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How to avoid a 386 situation.

  1. Identify the site in question
  2. install a plug in such as Leechblock or StayFocused.
  3. Allow yourself 20 minutes on that site a day.
  4. You get thrown out.

Plus points of this are:

  1. Your mind gets focussed on what’s really important about your interaction on that site.
  2. You have more time to play Bejewelled
  3. You realise there is more to life than online fora.
  4. Your stress levels and blood pressure tend to be a bit healthier.

Worth doing. 386ing yourself is not good. People being wrong in bars gets limited by barmen asking if you have no homes to be going to. You need an equivalent for the internet.

Beautiful things – Fiskars scissors

I own quite a lot of stuff – many books, much stuff in the kitchen and a lot of hobby related items. One of the more utilitarian things I own is a Fiskars scissors, with the trademark orange handles. It was given to me by a girl called Ulla, from Finland, very proud of how good Finnish things are. I still have the scissors. It is unquestionably the best scissors I own. Fiskars scissors are not cheap; in addition to the household scissors which I have used to cut every sort of things from paper to chicken breasts, I own a couple of smaller craft scissors for cutting thread; one in my knitting tool box and one in my crochet tool box. They are always comfortable to use and in fact, I believe Fiskars were the first company to produce scissors to suit lefthanded people. I think this is brilliant, even allowing for the fact that I am right handed.

I was in Finland last week, after the whole OLympics trip, and while I was in Stockmann, Helsinki’s biggest department store, I made a bad-for-my-credit card discovery. I discovered that you could get Fiskars scissors with lovely designs on the handle. They are utterly beautiful.

This is a scissors. You don’t usually apply the word “beautiful” to it. They are not beautiful. They are usually plane; the Fiskars for years had the orange handles I mentioned above, most of them come with plain coloured handles if they are not 100% metal with a few dots of rust. Some of them have red swival dots but they are not beautiful. They are sharp, or blunt, or lousy or useless.

The first one I saw had a scene from the Finn Family Moomin on it. I had to have it. Then I discovered other ones from the Inspiration range. Beside me I have a Gloria scissors. How can you not love something? And because it’s a Fiskars, I feel confident that it will work and last me. After all, the one I mentioned above, my general orange handled household scissors I have had since 1998.

One day in London

I used to live in London what seems several lifetimes ago. I was lucky. I lived a 10 minute walk from Oxford Street and I had a decently well paying part time job. I may have had lectures for 30 hours a week and work for 20 plus extraneous studying and being stuck in underground trains and all that, but it wasn’t as hard as it can be for, e.g., anyone trying to exist in London on minimum wage. I got to go to the theatre now and again and I fell in love with the British Museum. But not with London. It always struck me as a city with too little time and too little care for the people in it. Also a bit fragmented.

I don’t often go there now. But I was there about 10 days ago to go to an Olympic final. I have some issues with the Olympics as big business but I did also feel that to go to an Olympic final would be a bucket list kind of thing and when I discovered I could get my hands on a ticket for the canoe C1 final, I decided to ignore the issues I have with Olympic Business and go and deal with Olympic Sport. London was a revelation. My London was a revelation because needless to mention, not everyone has the same experience. I found it a city transformed.

My hero of the Olympics wasn’t a sports star. He was a London Underground employee at Paddington Rail Station who provided useful advice on how to get to Liverpool Street Station after the ticket machines at the Hammersmith & City Underground Station decided they didn’t want my money without me having to walk the length of Paddington Rail Station between the two Paddington Underground stations more than once. This makes a difference really because London involves one thing and that’s walking.

There were Gamesmakers everywhere. You fell over them at all the railway stations, telling you where to go and how to get there. You fell over them at the venues. Unfailingly they smiled, and unfailingly, they were happy to be there, happy to be a part of the Olympics. Happy to show their city off the world. This is London we are talking. London is already a world city in the way that Dublin, for example, will never be. This is London whose position in the world has been assured for 200 years or more. And this is London who wanted you to see its heart, the people that make it, and not the people in the newspapers. I had a long haul from Heathrow Airport to Lee Valley White Water Centre which is way on the other side of the city, to the northeast so I met quite a lot of Gamesmakers on my way. Every single one of them made my day a little brighter, a little happier and I was already in a good mood anyway.

The world would be so much a better place if everyone was like that all the time.

Lee Valley White Water Centre was custom built for the Olympics I believe. I wasn’t aware that people built centres like this (because most of the white water sports I see/have participated in involve rivers and real rocks and stuff) but they’ve done a superb job. The British Army were handling security. They were fast, efficient and friendly and without exception, smiling. I can’t fault them. I didn’t spend much time in a queue at any stage.

The atmosphere was fantastic. I was there for the C1 Mens final and the weather stayed dry from the slalom which was very, very exciting to watch even if you don’t know a whole lot about it. There were a lot of Slovakians there, and especially a lot of French; I guess because those two nations are right up there with the slalom racing. We don’t hear much about it here although we are good enough in that sport to send people to some of the disciplines in it. Sometimes I wish our media would lose its narrowmindedness in terms of how it covers sports.

Tony Estanguet won the gold medal for France. It was pretty obvious on his second run that he was going to – he was noticeably more confident around the gates and down the river than his closest rivals. The place erupted for him – like I said, a lot of French. It poured rain for fifteen minutes while we waited for the Olympic medal ceremony I can’t see myself going to Rio in 4 years’ time, so if this is the last chance I get to see one, I don’t think I’ll shelter from the rain.

So I didn’t.

Higgs’ Boson and during the week

I’m not a physicist. I will freely admit that. I did quite a lot of chemistry in my younger days because chemical equations, for some bizarre reason, appealed to me, and now, I’m back studying maths.

There wasn’t any major doubt in my mind that they’d found something in CERN when they lined up for their announcements during the week, and given that they’d been looking for something in particular, there’s not any major surprise for me that they’ve probably found it. It’ll be interesting to see how, from a purely physics point of view, said particle behaves.

I’m more interested in how they found it. Over at Significance Magazine’s website, you can find a whole lot about this. Basically they looked at a whole lot of data and analysed it statistically. We’re talking a lot of data. It’s the sort of thing that makes me think that statistics can be really fascinating.

It’s just, we don’t sell it very well sometimes.

If you’ve any interest at all in statistics, I recommend a look at Significance’s website, and if you have an iPad, their magazines can be downloaded for a handful of euro each. And a few of them are free at the moment. Well worth a look and in particular, it’s fairly accessible as a stats publication goes.

I’d be very, very rich if…

I came to the conclusion yesterday that I’d be very rich if I got a euro for every time someone said to me this year that the summer was over. It’s the start of July. We can have amazing weather right up to September.

Yes, I know that June was the wettest on record. Today, on the other hand, stunning day.

Cut the grass. Sat in the garden most of the afternoon. Felt great to be alive. On a Saturday of a week when I’d definitely have made a tenner on a euro for every time I heard the summer is over.

There are times I don’t understand Irish people. I know I’m one but frankly, we can be incomprehensible. A week of rain doesn’t segue us straight into the middle eight of autumn, you know.

Yes, the weather may be brutal today (couple of days during the week may definitely count, and, if you live in Cork, quite a lot of the week before) but that doesn’t mean that’s it, the sun ain’t going to shine any more.

It just means that today it’s raining and it might tomorrow.

We have another 3 months to go before you could justifiably sure that the summer is gone back south.

So…just please…think about it. If you’re going to say the summer is gone; that’s it for our summer, and assume it’s funny; it’s not. It’s an old joke, it’s a worn out joke and it’s bordering on pathetic at this stage.

EWAC: Chinese 5-Spice Pork Belly

This will be the last EWAC for a little while – I’m really just catching up.

Donal Skehan has a comparatively new book out, this time called Great Food for Less. I bought it for what the label says is €20.99. He’s well worth the money. I did also sit through a bunch of his TV shows before I got the book and one of the things he did which stood out from that was this Chinese 5-Spice Pork Belly. I, as usual, because I am cooking for one person and while I don’t actually hate my kitchen it is not laid out to my preference (I am getting very testy about these things – later), I cheated. I didn’t have any rapeseed oil. I have no idea what I used. Yesterday, I know I used vegetable oil.

Pork Belly is something I hadn’t eaten in years. This is a bad thing. It’s lovely. It’s particularly lovely with Chinese 5-Spice scattered over it. It took me twenty minutes to get it in and out of the oven yesterday. Did this join the list of stuff I’ll do again? Yes. You can freeze the pork easy enough provided you have room in your freezer and it doesn’t – if you are cooking for one – take a whole lot of time to defrost. These are all good things.

I like Donal Skehan’s stuff because it’s accessible. As far as the book layout is concerned, it’s nicely done and easy to read while you’re trying to follow it. This compares very well to Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals which was not laid out with someone actually cooking in mind; the recipes are cluttered and the print is too small. I also like Donal Skehan’s stuff because he’s bright and enthusiastic about what he does. You’d like to hope that lots of kids will start to cook because of him. And I particularly like him because he had the guts to go on Swedish TV to do a piece and did it almost entirely in Swedish and look as entertaining in Swedish as he is in English.

Anyway, thanks to him I have a slight addiction to this. I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.

EWAC: Chicken Skewers with carrot and apple salad

So, last Monday, while in Superwoman mode, I dragged out Rachel Allen’s EasyMeals book to see if I could create anything newish for dinner. It so happened that I could, just about. I had to cheat a bit, but okay, that’s a little of what running a kitchen is all about.

On page 115 (of the hardcover edition anyway), there’s this recipe for chicken skewers with carrot and apple salad. I didn’t have apples but figured I could do something different on the side serving front anyway.

Nor did I have – despite much searching and many clear memories standing in front of the Sharwoods stand in Tesco – any ground coriander, or, in fact, any coriander of any description. This stunned me but I cheated and used mixed herbs instead. Bearing that in mind, Rachel Allen could argue I didn’t really follow her recipe at all. I didn’t have skewers either but having read the ingredients for the marinade, argued to myself that feck it, doing it with chopped up bits of chicken would be just as good. Delirium hadn’t yet set in so in fact, I was reading the recipe reasonably accurately – oh, 4 tsp peeled and finely grated root ginger? Well I dont’ have that either. Ground/dried is going to have to do. Sorry Rachel.

So, back with the marinade. I have the limes. I always have limes because they go into breakfast most mornings, and I had the ground cumin which I had to buy for some experiment involving a Donal Skehan cookbook a while back. The ground coriander, nope, that was replaced, and the four cloves of garlic I was good on because I always have that thanks to a Jamie Oliver experiment about 8 years ago. Cheated on the ginger and although it was of the set variety, I did, somewhat unusually, have natural yoghurt. I had this because Tesco was out of the mango and peach stuff I usually put in my breakfast drink. Mix all that together and dump the chicken into it in bits and let for about 10 minutes, covered. So I did.

In theory, at this stage, you cover yourself in one hell of a mess by putting the yoghurty covered chicken bits on skewers but I didn’t really have any that would fit my frying pan (yes, I am useless I have 45 cookbooks and no skewers) so I looked carefully at the recipe and decided it would be prudent to add a little oil to the frying pan. I then cooked until the chicken looked cooked and most of the loose marinade had, unexpectedly, reduced off.

On the side I served sliced raw carrot because I like it and because I was low on didn’t have any apples or lemon. I will always have lime but rarely have lemons.

On a scale of “would I do this again, 1 to 10” this has scored a ten. It’s a doddle to do and I bought ground coriander at the supermarket this morning, although no skewers. On the side I might be inclined to put a potato salad or, as I’m more inclined to eat, some mashed sweet potato, but all told, it was good. Just a pity that the dessert was such a fiasco.

EWAC: Vanilla sponge square (or something)

Last Monday, something weird happened and I went into Superwoman mode when I got in from work. Lunch for 2 days, sorted Breakfast for 2 days, sorted. Bread in and out of breadmaker, sorted. You couldn’t believe how on top of things I was. I even did a new dinner (sort of) out of a new cookbook which was fantastic and I’ll write about that in a minute. After all that productive activity, I decided to bake a cake. Something that I could garner all the ingredients for without little difficulty. The cook book was Rachel Allen’s Easy Meals which I got for Christmas and which is a very nifty cookbook.

The cake, well…I’m going to try it again later on today because frankly, it didn’t start off all that well when I made the utterly elemental error of mixing up teaspoon and tablespoon, particularly with respect to baking powder. The error was further compounded by the omission of 150ml of milk.

Kids. Don’t do this. If you seem to be adding a lot of baking powder to a cake mix, always check you’ve read the recipe correctly. I could have used the end result as a brick to build the new kitchen extension with.

13 years in Dublin

Around now, 13 years ago, I got on a plane in Brussels with about 5% of my belongings – the rest had been collected and were in transit somewhere between Brussels and Dublin, and moved back to Ireland. I’m not sure what I expected. I do know I had plans to stay in Dublin for 2 or 3 years and then move back down to Cork. It never quite worked out that way. I didn’t buy the house I was planning to buy and I haven’t yet met someone to spend the rest of my life with.

There have been lots of unexpected good things. There has been the kitesurfing, and the photography, and the being profiled by the Irish Independent as a blogger, and by RTE as a photographer. I got stuck into the boards.ie community in a big way, and twitter also. And via those two tools have made a lot of friends around the place. I’ve been very lucky in many respects.

At some point, I did point out that moving house, and starting off from scratch, building a social circle and all that got harder as you got older. This was why, at certain points, I did not move back to France, to Bordeaux, as I thought about for a while, just because at that stage of my life, it would be too lonely. But I don’t think it works like that any more. I could move anywhere in the world it seems, at this stage, and somehow, the global community that is Ravelry, would open doors for me as, it did, here in Dublin. I’m not so worried about moving from that point of view; I just own lots of stuff.

But Ireland has been a rough place to live as well. Not purely because it’s doing poorly economically, but because that doing poorly could have so easily been avoided. I think this happened because of a lack of confidence. Confidence to say that debt driven growth was not good enough, would lead to tears. If you said this in Ireland in the early 2000s, you were a pariah. I got told where the Ryanair site was often enough if I wasn’t happy with how well the country was doing.

Most years, at this time of year, I remember being an emigrant. There wasn’t really a lot wrong with it then; and even less now with much better/less expensive communications and the like. It is not something that would bother me so much, apart from the packing.

Dublin has changed a lot. Some things are better. It seems to me that it’s less alcoholic in the past couple of years, or maybe I’m just out with a different bunch of people now. Property is no longer insanely expensive, although I’d argue it’s still over priced for the economic situation of the city. Some of the infrastructure is better. For all that Dublin Bus has cut back on services, they are still streets better than they were in 1999. Irish Rail has improved beyond recognition and we have things like the Luas and Dublin Bikes. These are all good things.

I still don’t own a house here. There are a couple of different reasons for this but the key one at the moment is for all the houses we have on sale, I just don’t like anyway. And deep down in my heart, I’d prefer to be buying a house near the coast in Cork, with greater access to the Atlantic. Possibly, the five years of eurohopping still have tainted my soul in some respect and I may never fully settle.