Monday, September 03, 2007

[austin healey sprite] when motoring was motoring

Lee family Sprite 2A [shot from 1974]

There are certain things that make me go weak at the knees or at least sigh deeply. Two of these are cars I used to drive - my Pilgrim and the Austin Healey Sprite, which Swearing Mother seems to be in love with too.

There is an expression in sailing - "seat of the pants" - and it means not concerning yourself with the technical details but just getting out there and working it out as you go - that's my kind of sailing and my kind of driving.

The Sprite IIA was just such a car to allow you to feel you were very close to the action - the Lotus was another which gave this sensation. Much as the Frogeyes were the most popular, I never got into them but the IIA I adored and it was pure British roadster in miniature - big on tweaked up performance and a bit weak on creature comforts.

One felt one was back in the pioneer days of motoring and the most important thing of all - it was sheer fun at a time when cars were becoming boxy and predictable.

MG Midget says:

From the outset, the Sprite had been designed to be of unitary construction, with the floorpan and body being built as one strong, rigid structure. Stiffness was provided by box-like sections sills and crossmembers, a deep transmission tunnel, the scuttle, and the box shaped boot. At the front, the crossmember for the suspension and steering was carried on a pair of chassis legs which projected forwards from the scuttle bulkhead.

Wiki says:

The last Mark IIA [1963/4] had some engine improvements and 1098cc, larger crankshaft journals to counter big end failures at high RPM and these are sometimes referred to as square-bodied Sprites. Front disc brakes were also introduced and wire wheels became an option. The HAN7 Series is popular.

However, the end was in sight:

This model was also rebadged the Mark I MG Midget, without Donald Healey's consent or approval.

I wasn't actually … er … around for the introduction of the IIA and only got into it years later when even the MGB was on its last legs but I knew enough about it to know that a Sprite is not a Midget. Grrrr!

I hope Sprite owners will forgive me including a pic of my last "baby" but it is the closest anyone's going to get today to the great British tradition of small sports roadsters, now the Sprites and Midgets are collector items.

By the way, I drove this through Scotland in November and was as snug as a bug in a rug.

Sigh. I shouldn't have done this post - I miss it all something awful.

Bye bye!

[exquisite coffee] it needs a little pazienza

Returning to the topic of coffee, I didn't explain myself well last time due to still being a bit green about all this but after another master class, I've finally learnt.

Each of you has his/her own method and I appreciate that but just try this the once and see how close it is to the best coffee you've tasted in a long while.


1. Pazienza. Actually - not a little, lots of it. You rush any step, the enjoyment is curtailed;

2. Coffee beans - the fresher and better quality the better but the good news is that it is not vital - any coffee is enhanced using this method;

3. Sachets of cinnamon;

4. Basic grinder which can do fine ground;

5. Wooden or ceramic canister with a good seal in the lid;

6. Keep metal, like spoons, out of the way - use ceramic;

7. Fresh cream [or small long life container] - never milk and never nothing;

8. Some delicacy to have with it.

Each morning or previous evening

1. We are busy people and this takes fifteen minutes to do properly. Fine grind enough beans for one day only [don't buy it already ground because it defeats the purpose] and tip the coffee into your wooden canister;

2. Add two heaped teaspoons of cinnamon to 200g coffee, stir well and then put the lid on and shake. You're ready.

Whenever you need a cup

1. Boil the kettle and let it wait for 30 seconds after boiling [no more];

2. During the waiting period, put enough coffee to taste into the cup/mug [fine edged mugs are better] and almost immediately now pour the water via the edge of the cup, until half an inch from the top;

3. If you need sugar, now is the time to add it and stir, not later or you'll ruin the effect;

4. Immediately put a little 5 centimetre ceramic bowl or saucer over the top and let the mixture sit. No metal spoon anywhere because it drains off the heat too quickly;

5. Despite the modern lifestyle, despite your being in a hurry, 2 minutes is not going to hurt you now to wait. You must have pazienza because this is when the bitter taste and sludge move down to the bottom of the cup and the cup can not be jostled from then on;

6. Now the coup de grace - take off the ceramic bowl, get your ceramic teaspoon [or wood] and gently slide some cream over the spoon onto the top of the coffee - don't stir. The cream is not just for taste but it seals in the heat and flavour;

7. Now let the spoon go just under the surface horizontally and very, very gently stir - you'll see a swirling effect as if it comes from a coffee machine.

That's it and the only thing I stress is not to leave out any step e.g. the horizontal spoon. Any step left out and you might as well be drinking instant.

Hope you enjoy it. It will reward your patience.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

[the car] if china can, why can't we?

I also forgot to mention that I love the Chinese Government website, which always tells the truth. So when I caught a headline: China Exports Inflation?, I clicked in and was astounded by the answer: No it doesn't.

But here's a good one:

After four days' traffic ban in Beijing to test the effect on air quality for the Olympic Games, the question whether such a traffic ban should become regular has triggered a debate between private car owners and those without cars.

Among 2,968 respondents, 78.2 percent of those without a private car call for a permanent traffic ban, while 61.9 percent of private car owners object to it, according to an online survey jointly launched by China Youth Daily and Internet portal

Rather than dwelling on these rather pointless stats, the mind idly wandered to London and the M25, to the Boston spaghetti road complex and to other icons of the motorcar. Steppenwolf springs to mind.

Hey, why don't we completely and utterly ban any cars within and including the M25? Forever. I wonder what would happen?

[slaughter] from the paddock to the stomach

Don't worry - she's just for milking

In my direst moments, I always remember too late and then do two things - pray and visit Iceland. Iceland was one of my first posts ever and still it's a fascinating place. Take this, for example:

The Farmers Association of Iceland is considering reinterpreting EU regulations that would enable farmers to establish small slaughterhouses on their farms to sell the meat themselves as part of so-called “food tourism.”

Isn't that sweet? As me old mucker Árni Jósteinsson told Bladid [itself a great name for a newspaper]:

“Home slaughtering offers opportunities for food-tourism ... Farmers could even invite tourists to observe the meat’s journey until in ends up on their plates—from the paddock to the stomach.”

That reminds me - in my concentration on the woes of the world, I forgot to eat the burger I made earlier. Should I still eat it?

[sunday thought] someone has to say it

This is a blog. Blogs must be fun, quick bites of entertaining fiskings of the MSM or pen-pictures of homelife, otherwise readers move on. I'd hoped this post would be fun. Sorry to disappoint:
Major General Tim Cross, the top British officer involved in planning post-war Iraq, said he raised serious concerns with then US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld about the possibility of the country descending into chaos […]General Sir Mike Jackson branded US post-invasion policy "intellectually bankrupt" and said Rumsfeld was "one of the most responsible for the current situation in Iraq."

My only quibble with Tim Cross and Mike Jackson is not the targets of their ire - Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Cheney are very much responsible for much that is wrong - but that I don't think the officers fully see to whom these men, in turn, pay their tithes. It's not excusing the Rumsfelds of this world but they're only pawns in a greater power game and I don't mean the U.S.

There are most definitely trends since the 50s in the west and globally as well and they could be summarized this way:

1. the secularization of society over two generations and replacement of intrinsic values with extrinsic, such as property, fame, sexual gratification and comfort as the be-alls and end-alls, plus goth - always a sign of a disintegrating society and the understandable non-opposition from the Church due to the appointees being of a certain ilk;

2. the progressive appointment of people of this certain ilk, over the last two generations, into positions of power in education, the arts, medicine and law, such people being inimicable to the old values of patriotism and Christianity and by their position, having the ability to snuff out and mock western societies' roots to the point where Gen X and Y have largely grown up as g-dless hedonists;

3. a lot of global talk at ruling elite level in every western nation and from bodies such as the U.N. plus openly global elitist bodies such as the CFR, the TLC, the BBs and the other luminaries all pushing the same agenda;

4. a clear push for war by those behind the weak western leaders - Kosovo, Iraq and NATO operations to name the most recent and the re-emergence of the west in the middle-east generally for the first time since WW2;

5. provocation of Islam in the form of western foreign policy, playing the patriot card against first supposed and then genuine terrorism, to the point where islamization is a very real threat and "terrorism" allows the ruling elite to bring in the legislation they always wanted to in the first place;

6. the weaning of everyone since the 60s onto a credit based economy and therefore serfdom to the banks, the pushing of housing prices to unrealistic levels which cuts out the first home buyer and must inevitably lead to the ultimate crash, the manoeuvring of the credit institutions into a position to be able, by 2012, to pull the plug;

7. the tightening of western society by criminalizing it [e.g. Blair's 3000+ new crimes in his ten years], the dead hand of political correctness now having the power of incarceration for sedition and the talk by Merkel, among others, of the possibility of war now "not able to be ruled out", along with ID cards, iris scans and all the other goodies plus armed police and troops on the streets and the general frightening of society, whether via climate change or terrorism;

8. the shifting of the world hegemony in the form of the emboldened Islamic world plus China [less so Russia] and the spectre of the next conflagration starting locally but escalating to pan-continental, rather than international and possibly centred in the Middle-East.

The essential difficulty is that a small blogger like myself couldn't possibly see what is happening, could he?

Very few will accept the miniscule number of pundits like myself who say that this thing is induced - that there is nothing sociologically natural about the dystopia we are sliding into and thus nothing whatever can halt its advance.

Even if sufficient woke up to who is stirring the pot, inducing the preconditions, it could only be altered by a revolution and this also has been factored in. Revolutions only ever usher in a worse order. So where does that leave you? Into the new serfdom with some of you climbing into relative safety in the new order. For the nonce.

Where does that leave me? As a Christian and one who is trying to do the job the Pope and the silent Archbishops should be doing but who were either bought or frightened into silence, it's pretty bleak.

Sooner or later I'll be rounded up, a loose cannon which will fire no more. So why bother?

Heaven knows. Someone has to say it.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

[blogfocus saturday] genesis of the bloggers

1. Iain Dale, who incidentally doesn't make it easy to access his old material, is having an identity crisis, as can be seen in the banner above and asks whether anyone can design a new banner for him. That's the latest post but his earlier efforts show that many issues are the same today as way back then:

To understand why this country should question its whole relationship with the EU click on this link. I defy even the most ardent Europhile to defend this.

2. Mr. Eugenides did not begin with much fanfare but with a nevertheless interesting observation of the Tory leadership race at the time:

According to an article in yesterday's Sunday Telegraph, many of the members of the Cornerstone Group of "traditionalist" Tory MPs are considering backing David Cameron. Full story can be found here. If true, this is a big blow to DD. He's trying to paint himself as the heir to Thatcher whilst DC is the heir to Blair - a gross oversimplification, but a convenient one. And, like all good caricatures, it has at its heart a kernel of truth. Cameron seems sure to win the contest - but it's an open question whether or not the party membership would be so keen if they truly understood what he has in mind for the future.

3. In what I thought a neat little piece on Arnie, Vox Day did two amazing things - pumped iron and got no comments. For a 100+ commenter, that seemed a little strange:

In honor of Governor Schwarzenegger's election - I didn't and don't support his political career, but I still like him as an example of what determination can do for an individual - I hit the triceps hard today. After my normal workout, I added a symbolic six reps with the 100-pound dumbell. I figure Arnold would appreciate that sort of homage instead of the usual toast or whatever. So, *grunt* here's to the new governor!

4. Jonathan Swift went out on a limb and predicted what would happen in 2006. How did he do?

Condoleeza Rice will win the 2006 Presidential election.

There won’t be a single terrorist attack in Wyoming.

The Baltimore Colts will win the Superbowl.

Dick Cheney will resign for health reasons and President Bush will choose Joe Lieberman as the new Vice President uniting the country.

American troops will leave Iraq except for the ones necessary to keep order and prevent civil war.

The stock market will soar to 10,000.

5. The Tin Drummer has made a comeback [how's that for a scoop?] but here he writes of the cultural blog to be:

I had intended this to be a cultural blog, full of literature; however at the moment I am drinking rather more than I am reading. And I wanted to make a defence of beer, by which I mean ale, bitter; what is sometimes dismissed by people as "warm beer". This makes me laugh. You don't drink red wine at 2C, so why drink a flavoursome, malty, hoppy, tangy, fruity beer at such a low temperature that you can barely taste anything and your tongue is numbed as it goes down?

6. The ex-globetrotting CityUnslicker got straight down to the issues when he began and at the same time displayed that idiosyncratic spelling he's now come to be known and loved for, along with Tiberius Gracchus:

Today I wanted to briefly air my thoughts on immigration and employment in the UK today. The MSM have been reporting for the last few days on the large numbers of immigrants that the UK has accpeted since 1997. In general they have tried to avoid giving any real insights into the issue and instead have taken simple ideological stances on the statistics produced.

7. Like Iain Dale, another blogger with the extremely annoying habit of not providing archives, Jocko, aka Colin Campbell, aka Adelaide Green Porridge, aka everything else under the sun, gives us the wordy Count Up:

Early one morning in early May 2006, it will be 01:02:03:04:05:06. Only once in your lifetime. And that's all for now folks.

Don't forget that it's 68 days until Hannah's birthday as well.

8. Saving the lady with the capitalized post titles for last, here she is, the incomparable Welshcakes, whose latest post contains some surprises, as does her take on STORMY WEATHER:

Well, not really. This morning it rained hard for about five minutes and there was loud thunder without lightning, which always frightens me to death. [I wondered if, this time, it was old Pluto having a noisy sulk. Perhaps he is going to abduct Persephone again in revenge for losing his status?] If you are out and get caught in a summer storm like that, it is much too hot and sticky to put on one of those raincoats-in-a-bag beloved of the British, and everyone stares at you if you do, as it is evidence of the kind of forward planning that Italians don't go in for. Besides, where's your pazienza? - Just wait a minute and the rain will stop, as suddenly as it came.

If you have pazienza, I'll be back Wednesday evening with another Focus. Ciao, baby.

[deng xiaoping] foresight or blind determination

At first sight, this might seem both boring and irrelevant but when you consider the sheer size of the project, you can see it impacts on the world as a whole. Let me quote just a few stats concerning China's Three Gorges Dam Project:

181 metres high and 2.3 kilometres wide. When it is fully operational, it will supply 85 billion kilowatts of power annually — just 2 per cent of the country's energy needs by 2010.

That's massive. It has also attracted environmental ire:

Environmentalists and scientists fear the reservoir behind the dam will become a giant cesspool that will affect water quality for the 30 million residents a bottleneck for shipping, the migrants it has created will cause social turmoil for generations to come and thousands of people have been displaced, before the cost in wioldlife is even mentioned.

It was also opposed by one third of deputies in the National Assembly at a time of communist Party crackdowns. Still it went ahead. Now I ask the question - was Deng Xiaoping, the man whose quote gave this blog its name, perhaps right all along?

If he were still around and I put all the objections to him, I imagine he'd reply: "And would you prefer us to supply power to our people through coal-burning? How about nuclear means?" Think through the alternatives to what is clearly the cheapest and cleanest variant and the thing starts to look a bit different on the sort of scale we're talking.

Look at the whole article by Mary-Anne Toy, the url, alas, being lost in my pre-blogging days.

[stupidity] a second look

Not Juliet

When I wrote the post on stupidity, Mopsa made it into a gender issue and asked that I even the score. I asked the sweet lass, in turn, to point me in the right direction but sadly, on this she went quiet. Thank goodness for Juliet, who has finally provided me with the material:

I can't believe the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres has somehow found it appropriate to open his sermon during the otherwise beautiful memorial service for Princess Diana by yelling the words, "Who's cheating?!"

Read the rest here.

We love Mopsa

[september 1st] new academic year

Well, I just heard a huge noise with megaphones and everything and looked across the road at the school and yes - it's that time of year again. Across Russia and former republics, it's the start of the new academic year - much frenetic activity, the flower shops do a roaring trade as children buy flowers for their teachers, everybody's all hyper and I'm delighted I'm only observing at a distance this time.

The little guys in their suits and looking resplendent and hopeful, the little girls in their white shirts, hair in bows and their black skirts and the same colour scheme right across this vast land.

Managed to avoid the faculty meeting yesterday and have two ladies coming here today, both sisters and the good thing is that I don't know which is coming first and so I'm getting ready for the surprise. I also have to Min today - can you believe government departments working on this day?

It's not a good day to be out - the cafes and cinemas are packed and everyone's having a jolly good time. Little girl yesterday told me she was so looking forward to getting back and working again. I looked at her to see if she was kidding but she was dead serious.

[tolerant] does not mean equivalent

Here's a hypothetical.

I meet a visiting student from Zimbabwe, before the new academic year starts and invite her to dinner to meet my family. She turns out to be good company and the kids adore her.

Is she one of the family? No. Is she my gender? No. Is she my colour? No. Is she of the same background and experience? No. Do we listen to the same music and read the same literature? No.

Is she welcome at our home? Yes. She's a highly interesting person.

By any stretch of the imagination, she is not equivalent, she is not equal. She is included in this activity and more than this, she's welcome. This is beyond tolerance.

Do I invite her to a faculty meeting? No. She is not included here, not because we "don't want her" or don't "recognize her equivalence with the other professors as being just as good as them if they'll only let her" but through sheer common sense - she wouldn't want to be bored by a bunch of fuddy-duddies plus she can't speak the language.

So no, she's not equal here. Sanity. Common sense. Tolerance and inclusion in some areas does not equal Equivalence and Relativism. These latter two are catch-all rash generalizations based on no known reality in society.

They are political correctness which, by definition, is insane.

Now the Feministi at the university get to hear of her non-inclusion in the faculty meeting and press the board to decree that she MUST be included in all faculty meetings as this is a "tolerant, caring, all-inclusive campus".

So there we all are, not in a meeting but in a large auditorium with the professors lost in the middle, discussing the next academic year and surrounded by all manner of humanity, partying, listening to loud music [tolerance, remember, on pain of dismissal] and how much work gets done?

But at least it's politically correct and the Femnisti at the other end of the campus, whose own meeting no one wishes to attend, have a nice all woman discussion, in the cushiest armchaired room, making resolutions about who else they can find to "equivalentize" this academic year.

Do you detect a slightly intolerant note in this article?

By the way - here's an interesting exercise. Type "university" into Google and see what comes up on the first few pages. I was very surprised.