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Kitchen clutter

Passing on memes is like posting new content, isn't it? Here's one doing the rounds:

* * *

Bold the ones you have and use at least once a year, italicize the ones you have and don't use, strike through the ones you have had but got rid of. There are additions.

I wonder how many pasta machines, breadmakers, juicers, blenders, deep fat fryers, egg boilers, melon ballers, sandwich makers, pastry brushes, cheese boards, cheese knives, crepe makers, electric woks, miniature salad spinners, griddle pans, jam funnels, pie funnels, meat thermometers, filleting knives, egg poachers, cake stands, garlic crushers, martini glasses, tea strainers, bamboo steamers, pizza stones, coffee grinders, milk frothers, piping bags, banana stands, fluted pastry wheels, tagine dishes, conical strainers, rice cookers, steam cookers, pressure cookers, slow cookers, spaetzle makers, cookie presses, gravy strainers, double boilers (bains marie), sukiyaki stoves, ice cream makers, fondue sets, healthy-grills, home smokers, tempura sets, tortilla presses, electric whisks, cherry stoners, sugar thermometers, food processors, stand mixers, mincers, bacon presses, bacon slicers, mouli mills, cake testers, pestle-and-mortars, gratin dishes, apple corers, mango stoners and sets of kebab skewers languish dustily at the back of the nation's cupboards.

* * *

I feel rather better about our collection - we use pretty much everything that we have, the only exceptions being the juicer (which we might have got rid of, now I think of it), the fondue set (wedding present, naturally) and the sugar thermometer (which has received quite a bit of use in the past, just not this year). How anyone can own martini glasses and not use them at least once a year is beyond me.


Sic transit gloria LMU

Following some irregularities, the UK Border Agency has revoked London Metropolitan University's visa license. Not only can the university no longer recruit overseas (non-EU) students (a major source of income for all UK universities, and one of the few things that stops them from going bankrupt), but their existing overseas students have been told that they have sixty days to find alternative visa sponsors or they will be deported. LMU have estimated their annual income from overseas students at around £30M, about 20% of their total income. They currently have over 2000 overseas students.

Poll #1863277 Sic transit gloria LMU

Imminent financial meltdown at LMU?


LMU goes into financial meltdown as a consequence of the Highly Trusted Status revocation. The government:

bails them out unconditionally.
bails them out, but stipulates reasonable conditions.
bails them out, but stipulates onerous conditions.
encourages them to merge with another university.
encourages a private university provider to take them over.
encourages a private university provider to take them over, but none step forward.
lets them fail.

The least worst option

University of Buckingham
BPP (Apollo Group)
Regent's College
Kaplan, Inc
Education Managment Corporation

Who's next?

I think that I may finally be living in the future

I've just followed the landing of a spacecraft on another planet from the comfort of my armchair.

Liveblogging Eurovision 2012

So, here we are again! We've got the folk dancing and traditional music out of the way, and we're now getting a recap of last year's winning song.

And here we go...

UK: The #hump has already wound me with his pronunciation of 'love' as 'lurve'. Also, dull song. That's the anticipation of disappointment over and done with.

Hungary: I can find very little to say about this song, positive or negative. Complete non-entity of a song (albeit less so than the Hump).

Albania: And the first non-English language song (hurrah!) "I land my airplane of the lightless runway of your soul". Classic. Also, heroic quantities of toupee tape must have been used to stick her ponytail to her cleavage.

Lithuania: And another dullish ballad. How can I have run out of incisive critical comments this early?

Bosnia & Herzegovina: Ballad! I am already unable to distinguish it from the previous ballads!

Russia: Here are the grannies. This is exactly what I'd expect if you grabbed six random OAPs from a bus stop and told them to sing. Isobel suspects that vodka may have played its part. Still, the 5mo seems to be enjoying it more than the ballads (and the accompaniment is good).

Iceland: Ballad duet, but at least it's a power ballad. Also, fiddle solos are always welcome. Best so far.

Cyprus: This is more like it! Fun, disposable Euro-pop. Shame she's singing slightly offkey.

France: Gallic synthpop. Jaunty and fun, and she's got a good voice. Good floorshow from the gymnasts.

Italy: "An Italian Amy Winehouse", according to Norton - and he's not wrong. Arresting op art background. The words don't make a great deal of sense (which is neither good nor bad, in the great Eurovision accounting). I liked this.

Norway: Good choreography. I like the accompaniment, but the song itself isn't doing much for me. Slightly offkey in a couple of places. Isobel quite likes it, but I'm less impressed in balance.

Estonia: Serious ballad is serious. See, I make it serious with my eyebrows.

Azerbaijan: Looks a bit like a young Barbara Streisand. Not bad, but I don't think that I'd give it my vote.

Romania: The instrumental is rather fun. Also, accompaniment from bagpipes *and* an accordion. I quite liked this.

Denmark: Superfluous epaulettes! Glockenspiel solo! All good, as far as I'm concerned. Norton nails it with "a bit Alanis Morrisette-ey".

Greece: Rhyming "maniac" and "aphrodisiac". Upbeat europop. Competent, but doesn't have the necessary madness to make a true Eurovision classic.

Sweden: Dance-y europop. Well-managed tempo changes. Shame that she's channelling Kate Bush. Quite liking it.

Turkey: Good intro. Camper than a fleet of VW vans *and* a jamboree combined. It's stretching it to call this some of the lyrics double entendres. Fun choreography with the cloaks. I rather like this.

Spain: Oh no, it's another heartfelt ballad with SERIOUS FACE. Good voice, but I don't see the Spanish broadcaster going bankrupt next year.

Germany: Competent, inoffensive ballad. Not quite my glass of absinthe, but I quite enjoyed this and could see it winning.

Malta: Fun europop. Perfectly respectable entry from a country with a population only barely larger than that of Southampton and Portsmouth combined. I liked that.

FYROM: Soft rock ballad. Excellent voice.

Ireland: This is traditionally the point where I leave the room to avoid the BEAST WITH TWO HEADS. This year, I'm going to stick it out and see what this Jedward business is all about. So, blond Gary Glitter clones. *How* much lucozade did they feed these lads before they sent them on stage? They're twitching all over the place! Worst. High-five. Ever. God help me. I can believe that these lads are the most irritating thing since horsehair underwear, but I quite liked the song. And you can't deny their enthusiam.

And now I've lost track of where we are. Such is the power of JEDWARD.

Serbia: Lost the plot. Found the plot. There have been a lot of waterlines and ships in this contest, no? Another earnest ballad.

Ukraine: I've only just realised that she's singing in English. The 5mo is grinning, though that might just be wind. Not overly impressed.

Moldova: Good intro. Fun costumes. "You haven't seen before how looks the trumpet" - classic, and that's an English lyric, not a translation. Hammered dulcimer solo (I think) in the middle eight. I could almost vote for this.

Lummee. I'm stumped - for the first time ever, there's nothing that stands out to me as a must-vote-for. France got our vote in the end.

This means nothing to me, part 2

So, here we are in Vienna, and today it isn't even snowing! Further to this post, we managed to see a pair of nuns, though not in bins.

This means nothing to me
toddler garklet

Next month, just after Easter, I have a business trip to Vienna for a project meeting (hopefully - the project coordinator has *still* not sent the details for a planned meeting that's now less than a month away), and so ias, the garklet and garklet2 (WINYOLJ) are coming over to make a short break of it. We've been trying to enthuse the garklet with the idea of the trip, but he's currently being quite grumpy and negative.

On the way to school this morning, I broached the subject with him again. After an initial "it's boring", he advanced the notion that it might be fun "because they have lungans in bins there".

What's a lungan?
They go in bins. We saw it in a film.
We? You and I? I'm not sure what a lungan is.
Yes, we saw them in the film we watched about Vienna.
Are lungans animals or people?
(with an odd look) They're people, dad!
Sorry, I'm just being a bit dim this morning! Was this film in black and white? (thinking that it might be a dim and toddler-memory-accented recollection of The Third Man)
No, it was a colour film.
Gosh. You've got me stumped here. Can you remember anything else about the film?
Yes, there were people in bed and they were talking about things.
What sort of things were they talking about?
Interesting things!
Of course.
And he had a blackboard in his bedroom.
(realisation dawns) You're talking about A Very Peculiar Practice! They're not lungans, they're nuns!
(embarrassed) Yes! Nuns, not lungans!
That programme is set in, well, a made-up university, not Vienna. There will almost certainly be nuns somewhere in Vienna, but I very much doubt that we'll see them going through bins.
(disappointed) Oh.
Vienna has other things. It has very chocolately chocolate cake!
(brightening) Oh!

No wonder the lad has been lukewarm about Vienna - he's been under the misapprehension that we're going on holiday to a crumbling 1960s university campus!



I appear to have been mentioned in the Huffington Post.

An interesting choice of words

So, Apple posted a teaser for the new version of OS X yesterday, and in amongst the goodies was the following image. Note the name of the user.

I'm quite surprised that there hasn't been a larger reaction to this (but this may just be my own prejudices*). So, to the poll!

Poll #1819593 Apple marketing

Is "Spazbert":

A cute-sounding username?
Derived from a pejorative term for the cerebral palsied?

Apple is a US-based company. Therefore, when marketing overseas they should:

Aim not to use locally offensive terms.
Use whatever language they want because they're goddamned Americans.
Use whatever language they want because they're goddamned Apple.
Use only brightly-coloured shapes.

Who cares, everyone speaks American English now

Quite the reverse, actually.

You're thinking too hard about this.


* two of my cousins are CP

I call it the Marmalagarita

While squeezing some Seville oranges at the weekend (for duck a l'orange, as you do), I realised that what Seville orange juice really, really needs is tequila. I therefore present the following:


40ml tequila
20ml Cointreau
Juice of a Seville orange
Dash of orange bitters (Fee Bros. preferred)

Life Update: Luxembourg, birthday, work, court

It's been a very busy few weeks here, with no sign that work is going to ease off before Xmas (or before the arrival of Garklet #2), but I ought to make an effort to at least record what's been going on with my life.

After the failed trip to Stornoway last month, the candidate and his supervisor came down to Southampton (they were in London for a meeting) for a second attempt at a viva, and I'm delighted to say that he defended his PhD well.

On the 6th, I headed off to Luxembourg for the kick-off meeting for a new EU-funded project that I'm involved with. Travelling on a Sunday wasn't quite the way I'd wanted to support UCU's work-to-contract, but this was unavoidable. Still made to feel guilty by check-in at Heathrow; when told that I was travelling on business, they wanted to know why I was travelling on a Sunday. Well, quite.

The hotel I'd booked turned out to be reasonable, but the area was less so (by the railway station). My keen colleague N had booked his hotel a few weeks before I had, and had managed to choose a hotel that was given an average score of 2/5 on TripAdvisor (most frequent comment: "I would never stay here again"). I picked the hotel over the road (average score of 3/5), and was generally pleased, but the proximity to three strip clubs was less than desirable.

Had a good time on my birthday the following weekend. Didn't get a pub lunch (due to trip to the big B&Q), but ended up seeing The Ides of March (v. good, much recommended) and Chris Addison's warm-up gig in New Milton. Now have boxed sets of The Prisoner and Twin Peaks to work through in my spare time, ha ha.

Work is still busy, but highlights have included my teaching on the hypertext module and my two new PhD students. Hypertext was what attracted me to Southampton back in the mid-90s, so it's been fun teaching this. This is my second year teaching this module, and I took the opportunity to radically revamp the material from that I'd inherited. The lecture on hypertext narrative went down particularly well, as did that on the history of hypertext.

As part of the Web Science doctoral training centre, I have two new PhD students, neither of them traditional computer scientists. One is a teacher who is studying the myth of the digital native, and the other is a cuneiform paleographer. Yes, I've spent part of the last month looking at tablets and familiarising myself with Sumerian grammar and orthography - not the usual.

In other news, I didn't have to appear at Westminster Magistrate's Court on Wednesday. As some of you may know, ias, the garklet and I went on the TUC protest march on the 26th March, and ended up in Fortnum and Mason (for a post-march ice cream for the youngster to reward him for putting up with us) at the time that UKUncut occupied the building. We were there when the fighting kicked off outside, but left by the back door (the front door having been closed by the police) before the non-UKUncut lot outside broke in. When we found out that the police had arrested the UKUncut protesters (who were being "non-violent and sensible", to quote the senior police officer on the scene, and who were doing nothing more than chanting "pay your taxes") but not the lot who were smashing things up outside, we were more than a little disappointed, to say the least.

Over the summer, I found out that the son of one of my colleagues was one of the protesters who had been arrested on a charge of aggravated trespass, and so I offered to make a statement in his defence. The case came to trial a week and a half ago, and I was originally to have appeared as a defence witness, but the defence considered that the prosecution case had been so poorly made (see the quote from the police officer above, called as a prosecution witness) that it wasn't worth calling witnesses of their own. Unfortunately, DJ Snow found against the ten defendents, so it looks like I may be called when the case goes to appeal (and possibly for the trial of the remaining twenty protesters).

In other news, I'm getting really rather depressed by the state of the nation; having screwed over the Universities, targetted the most vulnerable in society with their welfare reforms, and initiated the privatisation of the NHS and the school system, the coalition is now killing off publicly-owned social housing by reviving and accelerating the madness of right-to-buy. "Lower than vermin", as Aneurin Bevan rightly put it (and I very much doubt whether he would have distinguished between today's Tories and Lib Dems in this estimation).

Categorised to a tee

Consider today's XKCD.

For the record, I like Isaac Asimov and XML, I've been thinking about buying a pair of Vibrams for the last year, I think that the Segway looks neat (and, as a child, quite the sort of vehicle which I was led to believe would be in my future), and I've been looking for an affordable head-mounted display for the best part of a decade. And yes, my favourite map projection is Dymaxion.

(although not because of Bucky Fuller, but rather because of my youth misspent on certain games)

Dispatches from the war against scammers

A new record! Last time I kept them on the line for 37 minutes before pointing out that I knew what they were doing. Result: they phoned me back to insult me.

This time I managed to wind them up enough *within 15 seconds* that they phoned me back to insult me.

(no subject)

You know what they say: lunch in Southampton, dinner in London, breakfast in... Preston?

By now, I should have been mid-viva in Stornoway. Instead, I'm in the Apple Store on Buchanan St. in Glasgow.

The original plan had been to get the sleeper overnight from London to Glasgow (arr 0720), then hop on the 1050 from Glasgow Intl to Stornoway, viva the candidate, hop back to Glasgow on the 1935 flight and then get the sleeper back down south.

Instead, I got up this morning at 0730 (having been wondering where my 0645 wake-up call and breakfast had gone) to find that I was still in Preston: signal failures on the West Coast overnight due to cable thieves. To top it off, my phone had managed to kill itself overnight so badly that it needed to phone home to Apple before it would let me do anything (like turn off my alarm, for example). The Caledonian Sleeper doesn't do wifi, or, as it turns out, 240V AC at more than about 0.5A, so I hadn't been able to keep the laptop charged either.

Eventually we crawled into Central at 1110, so clearly the viva is a bust.

Today, therefore, I will be cruising the streets of Glasgow looking for fun (or at least food, drink and a film) until about 2200 this evening.

Edited to add: to top it off, there was no water coming out of the taps in my berth, and Glasgow Central doesn't have a first class lounge (pay for a shower when I'm travelling first class??), so I'm verging on fragrant. Also, the breakfast on the train, when it arrived, was cold.

Planes and trains
Just boarded the sleeper to Glasgow (alas no sign of Skimbleshanks). From there I'll be heading to the Western Isles, where I will do my best to avoid any large anthropomorphic wicker constructions.

The shame of it is that this is just a flying (day!) visit to examine a PhD; if it hadn't been for the demands of work, I would have happily spent a couple of days in Stornoway.

Leaving, on a prop plane
Dear Expedia,

No, I will not pay you an extra £10 for booking a Flybe flight from Glasgow to Stornoway, especially if you insist on passing my details to the TSA.

In fact, your flight booking software seems to be a little kooky in general. While Stornoway is relatively remote, I find it hard to believe that the quickest flight from Stornoway to Aberdeen (a possible route considered while planning my journey) involved stopping off in Inverness, Kirkwall and Lerwick en route (5.5h). Similarly, flying from Inverness to Southampton via both Manchester and Jersey seems a little excessive (7.5h).

I'll be taking the sleeper to Glasgow and flying from there.

No love,


Bunch of savages in this town

So, after yesterday's heavy rain in Southampton, which school found out that its roof had been stripped of lead on Monday night? Why, the one that the garklet starts at next Monday.

Home again, home again

Back from the monster tour of England and Scotland (Southampton to Windermere and back, via Dunblane), and it turns out that we had monster produce waiting for us (alisdairo - did I forget to tell you to help yourself?):

That's 7.26 kg of courgette (1st2lb in old money). I had to get the bathroom scales to find that out!

Give me the child until he is seven

garklet: Tonight, I want you to make me a statue when we get home.

nmg: Oh really, what sort of statue?

garklet: I want a statue with a cross with somebody on it.

nmg: o_O

nmg: Uh, why do you want a statue of someone being crucified?

garklet: Because I think it would be good.

nmg: No, I mean why do you want a statue of that rather than of something else? A crucifix is a religious statue, and we're not religious.

garklet: Because I like cross statues.

nmg: o_O

Isn't it ironic? (EBM version)

The washing machine has chewed up my Front 242 "PUNISH YOUR MACHINE" t-shirt.

Signal Boost: Stop it!

While I am as narked as the next user by the alleged actions of certain arms of a certain state towards my blogging platform of choice and the embattled citizens of that state, I'm sure that most of us by now have seen double-digit reposts of deathpixie's original.

It's not often that my first experience of an LJ feature (in this case, the repost facility) gives rise to the urge to kill, but I'm very close to that point now. Please stop pressing the bloody repost buttons: