The Aardvark Speaks : essence, effervescence, obscurity. Established 2002. A weblog by Horst Prillinger. ISSN 1726-5320

May 2004 Archive

May 01, 2004

My mind is blank.

Posted by Horst at 09:58 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Today is the day on which Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia have oficially joined the European Union. Today is also the International Workers' Day. How adequate.

Politicians everywhere have been talking about how enlarging the EU to include these countries is a huge step forward for peace and democracy and how citizens in all EU countries will profit from it. It may be a step forward for peace in Europe, but they totally fail to mention that the enlargement of the EU is mostly about markets.

It's about creating markets for European products, and it's about generating (or rather, integrating) a large workforce who will produce these products at wages that are significantly below those of workers in other EU countries.

There has been some talk whether workers from the new EU countries won't migrate into the "old" EU states to work; I reckon that the opposite will happen: global corporations will close their factories in the "old" EU countries and move to the new EU states, where taxes and production costs are much lower. As an added benefit, with rising unemployment in the "old" EU states and these states trying to become more competitive, wages and taxes will sink there, too.

We've already seen the trend over the past few years, with many factories being relocated from Austria or Germany to Poland or Slovakia. I think it is safe to say that this trend will accelerate. But I don't see which of the EU citizens will profit from this development. Ultimately, the global corporations get all the benefits.

Posted by Richard Ellenson at 11:39 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

May 02, 2004

Austrian delegation meets the Pope

In all the debate about whether wearing headscarves should be forbidden in French, German or even Austrian schools, let's not forget that headscarves are not just a Muslim thing. In fact, Catholicism, when interpreted strictly, is also requiring women to wear headscarves in certain situations. On the picture you can see a delegation of Austrian parliamentaries who visited the Pope last week. Notice that the wife of parliamentary president Khol, a devout Catholic, is wearing a headscarf, as is required in the presence of the Pope.

Posted by Richard Ellenson at 11:29 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

May 04, 2004

I'm truly sorry for updating my protracted silence, but I'm still suffering from blogger's block and have no idea what I should write about other than gruesome, depressing comments on possible reasons why the USA is refusing to ratify the statute for the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The good news is that if all goes well, you will soon be able to buy and read the best entries from this weblog, along with selected photographs and poems, in book form! As soon as I've figured out why some of the colour photographs are so terribly distorted in CMYK mode (something I've been trying to do for the past three days now), the manuscript can finally go to the printing presses, and CURSED will be available soon from your local bookseller!

Stay tuned — even if my blogger's block persists, I'll keep you informed with details about the book on this page.

Posted by Horst at 08:14 AM | TrackBack (0)

The monthly ritual of closing comments to cut down comments spam. Tedious. They should build self-closing comments into the next version of Movable Type. Or into the next version of any other blogging software.

Posted by Horst at 08:49 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

4. Mai

  • The, um, bloggerblocked DJ h-prill (f.k.a. mr magister, n.r.k.a. aardvark)*

Bluebox, Richtergasse 8, 1070 Vienna, starts at 9:00pm.

*) f.k.a. = formerly known as; n.r.k.a. = not really known as.

Posted by Horst at 09:53 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

May 05, 2004

Zoe is pointing out something that could be a copyright problem. I've come across the same thing myself a while ago, and it's the reason for the weird, long-winded copyright notice in my RSS feed.

Apparently LiveJournal has a functionality called "The things I read" the "Friends page". It's basically an XML news aggregator — enter a number of XML feeds, and LiveJournal will generate a web page containing weblog entries from those weblogs. Nothing too bad about this so far.

The problem is that any LiveJournal user can publish this page so that everyone can read what they read. Which is basically a re-publication of potentially copyrighted material. Which is potentially quite illegal.

According to the comments over at Zoe's blog, LiveJournal's excuse seems to be that it's not illegal because you're publishing the XML feed for exactly that purpose. I'm not sure if that is the case. Copyright laws here in Austria regulate that quoting excerpts of a larger work is okay, but republishing entire weblog entries, even if the original author's name remains in place, hardly qualifies as "quoting excerpts", or does it?

Actually, as the names of the original source and of the original author is always preserved, it seems to infringe more on the publisher's rights than on the author's rights, but it certainly doesn't feel right. At any rate, I feel that this topic warrants a discussion. I'd be very interested in other people's opinions on this.

The quick solution for Zoe is, I guess, replacing the full text of her weblog entries in her XML feed with excerpts. I now realise that this may be the reason why so many people publish only excerpts.

Posted by Horst at 12:48 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack (1)

There's either a convention of Austrian Airlines stewardesses somewhere here in Vienna, or red women's suits are big in fashion this year.

Posted by Horst at 05:13 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

May 06, 2004

(1) At least with those grins on their faces, nobody is going to believe that they were "just following orders". However, it doesn't look much like a frat party either.

(2) I wonder who's got better credibility: the Bush administration or the International Red Cross?

(3) And you can't say these people weren't thorough. They might even have killed a few people.

(4) An important factor in the US propaganda about the Iraq war was to prove that the Americans are better people than the Iraqi regime they replaced. This "betterness" was always measured on different scales (Christian vs. Muslim), but it's rapidly shrinking even on the Christian scale.

Posted by Horst at 09:56 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)

Over on MetaFilter, Quarsan has sparked off a discussion on the RSS re-publication issue that I touched upon yesterday.

What's interesting to me is that many people seem to believe that offering an RSS feed automatically grants the right to re-publish its contents in any form because "[the term 'syndication'] is not used by accident".

So if, for example, I decide to publish a Nazi (or Communist, or whatever content you don't agree with) weblog, I can publish my own political stuff and propaganda and incorporate postings from your RSS feed (or any other RSS feed I please) on my site without having to ask anyone? This is ridiculous.

Posted by Horst at 10:34 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (1)

May 08, 2004

It is time now for Mr Rumsfeld to go, and not only because he bears personal responsibility for the scandal of Abu Ghraib. That would certainly have been enough. The United States has been humiliated to a point where government officials could not release this year's international human rights report this week for fear of being scoffed at by the rest of the world. The reputation of its brave soldiers has been tarred, and the job of its diplomats made immeasurably harder because members of the American military tortured and humiliated Arab prisoners in ways guaranteed to inflame Muslim hearts everywhere. And this abuse was not an isolated event, as we know now and as Mr Rumsfeld should have known, given the flood of complaints and reports directed to his office over the last year.

More... [The Guardian]
Donald Rumsfeld yesterday ... revealed that other hitherto unseen photos and videos existed, depicting behaviour as bad as or worse than in the pictures already published ... . The new material, Mr Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee, "was hard to believe". It showed acts of abuse that were "blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhuman". Some of it was in video form, which may be even more graphic and harrowing than the still photos. "If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse. That's just a fact," he added.

More... [The Independent]
The US military has said it will investigate claims by a former inmate of Abu Ghraib prison that a girl as young as 12 was stripped and beaten by military personnel. ... "She was naked and screaming and calling out to him as they beat her. Her brother was helpless and could only hear her cries. This affected all of us because she was just a child."

More... [ITV News]

Is the USA even aware of the damage that's been done by whoever is responsible for this? What amount of blindness did it take not to interfere immediately when first reports of this appeared back in January? Did they really think they could get away with this unscathed?

The more harmless result is this, I guess:

Sheikh Abdul-Satter al-Bahadli, delivering a sermon at a Basra mosque with an assault rifle by his side, called on supporters to launch a jihad against British troops in the southern city. Waving documents and photographs which he claimed were of three Iraqi women being raped at British-run prisons, he ... told the 3,000 worshippers that anyone who captured a woman soldier would be allowed to keep her as a slave.

More... [Daily Telegraph]

The less harmless result may explode soon somewhere near you.

Posted by Richard Ellenson at 11:20 AM | TrackBack (0)

May 09, 2004

Hans the hedgehog, who has been hibernating rather intensely for he past few weeks, started whimpering in his sleep today. I suppose this either means he will soon wake up or that his bad conscience over The Moose Sausage Affair is getting to him. Speaking of which — that mystery was never solved. All the suspects have kept a suspiciously low profile over the past few months. I wonder if I should just let sleeping hedgehogs lie or whether it's time to revive the case once Hans has woken up.

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 07:56 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

May 10, 2004

Jeez, how many typos can a single person make in one simple manuscript? I've gone over the manuscript for my book for the umpteenth time now, and I'm still discovering plenty of them every time I check. The last one I found must have been there since I wrote that poem back in October last year — "crumbing" instead of "crumbling" — and I never noticed in all that time, not even during two poetry readings when I actually read this. And this morning I finally decide I give up and am ready to mail everything to the publisher when I notice a missing blank space on the book's cover. Now there is no way I can allow the book to be published with a typo on the cover. And I'm pretty sure that while I'm correcting this mistake, I'm subconsciously putting in another one. This has got to stop at some point.

I'm not a perfectionist. It's just that typos and/or bad spelling drive me mad wherever I encounter them.

Posted by Horst at 08:20 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

May 11, 2004

Suw Charman writes about people who can't focus on just one thing and how being interested in all sorts of things makes life more difficult for you because (a) employers only seem to want specialists, (b) not having any focus makes it more difficult to figure out what you want to do with your life, and (c) non-focussed weblogs can't find advertisers that bring in money.

Ad a: Yes, it's true, the universal genius (or polymath) may have been the ideal of the Renaissance, but it's not the ideal of Neoliberalism, which either wants managers who know the straightest (narrowest), most direct way to make money, or the easy-to-handle, no-frills, docile employee. Being versed in a variety of skills is deemed distracting, perhaps even dangerous; at any rate, unprofitable. The hidden profits of employing people with a wider horizon is largely ignored to keep companies free of disruptive elements and/or because it's a long-term rather than short-term profit.

Ad b: Unless what you want to do with your life is to try out everything and have the money to afford this, you're in trouble because society, education, social constraints etc. will invariably pressure you to follow one path and not many; unless you realise that your identity is to follow multiple goals, you will have great trouble finding your identity; unless you find some sort of income based on a limited set of your abilities and the time to live out the remainder, you will die either financially or mentally impoverished.

Ad c: I still find the concept of making money through weblogs, well, optimistic (I also have harsher words for it). I'll reason this in greater detail in my paper at the BlogTalk conference, but the point is that real journalism, real writing and real money is not in your average weblog, no matter how good you are at writing and how big your audience is.

Posted by Horst at 12:03 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)


Book finished. Sent off to publisher. More details coming soon.

Posted by Horst at 12:05 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (2)

May 12, 2004

Just wondering if it's possible to tell (or guess) where in Europe the cover photograph of Cursed (see below) was taken. It is, if you've ever been there, I suppose.

Posted by Horst at 09:46 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

Last Thursday, during heavy rainfall, water started trickling into the stacks of Vienna University library due to a blocked drain pipe. A total of 293 books from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were totally soaked, some probably damaged beyond repair.

There was no public outcry. There were no media reports. There was not even a press statement by some VU official (like the rector or the head librarian) reporting the loss of the books, criticising the inadequate storage facilities and demanding the long-promised (but now officially scrapped) new underground stacks.

Instead, the evening news brought a report about the baby elephant at Vienna Zoo taking a bath.

Posted by Horst at 10:01 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (1)

One of the remarkable features of the Pyongyang Metro is the martial music played in the system. This consists of North Korean anthems and patriotic songs, although the speaker system is also used for, shall we say, public service announcements, reportedly including messages exhorting people to be on the lookout for traitors and spies.

Much of the time, though, travelers hear music such as the selections presented here.

This makes me feel so glad they stopped the experiments with muzak on the Vienna metro. Strauss waltzes, if played continuously, are at least as awful as "No Motherland Without You" or "Reunification Rainbow".

[Sincere thanks to Harald, who posted this link on stadtverkehr-austria. It was just too good not to repost.]

Posted by Horst at 02:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 13, 2004

The case of Nick Berg, the American who was beheaded in Iraq, is turning into a veritable mystery. Some of these questions certainly need to be answered. Of course, it could just be another conspiracy theory, but why are US officials now saying that Berg was never in their custody? [link via Quarsan]

Posted by Richard Ellenson at 10:33 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

I read this article today about how heartbeats seem to determine how long we live and how we experience time. Basically, the article pointed out how life expectancy differs between species with different heartbeat frequency; how a shrew with 1000 hbmp lives only about one year and a whale with about 30 hbpm can live up to 100 years and more.

However, in a reverse application of the Heisenberg principle and/or Einstein's theory of relativity, it seems that the heartbeat frequency also determines how we experience time: apparently a shrew is so accelerated in its sensual perception that it experiences about the same amount of perceptions in its short lifetime as a human in its much longer lifetime.

This also seems to explain why time seems to pass so slowly when you're a child and increasingly faster as you grow older: the article claims it's because your heartbeat decelerates with age.

Therefore tricking your heartbeat into beating more slowly so that you get older doesn't work, because the slower your heart beats, the faster time seems to pass. This would imply that as your heatbeat stops, your sense of time approaches infinity. I find this both weird and frightening at the same time. Einstein sure would have loved it.

Posted by Horst at 10:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

May 14, 2004

If you want to know why Movable Type will soon be history, read their new licensing model.

They're pretty tough for a software product that has been rather harshly criticised lately for some technological inadequacies, such as its high vulnerability for comment spam and the excessive server load it can cause.

Resolving the server load issue by charging extra for multiple weblogs is, well, an interesting solution.

Update: Since I may have been misunderstood on this one, let me clarify this: I'm not complaining that they're charging for the product — I'm just saying that their licensing model is, as the Monty Pythons would say, rather silly.

Update May 15: Read what Alan has to say on this. It makes a lot of sense.

Posted by Horst at 11:43 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (1)

May 15, 2004

So Xena warrior princessTerry Wogan) won the Eurovision Song Contest. So why am I not excited, even though she may be the sexiest winner in quite a while? And will her song (requires RealPlayer), catchy as it is, ever make it to something like the Cartoonist's/IT&W's/SWR's MP3 competition in, say, 20 years? In fact, how many of the past 48 winners have not disappeared in the Great Void of history? (Surprisingly, I actually seem to be able to remember ten of the winning songs.)

And finally, my first entry in Ye Olde Phart MP3 competition: The 1970 Eurovision winner (MP3, 4.2 MB) — an incredibly sweet tune from a time when "sweet" still meant "sickly sweet", and when the whips were discreetly hidden under the bed rather than brought onto the stage.

Posted by Horst at 11:59 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)

May 16, 2004

Haldur on Horst's bike

Horst decided it was time to do something about the 10 kilos he wants to get rid of, and since the weather was nice, he thought of getting on his bike and cycling around a bit. I was kind of bored, so I nagged him until he agreed to take me along, and off we went.

Well, the trip itself was kind of nice — we went along the Danube Canal, then the Danube Island, then back via the Prater and the Gasometers, but I hadn't expected the trip to take us over 35 kilometres and for almost 2 hours. As I was sitting on the carrier all the time I now have a seriously sore bum. Look at my face on the picture — I  really was this whacked when we finally got back. I must ask Horst to install a child seat if we're ever doing this again.

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 08:09 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack (1)

May 18, 2004

Received a letter from the publisher today that they had received the manuscript and I'd be hearing from them next in about 4-6 weeks.

Posted by Horst at 07:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Of all the great songs that were released on record in 1967, why on earth did this one (MP3, 3.6 MB) have to be the Number 1 hit song on my birthday? (btw yes, it's Engelbert Humperdinck and that's another entry in the ongoing competition).

Speaking of which, today I computed my alleged real biological age thanks to this Focus Online test (in German only — sorry). The results are kind of pleasing, I guess:

my real age, according to Focus Online

So maybe I should check if they played any better music on my re-computed birthday.

Posted by Horst at 04:52 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

May 19, 2004

More people start wondering if there wasn't anything fishy about the killing of Nick Berg [via Heli].

Posted by Richard Ellenson at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Probably because I never answered to their penis enlargement and Viagra spams, the spammers now want me to become a priest, perform baptisms, weddings and funerals, and go to prison.

Now while I never found the promised results of previous spams in any way credible, in this case I can actually see the latter happening if I were to do the former.

Posted by Horst at 12:10 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Due to server reconfiguration on part of my host my entire website (including this weblog) will be unavailable on Thursday, May 20th, between 7:00 and 16:00 hrs CEST. The reconfiguration includes the complete shutdown of the server, so while I'm told that a redirect will be put in place, all my old URLs may break if you linked to rather than

Due to the server move, I will have to change my weblog configuration, which may take a while, so expect no updates and a couple of broken links for the next few days.

What I hate most about this is that my Google rankings for some of my sites will totally collapse.

Posted by Horst at 02:09 PM

May 20, 2004

The server reconfiguration left my website like this - at a new URL (the old one isn't working any longer the redirect from the old URL works now - yay!) and for some weird reason it's transmitted without styles, images or JavaScript. Movable Type is completely broken, and I may have to reinstall it (this piece of text was inserted manually), so the next updates might take a while.

Also, all the file permissions on the server are a complete mess. I only hope that this is because they're not finished with the server configuration yet.

If you linked to my weblog at, please change your links and bookmarks to the new address,

If you linked to, you don't have to change anything.

Posted by Horst at 11:59 PM

May 21, 2004

I may have figured out the reason why Movable Type is refusing to work:

Your server does not have DB_File installed. DB_File is required if you want to use the Berkeley DB/DB_File backend. Please consult the installation instructions for help in installing DB_File.

This is bad news. Unless this error message is due to a configuration problem on my part, this could mean the end of this weblog as we know it.

Update: Tech support has confirmed that DB_File has not been installed ...yet. So there is hope that I'll be back sooner or later.

Posted by Horst at 04:43 PM

Now that my comments are gone, I feel horribly disconnected. It's only now that I realise how important everyone's feedback and replies have become to me. Really miss you guys.

Posted by Horst at 11:50 PM

May 22, 2004

Amid global outrage over the abuse by U.S. soldiers of Iraqi detainees, the Bush administration has asked the United Nations Security Council to exempt its troops serving in UN-approved peace-keeping operations from prosecution for war crimes before the new International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague in the Netherlands for another year. ...

"Given the recent revelations from Abu Ghraib prison," said Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch (HRW), "the U.S. government has picked a hell of a moment to ask for special treatment on war crimes."

HRW, Amnesty International, as well as hundreds of other national and international human rights groups that belong to the International NGO Coalition for the ICC, are urging governments to speak out against the extension of UN Security Council Resolution 1487, which was first approved, after the U.S. threatened to veto all UN peacekeeping missions if it did not get its way, in 2002 and subsequently renewed in 2003. [Source:]

More: Reuters, BBC, Amnesty International, Associated Press

The Bush administration argues that the International Criminal Court ... could be used for frivolous or politically-motivated prosecutions of American troops. [Source: The Scotsman]

Like, for this?

Posted by Horst at 08:45 AM

May 24, 2004

Yay! DB_File is back on my server, so Movable Type is running again. Funny enough, all the ideas for weblog posts that I had during this weekend, when I couldn't blog anything, are suddenly gone, erased from my mind.

Murphy's Second Law of weblogging: as soon as you're disconnected or away from your computer, you have lots of ideas for weblog posts. These ideas will vanish instantly as soon as your computer works again.

In other news, the print inspection copies of my book arrived on Friday. They turned out beautifully, and I sent the print authorization back to the publishers, so it should be available online and in shops in a matter of a few weeks. I'll keep you informed.

Posted by Horst at 12:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

What do you do if your troops take pictures of physical and sexual abuse in American-run prisons in Iraq? — Why, Ban cameras, of course. []

Posted by Richard Ellenson at 04:58 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Tomorrow is International Towel Day in memory of Douglas Adams, who died three years ago. Carry your towel with you throughout the day to show your participation and mourning. [thx Thomas]

Posted by Horst at 09:05 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (1)

May 25, 2004

Niek points to an interesting article on Digital Cameras, Photography and The Implications at Phototalk.

Specifically, the authors fear that there might be a loss of pictorial history, as only an insignificant number of digital photographs are ever printed out, and the remainder are expected to disappear due to data loss on storage media:

Few of the images taken on digital cameras are ever printed out, which means many are permanently lost when the file is deleted or damaged. At the professional level, the more critical problem is digital storage. The fear is that as technology evolves, any storage medium in use today will eventually become obsolete and the material it holds lost to future generations ... few are thinking much beyond immediate use. ... Jim McGee, a US photographer and publisher of online Vivid Light Photography Magazine recently highlighted the plight of a reader who lost four years' worth of images when his hard drive crashed and a new computer wouldn't read his back-up CDs. [more]

Let's not forget that data on CD-R can vanish within two years or less.

Posted by Horst at 09:17 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

It would have been interesting to hear Suw Charman's paper on The Free Culture AudioBook Project at the upcoming BlogTalk conference in Vienna. Sadly, Suw wrote it only yesterday, which was much too late for the deadline.

It's about how a group of webloggers turned Lawrence Lessig's book Free Culture into an online audio edition. Actually, I'm not sure about the impact of Lessig's copyright theories in this (I don't think that merely the fact that it could be done legally was the decisive factor in this project, and I'm not sure about the real or implied effect of a Creative Commons licence on book sales). However, it certainly shows the collaborative power of weblogs (and also, the networking power of IRC) in a most impressive manner — weblogging as collaborative publishing, if you wish, which is certainly an aspect worth followingup on.

I daresay that this project, which started more or less spontaneously and developed into something fairly big (although one could argue about its impact on the Real World outside) is a much better example ofthe potential of weblogs than anything we heard at last year's conference.

Posted by Horst at 06:13 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

May 26, 2004

[This story is also posted in my cooking weblog, The Aardvark Cooks.]

People generally seem to like what I cook, or at least they never give me any negative feedback (must be my menacing grin, har har). From time to time I'm even asked about my secrets, because even when I tell people the recipe, they sometimes claim that it never turns out as good as when I cooked it.

I have to disappoint you. There are no secrets. There are just a few rules that should be followed, and I'm actually disclosing the most important ones here today because (a) I believe them to be commonsense, and (b) I don't think that the people who didn't follow them so far will suddenly start following them now. Here we go:

  • Use your tastebuds. Train your tastebuds. Trust your tastebuds. It is vital that you have at least a rough idea of what the ingredients that you throw into the pot do to the overall flavour of the dish. You need to have an idea about their intensity, how they are compatible with other ingredients, and how they change with cooking time and cooking method. For example, it's perfectly possible to completely destroy a lasagna with just one teaspoon origano, while you might still be able to save a dish if you accidentally added an overdose of extra hot chili powder. Something that tastes wonderful with roasted onions may taste terrible with raw onions and vice versa. To learn this, taste often when cooking to a recipe to find out what adding ingredients does to the overall taste. It helps if you have a good memory for tastes and smells.

  • Unless you're 100% sure of what you're doing, stick 100% to the recipe. A friend complained that her spicy eggplant didin't taste as good as mine, even though she had used "the same recipe". It turned out she had used courgettes instead of eggplant, orange juice instead of lemon juice, had left out the mustard seed because she hadn't had any, and had served them with noodles instead of rice. It was, in short, obviously not the same recipe. Which leads us to the next point:

  • Some ingredients are there for a reason, some are negotiable. Learn to distinguish between the ingredients that carry the flavour and those which don't. Don't even think for a second that you can substitute 1/2 cup of olive oil with 1/2 cup of vegetable oil, whereas the difference between using lime juice or lemon juice, origano or thyme, shallots or onions, or red chilies and green chilies may work sometimes, but can result in disaster at other times. The more experience you have, the more you can estimate when variation is possible and which ingredients must not be substituted. As long as you don't know, either stick to the recipe or be prepared for disaster (even if it doesn't always strike).

  • The knife makes all the difference. Vegetables and herbs change their taste according to how finely you cut or chop them — generally, the rule is that the finer you chop something, the more intense the taste will be (try this with garlic: whole, coarsely chopped, finely chopped, or squeezed through a garlic press — you can easily put fifty whole cloves into a roast chicken, but you might find four squeezed cloves too intense). Meat will behave differently in the pot depending on how you cut it — it may shrink, dry out, or stay juicy. The final taste of your dish is already decided the moment you cut your ingredients into pieces.

  • Some pots need to be watched; others can be left alone. Usually, you should stay with your pot while it's on the stove. If you need to do other things, you need to develop a feeling for how much attention your pot needs. Generally, the rule is that the hotter the pot or the fewer liquid in the pot, the more attention it needs. In one episode of The Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver took a portion of extremely finely chopped onion from a blender, threw it into a pan with sizzling hot oil and proceeded to cut three tomatoes without looking at the pan even once. In any real-life kitchen, the onions would have turned into a bitter, most likely blackish-burnt, but at any rate inedible crust. And if you frequently cook rice and don't have the patience to stay with the pot, buy a rice cooker.

  • Routine is a killer. The more often you cook one particular recipe, the less it's going to taste like the first time. That's in part because you get used to the taste, but also because you're usually more accurate with the recipe the first few times and then become more sloppy or seem to remember things that aren't in the recipe at all. It's a good idea to check the recipe once in a while even if you think you know it in your sleep.

  • A meal is more than the sum of its parts. What you eat can taste dramatically different depending on the side dishes and even on the drink(s) you serve with it. It's better to serve no wine at all rather than the wrong wine, and if you prepare more than one course, these need to be compatible, too.

So much for today's portion of kitchen wisdom.

Posted by Horst at 07:58 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

Gary Turner is writing the obvious: "it's an identity crisis that ... has been surfaced and exacerbated by my recent spate of meetings. In short, my blog self is not my entire self". Yes, well. I'm very much aware of the same thing. I think I've already said this several times here: Don't even think for a second that if you meet me in real life I'm anything like the persona that emerges from this weblog.

I don't think that's a problem though, even though there are several people in the blogosphere (some of whom I've already met in real life) towards whom I'd rather be the real me rather than the voice that writes The Aardvark Speaks, and that's basically because what I write is written with much less emotion than what I feel for them. Only I would never show that amount of emotion in a public performance such as this website.

I think the basic point that made Gary stop writing his weblog is this one: "I have no motivation to continue this" I'm not sure why he feels that way, but it is true that meeting real people makes a lot of what you're writing online for an anonymous audience seem hollow.

And it's true to a certain extent, because you can be a lot more profound if you're sharing a table with a real person rather than a weblog with a couple of anonymous readers. Like I said here only a short while ago, I realise I'm writing stuff like this for a couple of people I've met personally, but I'd much rather meet them in person, be it to get drunk together or to experience wonderful things, or whatever. I'm sick of virtuality. I want the real thing.

I said this once to another blogger I met in person: virtual acquaintances are just that — virtual. They're not really real. You can think you have a bond with people you meet online, but real bonds only grow in real life.

I like to see weblogs as an extension to real life. They should never be an alternative life. If you ever feel that you live in the alternative life, get out and talk to real people. I'm not sure just what exactly Gary felt, but I find myself becoming very aware of the clash between the real world and the virtual world I inhabit sometimes.

And whenever I start thinking about it I always find that it's always the real people that really matter. Even if you initially met them via a weblog.

Posted by Horst at 09:02 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

May 27, 2004

It's odd how some people manage to separate their personality from their body. There are some people who seem to push their personality several metres in front of their bodies, and there are those who constantly seem to drag it behind them. Then there are those whose personality seems to reside at an undisclosed location, and those who always leave theirs at the entrance. Some seem to be forever stuck in someone else's mobile phone. The number of those whose personality seems to be located where their body is seems to be shrinking.

Posted by Horst at 11:08 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

May 28, 2004

Graham Chapman as film director Martin Curry in a Monty Python sketch

The repair work on my front teeth, which I knocked in at the tender age of 11, and which have been in serious need of refurbishment for a while now, isn't proceeding quite as planned — meaning that my dentist changed his plans as to how to fix them and it's going to be a longer (though thankfully not more expensive) procedure than initially planned.

Anyway, I now have these provisional front teeth installed. And while I don't look like Graham Chapman in the Martin Curry sketch (actually, the provisional teeth look better than my previous definitive ones), I somehow feel like I had teeth like that. It's must be a fraction of a millimetre that's different. That, and the fact that the provisional material is contracting oddly whenever I eat or drink something cold. It's not painful or anything at all. It just feels like I had these enormous teeth.

Posted by Horst at 11:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

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