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30 March 2011

The end of the world?

You know that the apocalypse must surely be coming when the weather goes completely crazy backward. Here in Ireland it is not raining. It hasn't rained properly in at least a week, maybe more. I will appreciate it while I can, but how long that will be I do not know, surely this is a portent of doom. In a country with a regularly good climate, one might make such predictions on account of storms and dark skies. Here though, that is the norm, and this beautiful weather is surely the calm before the end of the world. In the pacific there are earthquakes, here there is sunshine - same level of unusual in these phenomena.

On the bright side, it means t-shirts and eating lunch out of doors and going to the beach on the weekend. Despite my most firm intentions to jump in the water I wimped out and barely even went for a paddle, it was that icy. Instead I learnt to hula, something I have never been able to do before. It was a big heavy exercise hula though, which made it a lot easier but at the same time left me with sore muscles and a big bruise on my hip! Still, I went out the next day and brought one of my own because hula is fun. Unfortunately the weather forecast predicts rain come the weekend, which is sad not only because I don't want rain but also because this weekend's plans include a picnic and going hawking! As in you have a hawk, on your arm, and you let it fly off, and then it comes back. It will be something pretty amazing no matter what I'm sure but so much better if it was a nice day. Maybe the forecast will change?

I also, yesterday, had the most exciting news. About a month ago I entered a competition, sort of like an essay competition, about how my research makes an impact to Irish life and society. Well, yesterday I got a call and am one of the five finalists! Which means that in two weeks I must go to Dublin and give a presentation, I guess about the exact same topic. There are two prizes (and only 5 finalists, that's rather good odds!), one to be given by a panel of judges and the other by an audience of secondary school students. Both prizes are 2500 euro! This is the coolest thing that has happened in ages - I get to go and present in front of people, and might win a prize! It will relieve the boredem of trying to write up my work.

So that's all from me for now but not to worry because exciting events are coming up so I will have plenty to write about. The hawking, a trip to Dublin, and soon Mum will come visit and then we will be off to Paris! Then in another month there is a work meeting in Belgium and a training course in Germany. Hopefully the Germany trip will be a few months long and an opportunity to travel around a bit. So bring on the summer and let's hope the end of the world holds off for just a little while yet!

20 March 2011

St Paddy's Parade

There is not a lot to say about the Paddy's day parade here in Galway. I tried to explain why I wasn't very impressed, I told my friends about the Santa parade which in Invercargill at least I would have thought was about as basic as it gets. They asked if it was just Santa. So I said no, and tried to explain about all of the big floats, but they don't really get it. Apparently here any decent parade-worthy item goes to Dublin. I don't think there was even one real float at all, there were a couple of trailers and one boat that came close though. Yet the parade took nearly an hour and it was freezing cold out and starting to rain. Primarily the parade was made up of walking groups, anybody can join in it seems, I think it was mainly schools and community groups and sports teams. There were a couple of marching bands - not the pipe bands that we have down south. There were bagpipes though - I think all together there were two. There were random loud cars. There was a really big dog. I took photos but they are not much to look at. So St Paddy's day was cold and for me rather quiet, there was no trouble but I did see some old men so drunk that they had to hold themselves up against the sides of buildings. Apparently in small towns and villages the farmers come in on their tractors and that makes up the entirety of the parade.

Well that is all from me because life continues to be somewhat boring, all work and no play. Before too long I get to travel again and finally there will be bigger news. For now, I am going to go and make banana bread because I am hungry!

14 March 2011

Pi Day!

Today, the 14 of March, is Pi day! As in 3/14 (because in America they write the date backward). Actually, yesterday now for those of you down under.

So happy 3.1415926535 8979323846 2643383279 5028841971 6939937510 5820974944 5923078164 0628620899 8628034825 3421170679 8214808651 3282306647 0938446095 5058223172 5359408128 4811174502 8410270193 8521105559 6446229489 5493038196 4428810975 6659334461 2847564823 3786783165 2712019091 4564856692 3460348610 4543266482 1339360726 0249141273 7245870066 0631558817 4881520920 9628292540 9171536436 7892590360 0113305305 4882046652 1384146951 9415116094 3305727036 5759591953 0921861173 8193261179 3105118548 0744623799 6274956735 1885752724 8912279381 8301194912 9833673362 4406566430 8602139494 6395224737 1907021798 6094370277 0539217176 2931767523 8467481846 7669405132 0005681271 4526356082 7785771342 7577896091 7363717872 1468440901 2249534301 4654958537 1050792279 6892589235 4201995611 2129021960 8640344181 5981362977 4771309960 5187072113 4999999837 2978049951 0597317328 1609631859 5024459455 3469083026 4252230825 3344685035 2619311881 7101000313 7838752886 5875332083 8142061717 7669147303 5982534904 2875546873 1159562863 8823537875 9375195778 1857780532 1712268066 1300192787 6611195909 2164201989 3809525720 1065485863 2788659361 5338182796 8230301952 0353018529 6899577362 2599413891 2497217752 8347913151 5574857242 4541506959 day.

You know the best way to celebrate pi? With pie!!! So today on pi day we will eat pie, all sorts of pie, it will be great. Bacon and egg pie, chicken pie, vegetable pie, apple pie, even banoffie pie . . .


Ok, so most of Pi day was a success, but I did manage to have one kitchen flop. Not disaster, just flop. Mainly due to my impatience. Because real pie needs pastry I decided to do the banoffie pie with a pastry base, also because I had pastry and didn't feel like making a biscuit base. And instead of blind-baking my pastry shell I put the caramel in it and baked it all together because I figured the caramel would be better if it was baked. And it was. But I did not have time for the caramel to cool so I put on the bananas and then the cream so that on top of the cream I could make the shape of Pi in hot-chocolate powder. What I should have done is decorated directly on top of the banana and let people put their own cream on because of course the caramel was still warm and the cream melted very quickly. So between that and the warm gooey caramel we had banaffie goop as apposed to Pi. Still, as always, it could have been worse I'm sure.

08 March 2011

Pancake Day

Did you know that today is Pancake day? Why do we not celebrate this in New Zealand? I know it is a big religious thing but hey, so is Christmas and we do that. So on Pancake Day it is expected that you eat pancakes so I have made pancake mixture and will cook them up for dessert I think, because there is no time for such things in the morning for breakfast. Then after Pancake Day lent begins and all the good catholics give up something that makes them happy. But here in Ireland it seems that St Pat's day is a day off, so you get to have a break from Lent. And then finally Easter comes and apparently you enjoy you easter eggs and hot cross buns all the more because you have been going without yummy things during Lent. This sounds like a terrible idea to me, I do not want to give up eating nice things. Lucky I was not raised with this strange religion.

Anyway the weather is properly spring still, it is not raining, and I am planning a trip to Paris! My mum is coming to visit, so I am organising her a short stay in London, then to come here to Galway (and I don't know what sort of entertainment she expects here because there is nothing to do in Galway) and then we will go to Paris! Two days, maybe three, and who knows when I will go there again so we will do as much as possible. Go to the Louvre, Notre Dame, the markets (there is a huge fabric market I hear) and the art-quarter, and a cabaret! It will be expensive but what's the point of money if you don't spend it? So I should really get to work so that I deserve a holiday in a month. And then another month after that I should be off to Belgium and Germany. So yay, travelling is beginning again.

Also, it was recently my sister's birthday, her 25th no less, and she is stuck on bedrest in Dunedin. So my brother promised to go visit her on her birthday and take her a frappacino from Starbucks, that's all she wanted. So she told him what bus to take and I warned him that it was a very long way so he should catch a ride somehow but he managed to have no money for the bus and missed it. So he walked, and it turns out that I was right and it is a very long way, up a big hill, and a very hard walk. And it was a hot day apparently. When he finally arrived to see my sister, on her birthday, he gives her a half of a frappacino. You see, the walk was just so hard that he had to drink the other half! What a dickhead. And his response to this? He says 'LOL, next time he will be prepared'. So another typical day for my family. Yet at the same time, why should she complain? Sure, she's stuck on bedrest, but because everybody knows she is stuck on bedrest two people organised for bakeries to deliver her a birthday cake! One of those people being Mum. And my brother got a birthday cake one year aswell. I never did! And apparantly one of the cakes was so chocolatey it was impossible to eat more than a small slice! I bet you I could do it. Oh well. It was a mate's birthday over the weekend and I made cake - a huge Devil's Food Cake. Very chocolatey. So I also have nothing to complain about!

03 March 2011

Daffodils!


It is spring here! Above is a very small portion of the daffodils that I have picked. I have so far filled my office and a friend's house. My own house is still lacking in floral excess so I guess this weekend I will further deplete the college gardens. There has been more sunshine than rain, though it is still cold. But you wouldn't guess it to see all the students about, dressed in short-shorts and sleeveless tops. Of course it is rag-week, so they all have nice warm beer blankets on. Rag-week is a party week, like O-week, but it is not the start of the semester. And it is also now called college week because like many of Dunedin's student activities, it has gained a very bad reputation for disorderliness. Rag stands for raise-a-grand and apparently used to be all about getting students involved in raising money for some charity or another. It doesn't seem to be all about that anymore. Instead there are loud drunk students wondering through campus at all hours of the day and past my bedroom window at all hours of the night. And we all complain about it because we have become boring old-fogeys, apparently.

So work is going, I would say poorly but I guess overall not so bad, and it's better than it not going at all. At least with the season changing people are becoming a bit more active so there is sometimes entertainment to look forward to at the end of the day. Not today though, and I was exhausted after work, so it being Thursday which is late-night shopping here, I went impulse buying. I brought a cake tin (that one wasn't on impulse, I was intending to get one). I also brought a pair of snuggly fluffy socks and a stripey green bowl. The socks because they looked warm, and I am wearing them right now (and they are purple and stripey), and the bowl because I felt like eating. So I came home and had a bowl of cereal, in my stripey green bowl. And they were both on clearance. Really I should have brought normal plates because I seem to keep breaking them. But luckily I only seem to break the plain ugly ones so I will just keep on buying random brightly coloured pretty things and very soon the kitchen will be a nice eclectic mix of colour.

Last night I made delicious peanut-butter biscuits. I took them to work and fed my friends and general consensus was that they were awesome. They had white chocolate too because I cannot make something without chocolate and if I didn't use the bloody stuff I would have ended up just eating it all, which I didn't really want to do because I don't really like it that much. And it is lucky that I baked bikkies because I really needed them, after finding out that my last two weeks of work, which was the third attempt at preparing new samples, again did not work. And now I really don't know why. Everything used to work perfectly, and now it is terrible. So that just sucks. Screw work. I will avoid the lab and do writing instead. Other than this stuff that isn't working I am mostly finished and ready to figure out my results and write them up. It is hard to begin though. Today I did very little real work in the end. And tomorrow I can forsee a similar problem.

I have decided to take the weekend off. It's not like I have been working my butt off or anything. Yet I am exhausted. I am sure I don't work as hard as everybody else, but after just a couple of hours at work, in fact before I have even begun to work for the day, I am ready to go back to sleep. So to keep myself awake and entertained I will continue to indulge in my kitchen-addiction and bake some more. A birthday is coming up this weekend so I have the excuse to make chocolate cake, yay. And there is journal club on Monday, and I have no interest in this journal article, so I will just bring cookies instead. Brownie cookies, the chocolatey-ist biscuit recipe that I have. Plus the other night I was lucky enough to sample some chocolate brownie that a friend made, and it was amazing. So now I must make my own brownie recipe plus this new one and see how they compare and which aspects I should steal in order to make my own recipe the best one. So I guess next time I have a bunch of hungry guests I should make a big batch of brownies. Plus next week it looks like there will be a sampling trip, which really means a road-trip, which means we need lots of snacks to keep us going.

While it is one thing to allow myself to cook so much and to think of food so much, I really should stop talking about it. People don't really care, which I think actually indicates that they care the appropriate amount about food and that I care much too much. In fact, when I am swimming I am often thinking of food and recipes, it keeps me from getting bored. And if in the evening I come home and do not cook, like tonight, instead of reading or watching tele or getting some work done, I look at recipes and think about food. Maybe I should get a new hobby.

But before I do that, you know what I noticed in the supermarket? Here in Galway, or maybe in Ireland (or maybe just in the supermarkets that I frequent) they do not seem to have smoked chicken. I'm sure I remember it being quite common back home, quite the in-fashion thing (in culinery circles, that is), and it is really yummy. But they don't have it here. The traditional Irish diet is very boring and not that healthy really. And while the Irish potato thing is completely exaggerated, I do actually have an Irish friend who can be a bit obsessive about his potatoes. One of the few people that will discuss food with me properly, though my obsession far out-weighs his, it is never a good idea to bring up potatoes, or the fact that I don't really eat them and when I do I buy whatever is on special - this is somehow seen as an invite to a lecture on potatoes, the best variety, the proper way to peel them, the best way to cook them, the history of potatoes in Ireland, etc. And this might then extend into the joys of traditional Irish food in general. And usually run full circle around to how terrible the variety of potatoes that I am using is (whatever that may be at the time). So I must be careful to never feed this person potatoes. In this case, I will leave such matters to the stereotype, the potato-loving Irishman. Being the kiwi that I am, I will instead introduce some of our own classics. The next one being bacon and egg pie, something that they do not have here. March the 14th is Pi day and I will celebrate the number by eating pie.