Monday 20 December 2010

Broccoli Soup

Source: Mother. Daniel's favourite.
  • Chop 1 onion and cook in 25g butter in a saucepan until soft - about 3-4 minutes.
  • Dice 1 large potato and roughly chop 450g broccoli and add to onion, cook, stirring for a few more minutes.
  • Add 1 pint of stock (chicken or veg) and bring to boil.
  • Cover and simmer for approx 30 mins.
  • Blend in liquidiser.
  • Return to pan and add half pint of milk.
  • Heat and season to taste.
Can be served with 100g crumbled Cheshire cheese sprinkled on top.

Saturday 18 December 2010

Snowy again

DSCN1571-snowy-table-marcham Cold again refers. Warning: photo blog. No interesting content.

Yes, it is snowing. In England that is big news. The last couple of times this winter it has been Elsewhere, this time it is With Us so I care a bit more. We tried to drive into Oxford this morning only for my brother to phone and say that he'd turned round from Cotswolds, and two skids later, the second of which being rather long and looking for several looong seconds as though it was going to end in a parked car, we turned round too. Fortunately we have a plentiful supply of coffee, a warm house and (here) a TV to entertain the infants.

On a token climatological note, I think it has got snowier the past 3-4 winters. We had a long patch - maybe a decade, maybe two - when (or so my fragile memory asserts) any snow at all was notable. Now we've had several winters in a row with enough snow to build an igloo, if only briefly. And now we've had enough snow that my children are bored of it (update: I may have lied about that. Daniel says the former snow was boring, because it was wrong. This however is Good Snow).
DSCN1550-paul-the-viking DSCN1566-iron-chicken-cold Incidentally, best wishes to Mr Paul Holland and Miss Sarah Coates who are probably Man and Wife by now - the Stag Row refers. And it only seems fair to honour the event by including this photo of Paul. Paul is the one on the right; to the left is the Iron Chicken feeling a touch parky, on saturday, the day before the Great Snow when it was merely cold.
And now a pic that I like from Saturday: Coton sign in the last of the light. Coton doesn't really have a heart, since it is a sort of stringy Y-shape, but if it did have a heart it would probably be the little green by the church (near where the shop used to be :-() where the village sign is.


DSCN1560-from-wstones-window And lastly... I wonder if you appreciate the view shown right. Quite possibly you don't. I admit that as a photo it doesn't work as well as seeing it. It is the view from Waterstones cafe on Saturday morning where I was reading Surface detail. But the context of the photo is from Descartes:

Thus it is observable that the buildings which a single architect has planned and executed, are generally more elegant and commodious than those which several have attempted to improve, by making old walls serve for purposes for which they were not originally built. Thus also, those ancient cities which, from being at first only villages, have become, in course of time, large towns, are usually but ill laid out compared with the regularity constructed towns which a professional architect has freely planned on an open plain; so that although the several buildings of the former may often equal or surpass in beauty those of the latter, yet when one observes their indiscriminate juxtaposition, there a large one and here a small, and the consequent crookedness and irregularity of the streets, one is disposed to allege that chance rather than any human will guided by reason must have led to such an arrangement.

DSCN7448-kings That seems a rather French or perhaps Continental sentiment. Compare that lovely scene to the rather tedious uniformity of Kings College Chapel shown here.

But on re-reading Descartes perhaps he isn't saying quite what I thought. He does seem prepared to admit the greater beauty of chance-wrought building, and merely notes the greater elegance and commodiousness of planning, which is quite likely fair.

[Yes, I know the photos don't match each other or even line up terribly well on a wide monitor. Ah well]

Goodness: where from?

Paul introduced me to the Euthyphro dilemma: if you're a theist, a Christian say, then you believe that certain things are good. But are they good intrinsically - and therefore approved of by God, the Church, and all Right Thinking Persons - or are they approved of by God and therefore good, and so approved by the Church?

You see the problem, of course: we seem to have two choices:

(i) if things are good intrinsically, then (a) we've limited God's power and (b) it then becomes rather hard to see why they are good. Perhaps their good is only a social construct. There is also (c): we no longer need a God to determine morality (you might not see that as a problem, of course).

Or conversely

(ii) if things are good because God so wills them, then it would appear that God merely has to will some Bad thing as Good for it to become good. That would be rather confusing. Also, the statement "God is good" becomes meaningless, equivalent to "God is God".

Ralph Cudworth, who apparently didn't much like Hobbes's philosophy, apparently

In a concerted attack on Hobbesian moral relativism, Cudworth, argues that the criteria of right and wrong, good and evil, justice and injustice are not a matter of convention, but are founded in the goodness and justice of God. Like Plato in the Euthyphro, Cudworth argues that it is not God's will that determines goodness, but that God wills things because they are good.

So, lets unpack that:

  • good not relative, but absolute [OK, fairly common idea]
  • absolute, founded on goodness of God [OK, so good is founded on god. We're in part (ii)]
  • God wills things because they are good [Oops: suddenly we've switched over to part (i)]

So it looks like Cudworth can't cope with the consequences of (i) or (ii) and is obliged to switch back and forth in an effort to confuse us, and quite likely himself too. To be fair, Wiki on the ED quotes Cudworth as saying nothing can be imagined so grossly wicked, or so foully unjust or dishonest, but if it were supposed to be commanded by this omnipotent Deity, must needs upon that hypothesis forthwith become holy, just, and righteous and presumably that should be taken as an argument against option (ii).

The obvious answer to the problem, of course, is There Is No God, whereupon you are free to look for an origin to Morality free from these problems. But it may lead to others.

Thursday 16 December 2010

Time considered as a helix of semi precious stoats

Well, I've already done Time considered as a helix of semi precious stones (ooh lookee, that is google hit #4); really I meant to say "injuries" but couldn't resist. Now I've sucked you in under false pretences, it is time to confess that this post is about my various sporting injuries: anyone who isn't me may tune out now.

The interesting thing (I think) is the way when I rowed, and row, I get no injuries at all (bar the odd blister) but when I run I'm semi-permanently crippled.

The worst injuries I've had in my approx-1-year-and-growing running career were to my right hip, where something got badly wrenched/stretched in a way that I now can't remember; and my left achilles tendon which got stretched in an over-enthusiastic river run. Both of those lasted for ~2 months before I was fully recovered. Again, interestingly, I could row or cycle entirely happily with injuries that stopped me from running.

To some extent this is a matter of getting used to running, which takes a while. See here for some initial thoughts - before I even had The Watch. My conceit is that my body is slowly transforming itself into something better fitted for running. Part of that is the obvious I hope - slimmer, fitter. But some is less obvious: just general reconfigurations of muscles and tendons to support different activities. And maybe some of the the injuries just my body adapting - I can hope so, and pretend that explains why they are travelling all over my body: they are equalising things.

One thing I must learn to do is to warm up / stretch properly before running. And not to shoot off too fast, but rather to start slow.

Other exciting posts wherein I am damaged:

* Not Norwich Man - tore right calf 2k from the line.
* Running: 10k: lunchtime river run - general malaise
* Peterborough Man - more general malaise, but for longer

Sunday 12 December 2010

Christmas head

Saturday dawned bright and clear and warm, which was rather a change from the cold of recent days. A splendid day for the Christmas Head.

DSCN1510-rainbow-cr DSCN1534-santas-cr DSCN1515-cr DSCN1522-pair-o-santas-cr

Those are some of the crews, mostly from the second division. The first division was perhaps a bit more serious - certainly we put our best VIII into that, "Rage against the Machine" (had a Christmas #1, apparently). Crew: Steven A, Andy S, Tom W, James H, William D, William C, Chris W, Ralph H. We were to have been coxed by James T but alas he has been struck by the Lurgi and it was agreed that whilst we could cope with vomiting, the diarrhea wouldn't be much fun. But Freya stepped in and did a good job for us, and stroked our egos by telling us how fast we were.

DSCN1523-reindeer-cr DSCN1526-cowboys-cr

And - hurrah - we won the IM3 category (jointly with Champs, in 7:02); Petr's IM2 folk won overall in 6:35. So I now have a rather low-quality medal to wear (alongside the one I got for last year's race - but we were humble novices that year; we're IM3 this year due to Andy S, who is the proud possessor of the Club Point. I think I should make a trophy for that) but no pot yet - I still haven't won a proper pot on the Cam.

DSCN1531-more-robbers-cr DSCN1527-nativity-cr

My favourite crew - alas I don't have a pic of them, but (as you'll see) the pic wouldn't really have done them justice - was a lovely Ladies Nativity scene, complete with the cox clutching a fluffy sheep, all singing carols as they rowed quietly down the Reach - we'd both made the effort for get out early to get a chance for a bit of practice before the race, and so had the Reach to ourselves.

DSCN1539-robbers DSCN1540-cops For division 2 we put in two mixed VIII's, the Cops and the Robbers. I was a Robber, obviously. The Rozzers didn't catch us, and we nicked their blue light in mid-stream. However they did get a marginally better time than us - 8:08 against out 8:29 - thereby winning the Novice MX VIII category. Completing the line-up, Andy and Tom won IM3 2- in 8:10 (well, they were the only entry); Steven and James were pipped by Downing for the Novice 2-.

And then on to the rest of the day, which ended up in the Spring drinking rather more beer than I'm used to.

In other news: being crippled again (I've done my right calf this time) and having the Head to do meant I missed Parkrun again but Maz was there holding up the honour of CSR with a 1-second loss to Dave Bettinson (results here) though in a time that would have won it the previous week (Maz is "unknown" at #2).

Thanks to: James T, for organising of crews; and Simon for same of costumes.

And as a special gift for those of you who have had the patience to read to the end: v DSCN1542-us-inc-me-crop-rebal

Yes, I was carefully selected to stroke the Robbers, which was good - I enjoyed it. Probably my first race as stroke. We rated a fairly constant 29 all the way and were, I think, fairly good for the first 2/3 before getting a bit ragged towards the end.


DSCN1550-paul-the-viking Sunday saw Paul and Sarah's stag row, about which the less said the better I suspect (heia-heia). But Paul and his little tuft of hair will remain in our memories forever.

Monday 6 December 2010

Henry and Joan

Family stories.

Henry is my uncle; my father (William Peter, known as Peter)'s younger brother. They both grew up in Jamaica, with visits to England, in the days of Empire. My father I think was never intellectual: his books were Hans Hass and the like. And one childhood memory is me asking my parents something about graphs and axes, and them both saying "wait until Henry visits". Henry worked for Tate and Lyle for years as a sugar engineer or somesuch, and after he early-retired from them worked as a consultant for years. He married a woman called Mickey who had children (by a previous marriage I assume). When I knew them (Knew. Ha. I mean, on the few occasions when we visited with our parents) they lived somewhere in London - Bromley I think. I don't remember her at all; but then I don't really remember him either. After she died, and he more-retired, he moved into a flat in a retirement complex in Princes Risborough and was forgotten. And maybe 5 years ago Mother said he had given up driving. And very rarely we would meet, but he got to be terribly boring - he talked only of the trips he had made to South America, or New Zealand, but somehow managed to do so in a deeply tedious way: despite having been there, he somehow only knew things you would find in reference books: the Amazon is very wide; the flow rate is X; and so on. And he would tell you about the car he had driven round in, and the food in the motels; and so on. And of course, as a self-centered little brat, I had no interest.

Joan, by contrast, is far more interesting. She still is. She is also utterly unsentimental, for which I greatly admire her. She grew up in a big house on the end of the Stoke Road at the edge of Leighton Buzzard, and lived there all her life, apart from a few brief absences, as far as I know. She worked in hut 6 in Bletchley Park during WWII. She kept a collection of Procter family tree stuff until she moved recently. When her sister Jesse died, she determined to sell up the big house in which they had lived alone, and move into a small flat. And so she did. I was a bit distressed not to acquire any of her Stuff - an elephant-headed footstool I'd known since childhood for example. I didn't realise I could have had it just for the asking, and she never knew I wanted it. Alas; the perils of non-communication. We're both too shy really.

[This I once intended to be continued]


Francis Henry Connolley