Thursday, November 26, 2009


As the United States of America drops into their great celebration of hope in adversity, it is a fine time for us all to count our blessings.

A totally unexpected joy for me was a brace of kind references from Nicholas Bate and Cultural Offering. Thank you both.

A Winter Warmer

Now that I am established as a world renowned whisky expert, it is time to share my deep knowledge on other Scottish  delicacies. Winter draws on (oops, hope I didn't offend anyone there?). What do we all need more than a warming dish of porridge to keep us going through the day?

I was brought up on porridge, but memories of soaking the oatmeal overnight, or even gently simmering rolled oats in milk in the morning, just didn't fit my rather undisciplined lifestyle. If only I'd known that Technology provided the answer 30 years ago.

So without further ado:

Three Minute Fire and Forget Porridge


  • 1 ladle rolled oats
  • 2 ladles milk
  • 1 pinch salt

  • put in microwavable bowl
  • mix
  • microwave for about 3 minutes depending on size of ladle, power of microwave and, bizarrely, shape of bowl - may take two or three tries before you get it to your taste
  • stir
  • leave about 30 s
  • add milk; extras to taste

    extras could include

    • golden syrup
    • maple syrup
    • honey
    • raspberries
    • whisky (in moderation)

    go nuts!
    oh yes:

    • nuts
    Things to do while your porridge cooks

    Some of these can be done together. Some can't. Start the day as you will go on, setting and satisfying priorities!

    • Feed pets
    • Outline blog post
    • Rouse children
    • Let chickens out
    • Stroke one cat properly
    • Stroke four cats just enough to reassure them
    • Snog wife
    • Shave
    • Make bed
    • Brush a loveliness or two of ladybirds into a bug jar for wife to show to her kindergarten class
    • Read through your task list and set your subconscious to work out today's achievements
    P.S. Yes, I know some people spell  it "porage". My friend Po had a habit of writing long, angry emails on a broad range of injustices. I did find a helping of steaming Po rage quite invigorating of a morning.

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    Happy memories

    The rides are great.
    The pirate water fight is super-great.
    Sorry about your copy of "Everything is Illuminated", Emily. It, too,  remembers.

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Saturday, November 21, 2009

    A friendly introduction

    Like many Britons (and all right thinking, properly educated, English speaking people), I am inordinately fond of the works of Rudyard Kipling. Especially "If", his inspirational exhortation to his doomed son.

    This is something of a guilty pleasure for my generation. We were required to see him as an apologist for a frankly racialist mindset which underpinned the British Empire. He was the quintessential type of the hidebound establishment that we were supposed to be rebelling against. Here is a nice picture of Malcolm McDowell and friend picking off leaders of that establishment in the closing moments of the 1968 film of the same name.

    Yet the poem holds up today. Written in a clean, natural rhythm, it simply lists the defining virtues for us all to aspire to. And they could have come straight off the blog of a life coach last night: grace under pressure; confidence; empathy; modesty; risk taking; accountability; persistence...

    So all this sage advice was available a hundred years ago. (Each generation has to find out for itself, of course. Especially now, when the nuclear family restricts access to wise old uncles and aunts.) The message for today is clear: the Edwardians strove to meet the same ideals that we do. They may have fallen short in different ways, but the foundations for success have not moved an inch. Don't bother with blogs until you have digested the books.

    So you chunter comfortably through the poem, checking off the virtues as so many slices of motherhood and apple pie. Then you double take as you realise what you've just read. Could he really have meant that?

    If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you
    If all men count with you, but none too much
    There's food for thought.

    Nowadays we are to believe that, as far as relationships go, the deeper the better. We are to let down our defences, so our friends can hurt us. We are to welcome the inevitable pain as part of Life's Rich Tapestry.

    I wonder.

    Now, as then, one size does not fit all.

    Who says it's all work and no play?

    Dell? Pah!
    Samsung? Piffle!

    "It’s competition time!

    From now until December 31, each EC member has been issued a challenge to see who can generate the most traffic and sales to our Friends & Family online store this holiday season.

    It’s easy to participate -- spread the word to your friends, family, and business colleagues by posting a link to Cathie’s store on your personal networks (email, blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WaterCooler, personal website, etc.) to realize exclusive savings on the hottest HP consumer products this holiday season. 

    What’s in it for Finance employees? The satisfaction of knowing that you have personally contributed to HP’s holiday revenue growth AND a chance to win a prize from our consumer portfolio. If Finance wins, Cathie will draw an employee’s name to win the prize!

    You can follow the progress of the competition on the @hp employee portal throughout December.  Please direct any questions about HP’s Friends and Family Challenge to

    Happy Holidays!"

    Friday, November 20, 2009

    The folded A4 list

    I have wasted invested a lot of time following various time management gurus. There are two reasons for this deeply dysfunctional behaviour.

    1. They and their followers are generally nice people with interesting things to say on a wide range of list related subjects and
    2. The whole idea of wasting time on efficiency just fills me with silent laughter that sustains me when the real world gets unfunny.
    There are two tactical reasons for keeping a list of things to do:
    1. When you are interrupted with a new task (a thought of your own or someone else asking for your help), you can write it on the list instead of breaking off whatever you are doing and
    2. You always have something to do
    People write their lists on computers, notebooks, loose leaf pads and all sorts of things. But...there are few things less helpful than a list that is somewhere you aren't. If I'm walking the dog or gardening or shopping and suddenly have a thought, I will forget it before I get to my computer or my A4 notebook in my study.

    But a sheet of A4 paper folded three times to A7 will fit in any pocket and hold any thoughts, distractions and tasks until I get back to base.

    Latex gloves

    After you reach the age of six, smearing poo all over yourself becomes less of a sensual delight and more of a health hazard. In fact, our brains eventually develop a  deep rooted loathing of even comparatively harmless dirt and grime.

    But dirt, grime and dog poo (and, when our gods and plumbers abandon us, even our own poo) all need to be dealt with. This is a major cause not only of physical illness but also of intolerable mental stress.

    If only there was some way of stopping the grime actually touching you while you dispose of it humanely.

    But there is!

    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    Secret weapons - mini bolt cutters

    It has been estimated that there are 42,192 different tools which could conceivably be used in a domestic setting. So those setting out on Life's Great Adventure have some decisions to make. Unless they are blessed with unusually deep pockets, storage space and time to learn.

    I started off with drill, hammer, screwdriver and Mole wrench. You can do most jobs, after a fashion, with these. But I have spent many painful tortured hours bodging jobs which could have been done quickly, painlessly and well with a few proper tools. If only I'd read this blog then.

    The tough, independent inhabitants of New Zealand have a saying that any problem can be fixed with a bit of number 8 wire. (Hat tip to the splendid bignosedugly guy and his brave, inspiring account of his emigration.) My personal preference is 2mm (number 12) or a wire coathanger (a ubiquitous public nuisance in my youth, now sadly vanishing). Great for going places that a strategic finger can't go, as well as fencing and general bodging. And then there's chicken wire.

    Now, you can use bypass cutters on pliers or general purpose fencing tools (right. Oops: wrong fencing!). And I did, for many years. But it is awkward wrestling the tool into position and if you need to make a number of cuts (for chicken wire, for example) it is a slow, painful crawl.

    Or you can acquire a pair of mini bolt cutters. Every snip is a tactile delight: a slight squish as the wire is squeezed and then a click as it gives way. And every snip is a tiny remembrance of just how painful this job was and how easy it is now.

    So try it with pliers first: then you'll know what you're missing.

    Sunday, November 15, 2009

    Sage advice

    • What does "success" mean, and how can you grab it? Nicholas Bate runs a tapas bar of tasty gobbets of wisdom. Sharp, witty and inspiring. Try the "how to think like..." series.
    • Looking for insights into career and real life? Penelope Trunk seemed to have the lifestyle from Hell until the Farmer came along. Wise, brave, incisive and beautifully written. Warning: too much information for some.
    • Quick, practical advice on getting more done? Mark Forster distils a lifetime's experience into practical methods you can pick up and use right now. Instant, life changing payback. And his user forum is the friendliest on the web.
    • Fancy a geeky scrap? Charlie Stross is up for it! Cheerfully offensive and very British. Intelligent and attracts a wide range of science fiction fans. Caution: read his rules before joining the fray.

    All dressed up

    Oh dear.

    It's taking a little while to craft the first few posts. There are a couple coming along. They'll be here next weekend (21 November).

    Now, if you'll excuse me, I have chickens to feed.