Monday, 31 July 2006

Soul Food Sunday

For millions of years, the success of the homo sapiens sapiens depended on their skill as hunter gatherers....

It's depressing, the state of world affairs today. Why can't we all just get along like the ingredients of a well made curry do? The exotic flavours coming together, complementing each other, and creating a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts. We take our first bite and every little morsel makes passionate love with our tastebuds. It sends us into ecstacy that lasts far longer than the most mind blowing sex we have ever had. Of course, the only downside is that the post coital 'afterglow' is a pregnant belly.

But I don't care, I'm preggers already and that's not going to stop me from eating some soul food.

His Royal Orangeness Karl Willem demands that all food served in our Orange Doghouse is made of the best ingredients. More importantly, the ingredients should be ethically sourced, a fair price paid to the producers, and they must have the lowest 'food miles' possible.

Clap yo hands and sing like Frankie Laine - Hey, good looking/What you got cooking/How's about cooking something up for me/Hey Sweet Baby/Don't you think maybe/We could find us a brand new recipe/

While The Nashman's version of South East Asian curry simmered, we headed to our neighbours' crib to forage for some berries for dessert...

HRO Karl Willem and PA Gromit merrily foraging for wild berries. The graveyard is one of our best kept secrets for sourcing organic blackberries.

It was too early in the season, the berries are not yet ripe for picking. I tried some of the darker ones but they were still sour.

We went deep into the woods behind the graveyard but we really were too early for berry picking.

Hey, did I just fall into an open grave? HRO Karl Willem and PA Gromit bark with hysterical laughter at my predicament.

Buddha be praised, right in front of my window is a big big Mulberry tree with lots of sweet and sun ripened berries ready for picking.

The best part of foraging for food (or growing your own) is that it's very sustainable as long as you only take what you need, leaving some for others. Greed and hoarding - they are modern constructs. Man may have evolved this far that we can rant a lot about trivial stuff on our blogs, but there are some things from our nomadic caveman heritage that are worth keeping.

Time for us dawgs to dig in on that soul food....I'm free and I'm ready/So we can go steady/How's about saving all your time for me/No more looking/I know I've been cooking/How's about keeping steady company/

The dawgs have dinner of Nashman Beef curry, handmade steamed shrimp and veggetable dumplings, and steamed jasmine rice

The main event was Nashman Curry. Sure, it may look like shite but immodesty aside, this is orgasmic soul food. Simple, yet good fun.

Ingredients: Beef, turmeric, coriander, ginger, garlic, onion, pepper, loads of chilis, fresh lemongrass, coconut milk and oil, kaffir leaves, lime zest, salt, and most importantly some TLC.

Dumplings dipped in the Nashman's garlic ginger soya sauce.

I did not eat everything like a pig of course and saved the leftovers. Curry actually tastes better after two or three days when the cocounut and curry have time to age and evenly infuse the beef with flavour.

Sunday, 30 July 2006

Waterworld Fun

I stayed in the lab till midnight on Friday. Thankfully, I had a view of the outdoor screen.

If I had not bumped into Catherine the week before I would have forgotten that we had a conference at St. Anne's on Monday and Tuesday. I guess it escaped my mind because we were hosting it and that meant not flying to some exotic location. (Naman kumare, baket deto pa naten he-nost etong conperens. Di ba pwidi sa Barbados? Or Mauritius?)

I caught up with a lot of my contemporaries and the organisers (ie. Catherine) thought it was a brilliant idea to have scientific speed dating on the first day. Never again. I'm not a two-minute and you know me sort of guy. I need some time convincing people that there's more to me than my (lack of) looks and that takes at least two years.

Two of the speakers were MI5. It's a known fact that a lot of spooks get recruited during their time at Middle Earth (Oxford) or Fenland (Cantabrigia) and I'm still waiting for my phone call in the middle of the night. Who does not want to drive the new Aston Martin? (Fenland of course had more KGB recruits per cobblestone during the cold war.) Apparently, the MoD has also started looking for recruits in fitness centres across the country. I should renew my gym membership soon.

Shakespeare's Tempest on the lawns

Marquee madness. Conference food. My team won second place in the pub quiz, largely owing to my 80s trivia knowledge.

After a long work Friday, I woke up on Saturday and took the bus to Notting Hill. I needed to do some banking and pay my Flipinoy insurance. My mom thinks it's a good idea to have an overpriced insurance subscription which, like all Flip insurance, does not cover me while I am OUTSIDE my beloved Las Islas Filipinas. (Heck, I don't even think it covers me while I'm IN the Philippines. I need to be 85 or something to retire to a life of luxury. Wahoo.)

Notting Hill has lots of quaint booksellers but all the tourists seem to be looking for the Hugh Grant one. I got stopped a lot for directions. Duh? Don't ask me, I'm just a boy standing in front of a girl, asking you to please get out of my way.

It was a hot day but it was also a great day so I went to Hyde Park to look at the wildlife. The heatwave and drought has magically transformed what used to be well manicured green green grass into a beautiful golden brown savannah. For a moment, I expected antelopes, lions, and wildebeests. Instead I saw lily white people trying to be brown like me. (At least they're not doing the orange fake tan.)

Cue National Geographic Voice Over....look at those well camouflaged beasts.

Whenever I'm in the area, I can't help but go have a quick look inside the Science Museum. It's just a great place for someone young at heart like me. Plus, I'm an engineer. You cannot not stop to genuflect in front of Babbage's differential engine No. 2.

There's also the entertaining museum shop that sells lots of cool gadgets and toys and then I found these......

They are recycled juice packages from the Philippines made into bags. The smallest costs 9 quid! There is certainly money to be made from waste if you are creative enough. (These were made in the Cordilleras, specifically in Apayao)

I finally made my way into the V&A Museum but instead of heading straight to the galleries........

My my, it was so warm people were wading in the fountain of the Museum's John Madeski Garden.

Pure pure Bliss. How could I not join in on the fun?

It's official, long shorts are in for the summer.

Me and the mandatory shot of my feet....and a cup of Sangria. Ole!

The innocence of youth. When was the last time I was this carefree?

Water frolics. This little critter decided to direct a fountain of water at me. It was refreshing.

Body art.

I drank and drank while getting splashed from those little happy creatures running all over the place and when I went back inside it was nearly closing time.

There was an exhibit focusing on Korda's photograph of Che but I skipped that for another weekend. It will take at least two hours to appreciate how iconic and ironic this image has become.

Korda's Guerrillero Heroico is the most reproduced image in the history of photography. This version is made of the logos of the big corporations.

My real intention for going to the V&A was because the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art has just opened this week and the piece de resistance was this beauty.....

The huge Ardabil Carpet. Intricately designed using silk and wool in 10 colours and has 304 knots per square inch, this was made for the Shah of Iran in the 16th century. Those Persians definitely knew geometry and executed the piece with mathematical precision.

The carpet is lit for only 10 minutes every half hour and is also surrounded by the best non-reflecting glass I have ever come across.

At closing time, I headed to Harrod's and Harvey Nichols for some window shopping. Harrod's attracts a very entertaining parade of freaks, albeit rich freaks who arrive via Bentleys. I must have exuded a certain aura of pretentiousness that I was invited to view some posh flats for sale in Dubai. The Emirates has been building and developing all those artificial islands along their coast. The asking price for a penthouse was $50M. I told the agent I'd think about it and ran away with a flute of complimentary champagne.

I did find something on sale which I thought I needed. A pair of Hugo Boss pantaloons that I probably could afford but then I asked myself the all important question "Ang pagbili ko ba ng pantalon na ito ay makakatulong sa ika-uunlad ng aking inang bayan?" (If I buy this shite, will my beloved motherland be better off?) The answer was a resounding Pota pare, hindi. Walang kabalbalang luho lang ito. (No!) But I tried it on anyway (Kung hindi man sya mapupunta sa akin, at least ako naka-una. Nyahahah.) When I got out of the changing room, I got compliments from the salesgirl who said it now looked like an ordinary cheap pair of pants on me instead of the expensive-looking (but still cheap) pair of pants that it was meant to be were a real model to wear it. ('Aba, nagmukhang mumurahin sa iyo' ika ng tindera).

I returned the pants to the relief of the PR people at Hugo Boss and I remembered that I had asked my mom to send me two pairs of jeans from Baguio. (Bought from Countrymart Department Store no doubt.) Come to think of it, they should have arrived in Middle Earth by now. Please God don't tell me the postman stole my mail again or I will go postal.

I got back to Middle Earth and for some bizarre and inexplicable force, I was drawn to the library. It was dark and empty and I was not really feeling like resuming my Vampire research but as I entered, I saw that someone had taken out from the archives stacks, a bound volume of The Times from 1919.

I stayed on for two hours because I saw some freaky fascinating stuff...

Brasenose library at midnight. All to myself.

Thursday, 27 July 2006

I Is Ready For My Close Up Mr. Spielberg

Me on my favorite spot along the River Cherwell at sunset.

The Middle Earth summer is holding on well so far. It's hot and humid in the daytime and at night we get treated to fantastic kick-ass Noah-bring-your-boat-out storms. I stayed up till 1am just to watch the fireworks and dance to the thunder. It's even better because I'm one of the few souls living in the Manor this summer and it has 30 empty rooms. Spookylicious.

The inaugural BritDoc festival is going on at the Bricks and Shit College (Keble College, we call it such because of the two-tone brickwork. It's a nice college and they own one of the best of the pre-Raphaelite paintings, perhaps to atone for the brick work that is truly bricks and shite.) This documentary movie festival has the lofty goal of becoming some sort of Sundance Film Festival. Today, I went to see an outdoor screening of "Mad Hat Ballroom" about the ballroom dancing program in the innercity primary schools in New York. Nice kids, I hope they don't grow up to join gangs and deal drugs and all that other shit. (Shit, I have said shite in this paragraph 5 times. I can't help myself everytime I think of Keble college. To think that when Julia 'seduced' me to leave Cantabrigia for Middle Earth, it all happened in Keble. Oddly, I still love her even if she abandoned me here. Oh well, that's life. Moving along...)

I played with the prototype Nokia N93 mobile phone which has a 3.2 megapixel camera and an optical zoom lens. My my, how times have changed. My first digital camera was a mere 2 megapixel. Still, this new phone is no match to the 5megapixel mobile phone cameras I saw in Tokyo, but then again the Japs are tech-freaks (and I mean that in a good way.)

I was supposed to go up on the hot air balloon but the winds were too strong for flying. Oh well, maybe next time.

Ah, my evil nemesis, we meet again...Actually this squirrel is getting on my nerves, I was here first! Each time I come here for my late afternoon siesta, this pest is always around thinking he owns the place. I will definitely bring a cricket bat next time.

Kung mangangabayo, gumamit ng lobo.

The Nokia Nwhatever phone working prototype. It's nice because it has an SD card slot instead of the expensivo XD or Sony memory card format.

That's a picture of me taken with the Nokia Nwhatever phone transmitted via bluetooth to the printer.

Evening outdoor movies. A great way to end the day.

The following pictures are for my friends who are away from Middle Earth. They may be gloating but they are missing the Middle Earth Sunshine and the festive atmosphere. By the time they are back, it'll be good ol' British rainy season again. And it's my turn to head south.

For Lourdes, who is in Durban South Africa; Maria who is cycling across Burma and Vietnam; and for Ashley (God knows where that biatch is) I love you all but these humps are for you........Click the picture to enlarge and put your cheeks next to where the sun don't shine....

Tuesday, 25 July 2006

Sunset Duel With an Evil Grey Squirrel

This tree ain't big enough for the two of us.......

Our wavelengths must have been in phase today because despite the fact that it was another day in hell and the cinema airconditioning was off because of 'technical problems', my friend Helen and I went to see the new Pirates of the Carribean movie. The cinema was like a sauna and of all places where one can watch a movie without a shirt on because of the heat, I did not expect that place to be Middle Earth. The girls in the front row even hiked up their skirts way way above the levels imposed by the Catholic church. Yet, that did little to distract me from a very good popcorn movie.

Just over a year ago, Helen convinced me to take up fencing. During our early sparring sessions, she totally outclassed me despite me being left handed. I lacked the finesse and fluidity of motion required for such an elegant sport. I blamed it on the fact that I was used to the bolo (itak) because that was the sword of choice in the mean favelas of Baguio where I grew up. (I still believe that no one can defeat a bolo-weilding sunog-baga kanto tigas who has gone amuck. Excalibur would shatter to pieces in fear against a huramentado.)

Helen and I were totally entertained by the sword choreography that when the movie ended, I challenged her to a duel for old times' sake. But when we got outside it was still very hot and humid. "Nah, fencing is not really a summer sport."

It was a standoff between me and the evil grey squirrel. For such situations, I don't need a sword. Give me a golf club and let me whack the little pest. Save the Red Squirrel, kill every grey squirrel you see.

Sunday, 23 July 2006

The Week In Review

I know I know, why am I drinking hot tea in this heatwave when I should really be having iced tea. Sadly, that hasn't been discovered in this country yet.

I've been asked many times why I don't take summer vacations. It's because Middle Earth is beautiful in summer - long days, pretty language students, PIMMs, G&D's B52 ice cream (baileys and kahlua), cool breezes and long siestas by the rivers Cherwell and Isis, midnight cerveza parties on the lawn, listening to chill out music while lying on the grass and stargazing, and the cold cold refreshing showers. Why would I want to miss out on those?

Tuesday and Wednesday were hellish. My balls sweated so much that I had to buy a separate antiperspirant to roll on them hairy critters. Hmmm, which of these two similar bottles is for my underarm again? It was so hot that gritters were deployed because cars were sticking to the melting tarmac. It took some time for a tropical boy like me to get over the fact that this far north, the summer thermometer peaks at 7pm instead of noon. It was hotter than Ibiza and someone asked why a Flipinoy like me complains of heat exhaustion everytime the mercury goes past 30C. I'm Cordilleran I tell unto them Philistines and give a lecture on Luzon geography and microclimates.

So Dubya has added a new honorific title to his already impressive CV. - Groper in Chief after sneaking in on Frau Merkel in St. Petersburg. (German Chancellor Merkel's Physics Phd Thesis was "Untersuchung des Mechanismus von Zerfallsreaktionen mit einfachem Bindungsbruch und Berechnung ihrer Geschwindigkeitskonstanten auf der Grundlage quantenchemischer und statistischer Methoden". You gotta love those German compound words.)

I sold my Dell laptop this week. I needed the money to support my extravagant lifestyle. Afterall, those online poker losses, subscriptions to premiere porn sites, drugs, alcohol, and the plane fare for my Eastern European wife who I met online (she never showed up and I waited three days in Heathrow) put quite a strain on my very poor finances.

At 24 months, it's the longest I have held on to a computer of any kind. The Dilbert geek in me requires that I upgrade every nine months or else I'll be sooo last decade. That laptop (3.06Ghz P4, 1Gb RAM, 64Mb nVidia VRAM, DVD-RW) served me well and kept me awake while waiting for someone on the online chatrooms to do one of those "shows" that are meant to educate a teenager like me. (Pa-view naman! Cam to Cam tayo!).

I won't sell just to anyone though and thank Linus Torvalds that the guy who responded to my for sale ad was a proper geek. He already had 7 computers on a grid configuration carrying tasks along the lines of "if tell you, I'd have to kill you" he said. (I also I picked up earlier this week from a well placed source that Fujitsu is nearing completion of its worldbeating petaflops supercomputer. It's still confidential but I doubt they can trace this blog to me, much less realise that I even write a blog.)

And so I've traded this old brick of a dinosaur...

for the sweet smell of these Lillibets...... £250 of them. A fair price I computed from Moore's first law given that I paid £800 originally and the laptop is 24 months old.

There must be easier ways of making money. I already save a lot by not cohabiting with a girlfriend (It must be cheaper to live with a girlfriend I naively said before I did some rigorous economics computations but then I realised that women are simply not satisfied with you just going down on them once in a while - they also need Jimmy Choos and Hermes bracelets.)

Then I remembered that B-list celebrities make gazillions of pesos modelling underwear on those gigantic billboards that are designed to topple over during typhoon signal not-even-one- yet along the Philippine highways.

So I hired one of the cheapest photographers I know, me, to create a portfolio of me. I can hear that ka-ching ka-ching of the cash register ringing in my ears with the endorsement money I am destined to make......

Maybe my three loyal blog readers (why do you even read this blog anyway? Look away from your desktop and take a look outside the window - there are better things in life other than my diary.) will start an online petition and someone from Dolce and Gabbana will be knocking on my door asking me to be the crotch of their fall campaign. (Ok, my network administrator has told me that I DON"T have three loyal blog readers - it's the same person using three different computers.)

Yet, I still have a rational brain and quickly digest that no fashion house in it's right mind will hire someone like me who has a small brown turd of a crotch that defines the International Standard Unit for Hobbit six inches. (Yet, my little Pedro maybe chink-sized but it knows kung-fu.)

I wish there were some magic words that would make me......

shit diarrhea-loads of money......(note: £20=PHP 1,960)

I'm not a greedy bloke. I don't need money to make me happy. I just need enough to survive - money for decent food, bills, travel and expeditions, and the occasional wardrobe update from Ermenegildo Zegna.

What good timing that here I was starving, trying to make ends meet, and my mother calls to ask if I'm ok. I also talked to my dad on the phone (actually my mom passed the phone to him even when I told her not to) who asked "Do you have money?" "No, are you going to give me any?" I replied. "No." he shot back and snickered. Boy, my folks are certainly having a laugh at me.

I need to buy new flipflops because the straps of the current ones are nearing retirement. I only have one pair and I use them everyday. Of course, one should not be wearing flipflops (or anything open-toed) inside a research laboratory but health and safety regulations don't apply to Flipinoys like me. They never have. And even if, knock on wood, I should so much as drop a test tube of boiling acid on my toes or vaporise them with a misaligned laser, I swear I won't sue anyone.

I got reprimanded by the Health and Safety officer for chilling my can of Coke in the same freezer that holds SIV vials (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus, our furry cousin's version of HIV). Hey I've got a third world immune system, it can handle anything. Speaking of highly evolved immune systems, the original Jack Sparrow himself - Keith Richards.......

Now, this is a man who is truly indestructible and still going at it. He's ten billion years old, has abused drugs and alcohol, is oversexed, and has had brain surgery after falling from a coconut tree. When I grow old, I wanna be just like him. They should kill off the Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley characters in Pirates.. and make it a Depp-Richards franchise. That'll be wicked.

I've moved to the hot and dark basement for the summer.....

Looking out of my window, it occurred to me that I'm lower than the dead people lying in the graveyard next to my place. This fellow's mortal remains, may he be in heaven by now, who died of the plague and sinking, is a good 6 feet higher than me, even with me standing in my room.....

I don't even get aerial reception for my crap television that I need to plug a cable to the wall socket. I don't watch a lot of TV but I need a weekly dose of those awesome BBC documentaries. This week was Big Cat week and who can resist those kittens from the Masai Mara? This means putting the bloody TV on top of my desk. Yet, this juxtoposition allows me to use my toes as a remote control.....

My right big toe can change the channel while the left big toe is for adjusting the volume.