On being anonymous online

Although quite a few people know who I am, in the sense that they know my face and name and where I live and all that, it is not very straightforward to connect my Hippocampa identity to the identity in my passport.

1374633424543There are quite some people who think that being anonymous online is sneaky and cowardly. Cowardly might apply to me, but not sneaky. I have a very good reason to want to keep this online identity separate from my official identity, which I will explain in this post. Of course I am on philpapers and academia.edu and such with my actual name, so it is not the case that I am anonymous everywhere online. It is here and on twitter and such.

440181-Royalty-Free-RF-Clip-Art-Illustration-Of-A-Cartoon-Mad-Granny-Waving-Her-CaneWhen I first ventured on the interwebz, back in 1997 or so, I thought it would be nice to explore the possibilities. I heard about chatting, and I thought it must be truly mindless, a bit like the phone chat lines that you used to have, or maybe like citizens band radio chatting, which I always thought must be rather inane too (apologies!). But well, the internet puts everything at your fingertips and a bit in the spirit of 1 Thessalonians 5, verses 19 to 22, one should investigate everything and hold on to what is good.

So I found a chat place called Virtual Places, and for reasons too long to go into here, I picked the handle Icerabbit, and ventured into chat rooms to see what was happening. It was kind of nice actually, on my very first venture I spoke to a hot air balloon driver, or how do you call that, from Australia and a carpenter from Alaska. I found that the nicest people were in a room called Davinci’s Notebook, and started to get to know people, and got into the bantering and stuff, it was pretty cool actually. I ran into a nice lady from Amsterdam; we “clicked” and within a few months, she invited me to her home. Weird! But that was 16 (wow!) years ago, and Charlotte has been one of my very best friends in the world ever since. So that is a wonderful aspect!

Virtual Places died, and I moved on to where the name icerabbit was already taken (yes, that is weird), so I changed it to hippocampa. I like that nickname a lot better, and I have gotten pretty attached to it, actually.

There’s all sorts on the web. I talked to a guy who had a fetish for bugs being crushed under high heels; that was probably the weirdest person I ever encountered. Unless it was the young man from Bangladesh who was madly in love with an Anime cartoon character and had been so for years, that was kind of sad, really.  I talked to people from cultures I had never been in contact with before. I made friends with a girl in Pakistan who was battling with her mother in order not to get married off. I argued about the virtues of driving with a nice bloke from Saudi Arabia which we totally disagreed about, but it never got unpleasant. I helped a struggling Baghdadi physicist with locating papers behind the paywall, before that term even existed. I dodged a lot of innuendo, too. Back then webcams hardly existed, but that changed. Also you could notice the spread of web access across the world. I was in contact for a while with a very talented Berber who herded goats for a living, but made the most beautiful drawings and knew a lot of stuff about Tifinagh. Really fascinating!

1146398_53855669Then I ran into this very driven haematologist from what I later discovered was Transylvania. It got weirder. He wanted my blood. To drink. Took his ancestry a bit too seriously, obviously. And then he started coming up with information about me that I never told him, including where I live. He was a very clever googler and I thought ohhhhkaaayyyyy… We need to be a bit more careful about these things, then. It is nice to have frank discussions with people about all kinds of stuff, but if they get wound up, for instance, you don’t want them on your doorstep. So I cleaned up any cross references on the web.

I started chatting with an engineer from Morocco who seemed erudite, but his English wasn’t that great, so we chatted a bit in French. I thought it was a nice way to brush up my French. Sometimes being nice gets misinterpreted though. This guy became rather possessive: started to follow me around in chat rooms, wanted me to convert to islam and marry him while calling me nasty stuff. All abuse was verbal of course, and you don’t want to be rude, especially since it all started pleasant, but at some point I said, Enough, clean up your act or I am going to block you. Which I did. That was in May 2005. I didn’t block his e-mails but rerouted them into a separate folder, because sometimes it is handy to see what a person with bad intent towards you is up to.

Checking now. Yup: the most recent e-mail is from this morning, something with ça va, cherie, whatever, with the umpteenth different e-mail ID. In the past 9 years, there were days I received up to 40 e-mails a day from this guy. Doesn’t bother me when it drops into that folder unnoticed of course. But it is not just that: wherever I sign up with this ID, I get followed by this guy.  Being pretty good at pattern recognition, I know in split seconds it’s him again, so it’s not that horrifying or anything. I got invites from all kinds of IDs from facebook, friendster, and lord knows how many other social media. I am boring, so I am only on Twitter, but I have had to block a number of his IDs there. Tenacious dude, you got to hand him that.

facebook-logo-thumbs-upFacebook was an interesting case. They kept sending me reminders that Mr Twerp wants to connect to me. So I contacted facebook and informed them that the guy they keep reminding me about is a stalker, and that therefore they are effectively enabling a stalker. They informed me I should just get a facebook account, so I can turn the notifications for friends requests off and it’s not their business!!! They don’t give a hoot that they are enabling stalkers. See, I really do Not Like Facebook.

Thanks to the fact that it is not so easy at all to locate where I am from this ID, it is merely a bother, but it does keep me on my toes to make sure that this ID stays disconnected from my official ID and location. Which makes sense, right?

At first I occasionally checked what the e-mails were saying, to see if he got nearer to figuring me out, which would be unpleasant. I discovered he wrote extremely deluded things about the wicked West and going to arms and embarking on jihad and bombing the evil westernised Moroccan government. Then he would disappear all of a sudden for a month or so, and come back again. I was thinking maybe he was either in jail or in an asylum in those times. I wondered whether I should inform someone about this lunatic, but heck, Morocco is far away.

143099-virginia-tech-shootingsThen the Virginia Tech Massacre happened in 2007, and I read about this guy Cho who did it and I got a bit of an eery feeling because he reminded me of Mr Twerp. I thought ok then, maybe I actually should warn someone. So I contacted a Dutch government agency that deals with cybercrimes, explaining the situation, that I wasn’t overly bothered by the stalking, but that I thought the stalker might be dangerous. They advised me to block his e-mails. Duh. Not the issue, people! Tried some other authorities but got nowhere. Tried to find a Moroccan agency where I could report this dude, but to no avail either.

Well, I tried.

Anyhow, to make a very long story short, I prefer to stay anonymous with this ID, not because I am sneaky, but because other people are sneaky. It is cowardice, perhaps, but cowardice might well save lives. And to those who know who and where I am, please help me to keep this ID anonymous.

Thanks :)

Never fail recipe for fruity chutney

I love making chutneys. Not only is the end result always good, but the whole process is pleasant. Cutting up huge amounts of fruits, getting emotional about the onions, stirring in a huge pan with bubbling stuff that smells fantastic… Really worth the hassle.IMG_20130817_165535

Over the years I tweaked the recipe so that it actually never fails. Here goes.

Amounts are for about a liter, I generally make 2 or three times as much, but it is more to have an idea about the proportions.

  • 700 grammes of fresh fruit
  • 300 grammes of dried fruit
  • 400 grammes of onion (that is 2-3 big onions)
  • half a bulb of garlic
  • 50 grammes of fresh ginger
  • 40 grammes of mustard seeds
  • 250 ml of vinegar
  • 50-100 grammes of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon of allspice
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 TABLEspoon of cayenne pepper

IMG_20130817_191248

And here is how you do it:

  • Cut up the onions and the fruit into pieces of the size that you wouldn’t mind encountering in the end product
  • Grate or blend ginger and garlic cloves
  • Toss all ingredients in a big pan and bring to a simmer
  • Stir frequently while letting it simmer for a few hours until it has a nice consistency, watch out for the spatters: they sting
  • While the stuff is still hot, spoon into clean jars, and put the lid on.

IMG_20130817_211854

From experience:

  • it gets done faster if you first glaze the onions in the microwave a bit: put the cut up pieces in a microwave dish with lid on, put on a low wattage (400 or so), for 10 minutes
  • I always doubt whether I was serious about the cayenne pepper when writing down the recipe, that is a LOT of cayenne pepper, but yet it doesn’t even remotely seem spicy when it is done (it does seem spicy when you taste it when it is still hot, but when it cools down, it disappears)
  • Same is true for the garlic, it doesn’t taste remotely garlicky, so I generally add some more. I love garlic :D
  • Vary the sugar depending on how sweet your fruits are, which depends on their ripeness etc. I rather have too little sugar than too much.
  • Whatever fruits you use, the end product is Brownish Muck™, but it tastes good
  • I prefer yellow mustard seeds, but the dark ones are fine too
  • Any kind of fruit works, but I think it is nice to have at least some firmer fruit in like mango, so that you have a nice chunky end product. Generally, the dried fruits provides nice chunks too. I have tried apple, pear, melon, nectarine, prune, mango, pineapple, all nice, when mixed too.
  • I never experienced my chutneys getting too dry when simmering, but when that happens, just add water. It does generally seem a bit too wet. That is where the dried fruit comes in: to absorb wetness. Also, let it simmer without the lid on so the water evaporates. I really like to use dried apricot, but also used raisin, dates, figs, prunes and papaya, and mixes thereof.
  • Keep refrigerated when opened, and when you do, it will stay good for up to a year, but it won’t last that long.

IMG_20130817_213819(Someone more kitchen oriented than I once told me that I should put the jars upside down until they have cooled. I have no clue why, but ok).

Enjoy!

Near death experience

My dad is dying. My dad has been in the process of dying for over half a year now. It has been very hard.

I do not approve of this whole dying thing at all. Parents are supposed to live forever, but I was actually getting used to the horror of having my dad dying. Except that now it is all of a sudden imminent. His situation turned worse over the course of last week and it has reached the limit.

I realise this is an intensely personal thing, but after careful deliberation, I have chosen to share this with the world, because I think it is vitally important to get rid of the taboo.

My dad’s suffering has now become unbearable and he is opting for euthanasia.

Fortunately, this is (as yet) a very civilised country, and I am and always have been incredibly grateful that we legalised euthanasia.

So, tomorrow, an independent physician will come to confirm that my dad’s suffering is indeed unbearable and there is no way to make it better. This is part of the procedure. After that, the process of actively terminating his life can be set in motion. As you can imagine, the rules are very strict. Which is good, I mean: you don’t want people to get forcibly tossed out of life by impatient relatives: horrid scenarios can be envisioned. Not so, of course, in this case.

I am intensely grateful that the truly horrendous suffering of my dearly beloved dad is coming to an end, in dignity, and by his own decision. His final and fully autonomous decision.

But God (yes, we believe in God, and no, we do not think this is wrong: quite the contrary), I am going to miss him so terribly.

For now, I can still say I have the bestest dad in the world.

Love you, dad.

Turning an old gel wrist pad into the ultimate lint remover

In a world where everything is cultivated and technologised, it’s still possible to make discoveries. I will share with you my great discovery that old gel wrist pads make for great lint removers.

I have been using gel wristpads ever since a nasty bout of repetitive strain injury. I like straightforward uncurved lycra covered wrist pads, and they last two to three years, and then the lycra sort of disconnects from the gel and starts to crease, which is annoying when you type. That is when it is time to replace them.

I have found that it is not that easy to come by the ones I like, so I generally order two, because, as you know, I like to have spare things.

Because I tend to be a bit curious, at some point I dismantled an old gel wrist pad to see what that gel is like. Well, it’s sticky as hell! After some consideration, I realised this is extremely useful. Watch and learn.

First, order a gel wristpad (or two) and use it until it needs to be replaced.
Ordering new wristpads has in the past proven to be no simple feat, and this time too, I had the weirdest hard time to just get two straight lycra covered gel wristpads. I ordered them July 11, I got them today. Not the ones I ordered, but it’s too long a story.

Anyway, here some pictorial evidence of the gel wristpads having arrived:

Yes, yes, that was a bit of a ridiculously large box, but the cats appreciate it.

Now, let’s turn to the hapless victim: the worn out wrist pad. Here it is.

Now peel off the lycra and the foam layer underneath it etc, it’s a bit messy, because the foam tends to be a bit crumbly after those years of supporting your wrists.

Congratulations! You made it this far!
Now cut the gel slug you released into bits of handy size:

 

 

 

 

 

Very sticky! And this is what you can do with it: remove lint. Behold a pillow case covered in spare cat fluff, before and after applying your hand sized slug of gel:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well spotted, now you have a fluff covered slug and it does have a limit to how much lint it can hold on to. But the beauty is, you can just wash it off under the tap with a bit of hand soap!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave to dry, unless you have a lintfree towel, of course.

So what you do is you cut off a nice little piece, put it in a plastic bag and stick that in a nook of your briefcase. You will never suffer a lint problem on the road again.

You’re welcome.

Here’s another use of the Wristpad Gel Slug™ which I rather like:

And my dad uses a piece to turn pages, as his fingers can’t feel the paper not that well anymore.

Endless possibilitehs :D

Sentenced to fingerfood

What I would normally do on my birthday is to take my parents out for dinner. Of course, now that my dad’s entire stomach is removed including the 9 cm tumor in it, that is not a fun option anymore.

When I heard that his stomach had to be removed I was stunned. I didn’t know you could live without a stomach, I thought he would have to be tube fed for the rest of his life. On top of the nasty polyneuropathy he’s dealing with, that would just be too awful. So I googled like mad to find out about living without a stomach and was amazed! One of the very inspiring stories I read was that of Hans Rueffert, (interview was here, but I don’t think the link works at the moment), a chef who lost half of his stomach and esophagus to cancer. He wrote a cookbook, Eat Like there is No Tomorrow. When my dad survived the operation and got home again, I ordered it and gave it as a present to my parents, thanking them for all the tomorrows we already had since the operation and very grateful for all the ones to come.

Now, exactly 3 weeks after the operation, my dad can eat and drink practically anything, but in small quantities. Also, it is recommended that what he eats has more proteins and fat in order for him to stay on weight. Of all the nasty things that have happened to my dad, this particular side effect is not one the worst at all.

So I will be off to my parents to celebrate, and bring a very nice bottle of wine and some of the most rich fingerfoods I could think of :D. Of course, since I have been working at losing weight in earnest for the past 10 months now, I didn’t really have to think long :P

So here goes:

  1. Obtain pancakes. I am lazy, so I get them ready made from the supermarket.
  2. Obtain stuff to fill them with. Anything will do as long as you have something that sticks to the pancake. Here’s what I did this time:
    - I blended grated Gouda cheese, chicken sausage and cream into a nice paste, added spring onions for decoration
    - Cream cheese, topped with smoked salmon, and some freshly cut chives
    Other options:
    - Soft blue cheese (magor works well, or just blend blue cheese with creamy stuff yourself) and chopped up dried dates
    - Hummus and sliced olivesYou get the idea!
  3. Make sure you have the filling at hand.
  4. Check your pancakes to see if you can roll them without them breaking. Particularly cheaper ready made pancakes have a tendency to be a tad brittle when cold and so they break when you roll them, which is useless. It is not that bad if you happen to have the breaking kind, normally, just putting them in the microwave for 10 seconds or so allows them to be rolled without breaking. Don’t make them so hot that your filling melts!
  5. Now, put down one pancake, and spread whatever sticky stuff you chose on the entire pancake, making sure it touches the edges very well.

    See here is the paste I made of chicken, cream and cheese:

  6. Then add some spring onion (or whatever), and roll the pancake as tight as possible.
  7. If you have a thick filling, like the smoked salmon, put it mostly to one side, the inside of the roll, to prevent the roll from unrolling (that is also why you need a sticky agent, the cream cheese in this case).
  8. Cut off the sides which are obviously not as tight as the middle, because they will never be good rolls.
  9. Eat the cut offs straight away.
  10. (No seriously, you need to make sure that what you’re making tastes well, of course!)
  11. Put the rolls together tightly in a container and put it in the fridge for a while so that they get the chance to stiffen up a bit.
  12. With a sharp knife, cut into neat little rolls.
  13. Serve!

Now I am hungry! So I am off to my parents :D

When life gives you lemons

Preserve them!


Here’s how to go about doing that.

  1. Save and thoroughly clean some jars and their lids.
    Your average lemon needs approximately 14 cm3 of preservation space (that’s 140 ml). In the Netherlands, the standard large jars for veggies and beans and such are 650 ml jars. (Hey! that’s almost 5 lemons!)
  2. Obtain a number of lemons that would nicely fit your jars.
  3. For each lemon (or per 140 ml), you need approximately 25 grammes of salt (about 1.5 tablespoon or 4.5 teaspoons)
  4. For each jar, you need a handful of black pepper corns, cloves, one cinnamon stick and one or two bay leaves.
    I actually doubt it does an awful lot for the taste, but it makes it look nicer, I think.
  5. Toss the lemons in some moderately hot water and thoroughly brush and rinse them.
    Most lemons have a layer of wax on them, which is not bad for your health, but we want to preserve lemons, not wax.
  6. Get a big cutting board and a nice and a good and sharp knife (I love my Kyocera ceramic Santoku knife).
  7. Crack your knuckles (optional).
  8. Cut the top and the bottom off each lemon and cut it into 8 pieces, like this:
  9. Cut the white middle part away. This is for three reasons:
    - The white stuff isn’t tasty and doesn’t add to the whole Preserved Lemon Experience®
    - Same goes for the pips, and if you cut the middle part away like this, you can get rid of most of the pips (don’t bother to try to get them all)
    - You need the juice to come out of the pulp, and if you cut them like that, you neatly cut open all the segments, which helps a lot
  10. Put some salt on the bottom of your jar and make a layer of your doubly quartered lemon bits. If you are not confident about just tossing salt in, just weigh and set aside the right amount of salt for your current jar, and estimate a bit of an equal distribution from that. It will all mix in the end, but it’s just nicer to start with a bit of a nice distribution.
  11. Also toss in a few cloves and peppercorns. For decorative purposes, try to aim for the sides, so you can see them from the outside. Add a layer of salt.
  12. Repeat this step for a third of the lemon bits designated for your current jar. Then decoratively arrange the bay leaves and the cinnamon stick to the sides of the jar so that they show nicely on the outside.
  13. Repeat the layering for another third of the lemon bits designated for your current jar.
  14. Now comes the Serious Squeezing®, part one.
    What I do is find some kind of rather solid object that fits through the neck of your jar, put it in a plastic bag, and lean your entire weight on it when shoving it into the jar, squeezing your lemon bits. I used a bottle of soy sauce.
    At this point, you should start to realise that it might indeed be possible to squeeze the number of lemon bits in the jar that I said would fit in there. ;)
    Note, if you postpone this part to the end, you will squeeze a lot of precious lemon juice out of your jar. So do it now, not later!
  15. Continue with the rest of your lemons, cloves, pepper corns and salt until you fill the jar to the very rim. The Serious Squeezing® in this part is all done with your fingers to avoid overspill of the precious juice.
  16. This step is optional, it’s just because I have little patience. I heat the jar in the microwave for about 15 seconds per lemon. This should make the jar feel hot to the touch without things actually boiling. Salt just dissolves in hot fluid better than in cold and I like it that it sort of sucks vaccuum if you put the lid on when it is hot.
  17. Put the lid on firmly.
  18. For the next couple of days, turn the pot around every now and then, so that the salt gets the chance to dissolve well and the brine spreads everywhere.
  19. Put the jar away for TWO MONTHS, or at least 6 weeks.
  20. Enjoy your preserved lemons!
    They will keep a long time. Theoretically, that is. They taste so good you will need to make a new batch soon, but you get my drift.

You ask how to enjoy your preserved lemons!

Well, open the jar and just smell them, for one! Isn’t that a great zesty smell?

But you can use them in actual food, too :D. Generally recipes say to toss the pulp and just rinse the salt off the zest and use that. I find that if you just use the pulp in say, a chicken curry, you don’t need to use extra salt and it isn’t so wasteful. Great idea akshly: just take a lemon bit, cut it up finely and toss it in your curry. Or your chili con carne. Or your pasta bolognese. You can use the pulp to marinate meats and fish in, makes it so lovely zesty.

Some official recipes:

And I am sure you’re very adept at googling more recipes, yourself ;)

Who’s responsible for this death?

A bit of an interesting turn of affairs here in the Netherlands.

This last Saturday, a car took off without paying from a petrol station at the highway after filling up.

The Police were in hot pursuit, and created a traffic jam further down the highway in order to make the perpetrators stop.

The driver didn’t see the traffic jam in time and crashed into the back end of the traffic jam, killing the 35 year old driver of the car he ran into.

The driver and his passenger were wounded but not severely, the driver will be sued for attempted manslaughter.

I think the police were wrong to create the traffic jam as it endangered innocent people (and God knows how many people got really inconvenienced because of this ineffective traffic jam) and resulted in the loss of an innocent life.

Surely, the fleeing driver was culpable, but this loss of life would not have happened if the police hadn’t artificially endangered people’s lives.

Your thoughts?