Old stuff: To a poet

This is from nearly 20 years ago. It was sort of (to quote someone else’s impression at the time) like a Monty Python Philosopher’s Song about poetry. This is from memory, wanted to preserve it before I lost it altogether.

Come! Drink with me old darling,
Sit! Raise a glass To Autumn now
So nearly gone to frosty seed.
Spring a rhythm on me, lad,
Synaesthetise me with another line
Which with luck will match in quality this wine.

Stay! Lend thy hand to laugh,
Ned, A little more before we stir -
I feel a ballad coming on!
Seduce the daughter of the vine,
Then kommst Du mit? Let’s go to face the weather
And drown the ceremony of innocence together.

‘Zounds! We’ll do the rounds till Spring
Bursts, till Winter takes her final bow
And the blood-dimmed tide recedes.
Only then may rest be had,
And peace to watch as chin to chest he nods —
That man who seemed to thee the equal of the gods.

Wake! Partake a little draught,
Heathen! By Joyce’s love – Je suis l’oevre -
(He’s such a Maid, not Begotten).
We’ll sail a sea dark as this wine
In fast black ships, hearts homeward stirred,
driven by the awful power of the Word.


Lime Macadamians

Okay, really it’s just a shortbread recipe, but this one is a tradition in the various branches of our extended family, where a bag of these non-heart-smart little monsters makes up part of the small xmas bundle we put together for everyone each year.

  • 1 kg strong flour (alternately 750g plain flour combined with 250g rice flour)
  • 500g butter
  • 500g sugar
  • 2-400g chopped macadamia nuts (aiming for an even consistency, with the occasional chunky bit)
  • 3 limes
  • 2 lemons

Ensure the butter is chilled. Combine the flour and sugar evenly in a large mixing bowl. Chop the butter into cubes, and rub it into the flour/sugar mix as lightly as practical. Once the mix has the texture of breadcrumbs and comes away from the side of the bowl in clumps, work the chopped nuts through. Grate the zest off of all the lemons and limes, and mix this through as evenly as possible. Get as much of the juice out of the fruit as practical, and water it down by about 50/50 juice/water. Make a well in the mixture, and add small quantities of juice/water, mixing and kneading as you go, until the mixture binds coherently. Given the amount of shortening, the amount of liquid actually required to achieve this should be fairly small, not more than 250ml or so. Knead the resulting dough till smooth, then cover (or wrap in cling film) and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat an oven to 200C. Take a portion of the dough, roll it into a thick sausage 4-5cm in diameter. With a sharp knife, cut roughly 1cm disks from this roll. Place the disks on a baking tray (I used muffin trays this year, the disks fit pretty neatly). Bake for either 20 mins on 180C or 15 minutes on 200C – there’s some confusion as to the best result at the moment, since our current, undersized oven heats a bit unevenly. The shorter, hotter bake achieves more browning on the outside while leaving the centre softer, while the longer, cooler bake produces something more closely resembling shortbread.

Optionally press some halved macadamias onto the top of each disk before baking – though making the biscuit a little thicker is called for if you do that. Optionally save some zest from the mix (or grate more!) and give each biscuit a garnish (the oil will colour and flavour the top of the biscuit while baking, even if the zest itself comes off afterward). Optionally dabble in the world of exotic spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg – we don’t find this necessary, though it would be to pass muster alongside traditional German bickies. The temptation to include pineapple in some way so far hasn’t emerged as any but an abstract idea, so I’ll post any developments along those lines as they, erm, develop.

Anyhow, allow to cool before removing from the tray. Optionally dust with icing sugar (we don’t). Once cool, store in an airtight container.

That’s it. It’s a pretty basic shortbread recipe really, just with a sort of a Queensland influence to it. It adds a bit of a consistent personal touch to our xmas gifts, usually all stuff we make ourselves. If someone does use it, do let me know of your results. We still are using this small, semi-portable oven till we work out the master plan for renovating the kitchen, so I’d be curious to hear about experiences with this in a proper oven.

Barcelona Tonight

It’s a little unexpected when the truly evil aspects of our own society strike somewhere close to home.

Our vet is, or rather was, also the vet of an elderly neighbour of my mother-in-law. This lady is terminally ill, and when she went into hospital a couple of months ago for what was expected to be the last time, she left her dog in the vet’s care with instructions to find it a home. A long term friend of decades, the vet is, or was, a co-executor of her will (the other is, or was, my mother-in-law). The vet found a home for the dog with his veterinary nurse. This last bit has become controversial, since the neighbour now says the arrangement was meant to be temporary. However everyone involved knew that it was intended to be permanent.

The neighbour, against medical advice discharged herself form hospital. My mother-in-law dreaded this eventuality as the neighbour is mostly unable to care for herself and has been demanding help from her neighbours, but has over the years been so ungracious in her friendships that she’s driven erstwhile helpers away. Some have outright described her as “evil”. In truth she is simply self-centred and manipulative, something that worked for her most of her life (she’s unfeasibly thin now, but apparently always was and once sported even more implausible implants). There’s no way at all she can care for a dog without relying on help from the neighbours, and most neighbours won’t even talk to her anymore given past experiences. This is a boisterous and energetic dog that becomes impossible unless it’s walked twice a day.

I should actually set the scene here – we are talking about a small block of council flats for the elderly. There are 8 units centred on the one courtyard shared by this lady and my mother-in-law. The dog’s presence will affect them all, if only out of concern for its welfare. More than that though, with blood thinning medication such as Warfarin[TM], one of a cocktail currently keeping her alive, any fall or cut could easily lead to a fatal bleed. I should point out this dog is not just boisterous but exhibits what the people fro the RSPCA refer to in their marvelously euphemistic temperament evaluation sheets as “mouthiness”. He bites – playfully sure, but hard enough for this to be a potential problem.

Anyhow, the neighbour decided she wanted her dog back. Now sure, she could pay someone to walk him, and have people in to help care for them both. She hadn’t really been able to afford this, though, and all things considered the vet has balked at giving the dog back. The dog has bonded with the veterinary nurse, and is unquestionably extremely well cared for. The veterinary nurse has offered to bring him for extended visits, but this has been rebuffed. The neighbour simply wants him back, period. This lead to a standoff – the neighbour got no satisfaction from the Police who frankly, most likely saw the vet’s point. So she went to Channel Seven.

Enter stage right one Gavin Alder, a reporter for Today Tonight. According to his bio, he’s wanted to be a journalist since he was 10 and wrote a poem about French testing in the Pacific. I’m not convinced that this dream will ever come true – he certainly isn’t one now. Maybe it’s in the past – he was once a sports reporter and in some circles that passes for journalism. He’s built like a rugby forward, though his bio says he plays soccer.

This bruiser of a man followed the veterinary nurse as she walks the dog every day for a week or two with his camera crew, and in the footage that did go to air during this last week had cornered her alone in an isolated park. Pestering her and suggesting that “We can take the dog home now”, the fellow clearly used his intimidating physical presence to bully the poor girl. Even in footage they showed, she ends up carrying the dog. As a dog owner myself I can say that this is something you do when you feel the dog is threatened, not for any other reason.

In any case, needless to say they went to air with the headline ‘Dognapped!’ and portray the vet and the nurse as refusing a dying woman’s last wish as well as being legally shaky ground, being dog thieves and all. The broadcast interview AND hidden camera footage with the vet – as though they weren’t sure how they wanted to play him, and took the hidden camera stuff in case he didn’t give an interview. They made a lot of his statement expressing his (in any other context admirable) professional commitment to the welfare of the dog.  They clearly spent a lot of time with the neighbour, who eventually managed a tear for the camera. I imagine this involved onions – the woman is tough as boot leather.

So since then the vet has been receiving death threats, including threats to firebomb his clinic. This isn’t a small clinic, and he does a lot of surgery so at any given time there are several animals either recovering from surgery or due to go on the table. The upshot is he’s afraid to leave, because if something did happen he’d have to be there to save the animals. The clinic is taking hundreds of threatening or otherwise abusive calls a day at this point. It’s so extreme that neighbouring vet clinics have felt the need to put up signs distancing themselves from his as they have been targeted by creeps who don’t let a little thing like mistaken identity hold them up. And I gather Today Tonight think of all this as a great success. They had the veterinary nurse’s partner in their trailers lately, as they seem to have been targeted directly also.

I don’t really blame the neighbour in this – she’s just a self-centred person  who doesn’t understand the effects of her actions here. My mother-in-law is less generous than I am here, she had been getting the woman’s mail for her. She has returned the key to the letterbox and refuses to have anything to do with her. She’s disgusted mostly because the vet has been a loyal and long-suffering friend for so many years.

I do blame the Today Tonight crew and most especially Alder, who unquestionably are aware of the consequences of their actions and have decided it’s worth it. We demand and fight for free expression and a free press, and Channel Seven gives us these despicable mongrels.

This vet is the best vet we’ve ever dealt with, and is also a fine human being whom I trust implicitly, without question. To think his practice and viability as a business could be in jeopardy for a cheap ratings stunt is just sickening.

Speed Camera in Use

There was a dead possum on my street this morning. I moved it from the middle of the road to the footpath and while it was cold, it wasn’t damp. That means it can’t have been dead for long when I left for work at 7:30, so some earlier commuter clearly hit it.

This is a quiet, suburban street. I’m not sure what everyone regards as acceptable driving practices, but for this to have happened means someone was either speeding, not paying attention or simply didn’t care enough to brake. While none of those are acceptable, I think the first is most likely and it leads me to start thinking about what means are available to deal with this. It’s a driver behaviour issue, and there’s nothing to say a pet or a child may not be next.

I’m somewhat loathe to suggest traffic calming and speed bumps – given that these inconvenience the majority of people who drive sensibly and represent potential drainage problems. Not to mention the kachunk-kachunk every time a car goes over a bump. Or the high-speed slalom that some people will engage in on a chicane.

Adding non-official but convincing lower speed limit signs may deter some, but if they’re already speeding there’s no real hope they’d consider speeding by less.

So I’m wondering how difficult, expensive and legal it would be to set up a fake police speed camera. I’m also wondering why the police don’t use them already, since they’d have to be cheaper than the real thing. Would a “Speed Camera in Use” sign work just as well?

Obviously a blue Mercedes van with the “Every K over is a killer” sticker on the side would probably do the trick, but that seems like a very expensive option to me. Perhaps a broken down, ex-police motorcycle that still has the livery? Simply leaving such a bike parked in front of my house may well have the desired effect.

The final option – spend a weekend in the front yard turning the hose on any vehicle going too fast – may prove unsustainable :)

Eskies of desire

This is a sort of a draft, something I want to work up as a set piece to perform when I ever get around to performing again:

And did those feet, in Ancient times
Walk up on Queensland’s mountains green?
And was the holy lamb of God
Ever in Queensland’s pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our granite hills,
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among the tropical sugar mills?

Bring my slab of Forex Gold
Bring me my eskies of desire
Hand me a beer, make sure it’s cold!
Bring me my Holden ute of fire.
I will not deign to sober up
Nor shall my glass sleep in my hand
Till we have towed Jerusalem
To Queensland’s warm and pleasant land.

No apologies to Blake, but perhaps a shout or two. Not Gold of course, not even Forex.

“When practical, avoid intentionally targeting the head, face, throat or genitals without legal justification.”

[The title of this post is apparently from the safety instructions on a Taser]

I’ve been talking to a few people about my plan to use my stimulation bonus (aka Pennies from Kevin) in an entirely frivolous way, ie to get into video games.

So I’ve drawn up a shopping list:

  • EBGames’s XBox 360 Pro bundle includes an Xbox 360 Pro, an HDMI cable and Gears of War for $398.
  • Umart have a Samsung Syncmaster 2333SW 23″ widescreen monitor with a DVI-D input that supports HDCP for $285, and an HDMI to DVI-D cable for $16.
  • PGR4 and SEGA Rally are in EBGames’ “2 for $50″ sale
  • So are Assassin’s Creed, Stranglehold, Medal of Honor: Airborne, Eternal Scroll IV: Oblivion and the “play and charge” kit for the XBox 360 wireless controller
  • Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII is $19.95 new or $17.95 used
  • The Xbox game Crimson Skies is $14.87 used, I’ll have to download the backwards compatibility pack.

Along with perhaps an extra pair of headphones the total ends up so close to $900 there’s nothing in it. However I’m aware that I’ve left out some notable titles, specifically:

  • Fallout 3, Bioshock and Fable II all interest me, but I haven’t fit a new release into my initial purchase. I’ll be looking at demos and rentals before making another step in that direction. Same is true for Call of Duty and Brothers in Arms.
  • Likewise air combat games involving jet aircraft and AAMs. I’m pretty old-school, even leaning toward steampunkishness with aerial combat games. It seems the console world is a little impoverished in retro aviation games, though that’s a situation I hope will improve.
  • Likewise the GTA series: I’ll probably get GTA IV eventually. Same applies to genre-mates like Saint’s Row and Crackdown, though these may present less expensive intermediate options.

So in any case, that’s my initial research, and my list of choices based upon it. I’m keen to hear from others about “must have” games. On the one hand, I’ve been perfectly happy with the Civ series on computers for so many years now that I expect I’ll mostly be happy with a handful of games, but it does seem that in the console world new games are a constant need.