Friday, December 31, 2004

What else is there

to write about but the biggest earthquake the world has seen in 40 years registering over 8 points on the Richter scale and creating the tsunami waves that spread over Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand , India and Sri Lanka. The hardest hit parts were parts of Indonesia and Sri Lanka. The dead now number over 120,000 and many more are expected to die from communicable diseases.

The world has responded with relief aid, the US donating $35 million and after Wednesday's paltry offering of 411,000 pounds by Britain they've now upped it to 15 million pounds by Thursday, which is about $28 million. It looks like the money for relief is there but it won't be immediate as there is a huge logistical problem. The pictures in the papers of children left orphans and husbands or wives not knowing anything about their partners or children are really very sad. Most eventually found the bodies of loved ones in morgues. A lot of tourists visiting these regions were affected and stories abound, especially in Sri Lanka, of how tourists were helped by locals to get clean away while they were left to deal with the devastation left behind. The locals kept saying, "Please come back to Sri Lanka after this is over".
During the Tamil guerrilla war, spread over fifteen years tourists avoided the Emerald Island and this had a bad effect on the local economy, bad enough to still be borne in people's minds.

Every little helps so personal donations will still go a long way.

Update : Aid from the UK has exceeded 50 million pounds and China has somewhat surprised us with a pledge of 33 million pounds. Amazing!

Update to Update : The US has pledged $350M. They have special trees that money grows on. ;) Joking aside, thank you to the big donaters from the States. When the Spirit moves htem boy it does move. What is the population of the USA ?

Update : Public donation from Britain is around 60M pounds exceeding the government's pledge. The death tolls are nearly 100,000 in Indonesia alone. Indonesia is predominantly Muslim. Hopefully the relief aid would go some way to show grievances are not with the Muslim people. Dealing with scum like Sadaam Hussein inevitably tips the balance in producing like scum in your camp.
Death tolls in Sri Lanka, the next highest, and India are approx. 30,000 and 10,000

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Memorable Quotes

Somewhere to stash my sigs :

Strong typing is for people with weak memories - Tom Van Vleck

"You learn something every day, unless you're careful." - Tom Van Vleck

"Apples just work. Out of the box, and out of the way, they enable you to work and play with the things that matter" Richard Leyton

Monday, December 27, 2004


Granny's heart and Daddy's girl - My nephew and niece.
Still to be re-worked but these two drawings are going to be a New Year and birthday gift to the Gran. The second drawing is bound to be called That child.

Evening Stroll in Washington Park

Green eyed two faced

Yann Arthus-Bertrand

The simply stunning photowork on the "Earth from above" project. Yann Arthus-Bertrand is the artist.

Dromadaires 2

Tapis de Marrakech

The colours on the Tapis de Marrakech depicted here are not as brilliant as mine.

OK. So I'm so loutishly exhibiting my favourite Christmas presents received. The CD by 'Il Divo' is another favourite.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Wishing you all a Very Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Knees Up Mother Brown

Tentatively pushed some earrings through ear lobes. 'They' didn't tell you all those years ago that wearing earrings can be such a trial for some people. The reason I have trouble is because it had to be done twice and left a little tunnel going nowhere. Sometimes the post of the earring goes down the wrong hole and inflames the area (what would you expect with all the probing, rolling around and poking). I can just visualise me at a hundred years old, with one earlobe down to my waist. It must be a genetic coding that have females punching holes in their ears. Did Palaeolithic woman find she got an easier time of it with a glittering object stuck to her ear, touching some cord in Palaeolithic man ? Or even through the nose ?

It was this post that just begged the question. Why ?

...tottering around on twin towers with bleeding ear....Palaeolithic woman

Update : Google Ads came up with this solution.

Projects and New Year Resolutions

New Year Resolutions -

To pull finger out and get on with it.
To release projects under a Creative Commons GNU GPL license.

By the New Year, check link under View my complete profile you should be able to find some projects that a Social Entrepreneur might have and read the terms of the license. Basically, it grants you the following rights and responsibilities:

1. The freedom to run any program released under the Creative Commons GNU GPL license for any purpose.
2. The freedom to study how the program works and adapt it to your needs.
3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
4. The freedom to improve the program and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits.

You can do all of these things provided that you distribute any copies or derivatives with the source and a copy of the GPL license linked to later. And, as so well put in the one liner, " you don't have to worry about someone stealing your ideas. If it's truly original you'll have to ram it down their throats."

Rocking Reindeer , Santa's nearly here
A beautiful sight, We're happy tonight
Rocking in a winter wonderland

After watching aspirational shows like Strictly Come Dancing and the X-Factor, the urge to learn to dance and sing is overwhelming. Perhaps in time for Simon Cowell's next show....
Simon Cowell - he always has to go for one better. Why he ever supported Steve is beyond me. G4 and Denise Lewis were my favourites to win the shows. G4 and Denise Lewis singing and dancing in Cowell's new show would raise the roof sky high.

Thursday, December 23, 2004


G4, the band that should have won the X-Factor competition and the 1 million recording contract. Instead the title of winner of the competition and prize went to soulful Steve Brookstein. I bet all the bored housewives voted and ordered their dozen or so kids to vote for Steve or else....

G4 did not go empty handed. They won the Brylcreem Best Male Celebrity Hairstyle Award. Under the terms of the competition, they cannot sign a deal until winner Steve Brookstein has released his single and album. But I'm sure they'll be snapped up soon with an even better deal.This article is in total agreement with what I suspected all along. Now did the band call themselves G4 after the G4 Garage Band ? It's all too plausible. Their rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody is a favourite. This song got them through the audition and twice more on their way to the final. It also got them unlikely fan Liam Gallagher. Some people reckon they should have stuck with Queen and done Queen's little known track The Miracle as their voices . As seen when G4 sang Queen's Somebody to Love in the sixth live showdown. We could have had stunning performances of other Queen anthem-type songs such as We Are The Champions or Barcelona. Freddie Mercury even performed Barcelona with the opera singer, Montserrat Caballé. Or alternatively, they could have done a Beatles song to bowl the maidens over. Sigh! Instead we have I-think-I'm-so-sexy Steve.Steve was likened to Freddie West the serial killer, by Louis Walsh, X-factor judge and manager of West Life. Sharon Osbourne, the other X-Factor judge, effed and swore at his last performance which helped swing the sympathy vote in his favour.

Actually , this post is due to the sudden traffic I'm observing, of people searching for Il Divo and ending up on my blog on the post I wrote about them way back in August.
But I do admire G4, the classical and rock operatic buskers, who once earned the princely sum of 640 pounds after four hours of busking. In some respects they are much better than Il Divo, the classically trained operatic singers, each earning over $350,000 per annum .

Soulful I-think-I'm-so-sexy Steve Brookstein

Diamond In A Star

and other odd ball stories(the best of 2004 in my opinion).

In February scientists discovered a diamond the size of a small planet , a ten billion trillion trillion carat gem, 2500 miles wide and weighs five million trillion pounds, 3,300 light years away buried within the core of a white dwarf star in the constellation Cepheus.

Pigeons released at a traffic junction follow major roads, turned right then left at junctions showing they didn't bother with their own navigational systems around major roads.

In March the tiniest time span ever recorded was measured by scientists. Using laser light pulses they distinguished events to within 100 attoseconds - a ten million billionth of a second. It's similar to the difference between one second and 300 million years.
Makes one think in what kind of world will that kind of information be useful ?

These statistics make quite an impression.

75% of the world's population have never made a phone call.
One in ten young people have never heard of the Ten Commandments ( I presume that's in Britain).
About half of all humans that have ever lived have died from malaria.
In 1990 the average age of video gamers was 18, it's now 29.
12% of Coca-Cola consumed in the USA is drunk at breakfast.
The Royal Mail is now receiving 400 complaints an hour - as much as the German postal Services gets in a year.

Monday, December 20, 2004

The competion on eBay

This is a fine example of the competiton available on eBay selling at $4.99.

Actually e-bay is running a treasure hunt over the Christmas Season and it's gripping the nation's bargain hunters.
Here's another watercolour I did from the series. Quelle force!
The Detective

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Watercolour Calendar

The 2005 Calendar Watercolor Lesson-A-Day with Dennis Pendleton.

Dennis R. Pendleton ISBN 1-57939-175-3
Accord Publishing Ltd

I got mine from the bookshop Books etc. Art suppliers may stock them. Highly recommended.
By popular request, here's more detailed information:-
Ordering information
more in the series

You find you are at your most relaxed when absorbed picturing something in your mind and moving the brush over the paper to accomplish the same effect, a small detail at a time.
These are the artist's (Dennis R. Pendleton) impressions. Note the naivety in my impressions. I really must try some of his tips. ( Red + Yellow + Blue = Grey) is one combination I haven't tried at all. For Grey I use a watery black wash and add Blue to inject a bit of life but the blue tends to end up being applied too thickly, so the colour looks like a dirty blue..


I've included a statcounter in this page. It's getting quite a bit of traffic but only registering a time of 0 seconds. Apart from nautile in France who lingered for a whole 3 minutes. Do I infer from this that a radical redesign is required.

This image appears to be updated in real time. SO what you are seeing is the very latest situation.

I'm seriously thinking of having a front page that may direct some traffic to my other blogs once they get to be more fullsome. Funnily they'll all hinge on some product that Google and Ebay are offering like Google Scholar and ebay treasure hunts.
No one appears to be clicking on the Google ads (so I expect Google will ask to remove them sometime), whereas I'm beginning to pay more attention to the Ads now.

Friday, December 17, 2004

The rare bluethroat robin

This bird has decided to spend Christmas in Scotland at the Loch of Strathbeg RSPB reserve instead of sunning himself in the Mediterranean. This Scandinavian bird is a close relative of our own robin redbreast.The birds are occasionally spotted in the British coast in spring but have been spotted here for the first time in December.

I cut down some branches from under a fir tree to make room for a planting bed. A little red-breasted robin hopped up from underneath and flew up to a higher branch on another tree. He spent the next 15 minutes scolding me. And rightly so. I had just exposed his home to marauding cats.

I left some food near by and a bowl of water.When he came down to drink he engaged in a song of delight. On seeing me imitate him he continued dancing for about 5 minutes. I need to get him a bird house in case he is still around.

Robin's cousin pays a Christmas visit

Monday, December 13, 2004

More watercolours

Ancient cave painting

Evening in Central Park

Cave Spirit

Stalker at the theatre

Boarding the Trolley and Winter

These tiny drawings (6"x5") came as a 2005 calendar with a watercolour palette of just five colours : blue, red, yellow, green, black. Part of the fun is mixing the colours, and the other part is being able to complete it in five minutes. Some of them look much better on paper than the ones translated here. I'm already painting well into February. I'd recommend it to anyone as a great way to relax and take the mind off things. It would make a great Christmas present. There are also tips by a well known artist but I've paid scant regard to them so far just let my eyes draw their own conclusion. His examples are fantastic. I can't believe this costs only 10 pounds. My drawing skills are rusty to say the least so I'm getting some good quality watercolour paper cut to this size and will start drawing some of my favourites from this collection and from this list I posted at the JavaRanch.
City Rythm

I've also put my name down to exhibit for free some paintings in a bookshop Books etc. in June 2005. This exercise will give me some idea whether to leave my name on the list or not. They'll look at samples and decide whether they want to back the venture or not. I like doing trees and buildings. The other day a TV news reporter stood reporting outside Parliament or the Westminster Offices, and the pale yellow stone backdrop looked just like a painting, the brickwork and shadows defined in thin pencil line shaded areas. Possibly the uniformity of the building and the sun shining dead on to the front of the building lent itself to that. I think I'd attempt that and perhaps some sundials and clocks on London churches and buildings. I quite like the new Eastern looking cucumber building. This is where the camera on the mobile comes handy. It's also useful for capturing the images in different lights to test what washes suit which moods. The difference between 100 watt, 60 watt and 40 watt light bulbs is quite distinct, as is daylight in different weathers. Claude Monet often returned to the same location at the same time of day, to achieve the lighting effect he wanted.

Britain's Royal Horticultural Society

In 1804 seven men met in a London bookshop to form a society to "collect every information respecting the culture and treatment of all Plants and Trees."

In the group were John Wedgewood of ceramics fame, royal head gardener William Forsythe whose name lives on in the yellow forsythia (of which I may be able to post a watercolor I did ),
Purple Irises and Forsythia
and globe trotting naturalist Joseph Banks. 200 years later the Society claims 340,000 international members and is now a leading institution in the science and practise of growing things. It's subjects range from geranium naming to global warming and serves as the official regitration authority for more plant categories than any other body in the world.

In the 1820's and 1830's the RHS began its famous flower shows, ran institutions for training in horticulture and planted experimental gardens to test viabilityof plants in British soils- work that continues to this day. The most famous are the Flower Shows at Hampton Court Palace in Surrey, Hatton Park in Cheshire and the world famous Chelsea Flower show.A street called Horticultural Place marks the original location in Chiswick. Last year the Chelsea Flower Show had an entry from Soweto and New Zealand which just shows how far it has travelled.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Melt-in-your-mouth Mocha heaven

Marks and Spencer Chocolate Yule logs dunked in a real roast coffee.

Feijoada update. It was stupendous. Or rather the close approximation was stupendous. I substituted Cumberland sausages instead of spicy ones, red and black-eyed beans instead of black beans. As the group consisted of both adults and children finnicky about what they ate, everything was cooked and served separately. Consequently there were lots of dishes to wash up. One child was sick in the night and the next morning tried to blame it on the previous night's supper. Luckily his mother remembered that while throwing up he asked her not to let him eat too many sweet things. Witnesses recalled seeing the stick-insect clutching handfuls of biscuits at various intervals in the evening.

We didn't have any approximation for the cream of wheat beer. Instead we had mulled wine. There's something about mulled wine that heralds party time. I did cut out a recipe for banana beer from last week's newspaper. Maybe next time, the genuine feijoada article and some banana beer.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Home Security

‘We think it may be legal to hunt burglars with dogs.’

From the spectator http://www.spectator.co.uk/newdesign/cartoons.php

A new twist to the fox hunting debate ? Instead of pensioning off horses and dogs use them to hunt down burglars instead. John Giffard is chief constable of Staffordshire. His family has always had the hunt on the estate they own since 800 years ago. His father allows the hunt but does not participate, though he would be very sad to see a ban. The son will follow the law to the letter if hunting foxes becomes unlawful. And burglars ?
Legal wranglings, mayhem on the streets

I posted this at the JavaRanch in reply to a question about the rights of dogs fighting off burglars:
Keeping dogs to fight off burglars (what dogs were bred to do for centuries) is on par with keeping dogs to contain fox numbers or shooting deer. When the breed of dog gets a particularly bad name, especially by mauling kids playing in parks, owners start to be treated as criminals and they shun their pets. The pets suffer severe neglect. It happened with the Rottweiler.Once fox hunting is removed no one will really want the fox hounds. They probably won't make good pets on a one to one basis anyway. And the breed will die out.

As it is, German Shepherds make nice pets and people are wary of them. But to encourage dogs to attack people is insane. By all means put up a sign saying "Here lives a German Shepherd - Enter at your own risk." Or a picture of a big scary dog at the gate has worked reasonably well, so far.
A dog may not have helped the Chelsea millionaire stabbed on his doorstep by a group of men dressed as postmen. A dog over time would learn to tolerate people dressed as postmen.

Black Eyed Susan

My Black Eyed Susan is dying.
The one pictured is an American wildflower common in North East America. Mine has smaller petals on smaller flowers and is a lovely rusty orange colour with black eyes. That is, it looks more like a Black Eyed Susan. I left my plant outside because the garden centre manager told me it would survive in a bomb site but I'm sure the frost got to it. It's a good thing that he moved to deeper Surrey, closer to the Surrey Downs. Anyway, I have come to love this plant and I've moved it under shelter. Some leaves don't look frost-bitten. I should take it to the garden centre to see if it really is frost and not some kind of virus.
I have noticed that the plant attracts a lot of butterflies. See here for details of the animals that shelter, feed and do other things with this plant. Oh, it appears that this plant is an annual or biennial, and not a perennial, as I thought.
Next years cascade will be trailing Nasturtiums, Black-eyed Susan and the yellow Canary Creeper grown from seed and planted out in May to last all summer long. This winter I'd extend the trellis fences. In summer, the cover is a requisite in order to make full use of the garden. With the amount of light we get in the northern hemisphere in winter it is just as well that the trees are bare otherwise it would be an altogether gloomier place. Learning to live along with nature cannot be beaten in some respects. In Austria, for instance, put the cars and the motorways aside and you are back in time a 100 or even 200 years. Though, inside the chalets there is every luxury imaginable. Austrians really know how to have a jolly time in winter. I have never been to an Austrian city so far and never to Austria in the summer. Salzburg and Vienna have been on my list for some years now. The cities love of classical music may finally take me there.Arena di Verona is also famous for it's open air performances of classical music.

Wonder what the US will do with it's million of tonnes of plutonium waste from production of defense weapons or the primary , secondary and low level wastes still being produced at Sellafield. Exhorbitant amounts of money are spent on defense systems, followed by health sytems and within these are placed business and personal life systems. Some radical thought spent at the first may avoid the sheer waste at the lower end. Ordinary people also share some of that responsibility. You only have to watch programs like Esther Rantzen's. Some ordinary people do extra-ordinary things. I don't think there's ever been another presenter, who shed so many humble tears over the valiant acts of ordinary people and children as young as two years, driven by their sheer belief in doing "the right thing".

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Re: Feijoada

On Dec 8, 2004, at 9:57 AM, the mouse wrote:

> Thanks. The blog is at www.lecafemouse.blogger.com



works better. I concur with adding more garlic.
Also more hot pepper.. I normally eat mine with some
big splashes of Tabasco, but I think it would be
better all round with some drops of Dave's Instant
Insanity added earlier.

I have a wonderful decomposing South American cookbook
which has served us well for years. Carbonada criolla,
stew coooked in a pumpkin. Cariucho, steak with peanut sauce.
Lots of others.

regards, tom

Culinary Globe Trotting - Feijoada

I like to think I have eaten some dish from most corners of the globe but I've hardly touched on South American food. Mexican doesn't count as South American.
This dish is what's on offer this weekend at the Mouse Cafe. It has the ingredients that my nephew loves. He is a finnicky eater, hates colourful vegetables and gets more and more like my sister when she was a toddler.
My 4 year old niece eats anything. She will have a tendency to put on weight unless she's able to get interested in sport to the point where she just loves taking part and doesn't notice the effort required. At the moment she panics when the swimming pool heater is turned off and refuses to go swimming for weeks until a bribe is part of the bargain. It used to be sweets but now the fair price are Barbie dolls and I'm not sure which is worse.

From Tom Van Vleck's blog
Feijoada (Brazil's national dish)

1 lb black beans
1/4 lb salt pork, diced
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 lg cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
2 bay leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
2 ts chopped fresh parsley
1 lb corned beef uncooked
4 hot spicy sausages
4 mild sweet sausages
4 smoked pork chops
Optional additional meats: ham, canadian bacon, smoked pork hocks
ribs, feet, ears, tails, fresh or salt beef, tongue (traditional)

Prepare the beans: either soak overnight or boil 2 mins and soak an hour. About 2 in of water above the beans. Use plenty else it dries out later. This stuff freezes beautifully and is even better after reheating. (Keep a block of it in the freezer, and just chip off a hunk and eat it with minute rice.)

Brown the salt pork & onion & garlic. Add them to the beans. Add the corned beef (big chunks). Add bay leaves, cumin, parsley. Bring all to a boil, cut back to simmer, let it cook 2 hrs. Meanwhile brown sausages, etc in skillet.

Cook beans until skin splits when you blow on them. Overcooking ok. Stir so bottom doesn't burn. It looks very watery at first but will thicken up. Dip up a cup of beans & juice, mash with a fork & dump back in. Add sausages, pre-cooked meat, etc. Simmer for another hour or so. Or longer, adding water and stirring to keep the beans from burning.
Salad sauce

2 large ripe tomatoes, diced
4 scallions, chopped fine
1 large clove garlic, pressed or crushed
1 green pepper, diced
1 small red or white onion, chopped fine
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup salad oil
2 tsp vinegar

mix, salt, pepper.
Serve with rice & orange slices & beer. Farinha de mandinoca is traditional, use cream of wheat if you can't find any. Tabasco on the side or other peppers. To eat: take some rice, some feijoada, some farinha-de-mandinoca, some sauce.

Back to me blogging:
Brazilians would have less meat and more beans in the recipe. I would tend to keep to the meat amounts but double the quantities of onion, herbs and spices and garlic, if you like garlic.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Art - ancient, Renaissance, Baroque, modern

It's been said that modern art allows the viewer to make what they want out of it and is liberating in that sense. Historically, art was commisioned by the landed gentry and therefore very flattering portraits abound - still portraying double chins and rotund bellies. The subjects had to be recognisable but perhaps made to look taller and less wide with elaborate wigs covering balding heads.

The other day, while stopping for tea at a Japanese restaurant, my senses were so taken over by their teapots - particularly by the one served to me with tea in it. The spout, for one, was hidden underneath and pouring the tea used fluid movements with plenty of time left for ceremony. With normal English teapots I invariably splash the tea around while "being Mother" and end up pouring hot tea on the guests if they want seconds. I recall reading about another teapot created in the St Petersburgh porcelain factory after the era of the Czars. Until then, teapots may have been opulent affairs on par with the Faberge diamond encrusted eggs found in Czarish parlours. After these immodest excesses the revolution turned over factory production to a band of men known as the Suprematists of the calibre of Malevich, Kadinsky, Chekonin and Suetin, who took the opportunity to redirect the story of art.

Malevich's first step was to design the notoriously impractical Suprematist tea set. And here it is.

Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel has so far been seen as his masterpiece but recently discovered documents show that Michaelangelo was r4esponsible for the design, creation and supervision for the Sforza Chapel in the Basilica of Santa Moria Maggiore. It is now a serious contender for the title. Until now it had been thought that Michaelangelo delegated the work to his assistant, Tiberio. It's "a visionary work that prefigures the Baroque era". Rome would be well worth a visit, 2 weeks minimum. I've only been to Milan (for modern fashionistas only) and Naples (a smelly, corrupt sea-side port). Though the long and well established tradition of scholarship in which the Medici and the city of Florence are seen as the vanguard of modernism, Milan was the first city state to develop modern government (along with its bureaucracy) and diplomacy.
The BBC showed a documentary of how Raphael developed his art by surreptitiously understudying Michaelangelo at every opportunity. Raphael also promoted himself and his work at the Vatican court by stooping to deride the work of the other artists including Michaelangelo's at every opportunity.
One day he snuck into the Sistine chapel where Michaelangelo kept his work under lock and key. Raphael was struck dumb as the beauty and wonder of the scene unfolded before his eyes. He quietly went to his corner of the Vatican and paid homeage to his master. In his work School of Athens he included a figure, burly, disgruntled and in dirty work clothes, seated alone by a rectangular marble slab, and at odds with the other figures dressed in courtly attire. The figure is now generally acknowledged to be Michaelangelo. The work of Michaelangelo and Raphael belong to the Renaissance era but it interests me that the Sforza Chapel is credited with setting the stage for the Baroque story of art. Unfortunately I cannot find a picture of the interior of Sforza Chapel.
Baroque art was less formalist and had more realism, involving more of the emotions. Leading artits are Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Rubens. The paintings get much darker in lighting and subject which are a trademark of old Dutch masters.
Following were the Impressionists, Romantics,Realists, Cubists from more westerly parts of Europe and later America,but Italy had reached the pinnacle of it's great artists and now lead in the design of furniture, clothes and cars. How does an artist cap the style of Michaelangelo and Raphael ? It'd be harder for Italian artists as they would be justifiably so proud of their art heritage.