bellinghman: (Default)
In a university study in China, a morbidly obese man was put on a diet.

The diet was designed to make it difficult for a particular gut bacterium to thrive.

It worked, because after 23 weeks, the population of that bacterium had gone from 35% to zero.

Perhaps coincidentally, the man lost 51 kilos, despite not exercising.

Or just perhaps, the hypothesis that gut bacteria can do other sorts of harm, not just give you ulcers, may have some truth. We'll have to see more and larger studies, but the general hypothesis that the modern epidemic of obesity may indeed be just that - a bacterial epidemic that anyone can catch - is looking more plausible. The high sugar high refined starch Western diet may be to blame, but I'm wondering how much that is due to it being what the enterobacter likes rather than its actual calorie load. And I wonder it's why diets that are at first sight illogical are effective.

New Scientist article (may require registration)
bellinghman: (Default)
So, no sooner does Toro gets his knee repaired (at least the shaft of his femur reattached to that knobbly end of it that is the upper half of the knee joint) than we get a call.

From the care home my mother now lives at.

She's had a fall, and been taken down to the Lister to check her knees. By the time that was done, it was getting late, so she spent last night there.

Pardon me if I look a bit distracted right now.
bellinghman: (Default)
Following yesterday's post, an update on Toro

He's now had his femur bolted back together.

This will do no good whatsoever if he puts it under strain, so for now he's got to be confined. Which means locked in a cage, for weeks and weeks.

(3 to 6, anyway)

We're leaving him at the vet's till Monday, when we will collect him and his cage. (Sake will, meanwhile, be also being collected, in her case from the cattery where she'll be for the Novacon weekend.)

And then we'll be keeping him in a cage at home.
bellinghman: (Default)
We really don't know how he did it, but Crystalpaws Neko Totoro — or Toro to us — broke himself last night.

He came trotting in through the cat flap at about his dinner time, and went upstairs.

C went up to bring him down to be fed, and put him in front of his bowl, in which he seemed somewhat uninterested.

He ate a bit, and then came out into the hallway and sat down, with one rear leg pointing in the wrong direction.

We think he'd have had difficulty getting in through the cat flap if his leg had already been like that, so somehow, in the course of five minutes, he managed to either dislocate or break something, and he didn't even yelp.

My current hypothesis is that he managed to pop his left hip while coming in through the cat flap, but we're waiting on the X-ray.

(As far as breed is concerned, Abyssinians are energetic and athletic, and certainly not known for hip dysplasia)

ETA: no, it's a fracture of the femur at the growing point. The leg may have finished growing, but it apparently takes time to finish toughening up and meanwhile his musculature is already full strength. So he appears to have managed to snap it under his own strength.
bellinghman: (Default)
This morning, on the verge beside the road that James I & VI rode on the way to become King in London, and down which Constantine the Great came on the way to the Imperial Throne in Rome, was ... a speed camera van.

It's a common location for it, as the road is opening up after the town centre traffic and it's also at the end of a longish downhill slope after the rise to cross the railway bridge. Both of which make it all too easy to find yourself doing a few miles over the limit.

I wonder how many they do catch there on the Old North Road. And I wonder what a Roman Emperor would have felt.
bellinghman: (Default)
Since Semagic has just reminded me ('reminded'? that implies I knew it and forgot it. OK, 'informed'): happy birthday today to [ profile] khrister and [ profile] songster.

PCon lunch

Oct. 26th, 2012 01:21 pm
bellinghman: (Default)
On one of the days during PhoenixCon this year, which was at the Irish Writers' Centre, we went down to a restaurant in the basement for lunch.

The food was expensive, but good, and it was tricky getting a seat.

Checking back, I suspect that we were in Chapter One, which has had a Michelin star for the last few years. That would explain it all.
bellinghman: (Default)
We've done it before. We've woken up in the Royal Marine hotel in Dún Laoghaire (though we may have been still calling it Dunleary back then), had breakfast, got in the car and driven down to Kinsale, and had dinner there.

This time, we had drinks in the bar of the Royal Marine afterwards.

... )
bellinghman: (Default)
Once upon a time, we would attend the Irish National SF Conventions, the Octocons. And perhaps we will do so again. But we will never forget our first one, for two reasons.

Firstly, on walking in to the convention and asking to register, we were recognised by the person behind the registration desk, despite the fact that [ profile] bellinghwoman had never set foot in that country before our arrival a couple of hours earlier. ([ profile] sacristan still recognises us, but these days with more excuse.)

And secondly, because it took place that year, and for the next few years, in the Royal Marine hotel, which is in the ferry of of Dun Laoghaire (and no, I no longer have to check that spelling).

This was one of those magnificent places, known for having been the haunt of Sinatra and Laurel & Hardy and a whole lot more. It had a beautiful frontage, and would catch the afternoon sun nicely. Just up the hill from the ferry terminal, and from the DART station, it was easy to get to as well. But it was fading, and at the end of the 90s it was slated for closing and possible demolition, or at the least conversion into flats. Octocon itself moved away and found itself for a while in the hinterlands of Co. Kildare, in Maynooth. We forgot about the elderly lady by the seaside.

This last week, we were back. The hotel is still there, but they've knocked part of it down. Happily, the part they demolished was the rather cheap 1960s (?) extension that the function rooms had been in. And they've built a new 8 storey extension in its place, with new modern rooms. It's got light pouring in through its sides and is, in general, a good piece of modern architecture. It's the right size for its position, being only slightly higher than the car park and shopping mall beside it, and it just works. By dint of arriving two days early, we got a nice room, one with an extra 7 foot of width over the normal rooms, and it had both a bath and a shower cubicle.

It had only one real downside: the bed was too soft for me.

(On the other hand, that meant it was unusually to [ profile] bellinghwoman's preferences.)

As for the frequent complaint about plugs: there were 4 free sockets just above the back of the desk, and two beneath each bedside table, giving a total of 8 sockets. It's a serious gadget freak that can need all of those.

They also do a pretty good wedding, with above average food. This being Ireland, you will get steamed potatoes to go with your roast potatoes, but the beef served was both generous and tender. And the banqueting suite is not an internal box - it has full height glass along the frontage, looking down to the Irish Sea.

In general, especially if you can get the £65/day rate we got (no breakfast, but that was €9 each if we wanted it), a pretty good one.
bellinghman: (Default)
We're back from Ireland. It was an excellent time in general, but one particular point is worthy of mention at this point.

I hired a car, a 6-speed diesel Vauxhall Insignia. It came with scuff marks on the front and rear bumpers.

It did not come with that lever one usually finds between the seats for operating a hand brake.

It's just possible the two are related.


What it did have was a button. Stick a fingertip under it and pull upwards, and a noise would be heard and the wheels would be braked. Press it down, and that brake would not immediately release: instead, a chime would sound and a warning light would appear on the dashboard indicating one should press the pedal.

(Which pedal it didn't actually state.)

So I'd press the button, and then press the various pedals to get the light to disappear.

I'd done about 400 miles over the course of a few days (mostly on cruise control, where hand brakes are totally unnecessary) before finally realising that the button pressing part was not actually required. Just put the car in gear and try to drive, and the brake would release without any fuss whatsoever.

I would have found this out earlier, probably, if a manual had been available in the vehicle.

In future, I will insist on that.

Local Folk

Oct. 2nd, 2012 10:56 am
bellinghman: (Default)
We like live performance. It's something we've only really got into in the last couple of years, but we do go to a number of live performances of both music and comedy. And we reckon that over 90% of the time, we're happy to have gone

But oh dear, sometimes we're not.

Last night was a case in point: we went to see Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick at the Junction in Cambridge. Swarbrick in particular is a legend in the British Folk scene.

We left at the interval.

It was all that is wrong with Folk music: traditional tunes rendered inert under a peatbed of respectful seriousness. We didn't quite have the singer with a finger in his ear, but Carthy spent almost all the time retuning his guitar and still being out of tune. I spent some of the time waiting for the interval trying to appreciate the guitar technique, but it wasn't anything special.

No, not for us. There are obviously people who do like it, judging by the few seats unfilled, but not us.

Contrast that with the gig we went to last Friday: Megson. They were performing in our local church as part of the Royston Arts Festival. They also do Folk, they also do Traditional songs, but they play with life coming out of every note they play. They too are a duo, in this case Stu Hanna and Debbie Hanna-Palmer, but they provide a much fuller performance. Perhaps it's that they're young, but they know that above all music must live.

The upside of going to the Junction is that I bought tickets for Megson's performance there in November, which will be the third time we'll have seen them this year. (The first being when they opened the Cambridge Folk Festival this year - before that we'd never heard of them.)

So tonight, it's Distraction Club night, a melange of performances, some of which we know and will love, some of which will be new to us.
bellinghman: (Default)
So why did Midge just stop singing?

Oh, because the music player had just auto-updated.

What is deeply impressing is that when I told the new software to continue, it picks up in the same place the old version stopped. This is almost as smooth as it could be.
bellinghman: (Default)
Ireland. We will be in you next month.

We'll be visiting for the induction into servitude wedding of [ profile] natural20 in October, and, my having a few days holiday left to take before the end of October, we're coming over on the Wednesday 17th. Anybody who is around on the 17th to the 19th who'd like us to descend on you, squeak here.

We are hiring a car, so we might even drop down to Cork.


Sep. 17th, 2012 01:14 pm
bellinghman: (Default)
There we were last night. We'd watched Dr Who and were watching QI. About ten minutes in, we heard a cat yowling.

Now there are a lot of different yowls, not to mention a number of different cats around, so we just assumed one of ours was asserting territorial rights over the black and white mog that keeps wandering into our garden. But after a few minutes, it was apparent that there were no replies, this was a lone cat yowling.

And it sounded like the "I'm here, would you please come and retrieve me?" yowl. Not a desperate yowl, but one where we were supposed to do something. Oddly enough, it was quite distinctly audible within the living room, less so elsewhere in the house.

so what happened next )
bellinghman: (Default)

When I was young, one of the dishes my mother used to cook us was a variation on a chilli con carne. It was deeply inauthentic, as befits British cookery of 40 years ago, but it was tasty, inexpensive, and very easy to prepare. And we all loved it.

I have recently started to cook it myself, at least a variation on it, but I think I have the essence of the original.

So, with no more ado

Chilli beans


  • 500g lean minced beef (extra lean is better)

  • 1 tin of baked beans

  • 1 packet of Colmans chilli con carne mix

  • 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup

  • 4 tablespoons water
  • Preheat an oven to 160C

  • In a casserole, brown the minced beef

  • Add the spice mix and stir in

  • Add the remaining ingredients and mix in

  • Mix all together and place the casserole in the oven for 45 minutes

The above will serve two hungry people. When I was young, we used to have it with freshly baked crusty white bread, but [ profile] bellinghwoman and I have it on its own.

The original also had a couple of bay leaves in, but I've so far managed to forget that both times. You can also add some chopped browned onion. If you feel like it, you can be serious with this, adding your own spices rather than using a pre-made mix, and using tomato purée and sugar and vinegar instead of the ketchup, but at that point you're starting to head off into proper cookery. The essence of this one is its simplicity.

bellinghman: (Default)
Last night we went to see the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show Live at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, where they did two one-hour episodes gently harvested and distilled from the corpus that is HHGTTG.

And it was with original cast, where available. Which meant no Peter Jones as the book, since he's been gone these too many years, but the original Arthur, Ford, Trillian and Zaphod? Oh yes.

Staging was something between a radio play, with actors holding scripts in front of microphones, and a full stage play. Costumes were worn, and prosthetic bulges used on the Vogons. Marvin was a puppeteered creation, but done well withal. And at the back of the stage, a band who opened the proceedings with the intro tune (diverting momentarily through a Dr Who theme ...). HHGTTG was always a very audio production and this kept to the precedents.

The first episode comprised the story up to the explosion on Magrathea, so a pretty straight telling of the part everyone knows. It was somewhat helter-skelter, since it was condensing what was originally 3 hours down to 1, but the essence was there.

The second episode was a bit more confusing, since it was a concoction derived from the remaining 4 books. Random Dent appeared, and the Guide Mark II, and we also had the Milliways episode, but not necessarily in the order one might expect, and there was a nice lampshading at one point when Arthur conceded that several chapters of his life seemed to have gone missing.

Guest stars for the evening were John Lloyd as an excellent book, and Rory McGrath as the Meat of the Day offering his beer-basted liver (40 years of basting) and a Coq au Vin (one portion, small, only). Oh, and even the Higgs Boson got a mention. All in all, an enjoyable evening, with a packed out audience. The only downsides were that the upstairs bar was closed (why, Corn Exchange, why?), and the merchandise was priced laughably expensive.
bellinghman: (Default)
What's with the Zombies? Why are they taking over SF&F?

OK, that's perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but let's look at the Hugo list for this year, at least as far as I've got through it.

Of the 5 novels, two use the Z word

That's Deadline by Mira Grant, and Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

A third novel, A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin, doesn't use the term. But it's the 5th novel in a series in which — well how shall I describe it? — dead people rise again and attack their former families and friends. Zombies by another name, and even if they don't feature during this novel, their existence is the great threat behind the series as a whole.

In the graphic story section, there is Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication by Howard Tayler. His current story (i.e. a year later in the online Schlock Mercenary publication) is also using the zombie trope, though we will have to wait a few more days to discover whether corpses infect.

(In the novella list Mira Grant reappears with Countdown, but I will just note that that's a prequel to her novel and not list it as another example. Also reappearing is Game of Thrones the TV series, which is the dramatic version of the 1st novel of which Dance with Dragons is the latest.)

So we have a whole swathe of stories from a bunch of writers in which zombies feature.


Is it a coincidence, or is there something in the concept of the zombie that allows writers to play with existential threat? Now that imminent nuclear destruction has gone, is our biggest threat the suicide bomber? Is the zombie a metaphor for the enemy that you cannot reason with, and that doesn't mind if he dies so long as you do too?

If so, how come Martin was there back in 1996, when Game of Thrones was first published?

(I'll also note [ profile] autopope's Bit Rot, where it's a robot zombie outbreak.)
bellinghman: (Default)
Oh Google, why? Why is there no SD slot of any form in the Nexus 7 tablet?

You did this on the Nexus S phone. Which is why I didn't buy one of those, and went for the Samsung Galaxy S II instead.

You did this on the Galaxy Nexus phone. Which is why I won't buy one of those.

And now you've done it on the Nexus 7 tablet. I don't think I'll be buying one of those either.

Please don't skimp on storage, even if some other manufacturers do. I will not buy something that tops out at a mere 32 GB - I've got that much filled on my Galaxy S II phone's external card.

Yes, I know, I know, Apple don't do it. But you shouldn't copy their bad habits. This is one of the reasons they never get my money.
bellinghman: (Default)
I blame [ profile] desperance.

We previously had a pair of Abyssinians, one male, one female.

They were beautiful, affectionate, and intelligent. They were also well behaved.

We now have another pair.

They are also beautiful, affectionate, and intelligent.

However, ever since [ profile] desperance visited, they seem to have started trying to steal food from the kitchen surfaces, something the previous two did not. And yesterday, Sake added Assaulting a Police Officer to her charge sheet. Honestly, we've been trying to teach her that licking the top of someone's head is not something to be done.
bellinghman: (Default)
Rule #1 at comedy clubs and gigs: if you're in the front row, expect interaction of some form with the performers. This may be fairly benign - at the Armstrong and Miller show at the Cambridge Corn Exchange the other month, the worst we had to do was pull our legs in as Ben Miller went charging along the row to borrow a victim for Armstrong's dentist's chair sketch.

But when we go to the Distraction Club, we're usually in the third row. There's a row of tables in front of us. We should be safe.

Yet, two months in a row, I've been 'got'.

Last month, it was Paul Sweeney who somehow caught sight of my raised eyebrow and started taking the proverbial out of me. Amusingly so, and not maliciously, but even so.

This month? Oh dear. A white Dublin comedy hip-hop duo called Abandoman. If I'd read this review in advance, I might have had qualms about being that close to the front. But I got hauled out of the audience, and played my first ever game of Connect 4 — with Mitch Benn and the Distractions around me as well — as the show finale.

I expect it on YouTube within the next few days. D'ya think I could file a DMCA request to have that taken down?

(Abandoman were great. If you ever get the chance to see them, get along and do so. They're the type of act which must be seen live, they rely so heavily on audience interaction. To see someone improvising completely appropriate lyrics in response to whatever random stuff lands in front of him is something that just won't come across on a recording: you've got to see that sharpness in action from a distance of a few feet away.)

One thing I've learnt: from the stage, the place where [ profile] bellinghwoman and I usually sit is pretty much in the centre of the field of view. I could see her taking pictures of me.

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