Tuesday, 29 December 2009

TwentyTen …

May all your troubles last as long as your New Year's resolutions.

Joey Adams



Happy New Year - 2010(click for larger image) 


The image above is from a series of "2010 Wallpapers" by a group of talented graphic artists. They are all free and if you are interested you can pick up one, or two, or ALL of them by visiting shareordie.in

For Auld Lang Syne ...

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Saturday, 19 December 2009

Christmastime …

Of course, this is the season to be jolly, but it is also a good time to be thinking about those who aren't.
Helen Valentine



The Copenhagen gab-fest has ended. Not surprisingly, OUR leaders didn't really reach any agreement. They agreed to agree on a compromise by reaching an 'Accord', but shied away from actually agreeing on a legally binding 'Treaty'. I don't wish to make light of it because the problem is frustratingly complex. But it could also be a simple one to solve. It all depends on whether, as a leader, you are willing to accept that your people are intelligent enough to understand that you, and they, may have to give up a few of the 'good' things of life. I suppose it all depends on where you're sitting, and how comfortable you've become with your luxuries.

President Obama was the last to arrive as he has his own battle to fight with the Senate. I gather he has been successful (Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat, Nebraska, became the pivotal 60th vote on Saturday). Obama knocked a few heads together in Copenhagen, obviously made some promises (and no doubt a few threats), and managed to get China, India, Brazil and South Africa to join him in the Accord. This has now been ratified by the UN, with indecent haste, much to the displeasure of the majority of the other 187 attending countries. There is even one called Tuvalu. Do you know where it is? Look it up; I had to. Can you imagine that 192 countries were represented at the Summit, and that each of those countries sent a team from all corners of the globe? And then try to imagine the carbon footprint they left, getting there and back!

There was high class entertainment too. The internationally famous comedians Chavez (Venezuela) and Mugabe (Zimbabwe) grabbed their chance to address the delegates, and ranted and raved at their sworn enemies, the USA (Chavez) and the UK (Mugabe). Never once did these two clowns mention the subject of the meeting, 'climate change' and 'global warming'! You really have to wonder whether "knocking their heads together" ought to be introduced as an Olympic sport for 2012.

Do they know it's Christmas?



I very much doubt it.

And I doubt if they care ...

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Friday, 18 December 2009

6.3 …

An earthquake achieves what the law promises but does not in practice maintain - the equality of all men
Ignazio Silon



At precisely 01:37:46 on Thursday morning, December 17, 2009, Maria and I, almost simultaneously, castigated the dog loudly for scratching himself with such abandon that it was causing the bed and furniture in the room to shake.

The dog lifted his doleful eyes to us, from where he was lying at the foot of the bed, as if to demand we take back our verbal assault. He was right to do so!

The cause of the furniture dancing around the room, the computers doing a fandango, and the most unpleasant rippling effect running through us, was a shift of the earth's tectonic plates about 165 miles (265 kilometres) SSW of our location in Lisbon, that seemed to last for an eternity.

In reality it probably only lasted for 30 seconds. But take my word for it - it sure as hell felt like an eternity!


The USGS data map. The USGS data map. 


The USGS map states the location as being 'WEST OF GIBRALTAR'. Well, that is certainly geographically correct, but it would have been more helpful if they had described it as being, 'SOUTH OF PORTUGAL'. I am sure that some people on 'The Rock' may have felt the slightest of tremors, but it sure as hell shook us up on the west coast of Portugal!

I am happy to report that there have been no reports of casualties or structural damage.

However, this 'little' incident has once again brought the dormant fear of earthquakes once more to the surface. It certainly makes one rush to an on-line source to re-read information on the 'big one' that struck Lisbon in 1755. That is one I need to blog about because there were some excellent lessons learned and some of the 'forward-thinking' of the men of the day is worth commenting on.

In the meanwhile I shall review our 'plans' should we suffer a major hit. There are simple things to try to remember, which I am sure will completely desert us under stress, so it may well be of value to scribble things down in a prioritised order of action.

Can it wait until after Christmas? Probably.

Could it be required before Christmas? Hmmmm..., hope not!

Sleep tight ...



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Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Bonzo …

Heaven goes by favour. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in

Mark Twain



There have recently been a spate of posts that have featured the blogger's pet, usually a dog, as its main subject. Without getting all mushy about it I have to say I've enjoyed immensely reading these posts.

They are mainly warm recollections, tinged with a little sadness at the passing of the pet, but recalling the happier times that they managed to share, brief though they were. Two such posts are:

The first is a loving tribute to a well loved dog, reflective and funny at the same time. Only Shrinky can write that way! The piece by Denise is the last in a series of reports about Wilma, but you have to read it for yourself. More buoyant are the follow-ups about Freida, the latest addition to the Nesbitt family, but once again you need to read the posts for yourself. They are all delightful.

This is my tribute to a dog that was our family pet when I was a young whippersnapper, but I shall avoid dwelling on his passing and recount a tale that is slightly upbeat.

His name was, unoriginally, Bonzo, and he was an Airedale. Or so we were told by our mother who brooked no discussion on the matter. She had done extensive research of the first ten pages of the dog-eared copy of the Oxford English Dictionary that we had lying around the house and declared that, without doubt, Bonzo was an Airedale.

If Aardvarks were canine, she probably wouldn't have got past 'Aardvark'.

In reality he was a pariah or a Heinz-57 (he even had the classic ring-tail), but if it pleased mother to own an Airedale, so be it. Besides, showing any sign of dissent in our house usually invited a clip around the side of the head.

Bonzo was a traveller. Bonzo came and Bonzo went - nobody really knew from, and to where. His arrival always coincided with 'grub-time'. He'd wolf down whatever was on offer and then take off again, to continue what it was that he'd interrupted, so magnanimously, to grace us with his presence. The meal was usually boiled rice and offal, without salt, because mother always extolled the virtues of good husbandry for our animals. Never mind that the chickens, ducks and turkeys were regularly culled for the table, but I guess that while they lived they were happy enough. Free-range and unaware that they were there for a purpose. But let us put things in perspective; as long as man is at the top of the food chain and continues to be a natural carnivore, that is how things will always be!

Bonzo was, nevertheless, a much-loved family pet who gave unstintingly of his precious time when he wasn't obsessed with things away from home base. When he was languishing around the house, or outside in the shade of the mango or jamun trees, he was always alert to what was going on around him. He was not a large dog, but he still had a commanding presence when he stood up and squared off to an 'intruder'. One of his more endearing traits was that he was always ready to accompany any member of the family, to anywhere, if he was not actively discouraged. Discouragement was usually in the shape of a large rock flung in his general direction. He could take a hint!

The day I was glad that I hadn't discouraged him was the day I tangled with Cut-tail, the leader of the marauding band of Langur monkeys that passed through the railway colony roughly twice a week. He got his name from the simple fact that he had lost almost three quarters of his magnificent appendage in some bizarre accident. The monkeys would sweep through from east to west and then back again in the reverse direction a few days later, causing havoc and stealing anything they could lay their grubby little mitts on. They were naturally destructive creatures, always hungry and curious, and they managed to cause a lot of damage during their forays. It was reassuring that they hadn't set up their base in our railway colony and that they chose only to pass through. When they arrived, we boys would get out our catty's (catapults, slingshots) and start honing our marksman skills. This always attracted the wrath of Cut-tail who would circle the outer perimeters of his troop, constantly making mock charges in our direction. Very effective tactics on his part, because we boys had enough sense to stay well away from those teeth, and as a consequence our marksmanship was either way off or so depleted in velocity that it really didn't cause the band of monkeys too much concern.

On the day of this incident, I outpaced my own pack and found myself almost amongst the troop of monkeys! This was Cut-tail's chance.

And he took it.


A male Langur showing his teeth.The message is clear … 

He raced towards me, stump of a tail held aloft, teeth bared and screaming like a banshee. Enough to make a grown man turn and run. No-contest for a boy that was hardly larger than the monkey!

I did the only honourable thing. I retreated. Rapidly!

Ten paces in front of me was a wide culvert. It was really just an open drain dug into the soil without any form of buttressing to shore up the sides. Over the years the sides had eroded and it was now considerably wider than it was originally meant to be. However, I instinctively knew that that was a natural barrier that I should put between Cut-tail and myself and I took a running leap for the other side. In my dazed panic I briefly noticed a scruffy mongrel furiously scratching himself on the other side of the drain. It looked very much like my beloved Bonzo. He just had to be my salvation for the predicament in which I had thrust myself. At least, I hoped he was.

Whilst in the air, completing my Olympic-standard jump, I felt a huge weight land squarely between my shoulder blades. This was not good but, surprisingly, this was also something I needed. My momentum, despite my terror, probably wasn't going to be enough to span the gap. The added velocity of the enraged monkey on my back certainly helped to prove Sir Isaac Newton's third law of physics. And the deranged primate appeared to be doing his damndest to impersonate Donald Trump on a bad-hair day!

Boy and monkey landed in a crumpled heap at the feet of the unsuspecting dog. Before the monkey could complete his mission of sinking his molars into a succulent-part-of-boy, the dog reacted as most dogs do. The 3F's - 'Fright', 'Flight' or 'Fight'. Fortunately Bonzo chose the third option. Cut-tail weighed up the situation and in an instant decided that he was 'out-fanged' so, with consummate ease, he casually hopped back over the culvert to join his troop. At which point the dog, ecstatic with joy at a job well done, deliriously covered me with the sloppiest kisses he could bestow.

It was almost preferable to have had the monkey on my back!

If there is a moral to the story, or a lesson to be learned, it should be the reassuring one that nothing much changes over the ages. Boys will always be boys, and get themselves into all manner of scrapes. And dogs will always surprise you with instinctive reactions that you hope they have, but of which you can never be certain.

Of course, you are always pleasantly surprised when they live up to their description of being 'man's best friend'.

'Bye for now ...



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Monday, 16 November 2009

Skill …

There are old pilots and there are bold pilots. There are, however, no old bold pilots.




Kirsty Moore, Flight Lieutenant, Royal Air Force, aged 32, has a masters degree in aeronautical engineering, and flies Tornado GR4's in tactical air combat as a day job.

The ultimate woman driver, she has added another string to her bow. As the first woman to break the male monopoly of the 45-year-old squad of aerobatic aces known as the Red Arrows.

FltLt Kirsty Moore

She really does not want to be the centre of attraction wherever the Red Arrows land for the next three years, but that is a forlorn hope. She will certainly attract hordes of press photographers, as she did when she was 'introduced' to the world on Armistice Day, but she is capable of taking it in her stride. She knows she made the team through merit, and that is what counts!

Man or woman, it is a remarkable achievement to join the Red Arrows. The RAF's fast jet pilots are the cream of British aviation talent; each year between 30 and 40 pilots apply to join the Reds, and this year only two were chosen. Kirsty is not the first woman to apply, but she is the first to make it through an arduous selection process that microscopically examines attitude, compatibility, presentability and flying skill. It is clear that the other Reds treat Kirsty not as an honorary man, but as a woman fighter pilot.

She says her strawberry-blonde hair looks a lurid shade of orange when she stands next to a bright red aircraft (oh dear, what happens when she qualifies to wear the red suit as well?). In the mess they tease her for having ginger hair, an allegation she rejects. Said one of her teammates, "She is ginger and has the temper to prove it."

"I used to be fairly feisty, but I'm much more mellow now," Moore counters. "In fact, I tie my hair back most of the time because I wear a helmet to fly or ride the bike, so there's not much else you can do with it."


Smoke, ON!


In the mid-nineties I had the good fortune to meet, on several occasions, 'Red-10' the 'Road Manager' of the team of that time. Inevitably the conversation always veered around to the 'how', 'when', 'why' and 'where' of the day-to-day running of the team (his job) and the retelling of some events that were not for general public consumption. I shall obviously not disclose any of those stories, but here are some 'insider' tips about the aerobatic team for the next time you are lucky enough to see them.

  • During displays, the aircraft do not fly directly over the crowd; any manoeuvres in front of and parallel to the audience can be as low as 300 feet. The 'synchro pair' can go as low as 100 feet straight and level, or 150 feet when in inverted flight.

  • According to the 'Road Manager' the greatest asset in the Red's arsenal of aerobatic tricks is the public's eye. We apparently only get a two-dimensional view of their performance and always assume they are closer to each other than they actually are!

  • The smoke trails left by the team are made by releasing diesel into the exhaust; this oxidises straight away, leaving a white smoke trail. Dyes can be added to produce the red and blue colour. If the diesel doesn't oxidise and descends to ground level still in liquid or vapour form it causes a lot of damage to the clothes of the spectators. You have been warned!

  • The 'Road Manager' considers himself to be the hardest working member of the team. I would have been surprised if he hadn't claimed that privilege! He flies the 'spare', precedes the team to the display area, lands, taxis to the holding area, and then sprints to the microphone to introduce the team who are, by now, barrelling in from a totally unexpected direction, designed to confuse him. He provides the commentary during the display, calling attention to some of the more spectacular manoeuvres, and getting his revenge on the team members by adding little comments like, "Come on eight and nine, they're leaving you behind!". At the end of the display he then has to sprint to his aircraft and put his foot down to get ahead of the team whilst they are en-route to their next venue, land, and do it all over again.

I wish Kirsty Moore and the rest of the team the very best of good fortune during their tour of duty, 2009 to 2012, which coincidentally culminate in displays at the London Olympics.

I would like to leave you with a short video of a guy whom I consider to be probably the best pilot in the world.

All because of this little incident ...



Later ...



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Friday, 2 October 2009

Departure …

Him that has control of departure, that has control of coming home, return, and turning in, that shepherd do I also call.
Atharva Veda



David McMahon

has left the stage. David has abandoned blogland (authorblog) to concentrate on his writing. The last I heard from him he had submitted his second novel to the publishers and was quite a way through the second novel!

No, you didn’t read that wrong. Nor did I mistype it.

His second novel was to be 'The Jadhu Master', but it looks like his publishers managed to convince him that he should complete his THIRD novel, 'Muskoka Maharani' ahead of schedule, which he obligingly did. And we all know how obliging he can be!

I could eulogise the man with several paragraphs, but I think he would be embarrassed and dismissive, so I won't do that now. Perhaps another day!

This post is to update regular visitors to his site that one of his regular features, "The Sunday Roast" will not now succumb to his departure.

The good news is that fellow blogger, Eddie Bluelights of Clouds and Silvery Linings, will be picking up where David left off (at David's request I might add), and will continue this feature starting mid-October.

I have bookmarked Eddie's site so that I can follow the feature. Why don't you do the same?


Catch you later …



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Tuesday, 4 August 2009

F1 - (a week is a long time)

You win some,   you lose some,   you wreck some.

Dale Earnhardt



It has been one hell of a week (and a bit) in the world of Formula One motor racing. The most dramatic and spine-chilling event was the crash that Felipe Massa had during the last seconds of the second qualifying session (Q2) on Saturday, 25th July, in Hungary. The world has been watching, and I am glad to say it has subsequently turned out to be a "Good News" story.

By now almost everybody is familiar with the tale, but I thought I would add a little postscript. During my searches of the Official F1 Website I was glad to see that an effort had been made to explain the accident, and to graphically show what the 'experts' thought had happened.

It is much the way I described it in my previous post. They have published a detailed description about where the damper spring impacted the car and driver, information they must have collected on further inspection of the remains of the car, and they surmise that the spring, collected by the front left wheel shot up and struck the car initially at 'arrow-1', then struck the cockpit at 'arrow-2', and then shattered Massa's visor above the left eye.

Good. I thank them profusely for the explanation. But where the hell are 'arrows 1 & 2' in the tiny graphic that these guys posted? I found them, but not before lifting the picture and blowing it up in my own graphic software!

So I went looking for a 'zooming' script that could enlarge areas of a small web graphic when a 'magnifying-window' is moved over areas of the original by passing the mouse cursor over it. I was successful, indeed I had several scripts to choose from. I've earmarked one for use on my fully-fledged website as it takes a series of complicated JQuery/JavaScript coding to make it work. However, here is one that is simple to implement, and which will do the job just fine as far as a blogger template and page is concerned. Did I mention it is FREE?

Move your cursor over any part of the small image and you will see a small translucent square with crosshairs. Moving that square around the small image will enlarge the area covered by the square in a (hidden) window to the right of it.



I think that is pretty cool, and will write it up as a TIP on the Playpen in a day or two. If you are interested, that is where you will find the information. And a link to the author's page. Let's be fair about this; he did all the work, I'm only using it. Must remember to make a small donation via PayPal for his efforts! (done!)

Here are some of the other 'goings-ons' in the Formula One world, most of which is of little or no interest to the average person. But I shall list them anyway ...

  • The FIA promises to investigate 'debris-related' accidents.

  • BMW announce that they will be withdrawing from Formula One at the end of the season.

  • Ferrari plan to substitute Schumacher for Massa for the rest of the season.

  • Australia Post is to issue special 55-cent stamps featuring three different images of Webber to commemorate his maiden Formula One win in Germany.

  • 2009 Concorde Agreement signed. The Concorde Agreement - a contract between the FIA, Formula One racing's commercial rights-holder and the participating teams - sets out the basis on which the teams participate in the championship and share in its commercial success.

  • Michael Schumacher begins training, but cannot use the Ferrari F60 (the 2009 car) due to the current rules that do not allow testing of the cars during the summer break.

  • Ferrari write to the FIA and the other teams asking that this rule be relaxed due to the circumstances. 17 teams agree; Williams DO NOT. Schumacher must continue practicing in the 2007 car.

  • Nelson Piquet Jnr is sacked by Renault.

  • Felipe Massa flies home to Brazil to recuperate.

That's a brief round-up. I hope there isn't going to be any more of this sort of behind-the-scenes activity for the rest of the month of August.

I need the rest ...



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Sunday, 26 July 2009

F1-asco-3 ...

You can see in pantomime the puppets fumbling with their slips of paper, see them pick up their phone, see the noiseless, ceaseless capital of memoranda, and always fooling with something.
Elwyn Brooks White




know I said in one of the earlier F1 posts that I would return to the subject from time to time, especially when I felt a rant coming on. Well, here I am again, sooner than I thought!

They will line up on the grid tomorrow (ermm... today, actually) at 13:00 hours GMT (UTC for the rabid politically-correct brigade), but there will only be 19 of the 20 cars there.

Felipe Massa of Ferrari won't be making it. If the truth be told he is lucky to be alive, let alone think about participating in the race. The result of a horrible 'accident', in the truest sense of the word.

The final seconds of Q2 (second qualifying session) saw Reubens Barrichello of Brawn-GP (coincidentally, a Brazilian like Massa), lose a chunk of metal that looked like a huge coil spring, from his rear gubbins (sorry, don't know the technical term) which didn't clear the track. Massa was the first driver to hurtle around the bend and one of his front wheels (too fast for even the TV replays to identify which one) scooped up the debris that was hurled into the visor of his helmet. He was knocked unconscious and his foot slammed down on the accelerator. The car slewed through one corner, crossed the track, and then ran off on the other side of the track at a tremendous speed, straight into the tyre wall. The car's onboard camera shows that his hands only left the wheel when they were shaken free by the impact.

This is the sort of head-on impact that makes the blood run cold.


Felipe Massa a split second away from disaster ... 
Felipe Massa a split second away from disaster ...


It certainly didn't do Massa any good. The track officials got to him rapidly. The doctor was only seconds behind, and the ambulance wasn't too far behind him. Massa was stretchered off to the Course Medical Facility. We knew that things were serious when one of the two helicopters on the helipad wound up its rotors.

The latest news on young Felipe is that he has undergone surgery for a cut on his forehead, concussion and a 'bone lesion of the skull'. The result of the surgery was declared successful, that he is stable and that he is under observation in intensive care. The initial prognosis is that he won't be racing for at least six weeks. I am sure he will give thanks that he will be able to race at all. Ferrari will be issuing an update on his condition later this morning.

Get well, fella. We're with you!

Now for the 'rant'.

Q3 was delayed while Massa was being 'medevacced', the remains of his car were returned to the Ferrari garage, and the track was inspected for further debris that could cause a similar accident. Nothing was apparently found. Wonder where the 'rear damper spring' (I did my homework) disappeared to?

Q3 ended with a spectacle that I have NEVER seen in all the many years I have followed this glorious sport.


Fernando Alonso (Renault) stuck his car into the P1 slot, then jumped out of his car and asked Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) and Mark Webber (Red Bull) and any other driver he came across what their qualifying time was. All the drivers appeared to be comparing notes about their qualifying times because it seemed that the official time keepers had lost the plot somehow!

Between them, the drivers decided that Alonso could claim P1, Vettel should have P2 and Webber was allowed P3. And, believe it or not, that is exactly how they will start the race tomorrow later today!

Honestly, you had to see the pantomime to wonder at how much of a farce it had degenerated into! Since when have the monkeys dictated to the organ-grinders? - (see my update below ...)

It could only happen in F1 ...


Update: Statement issued by the FIA on 29 July 2009

In the closing minutes of the Q3 qualifying session for the FORMULA 1 ING MAGYAR NAGYDIJ 2009, the Official Live Timing system did not update the timing screens. This was due to the finish line sensor suffering mechanical failure in the form of a damaged cable.

Well established back up procedures ensured that no data was lost and complete results for the qualifying session were quickly established and released. Formula One Management would like to clarify that at no time was this the result of the failure of any equipment supplied by LG, the Official Data Processor of F1.


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Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Girls-3 ...

For as long as I care to remember, religion, like the striptease, has always been a display of the power of suggestion. Like the Virgin Birth, it has all too often supported an immaculate deception.
Bernard Katz



Another YouTube offering using Windows Live Writer to access the link, and a simple copy/paste of the 'embed' code from the original YouTube page automatically throws up your selection in the WLW window.


TIP: Before you select the 'embed' code click on the 'options' button and select to display a frame, choosing the colours on offer to match your page. Then select the 'embed' code which will now have all the information included. The vid-insert in the previous post used the identical steps from this post, but I forgot to use the 'frame' feature!


The following video contains female nudity - 99 of them! 
If you are easily offended, please do not click 'Play'!



That's the last of the 'Girls' series.

Hopefully I have managed to 'kill two birds' with these posts, using 'Girls' as the topic, but showing how WLW can help you to craft and display your posts without too much hair-pulling involved.

If the many references to WLW has piqued your interest, click on one of the links to take you to the Playpen for more information.

'Till next time ...


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Friday, 10 July 2009

Girls-2 ...

Grandmothers are just antique little girls.




This video snippet might be construed as a bit of a 'sexist' or an 'ageist' dig, but I hasten to assure my visitors that it is posted as a tribute to a bunch of 'grannies' who absolutely do not understand the word 'cannot'.

I readily admit to being a bit of a Reginald Molehusband, Reginald Molehusband was a fictional character who starred in a public information film, shown on British TV during the 1960's. Molehusband was depicted as the country's worst driver when it came to parking his Austin 1100 car.

The name of Reginald Molehusband has entered common parlance in Great Britain to refer to any accident-prone driver.

Now you know!

despite having held a HGV ticket in later life. It has expired now, but I've always been proud of the fact that I managed to qualify on only the second go. The first test saw me tussle with a bus on a roundabout. I won, but the examiner didn't see it my way!

I am particularly fond of the 'script' for the Reginald Molehusband film that was shown on the BBC. No copy of the film exists, but the script has gone down in the annals of film history:


This is the story of Reginald Molehusband, married, two children, whose reverse parking was a public danger. People came from miles just to see it. Bets were laid on his performance. What he managed to miss at the back, he was sure to make up for at the front. Bus drivers and taxis changed their routes to avoid him. Until the day that Reginald Molehusband did it right. Not too close, far enough forward... come on Reginald... and reverse in slowly... come on.... and watching traffic... and park perfectly! Well done Reginald Molehusband, the safest parker in town.


Since no film of Reginald (or me) exists, you will just have to 'watch-and-wonder' at these daredevil grannies doing their stuff on Top Gear ...



Whew! Great fun, huh?

Now don't you take this as an invitation to go out and do the same thing with the family car!

'Till the next 'girls' post ...



This was a video upload using the WLW built-in YouTube link. Enter the URL and WLW does the rest. Check on the YouTube page that 'embedding' is allowed.

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Thursday, 9 July 2009

Girls-1 ...

Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity.
Albert Einstein



This is Engelbert Humperdinck's version of the popular song, "To All The Girls I've Loved Before". I am fond of the song, and the sentiment it expresses, although I am not necessarily a fan of 'Smarmy-Engy'. Nor do I have much in common with the 'star'.

Except that he is Anglo-Indian by birth and upbringing.

As I am.

So where did I go wrong?


(NEW video will replace this broken link - soon!)


What made me choose this less than universally acceptable vid to regale you with? You may well ask!

The answer is SIZE!

I've been plugging WLW (Windows Live Writer) on the Playpen for some time now, and it appears nobody is taking up the challenge.

This vid is the largest blog-type vid I have on my hard drive. HUGE at 31MB, and I thought I'd give WLW a chance to disappoint me by refusing to accept the upload. It didn't! That's kewl, peeps!

More than that, a simple click on the 'tools' menu in the R/H column of WLW allowed me to upload all 31MB to something called 'soapbox', not a depository I am familiar with. But hey, I'll take the space wherever I can get it, especially if it is free and if it 'formats' the final product to display it as well as it has done. Honest, I had no input into how the final display appears!

Go activate your copy of WLW ...



The title is the first in a series of three. You'll have to wait for the others. But not for too long ...

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Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Sangria ...

In a perfect world, everyone would have a glass of Sangria every evening.

Terry Fletcher



A friend of many years past, called John, came to mind the other day while I was stirring the cauldron in which I make my Sangria. Not unlike Willy Shakespeare's Witches, 'hubble-ing' and 'bubble-ing' (Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 3), except I do it all on my lonesome, rarely cackle, and do it all in a decorously masculine way!

John and his wife were holidaying in northern Spain not too far from where I was pitched on a caravan site. They chose to visit us one day and were treated to a slap-up meal, a curry supper à la Hyacinth Bucket, a typically Dutch dish from the couple on the terrace below, and a spaghetti concoction from the two Italian student-doctors from the same level as the Dutch. I provided the Sangria which, in Spain, is akin to 'taking coals to Newcastle'. John polished off a couple of glasses without them touching the sides and declared the Sangria a winner. Better than the tepid beer alternative. His wife knocked back a couple of glasses in a similar fashion. I decided to 'warn' against the driver consuming any more, and was informed that she had drawn the short straw so it was OK for John to continue - said John!

The evening was a delight, duly lubricated by several rounds of the nectar-like Sangria. It even included an impromptu demonstration by the two Italian boys on how to cook spaghetti. The demo included a testing phase where one of them dipped his fingers into the pan of water and removed a couple of strands of spaghetti and threw them at the bare chest of the other. If they stuck, the spaghetti was cooked. After each failed attempt the strands of spaghetti were retrieved from wherever they fell and returned to the pot to continue boiling. Don't try this one at home, especially in a confined kitchen space!

Like all good things the evening had to come to an end.

Around midnight our non-camper guests said their rather raucous and unintelligible goodbyes, poured themselves into the car, aimed it at the entrance gates of the camp-site, which fortunately were the exit gates as well, intending to join the motorway that would take them home.

Many months later I ran into John whilst we were attending a 3-day military seminar run by the RAF. It was 'attendance-only' and there was no pressure on either of us to complete course work and the like. John, on one of our several sessions in the bar, recounted the saga of the journey home after that night on the Sangria. It was apparently indelibly etched into his subconscious, and to emphasise the fact he declared that he had never touched a drop of Sangria since that evening!

Mrs John (to save a blush or two), a strong-willed woman at the best of times, had chosen to ignore my advice about the driver not drinking any more of my lethal brew. She had apparently quaffed several glasses whilst my back was turned. She could still see, barely, to keep the car on the road, but Spanish road signs were her downfall. She made it to the motorway, but opted to go in the opposite direction. John recalled that he indulged in some feeble defiance, but was too far gone to care. Eventually the penny dropped, about the time they had to pull off the motorway to spend one, and then they tried to decipher the road map that they carried for just such emergencies. The fanfolds defeated the pair of them!

The epic, as narrated by John, was long and eventful, filled with descriptions of inebriated attempts to speak Spanish (neither of them could speak the language when sober), attempting to get directions so that they could start travelling north instead of continuing further south. To cut to the chase - they eventually made it home in one piece. Lucky them!

John was asked to open the gate to the walled compound so that Mrs John could drive the car to safety. That task apparently defeated him too. So she abandoned the car where she had stopped it, and as far as she was concerned that is where it was going to spend the night. It did. Safely. They managed to stagger up a couple of flights of steps to their fancy apartment and Mrs John decided her day was done. Fully clothed she spread-eagled herself, comatose, across both sides of the bed. John's defiance still hadn't reached the stages of rebellion so he curled up in a ball in front of the built-in wardrobe, also fully clothed, and quickly reached the state of euphoria his wife was enjoying.

About four thirty in the morning John decided that he really needed to go out for a slow walk, down to the seafront and back, to combat the moving ceiling that kept creeping up on his unconscious state. I could sympathise; been there, seen it, done it. And that damn ceiling always seems to move in a circular motion!

John recollected that as he staggered to the sea front, his legs refusing to do what his addled brain was telling them to, that if somebody had been looking for an ambassador to represent the drunken Brit abroad, he was waaaaay out in front as the most qualified candidate.

All because of something that looks as innocuous and inviting as this ...


A male Langur showing his teeth.


I intend to put up the recipe, somewhere, blow by blow, if a few of you want to try it out. It takes about 5 minutes to make, and even less to drink it.

Saude ...



Update: Recipe-hunters click here (opens in a new window). Enjoy!

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Thursday, 21 May 2009

Rainbow …

The moment a little boy is concerned with which is a Jay and which is a Sparrow, he can no longer see the birds or hear them sing.
Eric Berne (1910-1970)



A short time ago I penned a post that introduced you to Rambo, and I was pleased with the response from visitors who thought it was a hoot. One regular even coerced her family into watching the video and reported back that they all enjoyed it. That's the sort of feedback that a blogger thrives on!

I now have to declare that I got one salient fact totally wrong.


Rambo is now Rainbow. And that is official.

'Sexing' an Agapornis rosiecollis The Peach-faced Lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis), also known as the Rosy-faced Lovebird, is a species of lovebird native to arid regions in southwestern Africa such as the Namib Desert. A loud and constant chirper, these birds are very social animals and often congregate in small groups in the wild. They eat throughout the day and take frequent baths.

Finding a pair of these birds for breeding is not easy because their sex is not easily determined. The sex can be determined by the pelvic bones which in males measure 1-3 mm while measuring 6-8 mm in females.

is a bit of a 'hit-or-miss' affair. So, getting it wrong is par for the course. Rainbow only started to show signs that she was a female when we observed her reactions to Barney, the dominant male, who also happens to be her 'grandfather' in human terms. Each time he showed an element of aggression towards her, she would crouch down with her wings spread, a sure sign of female submissiveness in the species.

At first we found all this amusing, but on reflection it is a bit of a problem. We know she is a 'special needs' bird, but since we aren't going to tell her that, she carries on with her life as if everything is normal. She craves company, and since the other birds tend to instinctively attack her, apparently knowing something about her is 'wrong', something that we are unable to identify, she turns to her humans for that company. It is fun to keep her amused for an hour or two, but she can be as demanding as any hyperactive child, with the added problem that we can't explain that we are tired, and that by forcibly returning her to her cage we are not being cruel. Or perhaps that is the easy part - not having to offer an explanation?

Nevertheless, she is the star attraction for all who drop in on us, especially family and close friends. They are all aware that we have her, and they can barely manage a cursory greeting at the door, before making straight for Rainbow's cage to invite her out to play. She is then carried about the house as if it is the most normal thing in the world to walk around with a tiny bird perched on one's head, shoulders, hands, fingers, whatever! And, of course, she absolutely loves the attention.

Here are a series of recent shots showing the grandson 'bonding' with the bird even though he wasn't too sure about it at first.


Oooops! The boy (Miguel) does not think this is a good idea! A bit more comfortable with the situation, but not 100% sure! "OK, I can put up with this!"
"Hey, this is fun!" - (love the way boy and bird are synchronized.) "This is much better!" - (the smile gives the game away.) "Let's share!" - (as boys and pets do all over the world!)
(click on any thumbnail for a larger image)


Regular readers of this blog will put it down to just another 'nutty day' at the 'nuthouse'!

We call it home.

Come back again, soon ...

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Here's a toast to your health.

"Lang May Yer Lumb Reek!"
(Scottish for 'long may your chimney smoke')

or if you prefer,

"Bottoms Up!"