Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ben backs the Bishop

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I give you Alan Wilson, Area Bishop of Buckingham:
“... if I say "gay bishops" everybody except the occasional couple of zealots glazes over almost instantaneously. When I engage about Creation, which I do rather more often, I notice that people light up. Of course they do. There are four or five verses in the Bible that just possibly could have anything at all to do with the Gay issue. Meanwhile ruddy great chunks of it, say a fifth of the text, is the Creator’s love song — heavens proclaiming God's glory, people exercising stewardship, prophets drawing messages from God out of nature. Apart from the anoraks, a few religious correspondents and rentaquote coteries, nobody in long trousers actually gives a pig's burp about gay bishops, compared to staying alive ...”

“...What is God going to say to the Anglican Church in the hour of death and the day of judgment? Well done, you sorted out the property disputes over gays in Virginia but, oops, bad news, you destroyed my world! It's time to get real and get out there.”
Preach it, brother.

And if I may, please give me a pat on the back for not using a single speck of innuendo in the title of this post.

Piper at the Gates of Yawn

Billie Piper is to return to Dr Who, says the BBC. Personally I really, really hope she doesn't.

I have nothing against her. I was pleasantly surprised – and I wasn't alone – to learn that all my prejudices were wrong and she's a pretty good actress. Billie and Rose between them were exactly what the show needed to kickstart it in the twenty first century. When she felt it was time to move on with her career, she couldn't just leave. The producers rightly put Rose in a situation where she had to go, had to stay away and could not come back. Ever.

Except that apparently, she can. Thereby making that heart rending farewell on a beach in Gower Norway ... utterly meaningless.

I has a TARDIS gets it about right, here and here.

But – shows rely on ratings, ratings rely on actors, and as long as the actor is actually alive in the real world (and even then not always) there is always the possibility of their character returning. Producers should be made to hand over their firstborn child as a deposit against yielding to the temptation. It cheapens all that has gone before; it devalues any kind of tension.

Trek did it with their mirror universe. In the original series, in a one-off episode, a transporter accident sends our heroes into a parallel universe where they are evil (and their evil counterparts end up in ours). You can tell they’re evil because Spock has a beard, though fortunately for all he’s just as logical as usual and is key to the plan to get everyone home. And they really have to put their thinking hats on to make it work. It was a conundrum and a pretty good episode.

By the end of DS9, however, people started popping over into the parallel universe every time they put the wrong fuse in a plug. And then they started doing it at will. It had its compensations (evil Major Kira = woof!) but it was still cheap and lazy and diverted resources from doing something really creative.

One more reason why books will always be better ...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Literary drives

Scott Adams has a book coming out. So do I. Here ends the list of similarities between me and Scott Adams, apart from the obvious (white, male etc.).

Mr Adams threw open the doors of his blog to his readers for possible blurbs to go on the back of his book. You'll have to go there to see them all but no harm in reproducing some of my favourites which I would quite like to see on the back of mine:
A delightful read ... it has everything; humor, words, dangling participles, and did I detect a hint of nutmeg?

I was reading this to my mother when she died. She refused to enter the light until I had finished.

Finally, the answer to the question “What would Jesus read?”

A snake made me read this book and it made me aware of my own nudity! Totally worth it!

I don't want to say that this is the best book ever written, but as I slid it into my bookshelf a chorus of angels began to sing and my other novels were engulfed in holy flame. I guess that's a little ambiguous, though.
In other news, I have discovered a new literary ambition: to win the Bad Sex Award ("for the most awkward description of an intimate encounter"), the latest shortlist for which has just been announced. Though sadly not the entries themselves.

One small obstacle to overcome would be actually writing a description of any intimate encounter at all, other than the entirely tasteful alien sex scene in His Majesty’s Starship. I did once write a post-sex scene for Winged Chariot, which I then cut on the grounds that it just didn't work. The couple in question had just been in mortal danger of their lives and I thought nookie would not be foremost on their thoughts.

I was very pleased to have this point of view vindicated by, I think, Pennski at a panel at Eastercon a few years ago. Or it might have been Farah, the third panellist. Whoever it was, her woman's take on it was: he'd be thinking of sex, she'd be thinking of chocolate.

Anyway, thinking hat on. I shall seek inspiration by reading previous winners.

UPDATE: and the 2007 winner is the late Norman Mailer.
"His mouth lathered with her sap, he turned around and embraced her face with all the passion of his own lips and face, ready at last to grind into her with the Hound, drive it into her piety."
No wonder he got through so many wives.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Spam: a new variant

A cunning reversal of the usual tropes here. All entirely sic.
Greetings.I feel quite safe dealing with you in this important

Though,I choose to reach you through Internet because it still remains the fastest medium of communication.

However,this correspondence is unofficial and private,and it should be treated as such.I am Mr XXX,a United Kingdom Government Auditor and I work in the International operation department in a Bank here in UK. My purpose of contacting you is that I am looking for a Reliable partner in a foreign country to place as the next of kin to a dormant account that have not been operated for years in my bank with a total sum of 39,000,000.00 Pounds and on further discreet investigation I also discovered that the account holder has long since passed on (dead) leaving no beneficiary to the account.I contacted you because you are a foreigner and I will provide to you the necessary claim documents the bank will require from you in other to claim this fund including the details nformation of the account in my next mail.

I will inform you on what to do if you are going to assure me that you will not betray me and my family with this fund in your possession so as to enable me to start the paper work immediately without further delay.I have a family of four,My wife claudia and hailey,brooke. Keep this business within your self for security and safe reasons.Thanks as I'm in anticipation of your favourable response.

Have a pleasant day.


So, he's actually a Brit wanting to get money out of the country? That makes it all so much more believable.

Especially as the standard of English compares quite favourably to some official communications I've had.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Games children play

And so the Christmas shopping begins in earnest.

One item being looked for was a Barbie Horse, i.e. a Horse that goes with a Barbie rather than a painfully anorexic horse with a fixed grin. This was the stated proxy choice for 2.75-year-old niece, who being 2.75 can't really vocalise her own choices well. Quite a why a woman whose legs don't bend wants a horse is beyond me, but then I'm a guy.

Action Man may have been seriously deficient in other boyish areas, but at least he could sit astride something.

Woolworths has such a horse, with - get this - an additional head so you can change horse styles.

Or, one head too many.

Briefly entertain the idea of introducing 2.75-year-old niece to Godfather Barbie ...

Maybe next year.

Occasional recipes: mushroom and potato pie

From The Colour Library Book of Vegetarian Cooking, published by - um - Colour Library Books, with our own embellishments based on our previous enjoyment of the dish last year.

  • 400g mushrooms (book says 350)
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 1 onion
  • as many cloves of garlic as you're comfortable with (book doesn't say any, but come on!)
  • 40g flour
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp thyme (ignored 'cos we don't have any)
  • 1/2 pint milk
  • 2-3 teaspoons lemon juice (or just juice half a lemon)
  • 850g potatoes (book says 750, which is too thin)
  • 6 tablespoons milk
  • more paprika
Simmer spuds for 20 minutes to make tender.

Fry chopped onion, celery and garlic for five minutes in butter, then add mushrooms and cook for a further 2 minutes. (The celery is particularly important as it gives the Boy something to do, i.e. carefully pick it all out of his helping before eating.)

Sprinkle flour over mushroom mixture, stir, add paprika and (allegedly) thyme. Remove from heat, stir in milk, return to heat until sauce thickens. Remove again and stir in lemon juice. Season to taste and set aside.

Mash potatoes with milk and butter. (Also a previously cooked and skinned artichoke, for interesting additional flavour. Remember to drain properly in something like a colander. Yours truly was feeling impatient so just drained through a gap between pan and lid, leaving lots of water in and leading to quite runny mash.)

Pour mushroom mixture into oven dish, cover with mashed potatoes, sprinkle with paprika, bake for 20 minutes.

The picture in the book showed a nice diamond pattern of paprika lines over a bed of smoothly furrowed mash. We went more for the "random chaos" look. Tastes the same ...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Ce-le-brate! Ce-le-brate!

Dalek and Cyberman advent calendars! Who'd have thought it?

Verity Lambert died yesterday. I bet she never did.

HMRC: much explained

Everyone has been asking questions about HM Revenue & Customs' entertaining little faux pas, and how it could have happened. Especially as it all seems to be officially dumped on one of the younger members of staff, who are probably a lot more with the technology thang than the Sir Humphreys above them.

There may be a clue in the exchange of emails and correspondence shown here.

The damning evidence is on pages 6 and 7. Hidden among all the censor's black ink, you will notice that someone at HMRC uses Comic Sans MS as their font of choice.

I think we have our culprit, and if we don't, we should.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thatcher resigns!

No, not breaking news. In fact this news is exactly 17 years old today. It's gearing up to its AS's, it's got a deep voice and it needs to shave more than it used to.

Sensing the historicity, I kept the newspaper for that day. All it tells me 17 years later is that it was otherwise a pretty slow news day and that evening was televisually dead on all four channels.

Thatcher's horoscope for that day, according to the Standard (she's a Libra): "Although you may not wish to read any more warnings about travel plans or long-standing arrangements, complex planetary influences over the next week or so signify it is time to confront and challenge those who have either taken your support and enthusiasm for granted - or worse, tried to outsmart you."


It was our generation's Kennedy moment – you always know where you were when you heard. In my case, I was standing by the desk that held the stationery and the electric typewriter, when Piers From The Office Downstairs popped in and said, "have you heard?"

Seeing Thatch leave Number 10, lip almost a-quiver, was one of the two times I could almost – and I cannot overstress the tenuosity of that almost – feel sorry for her. But she was by this point clinically insane and she had brought it on herself, so I let it pass.

The other time was in her infamous Belgrano interview. For those of tender years, she was on a radio phone-in programme – or was it TV? Anyway, she was answering questions from the public. One worthy took her to task for the sinking of the Belgrano, on which the one thing everyone could agree was it had been outside the exclusion zone of the Falklands and heading away from Our Boys when the torpedoes hit.

Thatcher, being Thatcher, was even less able than most politicians to wrap her braincells around the mindset of someone who disagreed with her. If disagreement was outside the script, or not under the rules of Parliamentary debate, or she couldn't ban it, she was clueless. And so, she repeated her points over and over again, while the fool on the other end of the line repeated her points over and over again, and sadly came off looking a little better for the simple reason that it was clear the PM hadn't actually answered her, and therefore instinct said she had something to hide. (This is also why I stopped listening to monomaniac line-toeing politicians doing the 8.10 interview on the Today programme. Same thing. If you want to be taken seriously, drop the party line and answer the question. It will annoy the spin doctors but you will get so much more respect from the public, and really it's more important to keep us happy than them.)

What Thatcher should have said was something like this.
"Yes, the Belgrano was heading away from the combat area. However, we had cause via Naval Intelligence to believe that in common with many modern ships it was fitted with a device known as a ..." [Here she could have twitched her fingers in the air to suggest inverted commas, Dr Evil style] "... 'rudder', which could conceivably enable it to ..." [Another twitch] "... 'turn round'. This would have meant it posed a potential and legitimate threat anywhere within a circle defined by the Belgrano's position as its centre point and the Belgrano's fuel supply as the radius. Therefore we sunk it. So STFU, noob."
Should have, but didn't. Again, it was her choice, so sympathy was not actually that high.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Ayatollah Song

One of the great, ground-breaking sketches of Not the Nine O'Clock News was surely the Ayatollah Song. I can still remember lines off the top of my head.
"Well I used to love Sadat, but I've had that scene (she's had it, she's had it)
I was hit (how?) by Schmidt (wow!)
And I once went for Begin (she began with Begin)
And I had to discard Giscard
Though he was kinda neat and clean
(Unlike Barry Sheen ...)"
And then came the fatwa on Rushdie and the song was never heard of again. Wonder why.

But this story on the Beeb site about Islamic comedians set me to searching YouTube on the off chance ... and blow me down, there it is.

Enjoy while you still can.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Spot the flaw (there must be one)

In my latest bid to become rich before I'm 30 40 50 ...

The problem: URLs, especially those based on a back-end database, can become long and unwieldy. For instance, gets you the complete works of me as known to Amazon, including
Online Information 93: 17th International Online Information Meeting Proceedings London 7-9 December 1993 and Online Information Hong Kong: The 2nd Asian Information Meeting, which resolutely refuse to sell out no matter how hard I try.

But it doesn't really trip off the tongue, does it?

The A solution: tinyurl is your friend. You enter a massive, unwieldy URL like the above and get a nice small one to show all your friends, reproduce in publications etc. In this case that would be

Some magazines, like Focus, gladly use tinyurl already. Organisations with a more proprietorial attitude still prefer to use their own URLs, because no matter how unwieldy (say) the above URL is, it still points you at the Amazon site. A tinyurl URL could take you anywhere, and you wouldn't know until you got there.

Ben's solution: why can't the two be combined? Why can't there be a package sitting on a web server that encodes the URLs in something short and alphanumeric - just five characters long would give you a range of 60466176 entries, which might not be much by Amazon standards but will do fine for most of us - and puts them after the root URL? Thus in bencode the above could be rendered Companies don't have to use a third party, they control their URLs and the customer goes straight to their web site.

This seems so obvious that I can't believe someone hasn't tried it, and that being so, it seems so useful that the only reason you don't see it everywhere is that it doesn't work. So, what's wrong with it?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Occasional recipes: poulet au Jean le Forgeron

This is a development of Sophie Grigson's beercan chicken, reported on last year. The problem with the original is it requires the chicken to be mounted vertically on top of a beercan, which basically takes up the entire oven. And it's quite time limited, while we needed a long slow roast to happen whilst at church. Our cunning resident Swedish chef hit on the notion of a pot roast instead. So, take:
  • 1 chicken
  • 1 can of beer
Stuff the chicken with an onion, cloves and sundry other spices as desired. Put in a casserole dish, pour over the beer, add a similar amount of water. We also rubbed on olive oil and paprika, which was a hangover from the original recipe. Put on lid, put in the oven at mark 3 and forget about it for the next three hours. At the end of this time the chicken will be cooked to perfection, with meat so tender it falls off the bone. Literally. I lifted it out of the pot and the legs stayed behind. Proof that beer makes you legless.

I name this dish in honour of the beer used. It would work equally well as Poulet de la Chateau Nouveau Brun, Poulet aux Directeurs or Poulet au Deux Syllabes, Semblable aux Relations Anormales.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Occasional recipes: Italian stew

This week's recipe comes from Round & About and is Lyn D's recipe of the month. No idea who Lyn D is but she knows her stuff. It costs a bit, as it requires steak and at least two bottles of red - one to cook it with and one to drink with it. It's also very rich.
  • 3-t tbsp olive oil
  • 1 kilo braising or stewing steak cut into chunks
  • 1 heaped tbsp tomato puree
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 350 ml tinned tomatoes
  • fresh sage and parsley
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 50g fat from Parma ham, diced
  • 350g wild or chestnut mushrooms, chopped
  • more sage and parsley, chopped
  • optional: 250g peeled chestnuts
Heat olive oil. [Always one of my favourite stages of any meal. Warmed up olive oil smells so good and promises so much.] Add the meat in batches to seal and brown, then salt, pepper and tomatoe puree.

Cover the meat with red wine and boil on maximum heat until the meat is almost dry. Repeat at least once. [Lyn D suggests three or four times in total. After doing it twice you notice you're 2/3rds of the way through the bottle and your budget might not allow more. I did this stage the night before anyway, so at this point covered the meat with the remainder of the wine and let it marinade for 24 hours. By this point the kitchen smells fantastic and, if you're wearing something absorbent like a fleece, so do you.]

Re-cover the meat with more wine, add tomatoes, sage, parsley and garlic. Put lid on and simmer, or put in the oven at 160C (gas mark 3), for 1.5 hours.

Saute the ham fat to render it down, add the peeled chestnuts if using and soften them gently. Then add the chopped mushrooms and saute for a couple of minutes. [I completely omitted this stage; the bit about the ham fat because it just didn't sound necessary, the chestnuts because we had already decided not to and the mushrooms because I forgot.]

Add them to the meat with the chopped fresh sage and parsley. Stir well and serve with creamy mash or polenta. [The least successful part of the meal. We went with the polenta. Should have gone with the mash - more absorbent for all the very rich and delicious juices.]

And if you then go and drink a bottle of wine with it, prepare to feel really quite squiffy. I had assumed all the alcohol of the first bottle would have evaporated during the cooking. I think I was wrong.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The future: still imperial

And I was so cued up for a rant about compulsive editing.

Got an email from an editor yesterday who is marking Time's Chariot up for design, checking it was okay to translate all the feet into metres. Discretion was promised in the case of characters from historical periods.

My reply, as I mentally sharpened my blogging quill:

Oh grief. I'd say it's not worth going to the barricades for, so if it's set-in-stone policy that all books are metric then go for it. But I would also mutter under my breath that if I said feet then I meant feet. Indeed, please keep imperial measure for any bygoners, and I'm sure you don't need to be asked not to be too literal - if I said 1000 feet, don't change it to 304.8 metres.

And yes, anything too painful will be changed back at proof stage.
But today, before I could put finger to keyboard, I hear we're sticking with good old feet anyway. Hurray!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Tyrannicide Brief

First off, happy second blog birthday to me! Here’s a link to my very first post. If I had got the hang of tagging back then, it would have gone under 'music' and 'silly'.

To business, and I want to recommend a book to y'all out there – budding lawyers and everyone else. The Tyrannicide Brief by Geoffrey Robertson, subtitled 'The Man Who Sent Charles I to the Scaffold'. The author is a QC but don't let that put you off - his writing is very light and accessible, he has a sense of humour and the story is fascinating.

Hands up who's heard of Oliver Cromwell and Charles I? Okay, that was easy, let's step back a little. Other great names of the Civil War: Fairfax? Prince Rupert? Monck? Pym? Ireton? That thins it down a bit. (Of course, anyone who's read The New World Order will have heard of at least some of those ...)

How about John Cooke?

Cooke was a lawyer. He didn't fight in the Civil War because he was too much of a weed to be a soldier, and even though he was on Parliament's side Parliament didn't entirely trust him. Before the war, when Parliament had been determined to (and did) send the Earl of Strafford to the block, Cooke had offered to defend him. Cooke instead spent most of the war in London handling routine, uncontentious legal affairs like house sales. And after the war, he was the man chosen to prosecute the King.

Cooke seems to have been a remarkable man. (He's obviously a bit of a hero to the author of the book, who is my sole source of information, so I must accept some partiality. But even so.) He was a Puritan, but open-minded enough to have considered other denominations including Catholicism. He settled on Puritanism because it worked for him, rather than blind dogma. He offered to defend the distinctly non-Puritan Strafford because, while the man clearly had his faults, Cooke knew from personal acquaintance that the precise charges against him were incorrect. (At the time Cooke was a relatively junior barrister and seemed almost embarrassed to be making his offer to a legal giant like Strafford: his own legal knowledge, he admitted in his letter, was "as the pissing of a wren in the ocean" of Strafford's own experience.) He was one of the first to urge that barristers should give a certain percentage of their services for free, making justice affordable even to poor commoners, and he drew up proposals for a welfare state 300 years ahead of its time. In short, he was a completely straight, a-political man who let himself be guided more by his conscience's interpretation of the hard facts, rather than by any party politics or received dogma. And the law was all.

Which is why he took Parliament's brief to prepare the prosecution of the King.

No one had ever put the head of state on trial before. Everyone knew the brief was coming and the Inns of Court were strangely empty that day, with members finding all sorts of excuses to visit friends in the country. Cooke sat in his room and awaited the messenger. Eleven years later, in a strange echo of these events, he made no effort to save himself from the vengeful Charles II following the Restoration.

In the Declaration of Breda, Charles had declared a general pardon to all enemies of his father, with the crucial exception of those few who had actually killed him. They were few enough to be named specifically. Later on, the Commons discussed the Declaration and added a few more names. Cooke's was one of them. What must it be like to have the House of Commons debate, in open session, the withdrawal of all legal protection from you, a named individual, which will almost certainly result in your gruesome death? Why he didn't flee I have yet to find out – I haven't got that far. He would have been a relatively old man – 52 – and maybe he thought he had had his glory days. Ultimately he was hanged, drawn and quartered.

He left two legal legacies that last to this day. At his trial, he said he had prosecuted the King simply because a barrister must accept any brief he is given within reason – otherwise known as the 'cab rank' rule that still operates today. And the other is that he was the first to lay down the legal precepts for trying a head of state that have been used in recent times for Pinochet, Milosevic and Saddam Hussein.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

If you're going to spam, get your sums right

See if you can look past the gender-reversing Cinderella sob story and spot the fatal flaw in the following just received. Paragraph breaks and grammar are sic, snips and bold emphasis are mine.
"I am XXX son of late Mr.YYY a licensed solid mineral (gold, diamond, etc) exporter before he passed away. Before his death my father, apparently, married a woman who became my stepmother because my mother died when we was very young. our stepmother already had two daughters of about my sister age, and they came with her to live in our Father's house. I discovered that there was some ill-feeling from our stepmother towards me and my sisther giselle, since then we have been badly treated; being forced

to undertake work befitting only a servant, in our father's own house. [snip] our father before passing away informed me privately that he had an account valued $235,000 usd which he intend to transfer into his foreign associate's account for investment abroad on my behalf, this money he acquired from the export contract he secured and executed under the umbrella of the government.


So please we want to know you better.we are willing to offer you $235,000 for your assistance after the successful transfer of this money for investment; I have plans to do investment in your country, like real estate, industrial production or any other lucrative investment you bring to ourr notice in your country."

Monday, November 12, 2007

A shame it wasn't three minutes later

... but as you have to fix some time for the last train to France to leave Waterloo International, 18.12 is a pretty good choice.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Occasional recipes: sausage goulash

As we get older, our ability to learn things diminishes. Therefore, anything we get quite good at as adults must really be quite simple. I got through university without realising that things don't cook quicker just because you turn the stove up to maximum. Nowadays I quite enjoy this cooking lark. So I think that from time to time I will share some recipes with you. Expect this kind of thing on a Friday night because that's when I usually cook.

Tonight's was an old favourite from my 1985 Dairy Diary for the Home, (c) the Milk Marketing Board 1984. I suspect my mother gave this to me as a student because every week features a new and fairly straightforward recipe. It's also handy for letting me know that 22 years ago yesterday (a Friday) my Comparative Communist Systems essay was due; there was to be a Debate on 13 November; and on 19 November I had to Speak To Richard Re. Friday!!! On 20 November I had to be at the Sports Centre 5.00 With Clive 4 Bottle Filling (of the scuba variety), on 23 November I was going to Loughborough and on 24 November OMD at the Arts Centre is crossed out. I don't know if they cancelled or I couldn't go due to being in Loughborough.

Anyhays, the recipe for week 44: sausage goulash. Serves 4.
  • 25g English butter (any nationality will do, or just advanced butter substitute like Flora)
  • 450g pork sausages (so many types to choose from. Felt like something spicy so went for pork & sweet chili. Could probably even do it veggie. The packet had 6 sausages, which for a serving of four would mean 1.5 each. For a family of three it's much easier just to go mad and give everyone two.)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed (Huh? I laugh at your 1 clove in a manly manner. Cloves of garlic don't come in units as small as one in this household. Anyway, we had a bulb to finish so went up to ... um ... five, I think.)
  • 1 green pepper, deseeded and chopped (no green at Tesco, used orange.)
  • 1 level tbsp plain flour
  • 225 g tomatoes, skinned and chopped (otherwise known as a can of chopped tomatoes)
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp paprika pepper (don't have any, used mild chili powder)
  • 300g can condensed tomato soup
  • 300ml (i.e. half pint) fresh milk
  • salt and pepper
  • 450g potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tbsp natural yogurt
  • green pepper rings to garnish (omitted: see above)
  1. Melt butter and fry sausages until golden brown. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Add chopped onion, garlic and green pepper to pan. Fry for 5 minutes. Stir in flour and cook for a further 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in tomatoes, tomato puree, paprika, soup, milk, seasoning and potatoes
  4. Replace sausages. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes until potatoes are tender. (It had half an hour on a low simmer, which tenderised the potatoes to just the right amount. Keep stirring or, even in the best non-stick, whatever's at the bottom will start to burn.)
  5. Before serving, stir in the yogurt and garnish with green pepper rings. (I always forget this bit and tonight was no exception.)
Accompany with something decent and red. Follow with Delia's basic pancake recipe à la Boy, with vanilla ice cream and that chocolate sauce that sets hard.

I has a TARDIS

This will only be amusing to a tiny fraction of my readership, but anyone who understands why these are funny knows a great deal about me.

Take the language and sensibilities of lolcats, combine it with Dr Who and you get Dr Who Cat Macros.

Actually cats play very little part in them, well over 90% aren't half as funny as they think they are and can they please stop dredging the barrel over the last series. For true art you have to go back to old skool.

A random selection of coffee-up-nose-inducers follows. Putting these inline would break all sorts of rights so you'll have to follow the links. Hopefully the captions will intrigue you enough.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

In which I fess up

I admit it. I've eaten mince pies on Christmas Day (in fact I insist on it), and I'm pretty certain I've put a stamp on an envelope upside down at least once. Thus I have broken two of the recently voted top 10 ridiculous laws in the UK.

I have however never died in the Houses of Parliament or denied the use of my toilet to a Scotsman. Though it's comforting to know that if I wanted to murder one I could, as long as I was in York and was at least reasonably certain he was carrying a bow and arrow. (Hey, things can be planted, you know what I'm saying?)

Looking further afield, I have to admire Alabama's practical approach to road safety, though do wonder why such a law was needed; Bahrainian gynaecologists must develop a good sense of left and right; and the evidence for the prosecution in Indonesia will never stand up in court.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Differently able

My uncle Owen has a mental age of, let's say for the sake of convenience, five. I don't know if he's actually been assessed as such and it's not that informative a measure, because most five year olds aren't five for very long (about a year, usually). Most five year olds are rapid learners and you can see them develop almost in front of your eyes. Owen has been stuck at whatever he is for the last 60 years. So, a very stretched out five.

Owen's greatest misfortune was to be born at least ten years too early. (Still, better ten years too early than any earlier this century or any other time before.) He got the best care that was available at the time, but it was still very institutionalised. He had a brief resurgence during the nineties, when modern methods of care finally caught up with his abilities, such as they are; he could even live semi-independently. It didn't last and he's back into a shared house with a warden. He used to have a part time job working on a farm a couple of days a week, until nice Mr Blair introduced the minimum wage and the farmer couldn't afford to pay anymore. Thanks, Tony.

But hey, he can still party, and a sixtieth birthday is worth partying for, so Friday night saw us, my parents, a handful of helpers and about twenty of Owen's friends in a hired church hall in Bournemouth. There is a certain Alice in Wonderland quality to these affairs. You know you all speak the same language - sorta - but the pattern of neurons connected inside their heads by a given string of words don't necessarily match yours. Owen asked if I remembered his fiftieth. God yes - I mean, yes, I do. Fortieth? Yup. His twenty first? I'd have been three. Oh. Owen has never been good at looking ahead of the curve and knowing when to stop. Mind you, I know a few fully able people like that too.

Okay, I will admit I went into the party with a "this too shall pass" state of mind. Which it did, with birthday honour satisfied, so everyone's happy. Venison burgers were served; only a couple of unexpected vegetarians were discovered (we asked, dammit, we asked). Speeches were made and just about understood, not helped by Birthday Boy's nephew turning the music back up half way through one of them because he didn't realise that the stream of consciousness babble drifting down from the end of the hall constituted a speech still in progress.

And it must be said that no one of sound mind was entirely heart broken that the karaoke machine didn't work. The owner couldn't make it work, nor could the designated helper in charge of it, nor could the visiting Resources Technician from Abingdon & Witney College (to whom I have the pleasure of being married). Fortunately my mother has developed a certain prescience in these matters and made alternative arrangements for music. Abba's greatest hits, vols 1, 2 and 3. Some people took a certain amount of convincing that the karaoke really wasn't going to work, so Abba would be stopped and restarted while they tried again. And again. And again. You can get tired of "Waterloo". I breathed a sigh of relief when we finally made it all the way through "Knowing me, knowing you". It looked like Abba were here to stay.

Good was done, Owen was happy on his big day with people who love him. Seventieth, here we come ...

Friday, November 02, 2007

Strike up the band

If this is genuine then it's very funny. If it isn't then it should be.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, monarch of a nation so open minded the streets are patrolled by religious police who stop school girls leaving a burning building because they're inappropriately dressed, came here for a state visit. (See blog passim.) The Queen met him at Horseguards Parade. The King got out of his car and the Coldstream Guards struck up with ...

Just in case you can't see it or hear it, or recognise it having done so, think Charles Montgomery Burns.