2008-02-28

 

What Superhero am I?



You're Iceman from the X-Men movies

You're the coolest person around! When other people's tempers heat up, you find a way to stay calm and focused. You're great at staying cool physically, too - who needs air conditioning when you can regulate your own body temperature? Like Bobby Drake, you might have trouble communicating with your family, but you have supportive friends who understand you. Since you never have to worry about getting too hot or too cold, you're great at outdoor sports like snowboarding.

(I had hoped for Spiderman.)

Nimbly nabbed from Elvina's blog.

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2008-02-27

 

lugubrious

What a wonderful word.

A languid, viscous word proceeding out from the pit of chest distending the throat and smothering the tongue as it oozes out.

It is a word that begs for exaggerated pronunciation, loo-oo-oo-goo-oo-oo-bree-ee-ee-us, yet it has a serious short coming:

The meaning is all wrong. It means sad, mournful, gloomy, miserable, melancholic. Yet ... that is not at all what it sounds like. To me, it sounds like it should mean something thick, heavy, slow moving, plodding. I want it to mean languid and viscous, but it doesn't.

I feel cheated, deceived and betrayed.

(There are other words that fit in this category, where the actual meaning is not what I intuitively feel they should be, such as condone or vicarious, their meaning and understanding is a conscious effort.)

I want to use it in sentence like, "He had a lugubrious moustache." and I want it to mean he had a large, heavy, drooping walrus moustache.

I want to be able to say, "He was feeling lugubrious." and have it mean that he was in a lazy, contented, unhurried mood.

While I can say those things, they don't mean what I want them to.

Image nabbed from here.

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2008-02-25

 

Easy ice cream recipe

JJ has eczema and while doctors (here and in Peru) insist it has nothing to do with his diet, we know otherwise (it is one of my peeves of people in sciences, they wear extreme blinders, if it is not published in a peer reviewed journal, it isn't real. They are well disciplined reject anything that is not accepted dogma). Dairy, nuts (of any sort), soy, spinach and MSG definitely aggravate his condition. Fortunately, he seems to tolerate goat's milk fine.

For frozen desserts, he was always limited to gelato or sorbet, recently I have been making him ice cream from goat's milk and it is surprisingly easy to do.

1 litre (4 cups) milk
100g (4oz, about 2/3 cup) icing sugar
1 341ml frozen drink concentrate

Combine the ingredients, mix until blended and put in the freezer. Periodically mix, scraping down the frozen stuff on the side. I mix it about once every 45 minutes or so. After 4-6 hours it will get fairly stiff and you can stop mixing it and let it freeze on its own.

The original recipe called for 400ml of milk and juice from freshly pressed raspberries. I thought my way was simpler. I will try cutting the sugar next time because it is plenty sweet (although, I am sure the sugar helps minimize large ice crystal build up).

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2008-02-24

 

Are you trying to kill me?

I first met my friend Emad back in 1992. Megumi invited me over, telling me that she had a friend whose wife was coming over. We went to his student apartment and I brought some Pujabi mix with me.

Emad grabbed a handful, popped it in his mouth and thought he was going to die. Apparently, Sudanese do not eat spicy food and Punjabi mix is pretty high on the spicy snack scale.

He was incredulous that both Megumi and I seemed to enjoy it without ill effect.

Since then, he has learned to tolerate and even indulge in spicy food.

He still remembers that first encounter with me when he thought I tried to kill him.

Image credits: Richard of Forbidden Planet.

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2008-02-23

 

Just because it doesn't really make any sense

Four clips from my favourite Marx Brother's movie, Animal Crackers.











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2008-02-21

 

Not easily grossed out, but ...

I find this picture pretty nauseating. It is sarcophagid larvae in the gums of an Israeli man. Aside from live maggots crawling around in his gums, the condition of his teeth also leave a lot to be desired.

Image nabbed from here.

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2008-02-20

 

My Nerd Type

Saw this on Tena's blog, so it saves me the trouble of actually thinking of real content.

What Be Your Nerd Type?
Your Result: Science/Math Nerd
 

(Absolute Insane Laughter as you pour toxic chemicals into a foaming tub of death!)

Well, maybe you aren't this extreme, but you're in league with the crazy scientists/mathmeticians of today. Very few people have the talent of math and science is something takes a lot of brains as well. Thank whosever God you worship, or don't worship, so thank no deity whatsoever in your case, for you people! Most of us would have died off without your help.

Literature Nerd
 
Social Nerd
 
Drama Nerd
 
Gamer/Computer Nerd
 
Musician
 
Anime Nerd
 
Artistic Nerd
 
What Be Your Nerd Type?
Quizzes for MySpace

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2008-02-19

 

Chocolate lava cakes

Tried out this recipe yesterday that I found inside a Baker's Dark Chocolate box. They are really, really good. Incredibly rich and decadent without drowning you in chocolate. Very, very suitable with a nice tall glass of cold milk.

112g (4oz) dark (70%) chocolate
125ml (1/2 cup) butter
250ml (1 cup) icing sugar
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
90ml (6 tbsp) flour
  1. Ensure you have everything prepared before hand because the whole process is very quick.

  2. Preheat oven to 220C (425F).

  3. Butter and flour 4 custard cups (I had no idea what custard cups were, so I used a 4 muffin muffin tin – I really should have used a larger one, since I had enough batter for 6).

  4. Place the butter and chocolate in a reasonably large microwaveable dish.

  5. Microwave on high for about a minute.

  6. Whisk the melted butter and chocolate together until smooth.

  7. Add the icing sugar and blend.

  8. Add the eggs and yolks and blend (this was actually kind of tough, just keep going at it).

  9. Blend in the flour.

  10. Pour into prepared custard cups and bake for 13-15 minutes.

  11. Remove from oven and let cool 1 minute.

  12. Run a knife around the edge to loosen them.

  13. Turn over onto a plate.

  14. Sprinkle with a little bit of icing sugar and top with 2 or 3 fresh raspberries. (If you are like me, you would prefer to top with a nice heavy whipped cream, tehn dust with icing sugar and finally top with raspberries. I am sure raspberry syrup, with seeds would be good too).

  15. Serve immediately while they are still warm (don't waste your breath oohing and aahing over it, just dig in and experience the decadence - this is a dessert that needs to be eaten warm).

As mentioned, I had left over batter, so I ate it. Even raw it was incredibly good. My suspicion is that you shouldn't fill the cups or tins up to the rim, otherwise the dessert gets a pointy "muffin" top (my did anyway)

If you haven't ever had these I strongly suggest you try it, it is not as over the top and sickly as so many triple chocolate, ecstasy death, coronary collapsing desserts are, it is actually decent and edible.

I did find the recipe on the companies web site, but it is slightly modified (six servings instead of 4, also fewer calories). You can check out the web version of the recipe here.

Image nabbed from here (you can also get another recipe for chocolate molten lava cake there too).

BTW, a serving is only half a cake.

I calculate that the recipe I made yesterday had about 700 calories per whole cake (assuming you manage 4 cakes out of it) and 42g of fat - all of it very, very worth it.

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2008-02-18

 

Life, the Universe and Everything

42. That is what I am today. According to Douglas Adam's trilogy in five parts The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 42 is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.

I'm not too sure about that.

Ford: "It's unpleasantly like being drunk."
Arthur: "What's so unpleasant about being drunk?"
Ford: "Ask a glass of water."

- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Photo credit: Richard of Forbidden Planet.

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2008-02-15

 

What time am I?



You're the time of day right around sunrise, when the sky is still a pale bluish gray. The streets are empty, and the grass and leaves are a little bit sparkly with dew and the day smells new. You are the sound of a few chirpy birds outside the window. You are quiet, peaceful, and contemplative. If you move slowly, it's not because you're lazy – it's because you know there's no reason to rush. You move like a relaxed cat, pausing for deep stretches that make your muscles feel alive. You are long sips of tea or coffee (out of a mug that's held with both hands) that slowly warm your insides just as the sun is brightening the sky.

(Courteously borrowed from Ingrid's blog.)

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2008-02-14

 

"It's not that I was afraid of dying,

it's just that I wanted to live; to enjoy life in all its fullness."

Rowan Yew, age 43, a first class dilettante and entrepreneur, lay in his bed, covered up to his chin, in his darkened bedroom. Attending him were his friends, Dr. Jason Reselda, the eminent pathologist, and Gabriel Malachi, the no less distinguished geneticist. While all three were super-achievers, Rowan led the pack; his power, opulence and extravagance a testament to his ability to seize opportunities and profit from them. He did nothing by half measures and never considered failure as a possible outcome.

"That's good to hear, because dying is just what you are doing", said Jason.

"Are you sure?"

"I see no other outcome. The last sample I examined continues to show an expanding infection. In fact, you are more pathogen than man. You should have been dead long ago."

"Then perhaps I am not dying."

"You're dying alright. Shortly you will cease to be a living, breathing man."

"But I shall continue."

"We all continue after death. Our atoms disperse and become part of new life, new things - none of which will be recognizable as Rowan Yew."

"I am so cold. Is it day yet? I so wish to see the sun, to feel its warmth on my skin."

Gabriel shifted toward the patio door. It was south facing window with heavy drapes that admitted no light. He looked toward Jason.

Jason said, "It is 10:24, the sun rose about four and a half hours ago at 5:58. So, yes, it is day outside. However, I don't think in your condition, especially in your condition, you should be exposed to the light."

"Indulge a dying man one of his last requests. If you are right, then what difference does it make if we hasten my death in the next hour or prolong it another day?"

Gabriel pulled back the drapes and Rowan gasped, "The light!" He closed his eyes and breathed in deeply. His friends, thinking he had breathed his last, came to his bedside. And he breathed again. "I must have more. I want so to feel it on my face."

"Rest still", Jason said.

"No! I will not wither in this bed. If I am to die, then I shall die enjoying the sun on my face. Bring the wheelchair." Rowan's face was white, his nose and cheeks were sunken in. His eyes too were white, the iris had lost all its colour, but instead of pink there was only white. His pupils looked like two small cavities into his skull..

Gabriel looked at Jason who gave him a small nod and Gabriel proceeded to fetch the wheelchair.

"All right", said Jason, "we will grant you your last request. God knows this death watch has taken its toll on us. Perhaps it is better we get it over with sooner rather than later." He peeled back the covers, revealing an emaciated and bleached white body underneath. It was covered with find white hairs which rubbed off as Jason and Gabriel moved Rowan into the wheelchair. It didn't seem to bother him because he did not complain or wince. He seemed eager to get into the chair and seemed to find some strength in himself to assist his two friends.

Gabriel wheeled him toward the window and into the light. As the rays of the sun touched Rowan's body, he closed his eyes, tilted back his head, swayed it from side to side and sighed. The two friends observed his intimate encounter with the sunlight. His ardour was uncomfortable to watch and they turned their eyes away. The friends stood in silence, avoiding each others eyes and avoiding looking at him. The time passed without end and they seemed condemned to forever be witness to this macabre scene of the wasted cadaver of their friend, covered in white tendrils, moaning and writhing in the sunlight.

After 10 minutes Rowan said, "I am thirsty". Gabriel brought him a glass of water and held it to his lips. No matter how carefully he held it, how gently he tipped it, Rowan seemed insistent on dribbling it down his chin and onto his chest. "More water", he would repeat. This continued until he was well soaked.

The wetness brought out a dank, earthy smell from Rowan. "Take me outside. I don't want to be separated from the sun by this pane of glass.

He was wheeled outside onto the patio and he sat there. Grinning, happy and fully indulgent in the sun and the air. He rolled his head in the direction of Jason and parted his white lips in a unsettling smile, revealing white teeth set in white gums, "I feel a new man. It was the asphyxiating darkness of the room you deemed to make my crypt that aggravated my infirmity."

He rolled his head with their sunken closed eyes toward the sun, "No one should be denied the sun. Its gentle rays are so loving and so tenderly they warm and caress my body. I feel its restorative powers flowing through my veins."

He straightened his head and stared through his closed eyes, "The sun is the source of life. It is the goodness which drives all the processes on this Earth. No one should ever be denied its life-giving goodness."

Moments passed into minutes. And minutes passed into an hour. The two friends stayed close, but said nothing.

After a little more than an hour, Rowan cried out, "The sun is so beautiful." and pushed himself up and stretched out toward the sun.





This is the first part of a short story I am writing, inspired from the opening line. The opening begins with the final discourse of a dying man. A man who is dying because a life prolongation experiment has gone wrong.

The second part (of which I have written a little, but am in the process of rewriting) takes place 3 days earlier, when Rowan invites his friends over. It will be a debate on life, death, and the ethics and consequences of extended life. It will be revealed that he has taken matters into his own hands and is changing.

I expect the conclusion to be a short, tight summary. Something along the lines of: He didn't die. Not that day. He just changed. His friends planted him in the garden where he thrived, alone, the only one of his kind. When the wind blows and the leaves rustle, it is said you can hear Rowan whisper.

I would like to end with a powerful word or phrase (something akin to 'Rosebud' from Citizen Cane).

I like the opening. I think the next paragraph summarily introduces the actors and sets the scene.

I am also reasonably pleased with the rest of the dialogue, except ... that I don't think it flows well. I think it is too abrupt. I am struggling with how to indicate the passage of periods of silence in a darkened room as a man dies. My narrative needs work. But I don't want to pad it, I want it to flow better.

I try to indicate the passage of time to some extent with The time passed without end and they seemed condemned to forever be witness to this macabre scene..., but I am not sure if it works well or if it is too much author intrusion. (A good piece of writing engages the reader and makes them forget that there is an author.)

Suggestions, comments and criticisms are welcomed and, indeed, encouraged.

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2008-02-13

 

Bad Math

I really dislike (bordering on zealous detestation) of things that don't make sense, are obviously wrong or, worse yet, deceptive (except as humour).

That great provider of comedy, satire and parody - AOL - recently ran a consumer piece comparing prices between warehouse retailer Costco and normal retailer Giant and showing where you got better savings. What struck me was the way the savings were expressed - they were nonsensical.

If I say you can save 50%, you would expect (at least I would hope you would expect) to pay 1/2 the price for it.

If I tell you that you can save 100%, you would expect the item to be free (zero cost).

That it not how AOL does math. In fact, on some products you can save as much as 267%!

?????

I don't see how you can save more than 100% and I would expect any person to look at that and go, "That is just plain wrong."

For your consideration two examples pulled from the AOL piece claiming 100% and 267% savings. (The real savings is 50% and 72.8% respectively.)


Screen captures and cropping by me, images and bad math copyright AOL.

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2008-02-12

 

Certified Honest Blogger

Certified Honest Blogger

While I was taking a little lie down back in January, Hye awarded me a Certified Honest Blogger award.

I believe this is the first blogging award I have recieved.

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2008-02-11

 

One World, One Dream


I was listening to Dispatches (with Rick MacInnes-Rae) on CBC radio recently and there was a segment on slogans in China. Apparently China is very keen on slogans - short aphorisms to instil good social and moral values and behaviour. Although, they are so widespread that people pretty much ignore them.

When a Chinese man was asked about the Olympic slogan for 2008, "One World, One Dream", he said he didn't like it. Why should there be only one dream. Why couldn't he dream his own dream?

I agree with him.

Image nabbed from here.

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2008-02-08

 

Last words

Three friends die in a car accident and find themselves in a processing room in the afterlife.

As they are processed one by one, the angel asks them, "When you are lying in your casket and friends and family are mourning over you, what would you like to hear them say about you?"

The first friend replies, "I would like to hear them say that I was a great doctor who helped the lives of many."

The second friend says, "I would like to hear that I was a wonderful teacher who made a difference in the lives of the children I taught."

The last friend thought a moment and said, "What I'd like to hear them say is, 'Look, he's moving!'"

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2008-02-07

 

"Do you begin to see what kind of world we are creating?"

"A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself.

The old civilizations claimed that they were founded on love or justice. Ours is founded upon hatred.

In our world there will be no emotions except fear, rage, and triumph. Everything else we shall destroy."


Adapted from George Orwell's 1984.

The text was extracted and modified from a longer quote from 1984 that I previously posted.

Properly marked up it would look like this:

"Do you begin to see ... what kind of world we are creating? ... A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself. ... The old civilizations claimed that they were founded on love or justice. Ours is founded upon hatred. In our world there will be no emotions except fear, rage, [and] triumph ... Everything else we shall destroy ...

But it is a little harder to read and a lot less punchy that way (I think).

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2008-02-06

 

Forty Days

Today is Ash Wednesday and begins the 40 day period of Lent in the Roman Catholic and other Western Christian churches (Eastern churches start on a different day as do the Oriental churches. This year, Eastern Rite churches begin Lent on 10-March. It begins on Clean Monday and last 42 days. The Coptic Church begins Lent on 03-March this year and it lasts 55 days. For Western and Eastern Rite churches, Sundays are excluded from Lenten observation. In the Coptic Church they are not).

It is a period of fast and abstinence.

The ashes distributed on the forehead are a symbol of repentance from the Jewish tradition of using ashes and sackcloth to signify repentance. I am not aware of any official requirement to use sackcloth during the Lenten period, but I have seen a strip of sackcloth draped over crucifixes in church and a number of Catholics I know carry around a small piece. It is not part of my tradition and I do not participate in that manner. (I recall first observing the use of sackcloth by Catholics in the early to mid-90s by Charismatic Catholics. It may be culturally or traditionally used elsewhere.)

The exact origin of Lent is kind of fuzzy and murky. Certainly there are records of various types of observances preceding Passover / Easter celebration in the early church. The generally official reason for 40 days is in imitation of Jesus' 40 days in the desert.

Personally, I have always seen it as symbolic of the 40 years the Jewish people spent in the desert following their emancipation from Egypt. I have always observed it as an act of solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sister of the hardship they endured.

Arguments could also be made that Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai1 in the presence of God; the 40 day journey Elijah made to Mount Horeb2; the 40 days Nineveh had to repent3.

However, like any religious observations, customs, requirements, we need to go beyond the letter of the law and immerse ourselves in the Spirit of truth and faith.

Some 4th century fathers thoughts on fasting and abstinence:

"Let the mouth also fast from disgraceful speeches and railings. For what does it profit if we abstain from fish and fowl and yet bite and devour our brothers and sisters?" - Saint John Chrysostom (c.347– c.407 C.E.)

"Beware of limiting the good of fasting to mere abstinence from meats. Real fasting is alienation from evil. 'Loose the bands of wickedness.' Forgive your neighbour the mischief he has done you. Forgive him his trespasses against you. Do not 'fast for strife and debate.' You do not devour flesh, but you devour your brother. You abstain from wine, but you indulge in outrages. You wait for evening before you take food, but you spend the day in the law courts." - St. Basil the Great (c.329 – 379 C.E.)



(1) "He [Moses] was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. - Exodus 34:28 [Christian spin could be that we are called to write the covenant and the commandments of the Lord into our hearts - Richard]

(2) "[H]e [Elijah] himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.”6He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the LORD came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God." - 1 Kings 19:4-8 [two postulates come from this: (1) without God's help, we do not have the strength to reach Him, (2) the journey to God is long and not easy (but, I am sure some literalist will read it and say, "It is only 40 days, so long as God feeds me." - Richard]

(3) "Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.” When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
- Jonah 3:4-10 [sounds pretty Lenten to me - Richard]


[Update 07-February-2008 @ 11:19 AM: added information about the start dates of Lent for Eastern and Coptic churches.]

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2008-02-05

 

Chai Tea or Tai Chi?

One of life's questions.

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2008-02-04

 

Pater Noster

I saw Metropolis about 15 years ago and then read the book about 8 years later. The book is better than the movie.

As I grow older, the futile image of constantly feeding and tending the machines grows stronger in my mind.

I recognized pater noster as Latin for Our Father (as in the opening of the Lord's Prayer) and assumed that Thea von Harbou's references to the pater noster machine were overt references to a machine that consumed and ate its workers (much like Cronus in Greek mythology ate his children – or perhaps Moloch, to whom children were sacrificed).

I only recently discovered that a pater noster machine is a type of slow moving elevator invented in 1884.

Image nabbed from here.

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