More Old News Monday, Feb 21 2011 

Gulfstream G550

Image via Wikipedia

Further to yesterday’s collection of links:

The Real World:

  • Are cities governed by predictable mathematical relationships? Physicist Geoffrey West thinks so.
  • The New York Times compares IMF indicators of advanced economies.
  • The Australian government has spent more than $5.5 billion over the past decade to reduce carbon emissions. They aren’t getting very good value for money.
  • A billion dollars will buy you a Maybach 62 Landaulet luxury car, a Gulfstream G550 personal jet, a 104m yacht, a 7-bedroom mansion near Silicon Valley, an island in the St Lawrence Seaway (complete with a castle to use as a summer home), and a Patek Caliber 89 watch to time how long it takes to travel between them all—with enough change to stay in the Imperial Suite of Paris’ Park Hyatt Vendôme for 112 years, should you get bored with your surroundings. And then things get really obscene
  • Even if you don’t own a Maybach, you can use SQL injection to avoid speeding fines. (For the less technically minded, the camera reads and executes the text across the car’s front bumper; it’s a command to erase the camera’s entire database of stored number plates!)
  • Michael Lewis provides the inside dirt on the Irish economic collapse, over at Vanity Fair.
  • Movies get a lot of things wrong about serving in the military. Cracked.com examines just five of them.
  • National Geographic explores the catacombs of Paris; meanwhile, the Japanese government plans to excavate the research headquarters of Unit 731, the secret biowarfare R&D group infamous for live testing on prisoners in WWII.
  • The public, third-party release of 3D printing designs for Settlers of Catan pieces has raised new questions about intellectual property and games.
  • A British immigration officer tried to rid himself of his wife by putting her on a terrorist watchlist whilst she was visiting relatives in Pakistan. His actions were only discovered three years later, when he went for a promotion—when the routine security check revealed that he was married to a terror suspect.
  • Are you geeky? Are you hungry? Then head over to The Necronomnomnom and get cooking! (Just save me some, okay?)

Roleplaying:

Bonus Link: Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death. And, yes, there’s plenty more where these came from…

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So! What have you been up to??? Monday, Nov 1 2010 

In answer to the question….

The other day I was asked, Where have you guys been and what have you been up to the last few months??? “Well it has been busy” was my response… The I tried to explain just what we had been up to and it seems that things have been happening on so may levels it has been hard to keep track…

I suppose the main thing is we are no longer living in Cowra… This is a very good thing, let me assure you… It seemed every week we lived there we had another disaster of some kind on our hands.

Multiple car breaks downs requiring the extended use of hire cars sent us broke, Dave was working for Centrelink until his contract expired during the caretaker government period and they could not renew it… He reapplied for a role in the same office doing basically the same job, we are still waiting for an answer… the role was supposed to be filled by mid September at the latest, it is now the beginning of November and still no answer… we have given up waiting now and have decided to look elsewhere for work here in Young… health issues for both Dave and myself, multiple hospital trips, idiot issues, neighbors and real estate agent issues, house heating and cooling issues were the least of our problems… that damn town and house just about trashed us… I can’t believe the power bill for less than a year was over $2500… as the place was literally falling apart it was impossible to cool and way past impossible to heat…

Centrelink screwed us over multiple times as customers as well causing massive flow on effects… this was exacerbated by the fact we could not go into the local office as Dave having worked there meant everyone in the office could not look at our files as it was deemed as a conflict of interest… I am hoping my last call screaming down the phone at them last week finally has it sorted…

I went back to TAFE to finish a Business Admin course… I had decided to wait and see if Dave got his job back or if he would be working locally when we moved, so I had put off transferring until I knew for sure… we are into week 3 of this semester and I have yet to have an answer so tomorrow I am off to transfer to the local TAFE… I think I am more pleased about this than I realised as things were getting hinky at Cowra TAFE anyway… 2 bottom of the barrel teachers got me to the point that I refused to attend their classes and then there was the issue with one of the girls in the class…

We befriended each other early on in the piece and apparently in the first week of the holidays her partner was approached in town and told to watch his back as I was “after” him… YOU MUST BE KIDDING ME… WHAT IS THIS PRIMARY SCHOOL??? Seriously… he and his girlfriend had been having other problems and it all blew up into a huge fight… What I actually said was IF he was hitting her or keeping her there against her will I would take Dave out there and get her… as in pick her up, bring her to town, seek medical/police intervention if needed etc… apparently in someone who was listening in’s mind that translated to I was going to go out and kill this guy, then it went through a Chinese, drunken whispers thing and the poor boyfriend in question took it as gospel that I was after him and it made things worse for them… REALLY PEOPLE… GROW UP AND GET A LIFE!!

We then tried to help a friend of a friend with some legal issues and housing issues, but lack of communication put paid to that… I was also considering getting back into Karaoke etc… but the lack of reliable long term partners and potentially unreliable venue managers was enough for me to put that away and lock the door on it… I really am not going to waste my time again with that sort of thing if I do not have a good feeling about it…

I was working as a volunteer for the local PCYC… lets just leave it as this… As long as certain people high up in the management structure of NSW PCYC remain there, nothing productive will happen and that is such a shame given the potential for good…

Dave and I threw up our hands and walked away in disgust after much conversation and soul searching…

As some of you may know I am Secretary of the Australian World Peace Bell Association… things were pretty busy there for awhile too… We had the annual Peace Day celebrations and I was extremely busy organising that, a big thank you to my good friend Johnny Burrows for coming through at the last minute with an awesome musical number for the event and to my wonderful Dave for putting up with it all…

The poetry competition had some wonderful entries and the guest speaker Professor Stuart Rees of the Sydney Peace foundation was awesome…

I was invited to participate in a forum, 10 big ideas to grow the Central West… What a waste of my day… Duplicate/extra committees/boards to do the same job as the ones already there but incompetent… a waste of resources… Sorry, but it is… A couple of geniuses from the Orange area put forward that we provide public and community transport for the ill to go from all around the central west to Orange as it has this great new medical service instead of getting the services to the people… so if you are terminally ill, elderly, post surgery etc… lets just send you on a bus to your specialists up to 3 hours away… I rather loudly made the case against this, but ended up walking away in disgust… Never again… To all my friends in the various levels of government, good luck, I hope you can do more for these people out here, they desperately need the help… The fact that I was rushed to Cowra hospital and could not even get an ultrasound as they did not have the equipment and the radiology place in town did not have anyone who could use their one was a joke… I mean, yes, my suggestion of reviewing and making changes and having people actually accountable for their jobs/roles might be a bit of a pipe dream, but seriously…

OK, so by now you have probably guessed we have moved to Young… what a wonderful little place this is… so much better than Cowra… We have been out to the movies twice… it is an older cinema called the Southern Cross and our tickets are a whole $9 each… wow, expensive hey…

I can eat out as there are many restaurants here that supply gluten free meals… the IGA supermarket here is simply amazing with the largest range of gluten free products I have ever seen… So all in all we are more than happy.

It is cheaper, nicer and a much happier place to be…

We are living out of town on a farm, we share the farm with the owners, they have the main house and we have the secondary residence… The owners of the property are wonderful people… so kind, helpful and welcoming… These are really good people and I am so happy that when I put it out to the universe that we needed help this was the response I got… Our cats still are not allowed out as I think it is better for them to be indoor, less vet bills that way, but we are in the process of setting up 2 large enclosures for them to roam freely in… 1 is weatherproof and about 10m long x 3m wide and 3 meters high and attached to the house, the other is off the back end of the house and is about 7m x7m and 3m high again, but not weatherproof… I think they will be happy with those, they love the one attached to the house already so that is great news…

The farm also comes complete with animals and orchards… Cherries, Peaches, Olives, Strawberries, Blackberries and eggs (courtesy of the free range chooks) are all abundant.. there is plenty of room for my much longed for vege patch and we have befriended some of the animals here too, Ebony the little dog who likes to come for a visit and see if I have left the cat food down for her to eat (which I actually pick up before I open the door except for about a dozen cat biscuits so she thinks she is getting something special)… the cats are terrified of her… it is so funny as he is half their size… Earl, the cat… comes in and demands inspection daily…( just quietly, Chloe has fallen in love with him and follows him around, sadly he does not even acknowledge her). Cookie, the BIG dog…. Our little Holly sits there every day pining for him as she has fallen in love…

There are also the horses, Gus and Giggles… beautiful animals, I love sitting there watching them run and play in the back paddock and I had forgotten how much fun chooks are… they LOVE the tea leaves I put in with the vege scraps for them… so cool…

oh I forgot the goats… Timmy keeps wanting me to take him out the back to look at them… he is so confused as to what they are… I love watching him nose to nose with a goat, meowing and wondering why they wont meow back… the first time one of them bleated at him he nearly wet himself and ran inside… LOL…

and I forgot the frogs… as we are on tank water here.. you go into the bathroom at night or look at the bathroom window/kitchen window, don’t be surprised if there is a frog or two looking right back at you!… LOL… love it… I am not too sure just how Dave feels about that… I think it is great… our environment here is clean enough that we can support frogs… YAY!!

Dave is writing again, I am reading and blogging again as well as motivated to cook and do housework… these are all minor miracles when you consider just how beyond giving a stuff we both were and how little we felt like being productive a few weeks ago at the old place…

My industrial kitchen is awesome too… 2 stoves, 4 ovens, heaps of bench space and a walk in pantry… YAY, a dream come true… I am already happily cooking up a storm and Dave has made a comeback to the kitchen as well.. WOOT!

Dave and I sat down and had a long talk yesterday. I am off to the TAFE tomorrow to transfer, we are both going to look for work locally and things are really looking up, we pick up the last load of our stuff from the old place this week and all will be well in our world…

We are hoping to see some friends from Sydney down in the next few weeks as we have missed everyone so much but have just not been able to get there because of everything else…

Life is good!

So, What have you been up to????

Adventures Culinaire Wednesday, Aug 18 2010 

Just as I did yesterday, I took control of the kitchen this afternoon to feed an exhausted Mim as she stumbled home from TAFE. It seems like this might be my Monday-Wednesday gig until I go back to work.

This time, it was chicken, with the same corn, potatoes and carrots as before. To my horror, halfway through preparation, I discovered that the chicken was as drumsticks, and not the fillets I’d hoped. Nonetheless, with the help of some rice, a can of mango slices (it comes in cans, apparently) and some 99-cent-a-carton orange juice concentrate, the raw ingredients were transformed into orange-soy chicken drumsticks with boiled rice, mango-corn coulis and curried vegetables.

Unfortunately, I ran out of soy sauce, so had to add some Chinese rice wine to the chicken marinade, and having used up the fresh ginger last night, had to use gari in my homemade curry powder instead. I like to snack on gari from time to time. I’m weird like that.

I’d hoped that the starchiness and slight sweetness from the raw corn would complement the mango, but the mango’s sweetness was overpowering—it seems that mango slices tinned in mango juice require yet more sugar in the mix. Perhaps it’s to stop the mango slices going mushy—added sugar helps vegetables and legumes keep their shape when cooked—but I really don’t think quite that much sugar is necessary. I had to use red wine vinegar and salt to try and temper the flavour a little; in the end, it came out tasting somewhat like pawpaw.

Despite all these problems, the meal actually worked fairly well.

I’m starting to notice a Chinese influence in my cooking. The phrase “Chinese cooking” is a misnomer—there’s as much difference between China’s eight basic cuisines as between any eight culinary traditions of Europe. One thing that Chinese cuisines share, however, is a love of contrasting flavour.

There are six basic flavours in cooking, matching different types of taste receptors: salty, sweet, bitter, sour, umami (AKA savoury) and the long-suspected but only recently discovered fatty/oily. Recent genetic and developmental research suggests that we may see a specific oxalic flavour added as a seventh, and there could well be more on the way as aspects of cuisine and neuroscience converge.

Western dishes mostly focus on the one flavour. There are exceptions, of course, such as the oily sourness of vinaigrette or the peppery sweetness of crème anglaise de poivre et lavande, but for the most part, Western cuisine is an exercise in simple tastes.

Chinese cuisines—the real Chinese foods, not the dumbed-down, fast-food versions we often see in so-called “Chinese” restaurants—are all about mixing flavours. Not just sweet and sour, but sweet and salty, salty and sour, umami and sweet…

It’s this kind of sensibility that I’m starting to explore in my own cooking. The sour sweetness of caramelised orange juice joins with the saltiness of soy and savouriness of chicken, in turn complemented by the salty sweetness of the mango-corn coulis; likewise, the relish from last night’s dinner marries the sweetness of carrot to the pickled gherkin’s sourness.

I like where this is going. (And I think Mim does, too, just quietly.)

A Breath Before Ranting Tuesday, Aug 17 2010 

Last Friday marked the end of my contract to Centrelink, so once again, I find myself with enough time to think. But when you’re stuck in a small, disintegrating house 15 miles from nowhere in particular, your books and DVDs still packed away after eight months and with nothing to watch on television but ads for the pettiest debasement of democracy the country’s ever seen, this isn’t necessarily a good thing.

I told myself that I’d take a quick break from bitching, but there, I’ve started already. Better, perhaps, to focus on other things, like what I’ve achieved lately:

  • I finished reading Delta Green: Targets of Opportunity. Not a bad effort overall, and still worth the wait—Arc Dream’s latest update suggests they’re due to ship any day now—but I wasn’t greatly impressed by the chapter on the Cult of Transcendence. I liked the Innocent (the Cult’s answer to Kaspar Hauser, I guess), but by-and-large, the chapter read like a Mage: the Ascension splatbook. Maybe it was because it was difficult to read on an iPhone, or because I read it whilst taking scopolamine to deal with pancreatitis, or maybe because it’s become dated since it was written and a bunch of Bernie Madoff lookalikes with kewl Mythos powerz just don’t cut it any more. I’ll give it a fresh read when my print copy finally arrives, and see if my opinion changes.
  • I finally deleted my two old blogs from Blogger: The Magical Misadventures of the Black-Clad Bodhisattva and the aborted-at-launch Tales of the Great River. Most of the posts from the former were ported across here when I started Mim & Dave, and the latter, well… I’d laid some groundwork early last year to set up a Tribe 8 blog; however, with all of last year’s troubles and travails, Tales got put on the back burner and didn’t get taken up again. Maybe I’ll revive it in future.
  • Yesterday, I tried to make Mim a flan de naranja—or orange-flavoured crème caramel—but the oven thermostat doesn’t work properly, so the flan failed to set and ended up a delicious (but altogether less aesthetically satisfying) orange custard instead. At least I know how to make orange custard now.
  • On a slightly more positive note, after years of searching, I finally found roasted onion flakes with which to make Danish hot dogs, one of my favourite childhood delicacies. And then ate them all. Nom nom nom.
  • Mim had a rough day today, so I took over this evening’s dinner duties. She’d planned on rump steak with steamed carrot, corn and potatoes, but I thought I might do things a little differently… I finely shredded and squeezed out the potato, then fried it up with the  corn kernels (I don’t really know what to call this—at the moment, it’s taterkraut, as it looks a bit like sauerkraut when it’s done); soaked the steak for an hour and a half in a marinade of ginger, Chinese rice wine, soy sauce, egg white, oil, cornflour and mustard seeds, then cooked it medium-rare; and blended the carrot with some pickled gherkin relish, red wine vinegar, oil and sugar to make a side sauce for the steak, complete with a little serving spoon carved from carrot. I winged most of it—nonetheless, “Dave’s Steak and Three Veg” (better name coming soon, I promise) was a huge hit. So much so that I don’t have any pictures.

And that would appear to be it for the moment. I’ll be cooking more in the coming days, and I’m thinking of catching up on some writing projects and maybe even breaking out the paintbrush in the near future. So much to do! If only I had time to be unemployed!

    Weddings, Family, Everything! oh and Pumpkin Soup… Tuesday, Apr 13 2010 

    Welcome back all!

    Well, we have been quite busy around here and things have been a little tricky, but have worked out for the best…

    But before I get into that I want to congratulate a wonderful friend Cr. Gareth Ward, who has been pre selected to run a the Liberal candidate for Kiama. Well done sir, you do so much work and are such a genuine and honest person (yes a rarity I know), you deserve this and all the best of luck.

    Last weekend we headed off to Sydney for a friend’s wedding and to catch up with some long lost family…

    The car is still not back on the road (hopefully it will be by the end of today). They have had trouble sourcing the part for the power steering unit and are waiting for one to arrive from Melbourne today, it does not take long to fit, so maybe tomorrow at the latest we hope.

    The wonderful man from Hertz organised me a very nice VE Commodore to head to Sydney in and we decided at that point to take the cats with us… We were to drop them off with friends but decided at the last-minute to keep them with us…

    On Friday our great friend Liz and her son Sebastian came out to Cowra to stay at the new house to supervise the carpets being laid. We met her at the bus stop and had lunch, then dropped her at the house and headed off to the “big smoke”.

    It was a lovely 4 hr drive over the Blue Mountains via Annies icecream at Bathurst to Parramatta where we stayed at Liz’s place (house swaps are great) and as the wedding was to be held at Lachlan’s in Parramatta Park it was a perfect arrangement…

    All the cats except for Chloe took the trip quite well… She had a little accident in her carrier so we took care of that and all went well… Although Dave now calls her the ShamWow cat. Poor baby did not even seem worried when she got bathed and washed… I think she was just grateful she did not have to clean it up herself…

    We spent Saturday searching for a particular hair clip (french twist clip) that I wanted for the wedding, for some reason no one uses them anymore so we searched Westfield Parramatta for hours to find it, people in Sydney are so different to out here, most were just rude and not helpful, others indifferent… we finally found them I bought all the ones they had, then went for some lunch and went back to the house to get ready for the wedding.

    And may I say, it was the best wedding I have ever been to…

    Not too formal where you sit looking at your watch trying to find the earliest time you can leave and not too informal that you have a “urgh” moment… but a fun, joyous and beautiful celebration of the joining of two amazing friends and their families… The bride looked stunning and the groom looked very handsome in his kilt. Dave even got up and danced… See miracles DO happen.

    The meals were wonderful, a BIG thankyou to the bride and staff of Lachlans for thinking of me, as I have coeliac disease there is so much I can not eat, myself and another guest were well catered for with “safe” meals that were just as good, if not better than the others and when one of the girls at our table admitted to being vegitarian, there was no problem in getting her a meal made on the spot. Excellent service and really nice staff. The weather held out and the marquee was lovely. By the way Claire, the seating at tables 1 – 3 was perfect… I think everyone else at the other tables should have been just as happy, you did a great job, oh and the DJ rocked… very cool music selections… Rosina and I did a lot of chair dancing…

    Oh and I love bagpipes. The piper was excellent…

    Although I feel I must share one of my favourite photos from the wedding, Dan was not even aware I took it which makes it even better.

    The next day we had breakfast with our good friend Patrick at Mars Hill Cafe in Parramatta. This is where Dave and I had our first Date… it must have been destiny, we only had one coffee each, but sat there talking for 5 hours… LOL… It is now one of our favourite places for coffee and a chat… If we ever moved back to Sydney it would be close to there.. Sunday mornings with great coffee, newspaper and the best youghurt and fruit I have ever had would be divine. We had a great time chatting and catching up on the last few months with Patrick before I headed off to visit with my cousins.

    I have not seen my extended family in 24 years, except for Aunty Judith and her kids when mum passed away 4 years ago. I had been what was considered the “black sheep” as I left home young and had the kids and according to mum “disgraced them” so mum and grandfather told me, I was not really welcome…

    I have no idea of what the stories were that got back to everyone else and it took me a long time to come to peace with the fact tha the stories that were passed down to the rest of the family were only vaguely close to the facts in that my name was mentioned and that I probably would not get to tell my side or even have it believed so I moved on, it hurt – a LOT, but as a doctor once told me, “you have to let it go or it will destroy you, accept it for what it was and move on”, so after a lot of tears, years and heartache I did.

    But me being me, you can imagine my joy and surprise when my cousins husband contacted me via facebook and agreed to catch up. I have to say I was nervous… terrified actually, yes I know they do not bite, but I was told they all hated me… It turned out to be a lovely time and we got to chat and catch up, I was not surprised when Beth was listening to what had been happening with me over the years to hear her say “that’s not what we were told” … I think there wil be a lot of that over the coming conversations… I really do dread to hear exactly what was said… I am not too sure I want to know…

    So the upshot of it is, I do have extended family and regardless of what I was told or what they were told, they are pretty darn cool and I am so happy to have them back in my life. Hopefully now I will not feel quite so much of an orphan… and we can get to know each other.

    Too soon it was time to head off and get back to pack and leave Sydney, we picked up the cats, Lawn mower, whipper snipper and chain saw, fed Liz’s pets and headed down to Yarrawarrah to another friend’s place to pick up some of the plants we had to leave behind when we moved as there was just not enough room in the truck… Once again a big thanks to Ali, Robbie and her family for doing a great job babysitting the plants, we will be back soon to get the rest, I promise.

    We got home around 1 am and cleaned up the ShamWow cat again as she had another accident, unpacked the car and headed off to bed and collapsed.

    Yesterday we headed back into town to have a look at our new carpets. They look GREAT, and to see Liz and Sebastian off back to Sydney, was sorry we did not have more time to spend with them, but next time it will be better… My thoughts were with Liz on the trip backas Sebastian got car sick on the bus on the way in and that was just not pleasant for the poor little man or Liz for that matter, so hopefully the trip back was better for them both.

    Looking over the weekend it was awesome! So happy to see everyone, but as always glad to get home.

    Dave is starting his new role with Centrelink any day now, we are just waiting for his clearance to come through and we hope to move into the new place this coming weekend… YAY…We discovered that we have had an awesome weather change here the last week or so, the nights get down to 2.5° and the days are in the early 20’s… fab… time to get the warmies out… lots of snuggly cats in the bed at night and crowded in front of the cat heater… Yes they have their own heater, they hog ours too much… LOL… and I confess they are just a “little” spoilt.

    So this brings me to todays recipe, as the weather is getting cooler here in Cowra I decided it was time for a nice hearty Pumpkin Soup.

    Mim’s Pumpkin Soup.

    1 kg peeled diced pumpkin

    2 Gluten Free Massel chicken stock cubes

    4 large peeled diced potatoes

    1 cup milk

    125 ml thick cream

    2 chopped onions

    2 crushed garlic cloves

    enough water to cover

    1/4 cup olive oil

    1/4 cup diced chives

    Heat olive oil in a large pan, add onion and garlic and stir till soft and golden, add the potatoes and pumpkin and stir until a little brown on the edges…

    Add enough water to cover the veges and then add the milk and stock cube. Stir really well to get the browned bits off the bottom of them pan (they make it so much tastier) and simmer for 45 min till veg are really soft and mushy.

    Blend all till smooth and add cream, return to stove and simmer through for 5 min.

    Serve piping hot and sprinkle with chopped chives.

    ENJOY!

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