Sunday 14 June 2020

Sunday, 14th of June, 2020 - Follow the Recipe!, Where's the Editor?, The Bookshelf of Dr. Caligari + Recent Wristwatches.

It was the name of these biscuits that caught my eye. Well, that plus the sneaking suspicion that these would go nicely with a cup of coffee. Taken from a book called The Art of French Baking, which is filled with éclairs, brioche, meringues, and macarons, among other staples of the French pâtisserie.
The recipe seemed simple enough. Butter, egg whites, plus 5 other ingredients. Prep time of around 10 minutes, cooking time of about 7 to 10 minutes. 
How hard could it be? 
Well, my daughter and I got started with the ingredients. Egg whites, caster sugar, flour, pinch of salt, vanilla extract and almond meal. 

But...what we forgot to do was whisk the egg whites first. To be honest, I'm not sure if this was a crucial step or not, but given how these things turned out, I think we should have followed the recipe to the letter.
Once the mixture was done, I poured it messily into a newly-purchased piping bag. We had six(!) baking trays on standby. Four of them were pizza trays, lifted by my Mother from some restaurant that she worked in back in the '80s.  The trays were lightly buttered, the oven was pre-heated. I began gently squeezing the piping bag, creating 2-inch in diameter circles of the mixture on the trays, making sure to leave enough space between them to allow for expansion. I thought I was holding the piping bag securely enough, but some of the mix oozed out from the top of the bag onto my knuckles. This was getting messy.
One tray done. Okay, into the oven and on to the next. Bake for 7 to ten minutes, said the recipe. We continued with the other trays and put them into the oven. A couple of them wouldn't fit lying flat, so we rested one end of them on the edge of the tray next to them.
A few minutes later, we checked how they were going. The tilted trays showed that the mixture had 'migrated', causing the circular mix to drift across the tray into an oval shape. Once cooked, we used a spatula to lift them off the tray and, while still hot and pliable, each biscuit was wrapped around a pencil and rolled into a cigarette shape.
It was a messy production, resulting in some weird shapes, but they did taste nice and crisp. You could taste the vanilla and almond in them.
Not a perfect success, but worth trying again, now that we knew where we may have gone wrong.
We'll try it again sometime.

I wore the Rolex Sub 5513 at various points throughout May;

You may recall my post about the Dry Martini;
A Recipe for the Dry Martini...According to Teeritz

I wrote that post seven years ago. In recent months, I've had a Dry Martini on a Friday night after dinner. It's not a regular thing, but there are some weeks where a drink such as this puts a definite full-stop (period) to the working week.
And, as I have bought different gins over the last year or so, this has given me a chance to notice the slight differences that they bring to a Martini.
My wife got me a bottle of Aviator Gin for Father's Day last year. This brand is owned by actor Ryan Reynolds and it seems to have done well since it was released a few years ago. I tried it in a Gin & Tonic and it seemed okay, but it didn't knock my socks off. Then I made a Martini out of it and wow!

My God, it was smooth! 
A Dry Martini can pack a punch, which is why I tend to have them sparingly. And I really have to be in the mood for one. It's not the kind of drink that you can rush, either in it's preparation or its consumption. In my humble opinion, anyway. I take my time making them because of the ceremony involved. And then I take my time drinking it because it deserves to have some time spent on it. 

Next gin that I tried it with was Suntory Roku Gin from Japan. When the Japanese try their hand at something that is more traditionally known as a Western pursuit, they don't tend to mess around. Suntory makes a Single Malt Whisky (Hakushu) that has won numerous awards over the years. Hardly surprising when one considers the level of craftsmanship and attention to detail that the Japanese are renowned for. 
As I've said before, there was always a certain cachet when something like a film camera or transistor radio had the words 'Made in Japan' engraved/printed on it.

Here's Toshiro Mifune in Venice in 1962.
Smooth, sharp and cool. Like a Dry Martini made with Roku Gin. 

I had a few shirts to iron one day. Don't know how, but I'd let them bank up and, rather than leave them for my wife to attend to, I thought I'd do them myself. I usually listen to a wristwatch website podcast while I iron, as this seems like the only chance that I get to just zone-out slightly and do something that doesn't require any thinking. That way, I can concentrate on what I'm listening to. Problem with these kinds of podcasts is that whenever they mention a new watch that I'm not familiar with, I stop ironing and Google the watch in question. That tends to slow me down a little.

I recently bought a couple of extended  edition soundtracks to the last two Mission:Impossible movies. I loaded them onto my iTunes (call me old-fashioned) and then transferred them over to my iPod Touch, which I keep in my work-satchel. 
I listen to soundtracks and movie scores when I'm chained to my computer at work because this type of music has no lyrics to distract me from what I'm writing. Since my job involves a lot of inputting of part numbers, customer e-mails and addresses,  there's always a risk of getting one number wrong, and while it may not cause a disaster, it can become a pain later on. 

Sure, I could probably play classical or jazz, but I'm not a huge fan of either of those genres. Although, I quite like jazz from the '20s through the '40s. Anyway, these soundtracks are unobtrusive, and who doesn't love the theme to Mission: Impossible? Between the two, I think I prefer Lorne Balfe's score to M:I - Fallout. Might have to play them both a few more times to really be sure. 
Balancing out the weight of the iron in my right hand was the Omega Planet Ocean clamped to my left wrist.
I'm currently reading this book, seen here with the Sinn 103 St Sa chronograph that I wore in the last week of May;
It's about an Israeli Defence Force (named Unit 8200) Special Intelligence Unit Commander's quest to locate a young Israeli national who has gone missing in Paris. The Commander happened to be arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport just before the young man was due to fly out. The French police are launching a search for the man by viewing security footage, which shows that he was lured away by a blonde woman in a red dress. 
The Commander, Col. Zeev Abadi conducts his own investigation, much to the chagrin of Commissaire Leger, the French detective assigned to the case. I'm about 100 pages from the end and, while there have been some interesting scenes, I have to say the book is taking its time getting to the point. 
Abadi is in Paris and he communicates via a state-of-the-art smart-phone with his newly-appointed second-in-charge, Oriana Talmor, who is back in Tel Aviv and not fully aware of what Abadi is up to. Meanwhile, heads of other Israeli intelligence departments are trying to usurp Talmor's authority.
I'm not minding the book, but like I say, I don't really know where it's heading. In Paris, we have Abadi unaware that a Chinese hit squad is pulling the strings of this whole affair. I'm assuming that things will begin to pick up sometime soon. The chapters, all 121 of them, are short. Some last two pages, others go for about six.  
The book was written by a fellow named Dov Alfon, and ex-member of Unit 8200 (referred to in the book as eight-two hundred, not eighty-two hundred) who went into journalism and became editor of a newspaper before turning to writing full-time. The book was first published in Hebrew and became a best-seller before being translated into English and winning the Crime Writer's of America International Dagger Award last year. 
It's well written, but I have to wonder if it was properly edited. Page 62 (Chapter 16) has Abadi and Leger viewing the airport's security footage showing the young Israeli being lured away by the blonde in the red dress. Regarding the security camera;

                     It had a very sensitive audio microphone, which created an odd soundtrack of background noises. Abadi felt as though he were watching a strange work of video art, an homage to a classic black and white film lacking only the narrating title cards...

Now, I can always forgive an author if he does not use the correct or appropriate terminology. In this case, rather than "classic black and white film", I would have gone with 'silent film'. No big deal if an author gets it wrong. That's what an editor is for. They're the ones who are supposed to know stuff like that. For example, the face of a watch is called a dial. 
Alfon is a competent-enough writer, so I can forgive this kind of lapse. Page 197 (Chapter 54!), however, is another matter;

Abadi stood up and looked out of the window, down at the river. The sun had begun to set behind the Eiffel Tower, but it was still full daylight. Hundreds of people were scurrying towards the St Michel metro, anxious to leave the city before rush hour. Yerminski could be anywhere - in Paris, outside Paris, in some hotel, in some apartment, in the Bois de Boulogne, in the Bois de Vincennes, in a public  garden, in a church, in a department store, pacing the streets, sleeping on a bench, staying with an Israeli friend, riding the metro back and forth, strolling along the river, drifting in the river. Anywhere.

Okay, we get it! Yerminski could be anywhere in Paris. I can't really blame Alfon for this long list of places. A competent editor would have trimmed this list of 17 different places down to six or seven at the most, choosing the most varied of them to illustrate the notion that Yerminski could be ANYWHERE in Paris, from a brothel to a church to somewhere in between.
I think I'm on around page 310, with about a hundred pages to go. I'm now really curious to see how the book ends, not because it has me on the edge of my seat, but because I'm wondering if the tale will move at a faster pace before I get to the end.
My wife was reading Kazuo Ishiguro's When We Were Orphans up until about a couple of weeks ago. She gave up on it, stating that the protagonist would be reminded of some event that had not been previously mentioned and then there would be no further mention of it afterwards.  
"And for a reader, you then kept thinking; Did I miss something? Frustrating.", she added.
Speaking of books, I've had a hardback copy of Julian Barnes' The Sense of An Ending for about five years. Picked it up for a few bucks because I liked the cover art. It's about 150 pages long, but my wife cautioned me against reading it, stating that Barnes is a miserable bastard like Ian McEwan. 
Let me guess, she said. It's about a man in his 60s who looks back on his life and recalls some great tragedy or event that occurred and now he has to come to terms with it.
I read the blurb inside the dust jacket. The story concerns a man who is now retired and he receives a letter from his lawyer which brings up people from his past. 
Hmm, she may have been right. Maybe I'll give it the first fifty pages or so. If I'm not engaged with it by then, then I never will be. 
As I get older, I have less patience for books and movies that don't grab my interest. There are still a tonne of them that I haven't read or seen, so I don't want to waste time on something when there's something else that's more fitting with my interests, taste, sensibilities, etc.

I decided to build another bookshelf. Bad idea. You may recall that I built a few of them four years ago. Surprisingly, they're still standing. However, it has always bugged me that there was a small gap between a couple of the shelves. There's a power-point on the wall, so that's the reason why I left the gap in the first place, but I still felt that I could put in a shelf and work around this power-point.
Sure enough, I decided on a 2100mm tall shelf that would be less than 30cm wide. Asking for trouble, wasn't I?
I bought two 2400mm long lengths of treated pine and this time, I took my time measuring the height of each shelf. I busted out the router, clamped the two lengths of pine across two folding workbenches and, with the help of my son, cut out seven slotted dado groves across both pieces. So far, so good.
The problems began when I decided to fit the top and bottom sections of the shelf before cutting the other shelves in between. Once again, I ended up with a shelf that was narrow at the bottom, but widens out slightly at the top. The difference between the shelves is anywhere from 5mm to 9mm. This meant that I'd be doing a lot more sanding down of each shelf than I had hoped.
I have enough left-over pieces from the old shelves, but they aren't the same 235mm width as this new shelf. So, I'll have to get a little creative with the 184mm and 90mm off-cuts, in an effort to end up with 235mm pieces. Looks like some planing and/or sanding down will be in order. I may even get a surform plane, as this might be a faster method for removing more of the surface.
I should mention that I'm no handyman, if the above paragraph didn't already alert you to the fact.

I wore the Hamilton Khaki Automatic throughout the month, especially while I was building the shelf;

The Nikon FM2 was giving me some headaches. Whenever I'd try taking a photo, I'd get the over or under exposed light coming on in the viewfinder. This happened with 95% of the photos that I took on the 36 exposures roll that I loaded into the camera. 
With the aperture set down to its widest setting, the light would come on. If I adjusted half-way towards the next setting, the light would go off.
I found a camera repair service in the city and, with about half-a-dozen SLRs in my possession, I think I'll pay them a visit one day when I'm ready to spend some money to have them checked and refurbished. The idea is to get rid of one or two cameras. But you've probably heard me say this before.  

Finished the bookshelf a week ago. Not entirely happy with it, but it will do. There's not ONE perfectly horizontal or vertical edge on the entire thing. Still, it's been a week and it's still standing. I gave it three coats of marine-grade varnish because I wanted to give it a rich look. I used treated pine and cut dado grooves into the long edges with a router. That was all well and good, but it began to get out of hand once I measured out each shelf individually. Given that this shelf was going to 'slot in' between two existing shelves that I built four years ago, I noticed that the space between these two shelves was 30cm at the base and 26cm at the top. Yep, that definitely sounds like something I built. What I should have done with this shelf was measure and cut out seven shelves all 26cm wide, regardless of the space at top and bottom. This may have resulted in a straighter looking shelf overall. No matter, really. The carpenter a few doors down told me to call it 'rustic' if anybody ever asks me about them. I have no plans to build anymore shelves right now, but if I ever do, I'll do things differently. This job ended up with me re-cutting, sanding, planing and swearing a little more than usual.

As you can see, the gap between this new shelf and the one on its left widens a little as it gets higher. And that middle shelf was meant to be for my binoculars and a couple of cameras.

It slants noticeably, but I figured that it mimics the 'V'-shaped binocular case anyway, so I'm fine with it. Anyway, aside from referring to these shelves as 'rustic', I'll also tell anybody who asks that I was aiming for a German Expressionist vibe with them, hence all the distorted lines. Yeah. That'll do it!
Actually, not sure why I really need to have the binoculars on display, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.
It (once again) became a bigger job than I had planned, but with all this extra time up my sleeve, I thought it would make good use of the gap between the existing shelves. The gap is there because there's a power outlet at the lower edge of the wall. So, to still allow access to it, I didn't put the backboard on the entire shelf. That way, we can park camera battery charges and mobile phone charges on the bottom shelf and plug them in out of the way.
We had some leftover off-cuts of merbau timber from the decking that our carpenter neighbour made for us a few months ago - a week before COVID-19 hit - and I used some pieces on this shelf to provide a little contrast with the treated pine. You can see that the front section of the shelf where the red Olympus Trip 35 is resting is a little darker than the shelf above it. Once varnished, it took on a nice deep hue.
And that is my latest attempt at handyman stuff. I ain't very good at it all, but it's still a buzz when it's finished and standing. Three coats of varnish to make it look like a Riva Aquarama.
I may try my hand at making a fountain pen rest with some of this timber. A square piece, with two or three dado grooves cut into it (to lay pens down in them), maybe drill a large hole at one end so that I can put a pen in it standing upright, and then some coats of the varnish to make it look like it's an antique.
The Hamilton Khaki served me well during this shelf build;

And, while I wore it with a view to not worrying if it got scratched or dented, it actually survived the endeavour without a mark.
In other wristwatch news, I FINALLY got this one back into the collection;

The WatchCo build Omega Seamaster 300. I think it's almost a year since I last wore this watch. I had it serviced by a watchmaker who trained under the watchmaker that I work with, but this guy - while he did a very good job with the watch - was unable to source movement parts. This watch needed a friction spring for the seconds hand, Omega Part No. 1255. This spring helps the seconds hand tick around smoothly. I spent a couple of months trawling eBay and one came up eventually. I bought it and then gave it to my watchmaker colleague and he installed it a couple of weeks ago, once his workload calmed down a little.

I have two other watches that are currently being serviced and as soon as I get those back, I'll put one of them on eBay and then look at the rest of the collection to see what else could or should go. Definitely one other of my lesser pieces could be shifted along.

And finally, in other urgent news, I ran out of gin earlier this week. Managed to squeeze the last remaining drops out of the existing bottle of Bombay Sapphire to make 70% of a Dry Martini, seen here on the right.
Truthfully though, I do have a bottle of Bombay Limited Edition English Estate Gin, but I'm sort of saving that bottle for the warmer months.
Since I've been working a 60% work-week for the past two months, buying a bottle of gin seems like an extravagance at times.
As I get paid monthly (I hate that, by the way), I pay all outstanding bills first off, then I lay low for a week or two, not spending on anything besides groceries.  In saying that, we pretty much run on the smell of an oily rag around here anyway. We rarely get take-away meals, we ain't got cable TV, and there's no speedboat on a trailer in my driveway.  As I get closer to next payday, I may get a bottle of wine or some spirit that I may be lacking. I don't go for anything too exotic, usually something in the $45 to $60 range. The idea is to get to my next pay with a couple of hundred bucks still in my bank account, which is then transferred into my own personal saving account or the joint account, which is there for emergencies, such as if our washing machine - which we bought back in 1999 - decides to pack it in once and for all, or some other financial urgency that may pop up.
Anyway, earning 40% less at the moment, so a simple pleasure like a bottle of alcohol sits further down the list of priorities.
And then I remembered the two 200ml 'emergency bottles' of Bombay Sapphire Gin that I bought at Ho Chi Minh City Airport on the way out of Vietnam back in April last year. I had them stashed in a drawer where I keep my tumblers. Time to bust one of them open. Needs must, as they say.

Can a bottle of gin look cute? I think so. AND, I found out after I made a Gin & Tonic that this particular gin is 94 proof!
The Bombay Sapphire that we get here in Australia is 80 proof. I'm not sure if it was my imagination or not, but this drink had a slightly heavier kick to it. Or maybe I was imagining it.
Either way, next time I travel, I may come back with a couple of full-sized bottles of it.

And that's another month done. Our younger cat, Bowie, managed to lose a claw from one of his hind paws, so that involved a couple of trips to the vet. They put one of those plastic collars around his neck to prevent him from gnawing at his paw while it heals. We thought him licking his paw might help it heal faster, since cats are fastidious about their grooming, but the vet told us that their saliva (the cat's, not the vet's) is riddled with bacteria and they should be kept away from any open wounds. A course of antibiotics and twice-daily cleansing of the wound should see it heal up within ten days or so.

But the cat had other ideas. He managed to stretch his neck so that he can still reach his wounded paw, so this has meant that we are all keeping an eye on the little weasel, 'cos he just can't be trusted.
Just as well we called him Bowie.

"Take your protein pills and put your helmet on..." 

Needless to say, he's not impressed with this get-up. Spent the first hour back at home walking backwards everywhere.
Never a dull moment with this little guy.

Anyway, stay safe, all, and thanks for reading!

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