Friday, 28 November 2008
I'm not going to use one specific example here but several times in the last month or so I've been an unwilling observer of people taking upon themselves the role of unrequested guru for their unsuspecting friends, family and co-workers. Just stop it please. It's not cool.
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
It's the 11th month of the year so it must be Movember. Once again I've joined the ranks of dedicated men who have put their dignity, love life and shaving routine on hold for 30 days to support a good cause.
This year the charities benefiting are The Cancer Society of New Zealand and Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand. I think we can all agree that they are both worthy causes so go here and donate. Your money not only helps others it keeps me looking like an extra from an Errol Flynn movie for another 5 days or so.
Friday, 21 November 2008
There is a "Please no circulars" sticker attached but even assuming it ever acted as a ward against physical spammers, dirt and time have stripped it of its powers and as the photo shows, we get unwanted mail.
Most other houses on our street have taken a similar approach. Take the good people at number 79. Very respectable house and the same bog standard "Please no circulars" sign.
But not all of our road brethren have taken the same tack. The residents of the elitist "Top Flat" at 1/17 have tried to hide their Champaign Charlie ways with a Blue Peter approach involving a couple of pieces of sticky tape and paper.
The students at number 70 are a bit more in your face with their the Young Ones-eque, "Oi no ads".
Then these guys are going for the weird-ass "No Junk or the monster will eat you" approach which makes sense until you realise that the Psyduck meets Robot Stig of the Dump thing is actually the letterbox and so is actually poking over the fence saying, "Pssst, ignore the sign and feed me."
The gang at #80A are trying to be a bit more upmarket with a sophisticated, European Letterslot. However, any je ne sais quoi that might have existed is negated by the fact that they've used a marker to draw the sign on their door.
Now, here's an approach that you don't see every day - Non-violent Resistance. Gandi here thinks that sending out an olive branch in the form of the "I like you" message, is sure to melt the cold heart of the junker and persuade them to turn the other cheek. Obviously this doesn't work and has just made their letterbox a target for a fluro-dot attack (more about this militant band of public found-art wankers later).
Finally we come to the sign that makes me smile every day on the way to the bus stop. My peeps here at 89 Owen Street have really put some effort into this. You're got the nice large message that can't be misinterpreted (spoken by, if I'm not mistaken, an infernal skeleton flipping the bird). There's the authoritative the "Keep walking" with three exclamation points for added malice and the whole thing is finished off nicely with the "ya hear?" down in the bottom corner.
I'm guessing that this is probably the most effective of all the anti-direct mail measures employed in our street as it really broadcasts that the occupants of the house are at the end of their tether and you're likely to find a gin trap closing rapidly on your hand if you try and place any unwanted deliverys in their box.
Monday, 10 November 2008
This is an Anglicised version of the vege lasagne that I had in Rome in 2000. The key is that the flavour should come from the pasta itself and the sauces should be there to complement rather than dominate.
For the Sauce
2 x onions (sliced thinly)
2 x cloves of garlic (crushed)
top half of half a head of celery (you actually just need the leaves sliced roughly)
4 x tins of diced tomatoes (I think the standard size of the tin is 440g)
50g pine nuts
50g sunflower seeds
splash of soy sauce
splash of red wine
1 T golden syrup (brown sugar also works)
salt and sepper
For the White Sauce
milk (the amount needed varies. If you have a litre that should be enough)
2 t whole grain mustard
50g parmesan (finely grated)
salt and pepper
at least 500g of lasagne sheets (Fresh ones are best but the packet ones you get in the fridges at supermarkets are fine. The dried sheets tend to be lacking in taste edam or mozzarella to top
nice garlic bread
Set the oven at 200°C
- Heat some oil in a large heavy pan and add the onions. Cook until the onions start to go translucent.
- Add the garlic and stir well. Keep stirring for a couple of minutes and then add the celery. I should confirm here that you should be using the top half of the celery – the bits that you usually throw away. The leaves should wilt fairly quickly (like spinach). You could use spinach instead but I prefer the subtle flavour of the celery.
- Add the tomatoes, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, soy sauce, red wine and golden syrup (golden syrup gives the sauce a lovely caramel undertone). Stir well and reduce the heat. Simmer for about 20 minutes. You're just trying to thicken it up a little here. Doesn't have to thicken a lot as it'll reduce while in the oven so 20 minutes should do. At this point I usually start the white sauce but if you're a noobie just keep an eye on the tomato sauce.
- Remove from the heat and add the basil, parsley, salt and pepper. I haven't given quantities as the best thing to do is just add a bit and then taste it and add more as needed. My biggest issue is usually not adding enough salt so taste it and see whether you can taste the different ingredients rather than just the tomatoes. When you're happy set to one side and begin on the white sauce.
- I find that people tend to be scared of making white sauces. There are only three ingredients so it's really not that hard as long as you pay attention and manage the heat.
- Place the butter and flour in a pan and place on a low heat. I can't stress how important it is to set up the right heat initially. If you get it correct now you don't have to worry about it later. The guide I use is that the butter should only be melting slowly and not bubbling as you combine it with the flour. Just keep on stirring until the flour and butter combine. It should form a doughy looking mass. If it won't combine into one mass add a little more butter. If it looks greasy on the surface then add a little more flour. Once you're happy with it, beat it back with your wooden spoon, flattening it out in the pan. Essentially you're cooking the flour at this point. Every 30 seconds or so stir it all up into a single mass and then beat it back flat on the base of the pad. Continue until it just begins to change colour. It shouldn't brown.
- I must stress here that you've got to take this bit slowly. If you rush you'll get a lumpy sauce. Add milk a 'splash' at a time. I like to have the milk in my left hand and the spoon in my right. I also tend to flip the top off the bottle of milk with the thumb of the hand holding the bottle - it makes me feel like Brad Pitt with the bottle of acid in Fight Club.
- The process should be: Add milk, stir, stir, stir until the contents of the pan is a single consistency, repeat. Initially the interval between adding the milk should be fairly small as it'll combine with the flour/butter mixture quickly but as you add more and more milk it'll take longer to combine so just keep on stirring and don't leave the pot unattended or unstirred for a moment. You'll have added enough milk when it's the consistency of runny custard. Not much help I know but what you're looking for isn't as thick as yoghurt but not as runny as cream. A MacDonald's thickshake is too thick.
- At this point add the mustard and parmesan. Stir until the cheese is combined and again add salt and pepper to taste.
Compiling the lasagne
- Take a large corning ware dish. 8"x 8" is what flashes in my mind but I don't know the dimensions. You know what I mean by a lasagne dish. Add a layer of tomato sauce. It should be as thin as possible while still completely covering the bottom of the dish. Add a layer of pasta and then a layer of white sauce, again the white sauce should be as thin as possible while still completely covering the pasta. Then a layer of pasta followed by a layer of tomato and so on. Keep on going until the white sauce is used up. Then onto the final layer of white sauce add a sprinkling of edam or mozzarella. Both work but I prefer the taste of the edam while the mozzarella is more impressive as it goes stringy when melted.
- Now just pop it in the oven for 30-40mins. You want to make sure that the dish is heated through and the cheese on top is browned and not just a fatty pool of gloopy cheese. If the cheese is not browning, blast it under the grill for 5 minutes or so to finish. Serve with the garlic bread.
Hope that works. If it doesn't, it's your fault not mine.
Saturday, 8 November 2008
I'd just like to point out that The Daily Show made a joke about CNN's 'hologram technology' a full 3 hours after I did. I'm not pointing any fingers or making any threats but it looks like Colbert and Stewart might have some competition for the Emmy next year.
Friday, 7 November 2008
Here are some of the photos that didn't make it onto RS during the coverage due to time, connectivity or drunkenness:
Phil and I could so be pundits
The crowd at The Malthouse (Election Coverage HQ) while Obama was giving his acceptance speech
You have to admit that the man has presence
Obama: 349 (and counting)
See you all back here in four years time.
Wednesday, 5 November 2008
He's done so well when you think about where he was 5 years ago. Nice speech and it's good to have an American President that you can describe as an orator.
I'm done. Wrap up to come tomorrow. Drink them if you got 'em.
President Elect Obama: 338
Short answer = Basically, if Obama wins another state east of Texas he's definitely the next President.
Long answer = CNN currently has Obama on 199, add to that the 77 electoral college votes that he'll get on the West coast of the US and he's broken the magic 270 needed to win. So baring a huge muck up in the pre-election polling Obama's across the line.
The hell with it. I'm calling it for Obama. That's right I'm calling it before CNN. I own you Wolf
CNN is going projection-happy, apparently getting over the shyness people expected of them after historical up-fucks. Polls are clos
Obama: 77, McCain: 34.
I'd post you a photo, but George took his camera to lunch with him.
Guest-blogged by Phil.
Sunday, 21 September 2008
Now this could be because Wellingtonians are used to wind (Auckland is the City of Sails but those boats wouldn't go anywhere without us) but I don't think that's it. Best I can describe: it's as if the town's got a hangover. Not one of those, “I really need an aspirin but if I move from the couch I'm scared that the pounding in my head will force my eyes from their sockets so I'll just lie here and watching repeats of Dawson's Creek until the world stops hurting”. It's more a “slight ringing in your skull that would be annoying if it wasn't serving as a reminder of the great time you had the night before”. That's it; it's like Wellington had a really good Saturday night out. People sleeping in, nipping out to get a coffee and the Sunday papers before returning to bed with the Sodoku and a danish. The sky is overcast but with a hint of sunshine and kids are riding about on their scooters (should that be scooting about?)
Last night's win over Auckland could have something to do with it but regardless, the buzz that's swept the place has given me the creative kick-in-the-pants I needed to write another entry. I know it's a bit of a cop out to post about posting but it's a start. You want more for your money? Go to the mall.
Sunday, 8 June 2008
"Now most people like to steam their bok choy but prefer to quickly char-grill them. I like the nutty flavour...."
Thursday, 5 June 2008
To make vanilla sugar you place a vanilla pod in a jar with some sugar and leave it for the flavour to be absorbed. What if the ancient layer at the bottom has soaked up the combined marketing knowledge of the floor? I’m too scared to find out as I remember my lessons my Find your Fate Indiana Jones game books: nothing good ever comes from holding the key to unlimited power.
I guess I’ll be heading to Mt. Doom this weekend to make sure that The Sucrose Canister of Influence doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
Sunday, 1 June 2008
I watch a fair amount of my TV pre-recorded. I don’t tend to record too much to VHS these days but when I was at boarding school Mum would tape a few choice programmes (Red Dwarf and Mary Whitehouse Experience come to mind) for me to then catch up on during my exeats. Now I think about it, even before this, as a young child, I’d have a tape or two filled with children’s programming. Sick of me requesting Dr. Seuss or Richard Scary for the googolinith time, they’d wack the one of these compilation tapes on.
As we now live in a future where even Airwolf is available on DVD, I love to sit down and watch multiple episodes of a show in one sitting, gorging myself on all the best that the telly has to offer. From Band of Brothers to Arrested Development, being able to skip straight to the next episode, not having to wait a whole week to see which power Peter is going to use to get him out of the cliff hanger of the week, makes me feel like I have near god-like powers.
Despite no-longer having to wait for an ad break to grab a snack or nip to the john, I rarely skip the opening credits. In some cases it’s all about setting the mood: the helter-skelter opening of Buffy and the over the top gravitas of the Doctor Who theme are the perfect warm up for the following 45 minutes. In the case of The West Wing it would seem somehow rude and disrespectful to skip Snuffy Walden’s majestic opening. Even with Lost, a show that’s taken the minimalist approach to opening sequences, the brief flyby of the title is just long enough for you to catch your breath and buckle in for what’s about to come.
The best of all is Alabama 3’s magnificent "Woke Up This Morning". It fits so well and does such a good job of setting up the rest of the show that it feels like an additional cast member; The Sopranos’ Stuart Sutcliffe if you will.All this just makes me glad that we no longer have to sit through a montage of smiling cast members (Love Boat, I’m looking at you) otherwise I’d have a lead finger on the fast forward button every time I cued up the next episode.
Wednesday, 21 May 2008
A pooter is a device for the field collection of animal specimens. They can be full-on proton pack-type mechanisms that will suck-up small dogs but we never had anything like that for Mr Stuchberry’s biology class. The ones we had at high school consisted of a jam jar with two tubes coming out of the lid. By sucking on one of the tubes it created a vacuum and pulled whatever you’re pointing the other tube at, into the jar.
I don’t know what we were supposed to be learning (might have been sampling methods or something) but we were sent out into the fields of the school grounds, instructed to randomly drop a setsquare and told to collect all the insects within the grid. We were 14 year-old boys so there were a whole heap of pooter-related blowjob jokes and hilarity surrounding the dropping of our setsquares on top of other boy’s squares/pencil cases/heads.
Then came the collection of the poor beasties. One guy quickly sucked up a spider and then a number of ants, slaters and beetles. He then spent the rest of the lesson lying on his back, watching the carnage and playing Emperor to his insect gladiators. Another sucked too hard and managed to swallow a ladybird. A third had to go back to class for a replacement pooter when he got a slug lodged in his in-tube.
I’m not sure where this story is going. I don’t have a moral or punch line to neatly close off this anecdote or relate it to something I’ve been doing in the present. I just remembered an afternoon running about in the sun sixteen years ago and felt the need to share.
Monday, 19 May 2008
Whenever a teacher was late for a class, a buzz would go around that if they didn’t turn up by 12 minutes past, then we were allowed to leave. The added bonus of an unexpected free period was such that we ignored that we would just have to make the time up at a later period. And if anybody brought up the idea of going and finding another teacher, they were shouted down with desperate cries of, “The rule is 12 minutes!” and “That’s why they have the rule!” Inevitably, there would be an echoing groan as the teacher was spotted hurrying across the quad towards us.
In fact, over my six years at high school there was only one time when neither the teacher nor a proxy turned up and we actually made it out of the classroom. Even then, we were spotted walking back to the boarding house by the deputy-headmaster and sent back to the class where another member of staff was waiting with a video for us to watch in place of the lesson on asexual reproduction.
This was much like the freezing rule – allegedly if the temperature ever dropped below a certain mark (the figure was always two or three degrees below what ever the current temperature was) then it was too cold to teach and we’d be sent home. Again, I think it was just an urban legend, as it never happened to us. Roo tells me it was the same in South Africa only they’d be sent home if it got too hot so they could swim in the pool and take their family giraffe for a walk.
Despite a plea from my 14 year-old inner child to just leave, my 30 year-old actual adult decided that as I was getting paid to attend the meeting I should find out what was going on. I phoned around and discovered that the other meeting attendants had gone to the wrong room and would be with me presently. So I sat back down, ordered the notes I’d need and doodled a picture of a pig driving a tractor while I waited for the others to arrive.
Wednesday, 14 May 2008
I cooked biscotti on the weekend and it was surprisingly easy. Just think bread but without the time-consuming waiting to rise phase. Mix the eggs, flour, sugar and vanilla essence together. Add the flavour (in my case pistachio and craisin) and form into a loaf. Cook for 40 minutes, rotating after 20mins, and then remove to cool for about 15. Finally slice into half inch pieces and return to the oven for 7 minutes, flip the pieces and cook for another 7. Done.
Total cost came to about twelve dollars and I made about 30 biscotti. This is where café’s make all their money! One batch of biscotti nets you about $50 dollars profit and it’s a hard biscuit so it last for ages. I thought there was an art to it or maybe it was super laborious but no, the biscotti is the easiest of biscuits to make and there is nooo way they should be any more than 50 cents a biscotto.
I’ll most probably be whacked revealing this as its origins lie at the feet of the Italian-American Legitimate Business Men’s Association. The over-priced biscotti scam is up there with racketeering and gambling as a cornerstone of the Mafia. Hell, why do you think Tony Soprano’s belly hung so far over his pants? It was all those blackmarket biscotti he was running into the coffee houses of Jersey.
Monday, 12 May 2008
There is a person at my work who I don’t have very much contact with. We work on the same floor but the only interaction I have with them is when we cross in the hallways or kitchen. When we do exchange words it’s generally of the “How was your weekend?” and, “you seem pretty busy at the moment,” variety. It’s all very congenial and no real awkwardness.
However, once in a while when I’m waiting for my lunch to heat up and they’re making a cup of tea, my co-worker can’t meet my eye and stumbles over their words. At first I put it down to something else being on their mind. The second time I thought maybe I had misspoken and then when it happened this morning I realised that I was wearing my pink shirt. I can’t say for sure but I could well have been wearing it the other times they suddenly became shy.
I have ten work shirts so that places the pink shirt on about a two-week rotation. Given that I see this person once every three days or so puts the dealings to awkward ratio at about the right figure. So, I’ve come up with two possible scenarios, either they’ve got some strange pink shirt equals gay stereotype going on in their head and they’re not comfortable with that, or they think the pink really brings out the colour in my eyes and having to hold back the feelings it provokes makes them giddy as a school girl.
I‘ll start a series of experiments to get to the bottom of this and report back.
Saturday, 19 April 2008
Sunday, 24 February 2008
I think my internal logic was stolen from an episode of The Outer Limits or Twilight Zone where mundane things like brushing my teeth or walking to school were exotic to E.T. and so kept them captivated by my every move:
- Xegog what’s the earthling whelp doing now?
- Quiet Zepfywl, he’s about to eat a spoonful of Frosties!
Then at some point the aliens turned all Dr Who villain of the week and decided that they liked the look of this place we call Earth and began to plan an invasion. However, in a plot point that the hack M. Night Shyamalan stole for the not-entirely-terrible Signs, they were afraid of water* so every time I showered (it was about ’85 by this stage so I was still pre-teen and I didn't know there was anything creepy about them having a camera in the bathroom) I would hold my elbows at my sides and point my arms out in front of me with my hands balled into fists but with my little fingers extended. This C-3P0 impression caused water to run down my arms and make it look like water was running out of my pinkie. I think I even said out loud a couple of times, “Everyone can fire water out of their fingers but we save it for emergencies and only ever practice in the shower.” I envisioned the Morks up on Alien Prime cursing their luck that the one interesting planet in the universe was protected by life forms that could shoot water out of their digits.
This tells us two things:
A) Thanks to me we’ve escaped the yoke of alien oppression these last twenty-odd years and;
2) M. Night’s ‘plot points' are so weak that even an eight year-old could have come up with them.
* Signs came out in 2002 so I think after six years the statute of limitations on spoilers for this has passed
Saturday, 23 February 2008
On the other side, neighbour number two is blasting the music of mediocrity – pan pipe covers. Currently I think it’s the Girl from Ipanema and the pipes have taken a mediocre bossa nova song (not a the best combination to start with) and made it terrible. What’s even worse is when they take a good song (Four Seasons in One Day comes immediately to mind) and trash it by playing it on what must surely be the ugliest of instruments. I can’t even listen to Sound of Silence without a shudder, such is the damage that World Music in general and pan pipes in particular have done to the catalogue of Simon and Garfunkle.
All that said, the weather is warm, my cold is on the mend and there’s a full day of sport to come so not even this perfect storm of music is going to get me off the sofa today.
NB - All written from the sofa. I love wi-fi.
Update – They've now gone from Country to Skunk Regea. This has to be some Pietersion out for Thirty-Nine, bowled Patel, caught Ryder sort of cosmic joke.
Thursday, 7 February 2008
Without actually seeing the cover of the magazine you might assume that it’s a Playboy, Penthouse or possibly a Fiesta (which, I feel I should point out, is not a Ford enthusiasts magazine like a classmate tried to claim when he was caught with one on a camping trip) and you’d be half right but simply by the size you can tell it’s natural habitat isn’t the top-shelf of a newsagent’s. It looks like a decent sized phone book but with a glossy cover.
It’s an Argos catalogue and it seems perfectly innocuous as you glance through it. Toys, DIY tools, low-price jewellery, clothes. Then, as you’re thumbing through the woman's clothing section you find a certain part of the catalogue that’s a little worn down at the page edge: the lingerie section. Four pages of tiled pictures that consists mostly of close-ups of the female bust area. It's more Queen Victoria than Victoria’s Secret but for 13 year-old boys, it was the option that wasn’t going to get you a talking to from the teachers (it’s hard to label a document X-rated when it could be found on the coffee table of most of the school’s staff members).
On Monday, I found out that Argos has pretty much become an internet based store with most of it’s efforts focused on their web based catalogue rather than the paper-based behemoth I grew up with and the first thing that went through my head was, “But where will the young boys of Britain find their porn?” Then I realised, with modern scholastic interconnectivity and the ubiquitous nature of wi-fi, they’ll get their jollies from the same place they get their Argos catalogue.
Monday, 4 February 2008
I don’t know how I started but I’ve invented a sad little game that I play when it’s time for my stop. I win by not having to pull the cord to get off the bus. I lose if I chicken out and pull the chord or miss my stop. I know that only about 1 in 20 trips are bereft of fellow passengers with the same side walk destination but as I spot the stop coming closer it’s very hard to hold off pulling the cord.
Last Friday, when I stepped on the bus, I decided that I’d cease playing this stupid game and just travel to work like a normal person. The chance of having to walk five minutes out of my way because of a game no-one else even knows they’re playing was a fairly good motivator to throw the whole thing in and just pull the chord as soon as my stop came into view. However, as we neared the city centre I remembered that I was on a record equalling 9-0 winning streak and who was I to deny the fans of this proud sport the chance to see BSC history be made?
Note - In a variation on BSC, I ‘win’ when riding the lift if fellow passengers get off before my floor, leaving me alone in the lift to do a quick victory dance before the doors open on my level.
Wednesday, 30 January 2008
According to my childhood recollections, when we got home there wasn't a vessel in the house that wasn't filled with cuttings infusing their elderflowery goodness into the water. I remember bathtubs, dustbins and paddling pools all filled with Mum's concoction like she was some kind of non-alcoholic moonshiner. In actual fact, it's more likely that there was no more than the laundry sink involved but the making of this elderflower juice has grown to such an exciting event that I would swear that once bottled, there wasn’t a shelf in our fridge that wasn’t filled with elderflower juice and the freezer was similarly packed.
NB - the childhood memories included in this post may not hold any grounds in the actual events
Tuesday, 22 January 2008
Surely nothing can be that good? I’m betting, years from now, we’ll find out that the SeeZee is made from the tears of baby seals and you’ll all be sad for making the little seal pups cry but not me. By boycotting the SeeZee now, I’m doing my bit to make the planet a better place.
Note – Turns out, you can use beet juice as an effective driveway de-icer.
Saturday, 19 January 2008
* I know I said I’d write before I went but it didn’t happen. A combination of Guitar Hero, leftover Christmas dinner and roadtrip prep got in the way. As penance, here’s a photo of me dressed as Robert Smith.
* I’ve been back at work for a week. It’s been hard getting back into the swing of things but I’m still enjoying what I do. Anytime the work gets a bit hard or a client is a little bit trying I just think, “At least I’m not still at Alleasing.” and I feel a whole lot better.
* My favourite part of cricket is watching the fast-bowlers bat. More specifically when they get a bounced by the opposition quicks. There’s the obvious comedy value that comes from watching the tall non-batsmen clumsily sway out of the path of a solid projectile traveling towards their head at 150kph. But then, after they’ve picked themselves up off the ground and dusted off, they look at the opposition bowlers with a rye smile and you know they’re thinking, “Fair enough, nice try but just remember that soon enough I’ll be the one with the ball in my hand I won’t forget what just happened.” Brett Lee seems to almost channel Christopher Walken when he fixes someone with his "I'll knock your head off later" stare.
* The roadtrip was the vacational equivalent of turning the volume up to 11. Had a complete blast and lots of laughs; exactly the cure for turning 30.
* I know I’ve said that I was going to write more in the past but I actually think I’m going to manage at least two posts a week in 2008. Not as good as my best of six but a good place to start. Last year was all about sorting my shit out: moving back to New Zealand, (kind of) buying a house, leaving a shitty job, (kind of) sorting out my hair. So I now feel that I’ve got my feet firmly set on the ground and I can build on this: start playing some sport, really get to grips with my job, learn sign language, master Paint it Black on Guitar Hero, write regularly.
* Being an adult means not having to wait until noon to have my lunch. I was hungry at 10:20am the other day and though, “Sod it, I’m going to eat now.” And I did. I got funny looks from some of my co-workers as I ate my rocket, ham and aioli sandwiches while they were still zombing about waiting for their coffee to kick in.