Simmer

Is there a fixed amount of time you can have an item of food before you become sentimental and have problems eating it? At some point does your brain switch from "I could use those calories to fuel my cells" to "my comfort with this environment would decrease if this bottle of iced coffee mix wasn't on the bench anymore."

I thought about this concept while preparing dinner tonight. I was heating a lamb Rogan Josh that I cooked, portioned and froze sixteen days ago. My bulk meals don't usually last me this long. This particular portion was the last of the batch, and I had eighteen minutes of microwaving time to reflect on the curious sense of sadness I felt about eating it.

I'm not talking about getting emotional about things like that box of Weet Bix sitting in the back of your pantry, or other long life tins that you can hold onto for six months and then throw into a pasta without a second thought. I think for this affection effect to happen that the item in question needs to be unique in some way, and also be exposed within the environment.

One Christmas I was given a chocolate Santa Claus made by a luxury chocolate manufacturer. It was on Christmas day and I certainly wasn't lacking for sustenance at that point of the afternoon, so I positioned it on my desk among other knick-knacks to eat another time. The next September, when I was moving home, I realised I was still yet to eat it. It seemed that at some point I had unconsciously decided the cost of eating it was too damaging to the tiny contribution the chocolate statue had on the familiarity of my environment. Reflecting further I realised this same phenomena might have been the reason I never baked my Thomas the Tank Engine muffin mix which sat on my desk for about 18 months before I threw it away. I did eat that Santa, it did not taste fresh.

Upon further reflection, I also held onto a six-pack of fat stubbied Cooper's Sparkling for six years after they changed their design to a slimmer bottle. When I drank them in 2009 they also did not taste fresh.

I think environmental familiarity is a major factor in human being's comfort levels. I have seen enough office spazz outs over disappearing mugs to realise this. And also, Luke Walton. There's probably some influence from your food-poisoning-preventing sub-conscious that poses a barrier to eating food your brain recognises as old as well. Whatever timeframe is needed to fall in love with food, it's longer than sixteen days, because my dinner was delicious, and microwaving things for eighteen minutes on the lowest heat makes everything taste fresh.


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Easel

I can't paint hands.

I can't paint hands.

Solving Problems You Didn't Know Exist

Whenever I make a curry with a jar of curry sauce I do the same thing: After I tip in the sauce I add a little bit of water to the jar, shake it up with the lid on and then tip the now flavoured water into curry.

Working with curry paste, like tonight, this doesn't work so well because the paste needs to stay thick and simmer. There's no scope to add water. This problem always frustrated both my strong flavour loving side, and my frugal side. Tonight I solved the problem by putting in cubed up chicken into the empty paste jar, shaking it vigorously and then tipping the instantly-marinated chicken chunks into the simmering paste.

The last remnants of paste were successfully added to the curry and the chicken tasted nice.

A Nice Hill With Great Views

The secret of good photography, more useful than leading lines, or the rule of thirds, is to take a boring photo and put a pretty girl in it.

Southern Highlands, NSW

Southern Highlands, NSW


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Begun

I spent a few hours this afternoon adding a new chapter to my story about putting together flat pack furniture and then drinking a beer.
I have assembled flat pack furniture from plethora of producers in the past few years, but today was the first time I've bought and built furniture from Costco. The item, a TV stand.

Unsurprisingly it is very large, and storage friendly. I was impressed with the level of detail in the instructions, the extra features (wall mount, device to hang plastic guitars from.) It was also a very reasonable price compared to competitors. I rate this experience as positive. I just have to work out what to do with the other three TV cabinets.

Choices

It was the first day of the week and Dale sat in the first carriage of the train. Even in peak hour, when other carriages resembled the 3:11 to New Delhi, there were always some free seats in the front carriage. Rumour had it that on rare occasion a preoccupied train driver would overshoot a platform by a carriage length and strand front carriage commuters for that stop. Dale had never had that happen to him, but he understood why others might be spooked. Personally, he believed that arriving to work late because your train driver was distracted was a lock for an instantly acceptable excuse. On trips home, however, the risk wasn't as appealing.
The train rounded a gentle corner and through the window he could see the trailing carriages stretching out behind him. Each held probably the same contents as the front carriage: business men and women listening to music on headphones, parents with prams listening to music on headphones, old people listening to music on headphones, high school students listening to music on shared headphones. Ahead of the train, looming high into the blue sky was the jagged row of teeth that was the city's central business district. The whole horizon was made of glass skyscrapers reflecting the cool, early morning light back and forth between them to give the city a glowing white halo.
The morning train service chugged on steadily as the buildings continued to slowly and ominously grow bigger. It was only when the train stopped at a station – the doors of the front carriage perfectly aligned with the platform – that Dale realised they were still becoming bigger even while the train was stationary. It was then the rumbling started, muffled at first but slowly echoing louder and deeper as the distant city began lifting from the ground like a launching mother-ship.
The rumbling started to alarm the other passengers and the lift-off of their destination caused a cascade of interested commuters to cram around the train's windows to stare up at the floating suburb that had broken free of the power lines, water pipes and bitumen that had meekly tethered it to the ground. When they realised it was steadily creeping towards their location the screams started. The still motionless train had its doors pried back open as passengers attempted to flee whatever natural disaster or apocalyptic event had possessed their city. Even the driver had flung open the locked door of the driver's compartment and shoved his way through the crowd to join the stampede.
The vacated driver's compartment offered the best view of the flying city block and Dale walked in and sat in the driver's seat to watch the spectacle. Through the radio the sound of panicked train drivers and confused network operators squawked. Most of the chatter was the same: profanity, prayers and confusion. Only one voice was steady and barking instructions:
"3 and 5 flank on the wing, 4 position centre and trap." They sounded like basketball plays. Then Dale heard a calm voice he had not expected to hear.
"This is 2, altering course for attack trajectory. Watch my back."
Dale picked up the radio transmitter cautiously and held down the button to speak, "Karl?"
"Dale!" said 2, or Karl, "what are you doing on this frequency?"
"I, uhh," Dale stared at the flying city above while he paused to compose a response. Streaking through the air above his head two full length passenger trains snaked through the sky in the direction of the worryingly close behemoth.
"Dale, are you in the driver's seat of a train?" Karl yelled.
"Yes?"
"Then quit fucking around, reach down to the floor beneath your seat and press that red button."
Dale followed instructions, found the button and watched as the lights and steering wheel of the train lit up. Dale felt the next steps come to him instinctively: he should accelerate and then pull up. There was a flat pedal on the floor which he pressed and he felt the heavy train shudder as it stirred and began to follow the tracks. A chime sounded and he heard the doors on each carriage slide back shut. Once he had the train up to speed he prepared to take off, pausing only to use the intercom to warn the few passengers who had stayed behind out of fear or engrossing iPhone games that they should hold on to something. Dale pulled the steering wheel down and towards him and felt the wheels of the carriage leave the track and slowly lift into the air. The wheel was shaking violently in his hands but he did not relax his grip. He used all his strength to pull down and closed his eyes. When he opened them he could see the ground below him was shrinking and behind him the carriages of the train trailed like the tail of a kite.
"Dale, fall into formation," said Karl, and the screen on the dashboard indicated the communication had come from the train in front of him that was streaking towards the city. Dale tried to straighten to reduce the drag and pushed the accelerator to catch up with Karl. With the third train they formed a caret with Karl at the tip. Dale could see the shadow of the floating city sweeping over the suburbs below.
"What does it want?" asked Dale into the intercom.
"Cut the chatter," a terse voice, speaker unknown, replied.
The flying city was close now, Dale could see the brand names on the tops of the buildings clearly. The whole thing leaned slightly to one side and what he had thought was colourful dust emanating from the edge of the sheared city blocks was now defined as a salad of vehicles, café tables, garbage bins and humans falling from the tilted angle. The city spun slowly and beams of sunlight reflected from buildings, momentarily blinding Dale. He smelt burning.
"Stay steady, 4," said the terse voice.
"I'm going in," said Karl. His train circled the edge of the city until he picked his gap, then increased speed as it sliced between towers and headed for the heart of the city. At the centre of the buildings the gigantic Compucon Towers glowed bright and Karl seemed to be heading there. With deft skills he passed by the top floors of the building and then banked hard, causing his trailing carriages to swing like a whip and crash through the glass façade of the Towers. A loud groan came from the heart of the city, it sounded like a cry of pain underwater. Dale felt the noise's vibrations in his seat.
The stranger's train made the next pass at the building, flying above the streets and whipping it in the same way. It wasn't as effective as Karl's strike but the noise the city made was even more guttural and sad sounding.
Dale, who had watched the tumbling glass and shrapnel from a distance, shrugged, and darted his train towards the tower to perform the same manoeuvre. The blood rush had made it seem like the right thing to do, but when Dale saw the image of his flying train mirrored in windows of the landscape of skyscrapers, he started having doubts. Dale tried to angle himself in the same way Karl had, and it was only when the Compucon Towers were metres away that Dale realised how amateur a flying train pilot he was and he screamed in a strangely half-hearted manner as the front of his train crashed through the exposed floors and sheared through cubicles, a server room and a kitchenette. He emerged out the other side of the building as his tail of carriages cut through floors and girders with random thrusts comparable to Dwight Howard running with an erection. A piercing shrill started from the heart of the city and Dale clenched his jaw tight to try and stay focused on navigating back out into the clear.
When clear, Dale joined the other two trains and tailed them as they looped back around the city. Karl looked for a new opening, but the punishment had been apparently been enough. The Compucon Tower was collapsing and the flying island began to descend back to earth as gracefully as gigantic piece of earth can fall from the sky. Maps were made redundant.
The dust settled and Dale altered his course to stay with Karl and the stranger, who were now cruising away from the carnage and out over the ocean.
"That was a ballsy move, 4," said the stranger's voice on the intercomm. "What's your name?"
"What the fuck, what the fuck, what the fuck?" said Dale. "What the fuck."
"His name," Karl explained, "is Tuesdale."
"Roger," said the voice. "Stay with me now Tuesdale. This will all make sense soon."
The three trains flew towards the sunrise.

How's That?

For almost four years I've tried to convince Vanessa that cricket is an entertaining sport to watch. She is proving hard to sway. Lucky for me she went out tonight and I had an evening to myself to enjoy the limited overs clash between Australia and Sri Lanka.

Cricket is not traditionally a sport which delivers instant gratification. I see cricket more like an excellent novel, rather than blockbuster movie. By saying that I don't mean that each test match is like a novel. A test match is like a chapter. I might even go as far as to say that an entire tour or series is just a chapter in the novel which is cricket.

Much like literature, cricket is full of characters that develop over time. Characters does not necessarily refer to their personalities, because who really knows what goes on in a lot of their heads (in the case of Mitchell Johnson I would say "not much".) Sadly to say that, as with the rest of humanity, the majority of them are probably dickheads. The characteristics I'm talking about are, for some examples: Glen McGrath's perfection of line and length over his career combined with his approach to batting at number 11. Michael Bevan's successes (and failures) in high pressure run chases. Steve Waugh scoring "Fuck You" centuries everytime it looked like he was close to being stood down, followed later by Ricky Ponting's "Fuck You" centuries anytime a team dared to make him look out of form. Gilchrist's reinvention of the wicket-keeper batsmen. These are just some examples, all Australian. There are eight international teams full of their own characters. Plus perennial underdog teams with their own stories. Nasser Hussain, Dan Vettori, Shane Bond, Murali, Damien Martyn, Lara, Dravid, Afridi, Sehwag, Graeme Smith and Ashwell Prince. Some careers developed, twist and turn, seem to die and then pop up five years later - just like real novels. In each new chapter new characters are introduced and regularly characters new and old are killed off. Epic battles are fought. Captains go head to head, the winner's tactics are fascinating, the loser forced to improve or be killed off and become a commentator.

Cricket's not just two dozen intertwined storylines at a time. Sometimes Tait will sling an unplayable inswinging yorker and the sight of a cart-wheeling stump will be instantly gratifying, sometimes Lehmann will loft a cover drive straight into the Adelaide Oval fence and you'll think "yeah, that's nice." Sometimes Inzamam Ul-Haq will try and get back into his crease and cartwheel his plump body over the stumps and that's funny. Those things are great. Cricket's about more than that though, it's about a whole world to escape to. Sure, just like a novel there are going to be periods equivalent to the author doing nothing but describing scenery for pages, but invest enough time and you'll see what makes cricket one of the world's greatest sports.

I've decided this explanation for how superb cricket is surely convincing. However I'm still having issues working out how to clarify all these points for Vanessa. Everytime I think I've worked out a way to outline the benefits of cricket and how entertaining it is if you watch enough of it, another voice in my head says to me "but Brad, this might be the reason why you think it's a good idea to write novels about working in an office."

This Summer

This Summer has brought 400mls of rain, in between days of warm sunshine and greenhouse like humidity. When I lie in bed early in the morning I can fucking hear the lawn photosynthesizing. This bothers me, because I have to mow it, and I hate mowing. I mowed for two hours today and I scowled at every plant I passed.

The five day forecast is for up to 110mls of rain and a mean daily maximum of 27 degrees. That's terrifying. You can actually see the grass growing in the hours after a storm, thickening and creeping further and further up the back stairs.

I am never going to use the phrase "like watching grass grow" to describe something boring again. From now on it will mean "horrifying". Someone will be, like, "Brad, did you see one of the Western Bulldogs dislocate both his knees in the first quarter of Saturday's game?" and I will reply, "I did, I saw the super slow-motion replay and you can see the bulge of the tendons as they lose grip of the knee cap. It was horrifying. It was like watching grass grow."