Sunday, June 24

optical illusion

As we all know by now, everything balances up. As an illustration, take any two images chosen at random, and they'll be opposite to each other in some way.

For example, take these 2 optical illusions. With the first one, you get the best effect if you keep your eyes moving. If you stare at a fixed point, the undulations stop.

Here's the other illusion. But with this one, you may need to choose a point and stare fixedly at it for a while before you notice anything.

I may be off air for a week, as we pack our brollies and head for the place formerly known as sunny Queensland. I replied to comments at the previous post.

Friday, June 22


Just got home on a freezing Friday night. The partner has gone to visit her old dear for a few days, so it's a win-win-win situation all round. I've turned on the heaters, sunk the pre-dinner beer, and pulled up the drawbridge. Can life get much better? As the Australians say: I wouldn't be dead for quids.

How marvellous to have a home! A simple thing, but amazing. And tonight I'll let the hound sleep just outside the bedroom, a special treat for both of us. I'll hear her wee shuffles, grunts and yelps when she dreams. And being a dog she'll appreciate my flatulence. Another win-win situation.

Wednesday, June 20

turnip head with podcast HNT

While growing up I didn't often see the humorous side of my father, mainly because of the hostilities between us. But towards the end of his life we called a ceasefire, and I visited him at his wee island cottage.

In the evenings he went out to the pub, while I would stay at his place until he returned after closing time. On Halloween, he disappeared to the pub as usual. Late that night, I was sitting watching TV when the electricity suddenly went off, everything went dark, the door opened slowly, and a turnip lantern appeared in the doorway, going "woooo" and swaying unsteadily in mid-air.

In some countries I believe it would have been a hollowed-out pumpkin, but in Scotland the tradition is to use a turnip instead. Cheaper too. You put a candle inside, and the light shines out through the eyes and mouth.

I enjoyed my father's little joke, and next day I insisted we take a photo. You can used to be able to click on the pic to zoom out and see the family resemblance.

Anyway, recently I attended a course in on-line teaching methods, and one thing we had to do was set up a podcast. I used an ancient tape recording of my old man, telling a wee 2-minute story from his life.

I admire the way he was able to get organised enough to speak it onto a tape, but for various reasons including emotional baggage, I have never actually listened to it all the way through. I can't be objective about it, but maybe you can.

Click here to get your own player.


If you missed previous HNTs, you can access all the old half baked thursday posts here.

Tuesday, June 19

cool timing

I should never have come here to Sydney to visit Spud's mum. The radio has just announced there's a cyclone building off the coast, and Sydney folk are advised to batten down the hatches.

The Meteorological Service web site says:


Widespread Damaging and Locally Destructive Winds, Flash Flooding and Damaging Surf.

Emergency services advise you to keep clear of fallen power lines, stay indoors away from windows and keep children indoors.

Satellite radar-imaging shows

the dense carpet of cloud over Sydney.

I'll be spending this afternoon clearing her garden of anything that could move, before the gales hit tonight. Looking on the bright side, at least we won't need seasick pills, like poor Cap'n Kev, moored in Sydney Harbour at the moment.

In another recent piece of bad timing, I allowed myself to be persuaded, against my better judgement, to book a sun-filled vacation on Hamilton Island near the Great Barrier Reef. Now, as our departure date approaches, it turns out that Hamilton Island is currently freezing and virtually underwater with rain, due to El Nino or the lack of El Nino or something. And the storm hitting Sydney is expected to move to Hamilton Island just in time for our flight there.

Satellite image over Hamilton Island
after last week's storm.

It will bring back memories of all the sub-aqua holidays I have endured in Scotland.

I once spent New Year on Malta. They had snow for the first time in half a century. I think it's the coldest I have ever felt.

Another Christmas/New Year, I spent two weeks in Lanzarote, most of the time listening to amazing African radio in the hotel room, while huddled around an electric toaster, the only source of warmth. Still, pushing the lever down every couple of minutes gave me something to do.

And the only time I ever agreed to go to Majorca, we were washed out.

In normally-warm places, you find that the houses are designed to keep you cool, so in cold weather you have to sit around in a draught, wrapped in blankets, with nothing to do but meditate. Who would want to do that? Dearie dearie me!

Wednesday, June 13

a pound a day HNT

My mother was an early feminist. She hated housework and parenting, and when I was about 12, she found herself a job, which involved working shifts. From then on, she was rarely home, so she made each family member responsible for feeding themselves all day.

Every morning, she gave me, my brother and my father a pound each to spend on food. That was enough money to pay for lunch at school, and to buy ingredients for a home-cooked meal at night.

In the evening, while my mother worked late in the city, our kitchen would get pretty crowded as the three males in the family cooked three different meals.

Some nights, my father would forget to go to the shops to buy his steak and potatoes or whatever, and I would sell him half of what I had cooked, at a profit of course. The money I made went towards my next packet of cigarettes. Thanks to my mother, I learned cooking and capitalism.

Other nights, my father would stop at the pub on the way home, drink his entire pound away, then come home and confiscate half of my meal for himself. Without paying! The drunken basturn.

Occasionally, after school I would blow all my food money - like father, like son - on coke and cigarettes at the cafe near the school. On those nights, dinner at home consisted of several bowls of cornflakes and a cigarette. I never stooped as low as confiscating the dog's meaty chunks in gravy, but I thought about it.

A few years later, my mother was the only one with a job, and the rest of the family had progressed to a mostly liquid diet, playing Scrabble on the dole.

After a few beers, these Scrabble games would usually break up in acrimony, because my old man invented his own rules. For example, if he had used a word, nobody else was allowed to play the same word. I suppose he thought: the family that eats together, cheats together.


Tuesday, June 12

outwitting mice

I am currently reading a book called “Outwitting Mice - 101 truly ingenious stratagems”. This book is a swindle, the title’s the most useful bit. Most chapters are about the biology and habitat of various obscure rodents e.g. South American Coypus. Then at the back of the book there’s a list of 100 suggestions for getting rid of them:

1) Remove any Welcome doormats - they send the wrong message.

2) Play John Tesh albums at the highest volume setting …

and so on. I think perhaps it's supposed to be funny.

Personally, I use humane traps to catch the mice, then I release the wee timorous beasties in the woods. They find their way to the house of someone else who’ll poison or splat them, leaving my karma intact.

Saturday, June 9

frankie goes tae moscow

"So ah goes over tae Moscow, en aw they gay c*nts are just askin fer a doin.

With this boy, ah cannae decide whether tae pit the heid n the gadge, or gie um wan in the coupon. If the polis hudnae dragged es away ah couldae glasnost um."

A Russian ultra-nationalist about to punch a British gay rights
campaigner during a demonstration in Moscow last week.

Thursday, June 7

second life HNT

I recently signed up with Second Life.

According to wikipedia, "Second Life is an Internet-based virtual world which ... enables its users, called Residents, to interact with each other through motional avatars. ... Residents can explore, meet other Residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, create and trade items (virtual property) and services from one another."

Unlike other online virtual environments where there are game rules and goals, in SL you have to make things happen yourself. Here's a sample social interaction I had:

"I'm new here"
"So am I"
"Is there anyone else here?"

After I had spoken (typed) to a few people I realised my social skills are nil. But I discovered that you can take some or all of your clothes off, and even fly around waving your privates at the world. That's more like it!

It was too dangerous to take an HNT shot while I was actually flying, but this one was taken when I landed on one of the German islands:

Why am I wasting time in a virtual sort of Big Brother environment? Well, I'm planning to use it one day in my work (I'm a teacher). You see, when the flu pandemic gets going and the real world grinds to a halt, they'll close down corporations, industry, and schools and colleges. Everyone's going to be stuck at home for months to avoid fatal infection.

That's where my plan comes into play. I'll set up a virtual classroom, with virtual desks and lessons and exams, and run classes for my real-life students, while we're all at our home PCs. That way, I'll still get paid, and the students' education isn't interrupted.

Of course I'll have to put my Second Life trousers back on, but nobody will know if I'm still half-naked in reality.


PS - how hard can it be to identify my college photo in osbasso's contest?

Sunday, June 3

hot cuisine machine

I've always wondered what a slow-cooker would be like to use, and now I've got one for my birthday. But I think it's going to be one of those things you play with a few times before it goes in a cupboard.

It came with a 1-page set of instructions, and no recipe book! Have you any experience with these machines?

I thought slow-cookers were meant to save electricity, but this thing gives off masses of heat. Being Scottish, I'll use it to cook porridge overnight in the bedroom and heat the whole room. And then I could have breakfast in bed without getting up.

Anyway, I eventually found some slow-cooker recipes by googling, but they were real trash cuisine. E.g., "ingredients - one whole chicken, one can of condensed mushroom soup".

So I made up a recipe, using chunks of lamb, loads of fresh vegetables, herbs, and a bottle of home brewed stout. Cook slowly for about 5 hours. The meat melts in your mouth. Bliss! If all meat tasted this good, I would give up vegetarianism for good.

For more recipes, write to:
Hot Cuisine,
Île Plate,
Nouvelle-Calédonie du Sud.