Friday, February 19, 2010

You Will Eat What You Are Offered ... or something else?

How many menus does your favourite restaurant have? One? I would think at least one, but why more? The menu is the presentation of the food on offer - you look at the menu and the prices and decide to go in and eat or to walk on to another restaurant tonight.

At least, that's how I always though life was lived.

In France there's a chain of restaurants called "Quick". Rather like Burger King - they're all over the place. Very convenient and usually very clean when you want to stop in and have a quick (sorry!) bite en route to somewhere. Emergency food. You look at the menu, see what you want, check you're not allergic to it, buy it and eat.

It seems that the politicians in France have a different idea about how a restaurant should be run. In the small city of Roubaix, near Lille in the Nord region of France, the eight local Quick restaurants noticed that a lot of people in the area weren't using the restaurant because, it seemed, they had pork and bacon in their food. As you can imagine, people who have a religious objection to eating pork - like Jews and Muslims, for example - would not be buying a double-bacon pork-burger!

So the enterprising managers pulled the pork from the menu, replacing it with, for example, bacon made from turkey. They then got approval (how isn't clear) to declare that the restaurants served only halal food. Of course, this was too much for the local council, and the mayor took out a law suit against the restaurant, accusing it of discrimination and urging it to offer food to suite a wider range of tastes.

Of course, this would be difficult, because mixing halal and haraam seems to be almost impossible. In addition, it seems ludicrous, as the Quick chain, by its very nature, appeals only to a certain portion of the population - one could hardly imagine M. Sarkozy and wife popping down to the local Quick (there are two on the Avenue des Champs Elysées) - but for the group that does frequent such restaurants (15-25 years old, 80% male) one can see that if a town's proportion of people who won't eat, for example, broccoli, is increasing then one tends to drop the broccoli. In this case it's pork.

Now, on the other hand, one should look at the background across the country. The french people (not the recent immigrants) see themselves as historically descended from the Franks who, under Charles Martel, threw back the Moors at the Battle of Poitiers (Tours) in 732. As a result, they are somewhat sensitive to the increase of muslim influences in their country. A lot of French people appear also to think that they are going to be overrun by a wave of muslims as the current generation start bearing children. Demographically, while France is suddenly one of the most fertile countries in Europe, this doesn't appear to be the case (ref).

So here we have a case where politicians of both sides are up in arms over a commercial move, and are trying to use ill-founded public belief to gather popular support for their cause. Can anyone think of anything similar anywhere in the last two hundred years? No prizes for guesses :)

No [Tech] this time - I'm too busy studying!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The AG Strangles Babies !

Amidst a florid mixture of surface-floating fish, unicorns, dogs and what looks like a shrimp ...

you find the AG hard at work squishing the living daylights out of Tabasco the Bull. You can see just how red he's turned with the strain of it all!

There's a weird thing about this blog site. I'm posting at 21.25 in EST, five hours behind the UK, which is running on GMT. Therefore you'd expect to find this blog posted at 02.25. Take a look.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another Morning After ... All Day!

In case you hadn't noticed what the weather man has been telling you about the state of US weather, the north-east had a major snow-storm last weekend. Well, we dug out on Sunday and got a second hit from a second major snow-storm yesterday and all today. Here are some pictures.

[Snowmageddon (Snow 2)]
This was last Friday and Saturday. The federal government was closed on Monday as a result. These are pictures from afterwards.

I went out in the snow, cleaned off the car, drove around a bit, and went back inside. Two hours later the snow stopped and I had this much more to clear - and that was the end of the snow!

So I went back up the way between the houses. It all looks very peaceful (left) until you realise just how much show has fallen!

And, of course, it warms and cools, so the next day the buildings have all grown icicles. Then, on Monday morning, there's a terrible banging and you think that the house is being demolished. You go to the door and a man with a very long pole yells at you to close the door and stay in, just as a heap of ice hits the path in front of your toes! He's going around knocking the icicles off the houses.

Of course, the icicles above the balcony were too high, so they survived.

A few more hours.

[Snowpocalypse (Snow 3)]
So all that left us feeling rather blasé about snow. We'd already had over a foot in December, just before Christmas, so another 18" was respectable, but certainly within our ability to withstand! Monday night we started seeing dire warnings about the next few days and snow. Tuesday dawned sunny and it really wasn't until about 4 pm that the snow-laden grey clouds started rolling in and hazing the sun.

So we went and met friends in Haddonfield for Stitch 'n' Bitch and the snow wasn't anywhere to be seen. I went for food and returned and was in the middle of saying
"it hasn't started yet" when one of the others broke in to say "It has, you know!" and pointed out of the window.

And she was right! In just a few seconds it has gone from a cold damp night to a night full of falling white bits.

It snowed continuously all day today. It started, like last night, with great big heavy wet flakes, weighing down the trees.

Obviously, this appears to be my Brief Blue Period! The predominant colour reflects my feelings about the weather at 7 pm this evening - very fed up with snow!

So much for the Blue Period! Three hours later the snow was still falling, although for only another hour. The total is reckoned at about 16". On top of the 18" or so just three days ago.


Sunday, February 07, 2010

Climate is what you expect - Weather is what you get

Despite the combined wisdom of all the professors of climate science, who tell us that the annual mean temperatures are going up, Robert Heinlein came out right once again - he usually does! In fact, I think that the prediction that the weather will get more extreme as the mean temperature rises is a better prediction than the apparent expectation by most people that everything will just get warmer. As evidence I offer the last summer - nice, but not wonderful, and definitely rather muggy for quite a long time - and this winter - well, the last 6 weeks of it, anyway - with two snowstorms that have dumped around 40" of snow on me so far and look to be bringing more soon.

The snow is pretty - don't get me wrong - as some photos here should show.

The first is a footpath, not a road, and is only about two feet wide - about as deep as the snow on either side!

Where people leave tables, etc., out for the snow can result in some fun images


I'm sure the AG will consider this in terrible taste, but both I and The Spawn considered her Spaghetti Carbonara (recipe from Ruth Reichl, the former editor of Gourmet magazine) really excellent. She always claims that she's incapable of cooking, and then produces something so good! Such a modest woman [grin]!

I'm nose deep in revising SSIS this week - re-learning all the bits I've forgotten over the last year or so - before starting to drown in a SQL Server DBA course. About half-way through these courses I always get to a point of thinking "what am I doing this for - I'd much rather be tucked up in a nice warm bed!" but it's always fun in the end.

We stayed in almost all of yesterday - except for going out to sweep the car, which was a waste, as it was totally covered again in two hours - and so I had the unexpected luxury of getting to watch England beat Wales at Twickenham. BBC America TV was so nice to bring this to me, and should be doing a Saturday match every week for the next few weeks! I think it'll be France vs Ireland next week, which should also be great - no prizes for who I'll be supporting (sorry, mes amis!). Still, 30-17 was a nice score to see, despite the fact that Wales almost grabbed it ten minutes from time. I was amused to see the royal presence - Wills and Harry so obviously on opposite sides - well, you could hardly expect the Prince of Wales to cheer an English try, now could you? [grin]

More photos of snow next time, I'd predict!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Morning After

It's ten in the morning, I'm clean and happy, and have just a light ache in the upper-right jaw. Yes! It's the day after the removal of a wisdom tooth. Many thanks to the dentist - the actual operation of taking it out took less time than filling in the pieces of paper telling them that I wasn't allergic to anything! Last night I probably violated all medical rules:
  • I went to the dentist in a fair amount of pain, but pretty well drugged to the eyeballs with OTC pain-killers.
  • After the op I came home and ate (Swedish meatballs and spuds), but was very careful to keep the gauze over the wound.
  • As the numbness wore off I replaced it with a generous amount of Speyside, much to the horror of my poor wife.
It all seemed to work, though. No hangover and little pain this morning.

For those challenged at cooking, go to your local IKEA and buy a bag of frozen meatballs! I think you can get pots of sauce too, but if not, there's a good recipe on that will get the job done very well - my mushroom-averse son ate it and liked it! Finally, there's always the people who want jam with it! Blueberry will do fine, or redcurrant, or cranberry - just pick a jam or jelly with sourness: strawberry jam is just too sweet!

Why it's Good to live Today!

Every day we hear lamentations for "the good old days". Well, I'm not going to bother with answering any of those nostalgic dreams: I'm just going to give you a list of a few reasons why I think living today is better than it has been in the past. Contradictory views are encouraged!
  • Having just come from having a wisdom tooth extracted - it took about 15 minutes in all and, while not totally pleasurable, was totally painless. Thank you Hr. Alfred Einhorn of Hamburg, Germany, for inventing Novocaine. Note that the reference on the inventors site has some dating problems ! Wikipedia is better. Before Novocaine I suppose one used alcohol, but before the advent of distillation getting sufficiently drunk might have been a very slow process.
  • Heartfelt blessings to a surprisingly large variety of people for persisting in the idea of using water to flush toilets. The alternative (going out of the nice warm cave in the middle of a cold winters night) isn't very appealing!
  • Talking about nice warm caves, we really all just live in (heavily personalised) caves, even now, so the next reason is definitely heating - central or otherwise. Anything to stop shivering!
  • Electricity, to move power easily to where I want it.
  • Computers, so I can work at home, learn at home, and read this (and the newspapers) wherever I wish.
  • Whiskey in convenient bottles to help after tooth extractions. Life is suddenly fun !