Friday, 29 April 2011

Twenty minute meals

Many people shy away from cooking for themselves because cooking is thought to be a very time consuming business. But there are many ways to make good, healthy and delicious meals in no more than twenty minutes.
One great meal that can be made in twenty minutes is stir-fry meat and vegetables with pasta or noodles. Any type of or Chinese noodles or pasta will do for this recipe. The process of producing either Chinese noodles or pasta is virtually identical. When buying the pasta or noodles make sure that you buy a quality product. The ingredients of the pasta should be durum wheat semolina.
Many cuts of meat are suitable for stir-fry. Chicken provides a good low-cholesterol alternative to red meats. Many supermarkets and butchers sell beef and chicken ready cut into long thin strips specifically for stir frying.
Lemon juice is one of the best marinades available for meat. Squeeze a juicy lemon over the meat before you start and let it stand. Add a little soya sauce the Chinese or Japanese soya sauces are best to add flavour and colour.
You may use a variety of vegetables as part of the stir fry. The main rule is to cut everything into thin long strips - about the same length as the meat. Carrots, baby marrows, sweet peppers, spring onions, red cabbage, mushrooms and bean sprouts add colour and flavour to the meal. Pineapple cut into strips adds sweetness and counterbalances the herbs and chillies. Cut a fresh tomato into strips and keep in a separate bowl as these are added at the end. Add some parsley and any other available herbs to the mixture.
Olive oil is ideal for stir frying. Use only enough to cover the surface of the pan. For flavour, crush a few cloves of garlic into the olive oil. Fresh herbs - parsley, coriander, rocket, and rosemary - may be chopped and squeezed into the oil as well. Optionally, add some freshly chopped chilli, ginger and paprika. Add some whole or ground coriander seeds and ground black pepper.
Heat the oil over a gentle heat while a large pot of salted water is heated to boiling point.
Once the water boils add the pasta and stir. Turn the heat of the stir-fry pan or wok to full. When the pan becomes very hot add the meat and stir. Add the vegetables and stir. As soon as the meat or chicken changes colour (within 60 to 90 seconds) it is ready to eat! Add the fresh tomato and stir in some soy sauce.
Some excellent soy sauces are available at Chinese shops at very low cost. The best of these do not contain MSG. A dark soy sauce imparts a rich dark colour to your food.
Cover the pan and remove from the heat. Once the pasta is ready, drain the water and add a little olive oil. Toss well and add the stir-fry mixture. Mix well and distribute generous portions. Serve with a fresh green salad.
The longest part of the preparation is in the chopping of the meat and vegetables. Both are usually available ready chopped. Use the pre-prepared ingredients with pleasure as long as they are fresh.
Stir-fried food is lightly cooked retaining all of the flavour and nutrients of the ingredients. Once you have pre-prepared meat and vegetables and boiling water the entire meal can be prepared in less than ten minutes or as long as it takes to cook the pasta.
Experiment with different vegetables, herbs and spices.
A variation is to mix the herbs and spices with the soy sauce into a paste. Cook this gently with the tomatoes and add to the mixture at the end.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Pictures of a majestic Rough Collie

Pablo is a Rough Collie. He is just over two years old. 
Rough Collies originate in Scotland. Pablo's colouring is known as Sable, and there are a number of variations. The coat has three layers
Many will recognise the famous Lassie in these pictures. 

Rough collies are very intelligent, have a wonderful nature and are very responsive to training. He understands a large number of words, phrases and sentences. Although very gentle, Pablo will do almost anything to protect his home and family. 

Wednesday, 27 April 2011


The concept of time is one that encompases the very nature of the world and the universe. We measure time in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries and milleniums. But even without measurement, the world keeps on turning. The new replaces the old. That time is relative is not in question. On a different planet time may move more slowly. To G-d, a thousand years may be like a second, but our concept of time is governed by the way we experience it.

In the words of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards "Time waits for no one and it won't wait for me" (the Rolling Stones, 1974).
Our universe is bound by time. We can never stop the hands of time from moving on, taking us through the journey of life. Everything happens in time. The world will turn, the seasons will change. New life is born, grows and eventually dies. People change, countries change, governments change. It happens in time.
An ancient story is told about King Solomon. He sought out a ring that would be able to affect the very spiritual being of man. A ring that would be able to make a happy man sad and a sad man happy. Eventually, a ring was brought. There were three Hebrew letters engraved upon it - G, Z and Y. King Solomon saw the letters and instantly grasped the meaning. The letters signified the Hebrew words Gam Ze Yaavor - This Too Shall Pass. When reaping the rewards of success, it reminds us that this too shall pass. When success eludes us and we are suffering in the depths of despair, again we are reminded that this too shall pass.
This reveals one of the greatest truths. The circular nature of life and time. Look at the ring in good times. Look at it in bad times. At all times we must realise that this too must pass. Success, failure, pleasure and suffering. All are transitory. All will pass. Time will move on and even catastrophic events will disappear in history.
In Judaism, round apples are dipped in honey to symbolise the circularity of time at the New Year. Round foods are eaten after a funeral to remind us of the circular nature if life.
Since the most ancient times, man has found ways of measuring time. The rotation of the earth and our annual journey around the sun provide us with days and years. The moon has provided months. We divide the day into hours, minutes and seconds. Sunset to sunset. Sunrise to sunrise.
We have created calendars to chart the passage of time. The calendar is filled with special dates that we can remember. Dates that signify events, birthdays, anniversaries and deaths. Dates that signify the passing of years, festivals, political and religious holidays.
Everything in life can change. We journey through time through the seasons of life. There is no destination. Time continues to move on. Everything happens in time. Opportunity, luck, disaster, success and failure can only happen in time. Once it has passed there is no going back. "If only I had known ... " is a common refrain. But there is only one way and that is forward. Forward through time.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The pros and cons of online dating

The days when making use of a dating service or a 'lonely hearts club' carried a stigma are long gone. Online dating has become an accepted and popular option for men and women seeking partners or simply wishing to expand their social networks. As with all things in life, there are disadvantages associated with online dating, but these are outweighed by the advantages!

Online dating provides a relatively safe platform from which to meet prospective partners. Many shy away from meeting in bars and clubs. Online dating sites provide an environment where you can gain some knowledge of your prospective dates before meeting face to face. Thousands of people of all ages register on dating sites providing a huge choice of potential partners.
Meeting traditionally takes place through social networks. Occasionally people do meet at clubs or bars. Online dating opens up the opportunity to meet a much broader range of people than would be possible using only your own resources.
Online dating provides the opportunity to meet. Members begin by viewing profiles of prospective dates followed by an email. Contact details are generally not exchanged until both parties are happy to meet. Dating sites provide an element of protection by allowing you to vet your prospective date.
Unsuitable prospects can be eliminated immediately. The prospective partner's profile or style of writing provides clues! The dating site may also provide an indication of how well you meet each other's requirements, whether or not you are a match.
But there are pitfalls to be aware of when joining an online dating site. The online environment provides a platform for those with dishonourable intentions to hide their true selves. People are able to adapt an online personality that bears little resemblance to their true selves.
Some use dating sites to deliberately misrepresent themselves. They post photographs that were taken many years ago. Sometimes they post photos of celebrities. There is an element of risk in moving from the email communication to meeting. The actual meeting can turn out to be a total shock. A stunning twenty year old blonde turns out to be an obese alcoholic of forty plus.
It is always a good idea to arrange a first meeting at a public venue. It your date is not what you expected then it is advisable to walk away. A person that misrepresents him or herself online is unlikely to become a trustworthy partner! A crowded bar or restaurant allows for a quick get-away and an easy escape.
Then there are those that use the dating sites as a base for their scams. They join the sites for financial gain. The person represented in the profile doesn't really exist. Instead it is a criminal organisation that scams lonely and vulnerable people by posting false profiles and mailing them. They operate from far away countries such as Russia
and Ghana. They would like to meet with the prospect of marriage but don't have the money to travel. Once the victim has transferred the funds, the object of their desire disappears. 

Online dating sites do vet the profiles to try to eliminate scammers and people that use celebrity photos as their own. But some inevitably slip through the net.
Don't send money to the stunning Russian or to the sexy Swede in Ghana. If you do you will never see your money - or your prospective bride - again. The object of your desire doesn't really exist. They are really scammers operating from Internet cafes. Listen to your common sense!
Used with an awareness of the dangers, online dating is a very useful way of meeting prospective partners. Avoid the pitfalls and never send money for someone to travel to meet you. If your date turns out to be a different person from the one on the site, then leave immediately. Many lasting relationships have originated in an online dating site. Of course on-line communication will never replace a face to face meeting, but used with care the pros far outweigh the cons!

Ten things every man should be able to do

What makes a man a MAN?
Much of this will depend on your perspective. Women often say that they want a man that is sensitive and caring and shares his emotions. In practice they often choose a man that is quite the opposite. Assertiveness, decisiveness and the ability to act are better criteria. Then the are the MCP types. They have rather different views.
Here are two lists - pick the one that suits you best!
List 1 - The sensitive responsible type
1. A real man should be able to cook. Men make great cooks given half a chance. Creative cookery is therapeutic and fun. It could even be the way to a woman's heart!
2. A man should be a romantic. Buy flowers and surprises for his wife or girlfriend. Give her surprises. He should know how to keep the romance alive.
3. A man that can make money is a man that is sure of himself and who he is. My parents didn't tell me how important this is! Get your children to become chartered accountants. As Bob Dylan said, "Money doesn't talk it screams".
4. A real man knows how to drive intelligently. Drinking and driving is stupid, not macho! Being wide awake, aware, courteous and responsive on the roads is important. Men are responsible for keeping their family safe - reckless driving doesn't do it.
5. A man should take care of the home. Many men let everything go to pieces if the wife is away. Not necessary. If you're not a DIY fundi then leave the maintenance to the wife.
6. A man should participate in full with the children. This includes seeing to their basic needs, playing football, tennis, basketball and getting to all their sports events, concerts, plays and award ceremonies.
7. A man should know how to achieve a life balance. Workaholics do it at the expense of their families. Remember Cat Steven's "The Cats in The Cradle"?
8. A man should be assertive. Women don't like their men to be wimps. Make decisions. Take the lead.
9. A successful man should play golf. This helps with point 3 (making money) and with developing a social and business network.
10. A real man has principles. People respect a man with integrity, a man that stands by his beliefs. Always remember, "to yourself be true" (Bill Shakespeare).
List 2 - The caveman type of man 
Every man should be able to:
1. Hunt. If all else fails he can always bring home something to eat.
2. Be able to drink as much as his friends and hold it. A very important part of maintaining relationships.
3. Be able to fight - armed and unarmed. Defend himself, his friends and his family against insults and attacks.
4. Memorise the scores of all sports matches of the last day, week, month, year, decade... A very important skill for maintaining status.
5. Have a reliable friend to remind him of impending birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
6. Be assertive. He must be able to ensure that the night out with the boys is protected and sacred. Sports shows must take priority over a romantic movie!
7. Light a fire and be able to barbecue food.
8. Be Adventurous. Be prepared to take risks and drive fast. Always impresses.
9. Know how to treat women. They prefer a 'bastard'.
10. Remember the kids' names. A special effort is required to achieve this, but it saves all sorts of complications with the trouble and strife.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Which came first - the chicken or the egg?

While excavating a site in the Middle-East, an archaeologist came upon two perfectly preserved bodies. "I've found Adam and Eve," he exclaimed.
How did he know, and what is the relevance to this story?
The chicken and egg question is one of those imponderables to which there is no real answer. A chicken can only be born from a fertilised egg laid by an adult hen. So the egg precedes the chicken, and the chicken precedes the egg.
But where did the first chicken come from? Was it created in the Garden of Eden or was the egg created first? Or was it the result of some long-winded series of mutations in a never-ending evolutionary process?
Of course, taking the evolutionary view still does not give a definitive answer. Sure the chicken probably emerged from another more primitive form of bird. One that didn't taste as good. And before that from a fish or a reptile, none of which helps to answer the question. Perhaps the first chicken emerged from an egg of a chicken-like bird or a pre-chicken, but evolution is not that simple. Was there a single point in time when someone can say with any degree of certainty that the first chicken had been born. If that is the case then it follows that the egg came first.
Of course this debate could carry on indefinitely. Was this the first chicken - or was it a pre-chicken? Where exactly can we draw the line? And isn't a pre-chicken really a chicken and who really cares, anyway?
All of which leads is to the main problem of the theory of evolution. How did life start? In the entire history of the world as we know it life has never emerged from anything but life. Even if all life originated as an amoeba, where did the first amoeba come from? With all the science in the world, man has been unable to produce life. We are able to manipulate genes, breed selectively and with a little ingenuity perhaps produce a new species. But we are unable to produce life. Not only are we unable to produce life, but life have never been observed to have emerged of its own accord.
If you haven't figured out the archaeologist's certainty about Adam and Eve, the answer is that they had no navels. As they were not born in the conventional way, there was no need for an umbilical cord. Perhaps the first chicken came readymade and the egg came later?

How to take better portraits

Producing a natural looking portrait takes people and photographic skills. Not only must the photographer pay attention to the lighting but must make the subject at ease. Portrait photography often takes place in the controlled environment of a studio. Yet some of the greatest and most natural looking portraits are achieved when the subject is photographed in a more natural setting.
Capturing a world leader addressing an audience, an actor playing a role or a pianist at the keyboard provide some of the most powerful and natural looking portraits.
A studio generally gives the photographer a choice of backgrounds and lighting options. Many photographers do not have access to this luxury and have to make do with more natural settings for their portrait photography. Selecting an appropriate background or setting may be the first step towards giving the portrait a natural look and feel. Photographing an artist in an art studio defines the artist in the resulting portrait. Capturing the picture while the artist is at work will produce the most telling results.
Professional models are usually quite comfortable posing in front of the camera, but other subjects do not feel the same way. They tend to feel and look quite self-conscious when posing for a picture. It is up to the photographer to engage the subject in conversation in a way that will make her feel relaxed and at home. Young children make excellent subjects for portrait photography. They respond to objects such as balloons and to rewards of sweets at the end of the shoot. A photographer that has a little of the comedian inside may be able to break the ice more easily, but taking an interest in the subject and listening to what they have to say could produce the right atmosphere.
A good portrait can be achieved either outdoors or indoors. Outdoor photography means relinquishing some control of the lighting, but natural lighting and shade can be very effective in producing good results. Using a medium telephoto lens and blurring the background by using a wide aperture is very effective way to create an effective portrait. Couple this with a little back lighting produces a soft effect.
Children can be photographed under almost any lighting conditions. For adults, softer lighting options are more flattering. A diffuser should be used to break up the light. Alternatively, bounce the flash against a white ceiling or screen to produce a soft and balanced effect.
The effective use of light is one of the keys to produce natural looking results. A light or flash should never be pointed directly into the subject's face. A diffused light slightly to the one side is effective, but it may be necessary to provide additional fill-in light and possibly even some back lighting. Good use of lighting will help to avoid flat portraits with dark shadows on the face. Harsh shadows from a flash or a direct light are always to be avoided.
Using a medium telephoto lens is generally my preferred option. It allows for a close-up without over-emphasising the features. It is also simpler for a subject to feel relaxed and at home when the photographer is at a greater distance.
When the photographer devotes some time to engage with the subject can help to achieve a more relaxed and natural looking portrait. This coupled with the right lighting should produce good results.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Is text-messaging ruining real communication?

Text messaging in itself cannot be held responsible for ruining real communication. But when text messaging becomes the exclusive means of communication, there is a problem. For some people, texting is the only way to talk! To make matters worse, many carry text messaging syntax into everything else.
By its nature, text messaging demands some kind of shorthand or jargon to work effectively. It is when this jargon is carried into emails, essays, school work and business reports that 'texting' - for want of a better term - becomes a problem.
Letter writing used to be an art in itself! This art has declined dramatically since the advent of the email age. Letters required thought and planning. Emails are different. The speed of the medium encourages us to write and send without much thought. Miscommunication is common.
This trend predates the text message style by some time, but texting has accelerated this process. Carelessness has entered the art of writing. Documents are prepared and released without proof-reading. The spell checker doesn't reveal that the wrong word has been used.
A more worrying trend is that for some, text messaging has replaced real interpersonal communication. Communication takes place behind a screen. The on-line persona bears little relation to the actual person. Face to face communication has become a problem. Perhaps this is indicative of other personality or communication disorders. But many young people spend a vast amount of time behind their computer screens or cell phones communicating with peers. Little time is spent in face-to-face conversation.
How often have you seen a group of young people together all keying messages on their cell phones at a furious rate?
Of course it must be noted that these are trends. In spite of learning bad writing habits through emails and messaging, most people are able to make the transition from one medium to another with ease. There are still many people that are able to communicate effectively.
But there are indications of an emerging trend. Increasingly, young people entering the worlds of business or higher education arrive with very sloppy writing habits. They have to be taught to pay attention to grammar, spelling and to proof-read their work.
The style of text messaging communication can encourage sloppiness and a lack of care in communication. But as with any other forms of slang or jargon, most people know when its use is appropriate. Of course there are some that have lost the ability to communicate face-to-face, but these types of people have always been around. 

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