled his bottom butting up against her chittering away excitedly. He hasn't tried to mount her, poor thing clearly doesn't know what to do. He just gets into a high state of bother.

We've taken to getting him out of the cage for periods of time. Finally she's coming out to eat and drink. This morning I came down to find them both out eating, so its clearly settling down. As amusing as it is, I do wonder. We've kept our first pet on his own, it was all he knew. He seemed happy, and loved settling down in laps to be petted (he actually purrs). Now we've added a friend, but he doesn't really know what to do about it, and she's clearly been a scared little thing. Its now starting to calm down, and we think our goal of peaceful coexistence will work, but...

It feels a bit strange. I'm not big on animal rights, other than simple humane treatment. I do believe in animal testing being right, so long as it is for sound medical rather than cosmetic reasons. I also eat meat, and see no objection to continuing. So long as the animal was raised in good healthy conditions. Yet I'm feeling a bit out of sorts by two tiny little animals being pretty clearly not quite sure what's going on. Might have to think on this a bit.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Fine Boredom

It was a quiet weekend. Just puttering around the house, playing with the kids, reading the paper, and the requisite chores. I do like my house, but what is it about owning that means there is always a list longer than your arm of things to do? This weekend I changed a bunch of light bulbs, repaired a leak in the sink, did the last sweep of leaves from the drive, cleaned out the garage, disposed of three dead mice (I'm a deadly mouse exterminator me), turned over some soil to get it ready for LL to plant the spring veg, filled the bird feeder and made a little ramp for the Guinea Pigs to get in and out of their cage unaided.

Speaking of which, we now have a second Guinea Pig. Wee Tom has been a lonely boar, so we got him snipped and have brought in a mature sow to keep him company. I'm sure they'll get used to each other, but the cage was rather angst ridden. Poor Tom doesn't quite know what's up. He's never had another adult around, and now there's a female. Except he's had the snip, so though his instincts are telling him he should be interested, his body is telling him he can't, plus he doesn't really know what to do anyway. Very confusing.

Oh, and we went for a trip to look at bathroom porn. With the building works going ahead we have to decide how the new en suite will look. You can spend an awfully large amount of money on a modern bathroom. I think we likely will too, but it should look rather nice when we're done. At least it better.

Food was nice this weekend. Last night I got in a lowly half a salmon, poached it in a bit of white wine and served it up with a plain fish stock risotto, roast tomatoes and steamed marrow and mushrooms. Then banana splits for pudding (one of the kids favourite deserts, so we indulge them (I don't enjoy them myself (not at all))).

Friday, March 07, 2008

Eco Lust

Her sleek curves seduce me. Powerful legs leading to the perfect torso. She has the stamina of a horse, able to just keep going and going. There's no foreplay allowed, just touch her and she's off like a rocket. Together we can go for miles, either effortless and smooth, or fast and hot. Her socket is so seductive, promising guilt free delights.

Is it wrong to be seduced by this? Will be eco credentials be magnified or will I be a fat assed middle aged hypocrite? I don't know, so for now I stay in my tidy little Smart car, but maybe, just maybe I put down the deposit... LL laughed and said that if this is the worst my middle aged crisis can do then bring it on. Besides, she thought it looked pretty cool...

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Don't know if this counts as a meme or not, but this post is based on a boozy dinner the other night. We got on to the conversation of which books had changed our lives. For a book worm like me its not an easy question. Most books I read get my mind churning in one way or another, but saying that there are books which do stand out in my mind. So, a post, which books and why. I'd be curious what has happened in your life, but don't like doing the tagging thingy, so do it if it intrigues you.

1) Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathrusta - I read this in my late teens and it both excited and appalled me. I do not agree that all that does not kill us makes us stronger, but I can not help but observe that some humans are of stronger will and capability than others. However, that opinion also strongly informed my belief that all man is equal. Equal in rights, though not necessarily equal in ability. Also, that with strength comes responsibility. Those are my thoughts, not Neitzsche... I also rather reject that animals live to exert power over each other argument. He ignores the concept of will, and that cooperation is often necessary to survival. It changed my life in that it got me to think and define my own philosophy rather than whole heartedly accept anothers.

2) Heinlein's Stanger in a Strange Land - I read a lot of science fiction, some of which I will strongly contend is at the forefront of literature. This is an odd old book, written by a man probably taking a lot of drugs at the time. Its a hippy story as much as anything, but it really got me to quetsion God and define my spirituality. I don't mean that in a negative sense, it was a profound time for me. I am deeply religious, but not in a traditional sense. Some day I'll post on it, just not yet...

3) Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy - Though I took a degree in hard science (Math), I couldn't quite bring myself to do it forgoing all other things. One of the courses I loved was a small tutorial on Political Science. Two of my most heartfound books came out of the readings for this course. I read both the Prince and the Discourses. Its the Prince he's most well known for, but it wasn't meant as a training guide for dictators as is commonly thought, but as a warning. His Discourses, which is actually a collection of thought pieces, is a profound look at how Democracy should work. Many of the fundamentals of the American Constitution arouse out of Machiavelli. It still today informs much of my thinking on government and how it should work.

4) Asimov's Foundation Trilogy - Again, a bloody good sci fi romp, but he's got some underlying thinking that really gripped me. There is one theme that I still muse upon and struggle with today, "Violence is the last resort of the incompetent". He was not a pacifist by any means, but there is a whole philosophy of life in that one line. When is violence permissible, and how should you live to avoid it?

5) Smith's Wealth of Nations - Another book I struggled with, but really helped inform my own thinking. I am a capitalist and do believe in free markets. However, I also believe the free market does not have a place in all aspects of life. Education and Health benefit the nation as a whole, and do not go lightly with market economics. The book itself explores the nature of national economies, and is widely thought to be the starting point of economics as a discipline.

There are other books, which meant different things to me, so I could go on. However, those are the ones I remembered with a glass of wine in my hands, so its also where I'll stop.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Plague House

We're normally a pretty healthy house, but sometimes the bugs just win one over. First Ali Baba came down with a fevour then a bad cough (he had two days of school late last week), then Princess picked up the cough (but not the fevour) and spent the last two nights with the croup. So she's not going to school today. Finally LL woke up with stomach cramps this morning. She's soldering on in to work, but I'd lay money on her not making the day. She doesn't complain unless on death's door, so its not looking good.

I, however, seem to have escaped the worst (yes I knocked on my wooden desk just then). My eye sight seems to be settling down. Its goes occasionally blurry. Often I think because my eyes are quite gummy still. Sometimes because the poor muscles feel tired. However, I can read again, and I can see without glasses. A very odd sensation. I keep reaching up to straighten them, and walk around with the odd sensation that something's wrong. Then I realise that my mind thinks I shouldn't be seeing clearly. All very confusing, but in a good way.