Saturday 6 November 2010


For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

What a perfect Spring day today! Fine and sunny, a temperature in the mid-twenties, all the flowers in bloom, the leaves on the trees green and new and the birds fluttering about and twittering. We went out for some shopping this morning and then back home to sit in the glorious garden and have lunch. This afternoon, doing the cryptic crossword and then a beautiful evening. It’s good to be alive!

Here’s is some wonderful night music. It is Arvo Pärt’s “Spiegel im Spiegel” (Mirror in a Mirror).

Thursday 4 November 2010


“Who is more foolish, the child afraid of the dark or the man afraid of the light” - Maurice Freehill

At work today, an Indian colleague mentioned that it is the time of Diwali (or Deepavali), a significant Hindu festival. This is one of the highlights of the Hindu year and is celebrated with great enthusiasm and much happiness in India, but also by Indians living abroad. The festival is celebrated for five continuous days, where the third day is celebrated as the main Diwali festival or “Festival of Lights”. Different coloured fireworks of all varieties are always associated with this festival. On this auspicious day, people light up diyas (clay oil lamps) and candles all around their house. They perform Laxmi Puja (a special prayer) in the evening and seek divine blessings of Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth. Laxmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth, prosperity (both material and spiritual), light, wisdom, fortune, fertility, generosity and courage; and the embodiment of beauty, grace and charm.

The festival of Diwali is never complete without exchange of gifts. People present diwali gifts to all near and dear ones. The date of Diwali changes every year as the day is calculated according to the position of the moon. According to Hindu reckoning, the date of Diwali falls on 15th day of the dark fortnight in the auspicious Hindu month of Kartik or the month of October/November in the Gregorian calendar. This year the third day of Diwali day falls on the “amavasya” or the night of the new moon, which is tonight.

Here are some Indian sweets to make especially for Diwali!



1/2 kg maida (finely milled wheat flour)
750 grams sugar
500 mL milk
1 cup grated coconut
6 bananas
100 grams chopped dried fruits
1/2 teaspoonful ground cardamon
1 litre vegetable oil

Boil the milk and stir it till it becomes thick. Then cool it.
In the milk add maida, sugar, chopped dried fruits , coconut and cardamon.
Stir it till it becomes a paste.
Mash the banana into a paste and add it into the mixture.
Heat oil in a pan. Make round shaped balls of the paste.
Fry the balls till they are golden brown.

Wheat Laddu

1 cup wheat Flour
1/4 cup Gram Flour (flour made from ground chick peas)
1.5 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup grated coconut
1/2 cup chopped dried fruit, almonds, raisins, cashews, etc
1 cup Ghee (clarified butter)

Heat the ghee
Put both types of flours in the hot ghee
When roasted add the coconut and chopped fruit and nuts in the mixture
Add the icing sugar and stir thoroughly
Take off from the heat quickly and roll into small balls
You may roll in toasted coconut flakes if you like.

Besan ki Barfi

1 kg Gram flour (chick pea flour)
1 kg sugar
500 mL water
1 kg ghee (clarified butter)
For garnishing: Pistachios, Almonds


Fry the Gram flour in ghee on low flame for about 30 minutes till it becomes golden and ghee separates
Mix sugar and water into a syrup
Add this syrup to the Gram four and ghee and mix well
Pour this mixture into a greased tray
When it cools cut into cubes and garnish with pistachios and almonds.

Here is Aishwarya Rai from the film Devdas with a diya, celebrating Diwali.

Wednesday 3 November 2010


“Technology... the knack of so arranging the world that we don't have to experience it.” - Max Frisch

I read in the paper today that American researchers have developed a holographic system that can record a moving 3D image of a person or object in one place and display it at another location in close to real time. The technology involves a “clever” plastic material that updates the 3D holographic image every two seconds and is the basis of the new system developed by a research team led by Nasser Peyghambarian, of the University of Arizona. The researchers said that although the system was still slow, and the 3D image produced so far was very small, they demonstrated that it could be done and was no longer something in science fiction.

Increases in image size, updating speed and wide colour range were needed before the system would become a commercial proposition, possibly within seven to 10 years. Professor Peyghambarian predicted there would be many applications, including telemedicine, advertising, teleconferencing, entertainment and engineering design. A demonstration of the technology, using a model jet plane, is reported in the premier science journal “Nature”. In the prototype system, 16 cameras were used to take pictures of the subject from a variety of angles. This information was fed into a computer and sent down a fast internet connection to a different location where lasers produced a coloured 3D image of the subject in the 25 centimetre photorefractive polymer screen.

The 16 pictures that are captured are sent to the laser recording system, which imprints the view into the special polymer at a four-inch-squared size (made up of 120, 3D pixels, called hogels). Each hogel looks different from different angles. The next image is taken and used to refresh the display two seconds later. The more cameras that are used, the more life-like the image would be, with up to 100 different perspectives possible with the holographic technology, compared with only two in 3D movies, such as Avatar, the researchers stated.

This is the first time researchers have demonstrated an optical material that can display “holographic video,” as opposed to static holograms found in credit cards and product packages. The prototype looks like a chunk of acrylic, but it’s actually an amazing material, called a photorefractive polymer, with remarkable optical properties making the rendering of holographic images possible.

The pace at which technology is advancing is quite amazing! When super 8 movies became available for home use, as I remember from my childhood, I thought it was a fantastic thing. Then of course we had video tapes and video cameras, which were a further advance, so much easier, cheaper and simpler to use. Everyone was astounded! We then had the advent of digital recording on USB sticks and memory cards, DVDs and further ease of quite high-powered video and editing capabilities put in the hands of the ordinary person. Now there is 3D technology afoot, and soon 3D holograms! In 10 years the world will be an even more fantastic and amazing place with half of the things that we see now as the peak of scientific and technological advancement being already obsolete. Just when you thought it was safe to upgrade your DVD collection to BluRay, think again!

technology |tekˈnäləjē| noun ( pl. -gies)
The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, esp. in industry: Advances in computer technology | Recycling technologies.
• Machinery and equipment developed from such scientific knowledge.
• The branch of knowledge dealing with engineering or applied sciences.
technologist |-jist| noun
technologise |-ˌjīz| verb
ORIGIN early 17th century: From Greek tekhnologia ‘systematic treatment,’ from tekhnē ‘art, craft’ + -logia ‘branch of knowledge’.

Tuesday 2 November 2010


“Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams.” - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I have had a very busy day today with meetings, individual telephone calls, conference calls, scores of emails and much proof-reading to do. Although I was in at work at 7:00 am and kept going without break until 5:00 pm, I still had a mountain of unfinished business on my desk. But, that was it, I’d had enough and decided to leave it all – tomorrow is another day…

A poem from my old notebook today, speaking of the trials and tribulations of young love. Pomegranates figure prominently in Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern lore and traditions both as symbols as well as an essential item of the diet. The pomegranate is symbol of both life and death, hope and fortune, as well as symbol of loss and deception.

The Pomegranate Tree

My heart a pomegranate fruit,
Cracked open wide,
Bleeding blood, drop by drop,
As each grain of fruit’s released.
A drop that falls, transforms
Into a blood-red anemone in my hand.

I kiss the flower and give it you,
And you accept it absently.
You pluck each petal nonchalantly,
And I stumble on each of your “loves me nots”.
Each petal flies away to become a moth
That loses itself in the shadows,
Like my hopes that flee at night:
Bluebirds vanishing high up.

My love under its greenwood veil,
Hides within a fresh, living leaf,
Which under autumn skies ages,
Yellows, withers, falls…
Falls like the sea-salty tears
From my eyes that water
With toxic drops
My single-fruiting
Pomegranate tree.

Monday 1 November 2010


“And so, to the end of history, murder shall breed murder, always in the name of right and honour and peace, until the gods are tired of blood and create a race that can understand.” - George Bernard Shaw

It was a public holiday in Melbourne today, this being the day of the running of the Melbourne Cup, “The Horserace that Stops a Nation”. It was the 150th time this famous horserace was being run this year and despite the cold, grey and wet conditions, the flooded car parks and the threat of much disruption to the racing, the crowds turned out in the tens of thousands to participate in the festivities and mayhem of this most famous horse racing event in Australia. The winner of the 2010 Melbourne Cup, “Americain”, was an American-bred, Australian-owned horse trained by a Frenchman and ridden by a Hong Kong-based jockey exemplified that this horse race is a global event. As was usual, the favourite (Bart Cummings “So You Think”) failed to win and was relegated to third place.

For someone who is not a gambler like me, the Melbourne Cup is a curiosity and a welcome excuse for a holiday. I just pity the poor horses running the races… In any case I had taken work with me and spent all morning doing it, but it was a luxury not to actually go in to the office. A special friend came around for morning tea, so we turned out the freshly-baked scones, jam and cream, this being a very pleasant diversion. As the day became more rainy and grey, we decided to stay in and after lunch watched a movie.

It was the classic action thriller, star vehicle, Michael Mann’s 1995 “Heat”, starring Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Val Kilmer. It was a bit of an odyssey, with 170 minutes filled with violence, swearing, killings, guns, cops and robbers, murderers and amoral psychopaths in a horribly seamy Los Angeles that is not given much of a chance to be a place likely to attract tourists. This is not the sort of movie that will make you say: “I want to visit Los Angeles soon!”

Yes, the acting and direction were good, the action scenes well-handled, the “private lives” of both cops and robbers inserted seamlessly into the action, but it was neither original as a story nor engaging enough to be seen as an exceptional film, even in its well-worn genre. It is rated 247th in the top 250 films and it is hardly surprising given its subject matter, its moral ambiguity and the sheer unattractiveness of its characters. Ugh!

I sometimes think that if more enlightened times come in the future and the human animal ever becomes evolved into a higher type of spiritual and intellectual being, whether these film seen by our descendants will be reason for them to hide their head in shame and bemoan the fact that they are descended from such savages. I suppose it is the same way we now feel about cannibalistic savages that enjoyed killing and eating their neighbouring tribe, or the way that we feel about Hitler and his killing sprees, or what the way that we view the ethnic cleansing of the former Yugoslavia, or the way the Conquistadors subjugated the Americas, or, or, or, or…

Come to think of it, maybe even to think of the human animal as ever being a more intellectual or spiritual species is a joke!


“Time in its irresistible and ceaseless flow carries along on its flood all created things and drowns them in the depths of obscurity.” - Anna Komnené

The Byzantine Empire succeeded the Roman Empire and officially began when Constantine the Great (St Constantine - 272-337 AD) moved his capital in 330 AD from Rome to Byzantium, renaming it Constantinople (now Istanbul). Constantine had chosen the site for his new capital with care. He placed Constantinople on the frontier of Europe and Asia, dominating the waterway connecting the Mediterranean and Black seas. It was a crossroads of trade, of cultures and with a great tradition going back to prehistory. From 330 AD to 1453 AD Byzantium reigned supreme, and while Western Europe languished in the dark ages, Byzantium flourished.

The most salient aspect of Greek Byzantium was the transmission of classical culture. While classical studies, science, and philosophy largely dissipated in the Latin west, Byzantine education and philosophy still zealously pursued these intellectual traditions. It was in Byzantium that Plato and Aristotle continued to be studied and were eventually transmitted first into the Islamic world and then back into Western Europe. A basic education in Byzantium consisted first of the mastery of classical Greek literature, such as Homer (largely unknown in the West during this period) and almost all of the Greek literature we have today was only preserved by the Byzantines.

The Byzantine emperors reigned over a vast empire of fabulous wealth. Life in Constantinople was extremely civilised and the emperor’s court and his nobles lived a lavish existence, dressed in silks, adorned with gold and precious stones and eating the best and freshest foods spiced with the richest condiments the Orient had to offer.

Nicholas Tselementes (1878 - 1958) the most distinguished Greek chef of modern times, traced back to Byzantine times such dishes as Keftedes (fried meatballs), Dolmades (grain and/or meat stuffed into vegetables or plant leaves and cooked), Moussaka (a layered dish of meat, cheese and pasta or grain), Yuvarlakia (meat and/or grain dumplings cooked in broth), and Kakavia, the Greek version of Bouillabaise (mixed fish soup). He also traced back to the ancient Greeks the making of white sauce - using flour and fat to thicken a broth or milk mixture.

Although some of these dishes are now known to the world by Turkish or European names (even the Greeks call white sauce “béchamel”), their origins are Greek. We know that Byzantine Greeks ate three meals a day - breakfast, lunch and supper. They had many fast days that coincided with the church year cycle, similar to what modern Orthodox Greeks observe now. While the lower classes made do with what they could get, the upper classes were served three courses at their midday and supper meals consisting of hors d’ oeuvres, a main course of fish or meat and a sweet course.

The Byzantines ate all kinds of meats including pork, and numerous types of fowl. They ate large amounts of fresh fish and seafood. There were many types of soups and stews and salads were popular. They liked a variety of cheeses and fruits were eaten both fresh and cooked. Fruits included apples, melons, dates, figs, grapes and pomegranates. Almonds, walnuts, and pistachios were used in many dishes as well as being eaten by themselves.

Here is a Byzantine dish that would have been enjoyed by the middle classes of merchants and shopkeepers, but which in its modern Greek version is still staple fare:


  • 500 g lean beef or veal, ground
  • 1 large onion, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 egg, beaten lightly
  • 3 slices of bread, crusts removed, soaked in water and squeezed lightly
  • 3 tablespoonfuls finely chopped parsley
  • 2 sprigs fresh mint
  • 3 tablespoonfuls red wine
  • 2-3 tablespoonfuls water, if necessary
  • Freshly ground cinnamon (pinch)
  • Freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • Freshly ground nutmeg (pinch)
  • Freshly ground allspice (pimento - pinch)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup of barley, powdered in the blender
  • Olive oil, enough for a frying depth of 2 cm

In the authentic recipe, the meat would probably be pounded or finely minced with a knife instead of ground.
Mix all ingredients except barley and olive oil, and refrigerate for an hour.
Pinch off small pieces of the mixture, the size of walnuts, form into a ball and dredge in the barley flour.
Heat the oil to a smoking point and fry the meatballs until crisp, turning constantly. Remove and drain on absorbent paper.
Serve with a green salad and crispy bread, accompanied by a gutsy red wine.

Sunday 31 October 2010


“There are very few monsters that warrant the fear we have of them.” - Andre Gide

For Art Sunday today, a painting by René Magritte (1898 – 1967), the Belgian surrealist artist who produced some startling and thought provoking works. While some of his canvases are quite chilling, this illustrated work, while superficially simple and innocent has quite a frightening atmosphere the longer one contemplates it. There is something disquieting and quite disturbing about it. The twilight and palpable darkness of the house and tree in the foreground contrasts with light of the sky and the feeble streetlight. The lit upstairs windows of the house, partly obscured by the dark tree foliage are particularly sinister, especially as they contrast with the shuttered downstairs windows. The same contrast that makes the painting unsettling is the light, almost daytime sky with the incongruous night-time scene below.

This is one version of a series of works by Magritte, all called “Empire of Lights”. This is the first Empire of Light (L’ Empire des lumières), 1953–54. It is Oil on canvas, 195.4 x 131.2 cm and is found in The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice.

I though this apt for Halloween night, as it’s the sort of house you would not want to go trick-or-treating at!

Happy Halloween!

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!
                       Scottish Saying