Thursday 31 December 2015

Language Barrier

George Bernard Shaw once said: 'England and America are two countries divided by a common language'.

I've lived in America for 14 years and with some common sense, imagination and watching Dukes of Hazard as a teenager, have rarely had a problem figuring out what people are trying to say or making myself understood. Yes, you have to pronounce water as if it is spelt with a "d" and avoid saying garage unless you want to spend the next 15 minutes repeating it while people giggle, but on the whole it's not a problem.

This New Years eve it all came crashing down and it became apparent that not only was I in a foreign country, I couldn't understand the language. My wife had asked my to prepare a recipe which she had helpfully printed from the internet, it may have well have been in French for all the help it was. It started like this:

"A cheesy scalloped cabbage and ham casserole. Great for potlucks."

My initial thoughts were something like a seafood and vegetable stew, but why is there a random chance element? Further reading revealed it was actually a baked dish with cheese on top, nothing to do with casserole and there were no scallops, in fact no mollusks at all.

I started researching and discovered that "casserole" has a totally different meaning and now means baking something in the oven with cheese on top (I thought we already had a word for that?) although the dictionary definition is exactly the same as the English one "stew cooked in a pot". And "scalloped" apparently refers to "scalloped potatoes" which again means cooked with cheese on top although originally referred to the fact the potatoes were sliced so the edged appeared scalloped or curved , but now has been corrupted and refers to anything baked with cheese on top.

So, what we are actually trying to cook is baked ham and cabbage with cheese, baked in the oven with cheese on top, not a medley of gulf coast seafood, spring vegetables and prosciutto served au-gratin. Disappointing to say the least.

Oh, and a potluck is actually a social gathering where each guest brings something to eat, so the menu is "pot luck". At least it doesn't mean baked with cheese on top, like everything else.

Happy New Year

Doug "baked with cheese on top" B

Tuesday 29 December 2015

It's Not Terrible

I’ve seen the new "Star Wars" film, and it was pretty good. I'm not going to give away any plot points, but I am going to mention what characters are in it. Stop reading now…

… If you didn't want to know that an older Han Solo and Princess Leia make an appearance.

I'm a big fan of the original trilogy and my worst fear was that the new one would start with the Disney logo, and that it would go downhill from there. It didn't, I enjoyed almost every moment of it.

So much of it is to please the people my age who loved "A New Hope" and the story is so similar that it feels almost like a remake.

In-atmosphere ship battles are the way forward, you get condensation trails and scenery to give the impression of speed.

A couple of things that my friends said:
"Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher were on screen together for about a  minute and a half and they did a  better job of being in love than Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman did in all those hours."

"You'd have to ask Leia if Han shot first."

Richard "Fan-service" B

Tuesday 15 December 2015

Bah Humblog

file under: impotent whining

I love Christmas – hanging around eating and drinking with friends and family, open fires, nuts, carols, satsumas, turkey sandwiches with mayonnaise and a hangover, new toys, watching the Queen and a James Bond film… There are many aspects of the preparatory period that I dislike, I'm rubbish at buying presents and I find writing cards a chore. One of my friends makes it even worse by consistently giving me both clothing that fits and suits me and cards with sincere touching messages. The bastard – how can I compete with that?

Two things have brought me pre-Christmas festive cheer this year. One of my colleagues has organised a collection of Christmas presents for the homeless. It seems that they have fairly modest tastes in gifts that they would like to receive, and I imaging them being genuinely appreciative. I have really enjoyed buying presents for homeless strangers.

A friend of mine was shopping in Poundland and overheard the most excellent exchange that really cuts to the heart of gift giving culture. "Mummy, what is a stocking filler?" "It's crap".

Richard "you haven't brought me a gift, you've left me with an obligation" B

Tuesday 8 December 2015


file under: impotent whining

I was at a concert on Friday night, I'm no shortarse, and all I could see for most of the night was mobile phones and hats. Young fashionable people: take your hats off in the auditorium, it's not cold, and the people behind you might want to see the fucking stage. If you think that a woolly hat is an expression of your individuality think again. It's the same expression of the same individuality as thousands of your carbon copy compatriots.

And another thing.

People who think you know some maths: Stop saying things like "Of course half of schools perform below the average" unless you understand the difference between the median, mean, and mode, or you know for sure that it's a symmetric distribution. Do you really think that only half of people have an above average number of arms?

And while we're at it.

Stop sending me a maths problem about three brothers at a restaurant where the change and the tip don't add up. It's not a maths problem, it's clever word-play. There is no revelation, and it's a chore working through the arithmetic with you.

And now I've started.

Vinegar before salt. That way the salt sticks to every chip, rather than running through and forming an aceto-sodium slurry at the bottom of the pile.

It’s Frankenstein’s MONSTER. Frankenstein was the good-looking successful urbane doctor.

People with colds: Blow your nose and stop sniffing. We don't want to listen to you playing a breath by breath game of keepy-up with a pool of mucous.

Bloggers with a tiny readership: If something annoys you, do something about it at the time, rather than publishing directionless passive aggressive rants about your personal betes noires.

Richard "calm down" B

Wednesday 2 December 2015


file under: engineering boasting

When I was little, and my parents would read to me from picture books, I was always amused by a badly organised anthropomorphic bear who never mended his roof. When it was sunny the roof didn't need mending, when it was raining it was too wet to mend. This year I nearly became that bear.

I run my motorbike all through winter, and I try to preserve it as best I can by cleaning it and daubing the suspension and running gear with anti corrosion formula. The weather has been mild and they haven't been using salt on the roads, so I never winterised the bike. Unfortunately winter beat me to the punch this year and it was too wet and windy to properly clean the bike this weekend. I also accidentally pushed the bike off its stand and did more damage to my garage shelving, my leg, and the bike's windscreen mount that I could ever hope to prevent with some expensive pink jollop.

Richard "Scarry" B