Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Chairman Bill's Recipe Page


I have perfected the mid-week, fast and nutritious recipe! One pot cooking that takes only 5 minutes to prepare (the night before, if you choose) and is delicious.
  • Take one flatish casserole dish with a lid (like a le creuset).
  • Arrange in the bottom some green beans, purple sprouting broccoli, sliced peppers, baby sweetcorn - in fact any non-hard vegetables you like. I also add 3 garlic cloves, roughly sliced.
  • Sprinkle with oil (rapeseed or olive) and a few dashes of balsamic vinegar.
  • Add half a small wineglass of decent white wine (actually, an execrable white makes bugger all difference) or the same amount of stock. Don't overdo the liquid, as the veggies will produce quite a bit.
  • Top with as many chicken breasts as people you need to feed (I do 6 and it lasts 2 nights).
  • Sprinkle sea salt and plenty of cracked black pepper over the top.
  • Top off with a large sprig of either tarragon, purple sage or rosemary (not all 3 together - just one of the three options - or whatever herb you prefer).
  • Put the lid on and place in the fridge till the evening.

When it's near dinner time, slam the casserole into a 200 degrees C oven for 40 minutes, or as long as necessary to ensure the chicken breasts are cooked (just slice one to check).

If it's your wont, boil a few baby new potatoes as an accompaniment, although I prefer to bake them till cooked, punch them open with my fist wrapped in a tea towel, drizzle with garlic infused olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and bake until crispy at 200 degrees C.

What with Hay now working in Bristol and me working mainly from home, I'm now the chef during the week and this went down a treat last week and last night. I tried a variation with pork escalopes, and that worked fine too, although chicken is better.


Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Term Time Holidays


While ironing last night (Hay was out at yoga) I watched something on TV about parents taking their kids out of school during term time so they can save a bundle on holiday costs.

One parent waxed lyrical about the educative benefits to kids of being totally immersed in a foreign culture - all the while sitting in an hotel pool-side area infested with other Brits. Now that's irony! Perhaps the parents meant the culture of the Yorkshire couple in the room next door, or the Scots down the corridor....

The sad thing is that these are the very same parents who will wail when their kids fail their GCSEs and shout from the rooftops that the education system has failed them.

A headmaster was interviewed and told he must have sympathy for the families who have children at his school when so many percent were on free school meals. Well, the way to get your children out of the vicious circle of becoming the next generation of parents to have their kids benefiting from free school meals is to ensure they aren't absent from school. Simples, as they say. To these parents, a good, cheap holiday among fellow Brits on the Costa Del Sol is worth more than their kids' future.

Notwithstanding what I said above, why bother fining the parents? We will always need uneducated people to fill the menial roles, and if that's what the parents want for their kids, then surely that's their right. Analyse and discuss.


Monday, 27 October 2014

Allegiance


Overheard on Saturday in a Taxi in Accrington:

Chairman: "So I guess you like cricket?"

British Asian Taxi Driver (in a thick, Lancashire accent): "Too right mate."

Chairman: "And what team do you support?"

British Asian Taxi Driver: "Lancashire, naturally - we may be near t' Yorkshire border, and I may have family over there, but I'm no traitor to me roots."


Saturday, 25 October 2014

Gizmos


Years ago I bought one of these cigarette lighter FM transmitters for the car - you can play music from a USB stick over FM and pick it up on the radio.

As we're Oop Nowerth this weekend - West Kirby to see big bro', thence to the North Yorkshire Dales via Accrington to see No.1 daughter - I thought I'd dig it out and see if it still worked, as the CD changer is the Merc is not connected (damned thing has a 10 pin DIN, whereas the radio has an 8 pin DIN). It was swamped by local stations within the narrow band in which it transmits, so next to useless.

When these gizmos first came out there weren't so many FM stations, but since then they have proliferated like inane and unenlightened Facebook posts. Not worth buying, unless you do a lot of driving in the sticks.

Now an app for the phone that transmits on selectable FM (assuming the makers could put an FM transmitter into the phone) would be a brilliant idea. Use Waze for routing and an app to play my music over the radio. 


Friday, 24 October 2014

Time for a Grump


I'm getting heartily fed up with Vodafone. They send me a text and an email when my bill is ready, telling me to go online to view it, and without fail they're tinkering with the website and I can't see the damned thing anyway. Surely it can't be beyond their tiny wits to send the notifications during the very short window each day when their website is actually working?

An advert from a company called MacKnight: "We are proud to announce the launch of our new award winning Salmon Bacon. We are the first again to launch a healthy alternative to bacon and it is NOT made of pork. It is pure salmon, meaning rich in Omega 3 and full of anti oxidents [sic]!. The amazing feature of this product, apart from being healthy, is it looks and tastes exactly like bacon made from pork! Another world's first for MacKnight! Kosher Bacon!"

Firstly, if it ain't made from pork, it ain't bacon! Dimwits! It's smoked salmon and you simply fry it. Secondly, if it tastes like bacon, then it has had its chemistry monkeyed around with and is worth steering well to windward of.

As for Facebook - it's becoming more like the Jeremy Kyle Show every day.


Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Tractor Marbles


Scientists have successfully moved objects with a tractor beam. At last! A solution to fetching the TV remote, although I'll need another remote to do it.

The Elgin Marbles are causing a bit of a stir again. I do think, however, they should be returned to Greece - they were looted, after all. How would we like it if some Greek came over here and made off with one of our cultural treasures - like the Royal Family, for example. Oh, hang on....


Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Poverty


Heavy thoughts today.

Labour says the UK is on the brink of becoming a permanently divided society between the haves and the have nots, laying the blame primarily on housing costs and youth unemployment.

What do they mean by permanently divided? 

Surely education, or the lack of it, is the single key to social mobility for those lacking drive and determination? and so long as anyone can get an education then social mobility is alive and well! Get a half decent education and your earning power will increase as the job options open to you multiply; fail to get a good education and the only way is down.

What has grossly failed the education system is the demise of the grammar school, which was open to anyone, regardless of background, and lumped those who wanted to learn together without the disruption of those having no desire to learn. It's a sad fact of life that even the best teachers don't have the ability to educate those lacking motivation, and motivation invariably starts at home.

Giving people money to offset the cost of housing will have only one effect - increasing the price of housing as more people chase the same number of houses. A futile gesture, unless money goes into building council housing to increase the supply, reduce demand and bring down house prices in general as a consequence. Maggie Thatcher selling off council housing was a massive con to buy votes and the consequences are with us to this day.

Youth unemployment - what can be done there except creating non-jobs? Ending unpaid internships just means kids won't even get any experience, albeit unpaid (I don't seem to remember the apprentices of my youth getting much, by the way - I got enough for social spending, with my parents forking out for the basics till I was 20).

So long as poverty is a relative rather than absolute measure (and an arbitrary one at that), poverty is here to stay. There's an interesting interactive graph here that allows you to explore the effect of people's wages on the 60% of median. Spread the 10 salaries evenly and 30% will be in poverty; the only way to take people out of this definition of poverty is to group all the people in a narrow range with few outliers. However, eliminating the outliers is social engineering on an impossibly massive scale.


Saturday, 18 October 2014

Heavy Metal Schrodinger's Cat


As an anti-neighbour-cat precaution, Hayley's dad sets his cat flap to one-way, allowing his cat (called Cat) to exit the house but not come back in.

Several times this week we've been woken at around 3am by Cat miaowing outside our house to be let in, necessitating me getting up, walking over to Hay's dad's house and letting her in with our key (Hay's dad is partially deaf, so a miaowing cat has no effect on him whatsoever).

While talking about this last night with Hay, I suggested Cat should be given her own door key, which prompted a call to Hay's sister (the family artist) to commission a cartoon for Hay's Dad's Christmas card. It will depict Cat, Kitty, Blackberry and Orange (the latter 2 being the neighbours' cats) forming a feline pyramid outside Hay's dad's back door so Cat can reach up and insert the key in the door.

Did you know that Schrodinger's cat was called Milton? Next time someone mentions Schrodinger's cat you can say: "You mean Milton?"

Last night we went through our usual Friday night ritual - dinner at some local pub, followed by watching some Vintage TV. Last night it was Heavy Metal, which I can't say I'm a great fan of (and no, Led Zep is not an HM band). There was the usual lineup of Motorhead, Slayer, Black Sabbath (without Ozzie), Judas Priest, etc.. What I'd like to see, which would be quite radical, is Motorhead et al playing a session dressed in dinner jackets or looking like the Mike Flowers Pops.


Friday, 17 October 2014

Good Old NHS


The Ebola story is showing how good the NHS actually is.

Yes, you get the odd story about a hospital here and there failing, but that's to be expected within a system where hospitals are actually accountable. The fact this comes to light is a strength of the system.

The NHS is a national system and therefore has at its heart something called strategy, or joined-up thinking, as we experts call it. When a national health threat materialises, we in the UK get a nationwide policy and not the disjointed response prevalent in the USA.

Americans are far more likely to be wiped out by an epidemic than Brits due to oversight there being primarily at the state level.

We should do all we can to prevent governments of any hue selling off the NHS and putting it in the hands of multiple private entities with competition and profit being the prime motive.

Oh, I forgot - the Americans are great believers in God, so a prayer or two should protect them. You never know, they may actually turn to science - there are no religious people in epidemic foxholes.


Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Religious Tolerance


Tony Blair is calling for religious toleration to be taught in schools across the world to prevent radicalisation.

The "incubators of radicalism" need to be confronted, he argues, to prevent the spread of ideas that "warp young and unformed minds".

Does he mean ideas like religion itself - ideas that people cling to with no evidence whatsoever? That's the home, where kids are first inducted into the woo-woo world of religion at the knees of their mothers and fathers.

Just asking...