January 2008 Archives

Bright lights, big city

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Just over a week back in London and I'm wondering if I've gone native already. The city seems much as it ever has to me. Whether up or down umbrellas are wielded in a position calculated to cause most damage to the innocent bystander, a phenomenon I've not noted anywhere else in the UK, and tourists seem to hone in on me to ask directions as though I have the aura of someone who knows their way around the place. Which of course I do.

There are changes I've noticed of course. A preponderance of waxed moustaches, for example, is novel to me. A new trend, or an indication of a Dali convention in town perhaps. Who knows?

A new billboard near Leicester Square also demands attention. Large scale video screens in cities the size of London are nothing new, but the sheer brightness of this instance makes it worthy of notice. It is literally dazzling - its glare is visible from some distance and I first mistook the glow in the sky it cast it for a spotlight. Not only is it painful to look it but it is spectacularly obnoxious. Environmental graffiti. Sadly it was being used to advertise a worthy cause, which mitigates my loathing for it, but I hope it's not a sign of things to come (pun unintended).

Hmm, A ladybird is crawling up my bedroom wall. Not something I'd expect to see in January, but a welcome sign nevertheless - I've long been fond of ladybirds. Not that I believe in such things, but I think I'll declare it a good omen for the year ahead.

Have you met TED?

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The TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) website is one of those wonderful sites spawned out of the internet which gives me the warm fuzzies when I think out the future of humanity.

TED is a series of annual conferences which brings together groups of genuinely fascinating people and sticks them on a stage to talk for up to 18 minutes a time. The site now hosts about 200 videos of these talks and there are some absolute delights amongst them.

Perhaps because my newly minted niece isn't far from my thoughts these days, this talk stuck in my mind: Five dangerous things you should let your kids do, but there are many more.

Browse, watch, learn, enjoy.

The nearly departed

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I hate packing at the best of times, but the prospect of leaving for the next several months adds extra melancholy to my mood. It shouldn't really. I'll be back for regular weekend visits over the next few months, so it's not as if I'll be completely absent, but it did kick in yesterday as I was sitting on the sofa with my four month old niece sleeping in my arms. It's been remarkable watching her progress over the last few months. Her increasing awareness of the world - those tiny eyes which were once so tightly closed now seem to see everything - as well as her ability to interact with it. Her favourite trick at the moment is grabbing things and then immediately trying to fit them in her mouth. Fingers are a notable target.

After watching her progress so closely I feel sad that I'll be missing so much more of it.

A matter of some import

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My initial thought was that this new blog would be a clean break from my prior attempt at blogging. A fresh start, a blank slate. Tabula rasa.

After writing two entries, however, I already recognise my stylistic and syntactic quirks, and realise that it's still the same person writing it. However I might have romanticised the new directions this blog may take, it's an extension, if not an outright continuation, of what's come before. On that basis, I imported the contents of my old blog lock, stock and barrel.

Some entries will likely look rather odd, since I've yet to perform the same sort of customisations on which my previous blog relied, and some features (notably the stylesheet switcher) and links may not work. I may fix them at some point when I have a moment, but please treat my archives with care and kindness. They may be slightly fragile for the foreseeable future.

Now you tell me

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Four hours. Fours hours I spent carefully tending to a pan full of boiling water as I slowly caramelised a tin of condensed milk, prime ingredient in the BBC's pecan banoffee pie recipe.

The end result was worth it, although I couldn't resist making a couple of minor alterations to the recipe. Substituting pecans with maltesers and chocolate buttons for example, and using chocolate digestive biscuits for the base (sweet tooth? Me?). The final product received near universal praise from those I forced it upon (as though after four hours I would take "no" for an answer).

But four needless hours I spent.

Why needless?

Clearly I must confess my ignorance of the contents of the supermarket shelves. It's possible to purchase tins of pre-caramelised condensed milk. Who knew? More importantly, why didn't the BBC tell me?

I'd probably be more upset at this discovery where I not still experiencing the rosy glow of a post chocolate banoffee pie sugar high.

Mmm. Chocolate.