Saturday, July 31, 2010

Poor players

All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.
Or, in the case of North Korea, all the world's a field, and and all the football
players merely peons.  And apparently, their god-like ruler didn't take kindly to their achievements in South Africa last month.

Yours, in heartfelt sympathy,

strange laws

Having grown up in the UK, I have always found the US and Canadian laws regarding alcohol rather amusing.  Except, of course, when they apply to me.  It is a pain in the neck having to remember to buy wine on Saturday if I'm having guests over on Sunday, for example.
Anyway, Pennsylvania has amongst the strangest laws in the country.  Four days before prohibition was repealed in the 30's, the state created the Liquor Control Board, with an explicit aim to make it as expensive and inconvenient as possible to drink alcohol.  It's still in place.  You can buy a six-pack of beer from a bar, but to buy wine or spirits, you have to go to a state-run store.  And, of course, never on a Sunday!  (Actually, I just checked that fact, and it's false: 12-5pm on Sundays in a few stores, but most are closed)

But still, times change, and things become more rational.  And Pennsylvania continues to confound.  They've just made it possible to buy wine in a handful of grocery stores, but the method that they've chosen boggles the mind!

Yours, completely bamfoozled by the concept that someone somewhere could possibly think that this was a good idea,

Friday, July 30, 2010

From The Spanish Table

On Wednesday, I cooked a recipe from The Spanish Table, one of our new cookbooks: I went with roasted potatoes with piquante tomato sauce and an allioli (to which I added some Dijon mustard), together with my standard breaded chicken and vegetables.
It tasted so good, and there was so much allioli and tomato sauce left that last night I made pizza, topping it with the tomato sauce, and serving the allioli on the side to dip the pizza in.  It was transformational.  That good.  Hyperbole, and in italics, yet.
Tonight, we're going to see if we can tempt K&K to come over for dinner, with pork chops on the menu: served, as it happens, with piquante tomato sauce and Dijon allioli. 

Yours, happy with the way the first recipe from the cookbook turned out, and excited to try more,

Thursday, July 29, 2010

So hot

Still so hot here, still so hot.  When it's this hot, at 11pm at night, who can think of anything else to say?

Yours, aswelter,

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A wonderful pair of tongue twisters

Last night on Colbert, I heard a wonderful tongue twister, recited jointly by Kevin Kline and Stephen Colbert.
Oh what a to-do to die today at a minute or two to two,
A thing distinctly hard to say but harder still to do,
And they’ll beat a tattoo at twenty to two, a rat-a-tat-tat, a tat-a-tat-too,
And the dragon will come when he hears the drum,
At a minute or two to two today, at a minute or two to two.

Looking this up afterwards, I also found this one, whch I like also:

Amidst the mists and fiercest frosts with barest wrists and stoutest boasts,
he thrusts his fists against the post and still insists he sees the ghost.

They bring back memories of warmups before rehearsals.
Yours, twisted, tongue-wise


Relative to my post earlier, I should also add that the fact that I've got lots done, in spite of having a five hour schedule in the classroom every day, strikes me as quite unbelievable.  But it's true, I tell you, true!

Yours, honestly!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Preparing for presentations

Occasionally I am a procrastinator.  I admit it.  The fact that it is even describable tongue in cheek as "occasionally" I owe to my parents, especially my father, for persuading me gently but firmly, and with great effort on his part, to get homework done when I was younger.  (Thanks, Dad!)
But still, sometimes, I wait until the work left can expand to exceed the time available.  Fortunately, for next week's talks, I may have hit the timing on the nose.  I am finally feeling like I have nearly enough time to be prepared for my talk -- if I have just a few more weeks to work on it! 
I'll be ready.  One way or another.

Yours, having only procrastinated a little over the past couple of days,

Monday, July 26, 2010

Heat and sleep

Whether it was the heat, the fan on medium instead of high (which I eventually turned off: it kept intruding into unpleasant half-dreams), or whether it was the fact that the children both decided they needed to sleep with us last night, sleep didn't go well yesterday.
And tonight, planning to get an early night, I check the weather and see that it is supposed to be stormy until midnight.  Which means that Bella will be attempting to get into bed with us instead.  Ugh.

Yours, looking forward to rather cooler weather next week in Pittsburgh,

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Another sad death

I used to enjoy watching snooker many years ago when I lived in the UK: unfortunately pool is a poor substitute for the subtlety of snooker (and it annoys the heck out of me when they use the term "billiards" to refer to it --- billiards is a far more interesting game than pool).
And in the seventies or early eighties, I remember a whirlwind of a player, not always winning, but always a showman, always entertaining.  Alex "Hurricane" Higgins was a joy to watch.
Unfortunately he was also a heavy smoker, and he died this week of a battle with throat cancer.  He was only 61.

Yours, in memoriam,

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A lovely time at the lake

LOML, Boo and Skibo have been planning to go camping at the lake with our friends for a while --- I had thought that I might not go with them, not liking camping very much.
However, I decided this weekend that I'd go with them, at least for the first night: as hot as it was (and it was hot!) I felt bad that I've not camped out with them at all.  The sleeping in the tent itself was not great, but I managed okay.  The rest of the trip was lovely --- swimming in the lake, sitting at a picnic table talking to lovely people, generally having a lovely relaxed time.
So, here's a word of thanks to E&S for inviting us along and including us in the fun!

Yours, really glad that I went,

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sad news today

I've been a huge fan of NPR's political analyst, Daniel Schorr, who regularly appeared on Scott Simon's program, Weekend Edition Saturday.  He always approached his analysis with wit and humour, and when appropriate, sober reflection.
This afternoon, I saw the announcement that he has died, at the no-longer-tender age of 93. 

Yours, thanking him for the commentaries,

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A new toy

I'm taking a trip in a week or two, driving, and the city I'm visiting is rather convoluted.  So I've bought a toy: a portable GPS for the trip.  It's due to arrive tomorrow, and I'm rather looking forward to playing with it.

One thing LOML and I used to do before the children came on the scene was to drive randomly around the area, exploring.  I enjoy doing this, but only when I have a map, and know that if necessary I can find my way out of being lost.  This will open that possibility back up for us!

Yours, in high anticipation,

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I have to say, I am increasingly uncomfortable with the fact that the Republican senator I agree with least infrequently (I hesitate to say most often) is Lindsay Graham.  Why, I remember him from the days when he was one of the worst of the worst, managing the impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives way back when.
He's become slightly more sane, perhaps, but his party has slid relentlessly, not to the right, but to the ridiculous.

Yours, troubled,

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Breakfast for dinner

The crumpets were such a hit with the children on Sunday morning that I thought we'd eat breakfast this evening: I threw together a batch of batter for crumpets when I got home, and cooked them on skillet, together with bacon and scrambled eggs.  The kids loved it.
LOML and I enjoyed it too: occasionally it's okay to just eat breakfast in the evening.

Yours, not suffering time lag at all,

Monday, July 19, 2010

A nice compliment today

Last year, a colleague and I presented several hours of workshops on using some software packages.  And today, I heard from the person that is running the same program for this year's conference that one of the big selling points in persuading her to run the program was "it'll be easy: just get the two of them to do the same thing again: they were a big hit"!

A nice compliment.  We're doing it again in November.

Yours, planning a repeat performance,

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sharp knives

I sharpened our knives yesterday ---  I try to do this every few months, and I believe that the last time I did so was about four or five months back, so they were due for honing.
I use a nice piece of equipment which my parents got LOML and me as a wedding present: and it does a consistent and nice job, leaving a good sharp blade without removing too much steel.
So now, we have nice sharp knives again for the next little while.

Yours, always happy to hone for friends too,

New food

At the suggestion of a couple of friends, we've added a few new cookbooks to our collection: specifically books on the cuisines of Turkey, Georgia (ex USSR), Spain, India and the Sichuan province of China.
We have decided to try once a week or so to make dishes from one of these books, and picked Turkey to begin with.  So this evening we had a dinner party, serving eggplant pilaf, filo with a spinach filling, and white bean with red onion salad.  It was delicious, and hopefully we will have the energy to continue experimenting weekly for a while.
The other culinary note today was that I made crumpets again, for the first time in several years --- quite successfully: in particular, Skibo and Boo both wanted more, and Skibo asked if I could make them again tomorrow morning.  I promised him that I'd make them again sometime soon, but not tomorrow.

Yours, having fun in the kitchen,

Saturday, July 17, 2010

fish cakes, and zucchini pancakes

This evening I made fish cakes, with leftover wild salmon from last night, and LOML made wonderful zucchini pancakes, from zucchini grown by our friends (we'd have used our own, except that Bella has eaten all of ours).  Delicious, comforting food. 
Would that the children had eaten it.  Boo fell asleep a half an hour or more before dinner (and is still asleep hours later), and Skibo took a few bites but refused to like it.

Yours, so looking forward to the children discovering real food,

Friday, July 16, 2010

Congratulations to two students

My high school student, working with me for the summer, gave a lovely poster presentation this afternoon!  She has done a great job for the past seven weeks, and I hope that she will continue the great work.
Following the poster session, one of my former students finished her Masters degree with a masterful presentation on coding theory.  Here's hoping that she continues on soon to a PhD!

Yours, proud of my former and current students,

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 12 of boot camp

We've put the students through twelve days so far of boot camp: we're about half way through the course, and at a couple of  hours of lectures per day, plus another couple of hours or more of student presentations of homework, we're exhausted.  All of us, faculty included!

But, as tiring as this course can be, it is probably the best thing I ever teach, both for the fun it is to teach it, and for the impact it has on the students.

Yours, prepared for tomorrow's lecture,

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Good luck with the recovery

I may detest Dick Cheney's politics, his ideas, his influence on American politics and daily life.  But I wish him well recovering from his latest heart treatments.  And a long recovery, with a doctor enforced separation from all things political.

Yours, in a spirit of bipartisanship, I'll wish that everyone in the country had the same access to this level of healthcare,

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Another I have nothing to say day

Just nothing.  Nothing.  How terrible.

Yours,  silently, except for the non-silent part,

Monday, July 12, 2010

Remember the days of summer?

Remember those days of summer, when you were young, and could run around outside all day long, when cares were saved for the return of the school year, when ice cream trucks would sing their songs, and your parents would occasionally let you go buy a '99' or an ice lolly?
Some of that freedom pervades Boo and Skibo's lives these days --- they are swimming a lot, and having swimming lessons this week -- but much of it does not. 
For a start, it's just plain too damn hot here in the summer for them to be outside the whole time: close to twenty degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the temperatures I grew up with in Britain: and I have not heard a single ice cream truck all summer.
And unfortunately, it's just so easy for me to give in, to let them watch a movie or tv show, or play games on the computer.  I need to do better, do origami or science experiments with them, read, and have them read to me: just talk with them!

Yours, not failing as a parent,  but feeling a need to do better,

Sunday, July 11, 2010


When  I was a little older than Boo, five or six years older,  I remember going to a movie with my grandma.  We went to see Murder On The Orient Express, and it was a wonderful experience: the actors were the roles they played, the music was evocative of a time gone by, and a train abroad;  and the mystery held my attention until I saw the movie to its conclusion.

Tonight,  I watched the third adaptation of the story that I've seen: David Suchet is, of course, unbeatable as Poirot, and the script and dialogue were tight and well controlled.    But I loved the believability of the characters, in a way that I missed with the first two movies.  What a nice surprise with a new version.

Yours, expressly,

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A working day

At work from 8, back home mid afternoon, makes for a quiet Saturday.
Hopefully we'll have a nice quiet Sunday too.   No need for excitement at the moment.

Yours, gently,

Friday, July 9, 2010

End of one program

The summer returns tomorrow to its normal, just busy, phase.  The research program came to an end today (at least, the daily gatherings aspect of it: the research is going to continue for a while still).  This just leaves the boot camp for graduate students, which not only continues for three more weeks, but is also meeting tomorrow --- to make up for having Monday as a holiday (which was itself to make up for July 4th falling on a Sunday).

Yours, hard at work,

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bedtime: three faults and a refusal

Lots of "discussions" this evening at bedtime.  All three of us at fault: Boo, Skibo and especially me.  I lost my cool, and refused stories for a while --- which upset them both.  Eventually, I got Skibo to brush his teeth, and I relented on the stories.  He fell asleep before Aladdin reached the exciting "new lamps for old" finale: Boo was awake when I'd read to her, but drifting.
With luck they'll be better in the morning.....

Yours, kicking myself for losing my cool,

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The cat's away, so the mice will play

LOML is out of town for a couple of days, so the children and I are playing: after walking the dogs, and running to the store to get lunches for them for tomorrow, we went to the local restaurant for grilled cheese sandwiches and french fries for dinner.

We're now sitting prepared for bed: dessert eaten, pyjamas on, teeth brushed, and Boo is reading a chapter to Skibo (who unfortunately is bouncing off the ceiling).  However, bouncing notwithstanding, it's a lovely image across the room from me.

Yours, unable to wait for the day they each choose to read a chapter in turn of the novel of the moment, excitedly reading to each other about what comes next.  Seriously!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

First annual conference?

We had a conference today, a couple of hours from here, for several programs teaching undergraduates to do research in mathematics.  A lovely occasion, a reason for groups to get together, to contrast and compare who we run our programs, and for each of us to come away thinking that we, and the others, are doing a pretty darn good job.

It was so nice, that we are seriously thinking about repeating it next year, and making it an annual event.

Yours, having had a lovely intellectually stimulating day,

Monday, July 5, 2010

Pine mouth? Really?

The party went well: a lower ratio of friends to students than some years, but people seemed to enjoy themselves, the food was good, and we were only left with a lot of leftovers --- and our friend K insisted to our dismay that she wanted to spend the party washing up in the kitchen: we missed her at the party, but the kitchen was spotless at the end!

But this morning, I heard a distressing story, enough to take away the memory of the party, and disturb my my being.  Pine mouth.

Apparently, there are cases galore, and spreading, of people, perhaps having a bad reaction to pine nuts, perhaps having a reaction to bad pine nuts, or just to unusual chinese strains; they wake up one morning and nothing taste right: they have an unpleasant metallic taste in their mouths for days.
I've been thinking about bulk ordering more pine nuts for a while --- for a bit they were unavailable, and I keep thinking that I should check again.  But perhaps I should wait first to see if this story has legs: if it does, it could decrease demand substantially, and make them much easier and cheaper to find.

Yours, pining for the nuts,

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Just a few hours

Less than four hours to the party.  Lots of cooking done, lots still to do.  And I've still not burned myself.

Rather, I've sliced my thumb.  Not badly, just enough to be enormously inconvenient for the next few hours.

Yours, annoyed at myself,

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Tonight our little town celebrated, as we always do, on the Saturday before the Fourth of July: fireworks!
LOML took the children, with friends, to watch: I stayed home with the dogs (plus one extra for a couple of hours), who were all rather freaked out by the noise.

Yours, hoping pet owners keep their dogs and cats safe this weekend,

Friday, July 2, 2010

As we approach the 4th

I found this particularly striking: I expect people to be less than informed about many things.  But surely, surely this poll is overestimating the lack of knowledge?

Yours, independently,

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy Canada Day!

To those in the US, yes indeed, we do celebrate.
But the correct response to "when do you celebrate July 4th?" is not "July 1st"  or "Canada Day": it's "we don't celebrate that".

Yours, siding with the smaller sibling up north on this day,