Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Friday, Lisa took George to Worthing to do some decorating on her flat and rather than join her in the evening to impose on Lisa’s parents in their already crowded house only to return the following morning, I stayed at home.

Actually I went to Pietro and Russ’ for dinner and ended up staying over. They’ve been through a bit of a rough time in the last year, but we had a good evening

Sunday was the South London Food Club – this time the Philippines were the destination, and Jane’s Garden, the venue. This was the first time this summer we’ve actually been able to eat outside – it’s been such a cold summer.

Everyone made different dishes and they were all really good. When we pick a nation at random and all try to cook food from it, the results can be mixed. This time the foot was great – even though my mouth ulcers are just about clearing up and my taste buds don’t seem to be working (everything tastes strongly of salt and I can’t taste sweet food for some reason) – anyway, here are a couple of recipes:

Baked fish

6 Red Snapper fillets
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 cup olive oil (we used about half as much oil)
1 whole onion minced
1 cup fresh tomatoes with skin and seeds
½ cup pimentos cut into strips
1 tablespoon parsley finely chopped
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
salt and pepper

Preheat oven 350 degrees
Season the fillets in the lime, salt and pepper and leave in a dish to marinade
Medium frying pan with the oil and sauté the onions, tomatoes and pimentos until a sauce-like consistency is obtained
Pour the sauce on the fish, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and parsley
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, serve hot

Aubergine (Adobo)

5 cups diced aubergines (1-1.5 inch cubes)
1 pinch of salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
¼ cup red wine vinegar
6 cloves crushed garlic
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Spread aubergine with salt put on paper towel to drain for 30 mins, rinse and pat dry
In a non stick pan – fry with small amount of oil, brown and set to one side
In a small saucepan simmer soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and pepper for 5 mins
Add aubergines, cover and cook on a low heat for approx 7 minutes, stirring occasionally
Serve hot

Monday Lisa and I both had dentists appointments. Lisa has always had a good dentist – she got to watch films on a pair of futuristic glasses while they did her work – but now that dentist has gone private so she’s got a new one.

Not mine though, and a good job too. My dentist ended up giving me a filling without anaesthetic the first time I met her – or rather she gave me three anaesthetic injections none of which had any effect beyond paralysing my face.

I haven’t had a filling since, but this time, she decided that although there was nothing wrong with it, one of my fillings needs replacing – at a cost of £200. I suppose it’s good in a way – hopefully this one will be less painful and I won’t have to dread dentists so much….

Footprints and rucksacks
Reading more of my new book, the author has moved onto talking about mining – basically calculating (and I love a good formula) his rucksack.

Rucksack isn’t a term I’d heard before, but basically a product’s rucksack is the amount of mining that’s done to produce it – so for an aluminium can, there’s something like 2kg of material mined out of the Earth to produce it (unless it’s recycled) but for a gold ring, there’s something like 2 tonnes of rock that’s had to be taken out and crushed to create enough gold to fashion it (with all the pollution, wasted water, and other environmental damage that this means – not to mention the danger faced by the miners).

Apparently we all carry round an annual rucksack of about 50 tonnes… in other words 50 tonnes of rock get taken out of the earth and ground down every year to give us our stuff – 15 tonnes of coal and oil provide the electricity we use, 9 tonnes go into the buildings we inhabit… and so it goes on.

Anything to be done about that?.... hmmm… not sure.

The Myth of quality
Everything we own is made in China – but apparently there’s one city Yiwu – which is just one enormous market – selling the majority of the stuff we buy. And by that I mean 300,000 product lines, supplied from factories in towns all around it – each specialising in one or two products. 60% of the world’s zips come from one town. 80% of our Christmas decorations from another. And for each product Yiwu has a street. Stalls selling nothing but fake Mona Lisa’s or combs, beads, or artificial flowers.

One of the things that really comes across to me from reading this is that whatever you buy, the idea of quality means very little because wherever you got your products from – the pound shop or Harrods, they will have got them from the same markets in Yiwu and those markets will have got them from the same factories in neighbouring towns. Even if there are resellers who are determined to provide only the highest quality items, those items will have been put together from component parts which in turn have been assembled from smaller parts in a long and untraceable chain leading back to the factories of China.

Not that I’m saying those factories produce poor quality goods – only that they produce similar quality goods because the supply line is so long and complex that it must be impossible and pointless for a producer of the individual components to make themselves known beyond their ability to produce goods at speed and volume. Even if the idea of quality is what’s sold to us, it’s really only about speed of turnover by the time it gets back to the source.

Anyway, today I bought 2 new computers for rendering this trilobite animation. Basically these machines will run day and night while I’m doing this project, drawing out the frames of animation without me needing to be there.

I went looking through ebay, pcworld, and all the other options all of which offered widely different prices.

A lot of the companies talked a lot about build quality, and said how their competitors used “sub-standard” components.

The thing is, I’m as sure as I can be that whether I pay top dollar to Dell, or buy from a bloke on ebay, my computer will have been assembled on a production line in China in about 10 minutes from components bought somewhere round Yiwu from the same factories.

I can’t get a more reliable or better product by paying more, so perhaps I shouldn’t expect to.

In the end, I shopped around and paid about £1,200 for my two PCs. Buying them from PC world would have cost me about £1600. have I saved money or wasted it? No idea, but I do know that paying more wouldn’t have lightended my rucksack. There’s no such thing as a PC PC. Yet.

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