5.11.17

Trip to Khao Kho

We live in a rice farming area which is, not surprisingly, very flat. No hills, hardly a slope in sight. So far a weekend away I insisted that we went somewhere hilly. Goodness, did we find some hills. And so VERY steep roads! We can to Khao Kho in central Thailand. It's a very nice area with lots of twisty roads and some scary hill climbs. My legs were rewarded with the resistance I was looking for and there are some interesting things to do here and interesting things to see. By the way, even on the top of a couple of hills, on sloping ground, we saw rice being grown! DW

26.10.17

The Pushchair NOT the Baby

Waiting to check in for my flight from Istanbul to Doha when a man carrying a very young baby walked in front of me on his way to another counter. A short conversation that I could not hear took place, after which the check in clerk laughed heartily as she said for all the world to hear, No, not to check in the baby, check in the baby stroller!! The man went past me again as he took his baby away. He came back within a few minutes minus baby, plus pushchair! Some entertainment at least.

20.10.17

Scooby Doo

It's hardly the most important thing I ever thought about but I could not abide that television programme, Scooby Doo. It really got on my nerves. In my inbox today I received my usual OED word of the day message to find the word Scooby ... here is the entry: scooby, n. [‘not to have a scooby: = not to have a clue at clue n. 2e.’] Pronunciation: Brit. /ˈskuːbi/, U.S. /ˈskubi/, Scottish /ˈskubɪ/ Forms: 19– scoobie, 19– scooby. Origin: Formed within English, by clipping or shortening. Etymon: proper name Scooby. Etymology:Short for Scooby Doo, the name of a cartoon dog which features in several U.S. television series and films (which typically include the name of the dog in the title), as rhyming slang for clue n. The fuller form scooby doo is also sometimes found. colloq. (chiefly Sc.). not to have a scooby: = not to have a clue at clue n. 2e. 1993 Herald (Glasgow) 14 May 16 Your lawyer telling youse that he husnae a scooby and youse can jist take a wee tirravie tae yersel. 1999 C. Dolan Ascension Day(2000) vi. 120 Mum, trying to be businesslike, quizzed Morag about blood counts and bone marrow suppression and other such matters about which of course she didn't have a scooby. 2006 Daily Record (Glasgow)(Nexis) 12 May 33 Isn't research meant to ask questions we haven't a scoobie about? May the saints preserve us!! DW

6.10.17

RIP Liam Coughlan

I saw a question on quora.com today that piqued my interest so I answered it: it concerned the British view of Irish people. Since I have worked and admired several Irish people over the years, I responded to say so. Following on from there I thought I would try to find the Irishmen I worked with by way of a google search and was saddened by what I found. I read a story online about my old Irish friend Liam Coughlan. We met and worked together in Yeravan then Tblisi and then as I was posted to Bishkek, Liam was posted to Tashkent: we both still worked for the same organisation in the same project but we were countries apart. We met briefly in Croatia when Liam invited me to run a one weekcourse for him there a while after we had finished our Central Asian gig. We lost touch after that! Liam was one of the smartest men I have ever known: highly qualified in his field; holding high level positions in a variety of organisations. Liam was generous, friendly, open, talkative, informative, supportive, helpful, down to earth, very well read on Ireland and Irish history and politics. Liam was also politically very astute. Liam also had a fantastic sense of humour and any time spent with him was bound to entail his endless blarney and endless anecdotes. He knew or had met countless people: honest johns and downright rogues and he had stories about them all. Liam was educated by the Christian Brothers in Ireland and what they did to him and to others is beyond the pale. Stories of brutality, sexual activity, paedophilia and possibly murder seemed to haunt every waking hour of anyone who was in the throes of anything to do with that outfit. I was transfixed by his stories but never doubted them. Strories in newspapers, books and online match what Liam told me. He regaled me with stories of when he stood for Parliament in Ireland and how he realised how stupid he might have been to try. He was certainly clever and honest enough but maybe a little idealistic. In any case, at or around that time he gave a lift on the back of his motorbike to Charles Haughey, now the late and unlamented Taoiseach whom Liam branded a cheat, liar, thieving arse. At the time I knew Liam I reviewed every book I read on my web site and he not only read my reviews but he commented on them: normally constructive and supportive … apart from the book I reviewed on Haughey. Let me confess that Liam lent me the book and I didn’t read all of it so my review was a little short of proper insight. I got an email from Liam setting me straight and I never admitted my shortcomings but I published Liam’s correction without hesitation! Of the two of us, I was the qualified teacher but Liam was by far the better educator. Because of his intelligence and diligence, he took subjects apart and rebuilt them. He had a learner’s insight and a teacher’s gift and his students were definitely the better for it. He had two women ACCA students in Tblisi and they both sailed through every exam because of Liam and they became qualified accountants in double quick time. If ever a beggar or a hawker came anywhere near Liam or the people he was with, he would be the first or the only one to buy what they were selling or to give them something to eat or just to hand over a few coins or notes. I have known no one else like that. In terms of the question on quora.com, Liam was very clear about that: he liked and respected British people and if anyone tried to say there was hatred between the two nations, he would easily strip out the rumour and gossip and explain who the haters were, where they were, what they wanted and how few of them there were! He could have been an ambassador for Ireland. The story I read about Liam online this morning said that he had died from natural causes in Austria, as testified by the Austrian police: aged 51. I knew his partner had had a baby shortly after we went our separate ways but it seems there was another one after that. The crux of the story I read today concerned the woman who passed herself off as Liam’s first wife who claimed no knowledge of the second wife. Let it be known, I knew about both women and I met the second one several times as she was in Tblisi and elsewhere with him. I never met the first wife but I heard a lot about her and their son. Liam never hid from his responsibilites and I imagine he was a fantastic father but he has died tragiccally very young and I wish his children well. One of the last times we met face to face was in Ireland. At the end of our Central Asian work I said I was looking for somewhere to go on holiday and he suggested Ireland so that’s where I went. From South Wales to Waterford by car ferry and then a week doing a grand tour of Ireland, ending up in Belfast. Liam met me in Waterford and we had a jar or two of Porter there. Grand craic was had during that week and Ireland is a place well worth visiting: Waterford to Cobh, Limerick, Kerry, Knock (Liam had a story about that, too!), Galway and across to Belfast. Excellent drivers in Ireland I have to say: very corteous. I noted the speed signs on the roads as I went from the ferry to the hotel where I met Liam and I asked him, are those signs in miles per hour or kilometers …he replied, you decide! Typical Irish, typical Liam. I am sorry I lost touch but these things happen and I am very sorry to hear that he has died: by the way, no surprise as he smoked like a chimney and eschewed just about every form of exercise known to man! I shoud say, I don’t know what killed him but he did smoke a lot and I know he was treated from time to time for possible skin cancer given the type of skin he had. Nevertheless, ave atque vale Liam. It really was a pleasure and a privilege to have known you. Duncan October 2017

11.9.17

Recipe time: veggie sandwich

Lightly fry the following: Medium sized onion, sliced Clove of garlic crushed and chopped Stick of celery chopped Button mushrooms sliced Fry the onions and garlic for a minute Add the celery for two minutes Add the mushrooms with some ground black pepper, a pinch of salt and 6 or 7 splashes of Worcestershire sauce and keep cooking for another two minutes Meanwhile Toast two slices of your favourite bread and after they have cooled for two minutes spread hummus on both sides of each slice Pile half of your onion mix onto the first slice of bread. Put the second slice I top of that. Now pile the rest of the onion mix on top of the second slice Serve with a salad of your choice if you wish but I couldn't wait! I make my own hummus but shop bought is normally just as good. DW 11th September 2017

29.8.17

American Food

I worked with Mrs W over the last few days to write an introductory piee on American Food: here it is! The USA is the richest country in the world and it has the biggest, most expensive and often the best of everything. There are about 300 million people living in the USA and apart from Native American Indans, they have come from all parts of the world. As these people arrived from Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and elsewhere, they brought their ideas, cultures and cuisines with them. We know about Little Italy and Chinatown in New York, there is the Latin Quarter in New Orleans. All over the country, the food comes from here, there and everywhere. • Jerky • Dutch Baby Pancake • Jersey Breakfast • Shrimp and Grits • Hoppel Poppel • Scrapple • Tex Mex And a lot more A lot of these imported dishes are good quality, nutritious dishes that everyone can eat but there is downside to food from the USA: fast food. Since the 1940s the USA has been the leader in creating food and restaurants that cater to speed and greed. People who either cannot cook or who cannot be bothered to cook. Food portions that can be carried away in buckets, not just on plates. Beefburgers made to be the size of a man’s head. Deep fried food. Food with lots of fat and sugar and carbohydrates. Burgers, fried chicken and pizzas. At least two generations of Americans have been brought up on fast food and the result is that more than half of all Americans are not just overweight, not just fat but they are obese … very fat. No surprise when a single meal at MacDonald’s can contain 1,600 calories and many grammes of fat as well. As countries develop and get richer, the more its people get fatter: it’s time to stop and think. We admire the development in the USA but we do not need its fast food and its obesity. DW 26th August 2017

22.8.17

Leek and Potato Soup

Last night I made the best leek and potato soup I have ever made and the secret is the potato! Serves Two Ingredients small onion, sliced one medium sized leek, washed and sliced small potato, washed and chopped ... peeling is optional, I did not peel it half a vegetable stock cube or add real stock or water ... about 15 fluid ounces/400 millilitres dessertspoon of vegetable oil Method Heat the oil in a pan ...medium heat ... and add the onions ... sweat them for a minute Add the leek ... sweat them for a minute Add the potato and continue to sweat all of the veg for another two minutes Add the stock cube and stir it in Now add the liquid/stock Bring to the boil Simmer until the potatoes are soft ... maximum 10 minutes should be enough At this point, take the soup off the heat, pour it into a blender and blend it thoroughly If it is too thick for you, simply add more water or stock It is ready now. Add any adornments you like such as a sprig of parsley or coriander leaves ... as you wish The potato secret? Don't add too much otherwise it dominates the taste DW

7.8.17

The Cost of Light!

Flick a switch and the light comes on. Have you ever thought about the cost of light throughout history? I found a table of the cost of lighting per million lumen hours in the UK in British Pounds for the period 1301 to 2006. In 1301 The estimated cost of lighting for one million lumen hours was £33,042.9 whereas in 2006, the cost was ƒ2.89 per one million lumen hours. Oddly, the cost in 1301 had rocketed to £40,820.58. Take a look for yourself at this page from DER SPIEGEL/Statista, where you can read: "One hour of light (referred to as the quantity of light shed by a 100 watt bulb in one hour) cost 3,200 times as much in 1800 in England as it does today, amounting to 130 Euros back then (or a little more than 150 dollars). In 1900, it still cost 4 euros (close to 5 dollars). In the year 2000, we arrived at a cost of 4 euro cents (5 US cents)." The following chart shows how much work we have to do to be able to switch the lights on: one second now, 400 hours in 1750 BC! Infographic: The Cost of Light Through the Ages | Statista You will find more statistics at Statista Fascinating stuff! DW

13.5.17

Air Malawi: welcome back

I last flew on an Air Malawi aeroplane in the middle of 1993 as I finished a five year posting to the University of Malawi in Blantyre. They had bought two new planes shortly before I left the country but I flew on neither of them. I flew on the BAC111 and the turbo prop plane that used to frighten me to death as it bounced around the skies! Today I will fly from Lusaka in Zambia to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania via Lilongwe in Malawi on Malawian Airlines. I am looking forward to seeing how Malawi Airlines has changed things in the last 23 years and I can see from the web that they fly some smart planes now. My plane today will be the Dash 8 Q400, for both legs of the journey ... Dash 8 Q400 And here, a Boeing 737-700: Boeing 737-700 I have seen a Boeing 747 in Air Malawi livery but I don't see that plane on their web site now where they say they have just the two planes you see above. See you there and muli bwanji in advance! DW

2.1.17

Tether, End of

A month or so ago I started feeling grotty and very quickly realised I probably had a fever. I saw a doctor immediately and he treated me.

The next two days were as expected but day three, when I normally expect to start feeling better, was the worst. Lethargy, fever, generally grotty. The following days were better.

However,  things have not really improved and yesterday I lost some hearing in my left ear. Today I got some more medicines since the ear infection follows on from my bronchitis and sore throat.

It really has been a bad month and a bad start to the year.

DW

20.12.16

Michaela Finnegan

This is the tale of Michaela Finnegan who grew whiskers on her chin ne gan. Who would ever have thought that I would be writing yet another doggy obituary? After all, Stewart died after a car accident and all other dogs are either dead or just too lazy to get into any bother ... that's you Pongo and Slutty! Well, I was wrong. Here is a photo of the tiny Thai Ridgeback that Siri found for us as a replacement for Pongo: Pongo the lonely. So lonely she sent him back to be bone idle with Slutty. After a couple of weeks I noticed that the Ridgeback has some rather nitty whiskers on its chin so I started singing ... There was an old man Called Michael Finnegan He grew whiskers On his chin-ne-gan The wind came up and blew them in again Poor old Michael Finnegan, Begin Again He was meant to be an outside dog but she tried her hardest to get into the house at every possible opportunity. I stopped it. It made no difference,i t still tried. I was determined. It got in from time to time as if I weren't there! Then we all left home for a while: I came away to work and Siri took a trip to Bangkok to meet me as I was passing through. Finnegan went to stay for a while at the Lazy P idle dogs home. Things didn't work out: after a few days they found Finnegan with blood coming out of its ears and generally being in a bad way. They think one of the neighbouring dogs snapped at Finnegan and cracked its skull: chances are, that mutt was stealing Slutty and Pongo's food and Finnegan decided to join in. SNAP! Slutty and Pongo are both cowards and stealing their food is a breeze. Finnegan was far too young to sense any danger from anything so that was the end of that. Three months old maybe and now in a downward spiral that would leave her dead fairly quickly. I had plans for that dog to be an outdoor and family dog. Abi played with Finnegan and Finnegan teased Abi by biting her feet with its needle like teeth. We played together, I threw it out of the house. We fed it. It slept outside. the poor thing never even had the chance to wear a tee shirt or scarf in the middle of a Thai Winter. Sorry you had to go Finnegan but thanks for the entertainment while you were here! DW

17.12.16

Low Fares? Define Low

I don't like AA ... that's an airline! They try to convince us that everyone can fly now because they are so cheap.

Well, because their competitors do not fly to KL on Sunday from Bangkok I had to choose them. Kerching! Low fare? Not at all! I could actually pay less with the other airlines AND have a meal AND not scratch around worrying about the weight of my luggage AND choose any seat that's available: from previous experience,  they will give me a window seat, the worst possible option for me.

Then, due to misinformation from another carrier I found I had to change my flying time. SORRY,  it's less than 48 hours to take off so you can't change that flight. So, horror of horrors, I had to buy a new ticket. Low fare? Free meal? Guaranteed baggage allowance? No, no, no. I consider this second ticket outrageously expensive and feel sad that I have had to break my vow of refusing to fly with this airline. Until recently, I had not flown with them for 2 or 3 years. I hope this is my last trip with them for a very long time.

15.12.16

Appalling Behaviour on a Newspaper Forum

I have discussed many topics on newspaper forums over the years: The Independent had one then closed it; I subscribed to The Times for a few years and that was a good experience; now I am with The Guardian, new starter. I have paid membership dues to the Guardian because I feel I should but they say many people use their services but don’t pay. No judgement there, that’s how the Guardian manages things. I engaged in my first full blown discussion on the Guardian site last week when I told the assembled horde that Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth visuals and other parts of his message were wrong or inappropriate. I said that and I believe that: my argument is that his graphs were far too nice to warrant critical review and many of his other ramblings have been challenged: I said that knowing it to be true: youtube contains many videos in which Gore is caught out. Immediately, I was attacked rather forcefully and I have to say that I did call Gore a liar. I defended myself and as the debate wore on, I was called all sorts of names and accused of all sorts of calumny. Then someone said I was a climate change denier. They made that up because I didn’t even infer that let alone say it. Well, that was it: John Samuel claimed to be a weather expert of some kind and he really stuck to that line and in spite of proving no such words came out, he called me a liar many times. Good for him. I even came here to this blog and reminded myself of what I had said about Gore when I had seen his film. I told Samuel that I had blogged about Gore in 2007 and again in 2010 … three references altogether. Since he was being so unfriendy, I suggested he search for my blog to prove for himself the truth of my assertions. He couldn’t find it! Smart as he claimed to be, in spite of clues as to a particular phrase to put into google, it was beyond him. He found an Excel blog and pretended that was the blog I meant. I said no, so he called me a liar again. I then mentioned having read and reviewed State of Fear by Michael Crichton which I said contained many interesting ideas. Samuel replied to tell me how bad the book was and that no one liked or respected it. Climate change denier that I am. You’re getting the picture now: John Samuel who does not know the difference between you’re and your, tells the world that they should not read a book because he does not like it. The reality is that Crichton might have got some of the science wrong but he questioned things and I think that was a very healthy thing to do. As Samuel tried only assassinate my character, others joined in and of course, several of them pointed out their master’s degrees, how they have been peer reviewers for academic journals and what do I know? All the while, these people have assumed that Samuel has identified the truth: he said the same thing so often that the others believed he must be telling the truth. I have seen this before and it is impossible to challenge because everything is subject to gainsay. Samuel was obviously frustrated that I wouldn’t just give him the link to my blog posts so I was branded a liar again but I felt he’s so smart he can ruddy well find it. Moreover, he would clearly have merely said something innappropriate about what I had said so I let it ride. I am sharing this post with him now and even he will then find that I really did make those posts about Gore all of those years ago and that I am not a liar! As that discussion wound down Samuel revealed another two traits: he labelled many people as liars if he didn’t like what they said; and he was obsessed with having the last word. I played the last word game and he played along exactly true to type. If John Samuel is really a scientist I just wonder if his work is ever peer reviewed as he cannot take criticism. He must be very difficult to work with when someone like me turns up and refuses to bow down to him. A very immature bully in my opinion. I decided to write this post since it is a controlled way of sifting out that man’s own lies and exaggerations and at the same time sharing with others just how he behaves in debate. Samuel and others are free to comment here and I will post everything that's not just outright offensive! I made mistakes in my discussions and admitted them: I am not too proud to do that but I will not allow some tiny minded little man to bully me or anyone else into kow towing to him. DW

8.11.16

Put the Bloody Phone Down or it Will Kill you

On our way to replace the driving licence I lost and as we were crossing the road a woman on a motorbike came round the corner and was driving right at me and Abi. The stupid woman was reading something on her phone as she rounded the corner and had not seen us.

I was ready to fend her off but she looked up, saw us and avoided us. I said to her, Watch where you're going and put your phone down!

How stupid and how dangerous that woman is.