Blooming Bloomsday

This is something I wrote for Bloomsday. Dove suggested I put it online so here you go. Joyce in the style of Joyce.

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Some Eurovision 2016 statistics

A vision of Europe

Today, 200 million Europeans wake up with a banging headache, an empty liquor cabinet and almost no memory of any of the music they heard last night. Yes, it’s Eurovision time!

In the interests of openness, Eurovision makes all the results available in a convenient Excel format, and this means I get to have some fun. Here are a few of the more interesting results to come out of the night.

Regional voting happens… but mostly in the phone vote

The voting system used last night wasn’t actually new – there’s been a 50/50 phone vote and jury split since 2009. However, previously, these results were merged into one before the results were given. This is the first time the votes have been given individually, which helps us see exactly where Eurovision’s much touted regional bias comes from.

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In praise of… the adverts for Frankfurt’s municipal services

The twenty-first century is a weird time. The word “phone” now refers to small computer that you poke. People can devote themselves full time to swearing at celebrities. And everything needs a brand.

Luckily, Frankfurt’s municipal services are more than up to the task. Here are some of the best.

Here’s VGF, Frankfurt’s transport company. A classic. All you really need to understand is that everyone who’s shouting is a Frankfurt fan, and the lonely guy in the striped shirt is a Bayern Munich fan.

Oh, and “Alle fahren mit”? That means “Everyone rides”. Wonderful.

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British and Irish saints, ranked by cruelty to reptiles

Happy St Patrick’s day, where the people of Ireland (but mostly Chicago) celebrate a man who killed thousands of snakes. Patrick was no friend to the reptiles, but was he the worst? Let’s find out!

8. Godric
Godric was your typical Medieval hermit – wandered around Europe, lived alone, was thought of as very wise. And, as the story goes, he let snakes warm themselves by his fire. Godric was not mean to reptiles at all, and scores 0/10 on the meanness scale.

Godric being godly

7. Brendan
Brendan was pretty cool. What do you associate with saints? How about round the world journeys to discover new lands and fight demons? Seriously, here’s a typical example of one of his adventures from Wikipedia: “They find an island with a dog, mysterious hospitality (no people, but food left out), and an Ethiopian devil.” Anyway, one of the things he encountered was a big island called Jasconius. The monks landed, started fires, celebrated Easter… and then realised Jasconius is a giant snake. Sure, they set a snake on fire, but only by accident. 1/10.

Brendan on a sea monster. This one looks more fishy than reptilian.

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Valentine’s Poem

This is the poem I wrote for Spuggy and gave him on the morning of our wedding <3

OK, I meant to give it to him then but I forgot because I was so nervous. I gave it to him that night…

From the Bride to the Bridegroom on their Wedding Day

Your bride-to-be’s a scaredy cat. Howay,
Let’s call it what it is, from truth not swerve.
The only saving grace is that, today
My worries may be termed “the bridal nerves”.
The flowers might all wilt, the plates be smashed,
The clocks might change or all the dates be wrong.
I might get down the aisle to find I’ve flashed
Our guests a sight they won’t forget for long.
The bridesmaid might get lost, the rings forgot,
I might get stage fright when I make my vows.
Aye, when you think about it, quite a lot
Might go wrong ‘twixt the honeymoon and now.
I wonder if you know – I’m sure you do -
The one thing I’m not nervous of is you.

Frankfurt Sneak Preview Stats – The Sequel

Another year, another… year of films? Anyway, here are some stats about the Sneak Preview films we had at Frankfurt Metropolis Cinestar. You can see last year’s here, and compare with what happened this year. Get ready for some movie statistics!

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In The Bleak Two Rivers – a Wheel of Time poem

Hello again.

If you don’t remember my Thomas Covenant retelling of Twas the Night Before Christmas, then… follow this link and then you will!

As I finished reading the Wheel of Time only this year, I thought it was only fair to celebrate Christmas the Wheel of Time way as well. Without further ado, and again, can’t guarantee that this will make any sense to anyone who hasn’t had the magical Robert Jordan feat. Brandon Sanderson experience of the Wheel of Time… MERRY CHRISTMAS.

Also, sing along!

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Google Search Q&A 6

Spuggies! (By Daniel Marchese on Flickr, CC-BY-2.0)

It’s been a long time since we did this, and the boring reason why is that Google now encrypts its search engine referrals (officially for privacy reasons, but it will still show you search terms for paid search adverts…)

But not every search engine does, and the “Search terms” box in our stats page has been very slowly filling up…

  • dove mixed with sparrow
  • pattern of sparrow for embroidery
  • sparrow in cross sticking
  • difference between mocking jay and sparrow
  • small brown garden bird
  • small speckaled uk sparrow like bird
  • what would the difference be when reffering a person as a dove rather than a sparrow
  • cayenne pepper and sparrows

…with sparrows.

Today, we’re going to answer one (non)Google Search with the help of another.

  • nom of sparrow graph
  • sparrow energy drink

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Chai masala recipe

It’s November, which means several things. First of all, it means everything has suddenly got very cold and the evenings have got very dark. Second of all, it means it’s NaNoWriMo time again and we need writing fuel. Finally, the shops are all selling mulled wine spices. And that means… CHAI MASALA.

I recently got a spice grinder (well, a coffee grinder, but it’s not like you can’t put spices in it) and to try it out I’ve been making chai masala every night, trying to fine-tune the recipe to my taste. This is what I have. Just to stress, this is based solely on my tastes, so it’s pepperier and anisier than a Starbucks chai latte. However, I think it’s too good not to share, so here it is. This makes a potful, or about three mugsworth.

  • 1 star anise
  • 6 cloves
  • 8 green cardamom pods
  • Half a stick of cinnamon
  • A teaspoon of aniseed
  • A bit of a nutmeg (about 10 seconds of grating)
  • 6 peppercorns
  • A smallish (say, 1 cm x 1 cm x 2cm) of fresh root ginger
  • About 5 teaspoons of sugar (to taste)
  • 700 ml water
  • 400 ml milk

Now, you can replace these spices with their powdered equivalent – you don’t have to be a pretentious nob like me! The only thing is that if you use powder, you can’t strain it out and your tea gets a bit gritty. The spice grinder makes the spices a bit rougher, so a decent tea strainer or fine sieve can catch them.

1 star anise, 8 cardamom pods, 6 peppercorns, half a cinnamon stick, a teaspoon of aniseed and six cloves in a spice grinder

The basic spice mix. You can scale this up to make a jar of masala that you can use any time

Grind together all the spices except the fresh ginger until you have something with roughly the appearance of ground coffee. Everything should be finely chopped, but don’t worry about the fibrous cardamom pods. The finished product should look a little bit like…

A fine reddish-brown powder, with some pale brown strands from the cardamoms

The masala!

Put the masala in a fine tea strainer (ideally, one that you can close) together with the finely chopped ginger (you don’t want to add the ginger before cooking because a) it’s a fresh vegetable, and will go off if you try to store it, and b) it makes the masala moist and clogs up your grinder). In a saucepan, mix the milk and water, add the spices in their strainer, and then heat on a very low temperature. The ideal temperature would be one that simmers the milk/water without quite boiling it, but my electric hob doesn’t give me that much control. A bit of a burnt milk taste is actually quite nice, but as the milk cooks, it gets stickier, and that can clog the strainer. (You can add the spices loose, and strain them at the end, but I find that most of the spices get stuck in the froth of the milk and you don’t get the flavour out)

Let it cook for about 15 minutes, and then add sugar. Keep tasting until the sweetness and the bitterness balance nicely. If it’s spicy enough, plonk in a teabag (Yorkshire Tea works well) and simmer for about 2 minutes. Because the milk has probably thickened a bit, you might need to squeeze the teabag to get the tea out. Taste it, and if all is well then take out the teabag and the tea strainer and pour into a pot.

A mug of chai

Yum

And that’s my chai.

A True Story Poem

I’m finally doing my last bit of typing up before NaNoWriMo begins, and I came across a poem I wrote ages ago, or in August or something.

Nothing in particular to recommend – if you want to know my unsolicited rambling thoughts on every book I read, please check out my Twitter – but I am currently reading The Young and Prodigious TS Spivet, by Reif Larsen, which has delighted me by not being tryhard twee, but by being real and genuine and wonderful. I’m not finished yet, and I guess there’s always a chance that it’s going to end with “AND THEN IT WAS ALL A DREAM” or “IT WAS ACTUALLY ALL THE COMA DREAM OF A LITTLE BOY OOOOOOH SPOOOOKY AMIRITE” but so far it is looking rather good. Also, illustrations are class.

OK here’s my poem, based on a true thing that happened when I was getting off the tram after reading too hard.

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