Month: <span>September 2017</span>

I had gone to bed at a reasonable hour for once and was asleep in no time at all, my weary bones and tired mind happily conceding to the warmth of the bed and the darkness of the night. I fell fast into a deep and comfortable slumber.

So you can imagine my consternation and the enusing ire when, not long after the clock swept past 2am, I was rudely awakened by a short series of loud beeps. Startled awake, my eyes opened to the dark and in my chest the loudest of crashing thumps began as my heart beat the panic drum.

My mind raced to the source; was it the (unset) burglar alarm or one of the smoke detectors? Regardless, after the fourth beep faded and left just the pounding of my heart echoing from my bed, I knew sleep would elude me until I had it figured it out.

Having never heard these beeping noises before I eyed the closed door of the bedroom suspiciously. Was my burglar alarm signalling an attempted entry? Was the bedroom door about to be flung open by a shadowy thug wielding some form of weapon?

WAS MY WORST NIGHTMARE ABOUT TO BE REALISED?

Seconds passed as I lay there, white knuckles gripping the duvet, listening for a sound, any sound, that would signal my doom.

Nothing happened.

I quietly exhaled. Rising from the warmth of my bed, I warily made my way out into the hall. Glancing left and right as I jerked the bedroom door open – all the better to catch an unsuspecting intruder and use surprise to my advantage, oh yes I was ready to pounce into action – but no movement caught my eye, nothing was obviously untoward, the coat stand remained unmoved, the rug that slips easily underfoot was resolutely where I last positioned it.

I walked into the hall, turned towards the front door and, on seeing the locks firmly closed over, removed that as a potential entry point. I flipped open the cover on the alarm system and the display glared at me in the dark, forcing my sleepy eyes in to a squint, yet it had nothing to report. I stood in the dull glow to consider if this lack of information was a good or bad thing? My brain struggled to find reason for either.

I turned and walked back down the hall to the living room, pausing momentarily at the hall cupboard before I grasped the handle firmly and yanked the door open, again hoping that swift action would unsettle any devious fiend hiding in wait. But OHHH how my heart leapt as, in the act of opening the door, I must’ve dislodged the mop placed within, bringing it tipping towards me and only stopping short as the handle caught on the nearest edge of the bucket in which it stood.

It is to my eternal embarrassment that I fear my attempts to stifle my cry of fear only resulted in a somewhat high pitched squeaking. Look at me now, what a fool I am, stumbling in the dark, half-asleep, half-naked and still defenceless! I made a mental note to leave some form of defensive implement next to the bed for future and then I lifted the mop from the bucket, lest I enter the living room completely at the mercy of whatever spectre lay beyond, and quietly closed the cupboard door.

I could feel the adrenalin surging as I approached the living room, for if my would-be assailant didn’t enter by the front door then surely a window was the mode of entry! I paused again, listening, before I entered with wilful abandon, the door flung wide, the mop raised in front of me ready for battle.

Nothing.

I admit that by now I was starting to feel more than a little foolish, and so when the kitchen proved to be unsullied by an unwanted guest I retreated and, chastened, returned the mop to the hall cupboard.

As you know, there is no place to hide in the bathroom but I still checked behind the door, knowing full well that any stone left unturned would simply play on my mind later. Closing the bathroom door behind me I look up to the ceiling. In the corner is a sensor for the burglar alarm, and nearby one of three smoke detectors that guard over me while I sleep.

Pushing the thoughts of burglary to the back of my mind I stood, quiet as a mouse, and waited for the next set of beeps. I stood still with one ear to the detector in the hallway, the other in the direction of the living room and adjacent kitchen, lest my beeping foe be situated there.

Whilst waiting for the next tell-tale beeps I tried to gauge how long it had been since I was so briskly roused from my fitful sleep; has it been two minutes? More? Less? My heavy eyes pulled my head forward but I jolted myself upright, what folly it would be to fall asleep again only to be bested by one of those confounded smoke detectors! I will not stand for that.

Yet there I stood. Minutes pass and as I grow cold I wondered if I dreamt these monsterous noises, did I conjure them from my subconscious? I tried to recall what I had been dreaming of but the harder I tried to grasp it the quicker it seemed to evaporate from my memory, smoky wisps in the air.

Silence.

There are no beeps.

Above me, tiny green LEDs glow in the night to confirm that all is well, rest now human, there is no need for worry.

I eventually gave up. I’m not sure how long I stood there but I was glad to go back to bed, back to the cooling embers of the duvet. I closed my eyes and laid still and quiet, my heart beat slowed and my limbs settled beneath me. Eventually sleep returned and called for me once more.

In the cold light of this autumn morning I can admit that I was, perhaps, swept away by the darkness, caught up in the panic that beset me. I know it is not the first time nor will it be the last.

I have added new batteries for the smoke detectors to my shopping list.

Writing

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  • Hogwarts as Never-Never Land: Stephen King on The Goblet of Fire

    “I read the first novel in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, in April 1999 and was only moderately impressed. But in April 1999 I was pretty much all right.”
    Pop culture clash with the ever wonderful Mr. King. Insightful as ever.

  • What Do We Mean When We Say “Toxic Masculinity?”

    This. All of this.

  • ‘It was wonderfully scary’: Tim Curry, Rob Reiner and Kathy Bates on the joy of adapting Stephen King

    Four decades after Carrie, the master horror writer’s It is the latest of his tales to be turned into a film. Actors and directors explain what’s kept the industry hooked Hollywood pounced on Stephen King as soon as his first novel, Carrie, was published in 1974.
    I’ve read the novel, and barely recall watching snippets of the TV Movie, and I don’t like horror movies… but…

  • Alien-Like Blob Found in Lake is Actually a Living Thing

    Sometimes, we are all this blob—a large, gelatinous mound sitting in a lake, begging to be left alone. Recently, one such blob was found near the Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park, Vancouver. While it might not look like something from Earth, the Blob is very much alive—and it contains multitudes.
    We are multitudes. Nature is awesome.

  • Sending Summer Off With a Bang: 55-Foot-Tall Sand Castle Snags World Record

    It’s virtually impossible to get a sense of just how large this world-record-smashing sand castle really is until you see a shot that includes crowds of tiny humans gathered around its base.
    Meanwhile I can’t even turn out a castle shaped bucket without losing one of the towers…

  • ‘Ally McBeal’ at 20: Calista Flockhart, David E. Kelley and More on Dancing Babies, Feminism and Robert Downey Jr.

    If TV shows had godparents, Ally McBeal’s would have been Melrose Place and The Practice. Without those two series, chances are Fox’s groundbreaking dramedy about a lawyer and her crazed life might never have happened.
    I loved Ally McBeal and… WHOA, 20 years. (Also, Lisa Nicole Carson. Just saying).

  • This music production tool is the reason why all new music sounds the same

    Imagine music as a recipe.
    Yet one more reason I am no longer passionate about ‘chart’ music.

  • The bad news is that fish are eating lots of plastic. Even worse, they may like it.

    As you bite down into a delicious piece of fish, you probably don’t think about what the fish itself ate — but perhaps you should. More than 50 species of fish have been found to consume plastic trash at sea.
    Goes alongside other news this week that our (filtered) water supplies are tainted with plastic too. We are plastic people.

  • Why Freddie Mercury’s Voice Was So Great, As Explained By Science

    Freddie Mercury, the late frontman for the legendary band Queen, died almost 25 years ago. But he’s still regarded as one of the best rock singers ever. What, exactly, made him so great? A research team in Europe wanted to answer that question, so it looked into the science behind his voice.
    Science? SCIENCE? He’s Freddie motherfuckin’ Mercury, that’s all the damn science you need! (Ahem, Queen may be my favourite band, just sayin’)

  • Don’t Call It Pink Chocolate

    Barry Callebaut AG, the world’s largest cocoa processor, has come up with the first new natural color for chocolate since Nestle. A started making bars of white chocolate more than 80 years ago.
    I’m waiting on the first ‘but where is the blue chocolate for boys’ idiot to show up.

  • Celery Was the Avocado Toast of the Victorian Era

    Though it’s the crucial third component of a mirepoix, cooked celery is one of the most universally hated vegetables.
    Further proof that trends are not a new… er… trend… ?

  • Wild dog packs count sneezes to vote democratically

    Wild dogs aren’t totally wild, it turns out. As in any society, there are complex rules in their packs, plus powerful types who disproportionately influence the group. Yet the will of the many does at times prevail.
    All those who want this instituted in Parliament, SNEEZE TWICE!

  • You Are the Product

    At the end of June, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook had hit a new level: two billion monthly active users. That number, the company’s preferred ‘metric’ when measuring its own size, means two billion different people used Facebook in the preceding month.
    We the people. Etc etc. Sheesh.

  • Why Happy People Cheat

    “Most descriptions of troubled marriages don’t seem to fit my situation,” Priya insists. “Colin and I have a wonderful relationship. Great kids, no financial stresses, careers we love, great friends.
    There are other options people. It takes hard work and complete honest.

  • Rebecca Solnit: if I were a man

    Growing up, the author joked she was the perfect son: intelligent, ambitious, independent. How different might her life have been? When I was very young, some gay friends of mine threw a cross-dressing party.
    Wonderful, thought provoking, article.

  • iOS 11 Almost Turns an iPad in to a MacBook

    Next Tuesday Apple will be hosting an event where we expect to see the unveil of their latest iPhone. As it’s the 10th anniversary of the game-changing device, expectations are high for a significant new design.
    I’ve been playing with iOS 11 Beta releases, the muscle memory isn’t quite there yet but it’s a massive improvement for iPad users.

  • You’ll Be Happier If You Let Yourself Feel Bad

    There’s a moment in Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray when the title character declares war on his feelings: “I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions,” Dorian says. “I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”
    I’ve worked on exactly this. Learning how to step back and accept how things are, regardless of your emotional state isn’t easy but very worthwhile (when it works, it doesn’t always).

  • The Gift of Presence, The Perils of Advice

    When my mother went into a nursing home not long before she died, my wife and I were told that, for a modest increase in the monthly fee, the staff would provide a few extra services to improve her quality of life. We gladly paid, grateful that we could afford it.
    Recent family events (my Uncle passed away) brings this sort of thing into sharp relief.

  • The Literary Allure of Edinburgh, Explained

    Edinburgh is a Gothic mystery. There is fiction and horror, death and, on occasion, romance. There are things that go bump in the night. It’s the kind of place that makes you think witches – the Hansel and Gretel type, not Sabrina, The Teenage Witch – are real.
    I really need to explore Edinburgh more, even though it’s only the second best city in Scotland (after Glasgow).

Weekend Reading

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Lived

Highlights

A steadily busy month, punctuated with four days off with a rather vicious vomiting bug! A couple of great gigs, some great food and life is pretty good. Mind you, I’ve just started doing the exercises the physio has given me and I have new found hatred for foam rollers (I’m loosening my quads) and wall sits.

Health-wise I’ve given myself a bit of a kick as I’ve not been eating as best I can and having missed some Bootcamp sessions my weight has trickled back up. So back to health eating and I’ve signed up for the next Bootcamp session which kicks off on the 4th October – lean and mean for Christmas??

Alas some sad news this month with the passing of my Uncle Hamish. Fond memories of visiting Dundee and marvelling at some of his sculptures, some of which I now own.

Stepcount: 225,079 (a big drop as the vomiting bug impact me for about 10 days all in).

Read

The Essex Serpent
Oddly captivating and I’m sure I only picked this up based on a random recommendation. I’m not really one for ‘period’ pieces but this feels like a modern novel that just happens to be set in the late 1800s. A little out of balance at times when it comes to character development, but I enjoyed this more than I thought I would when I was halfway through it.

Also good

  • V for Vendetta – Book Club choice, I’ve read it before but it’s been nice to take the time to go back and take my time to really absorb the artwork.
  • Mr. Mercedes – Ahhhhh a much easier read, not read a Stephen King book for years but they always have a familiar feel, his own little, weird, dark, creepy world.

Watched

Not really watched anything of particular note, and not managed to get to the cinema this month at all so I’ll just remind you all that whilst I have watched all of the episodes, Game of Thrones sucks.

Listened

Nothing new here either. I must remedy this in September!! (which is one advantage of doing these roundups)

Monthly

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The fifth menu has arrived and so once again my intrepid friends and I ventured to Finnieston entirely unsure of what we were about to be offered.

Typically the menus that are published don’t really offer that much of a hint of what is in store beyond listing some of the core ingredients, and given the theme of this menu I’ve hardly bothered to do more than glance at what we will be eating.

That menu then:

  1. ‘CHICKEN’ – Lemon Thyme, Szechuan Pepper
  2. ‘PORK FILLET’ – Baba Ganoush, Pomegranate, Yoghurt, Sea Vegetables
  3. ‘TOMATO’ – Black Olive, Goats Cheese Panacotta, Nori Crackers
  4. ‘CULTURED OATS’ – Shellfish Bisque, Pickled Mussels, Pancetta, Celeraic
  5. ‘DUCK’ – Blueberries, Hazelnut, Wild Mushrooms, Cocoa
  6. ‘WHITE CHOCOLATE’ – Passionfruit, Lime Curd, Coconut

But first, as always, Snacks! Piggy Tea, Parmesan Royale, Smoked Ham Hough & Maple Syrup, Sourdough Bread… although this time as we had a Vegetarian friend with us, I shared the Mushroom Tea over a feta and olive tapenade. Holy umami batman, what a wonderfully rich complex set of flavours to kick off the meal. The mushroom flavour was strong but the olives added a subtler bitterness that meant, very quickly, I’d run out of bread from dunking in the deliciousness!

The first dish of the menu came as a cup of tea. A layer of dark toasted sesame seeds atop a wonderfully sticky based of shredded chicken. The kick of the pepper balanced the sweetness of the lemon thyme but the thick layer of sesame seeds really gave it some depth.

On to the ‘PORK FILLET’ dish and this, alongwith the dessert, was the one that really messed with my mind. As promised, the illusion was in the presentation. In front of me was placed a scallop shell, with two scallops… which were actually shaped from succulent cuts of pork. The first mouthful was a real head twister but pretty quickly I was happily enjoying this. A subtle warmth from the Baba Ganoush base played perfectly with the burst of sweetness from the pomegranate.

Now, I’m not a big fan of tomato (the tomato based course on the Route 66 menu was my least favourite for this reason) and again this one fell short on my palate. That said, it would’ve been very easy to presume I was eating steak tartare when the plate was put in front of me, including the wobbly ‘egg’ yolk atop the dish. That said, it was a fresh and light dish, although I think the goats cheese panacotta was a bit too bland, offering little more than a texture.

Porridge then, sorry ‘CULTURED OATS’ and at first glance that’s exactly what we got. A bit of a cheat mind you as the top layer of the dish is exactly that, a light porridge that was hiding a shellfish bisque and an unmentioned red pepper puree base. Ohhh and we got a slice of (prawn) toast as well. For me this missed the mark and whilst each flavour and ingredient was well prepared, it just didn’t really come together. Now, that’s likely because I don’t enjoy (can’t eat) red pepper so that was an instant ‘ugh’ moment, but aside from the pickled mussels (a wonderful revelation!) I can’t say I enjoyed this dish all that much. Ohhh and the prawn toast was far too greasy. I’d be interested to see if they tweak this dish in the coming weeks.

After a couple of ‘not great’ dishes, I was starting to worry. I knew I had a review to write and I’ve got a superlative quota to hit! Thankfully the next course got us back on track. And then some.

Admittedly the ‘DUCK’ dish wasn’t really much of an illusion but frankly, with food this good I was happy with a pretty plate of heavenly flavours. The duck was (I think) smoked and sous-vide to utter melt in the mouth perfection, and the accompanying ‘forest floor’ added to the textures with pickled blueberries being a new, and delightful, revelation. At times like this I find myself wanting to stop time so I can continue to savour the dish in front of me, with each mouthful of the succulent duck an absolute pleasure.

Alas all good things come to an end, and so the ‘WHITE CHOCOLATE’ dessert arrived. But wait, is this half a boiled egg I see before me? Indeed it was, except of course it wasn’t. With a passionfruit gel ‘yolk’ and an absolutely perfectly smooth white chocolate ice cream, on a bed of honeyed strands. Oh my heavens, what a way to finish a meal. The white chocolate was far more subtle than I was expecting so wasn’t as overpoweringly sickly as it can be, instead it had just enough sugar to counteract the sharpness of the passionfruit gel. Silence descended on the table as we all savoured each mouthful.

And then it was all over.

Even with a couple of dishes which didn’t really land well on my palate, I enjoyed this meal immensely. There have been hints of some of these dishes already shown in previous menus and whilst not each course really pushed the illusion theme (I’m sure the duck dish could’ve been more cleverly presented) overall it was another superlative laden effort, rendering myself and my dining companions speechless at times.

Once again I’ll close by pointing out that the set menu is £25 for six courses. It was also good to note that you can swap courses between the main and vegetarian options, which may help if one dish in particularly may trigger an allergy. Add in £5 for the ‘Snacks’, and £5 for an apertif, chuck a bottle of wine in and for £45-50 a head you are being treated to high end cuisine in a laidback environment. The food quality remains high, as does the execution of each plate. It really is a fine dining experience on a budget.

The next question is what will the theme be for the next menu which will be the sixth menu for Six by Nico!

Food SixbyNico

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  • Can Tattoos Help With Body Image? We Asked 7 Women
    “My parents are very old-fashioned when it comes to tattoos. Even though their generation does sometimes understand the younger generation’s culture, they still feel like being tattooed makes life as difficult today as it was when they were younger. But it really isn’t.
    Times they are a-changin’ and for the better (nice to find some cheer in the gloom)
  • Introverts Don’t Hate People, They Hate Shallow Socializing
    For a long period of my life, I lived convinced that I don’t like people. As a teenager, I was sure that socializing is simply not for me and that I have to get to used to it and learn how to live without many people around me.
    It me! I still struggle with ‘small talk’ to this day but I bet most people (I know already) wouldn’t say I was an introvert…
  • Maybe Trump is a kind of cry for help from the Earth, a human flare

    So are we heading for a Mad Max-style future? I don’t think so. After having lived through Donald Trump we’ll surely just call him Max. Trump is behaving so strangely, we’re probably about a month away from not being allowed to make jokes about him.
    Frankie Boyle hits the mark with his usual turn of phrase and laser beam accuracy.

  • New heart treatment is biggest breakthrough since statins, scientists say
    Anti-inflammatory injections could lower the risk of heart attacks and may slow the progression of cancer, a study has found.
    Massive news if this holds to be true.
  • How My Instagram Hacker Changed My Life
    Mohamad, my hacker, had an air of desperation about him. When he got emails in English announcing that he was a lottery winner, or promising him access to a fat bank account, he asked me to translate them word for word. “!!!پول !!!پول” he’d write.
    An intriguing look across cultures and ideologies, against the global backdrop of social media.
  • Inside an Epic Hotel Room Hacking Spree
    On a warm Phoenix night five years ago, Aaron Cashatt walked down the red-carpeted hall of the second floor of a Marriott hotel, trying to move casually despite the adrenaline and methamphetamine surging through his bloodstream.
    Not all criminals are dumb (but in the end, all criminals are dumb)
  • The Next Generation of Emoji Will Be Based on Your Facial Expressions

    A new app is trying to make it simpler to help you react to photos and videos that your friends post online—it’s using AI to capture your facial expressions and automatically translate them into a range of emoji faces.
    Cool tech! But… why??

  • A first-time author unwittingly exposed the house of cards beneath “bestseller” books

    It’s been an awkward few days for America’s most powerful books ranking. On Aug. 24, the New York Times issued a rare correction to one of its bestseller lists, after a strange and still unexplained series of events that fall somewhere between scam and gaffe.
    Another in the series of ‘can we really believe ANY recommendation’?

  • Otters learn by copying each other

    Smooth-coated otters. Credit: Dr. Nicole DuplaixOtters can learn how to solve puzzles by watching and copying each other, new research shows.
    BECAUSE OTTERS, THAT’S WHY!

  • How Tony the Tiger Became the Most Sexually Objectified Breakfast Mascot

    Cap’n Crunch is too old. Count Chocula is a creep. The Trix Rabbit, god, so thirsty. No, if you’re going to lust after any cereal spokestoon, it’ll definitely be Tony the Tiger. For years we’ve known that Twitter is horny for the Frosted Flakes mascot.
    For years I was blissfully unaware. File this under ‘articles I wish I hadn’t even glanced at’ (but then, each to their own and all that jazz).

  • Workflow

    Kevin Kelly Writes To Find Out What He Doesn’t Know; Steven Johnson talks with the Wired co-founder and bestselling technology theorist about writing in public and strange power of music on infinite loop.
    I’ve been a reader of Cool Tools for years, and love my weekly Recomendo email! Kevin is the geeks geek.

  • 36 Hours in Glasgow

    It’s easy to appreciate the historic beauty of Glasgow, from the grand Art Nouveau constructions of the celebrated architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh to the intricately carved gravestones left behind by the Vikings in the ninth century.
    NY Times updates an old article with some new and very good recommendations. MY recommendation is don’t try and cover ANY city in 36 hours… calm down people, take your time, explore!

  • Polskie Neony/Polish Neons
    A photo gallery of polish neon signs. Yup.
  • The Strange Future Hurricane Harvey Portends

    Climate change is pushing more water into the atmosphere—with bizarre consequences. Humans have begun an international project to move water around the world, far more ambitious than any network of aqueducts or hydroelectric dams ever constructed or conceived.
    Scary dystopian futures, Batman!

  • The Secret Life of Competitive Grippers

    Clasping heavy-duty handles closed may not seem like a serious endeavor, but for this strange sport’s athletes, it’s the ultimate testosterone test.
    I find something fascinating about these in-depth looks at niche subcultures

  • The World’s Most Beautiful Bookstores, All Gathered in One Place

    The first thing I noticed upon entering Livraria Lello in Porto, Portugal was its famed staircase. Curvy and red, it rises from the floor as if by magic. Word has it that J.K. Rowling herself was inspired by it when creating the world of Harry Potter and the magical library at Hogwarts.
    Go for the article, stay for the pictures.

  • Terry Pratchett’s unfinished novels destroyed by steamroller

    The unfinished books of Sir Terry Pratchett have been destroyed by a steamroller, following the late fantasy novelist’s wishes.
    I love this story so so much.

Weekend Reading

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