26 June 2010

New arrivals in the house

My bike turned up! Woohoo. The UK has an excellent government scheme called something like bike-to-work, where the cost of the bike is pulled out of the pre-tax salary over a number of months. Works for me.
I picked it up on Tuesday and am absolutely loving suicidally throwing it around, certainly cuts the travel time to work (15-20mins cf 60min walk). Just went for a nice long ride around the countryside on an absolutely glorious summers day. Down small lanes, including the delightfully named Pudding Bag Lane where I found yet another small cricket pitch. It was a bit exciting at times when tarmac roads turned into very loose gravel while heading downhill, but no harm done. Yet. Found a bike only track heading down to Belton area, watched some cricket and read the paper. Then came back, so a nice 90min ride, 30 min break, and then a very much required shower.
I really had forgotten how much I missed the freedom. The speed, the wind, the sweat (!) - awesome.

I've finally sorted out my network problem, and am redoing my iTunes library this weekend. That's about 24hours of importing. I've done A-M, and am halfway through N-Z. Got some writing to do this afternoon,  but currently I'm considering some lunch and reading the paper.

So here's a picture of it, and some bike themed music.


23 June 2010

CVs, tips and suggestions

Over the past few years I've had to do a lot of interviews. The current round, this past Monday, drove me nuts. By far the worst session I've had to sit through. I've also been lucky that I've had some excellent role models on how to interview people. Recently I've worked with someone who had done a lot contract worker interviews, and previously I worked with someone who was very good at putting people at their ease (they pulled me in to be the grumpy voice of reason, no idea why...).

What pissed me off the most was one applicant who had an excellently written CV, so we gave them an interview. they barely comprehended English, so obviously the CV was written by an agency. To make matters worse, the first question (the generic, why do you want this job opener), was answered well. But once we got on to job specific questions, we got answers that even sounded coached and generally had nothing to do with the question. No matter how many times we rephrased questions, we got nothing useful. It was a total waste of our time, and reflected very poorly on the applicant.

Also had some idiot who was basically a making up examples on the fly, and not relevant answers. Also talking too fast, with very little content behind the words - think radio DJ.

The role is targeted as an entry (ish) level one, so we weren't too nasty, knowing that for many of the applicants it was probably the first time they've written a CV and probably their first formal interview as well.
But even so you'd expect the following:
- dress well (one guy turned up in t-shirt and jeans)
- look interviewers in the eye (I was particularly looking for this as it's a customer facing role)
- address the (E)ssential aspects in the job description specifically in their application (it's why they are there FFS)
- keep your answers direct, and use personal pronouns
- don't hide things in your CV, put it in the covering letter

Generally the day left me a bit discouraged. We figured that most students wouldn't be looking for employment until later in the year when they are heading back. So we'll advertise again.

It wasn't all doom and gloom, two of them were OK and I could work with them, so we've put them on a reserve list. And one was excellent, exactly what I was looking for. Admittedly their application was good (not great), and if someone hadn't recommended them they wouldn't have got to the interview list (I'd dumped them in the longer shortlist).

If there's one thing doing all this has taught me over the years, is how to structure my own CV and covering letters. Given last time I was applying for jobs, I had 4 interviews from 7 applications (once the tier1 came through), I think it's working.


22 June 2010

Cooking with Bruce: Spicy Seafood Paella

This started off as a reasonably subtle mussel paella, and it works well as that. However I was feeling a bit more spicy this evening and it worked perfectly. Obviously being paella, you can dump anything in it, I used fish and some prawns.

300gm fish chopped into squares
1/4c white wine (or white wine vinegar)
1.5c fish stock
olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
3 cloves garlic chopped
1c arborio or carnaroli rice
1t paprika
1t spicy cajun mix of your creation
2t oregano
2T chopped parsley
few strands of saffron
grind blackpepper
tabasco sauce

(yes ok, I made up some quantities there)
1.preheat oven to 220C, mix the white wine and stock.
2. on a medium heat fry the onion in olive oil under it goes clear
3. add the rice, spices (incl saffron), garlic, black pepper anda bit of salt and mix until the aromas develop.
4. pour in stock and boil for about 5 minutes until it's kinda gloopy.
5. add the seafood, mix for a bit. Then pour into a pan and bake for 15 minutes.
6. remove from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes before devouring.

Admittedly, given how hot it is here, a salad may have been a better plan.

Love, chef B

20 June 2010

Zombie reviews

A few weeks ago a three pack of zombie movies for a fiver popped up on Amazon, based on previous purchases or browsing. A fiver seemed a good price, and so I ended up with these three. I'm currently suffering a dose of patriotism(homesickness) and typing this while gearing up to watch the NZ game against Italy while listening to the prog-metal band Redemption.

Days of Darkness: the rise of the flesh-eaters
It looks cheap. Even from a b-grade perspective. Dialogue is stilted, actors seem confused, and it's essentially a box-ticker based on the Romero zombie list. The characters take their cliches and stumble enthusiastically through the clumsy script. There is tension, there are issues, love, babes, babes with guns, black guy. Oh and it drags,badly.
On my b-grade scaling it's a solid 5. Quite watchable, but make sure you have some booze and food. And kudos to the director for making an 86min movie seem too long.

Next up was The Zombie Diaries, advertised as 'the best UK horror film of the year' and 'dark, uncompromising and frighteningly real'.I can only assume it was a weak year for UK horror. If Days of Darkness dragged, then this grabbed me nuts and dragged them over rusty nails. The plus side: the zombies act well. The downside:everything else. Interesting concept, post-zombie apocalypse some video diaries are found. You'd think that should provide an excellent movie, or at least a base for one. Nope. 81mins of oh god I want more booze. It's not just me, S2H was online while I was watching and laughed at me having sat through it previously. I think this one has to hit 2 or 3 on the viewing scale. It really was painful. There's deleted scenes on the DVD, and I haven't gathered the courage to view them, suspecting that it's unlikely the good movie is hidden there.

And finally, Zombies Zombies Zombies which managed to give away the entire plot onthe cover 'Strippers vs Zombies'. Bad scientist invents zombie causing serum, which is grabbed in place of crack, gets into human population. And then focusses on the strip club, where everyone decided to hide. I've watched similar movies to this, that were good (Zombie Strippers being the easiest to find). This one falls flat.No real character development or plot, but it does hang together ok. There's a bit of humour in it, but nothing great. Many characters introduced and not actually used, or developed, or taken anywhere.
Probably the best of the three, let's give it a 6.

And at 1-0 in the football, I am going to pay attention to it.

Love, B

19 June 2010

Dear England

Dear England,

I think you need to realise that the last two games do accurately reflect your teams ability.
Rather than getting hurt anymore, I'd like to offer a solution - in the spirit of our shared commonwealth past.

Come join us and support New Zealand.

We celebrate everything, team turning up, team running out, team having the ball, and in the more unlikely events, team scoring, team drawing, and the soon to be revealed, team winning.

Here's a guide to NZ football/soccer support:

1. We don't care. Football is a game for penguins and thalidomide babies who can't play rugby.
2. Our hair gel requirements are lower, so team can move faster.
3. Yell loudly, and if anyone harasses you, say you're Australian
4. The objective of the game is to not pick up the ball. Everything else we achieve is a win.
5. Rewards will be great (2500:1 odds).
6. Knowing more than two players is an anathema.
7. Dan Carter could win the WC2010 on his own.
8. Girls play soccer. So our players deny even being at training.
9. Try not to chant 'Hurricanes, mooloo, Can-terr-bree', it's not the done thing.
10. In this case, it is kick it to pass it. Please ignore Air NZ NPC ads.
11. We don't care. Football is a game for penguins and thalidomide babies who can't play rugby.

Love and hugs to the deluded English,

18 June 2010

Might track this down

Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein, it's a response to Twilight apparently ;)

14 June 2010

Rugby summary

Good weekend for the Southern Hemisphere, and the one Northern team I will be seen supporting.

NZ decimated the Irish. At 38-7 at halftime, the final score of 66-28 was distinctly flattering to the Irish. Two late tries brought some respectability, but really, dunno why they came over.

Aussie v England, where to my surprise I was supporting the Aussies. Well I guess they play decent rugby.   English didn't deserve to win, and no surprises, they didn't. This brings Martin Johnson's record, if one can call it that, to P22 W8 D1 L33, a win percentage of 36%. I know they have a crap team, but surely the coach, who is also head selector, should go. His selections do seem rubbish, and lead to a stilted boring, predictable play.

SA v France. Only caught highlights, but this years 6 nations champs collapsed to a 42-17 loss to SA.

And yay Scotland, who beat the Puma's 24-16. See I said they were the best team in the 6 nations, if not the best or most consistent.


13 June 2010

mole mole mole

There's an epidemic out there! There are moles!Invading moles!!! Moles digging massive holes (thanks Mercury Rev). They've come to turn our dirt over!

Seriously, there's a mole epidemic out there.

Currently trying to avoid the world cup, well the other world cup. It's all a bit tricky, thankfully I don't watch too much TV so it's not affecting viewing much. The first English game was last night, I escaped by going to Four Lions the Chris Morris jihad-comedy. We need more of those. Then my favourite pub doesn't show sport, so that solved post-movie refreshments.
Now I'm not against football, I've grown to realise it is pretty boring, but I do watch it occasionally. However the overt nationalism here kinda turns me off it. Felt odd, but I was supporting the US. Heehee. There's also St Georges flags up everywhere, marking the neanderthals out for easy avoidance. They usefully mark out their cars, sometimes with two flags (for the slower idiots), this is something I'm not used to. We just don't have flags flying, even during AB matches. Odd. Oh well, NZ are 2500:1 to win the World Cup (boring version)which maybe worth a punt.


11 June 2010

Sedentary Sports I won't try

Some sports are good. Some sports involve sitting down doing very little. Some sports involve sitting down doing nothing at all while your skin bubbles away (literally). This the sport of the Sauna World Championships. It's a Finnish sport, explaining why the word 'extreme' isn't prefixed, for this maybe one of the few examples where I would wholeheartedly support its use.

The sauna is set at a balmy 127C, and descriptions of the contests include:
He was the first out, at 4:15, and he was melting like the wicked witch. His forehead, his lips and his ears were giant lumps of pus. His triceps were riddled with pebble-size blisters, dozens of them.

Read all about it here. go on. 

10 June 2010

Whisky: 21 yo Mortlach

Been awhile since we had a whisky review, I must fix that. I shall gather the forces and find some whiskies to taste.

Mortlach 21yo Gordon and Macphail 43%

Nose: rubber, cut grass, sherry?, sweet

Palate: honey, sweet, masses of raisins, thick, incredibly smooth, quite delicate, some hint of sherry

Finish: raisins, unbelievable amounts of them, medium, intriguing, and heat grows after a taste or two.

This is the one that hooked me back in late 90s. I've had many more whiskies since then - even some Mortlach (Adelphi, SMWS, etc.), but I thought it would be nice to revisit the 21yo.  So is it worth it? well yes and no. In comparison to many I've had it's lacking complexity and the raisins are very prominent. This may reflect the absence of a cask strength whisky, compared to that a 43% will generally come up short (and yes, we all know the standout exception). The good is definitely that this whisky is going down very very easily, by god it's so smooth. It's very easy drinking, and as an initial malt, I don't think I could have gotten better. Rating: 7.5 or 8/10.

6 June 2010

Cooking with Bruce: Japanese Fish

It's been raining on and off all day, making it hell to keep windows open since it's all hot and muggy. Now getting all hot and sweaty can be fun, this isn't. Todays continual rain follows on from a very dramatic thunderstorm, which worked well with the zombie movie. Or would have, if the movie had been in any way good.
This is a dish I bastardised last week. Originally a Japanese dish to make fish on skewers (made from lemon grass stalks) I decided that was far too much like work, or rather, impractical, a word that kinda ruins my day. Oh and it had girls blouse levels of flavour, so I upped them slightly.

Japanese Fish dish and Soba noodles
Part 1
4 spring onions chopped roughly
couple of fillets of firm fish chopped into blocks
2 lemon grass stalks finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped

Part 2
Bok Choi (or similar) roughly chopped
beansprouts, handful
2 green chilli, sliced
1T coriander, chopped
1 red onion, chopped

Part 3
Soba noodles soaked in green tea (or be slack and buy green tea noodles)

Part 4 Dressing
2T olive oil
3T dark soy sauce
1t grated fresh ginger (or more, I think I used more)
juice of 1 lime
1/2t sugar

1. Heat oil, cook all Part 1.
2. Add noodles in green tea
3. Add Part 2 to Part 1
4. Mix up Part 4.
5. Drain and add noodles to Part 1 and 2. Drizzle Part 4 over Parts 1-3.

See look, a simple recipe, with parts and stuff.

Tonight is going to be a new take on mushroom pie. I want to see if I can get a red wine type reduction rocking along with nice tangy cheesiness. If it works, there may yet be a new recipe this week, see that's the kind of culinary adventures my kitchen experiences !! But there's been like planning and stuff for tonights meal. Well planning if you count buying some red wine and not drinking it all. Which in my simple world, I do count.

Cooking with Bruce: breakfast

Brunch, it's the one thing I totally miss about Wellington. So many excellent cafes, excellent coffee, excellent food. Shame about the newspapers...

There is nothing like that in Loughborough (or Shepshed oddly enough). In fact I've been effectively banned from brunching having sent coffee's back, and ranted about food too many times. to whit: salmon on toast 'would you like some sauce with that', me 'yeah hollandaise would be good' (trip to talk to 'chef'), 'i'm sorry we don't have any'. FFS, eggs, butter, touch of horseradish, lemon, mix. DO IT.

Anyway, if I'm not doing salmon, this maybe my favourite brunch. And it couldn't be more simple.

Mushrooms on toast
Wipe and roughly chop mushrooms (I like mine chunky), cook on med-high heat in olive oil. Toast the bagels/toast. Grind some fresh pepper in mushrooms, and add some dark soy sauce. Keep heating until the liquid reduces to a nice thick sauce. Serve with horseradish sauce on the bagel, possibly with some fresh parsley dumped over it all.

The dark soy is the key here, light soy won't work.

Possibly more recipes later today.
me xx

5 June 2010


Bunny and the Bull ( Bunny & the Bull ) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.2 Import - United Kingdom ]

So what's the Boosh when they ain't being the Boosh? The 2009 movie Bunny and the Bull. It's not a Boosh movie, but it is by the director of the Boosh and stars most of the Booshian universe. It's quirky, it's cute and it does bear more than a passing resemblance to Boosh. The humour isn't as delicate, but it is funny. And the cameo's by Noel and Julian (Julian in particular as a dog breeder...) are excellent. The movie itself is a strange combo of roadtrip, mindtrip, and betting trip. There's more than a passing resemblance to Eagle v Shark, Withnail and I (definitely) although unlike those two movies, it does fall a bit flat near the end, though it picks itself up nicely.
Recommended, 3.5 or 4 /5, depending on mood.
H (Single Letter Title)

Next up was the Korean movie, H (2002). In keeping with cop movies the world over, everyone has issues. However in this one all three lead cops have major issues and all want to work on their own. This does seem to be a failing of many cop movies, and the cliches were piling up on themselves. There's strong links to Silence of the Lambs in this movie, copycat killer, jailed original crim called on for information. Some links between the various copycats. There's elements of Seven, but the crimes are more sexually orientated rather than biblical. Korean horrors/thrillers do seem to be a cut above many others at the moment, although that may just be the ones I can find - there could be an element of filtering of those who make it out of Korea. I think the reviews may have been too kind, I found it badly paced, badly scripted (a lot of 'oohhh look what we found, let's race after that' kinda situations) and quite predictable. The subtle clues are presented heavily laden with extra long lingering shots by the camera. 
It's ok, 3/5 and it wouldn't waste your time too badly if you had to fill in 100 mins.

I think zombies now.


4 June 2010

And on a lighter note

I feel slightly better after that constructed rant :) then came across the following App for iphones and now iPads.
This could be a really good use of an ipad - it's far easier to turn pages on a touch screen than swiping between pages in a folder (as I currently do).

iPad app to display sheet music.

This post brought to you by Iron Maiden's Brave New World.

It seems wrong but I don't know how to protest

I'm not really one for protests, I get easily distracted and end up at pubs when I've got on marches.

However over the last few years I've grown increasingly concerned by what appears to be Israel's arrogance in dealing with other nations. The current issue, involving Israeli special forces taking out aid ships destined for Gaza and the subsequent Israeli PR campaign sickens me.

I've tried to read around this, but the things that have struck me are:
* the stupidity of Israel effectively buggering the only muslim country who supported them (Turkey), although the relationship has been going downhill thanks to other Israeli actions.
* the action took place, allegedly, in international waters. It's been awhile since I read about international law, but that seems crucial. the whole point of international water is that all nations have the right to do whatever they want (within reason). And if that includes transporting aid, they shouldn't be stopped.
* the blockade into Gaza itself is a monumental failure. After the Israeli attack on Gaza where they bombed the crap out of it, they prevented building materials entering Gaza. However there are enough smuggling tunnels to get weapons, some food etc in.
* from the various reports I have seen, Gaza is not a great place to live. The ambiance and internal decorating show a marked 'rough trade' look, which is fine for a Zoolander show, but probably not to live in. So what is the blockade achieving? Well again, very little other than starving the inhabitants, and since they all know who is enforcing the blockade, it will be creating massive anti-Israeli feeling.
* International condemnation of the attacks has been interesting, even Ban Ki-Moon came out against it using the principle of international waters. Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, had called earlier for a “full investigation” and urged Israel to lift its blockade on Gaza, blaming it for the violence on board a Turkish-flagged cruise ship, the Mavi Marmara, when Israeli special forces boarded her from helicopters. “Had the Israeli Government heeded international calls and my own strong and urgent and persistent call to lift the blockade of Gaza, this would not have happened,” he said.Link here.
William Hague was also strongly against the move, and now Tony Blair, the middle east envoy has come out against the blockade. Yes ok the envoy link is only there cos I love the song.
* the excessive force used by the Israeli's, even the Israeli PR machine admits there were no guns by the aid ships. Sure some of the vids released show the commandos being attacked by sticks (described by Jon Stewart as Israeli pinnata's). But then again, how would you respond to people dropping out of helicopters at night dressed as commandos? Me? I'd be smacking the crap out of them too.
* the PR has been fucking ridiculous. Total blackout of the aid people after their arrest and an onslaught of Israeli PR explaining how their commandos were being attacked, and responded with force after being attacked (see point above). Then cutting to a bunch of Israeli's cheering their lot saying they were doing a great job. the PM and other high ranking officials have made the usual comments about security etc., although there were hints they thought the response was over the top. Which is interesting, although they haven't gone so far as to say full independent inquiry.
* the US, as expected, refused to back UN suggestions of condemnation and phrased it as regrettable (sorry can't find a link).

Now before you all think I'm about to claim that Israel shouldn't exist etc etc., I agree that they do have legitimate concerns over Hamas, who are not the most relaxed easy-going chaps. But surely a complete blockade isn't the way to deal with that?
Israel doesn't seem to be able to deal with the world in a very civilised manner tho', the recent screw-up by Mossad where UK passports were stolen, copied, and used them in an operation to kill a Hamas leader is a prime example.

I don't pretend to have a solution, but the extremist position that Israel holds concerning the blockade seems difficult to sustain, particularly after the current episode. By acting as incompetently as they did they've managed to draw international condemnation - kinda the opposite of engaging international support really. It does seem that many actions by Israeli stem from a bunker attitude, a 'us and them' attitude, where us = israel and the US, and 'them' is everyone else. This isn't the most productive attitude, but from historical reasons I guess it's understandable.
The press response has been almost universal in its condemnation, even the right-wing papers have been against it. Their sole defence has been that the aid ships had large knives that attacked the commandos. Not too convincing when you've got gunships sitting above you. I've been searching the Times etc for editorials condemning the gaza aid ships, and can't find any. Lots of comments concerning Israeli has a right to defend itself and we support their action from readers, but not a lot from the journalists and editors. I did find this on the Times tho'.

So to drag this back to my first question, what do I do? Do I protest? do I boycott Israeli goods (as Iain Banks has done)? The problem is I don't have many goods that originate in Israel, a couple of CDs that were recorded there, but not much else. Protests? Possibly, but how?

Grumble. Anyone got any suggestions for books to read about this? Suggestions on what I should do? I'm guessing most of the readers here are center-left ....