Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Turning turtle

Or rather, turning tortoise.



still going


Yours, still not over it,

My problem with zoos

This photograph really captures why I feel bad about zoos. I had the camera on autofocus, of course, and it chose to see the cage and not the animal. And that is why zoos make me uncomfortable. I too see the cage, and I see the animal in the cage: and it makes me feel bad. And yet I go, and I give money to the zoo, and I support the system.

Yours, conflicted.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


So what are you dressing up as? Or are you? We have two little dressup artistes: Boo is going as a dog (she has a lovely costume which she picked out in the store) and Skibo as a knight in armour (a costume that he picked out as a toy as a reward for good behaviour a while back) with fairy wings on. Not sure why. His choice, and we are happy with that.
And then afterwards, we are taking Boo to dance class: the teacher has said that she can do ballet in her (way too hot) dog costume if she wishes....

Yours, pre-scared,

We all went to the zoo on Friday....

Last Friday we all went to the zoo: the local city has a small, but nice, zoo: a couple of elephants, which are always among the more distressing animals to see penned up: some giraffes, just obtained, who are not on show yet: a really nice collection of monkeys and apes, panthers, giant tortoises, birds, etc.
It was a very interesting visit too: the siamang apes were stunning in their vocal displays -- I suspect that they were telling us all "get out of here: this is our turf" or some such message....
The tortoises -- there were three or four of them -- were rather livelier than some that I've seen in the past: especially one rather large male who insisted on climbing on top of another (female?) who objected very loudly. And I suspect that she started rocking or something, because the one on top fell off. And promptly rolled over, and landed on his back. The dozens of people watching this just stood there laughing at his discomfort -- I ran to the snack bar to get them to radio for the zookeeper to help him over again: when I got back about five minutes later everyone was still there just watching and laughing: it appears that LOML and I were the only ones who thought that it was worth trying to summon some help! We were, and are, quite disgusted with that attitude!

Pictures to follow when I sort some out.

Yours, overturning the odds,

Monday, October 29, 2007

More dog pictures

Some pictures: three of Monty, the new dog, and lest you worry that we are neglecting our beloved Sojo, the sheltie, there's a lovely one of her at the end.

Yours, fourleggedly,

Slicing and dicing

One of the online stock-trading companies here has an advertisement tag-line "what can you do with just one finger?" I'd like to point out the two options of "slice or dice it" followed by "put gauze, bandages, etc on it, and hold it in the air until the bleeding stops".
I speak from experience here. I've done it many times.
Unfortunately most recently this evening.

Yours, feeling stupid,

Sunday, October 28, 2007


When I make bread, I always consider basing it on a recipe, and then always, always, always adjust the flour content to get the texture of the kneaded dough right. Recipes can never predict what the moisture content of the flour will be, how much liquid it will require to get the dough soft, say, but not too sticky.
This is one of the most difficult things to learn when making bread: one has to learn to not follow a recipe slavishly, but to adjust to make things right.
LOML and I had noticed last week when making pasta that the recipe seemed way off in terms of the amount of flour needed (or rather, LOML, learning to make pasta, was surprised by how much less was needed than the recipe predicted: or rather, again, how the pasta took an extra egg and a bunch of extra half-teaspoons of water before coming together to the right consistency).
So yesterday I actually measured the flour out with scales, used the lower estimate of the amount of flour needed for the bap dough, and ended up having to add about 25% more liquid in spite of this. Apparently our kitchen is really dry, beyond the aridity of the current drought!

Today, LOML went and bought a humidifier for the kids' room: if it is that dry in the kitchen, perhaps this is making it harder for them to fight those nasty coughs!

Yours, dryly,


It's been an odd few weeks: I went almost three weeks without baking a loaf of bread -- actually, strictly speaking, longer, since I didn't bake a loaf this weekend: rather I made a batch of flour-dusted scottish baps: they are a soft roll almost unknown outside the UK, and, back when I was last in Scotland, ubiquitous there. The dough is made with milk and a bit of butter, and is very tender: the crumb isn't expected to be too open: it should have some heft to it despite its softness.
A recipe may follow: and perhaps a photo. There was only time to take one. The rolls were devoured.
And delicious.

Yours, on a roll,

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Flu shots

LOML and Skibo were lucky enough to be able to get flu shots last week, at the school: however, since Boo was sick, she had to wait: and since I was driving my parents to the airport at the appointed time for the shots, I had to find another means of getting shot too.
Fortunately, the organization which provided the service was willing to give a raincheck on the shot for Boo, but it meant driving for 45 minutes to the big city (which is really only a small city, but it is the big city for us!) We decided to combine this with a trip to the zoo: and though I could have arranged to get a shot (actually yesterday morning!) through work, it seemed better that I go along and show Boo how getting vaccinations doesn't hurt at all.

The best laid plans of mice and breadmakers... we had timed everything perfectly: a quick trip to a fast food (yuck, I know, bad N, etc. etc. etc.) for early lunch, 45 minute trip to the city, appointment there at 12:30, then to the zoo.
First problem: although kids want to eat, they don't want to eat.
Second problem: Skibo has a splinter in his foot -- after eating, we drive back to the house to pick up implements of foot-torture: needle, bandaids, antibiotic cream, etc.
Third problem: Boo needs a potty break: I run her into the house.
Fourth problem: we've left stuff at the restaurant: swing back there, the stuff is still all there (including a little cash.... we got lucky!) We get on the road at last: thanks to starting out early, we are now just a few minutes behind: and LOML is driving, because I "drive too slowly".
Fifth problem: Skibo pipes up "I need to go potty". Pull over to gas station, run into the restaurants carrying him (his foot still has a splinter -- he can't walk fast), whip him in and out, and back on the road.
Thanks to LOML's driving and the complete non-intervention of any speed-checking law enforcers, we actually made it to the facility only a couple of minutes late. No problem.

We fill out forms, I pay for my shot, and go first --- the best nurse ever: I hardly feel a thing. Boo, on the other hand does her "I'm going to squirm and whine my way out of this if I can" act -- and eventually needs to be held firmly and bawls her poor little heart out. Fortunately after a couple of minutes she forgets why she's bawling, and settles down.

Off to the zoo, on which I'll have more to say in a separate post.

Yours, feeling shot,

Goat farm pictures

We were met at the farm by Sophie

inspected the goats: nubian



and the real reason to visit the farm: the egg production units.

Yours, in pictures,

Friday, October 26, 2007

Getting my goat

No, not really: there is unfortunately an anti-livestock regulation in town: not that we'd get goats, but we might get chickens if we could.
And no, I'm not referring to Resident Bush either, "My Pet Goat", as it were.
No, I'm talking about taking the children to visit nature. And not nature as it was intended to be, nature as in a farm.
A goat farm.

We are very lucky to have a very nice facility nearby: a well kept, almost-organic, humanely-treating, goat farm, about three miles from our house. They sell home made cheese, goat's milk, eggs (they keep chickens too: the goats' eggs are less palatable) etc. And best of all, they welcome visitors, any time they are open!

So Boo and Skibo and I left LOML to get some work done yesterday afternoon, and headed over to the farm. We were met at the gate by Sophie, a Great Pyrenean Mountain dog, gentle as a (rather huge) lamb: she came up and demonstrated that her actual breed was "lovehound": her main interest seemed to be in leaning on me hard enough to push me over:-)
We checked in at the store, just to let the folks know we were wandering around, and visited goats, pigs, chickens, donkeys, dogs: almost like being at a petting zoo --- except that it was so open and free-ranging: even though the animals were penned in, it felt less zoo-like...

After visiting all the animals we returned to the shop, bought a couple of dozen eggs -- fresh laid, we know where they are from, they taste great: how can we go back to store bought eggs? -- and a few other things: including postcards with pen-and-ink drawings of Sophie and of one of the goats, to pin up in Boo and Skibo's bedroom, to remind them of the trip!

I'm uploading photos now, and will post some of the visit later. Especially of Sophie:-)

Yours, just farming out the work,

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Perhaps the greatest speech in Shakespeare

Perhaps: perhaps merely one of the greatest. Wherever it stands in the pantheon of great speeches, it is surely one of the best, perhaps by anyone.
It begins with persuasion: don't ask for more to be with us, for then we'd have to let them share our glory: and follows with a promise of glories yet to come, to be celebrated, drunk to in years to come. And it rises to a crescendo with the lines we all know: "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers", promising that those not present will pale in comparison, even in their own minds. I can't listen to Olivier or Branagh's versions without a shiver.

Today is the feast of St Crispin and St Crispinian, a day that will live beyond any knowledge of the day, the saints or the reason to celebrate. Other than, of course, the following:

King Henry V:

What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmorland. No, my fair cousin:
If we are marked to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will, I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It ernes me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires:
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:
God's peace, I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more, methinks, would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more.
Rather proclaim it presently through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart. His passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is called the Feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a-tiptoe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall see this day and live t'old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say "To-morrow is Saint Crispian":
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars
And say "These wounds I had on Crispin's day."
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remembered.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now abed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day. (IV, iii)

This always gives me goosepimples!
Yours, ashiver,

It's beginning to look a lot like

It's (unfortunately) beginning to look a lot like deja vu all over again. Back in late 2002 and early 2003, when Boo was just a few months old, it was clear to both LOML and to me that Bush was determined to attack Iraq. At the time, as now, we were not sycophants of Bush. As such, we could see that some of his claims were questionable: there were plenty of sources, credible sources, questioning whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass distraction, not least the IAEA, who wanted most of all for their inspectors to be allowed to do their jobs. Boo got to attend quite a few vigils in a stroller in her early years: unfortunately none of them had any effect.

Today we learn that the Revolutionary Guard (boy, I bet they are wishing they had called themselves the Republican Guard right now) in Iran are officially being designated a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction. By the US, that is, in case there were any confusion. Its elite forces are being designated supporters of terrorism. These designations are accompanied by sanctions: this all sounds like a precursor to a drumbeat for attack.

The difference is, five years on, even in this country people are sceptical of anything that Bush or his administration says. And this time round that might even apply to the majority of democrats, perhaps even to a majority of those in Congress. If so, there is some hope that this inexorable swell to agression can be stopped in its tracks.

My suspicion is that if the administration wants to beat this drum, even here in the conservative south, they're going to discover massive opposition to their plans.

Yours, alarmed by the drumbeat,

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Not new to dogs

Awareness welcomed us earlier to dogland --- and I thought that perhaps I should point out that we are not new to dogs: we've had a dog now for more than 10 years --- our Sheltie/Chow mix was probably 5 years old when we adopted her in 1997, so she is really old now: unfortunately, it is beginning to show. I should point out that these photos were taken about 5 years ago, when they were both merely middle-aged or so!
We had to say goodbye to our Golden Retriever this past summer: we adopted him in August 2000, and he was probably already 6 then: he was definitely very old when he died this year: his face had a ton of grey and white in it. Thirteen years old is very old for a retriever, I gather, and I hope that we made his life fun for the years we shared with him!

Yours, doggedly,

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

They call it fall because that's when the leaves turn

Wait, that doesn't make sense.
Anyway: the leaves have only just started to turn colour this week or so, and since we had an incredibly late harsh frost, and incredibly hot drought conditions through most of the summer, the predictions are that the season for vivid colours will be short and not particularly good.

Such is life --- if I can't post a picture of the leaves turning on the trees, at least I can present a fallen beauty. This was lying on the ground in a parking lot last Friday, and I had to pick it up and save it!

Yours, turning,

It's not still summer

It really isn't still summer. It really isn't. The fact that it was 80 degrees Fahrenheit today (yes, that really is about 27 Celsius!) and it is nearly November is ridiculous. As was the sunset last week. Ridiculously beautiful.

Yours, rapt,

Monday, October 22, 2007

Integrity on the right

I suggested a week or two ago that there were a few running for the Republican nomination for Resident of the White House who I think have some integrity. Some small integrity. One such is Mike Huckabee.

The following is an example --- I really believe he believes what he says is true. It is also incorrect. He says of the signers of the Declaration of Independence,
"most of whom, by the way were clergymen". I'm sure he believes it. And the fact that he believes it is exactly why someone like him shouldn't become President. He is willing to subvert facts to his beliefs.

The truth: perhaps as many as several were or had been clergymen. Nowhere near a majority. Probably not as many as 10 percent.

Yes, I think that he has integrity, and to Republican voters, especially those who want to believe the founders were ministers, it will probably serve him well. But his beliefs on so many issues are so far from reality that he is a really scary prospect.

Yours, getting ready for Hallowe'en,

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Political comedy

Just watching The Amazing Mrs Pritchard -- a wonderful satire on politics. Humour, drama, it's got the lot. It's amazing to see some old names from British politics appearing as cameos, and the impersonations of other voices like Blair have been very good too. For a political junkie like me, a royal treat:-)


First photo of the new arrival

First photo of Monty

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fostering first

Well, LOML arrived home this afternoon with a lovely little cocker spaniel.
As yet unnamed (Boo wanted to name him "Boo", but that would just be too confusing!) So far, Monty looks like a possibility. Suggestions greatly appreciated (if probably ignored!)

Photos to follow -- they're taken, downloaded, being uploaded to be downloaded then uploaded.

Yours, still dogged,

Update on new dog situation

Well, LOML was planning to go to the shelter yesterday, and we had decided which of the dogs we were most interested in (although it is always the case that in this sort of situation you let your heart win out when you get to the shelter).
Except that the shelter was closed yesterday. And today. And tomorrow.
Fortunately, the school is on vacation next week, and so LOML is off and can go see the animals on Monday.
And be assured, when a new face arrives, it will be a matter of minutes before photographs are taken. And after that, a matter of mere weeks before I download, upload, upload and show the photos;-)

Yours, doggedly,

Friday, October 19, 2007

Tortured logic

So apparently Mukasey, nominee for head of the Justice Department, Attorney General of This Great Land (TM), has said that "torture is unconstitutional". I say "apparently", since the quote that I actually heard this morning was
If water-boarding is torture, torture is unconstitutional.
Unfortunately, he was unwilling to specify that water-boarding actually is torture, and so we know nothing of the conclusion that he reaches.

Yours, tortured,

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I wouldn't have voted for him

I couldn't conceive of voting for Sam Brownback, and even though he was visiting the area next week, wouldn't even have gone to see him. But I am sorry that he has dropped out of the Republican race for Resident of the White House.
I disagree wholeheartedly with almost everything he believes in, I suspect, but I do believe that he has some integrity. I am not sure that I feel the same way about any of the frontrunners in that race.

It's funny --- my parents were completely bemused by the fact that the election isn't until November. Next year. And yet the races are in full swing --- whereas in the UK an election is announced, campaigns happen, the votes are counted, and winners sworn in, all in about a month.

Yours, enjoying the spectator aspects of the race,

We have our own bed back

LOML and I are no longer sleeping in the kids' room on the futon. Oh my, are we happy to have our own bed back!

My parents have flown back to England after a good visit: three whole weeks is a long time, but we all behaved and everyone had a good time. Well... sometimes the kids played up, but they are only three and not-yet-five, so it is forgiveable!

So, I now have lots of free time (hah! as if) to blog --- except that work is getting hectic again, with hiring and other things going on, and the kids are generating parent-teacher conferences, school fetes, etc. Still, I'll try. And occasionally, perhaps, even a cogent post.

Yours, spreading out,

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


WW III????? WTF is w/ W?

Confused, bemused, and not at all amused,

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Stephen Colbert

So it seems that Stephen Colbert is announcing for president of the "favorite son" party in South Carolina. I wonder how seriously he might be taken. If at all....

Yours, amused and intrigued, though unlikely to consider him,

On the environment: changing behaviour

If we decide that my arguments are convincing (more accurately, the better and more persuasive arguments of smarter scientists and politicians than I will ever be!) then we have to face the next question.
How can we effect the necessary changes? How can we make them as painless and cost-free as possible?

It seems to me that there is a definite distinction between the actions of corporations and the actions of individuals. Of course, this hubris could just reflect the fact that I am not a corporation, I am a stubborn individual, who sees the little that I put into the cesspool as insignificant compared to the looting and polluting of big business.

But that is the tragedy of the commons: we all foul our common space, in small amounts, and drown in trash. How can we encourage individuals to be more environmentally friendly?
What can we use as a carrot, and do we also need a stick?
The stick is easy: let's increase the price of energy: it seems high here in the US right now, since we've recently had significant increases in oil prices --- however, the only effect of this seems to be bigger profits for the oil companies. How much better to raise prices a bit and have the taxes used to fund the carrots? The carrots? Tax breaks for individuals who put solar panels on their roof or insulation in their attic. Legislation encouraging power companies to buy surplus solar power from individuals.

On the corporate end, unfortunately, in the US the prospects are bleak. Corporations own the government, paying for their election and re-election. Look at the farm subsidies, huge proportions of which go to the mega corporations. Legislation is written specifically to protect the biggest donors. Ethanol is encouraged, despite being largely a sop to corn country: inefficient to grow, environmentally unfriendly in its own right. I wish I could see a way forward, but I can't, not while the current system of electoral purchase prevails.

And so it is doubly incumbent on us as citizens to do more as individuals and to persuade our elected officials to put incentives for individuals in place, to make up for the fact that we are not going to get corporate restrictions passed.

Yours, depressed,

Monday, October 15, 2007

On the environment: catastrophes cusps and cliffs

In the 1970's a new field, catastrophe theory, became rather popular in mathematics: or at least, in the scientifically literate population's view of mathematics.
One notion that became popularized was that of being at a cusp, and the possibility of a very rapid transition from one situation to another, in a not-easily reversible fashion.
Being a fan, as I was at that age, of cartoons, I think of these more visual terms: especially that of running or driving along a road, encountering a cliff: if one drives on, one experiences a sudden, hard to reverse, loss of altitude. Of course, in cartoons, the characters don't actually fall until they realise that it is too late.

There is a possibility that we are at a cusp regarding the environment right now. It is not impossible, and I fear likely, that we are already off the cliff, and our legs are still going: we just haven't seen it yet. Here's why.
We are all aware of the fact that carbon dioxide is a ''greenhouse gas'': it traps energy and leads to a warming effect. But there is a secondary effect too: there are large deposits of methane frozen in the tundra in the permafrost, and there are signs that the permafrost is thawing: now, methane is also a greenhouse gas, as bad as or worse in this regard than carbon dioxide. And as the temperature rises, more permafrost will thaw, and more methane will be released. And as more methane is released, the temperature rises, and more methane is released, until a new stable situation is arrived at.

The fact that the new situation is stable doesn't mean that it is good, or even tolerable: it merely means that it will be a lasting situation for a while. And if it is a few degrees hotter on average than now, that will be a disaster for life as we know it.

Yours, on a cusp,

On the environment: Pascal's wager

In an attempt to convince non-believers, the great thinker Blaise Pascal argued roughly as follows:
if God exists, and one doesn't believe, the loss is infinite,
if God exists, and one does believe, the gain is infinite, the cost finite
if God doesn't exist and one doesn't believe, the gain is nothing
if God doesn't exist and one does believe, the gain is nothing, the cost finite
He then argues that because the infinite trumps the finite every time, if there is a small probability that God exists then the right choice is to believe.
He is absolutely correct in this simple game, although as many others have pointed out, there are other possibilities which complicate the game, and hence the analysis.
In particular, his assessment of the existence of God was based on faith, not on evidence, and as such, it gives no reason to suppose that there is a positive probability of God existing (there is also, of course, the more powerful objection that it supposes belief in the correct God: there are several religions dominant among humans alone: how do we choose which one?) Wikipedia has a rather nice discussion of the issues raised, and the arguments for and against Pascals ideas.

However, on environmental issues, I think that there is another version of Pascal's wager which is, while perhaps less compelling to those of a religious bent, rather important.

Consider the following: there are those who argue that we are experiencing global warming (G), and those who insist that we are not:
if G exists, and we do nothing, we face catastrophe
if G exists, and we act, we may avert catastrophe, and the cost is moderate
if G doesn't exist and we do nothing, we are fine
if G doesn't exist and we act, the cost is moderate, and we are fine.
Since catastrophe is awful, we ought to act.

The difference for me, as a non-theist, between Pascal's wager and the Global Warming wager, is that Pascal based his argument that the probability of the existence of the all-powerful outcome (in his case, the existence of God) on faith, and not on evidence. The faith was conclusive for him, and hence sufficient to give (for him) a positive probability of the outcome.

The situation with respect to Global Warming is different: there is evidence that Global Warming is happening, and that it may lead to a catastrophic breakdown in the environment. This is the all-powerful outcome: the question is whether there is a positive probability that the scientists who argue for its truth are correct.
As a scientist, I understand that there is no proof: that is a notion reserved to mathematics and logic, in which we can have absolute certainty. The theory of gravitation is a scientific theory: it holds that certain physical situations can be modeled accurately in certain ways: it produces testable predictions, and if a prediction fails, it needs explaining: this leads to modified, improved, or outright new theories: general relativity, for example. These new theories then get tested, modified, etc.

Global warming is somewhat different: it is a post-hoc explanation for an observed phenomenon, namely that average temperatures have increased by a significant amount over the past few years. It is difficult to compare average temperatures to periods before they were measured, and this makes it difficult to judge whether similar situations have existed in the past, or to what extent we are responsible (or should I say irresponsible?) for causing this warming.
Global warming nay-sayers tend to argue that the warming we have seen isn't happening, is natural, has happened before and isn't really all that significant.

I think that the evidence that things have warmed recently is significant: if you study the statistics of records, you can how likely it is that in 100 years of measurements, what is the likelihood that a new record will be set in a given year, and what is the likelihood that new records will be set in, say, three consecutive years. The likelihood that we would have set as many record highs over the past ten years, given a stable weather pattern, is miniscule. Take it over thirty years, and the evidence points not just to things being warmer, but to the trend being continued warming.

I'm not going to argue that the warming is not natural, or that it hasn't happened before: if global warming exists, whether or not it is natural, or has happened before, if it is likely to cause problems, we ought to try to do something about it.

On the fourth point, that global warming is not that significant, I invoke Pascal's wager. There are serious arguments, based on serious evidence, made by serious people, that global warming is likely to be catastrophic. There are scientists, a few, who discount this. But they are few, and they don't argue that to act would be catastrophic, just expensive, or ineffective.

So, the G(lobal) W(arming) version of Pascal's wager is laid.
GW: are you listening?

Yours, just getting warmed up,

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Blog Action Day

is coming up tomorrow. The theme is tackling the issue of the environment: the goal is to get as many blogs as possible talking about the theme.
I'm participating: indeed, with the last couple of posts I've accidentally contributed some of my thoughts already.

Are you participating?

Yours, not alone,

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I wish for the choice

The question was raised in the comments whether I have signed the Run, Al, Run
petition. I have not yet done so.
I'm dreadfully conflicted on this.
I think that Al Gore would be the best person currently running or being urged to run by more than a few hundred people: the best person to run as a democrat, the most likely to win, and the best person to be president.
I think that the Supreme Court made idiots of themselves seven years ago when they decided to install Bush, on dubious grounds, as president. He has been a disaster, and will live on in history, or rather in infamy, as such.
All that said, I am not sure that I want Al to run. I fear the power of the noisemakers, and I fear the issue of the environment. And I fear that if Al runs, the issue of the environment may become such a noisemaker issue that his running, win or not, could end up making it harder for a Democratic president to make the right sort of differences. Perhaps, just perhaps, standing on the sidelines is the right decision, not for his own future, for his own ambition, but perhaps it is the right decision for the country, and more importantly, for the world.

It is only perhaps, which is why I am still on the fence. And I may yet sign the petition. I just don't know. The environment is just that important. Terrorism is horrendous. 911 was horrific. But the environment could be the end.

Yours, running scared,

Friday, October 12, 2007

A gentler environment

Here's towards a gentler environment, to temperate temperatures, and damper droughts.
And here's to the Nobel Peace Prize making this come to pass sooner rather than never. I like the choice.

Yours, wishing Al would run,

Thursday, October 11, 2007


I have for some time now been the magic person in Boo and Skibo's lives: well, at least equal part-time magic person, with LOML, the equal partner in all of this. But I've been the one doing the really silly magic disappearing sleight of hand: the sorts of things that they should have seen through ages ago. And it gives me a huge thrill, even still, when they look at me with wonder in their eyes, and go "that's magic!".
Today, the one thing that I took home was how to do a magic trick. And I showed it to them. And it worked. Time and time again. Except when it didn't! But when it did, it was great --- and the best part of it is that LOML and my parents watched too, and had no idea how it works:-)

As a friend of mine with IBM (the International Brotherhood of Magicians) puts it, "don't ask how it's done. I'd have to kill you. And I'd hate to have to do that".

Yours, ad abracadastra,

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Fresh audience

One of the nice things about having my parents visit is that it gives me a whole new, fresh audience for all of the things that I'm trying out on the culinary front.

After Sunday, when my mother was unimpressed (and justifiably so) with the yorkshire puddings (I turned down the temperature in the oven too soon) and the roast potatoes --- although she did like the roast beef we had: it was superb, if I say so myself --- I made lasagna on Monday. And she and my father were both impressed: it was really good, and they enjoyed it.

Today I did scotch eggs again: and once again, they were really good. Of course, my father won't touch them: he doesn't eat eggs, he doesn't eat sausage, and he won't touch anything which is deep fried. He has good health reasons for this, so I will forgive him.

One more week of their visit: I'll have to put on my thinking cap as to what else to cook for them!

Yours, thinking ahead,

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Lasagna again

From scratch, natch. Yesterday I made another batch of fresh pasta, and then LOML used the sauce from Saturday's spaghetti bolognese (well, meat, tomato, etc sauce: it's not really Bolognese, since I use ground beef rather than the veal, pork and beef mix which I've seen used, and I put more tomatoes in than is traditional). Anyway, the sauce was really good, and we managed to get three meals out of it: spag bol once and lasagna yesterday and today.
And so far, the kids have always eaten the homemade lasagna --- even Skibo, who usually insists that he doesn't like noodles of any form. And even my father ate the lasagna, in spite of it having cheese in it...

A suggestion. Pasta is easy to make if you have a food processor and a rolling pin (although this time I actually used the pasta maker LOML bought me a few Christmases back, and it did a lovely job): just combine the appropriate amounts of flour, egg, water, salt, oil in the bowl, process until it's a firm dough, refrigerate for an hour or two, and roll out into lasagna.
And the texture is so different from the store bought noodles in this dish!
And so the suggestion is: try this at home. I'm not a trained professional!

Yours, amateurishly,

Monday, October 8, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all in Canada, and to all not in Canada who want to help them celebrate! We had a feast with friends yesterday, and though they weren't Canadian, at least they were from Vermont, which is close.

Yours, gratefully,

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A link to the Weekend Update on SNL

A link to the piece by Chevy Chase last night on Weekend Update on
Saturday Night Live:
this is hosted by the good folks at, which is why I link to their post rather than to the videos.
If you like (or detest) american politics, check it out!

Yours, linking,

Oh please, oh please

Saturday Night Live: please bring back Chevy Chase on a permanent basis!
Brilliant news spoof.

Yours, begging,

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Closed Captioning

BBC America has a very funny announcement running at the moment: something along the lines of John Oliver (the British guy from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart) saying something like: "This programme contains accents that you'd have heard a lot more of if you hadn't thrown our tea into Boston Harbour", followed by a woman explaining, also in a British accent, how to turn on the closed captioning on the television.

The best part about it? It is not closed captioned!

Yours, non-self-referentially,


A personal record: I did some origami with Boo and Skibo earlier, at Boo's request: so I precreased a simple paper airplane, and then folded another one alongside her, while she folded the pre-creased one: she did a wonderful job, and I felt very proud of her:-)
And then Skibo asked me to make him, and to show him how to make, a boat. Let's see: Skibo is just 3. Origami with a three year old. Even pre-creased, there's only one word. Well, two: challenge, and crazy.
I'm always up for a challenge. So I pre-creased a couple of simple boats: it is one of the classic origami pieces which is great to start with for beginners, and I have to say, he did a wonderful job of folding it. I had to help him a very little bit, but basically, he's done his first origami. At three years and two months old.

Yours, creased with a smile,

Friday, October 5, 2007

Friday. Fish and Chips

Beer batter (couple of cups of flour, couple of bottles of beer, a little salt, baking powder, cayenne pepper, whisked, chilled for about an hour). Deep fried. Good.

Of course, my father had onion soup left from the previous day, and then baked beans on brown rice. But the rest of us had fish and chips. I did a mix of fish: some cod, some tilapia and some (relatively local) large shrimp. All good, but the shrimp were amazing!

Yours, in a case of salt and battery,

Thursday, October 4, 2007

In praise of Burma

I discovered a few years ago that the country I had known in geography classes as Burma was now called Myanmar. This struck me as a pain (having to learn yet another new name) and yet probably justified: if the Chinese don't call Beijing by a name which sounds like Peking, we probably shouldn't either. And I assumed that Burma --- Myanmar was the same.
Today, however, I discovered that the name "Myanmar" was adopted by the military regime, and has been opposed by those opposed to the regime. And given the brutal nature of the current repression of dissent going on in Burma, I feel that the US, British and other governments are fully justified in the use of the name Burma for the time being.

Yours, because I care about getting names right,
What a day in politics!
Bush shows that he really cares about kids, but only the really poor ones, and even then, not that much. Even Republicans are mad at him for this veto...
It looks as if the two Koreas, North and South, are ready to sign a peace agreement: unfortunately, since the US was a signatory to the ceasefire, they also need to sign off on the peace, and at the moment are unwilling to do so. Yay! Let's keep that 50 year old dead war going!
Larry Craig is denied the right to withdraw his guilty plea, and decides as a result that he will remain in the Senate until the end of his term, rather than resigning last week...
And finally, the Republicans have released their logo for their national convention next summer. In Minneapolis, just down the street from the airport. Yes, that airport, the Larry Craig airport. And the logo appears to be an elephant. With what to me appears to be a rather wide stance.

Yours, depressed, amazed and amused,

Sputnik: 50 years ago today

This morning, as is my wont, I went to wend my weary way to the cafe --- to fill my veins with caffeine before I needed to use my brain.
And in the cafe, the baristas were wearing little orange pointy things on wires attached to headbands on their heads. My immediate thought was "but Sputnik wasn't orange was it??" only to realize that it is already October, and hence they were wearing early hallowe'en costumes.

Yours, in error, spookily

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Retro design

As promised, a picture of the retro breadbox....

Yours, reliving the fifties (for the first time, since I missed the original)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Parents and food

I sometimes think that there is a hope that one day my children will eat more different foods than my parents will! Actually, my mother is willing to try most things, and has an open mind too -- but my father is extremely set in his ways.
The strangest thing about this, though, is that he actually likes an enormous variety of foods, appreciates very spicy foods, likes lots of different flavours, etc -- but at the same time, he's absolutely unwilling to try new things.

Very strange. At least he's easily satisfied with a can of beans. And he did try the paella, and enjoy it (though I had to make two batches, one with squid, one without....)

By comparison, so far, at under 5, Boo and Skibo eat a relatively diverse range of foods -- relative to their friends, whose cuisines consist of just noodles, noodles with cheese, or just cheese, that is. I'm actually quite hopeful that they are both about to blossom, food wise!

Yours, in anticipation... of decades ahead, probably,

Monday, October 1, 2007

Bread box photos

will be coming. As soon as I find the camera, take some pictures, download the photos, upload the photos, download the photos, upload the photos (yes, you read the last four steps correctly) and pick which ones to show you.

Who'd have thought so many people would want to see a picture of a $7.50 breadbox!

Yours, cheap at half the price,


Stuff'n'fuff'n'fruff'n Microsoft.
I've just spent an hour trying to get OpenOffice to work with MS's new, supposedly "open" format, .docx. Only to discover what everyone else has. It's a pain in the frigging proverbial parts. And there are idiots out there who insist on saving documents in the format that MS chooses as the default, so that it makes it difficult for others to open them..... One of whom pestered LOML this evening saying "I sent you the file in .docx format: I saved it but I can't open it any more". AAAARRRRGGGHHH I find clueless users so frustrating on occasion.
And I'm not referring to LOML here.

Yours, growling dangerously,