Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Strange visitors

I was quite impressed by the frilled shark, which somehow found itself in shallow waters near Japan. It's a shame it died, but interesting to see it.

This youtube link shows a report on it and video of it swimming. It looks quite ungainly, but perhaps that is to do with it being at the wrong pressure for its own comfort/health and possibly being unwell to start with (to have got itself so far out of its normal habitat).

I like this picture of it, more flattering. :D

Monday, January 29, 2007


Talking of films, we also watched one of the Rambos at the weekend. It was surprisingly thought-provoking (don't choke! :D), because it was set in '80s Afghanistan, and "we" were on the side of the mujahedin against the Soviets. So it wasn't the film as such, but more atrigger for thinking about the history of Afghanistan and the involvement of the US and UK over there.

Mousa: This is Afghanistan... Alexander the Great try to conquer this country... then Genghis Khan, then the British. Now Russia. But Afghan people fight hard, they never be defeated. Ancient enemy make prayer about these people... you wish to hear?
Rambo: Um-hum.
Mousa: Very good. It says, 'May God deliver us from the venom of the Cobra, teeth of the tiger, and the vengeance of the Afghan.' Understand what this means?
Rambo: That you guys don't take any shit?
Mousa: Yes... something like this.

I guess if Sly was to come back to his Rambo role as he has returned to Rocky, he'd be kicking Mousa's arse instead of shoulder-to-shoulder exchanging moody looks, these days.

I was recently reading Francis Wheen's How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World, and his chapter "Us and Them" discusses our involvement and the blowback.

Dawn of the dopey

Dawn of the Dead (the remake) was on tv last night. M and I watched it and then had a good old rant about how poor the survival skills of those people were. Blooming ridiculous.

Why on earth didn't they try to get a rope over to Andy's gun store so they could pass food to him and ship ammo back, and even eventually bring him over on it? Why send a dog?!

And why two buses? There weren't enough of them to need two buses.

Why drive like maniacs, when a bit of common sense and less panicking wouldn't have gone amiss? After all, they knew what they were going to be driving through: so what's with the swerving all over the road when there's no obstacle and hitting everything when a bit of good old steering-round things would work better?

Why crash into the quayside with the bus?

Why oh why did I watch that film?!

It was actually enjoyable enough, apart from the characters being quite so shakeable. :D

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Yes, it's my 400th post on this blog ... and to celebrate I baked my first bread from scratch since Home Economics in the first year at secondary school. Well, not really, it's just the topic I wish to post about.

Considering I don't have a big enough mixing bowl, and don't have a tin suitable for baking a loaf in, it turned out rather well, I thought. :D Bit heavy, which is poor kneading, I think.

I hope to do this more often as beating up (or kneading, you might describe it as, less accurately) the dough was a most satisfactory exertion. And with any luck, some practice will lead to better bread. On payday I intend to outrageously spend money on a mixing bowl, electric hand-held mixer, spatula and bread tin in my mission to cook from scratch more.

Misery me

A most depressing sight.

I hope we're not heading for an action replay of last year. I thought he was doing better. I guess that his illness this week has knocked him for six, and he's bound to drop some weight.

But he really can't afford to. :(

Candles and a grumpy old woman?

Today I feel really uncomfortable having seen this site. I'm not sure about lighting a candle for someone with autism or families touched by it.

I associate lighting candles with death, perhaps wrongly?

It just seems an entirely negative association, when people with autism and related disorders do not bring nothing but sadness with them. I'm not sure what I'm saying here: I suppose it might be natural for some people to mourn the idea of the neurotypical child they wanted or assumed they'd have, and this might be a way of expressing it.

Oh, I don't know what I'm talking about. I really don't.

I was reading this article in Slate yesterday, which says "But is there, in fact, an autism epidemic? Most of the scientists who study the disease—though not all—believe that any increase in recent decades in autism incidence, as opposed to diagnosis, has been modest. In his new book Unstrange Minds; Remapping the World of Autism, George Washington University anthropologist Roy Richard Grinker, who has an autistic 15-year-old daughter, makes the case that the rise in autism diagnosis is nothing more than an epidemic of discovery."

I don't know enough about all this.

I do know that those candle lighting sites seem so, I don't know, twee, saccharine sentimentality without thought. Regardless of the subject they are "lit" for, whether autism, natural disaster or death, they are meaningless to me, because the effort gone to is virtually nil and the lasting effect none.

Not even a puddle of wax. Maybe something on google caché if you're lucky.

Plant a tree, light a real candle: the virtual candles make me nauseous.

Out the window

I smell a rat?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Erm, say what? Who? Eh?

I just filled in a survey asking me about what I think is cool. Ha!

I have no idea about coolness as I soon discovered. I'm glad I rated my label/coolness awareness on the very low side at the beginning of the survey, because I wasn't wrong. :D

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


We watched Crank on DVD last night. I rather like Jason Statham (in a bit of a hubba-hubba kind of way :D).

It was a very violent film with some funny moments: very fast, very hectic and boy-what-a-ride. I wouldn't recommend it to everyone, but if you like a bit of ultra-violence and action, it's definitely for you. I liked the premise, which is similar to DOA, with the protagonist poisoned and knowing he is dying, with a short time to find out who or why, or to administer his own vengeance.

I enjoyed it rather too much, really. Especially the scenes where Mr Statham is tearing through the town on a stolen police motorcycle with nothing but a hospital night-gown on. :D

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Inevitably I feel quite low, having driven Gran back to her sheltered housing. I hate leaving her there, she's not happy there, but I don't think there is an alternative.

Today she told me about how she learned to drive. When she was in the land army, the first farmer she worked for (who wasn't a nice man, but I didn't ask why, maybe I should next time), told her to get in the car and pointed at the gearstick & pedals and told her to get on with it. So she bumped along the driveway and somehow managed to turn it to drive back again. She then drove around the farm as necessary while she was working in the land army.

After the war, she had some lessons (and took the test) with a Mr Reeve, who she remembers with fondness and respect, saying his teaching stood in her good stead throughout her driving life. It's all about positioning, she says :). She's recently given up her car, as she says it's too expensive and that if she were in an accident, she thinks she would be blamed automatically because of her age. I think someone convinced her, to be honest. I'm not sure how I feel about that, because although she is elderly, I don't think she is dangerous and without the car she is relatively trapped at the sheltered housing. Of course, there are taxis and even mobility chairs, but the latter she seems reluctant even to consider. Without the car, she is dependent on when the taxis can get there, or on her family/friends to take her shopping or anywhere. The housing is on a hill that she simply can't walk.

I reminded her how Granddad had a Robin Reliant for a while, and she remembered that with fondness, although his favourite transport was motorbike. He never took a full driving test, but could legally drive motorbikes and three-wheelers, don't know if that's the case now, but it was then. He had a Norton motorbike, but when Uncle Dickie died they came into a little money, with which she bought a little car for them and a new motorbike for him, but with a smaller engine capacity. She said he had scared her to death on the Norton, with the speed he would do, so when it needed some work doing, they bought the slower but newer bike. It sounds like she "got her way", a bit to me. :D

I remember him jury-rigging the rotivator so it pulled a trailer up the drive of the small-holding, loaded with churns of water to fill the bullocks' water trough. He wore woolly jumpers all the time, over a shirt, and all his working, daily jumpers had holes in them. He would wear several in winter, all with the holes in different places. every Christmas we gave him a new jumper, but those never seemed to become his work jumpers :D. I remember a yellow one with a huge hole at the tummy, particularly well.

I remember he wasn't impressed by my grooming of a pony I was about to ride, and I retorted that it had been too dark in the stable to see. He replied that if I'd done it thoroughly, I wouldn't have needed to see. :D

I remember asking him why the cockerel was chasing the hens, and he told me it was because he felt "so manly". :D

Talking 'bout my girl

I'm very proud of S's handwriting and her recall: she wrote out this hymn from memory at home, as she must have learnt it at school.

Some of it is in an African tongue, (possibly Zulu from googling), and I was impressed that she appears to have got that fairly accurately as well.

Feel a bit odd about the subject matter. But - my girl! :D

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Not so cross

The BA cross row has led to BA reviewing their dress-code, and they have decided to allow a lapel-style badge and a symbol on a chain in certain circumstances: "The review had concluded that the uniform policy should be amended to allow a lapel pin symbol of faith with some flexibility for members of staff to wear a symbol of faith on a chain."
Which I think lends some credence to my thought that perhaps it was a safety measure to prevent Joe Public strangling staff :D.

Oh, but journalists, they make me cross: again the claim that Ms Eweida was banned from wearing it. She wasn't! She was barred from showing it over her blouse. #Rolls eyes and sighs dramatically.#

Oh well, at least that's solved to hopefully everyone's satisfaction.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The most advanced technology..

..you will ever pee on.

That's what an advert announced proudly this morning (about a digital pregnancy test).

Made me smile anyway. (Ha! I see you rolling your eyes at me).

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Suing god and wild weather

It's blowing a gale, and various things are clattering down the path as the wind takes them. I could go out and put them somewhere safe, but I'd rather not. :D

There are some very pretty snowdrops peeping out of the hedge, however.

Last night I watched Billy Connolly in The Man Who Sued God, which was jolly good fun.

I liked the notion that insurance companies were infringing on religious "copyright" and presuming to identify "acts of god" in order to escape paying claims. Connolly's boat is destroyed by a lightning bolt, and of course, the insurers refuse to pay out, despite his fully comprehensive cover. This leaves him, his ex-wife (Jules), her new partner and his daughter in dire straits, so he decides to sue.

Jules: You're going to sue one of the world's biggest insurance companies?
Meyers: Well, apparently I wouldn't stand a chance... I'm suing God.

I liked this review:

"Either the Act of God clause is "some kind of giant all purpose lying mechanism" used by insurance agents to crush the little man, or it's what it says it is: an act for which God ought to be responsible. So, Myers decides to sue the Church, summoning representatives of every major faith. As the legal twists and turns kick in, the religious leaders will only be able to win the case if they can prove one thing: that God doesn't exist. "

A couple of bits that I felt didn't mesh too well:

spoilers: the ludicrous slap-stick moments set in a restaurant where the love-interest got her skirt torn off, which was a bit too Benny Hill for my liking and I also thought the "divine intervention" scene, where a window is blown in & a cockatoo flies in, towards the end of the court case was unnecessary and answered a question that could have been left open. I think this may have been a sop to a small percentage of the audience (I'm thinking humourless US right-wing Christian, in rather naughty and presumptive manner) that might be offended by the topics raised. I suppose that questioning/doubting god & church was an element of the film, but it was more to me about the weaselly ways of insurance companies.

I rather liked the romance between the cranky journalist and ex-lawyer/crank (in the other sense :D) Connolly. There was no leaping into bed right away, it was a slow burn and build-up, and seemed credible.

All-in-all, it was a pleasant, amusing movie with some interesting ideas.

Edited to add that this was an anniversary post for my blog. Happy 1st birthday, hippernicus. :P

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Word play

zo·on 1 (zō'ŏn') Pronunciation Key
n. pl. zo·ons or zo·a (zō'ə)

1. An animal developed from a fertilized egg.
2. One of the distinct individuals that join to form a compound or colonial animal; a zooid.


lar·rup (lār'əp) Pronunciation Key
tr.v. lar·ruped, lar·rup·ing, lar·rups
To beat, flog, or thrash.

n. A blow.

Scrabble: it's edumacational, that's what it is.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Book renewal

Or rather, shall I re-start my "what I have read" post, as it's getting a bit long and clumsy and this is a new year?

On the whole, I think I won't. I'll just divide it into years.

I'm currently part-way through the Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, part-way through The English Civil War by Tristram Hunt, dipping in and out of Phantoms in the Brain by VS Ramachandran and tempted to read another Minette Walters, all at the same time.

I hate it when this happens and I don't know which to read next or try to finish.

I love Phantoms in the Brain: it's a fascinating book written by a neuroscientist, combining anecdotes about patients with science & medicine. He writes well, with real humour and compassion as well as authority. (I tried to read Oliver Sacks' book The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat after reading this, it is perhaps the better-known book on a similar subject/style, but found myself unable to do so. VS Ramachandran had spoilt me too much, I think). I'm currently re-reading the chapter on "God and the Limbic System".

He starts by discussing Dr M Persinger's experiment where he artificially stimulated his temporal lobe with his Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator (which sounds ludicrously like something belonging to a bad SF show) and experienced "god". Which is interesting if true.

Having done some more reading: apparently a group of Swedish scientists have failed to replicate Persinger's findings in double-blind conditions. He argues that their attempts didn't use the same timings and that he also achieved his results in double-blind condition. Persinger used the technique successfully on Susan Blackmore but failed with Richard Dawkins.
"Dr Persinger has explained away the failure of this Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator. Before donning the helmet, Prof Dawkins had scored low on a psychological scale measuring proneness to temporal lobe sensitivity.
Recent studies on identical and fraternal twin pairs raised apart suggest that 50 per cent of our religious interests are influenced by genes. It seems Prof Dawkins is genetically predisposed not to believe."

This is really fascinating stuff. Persinger's experiments seem supported to a certain extent by the propensity of temporal lobe epileptics to religiosity and visions, but there is clearly more research to be done.

If it is true that temporal lobe activity gives rise to religious experiences/sensations, then could religion simply be a neurological response?
Or would a deity choose to stimulate particular areas of the brain in order to communicate?
And if it were all in the temporal lobes, as it were, does this really mean Dawkins is really unable to experience a god due to a genetic/physical deficiency? (Or you could turn it round and say that those who do have such experiences suffer over-activity in those areas).
Would it mean I am unable to experience god as Dawkins seems unable? The article cited above points out "If strong religious feelings are no less a part of brain function than those linked with hunger and sex, the ultimate test would be to summon up mystical and religious beliefs experimentally. Indeed, it would actually be in Prof Dawkins's interests to experience religion for the first time under Dr Persinger's helmet."
Or would I be more like Susan Blackmore?
What would this mean if it is a valid conclusion to say that religious experience is a product of temporal lobe activity?
What would it mean about the idea of god if some people are genetically/physically unable to experience/feel him?
Would a god deliberately create people who could never believe in him? It certainly doesn't fit with the Christian god, as I understand it.

Anyway, that went off a bit from discussing Phantoms In the Brain as I intended, but never mind. :)

Friday, January 12, 2007

And pulls defeat from the jaws of success... or something.

Yesterday I cooked a winter vegetable casserole with spicy dumplings, from scratch.

I had a thick moment and forgot that I needed to have pre-soaked the chickpeas over-night. So they didn't cook (hard as ball-bearings!) and I had to fish them out of the finished casserole. Which took a while, but I've left them to soak since and shall be re-using them tonight in my second attempt. D'oh.

That said, the rest of it was lovely, and my dumplings were fluffy and light. I may end up a reasonable cook eventually.

Bunnymen cont.

Mucking about with nature? Well, we do that a lot, and using animal cells denuded of their DNA, is it similar or very different to putting pig valves in people's hearts? Questions, questions...

I suppose that sometimes things are done just because they can be...

And obviously mistakes are made. Like thalidomide being given to pregnant women in the '50s. (Although, nonetheless, it is a successful treatment for an agonising skin condition related to leprosy and is under research regarding some cancers, arachnoiditis and Crohn's disease).

Somewhat dubious practices occur, such as where OAPs have been given fertility treatment in some countries. I'm not sure what to make of that, either, tbh. Just because someone is older does not make them a bad parent, but I would have thought it would be emotionally healthier if someone of that age was living the next stage of their life or was more interested in their grandchildren (as I seem to remember at least one of the cases the woman had adult children already). I can't imagine going through the baby stages again at that age, it nearly killed me the first time round. :D But I guess it isn't for me to dictate how someone else feels or how they should live their life.

I know an argument against is the likelihood of the parent dying early in the child's life, but younger people die too. It's not an argument that wholly stands up to scrutiny, yet of course, the chances statistically are higher that the older person will die sooner.

It's a difficult subject. I think I'll leave it there for further rumination.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Future echoes of the bunnymen?

Having watched the Wright Stuff this morning, I've been thinking about hybrid embryo research and trying to work out what I think about it.

The reasons usually given against such research seem to be to do with meddling with nature/against God (which brings to mind the 1991 BBC drama mini-series Chimera where I think the cry was heard "It's an insult to nature and to God!") and at gut level, it feeling wrong somehow, as far as I can tell. I'm not sure a visceral reaction always likely to be the right response.

The idea that it's necessarily a slippery slope (slippery slope fallacy?) where research would be pushed on beyond the early cell-division stage and we would create 99% humans seems a bit far-fetched to me...

Why would we want bunnymen?
Just because?
I don't know, maybe...
To improve the carrot industry's prospects? :D

Alzheimer's and Motor Neurone disease are such dreadful illnesses. I have a very little (minescule in fact) experience of dealing with an Alzheimer's sufferer, and it's terrible. A son becomes the "man down the road".


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Discovered in the nethers

In the rear of the Mr Potato-head clone warrior, was secreted the laser-potato-masher of doom!


Ewww, I regret putting up the picture of the cheesecake because today I'm feeling post-suspected-IBS nausea.

Blah. Food is vile.

Words like vexatious are good, however. And qat. And qi. Not that I've been playing scrabble, at all. Oh no, not me. :P

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Recipe for success

Instead of the playdough and jam-tart making, we made a cheesecake and soup. And it was lovely!

It's a low-fat cheesecake, and the consistency is slightly lighter/wobblier than normal cheesecakes. I don't know whether that is because of the low fat ingredients or fault with my technique, or that I substituted a couple of ingredients from the original recipe. But it's still yummy!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

I'm all behind (although with quite a bit of front :P)

Still on catch-up:
on Wednesday I went to visit someone who I've met through the net, who lives in the same town. She seems really nice and makes a terrific carrot-cake. I didn't fancy the sound of it, so refused it at first, (politely in a sort of post-Xmas dieting way), but when she went out of the room, naughtily sampled a bit of the children's (which they were shamefully ignoring) and it was gorgeous. I felt quite comfortable with her and in her house, so hopefully we can build a friendship. I hoped she liked me.

I also heard that R and her fella have got themselves a house together! I'm so happy for her and it looks very nice. They're decorating at present but move in soon.

Garlic breath

Last night I cooked from scratch meatballs in a spicy sauce. It turned out rather nicely, if I say so myself, although I had had my doubts at times. I felt really pleased with myself afterwards. I'm recording this emotion, because I find it so hard to motivate myself to cook, but actually I did enjoy making it and it did turn out jolly well. :D

I fear the house may smell of garlic breath this morning, however...

I think I'll make playdough for the children shortly then perhaps this afternoon we'll make jam tarts. Doesn't look like a day for going out too much.

On Thursday we watched the "last ever" episode of Green Wing, which was excellent. I was laughing really hard for most of it. I love the relationships between the characters, especially the love-hate semi-homoerotic one between Dr Alan Statham and Boyce. And of course Michelle Gomez as the deranged Sue White is always fabulous. :D I'm goping to have to buy the second series and this on DVD when I can. I hope it isn't really the end, but then I suppose to end like that is better than to drag on into dreariness, as some comedies do. For example, Red Dwarf, which was brilliant in its first few series, but lost its sparkle.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The colour of my water

Yesterday the water supply to the area was cut off for an hour or two due to some pipe crisis.

Today it's a most disgusting colour. The glass (left) contains orange cordial that I was intending to water my son with: rather nice white scum layer, eh? The one on the right is just water straight from the tap.


Strange things afoot

On a forum I frequent, a member recently posted that she was going abroad to meet a man she had met on-line at another site. She hasn't been heard from since by her family according to a thread.

Apparently the site management of my forum are in contact with the police.

I hope it's a hoax or miscommunication.

I've seen "deaths" of posters on-line and heard tall tales, but this one is a new one on me. What makes it unusual and possibly real is the apparent contact with the boys in blue by those in charge of the site.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A thundering good day

The first day of January was a bit wild: thunder, lightning and a hailstorm.

I went out into the storm to check on the pony, but he was OK, standing with his back to the weather. When the thunder crashed, he flinched a bit, but he wasn't panicking so I went back in again quick-sharp! :D

Although I did stop to pick up a few hailstones to show the children up close. They were quite big balls, though I've seen bigger (f'narr).

I'm determined to cook more from scratch, get our finances straight and be more active this year. I'm not calling them resolutions, however, as those are just things you fail to do :D. I cooked a rather nice hotpot for tea, which S helped me with, and the children actually ate some of it.

Much of my problem with cooking is that I have, in the past, spent ages making food, only for them to turn their noses up. Cooking and preparing for an hour only to scrape it all into the bin doesn't make you want to repeat the effort, after a while. I suppose an alternative would be to make them sit there until they ate it, but I'm anxious about making food an issue. It's a traditional battleground in parenting, as it's one of the first ways a child can challenge the adult and assert some independence.

I'm quite happy about how it worked out, and I intend to start cooking in bulk in order to freeze some for quick meals during the week. We have a chest freezer in mum's garage that we can store the excess in. With any luck it should mean spending less on shopping, which will go some way to helping us balance income against outgoings.

I live in hope, anyway. :D

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year

We stayed in last night as we were too skint to go out, despite having the offer of babysitters. It was OK though, I read Sue Grafton's Q is for Quarry and M played his computer game from Christmas. Then we had Crispy aromatic duck and some spring rolls while watching Jools Holland's Hootenanny.

It was pretty good, and the outstanding moment was Ade Edmondson singing "Anarchy in the UK" swing-style! Brilliantly done and funny. (Especially after some wine and champagne-type liquid). Amy Winehouse was on it too, and she's really got a brilliant voice. She and Paul Weller did some great duets.

Fabulous, darlink.

It's our first New Year in together, as previously we've been working or managed to get babysitting.