Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Forget MC Hammer, meet PFC Hammer

Ok, so most people have forgotten MC hammer. Anyway, here’s a feel-good story (courtesy of WEIT) about PFC Hammer, a cat adopted by U.S. Troops in Iraq:

In 2004, a tiny Egyptian Mau kitten wandered into U.S. Army headquarters in Iraq. Dubbed PFC [Private First Class] Hammer, he became a ratter, morale booster, and important stress reliever to the soldiers. When the battalion was set to ship back to Colorado, Staff Sgt. Rick Bousfield contacted Alley Cat Allies and Military Mascots for help in getting PFC Hammer back to the States. PFC Hammer was vetted and quarantined before traveling to Colorado Springs, where he took up permanent residence with Staff Sgt. Bousfield…

And my favourite bit:

…When Hammer was being carried to Bousfield, he heard Rick’s voice and began purring and kneading the arm of the transporter. As it turns out, he remembered his Army buddy after all.

Read the rest of the story here.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Ireland demonstrates democracy (and itself) at its finest

Well done, Ireland. I am proud of my semi-adopted nation (by residency/marriage). This is what democracy is all about. The whole of society being given a clear mandate to determine its values.

No party politics. No politicians feeling like they have a mandate to implement unpopular decisions just because they managed to get elected. The voice of the people, making a clear statement that they are pro-equality.

Rest of the World, the bar has been raised.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

UNSW sunset

The UNSW campus may not be the most beautiful in the world but it does a good job with sunsets.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Slash sets the rock world on fire (again)

I’ve previously raved about Slash’s albums, Apocalyptic Love and Ain’t Life Grand. Well, he’s done it again.

Weighing in with a bargainiferous 17 tracks, World On Fire is Slash (and friends) at his very best, especially the first few songs. With 17 of them, you would expect there to be some bum tracks on there - but there aren’t. An iTunes screen capture says it all, really:

If you only buy one album this year, I recommend this one.

Monday, 11 May 2015

HMS Beagle Replica (and this one's not lego)

Reading Darwin’s Beagle blog on Friday, I was struck by a thought as I saw the picture that the author had posted and read Darwin’s first sentence (having arrived back at the Beagle after several days exploring in-land):

“We arrived on board a little after noon; found the Beagle with her masts up, fresh painted & as gay as a frigate.”

That thought was: wouldn’t it be cool if someone reconstructed a replica of the Beagle.

Well, they are! At the Museo Nao Victoria in Chile. You can track progress at the official HMS Beagle Replica website. It’s slow going (having started a couple of years ago) but coming along:

In fact, the Flickr is showing more progress:

Construcción de la réplica del HMS Beagle 321 (1) Construcción de la réplica del HMS Beagle 321 (9)

I can’t quite tell what the plans are once it’s built, and whether it will sail around the world or stay in Chile. A Google Translate of the “Inicio” page says:

Replica 1: 1 HMS Beagle under construction in the city of Punta Arenas - Chile adds a range of activities, is a powerful attraction for the city and the region of Magallanes and can become a landmark worldwide for being the first time you rebuild this legendary ship. The project was established as a multidisciplinary dynamic platform covering tourism, science, education and training The scale replica of HMS Beagle will have navigation capability and this replica reproduces the characteristics that had the HMS Beagle along his second voyage (1831 - 1836), is a private project, so far, no state resources and counts as one form of financing with the resources generated by ticket sales museum admission. The project employs eight people directly, will occupy 240 tons of local wood, and has an estimated 24 months to complete term.

I think that means that it will be seaworthy but whether we’ll have to go to Chile to visit it, time will tell.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Easy, tasty chicken & chorizo minestrone

I like cooking that essentially consists of chopping stuff and then adding it to the pan in the right order. This recipe hits that nail firmly on the head. It also fills the kitchen with delicious smells. It got the cats interested, anyway.

If in Australia, make sure you get a continental chorizo for this recipe, not the inferior “chorizo primo” that seems to be common.

Serves: 4; Cooking: 30 mins


  • 1 chorizo sausage, finely chopped.
  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped.
  • 1 carrot, peeled & finely chopped.
  • 1 courgette (zucchini), ends trimmed, finely chopped.
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed/grated.
  • 400g can diced tomatoes.
  • 500ml chicken stock.
  • 1 large chicken breast. Cut into chunks if very large.
  • 110g risoni pasta.
  • 40g spinach, finely shredded. (I put in a bit more, roughly torn, which seemed fine.)
  • Lemon zest, to serve.
  • Crusty bread, to serve.


  1. Heat a large saucepan over a high heat and cook the chorizo for about 5 mins to brown and release the tasty oil. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon.

  2. Add all the veg (onion, carrot, courgette & garlic) and cook, stirring, for 5 mins until the onion softens.

  3. Add back the chorizo, plus tomatoes, stock and chicken. Bring to boil and then simmer for 10 mins or until chicken cooked.

  4. Remove the chicken and coarsely shred. Return to the pan with the pasta. Cook for 6-7 mins until pasta is tender.

  5. Remove from heat. Stir in spinach and season with salt and pepper.

  6. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with lemon zest. Serve with crusty bread. Yum!