Monday, 31 December 2007

Books I read in December

I've made almost no attempt to keep track of what I've read this month as a result of deadlines and the like. As a result, this list mostly covers the Christmas period rather than the entirety of December. I did read some other books and I might add them if I ever find out what they were.

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Total: 7 books.

Daniel Isn't Talking (Marti Leimbach)
The Edible Woman (Margaret Atwood)
The Memory Keepers Daughter (Kim Edwards)
My Best Friend's Girl (Dorothy Koomson)
The Principessa (Christie Dickason)
The Promise of Happiness (Justin Cartwright)
Missing Kissinger (Etgar Keret)

Daniel Isn't Talking was lent to me by Julie with the recommendation that it was far better than Born on a Blue Day. I read it in the evening on 28th to save me taking it too far away and forgetting I'd got it. The book certainly provokes empathy in a very different way to Born on a Blue Day but I'm not entirely sure I'd otherwise compare the books at all. It was an easy read, well-written and generally pretty good but I think I'd be unlikely to read it again.

I started the The Edible Woman just before Christmas and finished it on Boxing Day. The book had been sat on my shelves for a fair while having been mooched from clastica (UK) in November. Margaret Atwood is a funny author and her books seem to vary somewhat. I wasn't really sure about this one. I quite liked the subject of the book and the characters were both real and amusing but it felt a little bit like it wasn't going anywhere (the point I'm sure). I'll put this book back up on the swap sites as I'm not going to want to reread it in a hurry.

I borrowed The Memory Keepers Daughter from Lizi and read it in a day on the 23rd. She'd bought it with me on a Tesco trip in the summer and I've avoided buying it since then knowing that I could read her copy. Having read it I'm quite glad I did, the book is a good read but it's not one of those books I'd have been likely to keep. The book feels a little like some Jodi Picoult in places but doesn't quite have the same continuous smooth style. The story is good but I enjoyed reading the back and anticipating the story more than I did some of the actual reading.

My Best Friend's Girl was my light chick-lit read for traveling to Derbyshire. I started it on the train up and finished it the day after on the 22nd. The book embellishes the standard girl-meets-boy... girl-loses-boy... girl-loves-boy plot with some deeper, more complex elements which was quite nice. It's still easy to read and predictable but makes quite a nice change from other books in this genre. The book was the result of a read-it-swap-it exchange (swapped for Why Men Don't Have A Clue And Women Always Need More Shoes with lindam (UK)) and I've put it back online now I'm done. Since I mostly enjoyed this book I've now mooched Marshmallows For Breakfast by the same author from Suze S (UK) on BookMooch.

The Principessa was a library discovery. Unlike most of my library books, I read this one fairly soon after I borrowed it (the others mount up on my bookshelf) and I'm very glad I did. Christie Dickason finally gives me some historical fiction to enjoy outside of those written by Philippa Gregory. I really liked this book and am on the lookout for others by the same author.

The Promise of Happiness is one of those books that I've seen everywhere but never read. Having missed it when it was in Waterstone's best-sellers, I finally borrowed this from the library in Lancaster. This book was nicely different from things I've been reading recently. The characters are nice and the story is both real and original (to me at least). I might not read it again, but I'm glad to have read it this once at least.

I started Missing Kissinger back in October but as a book of short stories it's been very easy to put down and come back to months later. Some of the stories in this book were great (I really liked the first one), but I didn't quite understand them all. I think the author might be slightly odd and probably won't seek out anything else he's written but it was an OK library read.

Project Firefly!

It sounds good before I even know what it is :)

I saw the Project Firefly display in town tonight and thought they were rather pretty. I was a bit suprised I hadn't spotted them before as they fit in nicely with the blue Christmas tree lights which I've noticed many times since they were put up. As it turns out, the pretty falling lights are part of the Firefly project and are something I've seen before (I saw the Firefly Christmas tree during the demos in the AISD module). Mmm, pretty lights!

Monday, 24 December 2007

Friday, 21 December 2007

Cinnamon, raisin & apple muffins (revisited)

This recipe doesn't really seem to work too well. I tried to make six of the muffins yesterday and they were a bit of a failure. The quantities given in the recipe produce a very liquidy not-really-a-dough mixture. I thickened it a bit but then they didn't rise, weren't cooked after the appropriate amount of time and when finally cooked didn't really have the right consistency (stodgy muffins anyone?). All-in-all, probably not one of the best recipes I've tried.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

It's here!

At the last possible moment before I head home for Christmas, my Sweeney Todd soundtrack has arrived. Hurrah for Play.com. I shall take it to Hobnob's with me when I leave in a moment.

Yay!

Thai green chicken curry

One 400ml can coconut milk
225g diced chicken breast
Grated zest of 1/3 lime
1-2 peppers, sliced
1tbsp Thai green curry paste
1.5 tbsp Thai fish sauce
1tbsp brown sugar
1-2 green chillies, crushed
0.5 red chillies, shredded
0.5cm fresh ginger, peeled and shredded
1 shredded kaffir lime leaf (opt)
75g/2.75oz mangetout
5-6 Thai sweet basil leaves, torn

Spoon off cream from canned coconut milk. Cook chicken with zest and coconut cream until cooked through (~10min). Remove chicken from pan and boil remaining ingredients until the cream separated out.

In a separate pan, fry the peppers ~3 minutes before removing from pan. Fry the curry paste in 0.5 tbsp coconut milk (not cream) for 1-2 minutes. Add the fish sauce, sugar, remaining coconut milk (not cream), green chillies, ginger and magetout. Stir and cook on medium heat for ~5 minutes. Add the peppers, chicken and coconut cream and cook for another 5 minutes. Scatter the remaining ingredients over the curry immediately before stirring.

Things you didn't know but really should have worked out...

Tortilla chips are made by frying stale tortillas...

Cut the tortilla into appropriate shaped wedges (about 6 per tortilla) and fry 1-2 min in about 5mm of oil until crisp.

Now there is something I shall have to try one day.

Cinnamon, raisin & apple muffins

Makes 6, ~30 minutes.

115g/4oz plain flour
20g/0.75oz brown sugar
20g/0.75oz butter/marg
1 apple (grated but not peeled)
30g/2oz raisins/sultanas/other dried fruit
90ml/3fl oz milk
Half tsp baking powder
Half tsp ground cinnamon/mixed spice
A pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Melt the butter/marg over a low heat. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon/mixed spice before adding remaining ingredients. Mix well to produce a thick, wet dough. Fill 6 prepared muffin cases and bake in the oven for ~20 minutes until risen. The muffins should be lightly golden and firm to the touch.

New Jeans!

Having torn yet another pair of jeans up the legs last night I have been to town to replace them. I didn't get the ones I saw on Monday but instead resolved to try on anything and everything and find something that almost fits :)

Unsuprisingly I ended up at Internationale, their size 8s are pretty varied but I managed to find something that was not too huge. Described on the label as "bling" jeans I think I may remove the belt before wearing. Interestingly I found a really close fit at New Look today in the 915 stuff which hasn't happened for a while, I almost bought them but then found the bling pair.

In other news.... I have finally written some Christmas cards. I figured that if the last post is tomorrow I should probably do any of those that require posting. I received lots of cards today too, I now have a grand total of 6 cards (of which 50% have come from Hobnob's family, hehe). I've almost wrapped all my presents and I have basically bought them all so that's it all sorted. I bought another roll of wrapping paper to finish things off today. It's not real paper though, sort of foily stuff which is interesting.

I've almost finished my first book in ages, The Principessa by Chrisie Dickason which I've really enjoyed. Might see if I can mooch this book and her (at least one) other. I spotted that Oliver Sacks seems to have a new book out so I shall add that to my list of eagerly awaited paperbacks. Hopefully once Christmas is out of the way they'll start releasing some :)

Tonight at Guides we made gingerbread men so now I am plotting my cooking for tomorrow. I've got a couple of recipe books out of the library to inspire me.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

You learn something new...

Today I have discovered that Royal Mail actually do something similar to the General Delivery stuff that I'd read about in some US news articles: post restante (mobile letterbox).

So there you go. A free way to collect your mail when you've not got a permenant address.

Golden Compass

Went to see Golden Compass tonight at the Vue in Lancaster. Not much to say about it really, it's not a bad film and sticks suprisingly close to the book. I'm not really convinced that it's the next Lord of the Rings though.

Pink leaves (revisited)

I think my plant is dying. Maybe I should water it.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Slacking and beer and a nice new warm scarf!

Slacking!!!!

I have handed in my CORBA report, all three sections of it :)

Got the second section done last night before bed and then finished off this morning before heading to campus to print and submit. (Remembered to submit an electronic copy too). Had a slight stress when I realised I had to hand in code, but I did it and stapled it to the back of the report I'd handed in only a short time before.

Went shopping straight from campus and finished of Christmas gifts. Treated myself to a new scarf after my present one suffered some shrinkage in the wash. Dad came round almost immediately after I got in from town so we went back out again and had lunch and the newish chinese place in town (not that great but ok) and grabbed a pint from the Penny Bank (the beer was very nice and the pub friendly).

Tonight I'm headed round to Hobnob's for tea and then I shall plan to do nothing at all.

Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce

Hopefully, this is as yummy as the Blue Dragon stuff I buy - makes really nice prawn sandwiches.

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Makes about 200ml

250g red chillies, trimmed
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
100g light brown sugar
1 dsp white wine vinegar
100ml water
Salt to season

Bring all ingredients to boil together in small pan. Simmer over medium heat for ~5 minutes (until soft). Blend and season before returning to pan to simmer for ~10 minutes. Refridgerate once cool.
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Sadly I have next-to-none of these ingredients (though I do have water and sugar) at the moment so I shan't be trying this any time soon. One day...

Monday, 17 December 2007

An egg and milk free glaze!

I've wondered what to use as a pie/bread/scone glaze for Hobnob before (not that I recall ever having cooked such items for him to eat) and always struggled. Where I don't normally use egg then I use milk and vice-versa. Anyway, the Allergy-free cookbook, Alice Sherwood suggests a gelatine glaze - 2tbsp with 1tbsp gelatine left to soften for ~5 minutes before heating in a bowl over boiling water.

Miso marinated salmon

Serves 2, ~10 minutes plus cooling and marinading

1.5 tbsp mirin (rice wine)
1.5 tbsp sake
1.5 tbsp caster sugar
65g/2.25oz sweet rice miso paste
2 salmon fillets (~170g/6oz each)

Stir mirin and sake with sugar over low heat until dissolved. Bring to boil and then remove from heat. Stir miso into mixture until completely blended and allow to cool.

Once marinade completely cooled, place salmon in non-metalic dish and spoon marinade over fish. Turn fish to ensure complete coverage and leave to marinate for at least four hours.

Before serving, preheat the grill and lay fish skin side up on grill rack. Grill for about 6 minutes, turning halfway through.

This time tomorrow... mmmmm

I have completed all of one section of the three to be handed in tomorrow :S

Still, I'll hand something in regardless and I shan't be able to do any more after noon tomorrow no matter how hard I work in the meantime. It's worth it, I can catch the sleep up later in the week.

Tomorrow I will have handed in my final report of the term.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

CORBA excitement

Today has been a day of exciting coding. I haven't written much really but I do seem to have improved my coursework somewhat. It now does just slightly more than the basic requirments which I think is about all I have time for.

Time to start crafting a report...

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Two down...

Two reports in, one more to go :) Deadline's Monday lunchtime so I've just got a bit of time. No weekend for me :(

But then it is a work-free Christmas! Hurrah!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Virtualchaos, Tallis and that bloke from the lecture

Revisiting this post briefly (and I so rarely do come back to these things), "the bloke from the lecture" has posted his own blog entry about that Monday lecture here. Besides a very artistic looking photo of Alan Dix, the post includes links for the slides used in the lecture and the Tallis website.

I'm not going to post any more comment on the lecture, but I shall include a list of the books mentioned (or at least those mentioned in the part I managed to attend). I've added them to my BookMooch wishlist so maybe I'll acquire some of them one day.

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The Cult of the Amateur (Andrew Keen)
Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (Steve Krug)
Digital Ground: Architecture, Pervasive Computing, and Environmental Knowing (Malcolm McCullough)
Designing Interactions (Bill Moggridge)
Ambient Findability (Peter Morville)
Information Architecture for the World Wide Web: Designing Large-Scale Web Sites (Peter Morville)
Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things (Donald A. Norman)
Things That Make Us Smart: Defending Human Attributes in the Age of the Machine (Donald A. Norman)
Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder (David Weinberger)

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Moonshot - Video Killed The Radio Star

Moonshot - Video Killed The Radio Star is playing on Bailrigg FM right now. I can just about bring myself to admit that I quite like The Buggles version of this song but the Moonshot recording is quite nicely different.

Tim Burton to direct Alice in Wonderland

More Tim Burton...

According to this article on BoingBoing.Net, Tim Burton will start work on a film adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland early next year. I can't really think what that might look like but I'm sure I'll end up seeing it anyway.

PS -I'm working really hard, honest!

Another day of no work :(

My days keep running away without me and then I get to the end and I have had no day and so I have done no work. It's all very confusing and a bit irritating. Today I was supposed to do lots of Systems Engineering coursework but I haven't really done any at all. Instead I have slept, got up, checked my mail, discovered I was late for a lecture, rushed to campus, sat in a lecture, met with Alan and the bloke from the lecture (more another time perhaps), went to the students' union building to find out about new officers training, went back to computing for a meeting with the bloke from the Knowledge Business Centre about some possibilities for employment, got the bus to my house to do useful things and gone to Hobnob's for tea. Now tea is over and it is late and I have done nothing coursework related.

Time to start an introduction I think...

Monday, 10 December 2007

Signing Excitement

Today I have learnt some strange and wonderful signs...
  • Manger
  • Advent
  • Gift
  • Comfort
Maybe there are some more, I can't quite remember.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

No work!

How have I done no work today? Lazy students.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Binary marble adding machine

I don't usually have the patience to watch you-tube style net videos, but this gadget was interesting enough to make me watch it all the way through. Marbles are great.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Sweeney Todd!!!!!!!!

Sondeim + Tim Burton + Johnny Depp = Even more excitement than libraries!

I just remembered the Sweeney Todd movie and found the site complete with trailer and music. Johnny Depp sounds so much better than I could have expected and the music is really quite gorgeous. I've pre-ordered the CD in my excitement (released on the 17th) and now have the site open in a tab so I can listen excitedly.


25th January...!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Exciting libraries!

No, really.

You can tell I'm not really into my new piece of work yet, here's my second Stumble of the day... "Can you spot the library?". I think the pictures are really cool, I really like the idea but I do wonder how it really works. Does it look as good as it should or is it just odd? Also, would you have to change (update) the books now and again? It'd make it more interesting but also more costly. I guess it'd depend on your choice of books in the first place - ensuring they're suitably timeless. I'm not sure about some of the Cardiff choices on that count.

Hmmmm.....

Oooh, you could play the read all the books on the library game too, a whole new list of things to not get round to finishing!

Also, I'm listening to 'Christmas' tagged music on Last.fm but it's a bit varied. It was Ding Dong Merrily on High which is great, but I'm now being played L'Âme Immortelle - Life Will Never Be The Same Again and I'm not quite sure how Christmassy that really feels.

More cute animal pictures

But perhaps less common than foxes, nice kittens and fluffy bunnies...

A Winter Ptargmigan - nice, white snowy grouse thing.

Saffy has submitted a report!

Yay, handed in yesterday's report after some minor tweaking. Hobnob fed me pie last night after Guides and pointed out the bits that didn't make any sense so I fixed them and have now submitted my paper copy. I can't submit it electronically because the folders don't seem to exist on the coursework submission system :(

Ah well, one down...

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Saffy has finished a report!

Report 1/3 is all written. Gonna go to campus now and print it off to check it over before handing it in tomorrow (over a week early). Hopefully I can get it all in and start the next report tomorrow!

Union Council Elections

Apparently I have been elected to Union Council as a post-graduate representative - hurrah! Now that it's not electronic campaigning I can tell you I stood and I can put posters up to convince you I'm amazing. I'm not sure I'll bother, but I did make some cool images when playing to find stuff to put on posters.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

New technology causes great excitement!

My Dad seems to have started sending on a number of forwards recently. Most of them are actually pretty amusing so I shan't complain too much. He sent me this one just now, I'm pretty sure I've seen it before, but I'd mostly forgotten...

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BOOK is a revolutionary breakthrough in technology: no wires, no electric circuits, no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on. It's so easy to use even a child can operate it. Compact and portable, it can be used anywhere - even sitting in an armchair by the fire-yet it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a CD-ROM disc.

Here's how it works: BOOK is constructed of sequentially numbered sheets of paper (recyclable), each capable of holding thousands of bits of information. The pages are locked together with a custom-fit device called a binder, which keeps the sheets in their correct sequence.

Opaque Paper Technology (OPT) allows manufacturers to use both sides of the sheet, doubling the information density and cutting costs. Experts are divided on the prospects for further increases in information density; for now, BOOKS with more information simply use more pages. Each sheet is scanned optically, registering information directly into your brain. A flick of the finger takes you to the next sheet.

BOOK may be taken up at any time and used merely by opening it. BOOK never crashes or requires re booting, though like other display devices it can become unusable if exposed to high ambient temperatures. The "browse" feature allows you to move instantly to any sheet, and move forward or backward as you wish. Many come with an "index" feature, which pinpoints the exact location of any selected information for instant retrieval.

BOOK can be stored for an almost unlimited amount of time without connecting any outside power source. Many BOOK units may be stored together, as they cause no interference with one another, even when placed in close proximity.

An optional "BOOKmark" accessory allows you to open BOOK to the exact place you left it in a previous session-even if the BOOK has been closed. BOOKmarks fit universal design standards; thus, various manufacturers can use a single BOOKmark in BOOKs. Conversely, numerous BOOKmarkers can be used in a single BOOK if the user wants to store numerous views at once. Only the number of pages in the BOOK limits the number.

You can also make personal notes next to BOOK text entries with an optional programming tool, the Portable Erasable Nib Cryptic Intercommunication Language Stylus (PENCILS). Portable, durable, and affordable, BOOK is being hailed as a precursor of a new entertainment wave. Also, BOOK's appeal seems so certain that thousands of content creators have committed to the platform and investors are reportedly flocking. Look for a flood of new titles soon.

BookMooch & Other Related Links

Having received a BookMooch newsletter today I thought I'd post a general plug in my blog.

BookMooch is an excellent international book swapping site. It works on a points system rather than a direct swap which makes it easier to get the book you want. The site's got a pretty large user base so whilst I haven't found everything I want it does pretty well for your average paperback. Register at BookMooch.com.

In today's newsletter the BookMooch founder also recommends:

- Xenagia: a book fan site for people who like to read science fiction, fantasy
and horror. It currently rates Dune at number one, maybe I'll read my copy soon.

- Magnatune: an online music site that lets you listen to whole albums online before you buy them at the price you want to pay. Sound sort of curious, maybe I'll check it out.

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