Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Skill, Patience, Meticulous Workmanship, Incredible Imagination, Precision

Watch and listen, I was enthralled.
Bach would never have believed this!

Many thanks to Richard Vernon for this link.

Monday, April 18, 2011


The Mountain from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.

Watch this time-lapse with some awesome footage from the Canary Islands and of the Milky Way at night...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What's In A NAME - Biodiversity vs Global Warming

"Tis but thy name that is my enemy" says Juliet to Romeo, and as it turns out, she's right, while Romeo ('that which we call a rose by any other name...') is dead wrong.

A LOT of people know what 'Global Warming' or 'Climate Change' is all about. At the same time, very few people have a clue that such a thing as 'biodiversity' even exists.

Not surprisingly, the percentage of people that have never heard of biodiversity is over 30% of a well educated population - the English.

I think it's a tragedy. Both GW (or 'climate change') and BD are important concepts. Both signify huge changes that are taking place right now on our planet.

But, to my mind, the impact of loss of biodiversity is a much, much bigger problem. Certainly more dangerous in the short term, and yet it is the area where individual humans can make an immediate change.

 With GW, while the awareness is good, and individuals can and should try to do their bit, the forces at work really do require global action. Individuals can have little direct impact.

On the popular level, it turns out that fully 30% of the respondents to the recent DEFRA survey thought “there is nothing I can do personally to help protect the UK's biodiversity.”

Looking locally, in India what we do deservedly see getting huge publicity, is the loss of our tigers. And that IS certainly of great importance. 

But, have you ever considered that we are concentrating on the species that sits at the very top spot of a huge ecological pyramid?   The land, the plants, the herbivores, the insects, the germs - entire ecosystems consisting of hundreds of thousands of individual species have to function perfectly and together to allow even a single tiger to survive in the wild. 

And we are blind to the loss of all these stepping stone species. 

It is mind boggling to imagine, but we are losing our biodiversity.

As we lose our biodiversity, so we will also lose our tigers... and it's not only the tigers we will lose!

The LOSS of biodiversity (and that's four words to describe a phenomenon) is so, so deadly. It's happening right now, all around you. But before we will start to do something about it, we need to understand and acknowledge that it is REAL.

Yet, sillily enough, I do wish there were a ONE WORD name for this phenomenon.

I really believe that a better name for biodiversity, something catchier, simpler to remember, unique, and meaningful, will make a huge difference to the amount of awareness. The fight to save the world's BD is of the utmost importance.

Please lend a hand, let's rename this thorny rose, let's start winning back our biodiversity - before it is too late - and we end up with only this...

P.S. I've tried BIOINVERSITY and that only adds to the confusion. Then there's ECOCIDE, but that seems too broad... so, what'll it be? 

You can do better, start now, find a word, or create one, and the whole world and all the creatures that now still inhabit this world will thank you!

A quick link via @greenroofsuk (Dusty Gedge) Michael McCarthy in the Independent "Nature Studies: Our generation has seen a great thinning that we can’t quite name"

And if you have any doubts at all about the Earth now undergoing the sixth mass extinction in its history – the first since the cataclysm that wiped out the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago, then please read:

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Sam's Broccoli Based Green Chutney (or dip, or spread)

Ever since coming to India 30 years ago, I've been fascinated by the amazing variety in Tamil cuisine - particularly, the chutneys, pachadis, kootus, and thuvayals.

I have only recently become bold enough to experiment with various types of South Indian vegetable purees (chutneys), and the results have surprised me.

As a curious amateur cook, I have been somewhat afraid of trying my hand at any of these as the process seems mysterious, the ingredients myriad and exotic, and most frightening of all, there seems to be no connection between what one starts out with and the finally edifying but unrecognizable product.

Here then is the result of my most recent dabbling...
Broccoli in Tamil is called Pachai Pookose, so this then is Sam's Pachai Pookose Thuvaiyal:

brussels sprouts
Broccoli, a head (~100 g)
Brussels sprouts, 4-5
Onion, 1 medium sized
Coriander leaves, a handful (fresh)
Garlic, 4 cloves
Green chillies, 2-4
Curry leaves (fresh), a handful
Mustard seeds (black), 1/2 teaspoon
Caraway seeds, 1/2 teaspoon (or cumin)
Peppercorns, 6-8
Red chilli  powder, 1/2 teaspoon
Turmeric powder, 1 large pinch
black mustard
Asafoetida powder, 1 small pinch
Sesame seeds (white), 1 teaspoon
Lime, a squeeze (about 1/2 teaspoon)
Indian gooseberry preserved in honey, 2 segments (1 teaspoon)
Oil, 3-4 tablespoons (sesame or rice bran preferred)
Water, 1 cup
Salt to taste.

Take the broccoli and divide it up into small segments discarding any thick stems. Cut the brussels sprouts in half. Dice the coriander leaves. Put all these three into a small saucepan, add the 1 cup of water, and bring to a boil. Add a couple of pinches of salt. Once boiling, reduce the flame to a simmer and let cook for about 5 minutes.

caraway seeds
In the meantime, on a cutting board, roughly dice the onion, cut the green chillies in half (discarding the stems), and peel and lightly crush the garlic cloves. Place a large saucepan on the stove and heat the oil.


Once the oil is fairly hot, throw in the mustard seeds, peppercorns, and caraway seeds. Once the mustard seeds start popping, add the garlic, the green chillies, and the curry leaves, and stir on a medium heat for one minute. Then, toss in the onion and add the turmeric powder, red chilli powder, salt to taste, and asafoetida powder, and stir for another minute.
curry leaves

coriander leaves
Next, add the sesame seeds and again stir for about 30 seconds. By now, the broccoli should have cooked down fairly well but should not have gone dry. Pour the entire contents of the broccoli-brussels sprouts-coriander, with the remaining water, into the still cooking spice mixture. Stir the whole on a medium heat for no more than a minute. Remove from the stove and allow to cool.
green chillies

Once cooled, empty the entire contents into a mixer (blender). Add a small squeeze of lime/lemon juice, and last but not least, the honeyed Indian gooseberry, and frappĂ© the lot. At this stage, after a bit of a mix, I like to sneak a lick or two and make any small adjustments that may be needed, like a dash more salt, or whatever.

This broccoli based chutney can be used as a dip or spread, e.g. its great with boiled broccoli... In Tamil Nadu we usually enjoy this sort of thuvaiyal as the main side dish for our idlis and dosas.

NOTE: Those who have tender tongues may want to reduce the number of green chillies and the amount of red chilli powder. Variations on the theme are usually not disastrous, so feel free to go ahead and experiment!

The final product should look something like this.

It's very rich, chock a block with vitamins and antioxidants, and also, unfortunately, a bit high in triglycerides (but absolutely no cholesterol). If you do have trouble with triglycerides, then reduce the amount of oil!

Acknowledgement: Aruna Carr, my mentor, coach, consultant, and primary guinea pig!


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