Thursday, 28 June 2007

Just Jeans

It's probably part of my culture but I have pretty well always worn, and enjoyed wearing, jeans.

I set off today to buy a new pair as my 'normal' ones had become fairy grubby from house and garden work.

I am not a complicated sort of person. At least, not when it comes to jeans.

In a basic sort of colour:

Being a loyal, return shopper, my first point of call was here, my 'normal' store:

The shop assistant says "504, 38,, we don't carry 34 legs anymore."

"Oh" says I, "That's a pity, 34 legs carry me."

"If you try Just Jeans they MIGHT match our price." $99.95.

So I went to Just Jeans:

The same jeans were priced at $99.00. I didn't ask them to match the price.

Having found the jeans, I bought two pair. As one does.

"Do I want to join the Just Jeans Club" asked the girl behind the counter. She ran off various benefits but the one that most struck home was that I was just two points away from a $10 gift voucher. OK, it would cost me $5 to join but they at least they stocked jeans that fit me.

"OK, why not?" say I and the girl put the transaction through on my credit card.

The machine spat out the normal docket and then a second docket. The girl's face went into shock and then she started jumping up and down. Apparently I had just won a free pair of Levi Jeans!

The manager was called, smiles all round, and I left with my free jeans voucher.

Margaret has already laid claim to that.

As I left, I looked back into the store. The manager and the shop girl were holding hands and dancing a jig. I guess there must have been a store prize too.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Not quite glow-mesh but close.

Yesterday (Sunday) was Martin's 25th birthday. The previous night he and some mates had a party to celebrate the occasion and he had wanted a 'mirror suit' to wear for the night. Above is the result of Margaret and him spending a fair slab of Friday afternoon with sewing machine and mouths full of pins. A little cursing and swearing on occasion, too. (Although Margaret's idea of a fully fledged expletive is "Auchtermuchty!").

Some have argued that it was the nicest birthday suit since the original one.

The actual birthday was thrown into some disarray by Martin's girlfriend, Roni, landing in hospital in intensive care with a urinary tract infection of some sort. She's on the mend, happily, although still in intensive care.

After some will-we wont-we discussions we pressed on with the family dinner. I chose an Indian theme, partly because we hadn't eaten Indian for a while, partly because I had spent my 25th birthday at Agra, in India, admiring the Taj Mahal.

Pappadums as pre-meal nibblies,
Spicey prawns with a walnut chutney as starter,
Lamb & eggplant curry with tomato salad and basmati rice for main,
Cumquat & cardamon syrup cake with yoghurt for dessert.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Children, don't try this at home!

Well, that was exciting!

I had been charged with the job of getting old, melted candles out of a glass holder. The sort of holder where you take a coloured tea-light candle out of its aluminium cup and put the candle on its own in the glass container so you can see the coloured wax as it burns. The time had come to clean the glasses in preparation for some new candles.

My thought was if I sat the container in some hot water the candle may release from the glass and make cleaning easy. But the quality of the glass is unknown; what if the water was too hot and it cracked the glass? Yes, I know the candles make the glass hot but it is a gradual process.

OK, thinks me, I will stand the candle in a bowl of water and microwave it. That way the water will warm slowly and all will be fine.

Did you know that the wicks of tea-candles will ignite in a microwave?

I didn't.

I do now. Very pretty it was.

On reflection I should have guessed. Many moons ago, at work, we were testing candle wicks for their lead content. Apparently some manufactures would put a thin filament of lead in the candle wick and there was concern at the time about airborne lead from burning candles. Other manufacturers used zinc. The idea was that the metal gave the wick some rigidity so it would remain upright when all the wax in the container melted.

So, there you go. Children! Don't microwave your candles!


Friday, 22 June 2007

More warp than weft.

We were having an end of semester drink at Uni today and somehow the conversation found its way around to spiders and what happens to their webs under the influence of drugs. Well, we are psychology students, do you expect us to talk about football? Anyway, caffeine was the 'drug' of interest but the graphics above list a few others as well.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

How high?

A little mathematical nonsense to see me past tomorrow's exam.

The Earth, lovely thing that it is, is 24,880 miles (40,041km) in circumference.

That's 131,369,652 feet.

Now, imagine a ribbon going right around the earth, fitting neatly to the surface. (Yes, I know all about the mountains, valleys, trees and stuff. Just imagine it for the moment and forget the lumpy bits.). So this ribbon is 131,369,652 feet long.

Now, lets cut the ribbon and put in one more foot of ribbon and then go around and make sure the new ribbon is evenly adjusted around the globe. 131,369,653 feet of ribbon.

How far away from the surface will this ribbon be?

Can you see light between the ground and the ribbon?
Can you slip a piece of paper between them?
How about a cockroach passing through the gap? A mouse? A cat? A goat?

Answer tomorrow in the comments section.

Monday, 18 June 2007


It is winter here and the trees are still in the process of losing their leaves. I try to rake as seldom as possible, not because I am lazy, but because I love the pools of colour that fall around the trees. The Japanese maples shed orange and red, the apricot and quince yellow. A neighbour's tree, a tree camelia I think, drops white and yellow 'poached eggs' on out driveway.

I think of Monet when the garden is like this, the whole palette of colours, daubed seemingly at random, and yet so properly, across the ground.

And there, in the leaf mulch below, the new season is already stirring.


Saturday, 16 June 2007

A puzzle.

What I don't understand is that, if I say I will worry about something when it happens, am I being pro-active or reactive?

Blooms Day

June 16th. Blooms Day.

June 16th is the day on which all the action in James Joyce's book, Ulysses, takes place. It follows the life of Leopold Bloom on June 16th, 1904. Ulysses is possibly the most intractable of all books to read (second only to 'Using Multivariate Statistics' by Tabachnick & Fidell). I have tried a few times without success to read it. The odd thing is I enjoy it, I just don't finish it.

However I will not pass up a good excuse for a dinner theme. My parents are coming to dinner today, it was my father's birthday a few days ago, and as the Kennedy's come from Ireland, admittedly some generations ago, Irish seemed as good a theme as any. It is also my late father in law's birthday and, while he has some tenuous links to Ireland, I have him, a former Church of Scotland minister, covered with some Two Churches shiraz.

The plan is some very green pea soup served with herb and cheese scones, a beef & Guinness casserole served with colcannon, a traditional Irish dish of potato and cabbage. The meal will wind up with some rhubarb, apple & ginger crumble and custard.

And we will start festivities with a glass or two of some home-made Damson port. Well, it is port in name, because it used port yeast, but it's character lends itself to an aperitif rather than to accompanying coffee.

Pretty bloomin' good, I reckon.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Consuming art.

Tho photo montage above is 5 ft by 12 ft in reality and represents the number of plastic bottles discarded in the US every five minutes. Detail photo below. It is not meant to be a criticism of the US; per capita we are all contributing the same sort of waste. The exception being the photo depicting annual handgun deaths, of course. The photos come from Chris Jordan's site.

It is something of an eye-opener.


Thursday, 14 June 2007


Lady Di Tn, commenting to the last post, said she regretted looking at some of my other blogs. My apologies. I have now tried to make it clearer that there are dangerous rooms in the Curate's house where, if you wander far from the front drawing room where we genteelly drink tea and nibble madeleines, you may wish you hadn't.

A new room that I have put up there today is 'The trip of a lifetime". A bit of a double act. I originally put the shell of the blog together late last year, expecting it to be a bit of a psychological, philosophical journey. After the style of Gibran's The Prophet and structured around a poem I love, Flecker's The Golden Journey to Samarkand. But nothing happened as I wanted to 'get it right' and got stuck on how to do that.

Now, I am talking of going to Samarkand myself. How things change.

The blog will become a bit of a blend of the two ideas: the internal and external journey of life.

And it will be safe to visit.


Wednesday, 13 June 2007

A life's work

It's like, at the end, there's this surprise quiz: Am I proud of me?
I gave my life to become the person I am right now.
Was it worth what I paid?

-Richard Bach, writer (1936- )

Monday, 11 June 2007

Beavering away...

Beavering away - studying for statistics exam on Wednesday - so a joke to keep the blog warm.

A gardener, an architect, and a lawyer are discussing which of their vocations is the most ancient.

The gardener comments, "My vocation goes back to the Garden of Eden, when God told Adam to tend the garden."

The architect comments, "My vocation goes back to the creation, when God created the world itself from primordial chaos."

They both look curiously at the lawyer, who asks, "And who do you think created the primordial chaos?

Friday, 8 June 2007

Dreaming, dreaming...

Painting: Vladimir Kush

All men dream: but not equally.
Those who dream by night
in the dusty recesses of their minds
wake in the day to find that it was vanity:
but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men,
for they may act their dream with open eyes,
to make it possible.
- T. E. Lawrence.

Sometimes things just seem to happen for no apparent reason.

A confluence of dreams, opportunities and reality.

Some of these recent things are: Margaret's brother being diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma - happily treatable but a wake up call on the reality of time and age; I finish honours this year and I certainly had envisaged going on to Masters or Doctorate but there is still time for that; Margaret finishes her diploma this year and would probably head off to find a job; the boys have either moved out or are old enough to look after themselves.

It means that 2008 is a time when we can both put things on hold and be relatively free.
It may not happen again for quite some time.

It gives us a great opportunity

So where to?

Obviously UK, Scotland and Northern Ireland are high up there so Margaret can visit her family. But if I am going to travel to the UK I want to value-add a bit. What say France, Spain, Portugal and Morocco? And if we did the Trans-Siberian railway we could visit Finland on the way through to the UK.

And I have this hankering for Uzbekistan....well, its second city, Samarkand to be exact. (Logistics are very hazy here).

A separate trip to Asia is possible with Vietnam, Malaysia and Burma looking interesting.

And thirdly, but possibly not finally, Western Australia. Perth and up to Broome and the Kimberleys and on to Darwin.

Yes, it is all a dream, and a very recent dream, at the moment.

Watch this space.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Trojan Horse-food.

Am I doing the right thing?

My lawn, such as it was, died over summer. Watering of lawns is prohibited under the current drought conditions. Yes, we have had some rain but still well below average. Most of my garden is garden. The front yard long ago became just plants and mulch. The back yard has some lawn but it turned to a dust bowl over summer. Now, for reasons I can only ponder the justice of, the grass is not coming back but the weeds are. [sniff!]

Well, when I was out for one of my walks (DIY back therapy) I noticed something strange: the parklands were all thick and green. They don't get watered either but there they are, absolutely, obscenely, lush after a little autumn rain.

That has to be the grass for me!

So, on my walks, I have been taking a plastic bag and a small knife and bringing back runners of this wonder grass. It is, I think, some sort of couch (spelt cowch, pronounced cooch) grass. I have been planting these cuttings all over the back lawn area; it looks like a bad day at the Shane Warne hair clinic at the moment but hopefully that will change.

My worry is whether I am bringing in a Trojan Horse, or horse feed, will this supergrass take over? Will I spend my semi-comatose moments at night wondering if the faint rustle I can hear is the couch grass on the march? Will I spend my waking hours thrashing it back from the rest of the garden?

I'll let you know.

In the meantime I am hopeful for some lush, green grass.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

No sense crying over spilled Merlot.

Well, cabernet merlot really, but sometimes one must go with the metre.

Last night we went to a dinner put on by the catering class at the college Margaret attends. It was a three course, linen napkin affair. And I have never seen so many waiters in a real restaurant. Admittedly these ones were VERY nervous.

The meal got off to an awkward start when the wine waiter was putting my glass of wine on the table and managed to lose the remaining glass off the tray. Mostly down my right-hand side. Of course, it was a red wine and, for extra effect, the glass bounced off my shoulder and broke on the floor. The waiter was horrified, the supervisor was horrified, the people around the table looked at me... What can you do? The guy was mortified enough. Tried to reassure him that I ahd always wanted a pink shirt but he seemed unconvinced. The supervisor assured me the school would dry clean my shirt and jacket and the meal continued.

It wasn't a great meal.

But it was definitely memorable.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Art? Rubbish!

Simon missed putting out the recycle bin a few weeks back and so had to 'compact' things to accommodate four weeks worth of rubbish, rather than a fortnight.

He very carefully put things within things and packed the bin beautifully.

The above is a photo down into the green bin and then fiddled with slightly, using Photoshop.

I like it.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

A snapshot in time.

A few folk I visit in Blogville have been writing about their surrounds, where they write.

So I picked up my camera, stood up and took a few totally impromptu photos of my study.

As it is, right now.

Maybe it will inspire me to keep it tidy in case I get the impulse to do it again.

It's my coffee. Leave me alone.

I vary enormously in how much sugar I put in my coffee. The first hit of the day is often strong and sweet. The maintenance cups during the day are usually unsweetened but weaker.

But not always.

Occasionally some smart-arse will see me putting two spoons of sugar in a coffee and make either a snide comment or 'tsk-tsk' sound of disapproval. More often or not they are clutching a soft drink or, the more virtuous ones, a bottle of fruit juice. For some reason they are nearly always in bottles larger than a coffee mug (300ml). Bottles of soft drink are usually 600ml, cans are usually 375ml and fruit juices 500ml.

"OK", says I. "You have there a 500ml bottle of drink . What does the nutrition panel say about the sugar content? Ten gram per 100ml? I thought so."

Most drinks (soft drinks, fruit juices, flavoured milks)are about 10% sugar. There is a point of optimum sweetness - too much sugar and they taste cloying and syrupy, too little and they taste watery. That point (depending on acidity) is about 10% sugar. Sports drinks are 5-8% but have a high salt/mineral content to compensate.

"OK, so your drink is 10% sugar. That means 50g of sugar in 500ml. The average teaspoon is 5g. So you are holding a drink containing ten teaspoons of sugar."

Now, how many did I put in my coffee?