Tuesday, August 24, 2010

This article irritates me. Here's why:

Trailing American Christin Wurth-Thomas by some 20 metres with just 100 metres remaining, Semenya breezed past effortlessly to win with several strides to spare in a world-class time of 1min 59.90sec.
Yes, it's from the Telegraph, so yes, I shouldn't have even read it.
Most of their submissions irk me. But I'm already in rant mode and there's no off-switch.

1) "It's obviously a human rights issue but human rights affect everyone in the race, not just one person," said Britain's Jemma Simpson, who finished fourth in 2min 0.57sec. "The rest of the field just gets ignored."
Okay, first things first. Jemma came fourth. So apparently she only has grievances with one person who beat her - what about the other two? Is she standing up for fellow athletes, or just irritated because she (personally) has no means of competing with Semenya?
2) "As athletes we feel frustrated because everyone is allowed to give their opinion except us," said [Diane] Cummins. "If we give an honest opinion, we're either seen as bad sports or we're not happy because we're being beaten.”
Diane came 8th. So not only can she not compete with Semenya, she couldn’t compete with most of the field. So yes, Diane. You as a sore loser.
3) She adds: "Even if she is a female, she's on the very fringe of the normal athlete female biological composition from what I understand of hormone testing. So, from that perspective, most of us just feel that we are literally running against a man."
Fair enough. From what I have read in the papers, Semenya does border just on the female side of the chromosomal balance. But I would be very interested to see the results of similar tests for other female athletes, such as Mauresmo, the Williams sisters, a number of female hockey players (certainly the ones I used to play against.. I couldn't keep up with the national players. Hmmm... they must've had male hormones, it can't possibly have had anything to do with my natural talent - or lack thereof) and a few gymnasts to boot.
4) "It is certainly frustrating to be running against someone who seems to be doing it effortlessly," said Cummins. "We all believe that Caster Semenya, pushed to her full potential, could break the world record.”
Sorry, Diane… what was that? You resent her for beating you with ease? All I could hear was - Sore. Loser.
5) "That's [the women's 800m world record] 1:53, and that's what college guys are running. From that perspective, she's far superior to any female 800 metres runner we've ever had."
So what you’re saying, Diane, is that it is physically impossible for top world class female athletes to run against college-level (i.e. second rate) male athletes? Any woman who can do that is clearly a man? But clearly, someone has done it before because the record is there to be broken...
In 1976, a Russian lady called Tatyana Kazankina set the world record at the Montreal Olympic Games in the 800m, running 1:54:94. In 1980 Nadezhda Olizarenko (also from Russia) set a world record and also her personal best over 800 metres with 1:53.43; which record stood until 1983, when it was bettered by Jarmila Kratochvílová.
Kratochvilova entered a one-off 800m race in Munich, reportedly as a training exercise. She broke the world record with a run of 1:53.28 - with ease. At the World Championships 10 days later, she won the 800m easily (in what is still the 5th best time ever in the event). Kratochvílová's 800m time is still the official world record, and is currently the longest standing individual world record in any track and field event.
Several other female athletes who would’ve whipped a few college-level male athletes’ butts before even giving you, Missus I-Came-Nowhere, a second glance. Kratochvilova’s record stood for over two decades without anyone griping about her being a man.
Basically, everything is impossible - until someone proves it otherwise. Breaking the four-minute mile was considered an impossible barrier... until Roger Bannister did it in 1954. Since then, it's become a competitive standard. Surely everyone knows the improbability of Ussain Bolt's records - and he was setting world records in his teens.
Again, I don’t deny or refute that Semenya has gender issues. She has had to undergo serious hormonal treatments and medication, in order to compete on the international field. You can be sure everyone from the officials, to competitors, to the public will be watching every single thing that Semenya ingests, digests and subsequently ejects before race day.
Call me a cynic but it’s no small secret that professional athletes (male or female) do everything in their power to aid their competitive edge. A vitamin here, a blood transfusion there… it seems to me these girls are griping because Semenya has an edge over them naturally (in the loosest use of the term). Unfortunately their performance enhancing efforts can’t get them to the same level as a testosteronerally-weakened Semenya. And they’ve got fat sulky lips about it. Boo. Frikking. Hoo.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Another baking blog

On Sunday, with the low cloud setting in for the week, Mills and I decided to stay in and bake cupcakes. It's not something we do often, but having recently moved into a flat which hosts both a microwave AND an oven (oh the indulgence) we decided to make use of the facilities.

We had all the essentials as we had previously attempted cupcakes in the microwave in our old flat, and not with bad results either. It can be done - they're not the airiest of cupcakes, but they do the job. Anyway, so I did a brief perusal of the recipe books, found one that looked like it required minimal effort and we got to work.

First things first, deciding which bloody attachment to use on the hand beater. I usually go with the egg whisk looking-thingies first. But that didn't seem to be doing anything for softening the marg, so I switched them out for the swirley-looking attachments. That didn't do much either, but it did a splendid job of gathering all the marg in one lump around the swirly attachments. Back to the egg whisk thingies... and then I decided I was bored of that process, so we started adding the sugar and egg anyway. Then the flour. Now we're getting somewhere... once the cloud of floating powder had cleared enough to see the bowl, we realised our mixture was starting to look like dough.

Mills was in charge of the measurements of all ingredients. This is because I treat recipes and measurements as a hazy guideline, at best. For the most part, I use recipes as a bit of prereading inspiration and then I do what the hell I want - so I don't know if it even falls under "following the recipe". I substitute when I don't have a particular item (and am too lazy to go to the shops) and I use guesswork for amounts - which usually works out okay in cooking, but baking does not allow for the same flippant disregard. So Mills, being anal to the point of micrometres, is in charge of measurements when it comes to baking.

Right... Milk. I'm in charge of mixing (I always like to stir, no matter what the substance) and Mills is pouring...

And pouring...

And pouring.

And our mixture was rapidly becoming less like dough and more like porridge.

"This seems like a lot of milk," I shouted over the noise of the whirring hand beater. "Ja, it does..." he agreed as he tipped the last of a full cup measure into the bowl, adding "...and we've still got another two of these cups to go!"

I decided this needed some fact-checking. "How much does the recipe actually call for?"

"Seventy five mills," he casually replied, measuring out another 250ml.

I screeched to a halt. "SEVENTY FIVE? Or seven hundred and fifty?"

His eyes widened as his brain clicked from automatic to "oh shit".

I looked at our bowl of dough-flavoured porridge and decided a time out was required. After a regroup of our senses, we chucked it all out and decided to start again. This time, using just leeetle bit of milk.

We both commented on the fact that the mixture seemed very solid for cupcakes, but we were sure of the measurements this time so plodded on anyway. We portioned the blobs into the baking tray, put them in the oven... as recommended, for the time recommended. And then we waited - patiently. No opening of oven doors or any amateur mistakes like that.

When it came to taking them out, we noticed that the tops were definitely more crusted than we anticipated, but we plowed on with making our butter icing. Mmmm... icing sugar... good.

Finally it was time to ice our much anticipated cupcakes. A few sprinkles on top and... voila! C'est magnifique!
It was only on taking the first mouthful that I realised our "fairy cakes" were in fact a recipe for scones. And scones, it turns out, go much better with whipped cream than with butter icing.

Just something to keep in mind in future... scones are not the same as cupcakes.
Note to self.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Toilet Paper

Yeah, you heard me. Toilet paper. TP, LP, bogroll, the thinking man's note book, that stuff.
So simple, so elementary, so useful. So fucking annoying at the most inopportune of daily moments.

Take for example the bog-roll in our office loos. It shouldn't stretch your imagination too much if I ask you to picture a standard communal/staff loo. The toilet paper is of course deeply ensconced in a metal casing. With a lock on top. Because of all things to steal, managers HATE to see whole rolls of TP waltzing out the door in their staff's back pockets.

Post-it notes and pens are fine. Epson finest quality printing paper? That's right there in the storage cabinet. We've got reams of the stuff. Free access to it - no questions asked. One-ply bottom of the range, most-quantity-for-least-quality, cheap-ass TP? We lock that shit away.

Anyway, so... metal casing. A tiny slot at the bottom (or the side, depending on model or sadistic tendency of the maker) through which the long-suffering cleaner/toilet staff will patiently feed the one-ply, recycled paper. And then the bog-user can patiently, and with great care, break off individual squares at their own discretion (we have no choice... the paper is so fine and the serrated line is so effective that even the minutest gust of wind is likely to break the perforations). So, square by precious square you are able to gather enough to complete your daily business.

But this only works for the first roll - and only as long as it does NOT break off at that precarious point when the weight of the remaining roll will rip the free end back through the feeding slot. Anyone.. it can happen to anyone, okay - because the toilet god hates us all. But most of all, the toilet god hates chicks. Especially chicks with tiny bladders. He is definitely a misogynistic god.

So there you sit, ablutions done, gently... geeeently... attempting to coax the toilet paper just a leeeetle further out of the metal box. Just one, maybe two more squares that's all you need to complete the deed. Suddenly, you feel the pressure changing. No-no-no-no-no! Riiiip... *Klunk* (heard from the back of the metal case as the toilet roll bashes against the wall with momentum from falling backwards and out of reach. If you listen closely, you can also hear a cackle and a hoarse whisper of, "my precious, I have you all, my precious.")

Frantically, you try to regain control of the toilet paper roll (oh, the saddest of power struggles). You can get one, maybe two fingernails through the gap in the metal box. You can almost, almost rock it back and forth... maybe just enough to find the torn remnants of your bogroll. You claw, you plead, you wheedle... but you cannot find purchase. There is nothing to grip. Eventually you lose patience (and all trace of sanity). You scratch at the inaccessible toilet paper like a cat that can smell the catnip but can't find it, attempting to create a new edge... a desperate attempt to start again. But now, contrary to all indications shown previously, you simply cannot get the 1-ply, rice-paper thin bog roll to break. It has taken on the consistency of malleable rubber. You can dent it, but you cannot tear it.

Realising that you have to be back your desk to coordinate a conference call in less than two minutes time, you gouge your finger around the side of the roll and scrape it back. Finally! You have succeeded getting some loo paper! Sure, it's the size - and length - of your index finger (which is now bleeding somewhat profusely), but it feels like one-ply gold sheet in your hand. Plus you have created a new edge with which to pull yourself to freedom to the end of this lavatory break.

You just wanted a wee... why couldn't you have been born a man? The world is their urinal; they don't have to fight for their dignity (and three squares of toilet paper) every time their bladder calls.

Yeah, this may be one occasion where I'll admit to having penis envy...
In. Unzip. Wee. Zip up. Wash hands [optional]. Out. Done.

Oh god, I need to wee. Again.