31 December 2009

Cooking with Bruce, summary of recent food

Christmas dinner was pheasant poached in cider, wasn't very impressed with this - pheasant seems kinda flavourless, so won't be eating that again in a hurry.
The Waldoff salad was lovely, but then I've always liked it. It also gives me a use for my hammer, owning a hammer makes me manly, the fact I mainly use it for cracking nuts in no way detracts from my manliness.
Roasting the spuds in goose fat resulted in some feckin' stunning tasting spuds, apparently goose fat is also quite healthy - awesome.

the star of the show was my Christmas pudding, damn I do a good one. Cream and custard set off the pudding nicely. Yup, even I can be traditional.

I've done most of the cooking for tonight, roast vege pasta bake (I made the sauce yesterday before I finished the red wine, see planning...), tiramisu (made this before I drank all the coffee, but no coffee liquer so brandy was involved), and that'll do me thinks. Possibly some salad, but we'll see...

Now watching King of the Zombies from 1941, which is superb. Including a black servant as comic relief, who has soooo stolen this movie. He's hilarious, it's public domain now so should be reasonably easy to find.

Love, B

30 December 2009

Regional News - why bother?

The BBC have, for some reason, a 30 minute news bulletin followed by regional news for 20 minutes (ish) then back to central for weather. Or something like that. I find it hard to follow.
I've never been a huge fan of regional news, it's always struck me as shallow, narrow-minded and a waste of time. I'd much rather have more indepth reporting, or critiquing of international affairs. 
This evening I felt things hit a nadir, admittedly it's the dead news period, but still, this isn't too different from normal. 
An east midlands motorway is being extended and some people trying to restore a canal are up in arms because the motorway will require changes to bridges, which if not done, will mean the canal cannot be restored. All I got from this article was a bunch of old buggers (it's always old buggers) wanting to restore a canal, and grumbling about bridges. No-where in the story was there an explanation as to a) why anyone wants the canal  the restored or b) why the motorway needed extending (becoming a dual-carriage way).

This was an excellent example of crap reporting with no context, and no hook to engage view interest. Why TF bother?

I went back to my book, Charlie Brooker's "The Hell of it All", which seemed somehow apt.


26 December 2009

Boxing Day

Didn't have as much booze as I thought I would. Had a nice relaxing day tho, watching movies, drinking booze, eating food. Ended up watching the mini-series Alice - kinda derivative, if you've seen Kubrick, Gilliam, even the Matrix, you won't be very surprised - but it was mindless, which is all we wanted.

This morning, woke up and read for a bit. A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz was shortlisted for the 2008 Man Booker prize, which I'd generally avoid. But I'd been in a literature search the other week and picked up this, Cormac McCarthy's The Road (brilliant, if disturbing reading on a train through the blank snow covered wilderness of the Scottish Borders...) and something else. Anyway, this one is very very funny, and is rocking along at high speed. 

Made brekkie (toast and coffee), did the remaining dishes, cleaned the kitchen and organised recycling, now my feet are up watching the John Carradine classic, Silent Night, Bloody Night. A soft romantic comedy concerning a haunted house and the nutjobs involved with it.  Seems a good example of the slasher flick genre so far, scripting has been, at best, clumsy. Non-sequitors abound which is superb listening. I'm also liking the lack of emotional investment in any of the characters, nice touch !!


A Fraction of the WholeSilent Night Bloody Night

25 December 2009

Xmas Pt4

been awhile since the last blog, have drunk more beer (quite a bit) had dinner (very nice, particuarly the spuds and the waldorf salad), watched some Brideshead Revisted, half a movie (Underground). Sipped some whisky and had a bit of a cigar, too cold to stay outside toolong so came back in.
pudding is cooking its way to lovely hotness as we speak. new james may on soon, probably skipping dr who as i kept missing all the others. i thought i saw there was a new top gear on too, but can't seem to see ot, only a repeat from the other night.
might be time to throw on another movie - thinking about silent night, deadly night or Cyborg.

i think a beer aged in whisky casks will be next, ooohhh or maybe the st peters stout, that'd go well with the pudding. hmmm, decisions.

me x

Xmas Pt3

Things are now happening in the kitchen, pheasants are in the oven for their initial cook, the spuds are being boiled before roasting, I've located ingredients for the salad. Pudding is in the fridge - ready for the final steam. Beer in glass (timmermans Strawberry lambic), cheese on cracker.

Halfwit prince still on in background.


Xmas Pt2

The zombie movie was absolutely superb. Excellent stuff. Sadly we've moved onto pothead and the halfwit prince. So I've moved onto St Peter's Grapefruit beer.

My Xmas pressie to me, with love, cos I've been a very good boy, or at least good to myself, was a decent coffee grinder. This worked in well with beans T posted over in exchange for a DVD - so freshly ground Havana beans. Feckin' A.

Here's a picture of my new baby, and the view out our window.

Love and im liking this beer.


Xmas drinking pt1 - not very pisht post

 The beginning of the day, one champers down and currently watching Flight of the Living Dead aka Zombies on a Plane. The plot, such as it is, is quite easy to follow and should appeal to all drunken bgrade fans. Scripting writing makes pr0n dialogue look like Bennett, and the less said about the acting, the better. For all that, it's fun - and more importantly has zombies, hot babes, guns, and a plane. Not enough nudity to be excellent, so it'll get a very good rating from me. Sadly my booze is now empty and I must away for a refill. Damn scientists killing everyone. But there's a nun, she still got clothes on too, but maybe hot. And a prisoner, and a US air marshall. They have guns. and now metal - oh yeah baby. I liked that fact the hot babes got bitten first.

Food intake update:
2 cups coffee (freshly ground havana beans)
1 glass champagne
2 english muffins with egg, salmon and horseradish

oohhh woohoo the captain got bitten!


ps: in keeping with the 'rules' no editing allowed on these posts so if they dont make sense, blame someone else.
Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane

23 December 2009

\m/ Metal \m/

Nothing to do at work today, no surprise there, mainly filling in time before pub. Mmm beer.
Anyhoo, I'm catching up metal vids I haven't had a chance to watch, the only two that have stood out have been Kataklysm, Behemoth (oohh now that was brutal) and Vader.

Here's Vader, with their snappily titled video:


Meals you're unlikely to have

From todays news : the man who killed and ate the last wild Indochinese tiger has been jailed for 12 years. Pleading self-defence while gathering clams in a wild-life reserve, the prosecutors argued 'you don't need a gun to gather clams'. The only known tiger in the reserve has not been seen since his dinner in 2007.

More info on the tiger itself here.

Genetics of tigers splits them into 6 distinct groups, well according to this paper anyway. Admittedly these are all subspecies, and whether we even care about that is a whole other question.
Another paper, which lists 5 subspecies, assigned captive tigers to the subspecies, finding a large proportion (52 of 105 examined) were of mixed origin (what would the BNP say). If you've got access to Science Direct it's available here.

This means that it is technically possible to continue 'pure-breeding' the subspecies, but whether it's worth it or not - who knows. Obviously they interbred quite happily, so the question becomes, do we want to enforce speciation on them, along with the corollary of (probably) reduced genetic diversity?


22 December 2009

HE sucked for money

Continuing the occasional series on Higher Education, quote of the day comes from an article discussing the rise of vampire courses in the US HE sector:
“They know more about vampires than they do about religion,” said Richard Androne, professor of English at Albright College in Pennsylvania, who teaches a course called “The Vampyre”.

And this is where Richard Dawkins went wrong, rather than pointing out the perfection of Evolution he should have gone "oohhh look, vampires are cool"...and thus killed religion in one sucking swoop.
It's also an encouraging fact about the US. I think it's evidence of the Obama effect.


A slightly geeky day at work

I had a few things to tidy up this morning, and a big meeting for cunning plan implementation. After lunch I decided to boot back into linux and finally finish the configuration. I'm using Kubuntu 9.10 mainly as I like the prettiness of the KDE desktop. The utilitarian approach of Gnome is good, but I like pretty - I'm a Mac boy damnit.

I'd already set up email, sadly Evolution doesn't have a Exchange 2007 plugin yet. I'm thinking of switching to the KDE mail suite, but it's never really rocked my world, so will continue with Evolution (mail) and Outlook Web Access for calendaring etc. I guess I could look at synching my outlook calendar with gmail which would do what I want better. Hmmm. No hurry as it does synch nicely with the iphone so I'm still getting reminders when I need them.

Got a bit sick of Kopete which is the default KDE instant messenger, so I've installed Pidgin since that's what I was using on the Windows side of the box. I've also edited the display settings so it's crystal clear (better than windows, which is odd), although it continues to want to display on the laptop and the external monitor - guess that's something to look at in the new year.

Using Firefox for the browser, KDE's default one is good, but has a few issues with websites that don't follow HTML coding properly.

The big win? Plugging in my Mac formatted ipod, the system recognising it, and Amarok (the KDE default media player) picking it up and playing tracks off it - no problems at all. The Pidgin plugins for 'now playing' are very simple to plug in, and there's a Last.FM plugin built in by default.

I haven't finished configuring my drive mappings, currently I can see the SMB shares, but only as read-only, and I can't be bothered doing much about that today. I'm sure I fixed that on another box, so will see if I made any useful notes concerning it.

Generally, I'm liking it. It's certainly a lot less clunky than it used to be - not nearly as smooth as MacOS, but certainly more is built-in and just works out of the box than Windows. I think I'll continue to use it more in the new year, if only as it reads the ipod and I can play music and tell people what I'm listening to. Yes, I am that shallow.
Oh and the Skype linux version, technically beta, works well. No problems there either.

I also tidied my desk, and starting reading about Prince2, but then decided fiddling with my linux box was more interesting.

Love, B

21 December 2009

Christmas is a comin'

I did the Xmas shop. I don't like shopping. I don't like people. However with the students gone, Loughborough isn't as busy as it usually is, so oddly it wasn't as bad as normal.

My beer is all ready for next week, most of it is in the fridge - altho in these temperatures, heaven knows why (-4 at night most of this week).

We have, and by we, I mean I, have:
Timmermans Lambicus Bianche
Timmermans Strawberry
Artvelde Grand Cru
Caracola Nostradamus
Rodenbach Grand Cru (oh god yes!)
Trappistes Rochefort 8
St Peters Best Bitter
St Peters Cream Stout
St Peters Grapefruit
Flying Dog Old Scratch Amber Lager
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Tuilibardine 1488 Whisky Ale (no Brewdog available!)

The fridge itself is looking full, and I've had to take out the vodka from the freezer to fit everything in. The Xmas puddings have developed nicely, huzzah!

And the whisky cabinet, although there's three more bottles downstairs, and I see some wine, port and gin in with the whisky as well...

I may put up a full list of the whiskies in due course, but suffice to say I shouldn't be too cold during this xmas period.

Oh and my coffee grinder arrived today, it does have a European connection plug which is annoying, but I can cope with that...


17 December 2009

Whisky review : SMWS

Been awhile since we had a whisky review and I've got a few lying around I haven't reviewed - for my own collection if not yours.
I've got a few SMWS drams to get through, so I'll work my way through them over the next fortnight, I've also got some notes and a 20yo Glengoyne to blog about, so whisky galore... It's also very chilly here (well it did snow today), so whisky will keep my warm and save electricity. See it's a win for everyone. Well ok, me, although if you dropped by I'd be happy to share - except to Mr Upton and his freakin' L and P :p

Background: the SMWS buy casks from distillers that don't fit that distilleries profile, bottle them and sell them to their members without obviously identifying the distillery.

13.43 SMWS Mediavel combat dram
19yo refill butt, ex sherry; 59.2% 1 of 576 bottles

Nose: Glue, Sherry, both quite strong. hint vanilla, quite a subtle nose, rubber.

Body: honey, velvet, christmas cake, sherry, treacle, 

Finish: long, tingly, honey - manuka, 
Rating: 9.5/10

Why yes, I do like this one. Really complex, it changes in the mouth, and the finish rocks on for ages. I'm almost tempted to add a little water as I think a bit more will come out, maybe next time...

Oh, internet work tells me this was a Dalmore - which fits as I've liked other Dalmore's I've tried.


Links for Africa

A couple of links this morning. First up an interesting article by Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, No-Man, Bass Communion, solo, etc etc) on albums he thinks could benefit from a surround sound mix. He's quite the uber-surround-mix go-to guy at the moment, his own stuff is superb, and the clarity on the King Crimson reissues is incredible. Red in particular is just magic...

And secondly a free album, but not just any album, one by the indie label 4AD with The Mountain Goats, M.Ward, The National, Camera Obscura etc., yeah bands I 'kinda' like :D

Love and hippiness, B

16 December 2009

Cooking with Bruce : Tomato and tamarind soup with cumin bread

I like hot spicy food, it's an excuse for beer. Mmm beer. So crack open a bottle, peruse the recipe, gather ingredients, open another bottle and cook.
Personally: this is one of the best soups I've ever made. It's based loosely on the Cuisine recipe of the same name, but I've pulled the raita and bumped up the spicing - actually I think I put more chilli in there than I list below. But I'm sure none of you follow recipes anyway...
The bread worked nicely with the soup, it's quite thick bread so soaks up soup nicely.

Cumin Bread
250ml of black coffee
75gm flour
2t fresh ground black pepper
2t cumin seeds
1t cumin ground
whisk and heat until thick and just boiling. 
Dump into mixing bowl and allow to cool, add:
1t dry instant yeast
1t salt
250-300gm flour
And mix to a smooth dough.
Cover, leave 10 mins, then knead on an oiled surface, repeat twice more and leave for 30 mins.
Dump into baking tin and leave to rise for 45mins, bake for 40mins at 200C (fan).

Tomato and Tamarind Soup
Dump into saucepan:
200gm tin tomatoes (ish)
about the same of chopped fresh tomatoes
3 cloves chopped garlic
5cm knob ginger, chopped
1T tamarind paste (or 1T dried, soaked in hot water and mashed up)
1.5T brown sugar
2t tumeric
1/2t salt
1t ground pepper
1t ish of chilli paste or fresh
900ml vege stock
Bring to boil, then simmer for 10 mins.

Fry some cumin seeds (1-2t) and mustard seeds (1t) until fragrant, then mix in more chilli. 

Mix the seeds through the soup, add a dollop of unsweetened yoghurt to the middle of it, serve.

Love, B

11 December 2009

The bells, the bells !!!

I had a look at my Last.FM page the other day and noticed I've passed the 40,000 track plays since I joined on the 3 October 2006. So it seemed reasonable to have a look at my play habits (no, not like that...).

Firstly, I do listen to most of my music via iTunes so unlike the Chicken, my Last.FM is a pretty accurate reflection of my listening habits. I am that sad that if I'm listening to vinyl and I've got the album on CD, I'll spin the ipod as well to keep things up to date. If anyone says OCD I will flounce, dramatically!

The top5 artists since I began scrobbling will come as no surprise to anyone:

  1. Marillion
  2. Tom Waits
  3. Porcupine Tree
  4. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
  5. Pineapple Thief
Actually I'm quite pleased the Thief got in there - certainly the band with the fewest number of albums in that top5. 

Apparently I've listened to 1410 different artists. That's quite a few. I blame compilation albums, and in particular my love of obscure funk albums. Yes, you heard me right, I love funk. 

The top5 albums is interesting and reflects what has been released since I joined Last.Fm rather than what my top5 albums actually are (Marillion : Afraid of Sunlight will always top this list, followed by Beethoven's or Schubert's 9th symphonies).
  1. Muse - Black Holes and Revelations
  2. Mew - And the glass handed kites  (ok, I utterly love this album, it's beautiful bonkers)
  3. Marillion - Happiness is the Road : Essence
  4. Marillion - Happiness is the Road : the Hard Shoulder
  5. The Weakerthans - Reconstruction Site
Nice to see the Weakerthans popping up tho, I am very partial to that album - fans of the 'Hip or earlier Snow Patrol should check them out.

Top5 tracks are not a massive surprise.
  1. Marillion - Afraid of Sunlight
  2. Marillion - King
  3. Porcupine Tree - Arriving Somewhere but not here
  4. Muse - Supermassive Black Hole
  5. Muse - Map of the Problemmatique
I did rather thrash Black Holes by Muse when it came out, but the top3 seem reasonable. 

I like that at numbers 20/21 of my favourite artists are Phoenix Foundation and Sam Flynn Scott. Heh, it's like there's a bias there :)

There ya go, a very rough n dirty breakdown of my listening habits. Should there be demand I can do a more indepth critique of it all, complete with what I'd say were my favourites as compared to Last.FM's perspective.


10 December 2009

Sometimes background reading is fun

I realise most of you don't read the Times Higher Education supplement, which is why I'm providing a service here. I do skim it to try and keep a vague grasp on the HE sector, and if for no other reason that some of their deliberately provocative articles are interesting.

then there are the updates. 


The week in higher education
10 December 2009
Scientists investigating the effects of pornography were stumped when they failed to find any 20-year-old men who had not already been exposed to X-rated material. The researchers, at the University of Montreal, hit a dead end when they put out a call for "porn virgins", it was reported on 2 December. Simon Louis Lajeunesse, who led the study, said: "We started our research seeking men in their twenties who had never consumed pornography. We couldn't find any." Despite the setback, the study went ahead, finding that single young men view pornography for an average of 40 minutes three times a week. Those in relationships watched it for an average of 20 minutes 1.7 times a week.

Love, B

9 December 2009

How one week can be improved by not being at work

Two days of work, followed by many days of drink and music. Yep i could get used to that.

Headed up north (or The North as the signs say) to Glasgow to see the wonderful PsychoChicken. Things started well at a pub, improved immeasurably at the next pub, and peaked at the chickens favourite, the Bon. I've been there a few times, and it's a great pub - although having bottles of Bowmore Black and White (or was it the Gold?) there could be a bad move. The Bowmore Black is around £2000, so I'm unlikely to get a bottle anytime soon.

But the reason we were meeting was to see Marillion on their Less is More tour. In all honesty, I don't like the album. I find it bland. The concept was to record an acoustic (ish) album where songs were stripped down or rearranged. What emerged was a disappointing album with arrangements that showed little originality or were unnecessarily complex. There's a strong element of 'sameness' through each of the tracks, and many end up sounding like the Beatles. I keep falling asleep during it, or can't remember when it's finished what I listened to - not a good sign. So it's fair to say I was heading up to see the Chicken, drink beer, and taste some whisky. Good thing I viewed it that way. The venue was crap, we were lucky to get a view of the band, but apparently most of the audience couldn't see them - for which the band, to their credit, have apologised and offered a free recording of the gig.
Music wise, the first half was the album, and live the songs don't really improve much. Atmosphere was ruined a bit by talking, but if you can't see the band...
Second half was a little better, a little more plugged in and a couple of stunning Rother's solos.
Certainly the worst performance I've seen by the band, and I wouldn't recommend catching this tour.
But the company and the beer was excellent.

Next evening we had the tragically hip one of the bands I've been into for sometime - and it seemed churlish not to head along since they, and I, were in the same city. The hip were well known as a college indie band during the 80s/90s, think Violent Femmes (ish) although being Canadian, there's more quirky to them than many of the US bands. A more contemporary Canadian group would be the Weakerthans, who I also like, again intelligent witty lyrics with good music. the venue was much better, The Garage, and we appeared to be surrounded by most of the Canadians currently domiciled in Scotland. More maple leaf flags than you could throw pancakes at. But by god did that band go off. Ok, by band, I mean the singer - the rest of them just stand there. But his stage presence is superb, and this was one of the gigs of the year. If you get the chance to see them, take it. Small complaint that the vocals got lost a bit, but the atmosphere more than made up for it.

Headed back home on the friday, then Mr S popped up on Saturday - or rather we met up in Leicester for the Pineapple Thief. This was at a small venue the Musician which we both liked. The support band, Left Below were really good, kind of a mix between Isis, Oceansize and Jakob - so yeah, I liked them :) And the Thief? It's the second time I've seen them, and I cannot believe how tight they are live. And how good they are. It really is a crime this band are not better known, although to an extent they have themselves to blame as their gigging up to a year or two ago could be counted on one hand, but with a bit of label support behind them they are turning up to play live. Music-wise, fans of Elbow, Coldplay, Keane, ie. the British navel gazer fan-brigade, should check them out.
The new songs, which they played three, were a reasonable continuation of where they've been headed. The first sounded very much like Everything Must Go era Manic Street Preachers. The other two were more pineapple thief-ish, but sounded great.

the evening was rounded off with some reasonably good food - high chilli content, but certainly better than crud I've here in Lboro.

Huzzah to music! Whisky review likely to follow at some point soon.