Books, life the universe

Friday, 30 May 2008

Earthquakes and work

As a result of the earthquake in China I have started to take an interest in the US Geological survey website I find their constantly updated facts and figures of earthquakes fascinating. There are several earthquakes every day which measure more than 4 on the Richter scale. I suppose I can afford to take an academic interest in the subject living in the UK. Having said that I have experienced 2 earthquakes - the one in February this year and then another smaller one in the early '90s whilst I was living in Norfolk. The British Geological Survey also has a section on earthquakes in this country, though it is not perhaps as informative as the American version. I think earthquakes, volcanoes, torrential rain etc all serve to remind us that the earth is alive and well and living and breathing beneath our feet.

Having said all that I'm sure the people affected in China do not think the same way and I feel desperately sorry for them. They deserve all the help they can get. How do you rebuild your life after that sort of tragedy? Was it a problem with the standard of their building that so many houses collapsed? Or was it the landslides which caused so much of the damage rather than the quake itself? Who knows - but I'm sure it will be studied for some time to come by the scientific community. Apparently geologists had only identified this particular fault line last year. I looked to see whether there had been any smaller quakes in the days before the big one, but there hadn't. There have been several since of course. I hope for the sake of the ordinary people living in the area that things settled down soon.

Work - I am on leave for the next two weeks - great! But I have a fence to treat with wood preservative provided it stays fine for more than two consecutive days. I need to catch up with the housework - things like cleaning the windows, and I want to go through my wardrobe and sling out/sell things I don't wear. I also need to do something about over 100 books I don't wish to keep and which haven't sold on either Amazon or EBay. I feel a trip round all the local charity shops coming on. We have plenty of those - about half a dozen in Boston and the same in Spalding including a Sue Ryder shop devoted wholly to second hand books - I wonder whether they want any of mine?

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Is that the end of the debate?

Well probably not - but at least it's over for a while. The status quo on abortion has been maintained and we shall all have to wait and see what happens next time the issue comes to the surface.

We met our new manager for the first time today, which is a hurdle over with. He seems OK and has said he prefers to leave people to get on with things rather than stand over them. A style of management we're used to. My other half -forgetting the organisation I work for does not operate like most places he's worked for - keeps going on about him being a hatchet man to get us all the sack. I do so love pessimists!! He keeps reminding me to be very careful not to do anything wrong in case they use it as an excuse to sack me. I'm always trying to remember to say as little as possible about work at home, but my self censorship does not always operate how I would want it to so I should think I get the lecture virtually every day.

But I must not rant - he's only thinking of me. Why is it that the phrase 'I'm only telling you for your own good.' so ******* annoying?

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Current parliamentary debate

It never ceases to amaze me how much vitriol the debate on abortion produces - usually from men who will never (one particular American aside) be in a position to be pregnant. I always used to be completely pro-choice. In the last few years I've become rather more anti choice. Of course the current Bill is not about the Abortion Act as it just contains one clause about reducing the time limit. It's a shame that certain sections of the population consider it to be fundamentally altering the right to abortion, which it isn't.

I have never understood why women cannot avoid getting pregnant. To me if you have sex without taking the appropriate precautions - if you do not want children - then you are showing a certain disrespect for yourself and your body. If you trust your partner to take the precautions then fair enough. How much you trust your partner is another issue entirely. I'm not criticising anyone who has had an abortion for whatever reason as it must be a heart breaking decision to have to make. It is also one I never wanted to have to make, so I was sterilised at the age of 31.

Considering the options for contraception in this country - all of them available on the NHS - I don't think there is really any excuse for anyone to become pregnant these days if they do not want to. Abortion should always be a last resort. I would like to see the limit reduced to 12 weeks as it is in much of Europe. Though medical grounds could override the limit. I would also like to see abortion on demand up to 12 weeks without two doctors having to agree. I may not agree with it but I do see that in the modern world it would be very difficult to return to a situation where it is illegal and I wouldn't want to see a return to lethal back street abortions.

Let's hope we never get to a position in the UK where anyone associated with abortions becomes the target for the fanatical pro-life campaigners. As they're so much pro-life I fail to see how they can justify killing someone else just because they don't agree with what they're doing.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Fat people are responsible for global warming

There is an article in today's Telegraph online saying new research blames fat people for global warming. There's a certain strange logic to this: fat people eat more so it costs more in terms of resources to produce their food. Yes I can understand that. It was the next bit I found unpalatable - fat people walk less and travel by car more and don't use public transport!! How's that for sweeping generalisations?

I actually walk more and use public transport more than many thinner people I know so I don't see how they can generalise like this. If you're thin and active you might also eat more than fat inactive people. What about food everyone in the Western world wastes as well?

Personally I don't subscribe to the idea that mankind is wholly responsible for climate change. What about volcanoes? What about all the historical evidence about climate change in the past? Were dinosaurs driving around in gas guzzling cars before the last ice age? I don't think so - though of course there are the Flintstones to consider!

I'm all in favour of limiting waste but not for reasons of climate change. The whole carrier bag thing irritates me immensely. Those of us who use carrier bags as bin bags will only have to buy alternatives if they ban them entirely - so where's the difference? I refuse to wash out the kitchen bin every time I use it because I can't put a bin liner in it - that's a waste of water and washing up liquid.

The other thing that really bugged me today on the news is the idea that many rural doctor's surgeries may have to close under the new grand plan for polyclinics. So how are rural communities to manage? This potentially means more cars on the road and more people travelling which is not what this government wants. Our leaders and their policies seem less and less joined up by the minute.

Those of you who follow Dr Crippen's posts on NHS blog doctor - link at top of page - may have read his comments on extreme feminism. Even though I'm female I still sided with him. The women he's referring to who are discussing 'birth rape' seem to have a very strange outlook on life. I fail to see how medical procedures can be described as and equated with rape. They may be unpleasant and uncomfortable but NOT rape. There is something definitely skewed about this sort of attitude in my opinion. Do men being examined for prostate cancer regard the examination as male rape? I doubt it.

I've come across this attitude before in women of my acquaintance who seem to think doctors get turned on by giving women internal examinations and regard anything like that as disgusting and demeaning. To me it all depends on your attitude to it. What if the doctor is turned on? As far as I'm concerned if he's doing his job properly I don't really care what vicarious enjoyment he's deriving from the task. As long as a procedure is medically necessary - what is the problem?

Maybe this all brands me as anti-feminist - which I'm not. I don't like the extremes of misogynism or feminism as they're apt to throw the baby out with the bath water in their pursuit of their ideals.

Sunday, 11 May 2008


I have just finished reading Marian Keyes' latest 'This Charming Man'. Quite a gritty story - domestic violence, honesty or otherwise in (Irish) politics and alcoholism in women. There were also some hilarious scenes with cross-dressers which I absolutely loved. I'm not a particular fan of MK having been put off by 'Watermelon'. I did read - and loved - 'The Other Side of the Story' so I decided to try the latest. It was well worth reading. Some of the scenes are shocking even though you almost know what's coming. I recommend it - don't be put off by MK's chick lit image.

I've also finished Eve Houston's 'Secrets in Prior's Ford' - think Miss Read and Rebbecca Shaw. Village life and interesting people - the first in a series. I shall definitely watch for the next one as it was a good book to read on the bus to and from work.

Talking of work - our manager has got herself a temporary promotion and is moving on to greater things. So we're depressed bunnies at the moment as we've always felt she does her best for us. We don't know who we're going to get in exchange so we're feeling a bit jittery. Add to that the prospect of the office closing - well we hope it won't and have prepared a 60 page document to say why we think it shouldn't full of facts and figures. We shall have to wait and see until later this year whether we've been successful in our campaign to keep it open.

But I shall enjoy Sunday and worry about work tomorrow. It's sunny and warm, even if it is bordering on too hot to sleep at night, and it's really nice to wander around with a minimum of clothing on. Off to read the Sunday papers on line.

Monday, 5 May 2008

NATO phonetic meme

Thanks Keith - Zen Mischief - link at the top of this page - here is my 'story':

Juliet, India, Mike and Oscar met to tango, foxtrot and drink whisky sours at the local hotel with its echoes of Raffles. Juliet wondered whether her papa would let her go to Quebec in November with Charlie. Oscar said Papa Romeo wouldn't like it. India said what about Lima? She had heard Peru was quite pleasant in November. Mike said he wanted to go and play golf in the high Sierras, but his papa wanted him to go to Yankee land. Oscar said the girls would need to be careful what they put in their luggage or they would be several kilos over weight. Juliet said she always flew with Alpha Delta airlines as she fancied the staff in their uniforms and said they were welcome to x-ray her or her luggage. India said she felt the same about Bravo Zulu airline staff. Mike and Oscar went to get more whisky sours as the girls talked about men in uniform.
I would like to tag Anne Brooke - this will test your writing skills!

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Tarte aux almondes and chocolate cake

I made one of the other Dr Oetker cake mixes I bought yesterday and it was absolutely delicious and simple to make - just mix the packet with melted butter and 3 eggs and pour into tin - sprinkle on almonds and sugar topping. Lovely and moist and very rich - good as a dessert and as a cake with coffee etc. I shall be making a Jane Asher chocolate fudge cake today. I have had Jane Asher mixes before and they always turn out well and taste delicious.

I was looking through my Good Housekeeping cookery book yesterday and found a recipe for Sacher Torte - I shall have to make that as it sounds absolutely heavenly - chocolate ganache filling - mouthwatering! I am really into cakes at the moment. At least it's only a weekend thing as I really don't have time or inclination to bake - even out of a packet during the week.

Off to read the Sunday paper on line - save the environment - read online

Saturday, 3 May 2008

The language problem

I bought a packet of cake mix from Tesco the other day - thinking it looked good - it was by Dr Oetker (Supercook under another name) and they've been quite heavily advertised recently. When I actually got it the instructions are all in Polish!

I considered trying to look it up on the internet but as there was a web address on another packet I e-mailed them. It turns out to be a Polish product aimed at people who speak the language, but they will try and get me a translation.

I know we have a large population of Eastern Europeans round here - 25% of the population in Boston - but I didn't know main stream supermarkets were now catering to their tastes. If they can't provide me with a translation I'm going to have to accost likely looking people in the street and ask them if they can give me the gist of what I have to do - or try on the internet.

If I'd gone into a specialist grocer I could have understood it - but this was Tesco. Maybe I ought to have contacted them instead . . . .