April 7, 2017

Thames Path

 

Walk with me
Along this grass-lined corridor
In our most businesslike self-wicking suits
And expensive boots,
Discussing such important matters
As the sound that swans make when they fly
And the exact colour of a bowl of water
In the bed of the Infant Thames.

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Karen
March 18, 2017

Roast With Ewan

Your favourite shark, in the flesh

Hey there shark fans! Long time no see! Bet you thought I’d died or something, but no! I’ve been around, doing my thing.

A kilogram bag of green coffee beans somehow found it’s way into my possession. Don’t ask me how, because that would put both of us in an awkward situation, dig? I figured, let’s roast some of these little babies up.

Step one, you’ll need the oven nice and hot, so get that going.

Crank it up to max, humans!

Meanwhile, you want to spread your green coffee beans onto a baking tray. One layer thick, don’t want any piles around here. This doesn’t take too long, so that buys you some time for swimming around in the ocean and terrorising bathers while you wait for the oven to finish heating up.

Look at these little green guys, they’ve got no fucking idea what’s about to happen

Once the oven hits about 200 you’ll probably be bored of waiting so you’ll bung them in there anyway.

They’ll sit there for a while, turning yellow, and then after about ten minutes they’ll start to act like popcorn, all jumping about and making a damn noise all over the place. This is what’s known in the business as “first crack”, and if you want a nice light roast then you can take these out now, if you like, and call them done.

It’s likely that the ones round the edges will cook a little faster than the ones in the middle, so you might want to open the oven and give them a little swizz around. Be warned, they’re pretty smoky, so make sure your kitchen is ready for this.

Once they’ve turned a nice colour, dark but not black, take them out. Now at this point you’ve got two things to think about – for one, you want to cool these little guys down, so that they stop roasting. Also, they’ve got a sort of flaky coating, which we want rid of. To address both issues, blowing on them is the solution. After a couple of good puffs you’ll realise that this flaky coating is going everywhere, so you’ll come up with the brilliant idea of taking them outside and doing it there.

Beans colon roasted

Now you want to let these guys rest in a loosely closed container for a few hours, cos they’re puffing out CO2 and its good to let them get it out of their system. Once that’s done, seal them up, and they’re officially ready for the morning.

Catch you around, shark fans!

Oh heck yes this is what I’m talking about

Ewan The Shark
  • Comments: 2
  • Is that 200 fahrenheit or celsius? - mig
  • I see Ewan has got over his shame at being photographed in compromising positions, back in... - Karen
February 22, 2017

A Story About Bottles

The pile of empty glass bottles in the garage was starting to overflow its box, so I decided it was time to drop it off at the recycling point on my way to work. I placed the box in the otherwise-empty boot of the car, and was on my way.

While taking a right turn on a mini roundabout, I heard an almighty cacophony from behind me, the sound of two hundred glass bottles hurling themselves around and shattering into a million dangerous shards. I saw pedestrians turning their heads at the racket, cars ploughing into each other, distracted cyclists riding full-tilt into bollards and going flying over their handlebars, a murder of crows taking flight.

As I continued to drive, I imagined the scene that would confront me when I arrived. A jagged layer of sparkling glass pieces, nothing even remotely recognisable as once a bottle, with an empty black plastic box resting on top. Maybe it would be easiest just to sell the car, hope that the buyer never opens the boot until I’m long gone.

I pulled into the recycling area, a troubling lack of sound coming from the terror that lurked in the back. With a wince, braced for the worst, I opened the boot, to find…

…a box full of perfectly well-behaved empty glass bottles, and two stray bottles next to it.

Pete
February 10, 2017

Wheel Of Time

I can’t remember exactly who bought me The Eye Of The World by Robert Jordan, or when, but I definitely started reading it around May 2014. Since then, I have worked my way through the entire series, on and off, and today I finally finished reading the 14th and final book of the series.

It’s been quite a journey, with its highs and lows. While I was able to read the first three books back to back, and likewise the last few, the middle of the series was sometimes quite the slog, and I’d have to take a month or two off to read something else for a while.

The series is the very epitome of high fantasy, with plentiful magic and sword fighting, numerous religious and mythological references, the whole light-vs-dark thing going on, and an utterly flabbergasting cast of characters. Indeed, this is perhaps one of its greatest failings, as during the middle books in the series you see many characters introduced and subsequently removed with only a glancing impact upon the overall series. While it has a similar number of named characters to the Song Of Ice and Fire series (WOT has 2,7821, whereas ASOIAF has 2,1022 ), 147 are so-called “POV” characters3 whereas in ASOIAF the count is only 254. It can be very hard to keep track of all these names, with their distinctive personalities and motivations. While in ASOIAF there is a fairly clear distinction between the important characters and the wallpaper, in WOT there’s much more of a continuum.

As you may or may not know, the series was originally written by Robert Jordan, who passed away in 2007 while working on what was planned to be the 12th and final book. The mantle was then taken up by Brandon Sanderson, who decided to split it into three books, and I have to say that he did a truly excellent job. Admittedly there were some missteps, with one or two characters apparently changing personality overnight, but in my opinion the series really picks up when Sanderson takes over. Admittedly, since the series was nearing the end, this was probably going to happen anyway. One notable change is the welcome absence of Robert Jordan’s obsession with the size of his female characters’ breasts.

The series has a fairly low death count throughout, until you get to the final book and the Last Battle, when all hell breaks loose. Still, most of the principal characters somehow survive – I won’t tell you which ones. Unfortunately, I had one of the main character deaths spoilered for me by the official Wheel Of Time wiki, so I’d advise steering clear of that.

It’s a series that I’d struggle to recommend without reservations. It’s got a very tough middle third, and sometimes I felt like the story was shooting off in various directions that weren’t leading anywhere. Some of the less essential subplots could have been excised completely, and others tightened up a bit, and the overall story would have been healthier for it.

That said, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that I will return to re-read the series from top to bottom in a few years. With the benefit of hindsight, I think I’ll be able to get much more out of the story second time round, most notably that It’ll be much easier to keep track of the various characters.

  1. The Compendium of Wheel of Time Characters []
  2. How many named characters are there in A Song of Ice and Fire? []
  3. Statistical analysis []
  4. POV character []
Pete
  • Comments: 6
  • Hm. I honestly think that Jaimie is a good example of how your view of a character can be... - swisslet
  • I don't think that that's so much a case of clever use of perspective, rather that the "ev... - Pete
  • The genius of ASOIAF (in my opinion, even with the rather stodgy bits in the last couple o... - swisslet
  • It's frustrating, because some of it is brilliant, and the bones of a great story were cle... - swisslet
  • You're spot on - the first book tricks you into thinking it's going to be a LotR style roa... - Pete
January 31, 2017

Basingstoke Canal Walk (Part 2)

Back in December, a planned Saturday morning geocaching walk ended up turning into an eight mile canal walk. Last week, we decided to just go all in from the outset, and decided to walk from Farnborough to Woking along the Basingstoke Canal. We figured that if we left as soon as we’d packed the boy off for school, we’d be in Woking by lunchtime. We also had the clever plan of using the trains for transportation, so we wouldn’t be forced to do a circular walk or retrace our steps.

It also gave me an opportunity to take out my new camera lens, a 70-300mm that Karen got me for Christmas. So far I’d been unable to really give it a good outing, as there had never been enough light, but I figured that this day might give me the opportunity.

It started off a bit on the foggy side.

Basingstoke Canal, 24th January 2017 (taken with Nikon D40, f/5, 1/250s, ISO-400, 70mm)

However, the mist soon parted, and as the sun shone down upon us, the wildlife emerged. With my long lens I could get reasonably “close” to the animals on the opposite bank.

Basingstoke Canal, 24th January 2017 (taken with Nikon D40, f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO-400, 300mm)

The canal was frozen solid, and we had great fun lifting large slabs of ice from frozen puddles and throwing them back into the canal. As they shattered on the surface and the resultant shards skittered across to the opposite side, they made the mostly delightful glassy rattling sound.

Basingstoke Canal, 24th January 2017 (taken with Nikon D40, f/6.3, 1/250s, ISO-400, 70mm)

As we got closer to Woking, we gradually started to see more houses. I also realised that my boots are not going to be adequate for doing the Thames Path, as I could feel blisters forming on my heels from about four miles in. There’ll be some shopping soon, I forecast.

Basingstoke Canal, 24th January 2017 (taken with Nikon D40, f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO-400, 70mm)

Karen was worried that this swan might be frozen to the ice.

Basingstoke Canal, 24th January 2017 (taken with Nikon D40, f/10, 1/250s, ISO-400, 116mm)

Some of the houses backing onto the canal had really spectacular gardens. I should really have made a note of some of their GPS coordinates, so I can see if any of them are on the market. Putting photos of them up here seems like it would be indiscreet, so here’s some buttresses instead.

Basingstoke Canal, 24th January 2017 (taken with Nikon D40, f/4, 1/250s, ISO-400, 70mm)

We eventually had to turn away from the canal and head into the town centre. I was unable to adequately enjoy this stage of the walk, as my feet were really giving me hell, which is a great disappointment to me.

The total distance from Farnborough to Woking came to 9.9 miles, and we rewarded ourselves with a beer and a burrito at Araceli’s which I can heartily endorse, next time you’re in Woking.

Pete
January 25, 2017

The Giggling Squid

A weird one this, it is a kind of a Thai restaurant and a Tapas place. This is a VERY new restaurant and has only been in Wokingham for a short amount of time.

I rate a 10/10 until something HORRIBLE happened, we waited what seemed like 30 minutes for them to clear up! What sort of show is that?! I rate a 7/10 now! I ate a Pad Thai Noodles and there was a weird thing at the bottom I was like “Hey look at this!” I ate it and “AAUUGGH! What is this!? Mum! what is this!!!” It turned out it was bread and I thought “?!” because why would you have BREAD in a bowl of THAI NOODLES. As a extra I had some beef on skewers with a dipping sauce! That was GOOD. If I came back again I would have Pork Dumplings, Pork Dumplhins HeHe Pork Dumplhins! I like my food because it had a good taste and it showed that they put a lot of work into it.

I like that they had 7 jelly beans in a little pot at the end like the indian buffet restaurants have the mint chocolate.

 

Bernard
January 22, 2017

Subway

This is a very old fast food place in Wokingham, it is a very small shop but it is very good. Thanks for the comment Gordon. I don’t get to go to the shop much because Mum and Dad don’t like it much.In this review I will put up something special too!

I rate this a 8/10 because my food ( a Steak & Cheese Subway with Italian Herb & Cheese Bread) was great. Service 10/10 for speed, you make it yourself, 45 second heat up then this is the special part: you can customise. Yep, you can just say, ” Excuse me, please may I have some Salami & Olives too. Ooh, and some BBQ sauce”. That is what I said. BOOM! Got it! If I came back again I would have a Chicken & Chorizo melt, I dont have to explain it because it is pretty obvious what it is, isn’t it? I like my Sub because it was a very good combination of Steak; Cheese; Olives; Salami and BBQ.

The chain of Subways is very big after all.

 

Bernard
  • Comments: 3
  • I'm so much more sophisticated in my culinary tastes these days. - Pete
  • Pete would rather chew his arm off than go to Subway, yet in our first year of dating, he ... - Karen
  • Interesting combination. I don't like olives but I like that Subway let you choose whateve... - Gordon