elb's hovel of thoughts

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Nightmare

I'm exhausted mentally and emotionally. It just keeps coming back to haunt me whenever I don't need it too during the night - and I'm reminded of it during the day on an almost daily basis.

I need support, not what I am getting. Please.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Nando's tried to kill me

After quite a long lull in which I barely ate anything really spicy at all, I made probably one of the worst impromptu decisions of mine in a while: to have Nando's chicken, with extra hot peri-peri sauce. Oops. The consumption process was fine; I relished in having something spicy in my stomach after quite a while. I didn't even need to drink anything at all; my mouth could take it all in.

Unfortunately my stomach didn't quite agree. I spent the majority of the late evening in the toilet: water was leaving my body through the incorrect orifice with terrifying frequency; it was FlamingAnus (TM) and LackOfSleep(TM) all over again. Fortunately I regained some form of control over the night and managed to get some sleep; but I still spent 3/4 s of Friday sleeping and the other 1/4 mostly bedridden (with a good portion of the rest of it on the porcelain throne again). Appetite was restricted to water (to replenish the fluids getting lost via DeathByDehydration(TM) but this probably only exarberated the problem in the initial stages), Milo (that's some hot chocolate thingajig for those of you with the blur look on the face) for nutrients, and some plain porridge in the initial recovery stages.

The good news (or otherwise, depending on your opinion of me) is that I'm now mostly alright; I just got home after going out for 9 hours without any stomach problems (the rest wanted to have Nando's, believe it or not! I had to steer them towards some non spicy food for dinner at Queensway before I had another repeat of the incident) and a hearty appetite.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Tiring of Food

Lately I've been very clueless as to what I want to eat for dinner; thinking of what to cook has never been more challenging for my unexcited palate. For example its been rather routine stir fries for the past few days. You know, firstly defrosting the meat in the microwave and hoping that the food doesn't get cooked in the process. Followed by starting the wok, tossing in the garlic and perhaps some shallots in, then maybe adding some leeks or something. Then add the meat, add some soy sauce, oyster sauce, some cooking wine and herbs and what not.

I grew bored.

Hence the visit to La Pascale. I got squid, escargots, a pork shank, crab, and some random bits and pieces. I finished all that within 48 hours. So I turned to deep frying (buying food from outside is just too expensive). Or well, tried to. My hob's out and I have a temporary one which deep shallow fries you food to an unbelievable sogginess because its not hot enough to give you a nice crisp. Deep fried chicken? Check. Deep fried chicken with lemon? Done that. Deep fried chicken with belacan (some fermented shrimp thingajig)? Been there. Deep fried pork? And so on.

I got bored. Again.

So I went to Marks & Spencers. I bought some frozen battered cod, a bag of frozen potato rostis and another bag of scampi, in addition to other bits and pieces. That has been dinner for the past three days, and I'm so sick of it. I went to Sainsbury's earlier to replenish supplies and I didn't feel like buying anything, except for a sandwich to satiate my hunger. It's that bad. It took me three hours of stomach protest before I grudgingly defrosted some pork to deep, I mean shallow, fry again.

I need to discover something new and cheap (relatively speaking) fast! *fires up food blogs for some simple inspiration*. Buying food from the outside is expensive, I've got a hole in my wallet (and literally too, what an omen! but my wallet is too precious to me to let go of. Need to repair!).

At least dinner is taken care of tomorrow. Four Seasons roast duck owns! I also think that a visit to either Tooting (to search for Indian supplies) or SoHo (for more Oriental inspirations) should take place soon. If only that I won't be busy setting up for the photography exhibition this weekend. Urgh.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Wien Part IV: Schönbrunn

A continuation of the first half of my Bohemian trip to Austria and the Czech republic. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.

Built by the Hapsburg dynasty as a summer retreat, this place is just fantastic!

The front of the place in all its splendour. This is also where I watched the second concert while at Vienna.
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They have different ticket packages for the place, the more expensive ones allowed for multiple day access, giving you an idea of how big the place is! No inside pictures sorry, photography was not allowed :( But it was simply amazing, I was reminded of the Vatican city in some ways. They even had a room inside filled with stuff from China, which was ordered in commemoration of the death of one of the Emperors/ Empresses.

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Some Roman ruins in the huge gardens outside. I have no idea as to its authenticity.

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Another statue of Poseidon and nereids (I believe)

Then it was an uphill climb to this place, called the Gloriette:
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The view was absolutely spectacular from on top of there

What else is unique about the Schönbrunn, you might ask? How about that the first public zoo in the world was created there?
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A view of one of the exhibits. We did not go inside.

And of course, how could a visit to imperial Austria not be complete without appel strudel?
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Apple strudel making demonstration

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Boycotts: Oppressing the innocent and the poor

Update 17/2:
'Consumer boycotts of Danish goods in Muslim countries in protest at publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad are costing Denmark's companies millions, and has raised fears of irreparable damage to trade ties.
'Arla, which draws some 6 percent of its revenues from the Arab Gulf states, employs about 1,500 people in the region. Mikkelsen warned the company may have to start laying off workers if the boycott continued.'
Are you boycott supporters happy yet? You only cause misery for the Muslims employed by the Danish companies.
Original post as follows:
Seriously. Would you like it if someone were to impose a boycott of buying made in Malaysia goods? No? Why not? China could be all pansy and cease trade with Malaysia with the excuse that the Chinese are treated as #### (you know what I'm on about).

Except that Denmark's government has nothing to do with the independent newspaper (can we say the same about Malaysia?) that is in the centre of all this. So to be fair they can choose not to apologize. Remember that some of those caricatures would never have been portrayed that way if not for the terrorism (it is a fact that most of the terrorist attacks that have been carried out were by Muslims, so don’t accuse me of being Islam-bashing and all that).

Let’s imagine if we got boycotted. Semiconducters, steel, cars (not like that one is a great loss), palm oil, the whole jalopy. Who suffers? Sure the fat cats do suffer (some deserve it), but the impact (if you can even call it that) on them is not that painful. Guess who really suffers? The bloody everyday worker, who usually cares not for politics and all that. The man whose very survival depends on the external markets. The rubber tapper who suddenly finds no one wants to buy the latex that he sweated hours for. The man with a wife and six kids who finds himself retrenched from his job at the palm oil estate because his employer cannot afford to pay the wages. The engineer who gets laid off because people will not buy Malaysian-made AMD and Intel chips.

Boycotts seriously do not work. All you do is to ruin the lives of the many innocent people who are trying to make a decent living. Many of them are not well off, many of them are moderates who wish for nothing more than peace instead of the hatred you throw at them, and have absolutely nothing to do with whatever conflict you conjure up. I believe in the use of trade to generate wealth for everyone.

Can you see it? Don't know about you all, but I love Denmark. That's right. I mean, I've been supporting Danish products for years (with the exception of the piss beer Carlsberg/ Jacobsen). I've had countless Lego sets which I got when I was kid. I love their butter cookies. Part of my childhood magic was woven by Hans Christian Anderson. I listen to my Bang & Olufsen when I go out. Danish pastries are the best stuff in the world; I’d take it over Krispy Kreme anyday. I spread Lurpak butter on my bread. Pickled herrings are delish, too.

The same goes to those who boycott Israeli products. Hi, if you really want to boycott the Jews, I would suggest that you unplug your phone and throw away your mobile phones. Turn off your computer and bin it. Don’t drive. Ladies, stop using that birth control pill and don’t wear MNG. Don’t vaccinate your children. And so on. You hate the Jews and wish to boycott them? Come on, do it properly.

Many Jews are very nice people (I count Jews amongst my friends), and they (those that I know, anyway) feel very sad about the Middle-Eastern conflict. Of course I have Arab friends as well (and they are absolutely fabulous too), just in case you were to start to nitpick me about being impartial towards the Jews. Speaking about that, I read somewhere that before Islam came to be, Arabs and Jews actually co-existed peacefully. Correct me if I am wrong.

Coming to think of it, I feel the urge to make a trip to Legoland. Too bad that I’m too busy.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

La Pascalou French Grocery Store / Stuffed Crab

Everyday when I would take the bus, I would pass by numerous Italian and French delicatessens, restaurants and grocers. I would usually stare longingly out there, imagining myself sampling some of that lovely food, but due to laziness never got around to it. In fact, there are very few, if any, fast food restaurants around parts of Fulham and South Kensington (with the exception of perhaps Gloucester Road). This I attribute to the French loathing of anything that closely resembles a piece (or two)of processed beef slapped between cheap buns with servings of calorie laden carbonated drinks and deep fried julienned potatoes, otherwise known as chips (or French fries, if you must).

This changed when I decided to walk back in the name of exercise. Okay well, I did it so that I could strike off the treadmill routine when I would hit the gym later along the way, but that's another story. I decided to check out some of those stores out of curiosity, and because I was bored of the food that I was having (did I mention that I like French food and Italian food?). I came across an Italian grocer which was sadly closed. Or at least it appeared to be, but I didn't bother to find out. This was because the French grocer next door, Le Pascalou was open! With plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit laid on tables on the very generous pavement. Very tempting, with some good prices for certain goods, but perhaps next time. I went in, looked around, and was promptly attended to.

I asked for escargots, and she showed me to them. Unfortunately they did not have any canned ones which I was looking for to use with my planned pasta dish. Nevertheless being a fan of those slimy ones I put my very rusty French (what little I had picked up while I was travelling in Belgium two years prior having deteriorated) to the test:

'Un dozen escargot'
'Un dozen?' she repeated with a nod.
'Sil vous plait'

I continued to look around. I was intriguied by the variety of juices they had on sale - these were not your ordinary run of your mill concentrate juices. In fact, they looked like the whole fruit was blended and squished into the glass bottles; it was easily half filled with cloudy sediment the consistency of some sort of jelly (the precise type of which eludes me now). I decided to buy a small bottle of pineapple juice for £1. It tasted a sharp sour with notes of sweetness, which is not how I like my pineapple juice!

I also managed to grab 5 pieces of fresh squid (roughly 250g) from the fish section for a price of around £4, not too shabby. I can't honestly compare this with the true price of squid at supermarkets because they usually sell you frozen pieces (which means you pay for all that ice & is not terribly fresh), but it seems to be not too bad a price. And one of the best purchases I have gotten in quite a while:

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Stuffed crab shell, with premium claw meat in the middle, with parsley flanking it and crab roe

Also grabbed some other random stuff. Next time I'm going to go for some fromage (that's cheese), duck rilette and their precooked scallops thingajig, which looks very tempting!

'Thank you for coming!'
'Merci beaucoup!'

Remember the crab earlier? Exceptional value! I mean look at this:

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It was choke full of delicious smashing crab roe! Absolutely pert!

p.s. I'll take some pictures of the place next time round.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Price of No Landline? £1500

I was browsing through the television channels when I bumped across some late night quiz show. For some reason I thought to take a look; they were towards the end of a quiz where callers were invited to guess certain occupations that start with the letter 'M'.

I left it on to that channel while I returned back to my work. They were stuck at the final occupation, and callers were throwing in suggestions such as 'monk' and 'mountaineer'. All wrong. Eventually the host threw in a hint: it had to do with fungi.

My mind quickly recalled the answer (in fact I just came across the correct word a few hours earlier while reading through research material). Holy shit. I could easily win £1500!! I looked at the number, it was one of those premium 0901 numbers. No sweat, I told myself, if I got through I'd recover the cost many times over. So I entered the number into my mobile phone. It refused to make a connection. Shit! I repeated the same on my other mobile line. It still wouldn't connect. ARGH!

I looked at the VOIP phone in my room and decided to try my luck. Bloody hell it wouldn't go through! At the same time the host was giving even more clues, the answer was getting even more obvious. Damnit!

As I resigned myself to my bad luck, a caller made it through. The host asked for an answer. 'Mycobiologist'. The host gave the kind of it-was-so-obvious-i-did-not-expect-that look , while I was laughing and feeling very annoyed because I felt that he did not deserve to even get through to begin with. But the host gave him the £1500 anyway :( Money I could have gotten!


(by the way, it was mycologist)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Zonked Out Weather

Is it just me, or has the weather messed up even more? Or have I just failed to notice the subtle changes?

First we had winter come early in November. The winter was overall milder than I expected (then again, there is still room for it to have one last shot before the end of the year).

Walking back home earlier, I noticed that it was still relatively bright at 5.20pm. I pointed this out to QL who was with me:

'Yes, I noticed it the other day when we had the lecture. Don't know, I thought it should have still been dark at that time.'

Anyone else feel this way? *Ponders*

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Lunar shot

I was bored, saw the moon outside, and took several shots of it.

Update: I got a slightly better shot!

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Desaturated, cropped, image enlarged, and blurred.

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Perhaps taking it at night will help with the contrast etc a bit more. And getting a proper 300mm lens instead of using 135mm :/

Friday, February 03, 2006

Caricatures: When the Satire Comes True

We all know about the big hoohaa that has been taking the world by storm over the past few days, so I shall need not go into detail explaining to everyone what is happening.

Perhaps the Western civilization is too used to such caricatures, be it religious or not. George Bush is satired openly with caricatures, government policy is satired with caricatures, the Iraq War is satired with caricatures, Jesus and God are satired, and so on. So perhaps one could argue that they are 'insensitive' in some ways. Whatever it is, it is certainly not the first time that bombs have been put into caricatures. It is certainly not the first time that Muhammad has been put into caricatures.

In fact the caricatures were commissioned last October as a test to check whether the rather large number of Muslim immigrants to Denmark were influencing the limits of freedom of expression in the Nordic kingdom. It received a fiery response with death threats and the like, but got largely forgotten over winter except for a small group who travelled to the Middle East to 'stir up news of the blasphemy'.

Perhaps what was not expected was the backlash: a massive boycott of Danish products (Carrefour was even forced to put up notices reading something similar to 'Carrefour sympathesizes with our Muslim customers and has withdrawn Danish products.' News publications from other European nations including France jumped into the bandwagon, perhaps making things worse. The situation is now likely to deemed to be of 'public interest', which means that the caricatures would most likely be published even further.

But in an echo of one of the caricatures, grenades have been lobbed into compounds belonging to the Western countries. Embassies have been ransacked. The Muslims have behaved in the manner of that that was satired: a caricature of Muhammad with a bomb shaped turban on his head; they have literally brought the satire to life.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Understanding Engineers

Understanding Engineers - Take one:
Two engineering students crossing the campus when one said, "Where did you get such a great bike?" The second engineer replied, "Well, I was walking along yesterday minding my own business when a beautiful woman rode up on this bike. She threw the bike to the ground, took off all her clothes and said, "Take what you want." The first engineer nodded approvingly, "Good choice; the clothes probably wouldn't have fit."

Understanding Engineers - Take Two:

To the optimist, the glass is half full. To the pessimist, the glass is half empty. To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

Understanding Engineers - Take Three:

A pastor, a doctor and an engineer were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers. The engineer fumed, "What's with these guys? We must have been waiting for 15 minutes!" The doctor chimed in, "I don't know, but I've never seen such ineptitude!" The pastor said, "Hey, here comes the greens keeper. Let's have a word with him."

"Hi George! Say, what's with that group ahead of us? They're rather slow, aren't they?" The greens keeper replied, "Oh, yes, that's a group of blind firefighters. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime."

The group was silent for a moment. The pastor said, "That's so sad. I think I will say a special prayer for them tonight."

The doctor said, "Good idea. And I'm going to contact my ophthalmologist buddy and see if there's anything he can do for them."

The engineer said, "Why can't these guys play at night?"

Understanding Engineers - Take Four:

What is the difference between Mechanical Engineers and Civil Engineers?

Mechanical Engineers build weapons and Civil Engineers build targets.

Understanding Engineers - Take Five:

The graduate with a Science degree asks, "Why does it work?"
The graduate with an Engineering degree asks, "How does it work?"
The graduate with an Accounting degree asks, "How much will it cost?"
The graduate with an Arts degree asks, "Do you want fries with that?"

Understanding Engineers - Take Six:

Three engineering students were gathered together discussing the possible designers of the human body.

One said, "It was a mechanical engineer. "Just look at all the joints."
Another said, "No, it was an electrical engineer. The nervous system has many thousands of electrical connections."
The last one said, "Actually it was a civil engineer. Who else would run a toxic waste pipeline through a recreational area?"

Understanding Engineers - Take Seven:

"Normal people believe that if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Engineers believe that "if it ain't broke, it doesn't have enough features yet"

Understanding Engineers - Take Eight:

An engineer was crossing a road one-day when a frog called out to him and said, "If you kiss me, I'll turn into a beautiful princess." He bent over, picked up the frog and put it in his pocket.

The frog spoke up again and said, "If you kiss me and turn me back into a beautiful princess, I will stay with you for one week." The engineer took the frog out of his pocket, smiled at it and returned it to the pocket.

The frog then cried out, "If you kiss me and turn me back into a princess, I'll stay with you and do ANYTHING you want" Again the engineer took the frog out, smiled at it and put it back into his pocket.

Finally, the frog asked, "What is the matter? I've told you I'm a beautiful princess,
and that I'll stay with you for a week and do anything you want. Why won't you kiss me?"

The engineer said, "Look, I'm an engineer. I don't have time for a girlfriend, but a talking frog, now that's cool."