The Time Has Come (the Walrus said) Archives

Internet TV

When staying in Paris, the apartment we were in had over 200 TV channels.

The whole lot were delivered using ADSL internet TV with a router and set-top box plugged into a standard TV.

Response time on some channel changes was typically 10 to 20 seconds – a bit slow but acceptable.

We saw advertisements in the Paris Metro for the deal:

- 39 Euro / month

- 28 MBit/sec ADSL

- at least 200 TV channels delivered through the ADSL

- and your mobile phone bundled as well

Which all goes to show how we are ripped off in Australia for broadband (and the lousy crap uses to which it can be put when you have it). Also a reflection of what you can offer with the scale that comes from a high population density.

The deal was also not quite as good as it first seemed. Where we were staying, at least 50% of the channels were pay-extra-to-watch-me. There was a simple system of authorising the extra charge to your account, and fees for a movie and some channels were typically 3 to 5 euro (about A$5 to 8).

Most of what was on was utter crap. Even foreign sourced shows, movies, documentaries or series were all dubbed into French. No leaving the soundtrack as-is and using subtitles like SBS do here. A classic case “47 channels and nothing on”.

The greatest BBQ garlic prawns

Every single month since the original publication, this blog’s top 10 search terms include a lookup to a certain recipe with prawns in. No idea anybodyhas actually tried it.

But anyhow, it’s time for Yet Another Recipe For Garlic Prawns.

We cooked these on the BBQ last weekend as part of the feeding of the gathering of the clan, the occasion being oldest son’s birthday. And this had universal acclaim. And dead easy to do. Try!

BBQ Garlic Prawns

You will need:

1 kg raw prawns
4 cloves garlic, peeled and very finely chopped
About a teaspoon of chilli powder
About a teaspoon of Chinese five spice powder
About a tablespoon Sesame Oil
About 2 tablespoon Olive Oil
20 or so Bamboo skewers

Prepare the prawns by removing shells, head, tail, and de-veining (slow and boring).

Put all the prepared prawns in a glass bowl, add the chopped garlic. Sprinkle the chilli powder and five spice powder over the prawns. You might need to mix it all around a bit so it is spread evenly.

Add the sesame and olive oil. (Beware – sesame oil has a strong flavour, don’t be tempted to use only sesame oil).

Stir it all around and leave to stand for a couple of hours. While the prawns are stranding, soak the bamboo skewers in water. You can buy bamboo skewers in most asian grocery stores.

When ready to cook, put about 3-4 prawns on a skewer, and line these up on a tray to make it easy to carry them to your BBQ. Have the BBQ nice and hot, and put these on for a few minutes, turning once or maybe twice until the prawns are cooked and nicely pink.

Serve and eat immediately. You’ll get a whacking big rush of prawn and garlic, a zing of chilli, and the slightly anise flavour of the five spice. The sesame oil just rounds it all off. To die for. And nobody else will come near you for a day or two!

Holy Crap!

There is something very disconcerting about pointing percy at the porcelain, only to find that the porcelain is piddling back at you. Does this indicate a major biological malfunction, or is something more down-to-earth going on? Seeing as this is not the first time, the simple explanation wins.

Several months ago the other loo had a leak: the rubber thingy that couples that toilet cistern to the pan had perished. Instead of being flushed with pride, the pressing of the button led more to a case of minor leakage. On the floor. Naturally, we blamed the cat, then the chaps. Eventually reality dawned. A simple visit to the local hardware store was in order, we bought rubber thingies for all loos on the grounds that they are all the same age, so one done in, all done in.

There’s nothing I love more than a bit of crapatorial maintenance. So the obvious loo was repaired late one night amidst much mumbling, grumbling, and damaged fingers. Being just a little on the lazy side, the last rubber thingy was shoved to one side and happily forgotten. Until today, when nature called for both me and Mr Loo.

Fitting these suckers requires wedging yourself into the confined space between the wall and dunny pan, peeling back the rubber bits, and removing a bent pipe. Easy! It is fairly easy, actually. Pulling things apart is always easier than getting them back together. But being old and perished, the rubber is falling apart and wet. Black water falls out over you, the wall and the floor. Oh, and did I mention that rubber smells? Not nice. Putting the new thing onto the big lump of pipe is fairly straightforward, but getting the pipe back and all coupled up is damn near impossible. You need to avoid shoving your face into the crapper, whilst trying to see what does not fit, and why, whilst using the triple jointed fingers of midget and wrapping your arms around the pan. By the sixth or seventh attempt, all pretence at avoiding cuddling the loo is over. Give the damn thing a big squeeze, reach around, pull lumps of rubber into place, curse wildly. Success! Then a wash-down.

Such are the joys and entertainments of a weekend morning.

Awstraya – centre of the universe

Australians like to think they are important.

Why else would Australians call the country Godzone? This is  - for aussies – short for Gods Own, a contraction of Gods Own Earth. Every aussie knows that God came from Australia. And speaks with a nasal strine accent.

Except…

I’ve been travelling overseas for a month. When away from the big brown land down under, it’s apparent just how full of their own shit Australians are. I suppose Americans are worse, but Australians need to get a serious grip.

Important? Nope. 

Understood? Nope.

Recognised? Nope.

Leading the world, in a position to be seen and known for (name todays cause)? Forget it.

Leaders creating a special relationship with the USA / UK / Europe. Don’t make me laugh.

During our month away, we stayed in apartments for fair stretches. We had the chance, and watched a bit of TV in various languages and places. We included the news channels like CNN, CNBC, Sky News and BBC World News. We looked at newspapers now and again. Watched for advertisements, signs, placards, news headlines.

During the entire period, there were precisely 2 (two) mentions of Australia:

- An advertisement in the London Underground promoting “Aus Tours”, where the featured location was Milford Sound in New Zealand!!!!!

- A scrolling banner on CNN TV during the financial shennanigans announcing that the Australian Reserve Bank had cut interest rates by 1%.

Drum roll. That’s it folks. Tish-boom!

Nobody in the UK or Europe knows or gives a toss about Australia.

Next time some pillock opines with “The eyes of the world are on <insert cause or scandal of the week here>”, tune out. It’s bullshit.

And next time some f-wit politician says “We have a special relationship with <insert country here>”, tune out. It’s also bullshit.

Folks – Australia does not exist.

Let’s strive to keep it that way!

Barbarella’s

I had a couple of comments about this post, saying to the effect of “Whats the big deal about Barbarellas Sandwich shop. Just a building. Whoopy-doo.”

“Barbarella” was a film made in 1968, starring Jane Fonda.

With taglines like:

Who seduces an angel? Who strips in space? Who conveys love by hand? Who gives up the pill? Who takes sex to outer space? Who’s the girl of the 21st century? Who nearly dies of pleasure?

See Barbarella do her thing!

The space age adventuress whose sex-ploits are among the most bizarre ever seen.

Who can save the universe?

And Jane Fonda looking like this

And this:
Barbarella Desktop Wallpaper 1024 x 768

NOW PERHAPS WHY YOU SEE HOW IT IS THAT THE PHOTO TOOK MY FANCY – for being a teeny weeny bit off the mark!

Tis very Adelaide

Today I went out on a limb. Did something a bit brave and unusual.

It’s this blogging thing, see. It has the attraction of anonymity. Just a name on a web page, which means those who are interested can read, and those who aren’t can avoid. And, naturally, those who object can simply naff orf.

ANYHOW… using the pretext of chocolate, today, Wilma the Walrus and I went and met Kath.

Adelaide, being Adelaide suffers a couple of afflictions. One being the daily Murdock aka The Anaesthetiser, the other being that everybody is either related, or known to somebody who is your uncle, cousin, brother, or neighbour. In this case, Kath lives opposite Wilma’s big sister. (Sigh). Very Adelaide.

So, dragging the story out, we dropped the chaps at Bonython Park for a friends birthday and then headed off to an appointment with Adelaide’s very own chocolate critic and reviewer. A couple of kilos of chocolate bought in Europe and unavailable here was the excuse needed to break down the barriers of anonymity. A bottle of Fox Creek Vixen seemed an appropriate way to start proceedings.

Three hilarious hours, one bottle of sparkling red, a couple of coffees, and two chocolate reviews later it was time to buzz off, see Wilma’s sister, look a photos, gasbag about the holiday – with lunch from La Casa Del Pane on Magill Rd. The best italian foccacia you can get!

Finally, we collected the sunburnt chaps and headed home.

On the chocolate front: We can’t get the Lindt Williams Pear in Australia (yet) – all the more reason to try that one. Similarly, the Cote D’Or Noir Sesame was something we only saw in France and Germany, and it does not seem to be available in other countries. Being an unusual combination, this was naturally also worthy of detailed scrutiny. Reviews should be appearing soon on chocablog. But what do I think of them:

The Williams Pear: a lightish milk chocolate, not too sweet (hooray). The filling is a pear liquor: sharp, tangy, not overly pearish. (Put american accent on): Fahn, fahn, mahty fahn.

The Noir Sesame was an absolute standout sensation. The dark chocolate has sesame seeds through it, but the sesame flavour is not overpowering. It’s not as though somebody upended the sesame oil bottle. Instead, its a really nice flavour combination. It just works, we were all a little surprised at how well. Maybe the sesame seeds had been toasted a little, they give a nice crunch. Damn good. Bring it here!

And finally: Adelaide, being Adelaide has one last trick up it’s sleeve. We still have mounted police. No, not on a pedestal. And no, clean minds only please. As in riding horses on patrol. The horses are the Police Greys, and they live in the parklands right next to the main carpark for the Bonython Park. When the horses aren’t working they are grazing amongst a grove of hundred-odd year old olive trees, and any fool can pat them or hop the 3-wire fence and photograph them. Some things are still simple, and free.

It’s all about the confidence, stupid

Groan, moan: it’s the end of the world! The banks are going to collapse and we’ll lose all our savings. Pull yer money out now and sock it under the mattress. Oh!! And we’ll all be murdered in our beds!

Endless stories of the worst financial crisis since 1929 are beginning to wear a bit thin.

Has the amount of MONEY in the world suddenly decreased? NO!

What’s happening right now comes from 3 things:

1. The dumbo yankees loaned a whole buncha money to a bunch of useless suckers who never had a chance of paying it back. These people bought houses and then could not meet the payments, so walked out. Banks left with empty houses is NOT a good look, especially if you can’t sell them to somebody else. A building industry that kept building in the face of evidence that the houses could not be paid for did not help.

2. Following on 1, the bankers left holding the derelect houses lost a bit ‘a repsect from the other bankers, so confidence in lending between bankers took a bit of a hit.

3. Following on from 2, the loss of confidence has led to a desire to be a bit more careful about loaning money to ANYBODY – and to demanding higher interest (the “risk premium”) for the privelige.

This sequence of steps leads to an economic contraction, and as confidence drops and the lack of confidence spreads, the money (which amount has not changed) ends up being stuffed in socks or kept under the metaphorical bed instead of circulating in the economy. Money that does not circulate has a big effect – a long time ago the effect of spending $1 was roughly calculated (I think by John Maynard Keynes) as creating about $2.50 of economic social activity. So withdrawing money from circulation sucks.

Somewhere along the way, the Irish Government decided to guarantee all bank deposits. This is fine for boosting local confidence and avoiding a run on the local banks. Oh damn! There is a downside: The smart money all promptly moves to where the guarnantee is. This is why government guarantees have suddenly sprung up in Europe, UK, USA and now here in the tin-pot great-brown land of OZ. If you want to keep capital in a country, you have to play the same games – sensible or otherwise – that everybody else is playing.

A lack of confidence has other symptoms: share markets fall. Share markets have an inherent higher risk than cash, a fact which is forgotten during boom times. But when confidence wanes, the money gets pulled out to stick in cash management or term deposits. The effect of many sellers and less buyers is the same as in any other market subject to such forces: prices fall. For the last 15 years, share market investors have known good times and rising share prices. Bad times, when they came, were brief. Compacency and an expectation of double-digit returns every year, forever, were the expected norm. Suddenly, these investors have seen the good times stop, and they are bailing out in droves – desperate to avoid further losses. Prices fall.

Funny thing about a share market loss: you only lose money when you sell.

It all highlights the difference between price and value: PRICE IS WHAT YOU PAY. VALUE IS WHAT YOU GET. During a panic, the sellers don’t care so much about price or value, they’re spooked and care only about getting out. Which seems like a good time to buy… when you can see the whites of their eyes and smell the fear!

Confidence will come back, the money will start to circulate again. But right now we also need the dumb-as-shit politicians to shut the hell up and stop whining, the journalists likewise. They are in danger of making the situation far worse by eroding confidence further and creating a self-fulfilling prophesy.

PICS

A short selection from the thousands…

Chosen only for being a bit off-beat, and limited only to London and surrounds.

More cities and themed pic-posts coming…

For those who ever saw the movie with Jane Fonda in… this just does not have the same impact or appeal:

FECK – Irish connection:

Near Slough – when on the train station platform, the advertising placard speaks for itself, really:

Ah haz yore freaky chikkin and ah is makin mah escape:

ATTACK OF THE GIANT PIGEONS!!! AHHH – run away!!

We like our funny hats:

The name makes all the difference (The sign reads “I went to see Major General Harrison Hung, Drawn and Quartered. He was looking as cheerful as any man could in that condition” – Samuel Pepys, 13th October 1660.):

One wonders what King William thinks of all this:

Weary travellers are returned

We’re home. Arrived back on Thursday, about lunch-time and something like 38 hours after walking out the door of the apartment we rented in Paris.

The trip home was long and somewhat eventful. Long because it was Paris -> London -> Singapore -> Sydney -> Adelaide. Eventful… well…

The fun started with a suggestion to take a shorter, faster way to the airport: “Don’t take the metro and RER. Go to Porte Maillot and there is a shuttle bus.” We did this, and after much wandering around eventually found the bus stop, and then found it was an Air-France shuttle bus. We were flying British Airways. But for 14 Euro each, it would take us. Trouble was, the buses were not running because the drivers were on strike. A taxi sorted that problem, costing 39 Euro for the 4 of us – meaning that the taxi was CHEAPER than the shuttle bus – by a long way. The delay was not a problem, we had plenty of time.

But on arrival at the airport in Paris – the stupid self-check machines so loved by BA would not work until 3 hours before flight departure, meaning we had to mooch around the shitty draughty departures hall. Fine… but until we could do this step we could not get through departing customs and into baggage check in. And the flight to Heathrow was running late, jeodardising the connection on to Australia. The check in supervisor was a very nice chap, who was able to fight the booking system and shift the Paris -> Heathrow portion to an earlier flight.

London to Singapore was uneventful, but Singapore to Sydney had its moments. The first was #2 son deciding he felt sick – something which happens everytime he travels anywhere and misses food and sleep. A big upchuck in the transit lounge helped. As did the plastic bag to catch it in.

Later, during the flight, somebody in deep economy must have gone ga-ga or had hysterics or something. About an hour after leaving Singapore, the plane was filled with screaming. The sort of scream you get in cheap Hollywood movies. The screams were repeated, with gaps between of about 10 to 20 seconds, and this went on for at least 2 1/2 hours. The flight crew came and fetched a stretcher-like thing (which I’m pretty sure has straps for restraint), and as far as I can gather from other conversation, the person was tied down and (most likely) sedated. An hour or so in, there were people being relocated from economy up into first / business class – presumably those closest to and suffering most from the noise. During this episode, the pilot announced what was going on and told everybdy that we would be pressing on to Sydney. But from the moving map display it looks like the flight path was changed in preparation for an emergency landing in Alice Springs – which was not needed in the end. The final couple of hours were mercifully silent. Strangely enough, there was a large welcoming party in the airbridge on arrival in Sydney. Police, medical people, etc.

We have about 1800 photos, and 6 to 12 months of blog fodder :)

Some general comments on airports and airlines

  • London Heathrow Terminal 5 had a lot of bad press on opening, with lost bags and so on. We went through it twice with no trouble. It’s bright and shiny new, and seems fine.
  • London Heathrow Terminal 4 must be about 18 or 19 years old now (I’m pretty sure it was new when last we were in London). Now, it’s looking tired and dirty. The lighting is lousy, there are bad smells. It’s a shitty dump.
  • Paris Charles de Gaulle airport is poxy dump.
  • Singapore, Zurich and Adelaide airports are nice.
  • The new terminal in Bangkok is space-age and BIZARRE.
  • The shittiest, horriblest airport terminal we went through has to be Sydney – especially the domestic / international transfer. It is old, tired, dirty, badly organised, has smells. (From other travel, Melbourne international comes close to Sydney in the poxy stakes)
  • The most unpleasant, officious airport security turds have to be the British. Until now, I’d found the Australians to be the worst pains. But now the British take the prize for sheer f#@$wittery.
  • Everywhere you go, the stupid liquids ban is in place. We all know the “common household liquids” explosive has been shown to be a scientific nonsense, but they all persist with this rubbish.
  • Every time you are treated like a criminal by the security morons, there is a sign proclaiming that the nonsense is “for our safety”. Yeah right. Singapore goes one step further, by proclaiming that not only is the security screening and liquids ban for our safety, but also that if there is any comment or criticism then shut up – because anything heard to question the procedures or threaten the aircraft safety will result in arrest.
  • BA was Ok to fly with, but the best airline we flew on was Air Berlin – the low cost carrier. Their aircraft fitout was good, the legroom was acceptable, the staff were courteous, and the service exceeded expectations. VIRGIN BLUE and JET STAR could learn a lot from Air Berlin.
  • We paid extra and travelled on the long legs (Sydney / London) in Premium Economy. It is nowhere near as good as business class, but you do get quite a lot of extra leg room and this makes a huge difference to comfort. It’s worth the extra money.

And Finally

The chocolate hunt yielded all sorts of strange goodies:

The best hunting ground seems to be Germany – the range everywhere was extensive, and particularly in some more obscure Lindt varieties. The most peculiar has to be the Dark Chocolate with sesame seeds that we found in France. I was specially taken with one from Germany: “Schwartze Herren” (”Pour Messieurs”). [Black man... for men]. Why they mix German and French is beyond me. Didn’t see it in France, it seems to be a german brand: “Fein-herber Edelkakao macht Scharze Herren Schokolade zu einem besonderen erlebnis fur den anspruchsvollen geniesser”. Indeed!

As you can see from the above, we have yet to try them all!

And no, your eyes do not mislead you, there really is a 99% cocoa product readily available. Just not here.

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