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Marhaba

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /
31/Jul/2007

This is a 'new' Persian restaurant Far Gosford Street. It's been open for a while now but this was our first visit.

It was fairly quiet when we went in. The proprietor greeted us and described the menu, recommending a few dishes. For our first course, Emma and I decided to stick to what we knew, and had Falafel and Halloumi. Neither was particularly Persian but both were good. The falafel was crunchy and doughnut shaped, and was coated with sesame seeds, which gave it some extra taste and texture. Stuart had lamb and mushrooms.

The main courses were mostly between £7-10, including rice. Slow cooked or stewed meats featured prominently. I decided to choose the proprietors recommendation, which was lamb cooked in a sauce with spices and a dried lime. We were brought a lime to examine, sniff and taste. It was unusual, with a more delicate flavour than I expected. Emma chose chicken legs which had been cooked in some kind of flavoured liquid or stock. A bowl of this cooking liquor was provided as sauce to go with the meal. Stuart chose one of the more expensive meals at £11, but it did consist of 2 different types of steak.

Emma and I were too full for dessert, but Stuart had Baklava. He seemed to enjoy it, eating it all without giving us a taste, although we'd had it before elsewhere.

The food was tasty, the service was friendly. I think this is another restaurant to re-visit, to further explore their menu.

If you know where to look, Coventry has some great restaurants.



The End of Harry Potter

Story location: Home / Blog / books /
26/Jul/2007

I've finally got to the end of the final Harry Potter book. It took me 4 days because I only had an hour or 2 each day, on the train or in the evenings, to read it.

A few thoughts:

  • The early books were a bit childish. Thankfully the later ones were more grown up.
  • What has J K Rowling got against the North of England? She names a couple of evil characters after Northern towns (Warrington, the Slytherin chaser in the earlier books, and Runcorn, a fairly nasty man from the Ministry in the last book). Also, do all Hogwarts students live in London? There is only ever mention of the train leaving from Kings Cross.

Possibly a few spoilers below...

See more ....
A few thoughts about the final book:

  • How did Neville get the Sword of Gryffindor? He was wearing the Sorting Hat at the time, and the sword had come out of the hat for Harry in the 2nd book. But when that happened for Harry, the sword was still in Hogwarts. When it happened for Neville, the sword had been taken by Griphook and its whereabouts were presumably unknown. Are we simply to assume that the hat could magically bring the sword into the school grounds?
  • I was disappointed that Harry finally defeated Voldemort with the Expelliarmus spell. I at least expected him to counter with an Avada Kedavra of his own. At least he used the Cruciatus curse on one of the Carrows so he wasn't all goody-goody in the book.
  • A few comparisons with other things:
    Lord of the Rings: A group of friends travelling around the countryside, trying to destroy a magical object. Also the presence of giant spiders.
  • Jesus: A baby who would grow up to be our saviour. Although unlike Herod, at least Voldemort knew who to target, instead of killing all children.
  • Nazis: Luna Lovegood's father wore the symbol of the Deathly Hallows - an ancient symbol which had been commandeered by evil (in the guise of Grindlewald)

I will probably re-read the book to make sure I haven't missed anything important.



Why is Windows Search so crap?

Story location: Home / computing /
25/Jul/2007

I've opened an Explorer window to a directory with several thousand files in it. I need to find a particular group of files so I click on 'Search' and tell it to search for files with a particular set of numbers in the filename.

Now Windows already has all the file names because it has displayed them in the directory window. You would expect any decent program do be able to do this search in a millionth of a second and filter the directory listing to show the files. After all, it already knows the file names and I told it only to look in the one directory.

After a minute or so, the useless pile of crap is still searching. I ended up stopping it and looking for the files myself, which was much quicker. I would like to know what Windows XP was actually doing during that minute - it could have indexed the whole drive in that time.

This was a networked drive with a very deep directory structure so I couldn't have easily navigated to it in the command prompt. And I was using a company computer so I couldn't install anything like the useful 'Open Command Prompt Here' powertool from Microsoft themselves. How hard would it have been for them to put some kind of 'filter filenames' option in Explorer? Something like the 'select files' command in WinZip, which allows wildcards to let you specify which files you want.

What we really need is something that combines the bits of windows which work with the bits of linux which are better... and probably end up with something like Mac OSX.



What's a portion of fruit?

Story location: Home / Blog / news /
23/Jul/2007

According to a local news story, adults in Coventry know more about healthy eating than adults in other cities.

Seventy-five per cent of parents in the city understand about the recommended five-a-day fruit and veg portions, compared to just 60 per cent in Manchester and Liverpool, and 67 per cent in London.

Only nine per cent of Coventry parents could not name anything that counts as one healthy portion.

I'm sure the ignorant 9% must shop in our local ASDA, where the cake and biscuit aisles are twice the length of the fruit and veg aisles. But seriously, how could a so-called 'grown up' not be able to name a piece of fruit? Have they not heard of an apple? a banana? an orange? It's a miracle we aren't in the middle of a scurvy or rickets crisis.

Recently I've been finding it ridiculously easy to eat 5 portions of fruit during the day. A glass of juice, a banana, a few pieced of dried fruit, and that's it. Whenever Julian Graves have their half price offers, I stock up with assorted packets of dried fruit. 2 dried figs, 3 dried apricots, 5 prunes: not the start of the 12 fruits of Christmas but each counts towards the 5 portions per day.



Bullshit Bingo

Story location: Home / Blog / work /
23/Jul/2007

I think we should be issued with Bullshit Bingo cards in work.

Within the first 5 minutes in work, I was confronted with an email informing me:

The key objectives were to raise the bar in the design of our marketing collateral

You'd be well on the way to a full house by lunchtime...



permanent link
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RIP Archie Tubble

Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /
21/Jul/2007

Archie the hamster died overnight. He had been looking old for a while. For the last couple of days, each time we left the house we feared the worse when we got home. He had been getting more unsteady when he walked, and sometimes had difficulty opening his eyes. Thankfully he didn't seem to be in pain, he was just getting weaker.



Friday Night

Story location: Home / Blog /
20/Jul/2007

It was my company Summer Do in Birmingham tonight. Emma was supposed to be meeting me at the office but she was running late. It had been raining all day and the railway lines were flooded. No trains were leaving Coventry station but the ticket offices were still happily selling tickets to people. They weren't going to put on a rail replacement bus because they claimed the flooding wasn't their fault.

Emma eventually turned up 2½ hours later, having taken the bus instead. She said she wouldn't have bothered but I'd already paid in advance. We stayed for a few drinks and the buffet, to make sure we got our moneys worth.

We didn't know whether the trains would be running properly by the time we were ready to go home, so we thought it would be safer to leave early. We were in luck and there was a train ready to leave when we got to New St.

We got back to Coventry before midnight. Emma had pre-ordered the Harry Potter book from Waterstones and we had to wait for the shop to open. She decided not to read the book there an then, but to wait until morning.



2007: The year without a summer?

Story location: Home / Blog /
19/Jul/2007

Will 2007 be the year when Britain failed to have a summer? June started well, with the local weather station recording 12 successive dry days. Things rapidly went downhill with the rest of the month recording 18 successive days of rain.

Many parts of the country have been suffering flooding but things seem to be improving a little. As I write, it's actually quite warm outside. I've managed to go 2 days without being rained on, but I don't think it will last. Rain is forecast again for tomorrow.

Update:
10pm - got rained on while leaving the Wing Wah restaurant.



Rattling Hamsters

Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /
15/Jul/2007

For the last couple of weeks we've been looking after 2 syrian hamsters, called Toffee and Mocha. Their original owner was a student who was returning to Singapore. She had found a new owner but needed someone to look after them in the meantime.

I was trying to take a photo of Mocha (which is difficult because she's a very dark brown colour and she sometimes disappears into the shadows) but she wouldn't keep still. Emma tried feeding her which helped a bit, she (Mocha) would sit still and eat. This worked fine until Emma gave her a monkey nut. She pouched it whole, instead of opening it and eating it. The nut in its case, in her cheek pouches, would rattle every time she walked. We had to resist the temptation to pick her up and gently shake her to hear the rattling.

Toffee the hamster
Toffee

Mocha the hamster, eating the monkey nut
Mocha, with the soon to be pouched monkey nut.



Godiva Festival - Sunday

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /
15/Jul/2007

It had been raining overnight so we were expecting things to be a bit soggier on the sunday. Yesterday had been really sunny and the local radio had reports of huge queues of traffic leading to the park. Today was much quieter, no queues, easy parking. The downside was a muddy field.

Most of the acts who perform in the main arena do shows on both saturday and sunday. While we were there, there was a comedy gymnastics troupe, a daredevil/stunts/escapology family, and the obligatory falconry display.

As well as performing acts, there were tents with local history/crafts/environmental societies hawking their wares. Everyone seemed pleased to engage you in conversation or hand out leaflets to promote their cause.

The final act we saw before leaving was what can only be described as a 'stand up painter'. When we arrived he was half way through a painting of Robbie Williams, while Let me entertain you blasted out of the speakers. His next painting was to the tune of two Elvis songs but initially I thought 'Sorry Rolf, I can't tell what it is yet' before I suddenly realised he was painting it upside down. That made it much more impressive.




Godiva Festival - Saturday night

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /
14/Jul/2007

We went tonight to watch some of the live music. There was a huge crowd around the tent where local band The Enemy were performing so we wandered off to the Cider tent for a pint before going back and squeezing our way through the crowd.

The band seem to be the latest in a line of above average bands to be hyped above their level of competence. They're not bad but don't seem to be much better than a lot of other bands around. Towards the end of their set, they started playing one song and I thought it was a cover of Going Underground by The Jam. As the song continued I thought it was still a cover but they had changed the words. Then I realised it was the song their album (We'll live and die in These Towns) gets its title from.

There was a big gap before the next band came on so we had a walk around the festival site. In the coin arcade, a load of 10p coins fell out of one of the 'waterfall' machines as we walked past, no-one was touching it so they must have been precariously balanced. I did the honest thing and use the change machines to turn them into 2ps and fed them back into various other games.

The headline act were the Super Furry Animals. We'd seen them before at the Leeds Festival and they were good on both occasions.



Godiva Festival Parade

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /
14/Jul/2007

The Godiva Festival Parade started in the city centre and slowly made its way towards the War Memorial Park. These photos were taken in Trinity Street, near the Wetherspoons.

The Godiva Festival
The Godiva Festival
The Godiva Festival



Garden Munchers caught in the act

Story location: Home / Blog / house /
12/Jul/2007

We've found out who has been eating the garden - as we suspected it was the slugs. Last night I put some slug pellets around the plants. Tonight I went out to water the garden and there were a lot of dead-looking slugs in the vicinity. Hopefully the rest of the herbs and vegetables will survive.



Where Did It All Go Right?

Story location: Home / Blog / books /
08/Jul/2007

I am currently reading Where Did It All Go Right?, by Andrew Collins. The broadcaster and journalist tries to counter the fashion for 'miserable childhood' autobiographies with this book, where he describes growing up in a fairly normal family in Northampton in the 70s.

The book is effectively a time capsule of that decade, with chapters alternating between describing aspects of his home life (sometimes in great detail), and extracts from his diaries. He's a few years older than me so some of the TV and music was different to my childhood, but some aspects were painfully familiar.

The chapter called Supermousse covered food in the 70s and was an absolute gem. He came to the conclusion that, although kids eat rubbish today, things weren't actually that much better back then. He presented extracts from his diary describing meals, and most of it was out of packets or tins. Pasta and rice were non-existent, beans and chips were ubiquitous. A lot of this was similar to my own recollections. Vegetables did mostly consist of carrots and peas (with sprouts at Christmas of course). In our family, Cauliflower Cheese made an appearance after I discovered it at my Aunt and Uncles wedding and ate several platefuls.

Potatoes were the main bulk, usually chips or mashed, or sometimes mashed then fried - we sometimes had 'Bubble and Squeak' if there was leftover cabbage. One thing people did do better in the 70s was re-use leftover or spare food, probably because it was more expensive in real terms than today.

He mentions the lack of curries, or anything rice based really, but no mention of rice pudding. In the book, pasta was largely confined to tins of spaghetti, but at least we had Macaroni Cheese, usually out of a tin but I remember my mum making it on occasion, and thinking it took an awfully long time. The home made cheese sauce was better than the tinned variety though.

The 70s was a decade full of terrible food, but through no fault of the people living through it. Most people had never encountered foreign food, most people had never been abroad and even those who had were largely wary of the strange foods on offer. People weren't used to experimenting with food. Ingredients which are common now were a rarity back then - I don't remember seeing peppers, aubergines or courgettes as a child (recently in Asda, we saw Courgettes on the shelf under 'Exotic Veg' - I hope that was a mistake and they don't still consider such a common vegetable as exotic. But this was Asda so you never know.)



Who's been eating our garden?

Story location: Home / Blog / house /
07/Jul/2007

Finally a weekend without rain. Today we lifted up some flagstones to expose the soil underneath, so we could plant out the courgettes which were still in tubs. We were surprised to find that there were only 4-5 inches of soil underneath before we hit concrete. We will have to limit ourselves to growing things that don't need much root depth.

Something has been eating our herbs. The Tarragon has completely gone, and there isn't much Parsley left. The Marigolds have also been eaten. Our other herbs (Sage, Oregano and Thyme) were ok, as were the other flowers. We think it may have been slugs but the rain will have washed away any trails. We've added Slug Pellets to our shopping list.

nibbled herbs

Update 08/07/07:
Not quite a weekend without rain. Sunday started off sunny but it started raining by late afternoon.



Apple Store

Story location: Home / computing /
05/Jul/2007

Earlier this week, Apple Computers advertised a hard drive at about one tenth it's intended price. As you would expect, a lot of people placed orders. Apple realised their mistake and decided to change the orders without telling anyone.

The original order said:

Iomega 1TB Value Series Hard Drive with USB 2.0 Interface
TM258ZM/A £16.98 1 £16.98

but a few days later they strangely changed to:

DYMO LABELWRITER LARGE ADDRESS LABEL-ZML
TM258ZM/A £1.00 1 £1.00

The product code was the same but the price and description had changed. There was nothing on the page to explain what was happening. A phone call to the Apple Store revealed that they admitted their mistake and were cancelling the orders. It was a whole day before an email was received explaining the situation, in fairly patronising terms:

Dear Apple Store Customer,

We regret to inform you that your recent order for the Iomega 1TB Value Series Hard Drive. Which you placed on the online Apple Store has not been accepted.

Due to a temporary inaccurate pricing issue on the store, the price of the product was listed incorrectly as £19.95. Whereas the correct online Apple Store price is £199.95 i.e. the listed price was approximately 10% of the correct price.

We would like to draw your attention to clauses 2.4 and 2.5 of the Apple Online Store Terms and Conditions under which if Apple cannot accept your Order, we will contact you.

Furthermore, we would like to draw your attention to clause 2.6 of the Apple Online Store Terms and Conditions under which Apple reserves the right to cancel your order in case of a price error on the Apple Online Store.

We understand the inconvenience that this pricing inaccuracy may have caused you, and we sincerely apologize.

Kind Regards,

The Apple Store

The wording of the T&Cs was obviously chosen to allow them to weasel out of any such mistakes - they must have learnt from the mistakes of others, such as when Argos advertised a £300 television for £3. Apple aren't breaking any laws but they probably won't win any new friends this way. I'm not suggesting they should honour all the orders and sell the hard drives at such a giveaway price, but some other goodwill gesture would have been better than just an apology which was worded to make the customer sound like they were being told off.



Will it never stop raining?

Story location: Home / Blog /
05/Jul/2007

The weather has been terrible for at least a month. June was one of the wettest since records began. I don't think we've gone more than a few days without rain. My umbrella has certainly had more use in the last month than it did all winter. Hopefully we should be getting a summer soon.



Shrek the 3rd

Story location: Home / Blog / films /
04/Jul/2007

We were surprised at the length of the queue when we got to the cinema. I expect a lot of people were taking advantage of the Orange Wednesday offer where you get 2 tickets for the price of 1 using an Orange mobile phone, but the queue was still ridiculous. It was certainly the longest I've ever seen at the Skydome, curving and snaking around the foyer until it was almost in the car park. It took us about 40 minutes to get to the front and buy our tickets.

It wasn't too busy in the film itself - I don't know what films everyone else was watching but thankfully they weren't all in with us.

The film itself has had some fairly indifferent reviews but I don't think it really deserved them. The humour might not be so original any more but the film was still funny. It took a while to really get started though but it got quite funny towards the end, and if a film ends well then you tend to think of it as a better film. I think that's what earned Casablanca its classic status anyway. The 3rd Shrek film certainly isn't a classic but it's funny and worth watching.