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It's a fine line between living for the moment and being a sociopath.

Patricia B McConnell: For The Love Of A Dog.

Pema Chodron: The Places That Scare You

Daniel Wallace: Mr Sebastian & the Negro Magician

All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. --Pablo Neruda

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Location: Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

100 things about me

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Strange product associations, #37

Who would have thought the search for a home water distiller would lead directly into the land of tattoo parlours?

Want a good price on on small-scale water distillation equipment? Hot tip: tattoo supply distributors. Not that odd once you trip on it, but not exactly where I was expecting to end up.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Cheney in 1994

Just in case you've been living in a cave and haven't seen this elsewhere. It's compelling viewing hypocrisy.


More than skin deep

Very cool.

That second one is a "black light" tattoo, done in transparent ink that flouresces!

(Hat tip to BoingBoing.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Walking down the street behind a sexy woman

FHA: Wow. She's got, like, the perfect body.

Me: Well, what little I can see of her face, she's got one of those sour, harsh, bitter looks that's just completely off-putting.

FHA: Yeah, but it wouldn't matter if you were doing her from behind.

...about half an hour later ...

Me: Were any the tradesmen in the house, today, eye candy?

FHA: Nah. They were all, like, in their forties.

Me: You know, it's lucky you had so much credit in the bank from the sour-faced woman.


Sunday, August 12, 2007

The bottles didn't happen, but the bread did

Today was supposed to be a day of beer and bread. Well, cider and bread.

I decided that moving to the UK should occasion some new hobby or avocation that would be typically English. I can't ever see myself becoming passionate about football/soccer, I don't like competitive gardening -- or any at all, for that matter -- and other typically English past-times like lawnmower racing and cheese tossing are best left to the professionals.

So, I decided to brew my own beer. Quickly ran into a snag: I don't like beer.

No problem. There's another typically English brew that is rather to my liking: cider. Or, as the North Americans call it, hard cider. Do the same thing to apples as you'd do to grapes to make wine, and you end up with cider. Bottle it like you bottle beer, and you end up with a damn fine thing: a drink like beer, but without the vile taste of an old pub. In fact, decent cider still has a good bit of the apple taste in it. And 5-7% alcohol. What's not to like?

So, a few weeks back, I sent off for my fermenting barrel and all the what-not I'd need. Today was the day the instructions said my cider would be ready to go in the bottles.

This was the moment I've been waiting for. Or, at least, the production moment I've been waiting for, in advance of the drinking moment I've been waiting for. Because it's at this stage that we make the critical judgment what will result in either wonderfully sparkling cider, or conceptual art made from glass shards embedded in the walls.

When the cider goes in the bottles, it's not fizzy. So, you put a little additional sugar in the bottles and then seal them with bottle caps. That additional sugar, is of course, the fuel for the bubbles. The yeast that caused the cider to ferment in the first place, starts chowing down on the new sugar, and, as part of its digestion, farts out CO2. Since the bottle is air-tight, thanks to the bottle cap, the gas dissolves into the liquid, and the pressure in the bottle increases.

Put in too much sugar, and the pressure in the bottle increases a lot.

Put in enough sugar -- and the differences we're talking about here are tiny fiddly little amounts -- and you have a glass bomb on a fuse of unknown length.

Now, all this is entirely controllable, predictable and safe if you know what you're doing.

I, however, am a complete novice. I have no idea what I'm doing. Bottling is going to be an exciting moment for me.

Today, however, it was not to be. When I lifted the lid and, after nearly choking on the heady mix of smells that have accumulated inside the sealed fermenter over the last week...think of what apple juice would smell like if you left it out on the counter for a week and encouraged it to be eaten by microscopic organisms who fart alcohol and CO2 -- I examined my brew with a hydrometer, which is a nifty little device that tells you how much dissolved sugar remains in the soup. (Or, more accurately, for the pedants, the density of the solution relative to water.)

Touch and go, as it turned out. So, I'm leaving it for another day.

Today hasn't been a total flop in the realm of yeast mastery, however. I finally baked a loaf of bread that had the exact consistency and texture of both the crust and the crumb (ie, bread-wanker word meaning the fluffy inside bit) that I've always wanted to bake.

I was ripping into this stuff and thinking, "I am the Yeast Master! The Master of the Yeasts!"

Then I saw this guy's blog.

Me, I bake. That guy? Mentally unstable obsessive with an oven.

I'm just gonna keep telling myself that.


Friday, August 10, 2007

Don't call me from the US and say "bomb"

New York Times: WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 -- President Bush signed into law on Sunday legislation that broadly expanded the government's authority to eavesdrop on the international telephone calls and e-mail messages of American citizens without warrants.

Last week, the Democrats in the US congress caved in to the Monkey-King's President Bush's demands to allow him to wire-tap Americans' phones, without a warrant or oversight of any kind, if they're talking with someone overseas. He doesn't need so much as a justification. He can just do it.

Tap people's phones. The American government has just given itself permission to spy on Americans.

But we all must remember that America stands for, um, freedom.

Perhaps Kris Kristofferson was right that "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose", including your right not to be spied on by your own government. Or your innocent faith in the Constitution protecting you from government intrusion.

I'm not upset with the Bush administration. I expect it of them. I'm ticked as hell at a spineless Democratic congress.

Didn't we all used to demonize the Soviet Union for this kind of shit? Bad, bad Commies! Never know when the KGB might be listening in on you!

To think that, growing up, I actually believed we were fighting against that kind of regime in the name of freedom, democracy and justice.

In a completely unrelated note, I discovered the other day -- thanks to an email from my mentor, Donald Simpson -- that the village in which I live was George Orwell's boyhood home.

* * *

Coverage from the New York Times on the law that passed. And more NYT coverage of the gutlessness of the Congress.

From US News & World Report.

From Information Week: The new law means "intelligence agents can monitor communications without a warrant, as long as one party is believed to be outside of the United States."

And from a NYT editorial:

Mr. Bush’s incessant fear-mongering — and the Democrats’ refusal to challenge him — has had one notable success. The only issue on which Americans say that they trust Republicans more than Democrats is terrorism. At least those Americans are afraid of terrorists. The Democrats who voted for this bill, and others like it over the last few years, show only fear of Republicans.


Beauty in my week


Samuel Chen Pigeon born today

Let's see... Haven't his parents just celebrated their 9-month anniversary?


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

No end in sight.

What does it mean when people say they want to "win in Iraq"?