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It is a whirlwind in here

Beef and Stout Stew Over Mashed Potatoes

 

  • 1 medium-large onion, chopped
  • 2 large cloves chopped garlic
  • 5 carrots, chopped in medium chunks
  • 1 pound cremini or white button mushrooms
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 12-oz bottle of dark stout (such as Guinness)
  • and other stuff

This beef and stout stew recipe is classic British pub fare. Consider it the British cousin of Boeuf Bourguignon. Get the recipe at PBS Food.

 

Source: Beef and Stout Stew Over Mashed Potatoes

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When Data Takes On A Mind of Its Own

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Green flash – nine dash – dark green in dark room, four flash – minus dash – three flash – six dash – eight then tight then eight. The operator shoves his chair back in fear, things happen too quickly to be surprised. Red left light followed by yellow left light glow beside the numbers, reflect the band of a wristwatch. Eight flash two race one plus one point – decimal moving across the board, hunting.

Fingers, hand, wristwatch reach for the never used phone.

Second and third red left lights glow off the face of the Operator as his lips open before the mouthpiece.

“Get the General and the Director down here fast.”

“But they’re both asleep.” A thin voice in his ear.

“No time – no time. Hurry.”

His hand replaces the phone, but his eyes never leave the wild numbers, doubling and now tripling. Four two flash seven one three dash six six six pause blank plus plus racing decimal three three three three. He takes a fast look around the dim room to see yellow and red lights glimmering from every corner, and the flashing green of disappearing numbers.

His eyes return to his own board. There is a constant series of tiny clicks as the green numbers race from right to left, bottom to top. He moves a sweaty palm across his leg and gapes. Minus minus minus eight zero four three eight zero four three pause eight pause plus pause zero four three three click click click click.

Quadrupling now, simultaneous right to left and bottom to top, green numbers racing click click click click.  The sound of the flicking numbers makes him think of chicken claws scratching in gravel. He notices his hands shaking.

He dimly remembers one lecture where the odds were given of such a thing happening, the smug humour of his instructor. Six six 44 flash two seven 55 click nine two 77 plus 333 point 2864 flash minus flash minus eight seven three three zero.

“My God, they’re in fives now.”

He swivels around with a start, and sees the Director peering over one shoulder, the General standing behind him.

“How long has this been happening?”

“I … I don’t know.” He is frightened and confused. “Five or six minutes – no more than ten. I called you as soon as – ”

“It’s happening with all of them,” said the General. “It’s not a mistake.” As he speaks he looks at the screen, fumbles to straighten his tie. Nine one four two four flash nine one four two 5 pause nine one four two 6 minus flash click click click.

They move like green waves across a dark sea, sextupleting in a rush from the base of the screen. Seven two 2941 flash four one 3384 pause nine zero 7766 click click minus three four 0827.

“More warning lights are on now, Sir.”

“It’s the same with every terminal,” said the Director as he looks over to the General.

“I presume you activated the breaking system.”

“Yes, Sir.” The operator does not look behind him as he answers. “When the triples started. All it did was blow out the switch lights.” His face – like the others – is bathed in a confused glow of green, yellow and red.

“The last warning lights just came on.”

“We can see that!” snapped the Director.

The room has never had so much light in it, yet the green numbers do not seem subdued. Four two 8601, nine five 7350, one one 4499 plus flash four eight 1632 click click.

Green flash, red light and yellow, number after number, 472210 flash 992136 pause 886221 race pause flash green 220011 flash click click click.

“Sounds like hens scratching,” says the General.

The Director took in his breath with a groan. “They’re turning octal,” he said.

The green numbers moved constantly now, covering the whole face of the screen. Click click flash plus 12345678 flash 87654321 pause 20199465 click minus flash 22446688 race click 11335577 green 88990011 click.

“They’re grouping,” said the Operator. “They’re forming patterns.” His voice was no longer scared, but resigned.

The red and yellow warning lights began to shatter, small pops of sound followed by falling glass. Green flickers raced 11223344 slight pause 55667788 flash green wave 99001122 minus flash 33445566 click click

“It’s turning cyclical,” said the Director.

click flash green rush 77889900 pause plus click 00000000 minus flash flash click 00000000 click click 00000000

“What a way to end,” mumbled the General.

(image)normalenew.sns.it/upload/2015/03/5292_big-data.jpg

 

The Jewish Gal On Vacation To Dachau

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I once received a post card from Auschwitz, saying: “Wish you were here.”  From a friend with a ‘certain’ sense of humour. Yes, I know we choose our friends as opposed to our families, but I probably would have done the same. Irreverent humour is but one response to that which is beyond response.

As it was, the post card took me back to my university days, when I worked on a farm in Germany in lieu of getting into a Goethe Institute. Not particularly taxing farm work. I could relate the painting of apple trees or escaping from the midst of a herd of bulls after breaking my whip on one of their backs – but I won’t. If I ever get to my memoirs however . . .

After the farm I travelled through Germany and parts of Europe,  mostly by train.  One of my stops was Munich where, as often as not, I stayed in a Youth Hostel. And there I met the Jewish gal on her way to Dachau. She was from the US and not on a work experience as was I. Dachau was the specific destination for her.

She either borrowed postage stamps from me, or I from her – I don’t remember, though I know we exchanged them.  We had the part of two days together (no – no nights) and then she was on her way. I don’t remember if she asked me to accompany her to Dachau, but I think not. Although I was going to Britain to visit relatives, I believe I would have taken that extra day.

As it was, we exchanged addresses and, upon our return to North America, we wrote letters. And, as it was, we arranged a visit to my New Brunswick home from her New England home. That was quite a leap for less than twenty-four hours together. I picked her up after dark at the closest airport. During the drive I stopped in the middle of forest for two hitch hikers. She must have been a bit concerned, but she said nothing. I remember the deep smell of pine from their clothes, as they had been working in the woods.

She stayed with my parents and I for four days (no nights there, either). She told me that when her mother was talking to her grandmother on the phone about the trip, she heard her grandmother bellow across the room “IS HE JEWISH?”

Thus does memory flow from a post card.

I don’t, alas, remember her last name (this being decades ago). At the time she was studying to be an air traffic controller. Whether she  became one, and whither she went, I do not know. When I last communicated with her she was attending Brown University. She did not discuss Dachau with me.

(image) https://www.telegraph.co.uk/content/dam/news/2017/01/26/JS118941505_PA_Holocaust-Memorial-Day-xlarge_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqnjcgOEmjComRJj7yhDPbodY_2WJtD5buqqdscmZo4bI.jpg

Going Up And Down In Montréal

 

fountain-titled-female

(Place Ville Marie)

At one time I shared a whole house with four other people. Two were in the process of becoming lawyers. I noted that most of their stories did not contain much whimsy. The following is a story one of the fellows told us. I, of course, make up the dialogue but, though fiction, it is based on his facts.

*********************

“I don’t mean to stare – I apologise. I’m not in the habit of doing this, but you remind me of someone. That has to sound like a line – the look on your face. But I’m not after ….

“Have you ever been in the train station at Place Ville Marie in Montréal? The escalators that come up by the Queen Elizabeth Hotel.  I had a lot of travel to get to work when I lived in Montréal, and made train and bus connection.

“No, thanks. I don’t want another.

“One morning – a Thursday – as I was going up the escalator, I saw a girl coming down from the street. She had short red hair – that’s the main reason I’ve been staring – and a green skirt with a white blouse. Coming down that escalator, with that wide space between us. She was looking at me the way I was looking at her – interest and excitement and whatever potential that leads to. We stared into each others eyes as we came level, and craned to look back as we passed.

“I guess I’ll have another of the same, after all.

“That was stupid enough. I should have jumped that barrier, or at least gone down after her. But I had a job, and was young, and things like that just don’t happen.

“Next morning, even though I was looking for her, and hoping so much, I couldn’t have been more shocked by a ghost when I saw that red hair. She had that same look – of shock.

“God, to be so unsure of what to do, and stupid to the ways of the world, and even to have that stabbing thought that it can happen again tomorrow. We stared and stared, you could almost feel electricity between us. At the top I waited as long as I dared, hoping she would come up. I had to get my bus, and just jumped it as it was pulling away.

“That was a Friday. I sweated through the weekend, full of grand plans about telling her to wait, or to come up to me, or yelling my phone number. She wasn’t there, of course, on Monday or any other day. I looked the rest of the summer, then it was back to university.

“I mean, to be given one chance like that and waste it. But two. I’ve never forgotten, even now with a wife and kids, I wonder what might have been. It can make my hands shake, seeing someone like you, and with too much drink in me.”

Kafka Walks In A Winter Storm

Tree in snow blizzard

In Kafka In The Castle, I fill in the ‘missing’ diary entries from Kafka’s real diary. He either did not fill in these days himself, or he destroyed them. There are some estimates that Kafka destroyed 70% – 80% of everything he wrote. 

 

04 December 1917

I imagine the weather experts will howl about today’s storm the way it still howls around our ears.

Their complaints will ring with vindication. Racing unchecked across field and pasture, it strikes with a force I am unaccustomed to in Prague. Ottla was hesitant to let me out into it, but she bundled me into my winter gear, with a scarf just below my eyes.

It was too violent for me to venture far, so I just wandered around the village. I’m sure that if anyone did see me, fingers made circles as they pointed to their heads.

“The Herr Doktor,” they would warn their children. “Do not go after an education like that.”

Kafka Wants To Light A Fire – Well … Not Really

kafka-brod

Much is made – again and again – about Kafka’s famous request to his friend, Max Brod, that all his manuscripts be burned unread. That included all his fiction, all his letters, and all his diaries.  Consigned to the flames and removed from the earth.

Had this been done, most of the work for which Kafka is famous would never be known, for little was published during his life. His skewed yet realistic outlook on life, now famously known as Kafkaesque, would not be classed in every dictionary. A touchstone, known the world over, would have been lost. Kafka might, at best, been remembered as the man who wrote about the bug.

Brod gets a bum rap about defying Kafka’s direction to burn all his manuscripts. Yes, Kafka did indeed make this request of Brod. He apparently made it a few times, both verbally and in writing.  Each time, Bord told him outright he would not follow Kafka’s request. “It ain’t” – if I might slip into a vernacular the erudite Brod would ever use – “going to be me, chum.”

Another prominent time  Kafka refused to do something that he could have easily done himself, concerned his famous Letter To His Father. Instead of handing (or sending) the letter  to his father, he gave it to his mother to pass on, knowing full well his mother would not be part of causing such discord. And – in fact – his father never read the letter.

If Kafka really wanted all his manuscripts burned, he could have just as easily (indeed – more easily) done it himself. He certainly did burn much of what he wrote. Brod once found him doing it. It is estimated he burned 70-80% of his own work.

Kafka might have renewed his written request near the end of his life, but he made it to the one man whom he knew would not do it.

That was Kafka

Alison Alexandra Rubs Shoulders With The Golden Globes

theremin-moog20-20moderno

I have had a fascination with the musical instrument, the Theremin, for decades. A Theremin (named after its inventor) is an electronic musical instrument, invented in the 1920s-1930s, that is played not by touch, but by the movement of hands next to metal rods. It produces eerie sounds, something like a soprano at the top of her pitch.

For Christmas, someone I know got a Theremin as a present.  As sometimes happens in my current manuscript about Alison Alexandra, an event in my real life (regardless of how distantly related) will creep into Alison Alexandra’s life. She’s a gal open to many suggestions.

Now, had the present been a guitar or a clarinet, they would have held no interest for me. Although fine instruments both, they would have held no interest for Alison Alexandra, either. They are not exactly common, but neither are they exciting enough. Alison Alexandra has a bit of an edge to her.

But, because I already have some history with Theremins, and Alison Alexandra was embarking on a new chapter, it seemed to be a happy and musical experience.

So, I have done a more-than-usual research blitz on the instrument. Learning things I did not know. Listening to the surprising number of excerpts on the internet. But, as is often the case, also finding a number of contemporary references.

The Theremin was an instrument that fascinated a deceased author colleague of mine.

The son of a friend has actually made a Theremin.

The Theremin is used in the soundtrack of the British Television Mystery Series, Midsomer Murders.

And, most recently, a Theremin is used in the soundtrack of the movie The First Man. This movie has just won the Golden Globe for best Original Score.

Now, I’m not sure if Alison Alexandra is actually going to attempt to play the instrument,  but it certainly is going to hit some high notes in her life.

[Where to learn lots about the Theremin] https://www.carolinaeyck.com/theremin/

In The New Year, Kafka Ponders His Teen-age Lover

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[Kafka’s teen-age lover, Gerti Wasner – The Swiss Girl]

In Kafka In The Castle, I fill in the ‘missing’ diary entries from Kafka’s real diary. He either did not fill in these days himself, or he destroyed them. There are some estimates that Kafka destroyed 70% – 80% of everything he wrote.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

03 January 1917

I still have fantasies about the Swiss girl – although not the type one might suppose.

(My father says I already have too many fantasies, and that I deal with them “too long, and too often” – he is certainly right.)

I make a mixture of what I shared with the Swiss girl, and what I imagine we would be like today.

This is certainly more fantasy than not, for what would being together have done to us?

Done to her?

But in this tiny house – could she not join me? Be here by the window, as I write this?

She was so young, and such a girl.

But I fear that I was never such a boy.

New Year & Kafka Meet In Prague

40061270

In Kafka In The Castle, I fill in the ‘missing’ diary entries from Kafka’s real diary. He either did not fill in these days himself, or he destroyed them. There are some estimates that Kafka destroyed 70% – 80% of everything he wrote.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

31 December 1917

The end of the year. The end of a love. The ebb of a life. Even the Empire can not last much longer.

 

01 January 1918

It is strange how we are expected to wake up on a Tuesday morning – just as any Tuesday morning – and be full of hope because it’s the first day of some arbitrarily appointed year.

I walk the streets and it is still Prague.

(image)https://cloud10.todocoleccion.online/coleccionismo/tc/2013/11/19/12/40061270.jpg

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