Sunday, 21 March 2010

A couple of links, the wall of dread lurches forward, dried meat.

A couple of interesting posts I came across this evening:
  • Obliquity by John Kay, an old article from the Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism.

    Showing examples of how direct goals such as 'increasing shareholder value' are the least successful way to achieve it. Food for thought in this crazy modern world where CEO bonuses and shareholder returns are the the sole quantification of success of a company or industry. Interesting in light of globalisation, out-sourcing, patenting of everything from ideas to seeds to animals, and so on and so forth that all put private profit before society.

  • Curtain of Tragedy Will Be Raised Soon Enough, But Perhaps Not Next in Japan, Jesse's CafĂ© AmĂ©ricain.

    A pretty depressing look into the crystal ball for the next decade or so. I don't think Australia for one realises how fragile it's current `resource-driven' aka `lucky-country' or rather, `stupid-country' economy really is (as opposed to 'the clever country' era which gave the me the opportunity to go through Uni). A little god-bothery at the end, but don't let that put you off, Jesse always has lots of interesting things to say.

  • More than a four-letter word from Financial Armageddon, and Revolution, flashmobs, and brain chips. A grim vision of the future from The Guardian.

    Both about a new report from the UK Department of Defence about the world-wide strategic threat environment in 30 years time. As The Guardian's sub-heading says, very grim reading. It's all about the population really; I can't imagine any palatable political solution, and any trend line with no limit has no scientific solution either. In for a bumpy ride even if these glimpses of the future are out by a few years. Although at my age I may just escape it through natural means.

All very depressing. I don't think it helped that I was sort-of watching a pretty grim tv series 'The Survivors' at the same time either. Although I don't think the writers there can do maths terribly well - a 90% reduction in population would still leave a sizeable number of people in Britain - over 5 million. Not one dozen, and even raw meat takes more than a few hours to go off on the nose in a disconnected fridge! Hmm all this reminds me for some reason about a book I read a few years ago called `The Genocides' that left me deeply disturbed for at least a week. It just a sadistic device of the author simply give the reader un unpleasant time and lasting memory. It is a grotesque tale with no redeeming features whatsoever. Avoid.

Wall of Dread

Well, on to more mundane and thankfully lighter topics. This afternoon I finally got off my fat bum and spent 4-5 hours working on the main retaining wall. Managed to finish the bottom layer and stacked another two on top since I was on a run - I still need some ag-pipe before I can back-fill each layer with gravel, so I should try to get that early this week so I can get most of the work just out of the way at last. I was going to walk it from the plumbing shop - it's only about 1km away. Although I may have stuffed up a bit - i'm not sure where the ag-pipe should drain to, and I didn't leave any drainage holes along the 12m of the run. It can still come out of the ends though, so maybe i'll just do that (unlikely i'll move all those damn blocks again, particularly the bottom row). I also re-cut the stair-case base to make the steps deeper, although I can't fill that in till I have that ag-pipe.

I measured the height along the length once I finished it rises a bit in the middle unfortunately - about 8mm, but at least in a relatively smooth curve. Yes yes, stupid I know - I should have regularly measured, but I did have another string-line at the brick level and used a couple of spirit levels, but all those little `close enough fuckit's add up. But it doesn't really matter because it only goes out `significantly' where the stair-case is, which is a natural break in the line. I guess i'll have to see how much it settles over time too. My $5 rubber mallet disintegrated before the last few base bricks were done, but I managed to tap down and level the last few with a bit of wood and a heavy ball-peen hammer - pretty well over it all by that stage, but I think I didn't drop off too much in finishing quality. Knowing my luck it will be a bit out compared to the boundary (and to-be-shed-wall), but that should only affect the aesthetics unless I made a really big mistake.

Dried Beef

The biltong turned out more or less ok. I've been sampling bits as I went along to see how it 'aged', and the first bits were a bit young (they were also thinner). The flavour didn't really settle till today, 6 days in - once the vinegar had dissipated. I made a slight variation for two sets of strips. One I rinsed in water and vinegar to remove the excess salt, as according to one recipe, and the other I left as is in an attempt to keep more flavour in-tact, according to another. The vinegar one ended up pretty bland, so i'm not sure that's the right idea. But the other one is a bit salty - ok with a beer in hand or after a long hot day in the sun, but not fantastic. Since I was caught up with some other things I also salted it for about 15 hours, so maybe next time I'll just try a shorter seasoning session. Although I imagine most of the salt would still be clinging to the outside once it is hung up. Need a way to get more chilli flavour on it too - maybe some sambal pedas as a final stage. Still, one bit I tried today I'd label a success, even with the saltiness. Almost has a touch of salami flavour to it, mixed with bbq steak, a bit more chilli and less salt and it could be a winner. 1kg of well-trimmed lean porterhouse made about 400g of biltong; so it's pretty cheap to make. Will have to investigate a better drying cabinet than a house-moving box with a shade-cloth cover though, at least if it becomes a regular task.

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