Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Tagged Post

Got tagged by my pal Noddy, here are the rules:

1) Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2) Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3) Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4) Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

1. Worked in Kuwait for just over a year and was mightily unimpressed by the desert, had been expecting sweeping majestic dunes (a la Lawrence of Arabia) and what I saw could best be described as scruffy mounds. Was amazed by the transformation in February when after a few days rain all these flowers appeared out of nowhere carpeting the landscape, did not last too long.

2. While in Kuwait I played golf on a course where the greens were browns (sand mixed with oil and smoothed down between groups by a guy sitting under a tree all day) and the fairways were tarmac, only grass was the square of astroturf we carried with us. If the ball landed on the tarmac you could use the astroturf otherwise you played it from where it had landed.

3. When visiting Thailand in '83 I went to a Buddhist monastery and after making a donation was given an orange twine “bracelet” which had been blessed to provide me with protection from bullets. Wore it for the next 3 months of my trip and did not get shot once, had it for 20 years and never had any problems with bullets, lost it 5 years ago and have still had no difficulties with bullets!

4. My first car was a second hand Mark 2 Ford Capri, owned it for less than a year. It's main claim to fame is that it was stolen twice, came out of a friend's flat one night and it had gone. Phoned the police to report it and then had to go in and give them all the details (chassis number etc) the next morning, did not expect to hear from them so was amazed when they rang back that afternoon and said that the car had been seen parked up and gave me directions to find it. Only problem was that before we got there it had been stolen again, had to visit the police station the next day to supply them with all of the same information again. Finally turned up as a burnt out wreck 4 days later, rang the insurance company and let them handle it.

5. I am an expert tattie peeler (given the right implement), growing up in a small family run hotel the kitchen chores were there to be shared, must have peeled a bucket a day for more days than I can remember growing up – we were only open for 6 months a year so it was not all drudgery.

6. Have a scar on my left pinky caused by an accident with a glass breaking in a porcelain sink when I was around 14, my only distinguishing feature.

7. Do not wear jewellery/watch either – have we stumbled across some internet cabal of watch haters? We had better be careful or the Swiss watch manufacturers will be sending out hit squads to track us all down. Used to carry a small electric travel alarm clock as a timepiece but with the advent of mobile phones this became redundant.

I am not a tagger so I am body swerving the last two “rules”, if you want to join in then go right ahead.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Food Labelling

Well not food as such unless like me you classify “processed grape products” as a food. In addition to my liking for great beers and fine malts I have had a great attraction to red wines over the years.

My earliest introduction to the products was at the mass market end of the scale and while I could enjoy the effect, the taste left a lot to be desired. My eyes were opened one night when I was around 19 and a friend who was the secretary on a shooting estate in the Highlands raided their cellar and produced a bottle of Nuits St Georges (a region of Burgundy), cannot remember which variant exactly but that is unimportant.

While a long way from being the most expensive stuff that you can buy it did introduce me to the idea that wine could lead to an explosion of very pleasant flavours in the mouth. This kick started an affair with affordable French wines which led me to the produce of Bordeaux and some really good finds.

Subsequently my nephews showed me the delights of Australian wine and since then I have never looked back, Chilean, South African, Spanish, Italian, Argentinian and even American (but these are hard to find at a decent price).

My favourite red wine that I have had on more than one occasion is Penfolds Bin 707 which when I was drinking it in my “flush with cash” days of the early nineties was a reasonable £16/17 a bottle, last time I looked it was around £40. The pinnacle of red wine (as some allege) is Penfolds Grange which would cost around £200 for a bottle of 1997 vintage, have never tried it but it is one of my list of things to do before I die/or win the lottery.

So, I enjoy Australian red wines and have drunk many a bottle of Penfold's Rawsons Retreat, Hardys Stamp or a number of Lindemans wines back in the UK. What I have never read there is the small print on the labels of the bottles that I have had in Indonesia of the same wines – I assume that the wine we get here is bottled for the Australian market and exported whereas in the UK it is bottled locally.

“Produced with egg and fish products as a processing aid. Some traces may remain”.

Call me old fashioned but this appears to be taking food allergies to a whole new level, and for my final question if it is OK to warn Aussie consumers why not those in the UK or EU? Or is it some sinister Southern Hemisphere conspiracy to kill us all by allergy and save the planet?

Family Defender

The photo is of Breno who was rescued as a young puppy from a neighbour who was not feeding him, kids persuaded Mum who then persuaded lil' bro' that he would be a good family friend.

There are two other dogs in the household but they live out by the front door and are never admitted – unlike Breno who spends most of the day out the back of the kitchen by the fish ponds sleeping and looking for food from any friendly faces that pass by him.

Strangers of any kind are there to be barked at and he can be very noisy, lil' bro' is the pack leader whose word must be obeyed at all times.

He never stopped barking at Hairy Nephew or Older Bro' when they visited a couple of years ago but for some strange reason he took to me right from the off – maybe it was the doggie snack that my niece gave me to pass on to him when we first met or maybe he smells something of lil' bro' about me.

If he is in the house downstairs on his own and I am up in the upstairs office he will come up for a pat or three - and to check if I might have any food lying around that is going to go to waste, never do but there might always be a first time.

He has a free run of the house at night and the family can sleep secure in the knowledge that if anyone appears who he does not recognise, Breno will bark the house down, mind you this also includes the large millipedes that can be found out here but better safe than sorry. Lil' bro' is a very light sleeper, probably due to all those years spent working on rigs catching 40 winks whenever you can, and he claims that he would rather be woken for a false alarm that not at all.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Match It For Pratchett

I am indebted to another fine SF writer (George RR Martin) for bringing this campaign to my attention.

Late last year the world's greatest/funniest fantasy writer/satirist Terry Pratchett announced that he had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. I am all too familiar with the onset and progression of this disease and it is pretty soul destroying – to see someone you love losing their mental faculties is one of the hardest things that a person can have to deal with.

Anyway Mr P has donated £500,000 for research into the causes and cures of Alzheimer's Disease – which is both generous and understandable. A number of SF writers and fans have come together to create a campaign to raise enough cash to match Terry's donation.

There are a couple of ways in which you can contribute:

You can buy Match It For Pratchett T shirts over here and all of the profits will go to Alzheimer's research.

Or go straight to the horses mouth over here and donate whatever you can afford; tell them that you are donating for Terry Pratchett and the amount will be added to the Match It For Pratchett campaign total.

To get news on the campaign and details on upcoming events head over to the official Match It For Pratchett web site.

It is all in a very good cause so if you can help then go right ahead.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Absolut – Teacup – Storm ?

Saw a report on CNN today about a consumer backlash in the USA brought on by an advert that the Absolut vodka company produced for the Mexican market. In the ad a map is shown depicting the amount of land which was claimed by Mexico back in the 1830s which included a huge chunk of what is now the South West USA with the slogan “In an Absolut World”.

The size of the area claimed surprised me as did a quote from a talking head who claimed that a number of illegal immigrants felt justified in coming to those areas as they felt that the land should still belong to Mexico.

It did cause me to do some research on the events of the Mexican American war of 1848 of which I was previously ignorant.

Calls are being made to boycott the product because of the advert – I feel the fact that the Swedish company is about to be bought out the French firm Pernod Ricard might be a better reason for US consumers to avoid it.

Here is an article from the LA Times which features the map in question – US readers might not want to go there if they are easily offended or suffer from heart conditions.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Presidential Motorcade

So this afternoon lil bro' and I decided to head into Jakarta for a curry, we were barrelling in nicely on the toll road (3 lane dual highway) and had reached about half way when the traffic ground to a dead crawl. We now had 4 lanes of traffic moving slowly and this continued for 1Km or 2 and then we heard a police siren.

Shortly after that a police motorcycle appeared on our left followed by a large black SUV with blacked out windows and blue flashing lights at the front and read. There were another couple of cars behind this and then a black Bentley containing the President of Indonesia (SBY, as he is known) whose private residence is a little way back up the road; there were another couple of unmarked cars behind him and a marked police car with his lights flashing bringing up the rear.

Our driver sensed an opportunity here and latched onto the tail of the police car and we became an unofficial part of the motorcade, what had been 4 lanes had now become 5 as cars bunched up on either side as we snaked our way through them. We only managed 3 or 4 Km before we got cut off from them by a truck and reverted to being ordinary citizens but it was a good buzz while it lasted.

The curry was excellent, washed down with Storm Pale Ales (from Bali) and the only down side was the thunder and lightning storm with tropical downpour that started 30 mins before we had to leave. I only had to dash 6 feet from the restaurant porch to the car but the rain was such that I got soaked doing it.