Mortgage free!

This chart shows the rapid decline of my mortgage. That large, final drop was due to the sale of my garage, so thank you to my lawyers and the buyer. The deal was concluded in a day and so once the paperwork is done, that will be me. It’s gone seven years early and the first time since 1986 I will have no monthly expenditure for rent or mortgage. “And relax……”




When I Heard the Learned Astronomer

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide,
and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with
much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

Walt Whitman, 1819 – 1892

Homophones or homonyms?

I love the idiosyncrasies which arise between and in languages.

For example in English the sentence; “My orange is orange” could be translated into Dutch as “Mijn sinaasappel is oranje.” Oranje is not repeated in this instance because the Dutch distinguish between the fruit and the colour.

Going the other way, “Mijn bloem is geel” translates as “My flower is yellow.” But consider this sentence from a recipe; “Schudt de kip met een paar stukken tegelijk, in een plastic zak in de bloem met wat zout en peper door elkaar.” Which translates as “Shake the chicken, a few pieces at a time, in a plastic bag containing flour with some salt and pepper.”

“Flower” and “flour” are homophones of each other, sounding the same but being spelled differently. “Bloem” is a homonym, being a word which has the same spelling but different meanings.

I find it a fascinating coincidence that the Dutch use a homonym for an English homophone.

Although etymologically is should not be that much of a surprise as bloem and bloemen, originate as does “bloom” from old Norse while “flower” and “flour” originate from Latin florere to flourish, to thrive and of course to bloom.

Languages are connected in so many ways.

Dutch Ted Talk

Ted Talk by General Peter Van Uhm Nov 2011

Speech given in English.
Translated into Dutch by Rik Delaet Reviewed by Axel Saffran
Translated back into English by dkpw.

And if you see an underlined word in Dutch, that’s one I had to look up in my Van Dale dictionary! It was a fun exercise, not quick by any means but still a far more enjoyable experience than translating Latin when at school. If anyone with Dutch would like to correct my translation, please feel free!

Als hoogste militaire commandant van Nederland, met troepen over de hele wereld, ben ik echt

As the highest military commander of The Netherlands with troops over the whole world, I am

vereerd om hier vandaag te zijn. Als ik rondkijk op deze TEDxAmsterdam locatie, zie ik een heel

really honoured to be here today. When I look around at this TedTalk in Amsterdam, I see a very

bijzonder publiek. Jullie zijn de reden waarom heb ik ja heb gezegd op de uitnodiging om vandaag

special audience. You are the reason why I said “Yes” to the invitation to come here today.

hierheen te komen.

Als ik rondkijk, zie ik mensen die een bijdrage willen leveren. Ik zie mensen die een betere wereld

When I look around, I see people who want to contribute. I see people who want to make a better

willen maken, door het doen van baanbrekend wetenschappelijk werk, door het creëren van

world, through the use of ground-breaking scientific work, through the creation of impressive

indrukwekkende kunstwerken, door het schrijven van kritische artikelen of inspirerende boeken,

artworks, by writing critical articles or inspiring books, by setting up sustainable businesses. You

door het opstarten van duurzame bedrijven. Jullie hebben je eigen instrumenten gekozen om deze

have chosen your own instruments to carry out this mission of creating a better world. Some chose

missie te vervullen van het creëren van een betere wereld. Sommigen kozen de microscoop als hun

the microscope as their tool. Others chose dancing or painting or making music like we have just

instrument. Anderen kozen dansen of schilderen of het maken van muziek zoals we net hebben

heard. Some chose the pen. Others work through the means of money.

gehoord. Sommigen kozen de pen. Anderen werken door middel van het instrument van het geld.

Dames en heren, ik maakte een andere keuze. Bedankt. Dames en heren – (Gelach) (Applaus) Ik

Ladies and gentlemen, I made another choice. Thank you. Ladies & gentlemen, I seek the same.

streef naar hetzelfde doel. Ik deel de doelen van de sprekers die aan het woord zijn geweest. Ik heb

goal. I share the goal of the speakers who have already spoken. I have not chosen the pen, the

niet gekozen voor de pen, het penseel of de camera. Ik koos voor dit instrument. Ik koos voor het

paintbrush or the camera. I choose this instrument. I choose the gun.



Continue reading “Dutch Ted Talk”


I’ve gone a bit mad on the coffee front.

My first foray into the world of coffee geeks was when I heard of the Aeropress coffee maker. This is basically a large syringe into which you put freshly ground coffee and water, you then inject the brew into your cup through a paper filter.

1026-AeroPressThe whole thing only costs about £18 but it really does make a fantastic cup of coffee, being a combination between an espresso and a French Press. The resultant cup of coffee is cleaner than my usual Mokka pot or French pressl, with far more flavour due of course to having freshly ground coffee. This has to be of the right grind size and so I bought a Porlex hand grinder to process my coffee beans. This takes about two minutes to grind the beans needed for one cup of coffee. It’s a Japanese design and uses ceramic burr grinders for a consistent grind. My research steered me away from blade grinders and mixers which are too inconsistent.

Before I bought the Aeropress, I performed my usual diligent on-line research and saw many recipes and ways of using the Aeropress, including the inverted method, which involves turning it upside down to brew the coffee. The image above shows the normal method, with all of the parts you get for your £18. When first looking at YouTube clips I was slightly put off by the high hipster content, although having a beard and a bad haircut are not requirements for brewing a damn fine cup of coffee. The universal point was that just everybody praised the coffee one can make in the thing.

I was also initially sceptical (purely age and hair related) when seeing the hipsters measuring and weighing not only the beans but also the water. Some of them were even advocating the way to stir the brew before fully making it. However arsy these seemingly arcane points at first appeared, when thinking about it, and actually making the coffee at home, they made sense. After all you’re following a recipe; you wouldn’t bake a cake without measuring the ingredients, timing the bake and setting the temperature of the cooker. So it is with coffee. Get it right and you can repeat. Get it wrong and you know your start point to try something else.

So taking delivery of all the bits in the Aeropress kit and the hand grinder, I made several cups of coffee, following the on-line recipes. The hand grinder grinds the 16gms of beans which I have decided on using in a couple of minutes. The brew from an Aeropress, following the recommended method, is strong and somewhat concentrated, too strong for me neat but perfect when diluted with hot water. One of the advantages of the Aeropress is that there are so many variables, you can tweak how you use it to change your method and the quality of the coffee you make.

After using it for a couple of weeks and being very pleased with the results, I was finding the manual grinding to be a little bit of a chore. The Aeropress is excellent at making one cup of coffee but on some evenings and on lazy weekends, one cup is not enough.

Back on line I went. I wanted to see what electric grinders were recommended  and what else would give me a tasteful, clean cup of coffee similar to the Aeropress. The latter objective was first and easily met.chemex

A Chemex filter coffee maker, also know as a pour over, is a simple and beautifully designed filter system made from chemically inert glass and especially designed and composed Chemex filters. These are thicker than many other paper filters. Once again there are countless recipes on-line about how to get the best from a Chemex. I’ve tried a couple and the coffee has been delicious, although again sometimes too strong. I’ve not slept for several days given the caffeine-buzz following all my experimenting!

So the final thing to sort out was a decent electric grinder, to save my poor arthritic wrist from the daily torture session of manual grinding. There are many wonderful coffee forums and having skulked in a few, the general advice was to spend more on a grinder than any other component within your coffee making setup. Another piece of advice was to stay away from grinders that offer too many fancy functions with sliders, buttons and lights. The final piece of advice was to buy from a specialist coffee retailer and avoid some of the familiar brands available on Amazon.

After doing even more extensive research I put my Xmas cheque to good use and bought a Eureka Mignon Mk2 Grinder.eurkea This little beauty does only one thing, it grinds coffee. It uses flat metal burrs and can either be used on demand or to run for a set time. It is built like a tank and is easy to clean. It takes about 10 to 20 seconds to grind what I need to charge either my Aeropress or Chemex with freshly ground, beautifully smelling coffee.

While I don’t have an espresso machine, this grinder can grind coffee beans to the fineness required for espresso, not everything can. I change the grind dial to make the medium fine grinds for my Chemex to a slightly finer grind for my Aeropress. I also use a mokka pot and have a French Press but these have been relegated at the moment, yet the grinder can produce the appropriate grind for those methods too. It’s so easy and so quick.

As for the coffee I’ve been drinking, I started out buying some Sainsburys Fair Trade Colombian beans, which is medium roasted and has a tasty, nutty quality with a nice buzz. With the Aeropress and the Chemex, you can taste so much more of the flavour of the beans than an oily, over roasted bean. Since then I’ve tried some more up-market beans, from the very handy and knowledgeable ArtisanRoast in Broughton Street. I’m currently trying their Finca Eleta from Panama. It’s as they say a coffee you could drink all day. Personally that may not be wise, but it is delicious, light and sweet. The good news is that their shop contains many more varieties to try and taste, merely a quick bus ride from home. So if you see my jittering, wide-eyed down the road, you’ll now know I’ve been sampling again.


Gone Dutch


Well after 222 days, I’ve managed to finish the DuoLingo Dutch course. “Conquered” as the certificate says, is definitely overstating my proficiency, especially in the spoken language but it’s been fun. DuoLingo has provided me with a hopefully solidly wide foundation which will aid in future studies. I’ve bought a detailed grammar and dictionary as well as some dual language books, and a couple books wholly in Dutch; De Achterhuis literally The Annex in English known as Anne Franks’ Diary and Meisje met parel, The Girl With the Pearl (Earring) by Tracy Chevalier. Having had a brief skim through the first few pages it is easy to determine which has been translated from English and which is written in native, although colloquial Dutch. The Chevalier was easier to translate.

Reading is all very well but the trickiest thing will be thinking and speaking in Dutch. On-line resources will help, as will another trip!