Thursday, November 30, 2006

A first attempt at composition: Pepe in the kitchen


Birthday: 30th November, 2006
Method: Freehand pen (Artline200 0.4) straight into a sketchbook. Look Ma, no pencilling first!
Comment: Alright, if I'm going to make a go of this art thing, I need to learn about composition. No more of this "objects floating in the air" business. So this is my first attempt, in a long time (I think the last time I did a proper image composition was in primary school), at filling the page. It's a picture of my parents' kitchen, and our old dog, Pepe, sleeping in his special spot, close to the food and the humans.

Update (1/12/2006): Oh my, the background is a little crooked. But the doggie basket's straight, right? Lesson one learned already. Mind you, Perth houses tend to have
a bit of a subsidence problem :)

The end of NaBloPoMo

Now, why end November on a sour note? Although, mind you, if we were playing that game where you think of what food you would be most like, I don't think I'd be fairy floss or cupcakes, if you get my drift. Nuts, crackers, and fruitcake maybe, but I digress...

NaBloPoMo has been tough going. I know people have it a lot tougher, but it is not for nothing that MFC calls me his "waaaaaah-mpire". Posting every damn day was taking its toll on me. Especially on weekends when I hardly touch my computer. But like anything you do regularly, it's become a habit, and days when I've sat down sighing at the computer, thinking my brain is empty, actually turn out to be pretty prolific.

It's taught me that there's always something there to write about, even when you think there isn't. And one of the few places where you can make bricks out of straw, or even bricks out of nothing, is in writing. Hooray for us!

Red Rock Noodle Bar, Applecross

If you see this restaurant, run, run the other way! (I know that McDonald's lies the other way, but I really think it's a better option. And that's something I don't think very often.)

This review has been brewing for a while, but I thought I'd get it out there so no one else gets ripped off. The memory is still fresh in my mind--what a waste of money on such bland food. Oh, the pain! I can only imagine how much sushi from Taka's Kitchen we could have bought for the same amount of money.

As a South East Asian person, it never ceases to amaze me that you can go to a South East Asian restaurant, completely staffed by South East Asians, and find yourself eating unauthentic, unappetizing food. It makes me wonder if the chefs in the kitchen are just having you on while they make something edible for themselves.

MFC and I went here to grab a quick bite before a party, on the recommendation of a friend, and were not impressed. (This friend is never ever going to be trusted again re: eating out, BTW.)

Our experience began ominously, with the girl at the counter continually speaking over the top of MFC while he was placing his order, and then asking him to repeat himself. Perhaps it had been a slow day, and she was amusing herself by obfuscating customers. I asked for a Pad Thai and MFC ordered Duck Noodles.

When my Pad Thai arrived, it was soggy, and suspiciously resembled Hor Fun, which would have been fine if I had ordered Hor Fun, but I hadn't. 


I picked off the feather-light layer of vegetables and meat on top, and waded into the noodles looking for more protein, but was thwarted immediately. Then I had to meditate on whether I could eat that many plain, soggy noodles, or if I should go across the road and bring back a cheeseburger as a light garnish to improve the flavour.

MFC's meal took ages to arrive, and I had almost finished my meal when it finally came. 

I don't know what they had been doing with it in the kitchen, perhaps it got bored and fell asleep under a pile of newspapers, and they had to tear the kitchen apart looking for it. What - you don't think your dinner had a life before it arrived on your plate?

At first we thought we had been served the wrong dish because there was no duck visible on the plate, but then I bit into a meaty-tasting piece of string. Found it! It looked like the poor duck (or to be more accurate, 0.005% of the poor animal) had been shredded beyond recognition and sparsely distributed throughout the noodles.

We left pretty quickly after that.

"Let us never go there again," said MFC.

"And let us never take food advice from *** ever again," said I.

It's nice to agree on things.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Temeraire by Naomi Novik


I made a terrible mistake. I started reading Temeraire last night, and I couldn't put it down. So I didn't fall asleep till 2am. On a school night. (I know I don't know to school anymore, but that's what I like to call the no-next-day-sleep-in nights :) Mmm, love it when your head feels like it's so stuffed with wool that it's coming out your eyeballs.

I first heard about Temeraire from my housemate, who excitedly announced that Peter Jackson was going to make a movie about it, and it would have DRAGONS in it! That was enough impetus to propel me into the library to find a copy of the book.

How silly this sounds, but I felt quite guilty reading a book about dragons that wasn't by Anne McCaffrey. Temeraire is so well-written, and I was enjoying it so much that I felt like I was having an affair with Novik after pledging my eternal love for the Dragonriders of Pern. Anne McCaffrey, please don't smite me!

Set during the Napoleonic wars, the book centers on William Laurence, a captain with the British Navy. Laurence captures a French ship and discovers that the cargo they carry is a rare dragon egg. The egg is very close to hatching, and there are no Aviators to be found nearby.

To say anymore would give away the best bits, and despite my fondness for spoilers* I just can't bring myself to say any more about the plot. It's very rare for me to be like this with, well, anything. I find I don't even want to tell you what colour the dragon is, so that you can discover it for yourself, and Novik's prose won't be spoiled for you.

Novik has done her research well. The setting and dialogue are impeccable for the period (says the Napoleonic scholar here :p), and the dragons are quite human in their loves and hates and emotions. There was one scene which made me so sad I wanted to physically reach out to comfort the character, and another moment, at the end, that made me cry so quickly that tears were streaming down my face before I realised what was happening.

This book was totally worth the four hours of sleep I got last night.

Oh, and if you can't find it on Amazon.com, in another one of those ridiculous "American readers are so simple we need to change the title" publicity moves, Temeraire is sold in the US as His Majesty's Dragon. It sounds so cheap and horrible and James Bondsy! The king doesn't even make an appearance in the novel! Arrrgh!

* The Movie Spoiler is one of my favourite web sites. I have to be very careful and not let MFC see that I'm even browsing through it, or he gets very cross :p

The grinding noise on the Canon IXUS 60 AKA SD600

Note: Much obsessive camera stuff follows. Desist here if you really don't care! However, if you've just purchased a Canon Ixus and you're wondering what that loud noise is, read on...

Update (30/11/2006): I went to Myer in Perth and had a look at their Canon Ixus 60 and 65, and yep, they made the same noises, although the 65 was ever so slightly quieter on the zoom. So I called up the lovely Leigh, and said thank you for being so nice, and that I would keep the camera. That's that!

Early this morning I called up Digital Camera Warehouse and spoke to Leigh, who was lovely, very sympathetic (the "Oh dear" in her voice when I told her the problem was a genuine one), willing to exchange the camera for another (if there was indeed something wrong with it), and full of good advice. She said that before we go through the rigmarole of exchanging the camera, I should go to another camera shop, with my battery (because a lot of the floor models don't have batteries in them) and try out an Ixus 60 there to see if they make the same noise.

When I had a spare minute I looked on Google using the search terms "IXUS 60", "SD600", and "grinding noise", and hey! Guess what I found! At least 5 other people, one of them with the snazzy new IXUS 900 which is like, AUD$800, who all have the same thing happening to them.

The guy who bought the IXUS 900, wrote on Amazon.com: "On the first few powerups, it sounded like the lens gears were grinding and jumping teeth or something: The usual "whir" sound was very loud, with strange clicking sounds. I almost returned the camera; but it appears to work fine."

Someone who just bought an IXUS 430, said on the velocityreviews.com forum: "...the autofocus seems to take a good bit longer, and is accompanied by a loud-ish grinding noise, when the shot being taken is zoomed in, ie. at telephoto."

On pricegrabber.com, this guy wrote: "One of the problem is it has some noise when I open, close the machine, also during focus. My friend told me it is normal, but this noise do not happen on my other cameras. Generally, good camera. I will give it to my sister as a present." (Haha! Faulty camera for you, sis! Me go get new shiny one!)

And finally, it appeared in a thread on the slickdeals.net forum, where three different users piped up that all their IXUS 60's made the grinding noise on startup, zooming and cycling through the shooting modes.

webazoid: "does your camera make a high-pitched harsh/grating sound whenever u turn it on, zoom in/out, half press down the shutter button, or change the shooting mode from macro-->regular-->infinity? mine's making loud noises. wondering if i should return?"

mountainfrog: "Go to Circuit City and test a floor model to see if it makes the same noise. I have a SD600 and it does make a weird grinding noise when the lens opens/shuts. I went to 2 Circuit Citys and both floor models made the same noise. It may be a hassle to do this but I would check it as Canon is known for lens/barrell issues. Search for Canon E18 error. I dont think this error is as prevelant in the SD600 since it is a newer model but I would be cautious if the camera made an unusual grinding noise brand new.

****BTW, I tested mine again and it does make that grinding noise whenever the lens tries to focus. It is quick but it does make a grinding noise."

vladtepes (I question how much value-for-money a vampire is going to get out of this digicam - an9ie): "Mine makes the same noise, certainly not pleasant but at least it is not unique but if anyone has official confirmation that it is or is not an issue let us know."

userno1 says: "Yea, you guys might be overthinking this because of the situation of your receipt of the camera - it's a very tiny camera with a larger zoom system than most its size, it will make a little extra noise. You shouldn't worry about it."

SO - I will not worry about it much for now. If I'm going past a camera shop in Perth in the next few days, I might pop into one and ask to road-test their Canon IXUS 60. "Oh, you don't have any batteries so you can't show me how it works? Hey! Look what I just found in my pocket!"

However, if it's a standard Canon thing, there's probably nothing more I can do about it. I think I should test what's more important for now, and see how the pictures look in their full size.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Stamps to collect


Ooh, check it, Australia Post has released a special "50 years of Australian television" collection, which has Kath and Kim on it!

Well, I'm excited, even if you guys aren't. And not just because I'm effluent enough to afford them!

My camera is here!

But it is flawed *despair, moan, moan until my housemate tells me to shut up*.

When it turns on and also when you adjust the zoom, it makes a rusty sound, I think there is something wrong with the inner lens. So I shall have to call Digital Camera Warehouse in the morning.

However, in the good news department, it seems that Santa Claus has been reading my blog and knows where my house is, because when MFC and I rocked up, there was a shiny new electricity pole in the front garden. Woohoohoo!

Monday, November 27, 2006

How to freak out your partner

Method 1: Go up to him and ask, in careful, measured tones, "Have you seen...the muffin man?"

Method 2: Start scratching fiercely at something on your foot, peering at it with concern (I had the mosquito bite from hell), and when he asks, "Are you OK?", look up at him worriedly and whisper, "She won't come out!"

Overheard at a party...

...that may or may not have been thrown at my house last weekend.

There was a group of us sitting in the living room, and I was talking to Fee about art and pointed out an Edward Hopper print that I had above the TV. It's called "Room in New York". My cousin and I were returning from an excursion to Old Spitalfields Markets, and she asked me to pick out a print from an assortment that she had bought at an art stall.

This happened five years ago, and at the time I was drawn to it (and of course now I know why), and I hung it in my bedroom. Now I find it sad to look at, and it's been relegated to the lounge. Fee asked me what I thought it meant.

Me: I think it's a couple that just drifted apart.
Fee: Yes, it's like they're together, but in separate worlds. Have you noticed that she's wearing a red dress?
Me: And?
Fee: Well, artists don't use colours without a lot of thought. I think the red symbolises infidelity, but he doesn't know about it.
Me: You mean Hopper didn't just feel like painting a red dress?
RaZer: I don't see that at all, I think it's a comment on how cramped living spaces can be in New York, and how people have to compromise.
Me: True, it's like she wants to play the piano but can't, because she doesn't want to disturb him, and she's just wistfully touching the keys.
MFC: I think...that last night was the first time he shat on her chest.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Housewarming BBQ

The only things you need to know about our Housewarming BBQ yesterday.

It was a fine day.


But we managed to find some shade. (BTW, those aren't my legs, and they're not MFC's either :)


And a puffy dog! Heeheehee! Here, Puff! Here, Puff!

We had lots of food, but sometimes when it's hot...

...all you want is a tall cool drink.

We had sausages (cooked on the free gas barbecues on the foreshore) in buns, a garden salad, apparently the Best Potato Salad Ever, with little bacon bits and capers, it was nice, but I thought the title was a little grandiose, and a grated carrot with coriander salad, but I didn't take photos of them because I took too many shots of the puffy dog and I was all camera-ed out. But I didn't get any good ones because he never kept still!


However, I DID manage to take a stealthy upskirt photo of MFC for you. No need to thank me, guys.

Dessert! My favourite meal!

Kim's Coconut Slice. It's even more delicious than it looks.


And some chocolate shortbread!

Update: I just realised that the title "Housewarming BBQ" is a bit of a misnomer, since we do not, of course, live on the foreshore (however much we would like to, and anyway, they lock the public toilets at night). We just started our party on the foreshore, and then when it got dark everyone came back to our place for more drinking, talking, Trivial Pursuit (we really should have played the quick version from the start), and Pictionary, at which kathry is a champion!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

It's hot hot hot!

We have the air-conditioner on in the living room, and it's filtering nicely through into the kitchen and dining areas.

I tried experimenting with gouache a little earlier but my brushes were crap and smeary. Well, they were cheap brushes I bought in a hurry, so, my fault really. I think I'm in more of a clay kind of mood but can't face the cleanup at the moment.

Our housewarming party is today, a low-key gathering starting with a BBQ on the foreshore and meeting up at the house later. We have to be on the foreshore at 4 and I don't wanna go! It's too hot! Waaah!

If I were a kid, and my parents were around, I'd be being a pain in the ar$e right now going, "Muuuum, I'm bored!" "Well, go out and play!" "It's too hot!" "Stay in and read then." "I don't feel like it!" At this point they would just start ignoring me.

Ah, Mr Ennui. So good to see you again. Now go away!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Work from home! Earn $$$!

Holy frijoles! Today C from the other side of the office told me that he sold his World of Warcraft account for USD$1000! US dollars! That's around AUD$1292, people!

He only got the account last May, and obviously put in a lot of game time to build up his characters, some of whom have very good items, apparently. But now he doesn't have so much time to play, and he needed to buy some parts for his computer, so he sold it.

I'm sure there's a lucrative work-from-home job opportunity in there for the right person...

Nice guy, C. He takes his girlfriend out salsa dancing every weekend.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Mummy MFC

MFC's Mum is over from the UK. She's very cute and leaves little notes all over the place. Like the one I found this morning.


What's that you say?


Don't mind if I do!


Chomp, chomp.

Look who's back!

I caught sight of him on the fence yesterday. He's still pretty tame and let me come to within a metre.

Hello again, little guy!

My, how you've grown!

Tree licenses

Ooh, that last post reminded me of something that I need to get on my soapbox for, like, right now.

Planting trees.

In general, planting trees is a good thing. They provide shade, and sometimes pretty flowers, and fruit, and places for kids to play and dogs to pee, and oxygen and love.

But some morons should not be allowed to plant trees. There are people out there who will go , "Lalala, I think I will have a lovely line of oak trees on either side of the driveway, and I'll plant them really close together so they look good!" or "Dum de dum, I'd like to plant this mango tree right next to the kitchen window so I don't have to haul my fat ar$e outside to pick them."

And since you can't ask people to show you their idiot license before you can sell them a tree, you just have to make it hard for everyone. This is how most laws and restrictions start, e.g., some half-baked imbecile decides to put a firework up his nose to see what will happen, and suddenly no one can buy or play with fireworks. So I reckon people should apply for licenses to plant trees around their houses.

They should submit a diagram of their lot, and show where the water and gas pipes and electricity and phone cables go, where their fences and walls are, and what kind of tree they want to plant and where. This will save everyone a lot of money and heartache. The Water Corporation actually has a nifty handout that tells you how tall some trees grow (although you could just look this up on the Internet), and how far you should plant them from structures. I couldn't find it on their website, but you can get it from any Water Corporation office. Very handy.

We have a "Dial before you dig" hotline. I really think we should have a "Dial before you plant" one too.

Because trees grow, people.

OMG! O rly?

Yah, really, and they have roots that could break open pipes and crawl under walls and paths.

No way!

And they have large branches that could grow into power lines. Sometimes they obscure oncoming traffic, if they're low.

Wow! I never thought of that!

Yes, I know. Now go and get that idiot license!

Great mysteries of the universe

Why is Tom Cruise taller than Katie Holmes in this wedding photo?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Arj Barker at the Playhouse


Ooh, the Mountain Dew 2005... a good choice, madam...

We went and saw Arj Barker, one of MFC's favourite comedians, at The Playhouse last Saturday. I actually remembered some of his jokes after the show, and have to write them down NOW before my brain decides that it's more important to overwrite that information with stuff like how we need more toilet paper, or that eating banana skins can cause hallucinations*.

The quotes are from memory, so if I've missed a few words here and there, well, you get the gist.

During the show he brings out a lot of his regular material, but it's all the good stuff, like when he says: "So the lady on the news is going, 'Airport security has gone up 300%...but our railways and roads remain vulnerable.' WHY DON'T YOU JUST DRAW THEM A MAP?"

Or when he goes into detail about his alternative aid program, Doctors Without Degrees.

Even though I got tickets early, we ended up in Row H, and the whole show run sold out pretty quickly. Nevertheless, the Playhouse has a good layout, and we were still fairly close to the stage.

Joel Ozborn opened for Arj, and I like Joel's stuff, I do, he's a pretty funny guy, and does great improv, but unfortunately we had already seen him in "Akmal! Akmal!" a couple of months ago and his routine was quite fresh in our minds. Poor Joel, it's not your fault we're freaks addicted to live comedy!

Then Arj came out. Woo, applause, yay! He starts the usual "It's great to be in Perth," thing, and some yobbo at the back yelled out, "'Bout time!" in a truculent kind of way. Grrr, damn hecklers!

Arj is a pretty cool, collected guy, though, so he just said "Well, I heard the people were so friendly!"

And I swear, you know how there are always people who arrive late to these things, and they're usually the ones who have seats in the front row? I kid you not, there were SIX group of late comers, with the last group arriving 45 minutes into the show, and four of the six groups (min. 2 people) were sitting in the front and second rows. Sheesh.

I don't know if you can tell, because I'm quite subtle about it (teehee), but I have a very low tolerance level for my fellow human beings. I think I'd be a much happier person in a colony of lemurs.

The two girls next to me, perhaps mistaking a night of comedy for an evening at the drive-in, brought out, in succession, a large packet of Maltesers, two bottles of Coke, and finally, a packet of potato chips. The rustling noises of their trotters rummaging around in the bags was so loud that I wanted to go all Hulk on them and crush their chips into tiny pieces, before mashing them into their hair while going, "RAAAARRR! ANGIE SMASH!"

So it was a little hard to concentrate on the stage, what with the bloodrage mist in my eyes and all.

Still, good show, Arj! (And tally-ho and all that.) He went for about an hour, never running out of steam or being lost for words, and finished by saying that he noticed Australians swore a lot.

Like when he asked a local for directions:
"Do you know where [place name] is?"
"Sh*t yeah, you just f*ckin' turn right and then chuck a left, another f*ckin' left, and you'll see the c*nt."
"Thank you, officer!"

He puts on a pretty decent Aussie accent too. We had fun. The end.



P.S. Ooh, ooh, something else that will demonstrate how I really do need to be in some kind of metal restraint around my fellow human beings; the people in front of us started getting hysterics and laughing too damn early. Premature ejoculation! I mean, really, you smile, you wait, you know the good part is coming. He's just building up, man, don't cream yourself until the punchline. But this guy in front of us was pinching his brow between his thumb and fingers like he had an ice-cream chuckle headache, and his girlfriend kept slapping (yes, SLAPPING) her forehead with barely contained mirth when no one else was laughing. I don't know, maybe there was some kind of day release program special on that night.

P.P.S. Yes, I'm going to be the mean old lady in the neighbourhood who sits on her verandah and throws plates at children.

P.P.P.S. My apologies for being in Bitchy McBitch mode. Without going into too much detail, I had one of those days where you just want to go home, kick something really hard, and then lie in bed in a chocolate liqueur induced torpor.

*Matt says his friend tried it and it didn't work. Ah well, back to the mushrooms then.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Spam titles

Like everyone else's Inbox, mine fills up daily with spam about stocks to buy, cheap Viagra, Russian brides, and how to increase the volume of my sperm. Sigh. You'd think that these mass marketing engines would at least do some research and know that I'm a boringly straight female (this applies to all the above, except the stock market*, which I love :)

Nowadays, rather than having the subjects "Re: Hi" and "A message from Bob", they're trying to entice us to read their mailings with random words cobbled together from dictionaries. Gosh, those wily spam bots!

Usually, going through my e-mail is an RSI-inducing exercise of Right-Click - Junk E-mail - Add Sender to Blocked Senders List - Repeat Until You Don't See Any More Messages About Horses And Their Horny Teenage Mistresses, but today, today, I got some messages with poetic, almost lyrical Subject headings.

Like "unfurl".

And "delapidated envisage".

I can just see a lonely little bot in the queue, and while his brothers next to him are furiously putting together nonsense words and getting their quotas up, he's tentatively picking and choosing the words that will express the creative feelings in his CPU. A little kind of "Ahhh" smile appears on his face when he finds his little one or two word poem, and then he sets it free into the ether, so people like me will pause, and ponder those words for a few seconds before deleting the message that follows.
..
..
..
..
..
And then they'll become sentient and kill us all! Waaah! Why did I watch the Animatrix?

* Although when I contemplate my bland diet and dusty floors, the Russian brides start looking mighty appealing...

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sunday hash and Red Bull Air Race photos

We saw some interesting things on the way to the Red Bull Air Race. Traffic was a beeyatch, and people were parking in lots of places they shouldn't have. I predict a million dollar windfall in parking fines for the City of South Perth this week.

Some of the things I saw on that long, long, long ride:

  • A man in his forties driving his (I assume) daughter's or partner's car with a large sticker on the rear window saying "I'm No Princess", which made me wonder if people were allowed to have stickers with rude words on their cars or if they would get in trouble for "indecent public wordage".

  • Stopping behind two identical Holden Commodores at the lights, and MFC starting to tell me something about their tail lights, before he was interrupted by the sight of flames erupting from the windows of one of the cars. More flames burst out from the windows, making me pray that the morons in front with the cans of aerosol and lighters would prove Darwin right and set themselves on fire, with me as a cheering squad. They appeared to be polite acquaintances with the Commodore next to them, as they then started throwing cigarette butts and plastic bottles at each other.

  • The Christadelphian Church is showcasing what should be an enlightening lecture series called "The flood, Sodom, and the world of today".

And then we finally got to South Perth, where we ended up watching 4 episodes of Heroes instead at MFC's office. Mmm, hot Sendhil Ramamurthy. Yay, Greg Grunberg resurrected after Alias! Woohoo, Hayden Panetierre doing a fine job after appearing in Ice Princess*.

We did take a walk down to the foreshore to watch a bit of it. Here are some pics to prove we were really there:

It was funny seeing this steamboat replica (I don't think it really runs on steam though) tipping over to one side.

The plane is that tiny speck in the top right-hand corner. They have to get up pretty high first. Everyone's just going, "Meh," at this stage.

Then down it comes and they are transfixed again.


* Yes, I watched it. Shaddup.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

MFC birthday surprise revealed!

Ta-dah! I made a little gnome like the ones outside Invader Zim's house (Invader Zim is one of MFC's favourite shows) and put skis on him so he looked like he was going to ski down the cake :D

As for the cake, well, I took a picture of it in a dark-ish room (so that MFC wouldn't see it before the appointed time) with the flash (my archenemy) and it didn't turn out so good. Therefore I made an executive decision to grayscale the photo, so it looks nice and vintage instead of stark and 80's.


I was in a hurry so instead of icing it and THEN sprinkling the coconut on top, I just sprinkled the coconut on top, so when MFC blew out the candles a cloud of dessicated coconut flew over me. As I was wearing a black top, the results were quite spectacular. Ask kathry and RaZer, they were there! :)

MFC's Mum also got a scrumptious chocolate mud cake from the Cheesecake Shop with "Happy 25th Birthday, ****" on it, so there was plenty of chocolate to spare! Wheeeee!

Friday, November 17, 2006

There's a large vitamin stuck in my throat

...and it's kind of uncomfortable but it doesn't hurt. I'm not sure I like the thought of it fizzing away quietly in my voicebox as I sit here and type.

I got up this morning at 5:30am. No one made me, I wanted to. In fact, the night before I'd set my alarm for 6am. So I was kind of pleased that I didn't feel like ten kinds of crap but also kind of pissed off that I wasn't getting an extra 30 minutes of sleep.

I could feel the waves of tiredness crashing in as I got into the lift at work this morning, so, it should be interesting to see how the rest of the day goes, and how long I'll be able to stay awake at MFC's BELATED BIRTHDAY PARTY TONIGHT THAT HE ONLY TOLD ME ABOUT LAST WEEKEND.

I was more than a little annoyed when he told me his plans, because he hadn't given me much notice (not that he needed to, since it's his party, but as the girlfriend and High Priestess of Anal Retention I like to get involved and plan menus), and I was planning to make The Best Cake in the World for his birthday last month, except that he didn't get round to having a party then.

The Best Cake in the World was going to be in the shape of a house with little papier-maché figurines looking out of the house, walking up the path, and maybe even standing on the roof. It was going to have green icing and Lindt chocolate roof tiles, perhaps a little path made of Smarties and M&Ms (for the two-tone brown pebble effect). I was even going to make a piñata that looked like the devil from the Spinal Tap concert in The Simpsons. But there's no way I could have made those things with a week's notice on a Friday night after a full week/day of work. Grrr...

So I decided to make something else, and yesterday I finished work early and raced to my favourite store, Jackson's, to buy gouache and acrylics and air-drying clay (and brushes when I realised I'd left most of my art supplies at MFC's house last weekend). I wasn't intending to use the gouache on the clay, but I've always wanted to play with gouache, and it was cheap :)

The guy at the counter was really nice, he didn't mind answering my stupid questions about whether acrylics washed off in water (a total n00b question, I know), and what paint to use on the clay. He had shaggy long hair and a beard and a gentle face, and none of that snooty "I am an artiste and I am just doing this piddly little job until I get famous" thing going on, so if he works there regularly I shall look forward to going to Jackson's more often.

The something else I planned evolved a bit when the tray of brownies I made turned out lopsided. I'm not sure how. At first I was going to do the whole "J'accuse!" thing on my one 0f my housemates for putting the oven shelves in the wrong way round, but then double-checked (after accusing the housemate to his face anyway, heehee) and they weren't. Perhaps the rear portion of the oven rests in an extra dimension. ANYWAY...

...this is the only clue you'll get to the surprise I'm making for tonight.


Intrigued? I am too, because I don't get to glue them together till later. The clay STILL wasn't dry this morning but I painted it anyway. Two coats. I loved how I was so decisive and sure about mixing the colours and getting the consistency right, how I just knew that if I mixed a certain shade of green and a certain shade of yellow that they would turn out exactly like the colour of the ***** in the TV show (can't let the cat out of the bag yet :). How I knew exactly how moist my brush needed to be (that sounds dirty), and what size brush to use and what strokes to make. It felt so natural and easy. I wish I had that kind of certainty when it came to my job.

And hey, I know I'm waxing lyrical about a few blobs of paint and some clay, but it's a start in the right direction.

The other surprise will be if the acrylic paint I bought is of the toxic or non-toxic variety. Hmm, I'd better cut around the figures when I'm handing out cake.

Gearing up for the Red Bull Air Race

Looks like the Red Bull Air Race is in town. Apologies for the poor photos, I was driving and had to watch the road. But, who knew that just by sticking the camera out the window I could take better shots than when I'm concentrating?

These were the first things that caught my eye. That, and that the traffic was worse than normal. What's that blue stuff?

Ooh, aircraft hangers!


Unfortunately I didn't see any planes.

I then spotted these guys on the river, doing some promotional thing?

Ooh, pretty flowers!

And then speedboat comes along going "Look at me!"

Thursday, November 16, 2006

John Keats put it very well when he said:

"Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?"

It was so warm yesterday that I expected to walk into the bathroom and see Turkish men in white loincloths offering to rub scented oil into my muscles for a few lira.

Today, I've dressed in summery clothes (white cotton top and short skirt) and the mercury's plummeted to 23 degrees Celsius (OK, I know the use of the word "plummeted" here is a bit of an exaggeration). Brrr. Apparently it's snowing in Tamworth and parts of Victoria. Crazy weather!

Luckily in a few years we'll have buggered up the environment so much that we'll be living in temperature-controlled bio-domes.

Did I say "luckily"?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Spring's here, and summer's on the way!

Jacaranda flowers make a carpet of blue snowflakes.

The suburb of Applecross and its (kind of) famous avenues of flowering jacarandas.

I sure wish I could afford to buy a house here.
...
...
Hmm, I wonder if MFC needs ALL his organs? ;p


Applecross is full of million dollar houses. I hope the rich people living here have time to look at the flowers :)

Update (20061116, 8.20am): Actually, I think that even if MFC had 14 extra organs to sell we STILL wouldn't have enough cash to buy a house here :)

An unwanted orphan on our hands?

I was taking out some rubbish this morning and I found this little guy cowering on top of our green wheelie bin. He looks like he's just finished his babyhood. If you click on the picture, you'll be able to see little bits of down on his neck.


My housemate pointed him out yesterday, he was sitting on the fence and he looked a little scared but didn't fly away. Perhaps he was too frightened or too weak to fly. He will let you come to within a metre of him but cowers if you make any sudden moves.

Then I looked up and this adult bird was watching us, I thought perhaps it was the mother, but then it flew away. Bad mama!


Who knows where this little guy will be when we come home? At times like these I wish people didn't let their cats roam free.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Annoying comedy contrivance

Am I a very intolerant person? Why yes, yes I am. Now, get back into your corner and listen, chimpy! ;)

A very common comedic technique usually seen in sit-coms (sometimes even the ones I like *shudder*) is the use of repetition in the type of situation I am about to describe below.

An attractive woman with a dream job, an endless wardrobe and hairstylists on tap, meets an equally attractive man who is perfect in every way and puts up with her crap. However, she needs to find something negative about him because she can't believe someone like him, likes someone like her (and let's face it, even we, the audience, are having a lot of trouble believing that someone so wishy-washy, indecisive and klutzy has managed to remain gainfully employed for so long). She usually has some kind of alternative-lifestyle sidekick friend, who is slightly less attractive and all "zany" and "wacky".

Woman making a "big" confession to "zany" friend:
So I Googled him.

"Zany" friend shows how "wacky" she is by using expansive hand gestures and throwing her arms up in the air:

Oh my GAWD, you Googled him?

Woman (sinking onto sofa dramatically):

I Googled him.

Friend:

You Googled him?

Woman (puts hand over eyes, like weary prima donna):
I Googled him.

Friend (I still can't believe you did that but I shall accept it as gospel since you repeated it twice):
You Googled him.

Friend throws herself onto the sofa as well and they both stare into the distance.

Angie commences explosive vomiting:
BLEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!

I can see the scriptwriter finishing off this scene and saying to himself, "Oh yeah baby, who's your Daddy? Who's your Daddy, huh? That Emmy is so mine!"

In my ideal world, his paroxysms of joy would be cut short because I've snuck up behind him and brained him with a rubber chicken. I would then tar and feather him, and bring him back to consciousness so that I could slap him and scream, "Stop flogging that poor horse! It's dead! Can't you see it's dead?!?"

Monday, November 13, 2006

Conversations with my mother

Tonight was Visit Parents Night, also known as "Angie gets enough food to save money on lunches for the week" Night *dance dance*. The programme usually involves:

  • eating enough to feed five small orphans (tonight it was roti paratha, dhal with lentils and potato, and tao chiew fish),
  • talking (about family and the gossip from church - ooh la la) and finally,
  • bringing home enough food to feed the rest of the orphanage.
Sometimes Mums say the darndest things...

Mum: [Talking about a rich lady that she and Dad know] She has a lot of houses.

Me: Really? Was her last husband well-off?

Mum: He used to be a [job description], but I think they bought a lot of property when it was cheap. Her son's got a square-shaped head, like that horror movie guy...the one with the vampire...

Me: Dracula? Shadow of the Vampire?

Mum: No, no! That family! Like the Addams family!

Me: [*Lightbulb above head goes ping!*] Oh, you mean he has a head like Herman Munster?

Mum:
Yes, that guy. And now he's married [some other lady who goes to the same church]'s daughter. See! So even if you're not that good looking people still want you. In fact none of [some other lady who goes to the same church]'s daughters are pretty at all, but they still have husbands.

Me: Yes, it's a good thing women can join the workforce now and their families don't have to try and sell them off for dowries.

Actually I think this was Mum-talk for "It's what inside that counts," but it did come out sounding like a riddle of the Sphinx instead.

We're off to see the wizard!

I arrived at MFC's place on Friday night to find that the doggies had been shaved!

Ahahahahahah! Snort! When I recovered from my fit of laughing (from the safe side of the gate), I just had to take some photos.

Lookee! Don't you think they look like lions? It's just like being on safari.

Whatchoo lookin' at, beyatch?

It's not just the angle, their heads really do look a little large for their bodies at the moment.

Unfortunately it was a little cold that day, the weather's been kind of up and down, and it seems that when the elements find out that it's shaving day, they decide that it'll be more fun to lower the mercury levels in the thermometer.

Surely this amount of ridicule comes with some sort of food compensation...

I'm still chortling as I write this post. Heeheehee!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Pancakes at Carillon

Alright, it's 11pm and the rhetoric and metaphors have been put to bed, people. If you've thought of visiting Pancakes at Carillon, here's what I found when I visited on Saturday afternoon. Aaaah, point form, so relaxing and unassuming.

Pros:

  • All-day breakfast - good pancakes, whipped butter, and nice bacon. Mmm, bacon. Pancakes tasted like a slightly more wholesome version of McDonald's hot cakes.
  • Service - cheerful and polite.
Cons:
  • Ambience - dingy inside, alternating dark corners with too bright areas under halogen spotlights. Table was still greasy even though it had been cleaned.
  • Seafood crepes - MFC ordered these, the two sauces on top looked like "pus" and apparently also tasted like it. Hey! I'm just paraphrasing here! Don't shoot the messenger! The inside was a fishy tasting paste with occasional small bits of seafood.
  • Salad - limp.
  • Banana pancakes were struck off the menu because they're expensive at the moment ($11 a kg), but they're still doing blueberry and raspberry pancakes?
  • Iced tea - did not taste like tea. I think they used some powdered or instant stuff. Just weird.
  • Lemon, lime and bitters - no lime.
  • Maple syrup - suspiciously watery.
Neutral ground/Switzerland:
  • Chicken crepes - a lot of white sauce. Good if you like white sauce, the friend who ordered them didn't. I like white sauce.
Verdict: I like hot cakes with bacon and maple syrup. But there are cheaper places to get them :)

P.S. MFC says "It's impossible to f*ck up bacon!"

Musicals

On Friday night we went with a group of friends to see 'Everything Must Go' by Playlovers, a community theatre group. They were reprising songs from musicals that Playlovers had performed in the past few years, including Camelot, Chess, Baby, Jesus Christ Superstar, Little Shop of Horrors, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, and Godspell.

I thought it would consist of lots of cut-scenes from the musicals, like a variety show, but they brought the songs together in a clever little story instead, with a group of people sneaking into the Playlovers theatre hall the night before an auction, and going through the pile of memorabilia and costumes that were going to be sold off.

The words "community theatre" bring to mind retired Mums and Dads embarassing themselves in embarrassing costumes, and I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a little bit of that. However, it was surprisingly good, and quite a few of the performers seemed to have natural ability and classical training.

How I wish Nicky had been there with me! With her theatre and drama background she could have critiqued it properly for me, and we would have entertained ourselves several times over with a combination of quiet heckling and ribald bitching over coffee later. Hee hee!

Anyway, while I was watching the show, it occurred to me that anything, absolutely ANYTHING these days can be made into a musical. I mean, if they can do Jerry Springer, the Musical, why not The Ring, the musical?

Here are some choice numbers I've already thought up. If you need a hand with the melodies, send me a comment :)

Ding dong, she's down the well, down the well, down the well!
Ding dong, Samara's down the well!


or

"Ring, ring, ring," goes the phone,
"Seven days," says the voice,

Boom, boom, boom goes my heartbeat,

You've got to pass on the curse or else you're gone!


or

Midnight,
there's no sound from the station.

Am I losing my memory?

I'm sure I turned that thing off.


Why's it buzzing?

That TV screen - it's glaring at me!

Sh*t sh*t sh*t sh*t

I'm seeing a ring.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Squeezing out the blog juice

Wow, I just read the blog I was planning to post about what I did last night and it's really boring. I'm too ashamed to post it. No writing that mediocre deserves to see the light of the Internet. Let's hope I become more inspired later in the evening.

Otherwise I could just recap all the Grey's Anatomy I've been watching for you.

Oooh, I've been missing Chris O' Donnell without even knowing it. Welcome back to our screens, Chris! You look nice. Are those pecs new? Can I feel them?

See, do you really want more of that?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Houseburning invite


Birthday: 8th November 2006
Method: MS Paint and Wacom tablet
Comment: We are finally having a housewarming party! I whipped this up quickly to put on the invite. Isn't he a happy house? He's fireproof and it's been a little cold and rainy these past two days.

As an aside, I really like playing with MS Paint. You can only undo 3 times, so you can't cheat or change your mind much, and you have to have some kind of plan (eek!) or blueprint ready in your head. It's very satisfying to just concentrate on shape and colour, and not worry about fine control or pressure or being fancy, like a kid drawing with a giant crayon. Of course I have to work on trying different mediums too, but most times it's nice to just grab the stylus and go "Wheee!" on a big square canvas.

I plan to start experimenting with Illustrator one day, because I want to know how to get those lovely clear sharp lines with the Pen tool. Anyone know where to find some good tutorials?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Hygge, or Cosiness


A few years ago, I went to work in Denmark for several weeks and stayed in a little town called Aabenraa (or Åbenrå), near the German border.

I really liked Denmark. The only thing missing was good Chinese food, and I had to console myself with little red packets of crispy-coated, curry-flavoured nuts*. Ironically, now that I'm in Perth and surrounded by excellent Chinese food, I have a hankering for those nuts and can't find them here.

The Danes are a warm, good-looking, affable people, with sparse, simple houses that are comfortable on the inside and lovely to look at from the outside. They have a word, hygge, that they like to use to describe their way of life. I couldn't find hygge in Wikipedia, so I shall direct you to its German equivalent, gemütlichkeit, which doesn't sound as nice but means the same thing. If you ask a Danish person what hygge means, they'll always say something like "It's like cosiness but not quite," because it also means modest, comfortable, familiar. It's a state of mind, but also a way to describe a place, a situation, a feeling. People often find themselves resorting to examples and anecdotes to illustrate the concept of hygge.

The funny thing is, it's not just the Danes who seek to live in hygge. Increasingly, people all over the world are on the hunt for it too. I don't know if it's a backlash due to years of cold steel and mirrored glass, putting financial success first, and the rise of large faceless corporations, but people are increasingly looking for a sea change, and giving up highly paid corporate jobs to start small businesses or stay home with their families. Martha Stewart and Donna Hay are more popular than ever. Shabby chic is in. People are buying hobby farms in the country, knitting their own scarves, and making their own jam.

When I started actively blogging again, writing my own blog as well as reading other people's, I found a warm community of artists, crafters, and foodies. The Internet was becoming hygge too! For the best examples, do have a look at some of my favourite blogs, Farmgirl Fare, Posie Gets Cozy and Loobylu.

The picture at the top of this post is my little corner of hygge. On top of the chest of drawers in my room is an odd assortment of items from different periods in my life. They now live together harmoniously.

- MFC’s first Christmas present to me, a vase that he bought and filled with glass pebbles (he became alarmed when I started shaking the box to find out what was inside).
- A home-made card from MFC for my 30th birthday**.
- Oliver, a wooden giraffe from the Perth Royal Show. He goes weak at the knees when I squeeze the trigger under his base.
- An antique jewellery box that belonged to my paternal grandmother. She wasn't a very nice lady, but she did have some nice things, and perhaps life made her the way she was. She kept her hairpins in it.
- A small wooden cat with a chipped ear that I bought when I was 7. It was posed under a miniature street lamp with other wooden cats, but it was the only blue tabby, and I was enchanted.
- A crystal dog that was a birthday gift from my ex's mother, a lovely lady who I miss chatting with. She made the best cheese on toast.
- A picture of my mother when she was younger than I am now.
- A statue that MFC bought for me six months after we started going out. His name is Max.

* You are what you eat.

**The sweet pup in the picture is Einstein Pepper Diggs, who belongs to Zapwizard, a very talented photographer and smart cookie who posts great photos on Flickr. Search for "Einstein" in his Flickr page if you'd like to see more pictures. If Zapwizard or anyone who knows him is reading this, I hope it's OK that MFC chose a picture of the funniest, cutest pup he could find to put on my special birthday card! We became big Einstein fans after he made me this card.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Delta Blues won the Melbourne Cup!

Image from http://news.ninemsn.com.au/img/sport/0711_nose_a.jpg

Look at the faces on those horses! Their owners must be very happy, with Delta Blues bringing in $3 million for first, and Pop Rock $750,000 for second place. Pop Rock was a favourite to win, and picked by many "experts", including his trainer, whereas Delta Blues has "a private reputation for being lazy" according to the New Zealand Herald. A horse after my own heart.

We watched the race at the Royal Perth Yacht Club, where MFC's work had a table for their annual Melbourne Cup buffet. I took the day off from work to attend. Woohoo! Day off!

On the morning of the Race That Stops A Nation, I woke up with a very strong urge to kick MFC's arse, because I dreamt that we were in a surf store doing some shopping, where I kept picking out stuff, like a blue bikini with palm trees on it (I don't think my dream-self has very good taste), and MFC would go "I don't like that," and I'd have to put it back. It was a dull and frustrating dream and I was quite miffed when I woke up. I apologise profusely for sharing it with you.

Two things that people excrutiatingly dull (and if they say otherwise they are lying ;):
- hearing about someone else's dream,
- looking at someone else's holiday photos.

The Royal Perth Yacht Club was packed with a lot of portly rich people, us, and an Axl Rose look-a-like at the next table. He looked very much like Daddy's Little Girl's Unsuitable Boyfriend, and spent a lot of the afternoon smoking forlornly on the balcony, while his girlfriend did the tango to "Dancing Queen" with an older lady. Poor Axl!

Just before the race started, someone at our table passed round a sheet of paper with all the horses' names on it, and we had to put in $5 and pick one. I saw the name "Delta Blues" on the sheet of paper, I picked it because "Walking in Memphis" started playing in my head, and - hooray, seven minutes later I had a crisp $50 in my hand!

The buffet was quite lavish, with some of the best smoked salmon I've ever tasted, but they ran out of fresh oysters early. MFC and I got the last few, about 3 a-piece, and the scary overtanned ladies behind us started complaining loudly about the food running out.

I also breached the dessert buffet early, and some other people followed, so they had to post a buffet guard. Heehee - just call me Cheesecake Guevara! Viva la revolución!

I went for dessert seconds but refrained from thirds when MFC glanced at the plump women surrounding the table, and said "See, that puts me off going for more dessert," while miming a vulture spreading its wings over a fresh carcass.

"Hey! Isn't that how I look when I go to the dessert buffet?" I asked.

"Oh no, you look more like this," he said, clasping his hands together prayerfully and staring into the distance with a beatific smile.

I decided not to go back for more dessert. Besides, these abs aren't going to flatten themselves!

When we finally tore ourselves away from watching rich old people dancing the YMCA, we discovered that the battery in MFC's car was dead because the lights had been left on. Luckily MFC's Dad and his lady-friend were able to help us jump-start the engine. While we were waiting for them to arrive with the jumper leads, the old guy reversing out of the spot next to us bumped into MFC's car. I was reading the first Rumpole Omnibus and thought it was someone opening and closing the boot. He was about to drive off, but when he saw us get out of the car, he repeatedly protested "I only touched it!" while hunching over the wheel protectively. He left about a millimetre of red paint on the bumper but no dents. MFC told him it was OK and he drove off happily, but... sheesh.

Then we got home and I watched five episodes of Grey's Anatomy in a row. Woo!

When to use "less" and "fewer"

Oh, oh, oh, I hear people using "less" when they should be saying "fewer" and I think my head is going to explode. I will let people get away with "youse", with only a little wince, but the misguided swapping of "less" and "fewer" fills me with blind white rage and a need to hurl spiky objects. I choose durians, since they're satisfyingly hefty and spiky and I get to eat the insides when I'm done.

I am not a grammar queen. In fact, I'm not even a dancing queen, or any sort of queen at all (although my housemate would fill the last two categories quite nicely - teehee!) But I do know when to use "less" and when to use "fewer". I think I nearly had an aneurysm when I heard it being used on the radio three times on the same day...

"Oh, Ollie, didgew know that there are less choices at the supermarket?"
"Less cars on the freeway today, but still busy."
"New [thingy] has less calories than other [thingies]!"

BLEARGH! (That was the sound of enraged vomiting, in case you didn't know.)

AskOxford says (and I didn't think this was very helpful, although it points out a useful rule for quantities of time):

Less means 'not as much'. Fewer means 'not as many'.

A shower takes less water than a bath, so take fewer baths and more showers.

This can be tricky when referring to quantities. For example, we say less than six weeks, not fewer than six weeks, because we are not referring to six individual weeks, but to a single period of time lasting six weeks.

However, it is always strictly incorrect to refer to less people. People are individuals and come in numbers, not in amounts.

The englishplus site's explanation is a little more clear-cut:
Use fewer with objects that can be counted one-by-one.

Use less with qualities or quantities that cannot be individually counted.

Incorrect: There were less days below freezing last winter.

Correct: There were fewer days below freezing last winter.
(Days can be counted.)

Correct: I drank less water than she did.
(Water cannot be counted individually here.)

When referring to time or money, less is normally used even with numbers. Specific units of time or money use fewer only in cases where individual items are referred to.

Examples: I have less than an hour to do this work.

I have less time to this work.

I have less money than I need.

I have less than twenty dollars.

He worked fewer hours than I did.

The only occasion in which you might say, "I have fewer than twenty dollars," would be when you were talking about specific dollar bills or coins, such as "I have fewer than twenty silver dollars in my collection."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Dexter - the TV series

Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dexter_(TV_series)

MFC introduced me to a new show. He just said, "The lead guy is a serial killer, but he only kills other serial killers, and I know it sounds weird, but you just can't help liking him."

So we watched an episode, and he was right, it's weird and disturbing, but awfully compelling, and you can't help liking Dexter. The guy who plays Dexter has a very distinctive voice, and the actress who plays his girlfriend was also oddly familiar.

As soon as we finished watching I had to fire up Wikipedia and then IMDB.

Holy crap! Dexter is David from Six Feet Under is Michael C Hall! But he's so buffed up now, and has red hair, so I was thrown off.

I would be great in a witness line-up. "Hmm, that one has a beard. Did the guy have a beard? Oh, wait... Umm, was it a guy? Could you please turn the lights on and off again, Mister Officer?"

Julie Benz was another one I had a lot of trouble recognising, it's been a while since I've watched Angel. The little girl voice struck a chord. She does vulnerable so well, but you can see the core of steel inside the softness (insert cliché here).

I don't know what to think about this show. I said to MFC, "No way will this last past one season. The bible belters will get rid of it before you can say, 'But my Mommie put me in a sailor suit'!"

But apparently it's been approved for a second season.

The acceptance of the show bothers me, I guess. When people start taking justice into their own hands, and think it's OK for them to deliver the punishment, something's a little wrong. If they enjoy it, it starts becoming Hannibal Lecter wrong. And making a serial killer into a heroic figure, and having that be OK, and watching the show myself and enjoying it... it sends a shiver up my spine.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Microwave quackery

I was recently sent one of those "Great Discoveries That Could Save Your Life" type e-mails, which purported that microwaved food would kill you, and cited an experiment done by a schoolgirl who watered one plant with purified water and another with microwaved water, and showed pictures of the plant watered with microwaved water dying rapidly. Another piece of damning "evidence" quoted in the e-mail was that a patient was given blood heated up in a microwave and died (I presume it was intravenously delivered and not force-fed :p).

So I did a search on the Net, because I like disproving things that stand in the way of my saving two minutes a day, when I could be spending that two minutes looking at vintage My Little Ponies on eBay :)

Snopes has a nice explanation of the "experiment", and also did their own experiment with THREE plants (so obviously their research is better - teehee!) and (un)surprisingly, all three plants survived and there was little discernible difference between them. They also said that the patient probably died because conventional microwaves heat blood up too quickly, resulting in hemolysis (the breakdown of red blood cells). I'm sure the nurse who killed that patient would have eventually killed someone else through gross incompetence, for example, by putting Sprite in their saline drip or something.

The Straight Dope prefers to give a more neutral reply, saying that there is still a lot we don't know about the effects of microwaves on food, but supposedly a 1992 Stanford study found that microwaving breast milk reduces its levels of vitamins and infection-fighting compounds, making it less beneficial to babies. I wasn't able to find more recent studies on this topic, but this at least sounds like a legitimate reason to me, because it's part of a proper study done by a well-respected institution, and not e-mail scare-mongering and science fair projects.

Finally, my own personal deity, Dr Karl, gives a brief review of two articles (well, one article and one letter to the editor) pointing out that none of them appeared in peer-reviewed journals or show firm scientific results. He also sums up what we DO know about microwaved food.

We do know that water-soluble vitamins (such as C and the B-group) are susceptible to both heat, and to dissolving in the water. These vitamins are retained in microwaved vegetables as well as if they had been steamed, and much better than if they had been boiled.

We also know that microwaved vitamins that are insoluble in water (such as A and D) are exposed to less heat for a shorter time, and so, survive better than if boiled.

Minerals (such as sodium, potassium, etc) are mostly soluble in water, and so are better off being microwaved. Fats and carbohydrates are basically unaffected by regular heating and microwaving. Proteins suffer less oxidation in a microwave oven than in conventional cooking (lower temperatures, shorter time), and so the quality of protein is higher. Indeed, the lack of browning is proof that the heating is gentler.

But one thing you can be sure of - that delicious slightly burnt crispyness that you get with barbequed meat definitely contains chemicals that can (in studies involving lots of rats) cause cancer. Even so, most of us ignore this scientific finding and eat barbequed meat with no ill effects.

So heat, eat and be merry…

A lot of people say they prefer not to cook with the microwave because the food tastes different to them, or they prefer to do things the old school way, and that's fine. Personally, I prefer cooking with gas myself. All I use the microwave for is defrosting and heating up leftovers. To me, it is a fantastic time-saving device if the chicken I put in the fridge to defrost is still a little icy, or if I'd like the fried rice from last night warmed up. But justifying something, anything, with pseudo-science is just irresponsible. These urban legends are propagated and believed by the same gullible people who think that teeth fillings cause cancer and opt to have their teeth pulled out instead, causing much worse health problems for themselves.

That was probably a bad analogy, but it really is one of my bugbears. People have to take responsibility for the crappy state their bodies are in, myself included :D

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Food and crashes!

Well, in a few minutes we'll be off to Wanneroo Raceway (Paceway? Speedway? Speedway! Speedway!*) to watch a friend of a friend ride in a sidecar next to her dad on a motorbike racing other motorbikes and sidecars. I'm just going along for the picnic ;)

This is a little post so I keep up my NaBloPoMo promise, sorry it's dull. I promise to post something interesting later if I can!

Ciao-ciao!

* Remember that Simpsons episode where Smithers loses his job? :)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Lolitas for Christmas? Perverts need holiday cheer too!

I was browsing through the toy catalogue of a certain department store this week, amusing myself by looking at what kids are going to receive in their Christmas stockings this year*, and I saw the picture that you'll see in a couple of paragraphs.

You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding.

I have a real beef about Bratz dolls. I think they look nasty and trampy and have no redeeming features. As far as I'm concerned, they are a skank template for impressionable young minds, with their hugely dilated pupils practically yelling "Yoohoo! Paedophiles! Come hither, big daddy!" and their pouty porn-star mouths taking up half their facial surface area ("These lips were made for fluffing!") Jeez, even their pets look slutty. If you've never seen a seductive Chihuahua, then hoo-boy, get ready for a shock. Did you know they were invented by a couple of men in their 40s? Just a little bit of trivia for you there :p

But it gets worse, now they have Bratz clothing for girls!


It's Patty the Daytime Hooker!**


I apologise in advance to the parents of that child, but if that little girl does not look primed to stroll downtown to offer men in cars some "happy endings", then I'm a Scandinavian supermodel called Boobinskaya.


Sexy pony. Now all that spam I've been getting makes sense...
Don't get me started on the baby!


Barbie is starting to look frighteningly cerebral next to this horrid franchise. Come back Barbie! All is forgiven! At least she encourages girls to become doctors and pilots and vets instead of hoochie buffets, and wears Oscar de la Renta, not Target Whore.

Even Disney is getting in on the clothing act. I turned a few pages and saw:


AAAAAARRRGH!!! It's Cinderskank!


When I have children, I'm sending them to be raised in a convent in Albania.


* Lots of flimsy, gaudy, plastic crap from China. Enjoy, kids!
** I love My Name is Earl.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Beard Papa and Puppy! Puppeeeeee!!!

Apologies for the photos in this post, they were taken at night with poor lighting. I had to use the flash, which I hate. When I said to an amateur photographer friend, "Aren' t these great?", thinking about how I had captured the crispy deliciousness of the puffs, he replied "No, they have a shadow!" Boohoo!

I went and paid my sister a very special visit last night (special, because I actually knocked on the door and went inside, instead of waiting in the dark and pelting eggs at her when it's time to put out the bin :)

But before that, I went to the Galleria to get:


Mmm, I was as excited as Savonarola getting ready to burn a witch in a blazing pile of science books.

The puffs were a bit bigger than I expected, so I just bought half a dozen. I was given a loyalty card with three stars already hole-punched in it (you get a star per $4 spent). Three more and I get a free puff! I was the only customer, but this was at 6.20pm. They probably get a crowd after lunch and dinner.

I brought my creamy, puffy booty to my sister's, and she served them on pretty blue and white plates:


My verdict is, if you are into traditional cream puffs, these are very good. Unfortunately I was expecting some kind of Holy Grail of cream puffs (Internet hype + Expectations = Danger! Sorrow! Crushed hopes!), so I was a little disappointed.

Beard Papa's patented combination of pie crust and choux pastry makes it nice and crispy on the outside, and the filling is lovely and creamy and fresh and generous, oh so generous, spilling-out-bountiful-tarty-bar-waitress-generous, but not as sweet as some other blog writers have made it out to be. On the other hand, perhaps I have just killed off all the sweet tastebuds on my tongue through years of abuse.

What I thought they would taste like, well, I actually can't say it here, because the thought has just occurred to me that I could patent MY cream puff shell, and I don't want no dirty corporations stealing the idea off me! Haha!

Now, the egg custard tarts I had in Kyoto (a story for another day), oh baby, mmph, they were gooooooooooooooood. I must dig up photos from our trip to show you all.

Finally we get to the second topic of this post. The other good thing that happened yesterday when I got to my sister's house, apart from stuffing my face with vanilla-scented cream, was this little guy:


His name is Phil, and he's sitting on my knee looking cute (it's very hard to keep puppies still for photos so this was the best of 8 shots I took). What a sweetie! He's a little puff ball right now (heehee - puff), and as he gets older the white stripe on his head will narrow. He still had puppy breath, I love the smell of puppy breath in the morning! Look at his nose, it has little black freckles! Eeeee! Oh, I loves puppies! How I loves them!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Monster House

Picture from http://www.sonypictures.de

***Read no more if you dislike spoilers!***

First of all, I would like to say
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...
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THIS IS NOT A MOVIE FOR CHILDREN!

In fact, I'm not even sure it's a movie for chicken-hearted adults like myself. Some of the scenes were quite frightening, especially the end where the house morphs into some horrible mutated skull on legs. There were four of us watching the movie, aged from 25 to 30, and for the first twenty minutes we kept exclaiming: "I can't believe this is a children's movie!" PG-13 is the rating, apparently, but I don't understand how boobies being flashed could possibly be worse than kids growing up into traumatised adults who can't sleep with the light off. Stop looking at me!

Groo knows how younger children would perceive the scarier scenes in the movie - hopefully by starting to wet the bed again and creeping into Mum and Dad's bed while their parents are being distracted by "fixing" Dad's outdoor plumbing.

I can't help feeling that the whole 3-D animation thing is causing writers and directors to be lazy. The characters in Monster House are undeveloped and the dialogue is, well, lame. It's the sort of movie that makes you keep shifting position, looking at your neighbours, and checking on how many M&Ms there are left in the bag.

If Monster House were set in real life, the spoken lines would stand out as being woodenly bad, even child-actor bad. But with so many credible actors doing the voice acting (including my favourite Steve Buscemi), I can only blame the scriptwriters! Damn you, Hollywood scriptwriters - may boils erupt on your rear ends until you start writing some decent scripts!

I found it very hard to like the characters, and although I was plumping (teehee) for the chubby kid to get eaten, it never happened.

A brief synopsis: DJ, a nice, geeky boy approaching puberty, notices that things that go into the house across the road never come out again. The house is owned by your stereotypical grumpy old man, Mr Nebbercracker, who is obviously hiding a deep dark secret. DJ has an annoying friend, Chowder, who helps him investigate by being obfuscating, getting in the way, and providing bad sidekick one-liners. A school girl, Jenny, also joins the hunt after they save her from being eaten by the house when she goes there to sell candy. She's so smart you're tempted to set her pigtails on fire, but she becomes nicely bland and heroic later on.

The movie is pretty "meh" but it was still kind of nice to watch it on Halloween night*.

In contrast, last night I saw Over The Hedge, and in terms of dialogue, humour and originality, it peed all over Monster House. In fact, I could say it did an enormous number two on Monster House but that would be a little gross, and I am a lady, after all (ha!). I really want to buy the Over The Hedge DVD, rub it in the faces of the Monster House people and go "SEE! THIS IS HOW IT'S DONE, NIMRODS!"

* Unfortunately, no kids came begging for lollies, which is too bad because I had a huge bag of lemons waiting for them by the front door. What - you want me to tax our frail medical system even further? Lemons are full of Vitamin C and make delicious healthy iced tea (when sweetened with xylitol, not sugar). Also, I wanted to see the looks on their faces when I put lemons into their sacks. Teehee!

A little side-anecdote: a couple of years ago, when I was living at my parents' place, I had some chocolate ready and two groups of polite little kids came to the door. I was feeling quite benevolent when two burly teenagers in casual clothes suddenly turned up and held out their hands for a handout. It was a little intimidating, and I let them have some chocolate bars because I didn't want to get mugged. Hmph, if only I'd let my beefy ex answer the door. That would've frightened those big bullies!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I bit it off but can I chew it?

Right, I've had a few low, not to mention sian days this week, and decided that there is no point beyatching about still being part of the rat-race when I haven't done very much to further my dream of being a writer/illustrator/single-mum-of-three-living-it-up-on-the-dole.

So, in desperation, and blind hope that this will spur me on to finish those novels and practise my writing, I have decided to join not only National Blog Posting Month, but also... National Novel Writing Month! And by the skin of my teeth! Many thanks to Loobylu for the heads up on this or I would have missed out completely. Links to the websites for both events can be seen to the right.

For National Blog Posting Month, I have to post a blog every day, including weekends! Argh, if nothing it'll definitely get me thinking about deadlines.

And National Novel Writing Month? Well, I have two novels that I would really like to finish, but I'm not sure which one to use. Both are children's fantasy, the first one I really like, but I'm kind of stuck because I can't think of a good BIG villain (that isn't clichéd and used to death). The other has a fairly good villain and characters and a kind-of-there storyline, but I haven't visited it for a while, and it has a much lower word count. Still, maybe that's the one to go for while my mind subconsciously churns around the first one.

And really, if plot, character and theme-stealing crapola like Eragon can get published, I don't see why my own special brand of drivel can't strive for that golden ring as well. Of course, getting my parents to set up a publishing house may be a little difficult :p

Kudos to the home-schooled Paolini for actually finishing a novel in the first place, but, gah, I got it out of the library to see what all the fuss was about, and my mind kept going, "Stolen from Tolkien... Stolen from Feist... Stolen from McCaffrey... Oh, whoops, I've fallen asleep... Aye carumbabooba, is there nothing original in here??!?"

I did like the picture of the dragon on the front, however. He had a nice face. But now that I've read the book, I think the dragon on the cover deserves to be in a better story. In fact, the illustrator probably cried tears of shame and horror when they read the book, not unlike an oyster who's just found out that their best, biggest pearl has been made into a fake nipple for Paris Hilton's Halloween costume.

Ah well, time to cut down on the fun, now I have to write a blog a day AND get the word count up on novel #2. To the batcave!