Friday, February 25, 2011
One of the problems with being part of the 'good guys' is that unlike the screaming rightwing whinge-and-whine crowd, we tend to keep our peace unless seriously pushed. Don't believe me? Okay: where's the liberal-minded equivalent of Glenn Beck, Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine, and Rush Limbaugh?
Seriously: loony rightwingers are huge frickin' whiners. They like nothing more than a soapbox where they can jump up and down, scream and rant and cry out about their victim status. As a result of this, they often look bigger than they really are. (Like toadfish. Or bullies in general.)
Case in point -- this article:
This is a response to a survey carried out by the University of Western Sydney, by the way. (Who knew Western Sydney even had a university? Is there a Bachelor of Bogan available? Sorry... cheap shot. But fun. And relevant, because of the image of Western Sydney as a low-income, reactionary sort of demographic, which makes the information from this survey all the more interesting.)
The upshot of this article is that far from racism being horribly rampant in Australia, only about one in ten of the population holds what we'd call racist views. Further: the only country the surveyors could name that showed MORE overall tolerance than Australia was Canada, and that, apparently, by not very much at all.
That. Is. So. Fucking. Cool.
What it means for you and me is this: speak the hell up. Don't be afraid. Don't be put off by the vitriol of the Abbotts, the Morrisons, the Bolts and their ilk. Speak out. There are more of us than them by a long, long margin. We are the majority. They are the minority. Speak up and let them know.
Don't ignore it when you hear it. Don't turn away and say nothing. You may fear that publically confronting a racist asshole could get you into trouble. Well - it may, yeah. But the odds are that most of the crowd will be on your side, and if you speak up loud and clear, you may well find that other people are encouraged to speak up alongside you.
I'd guess it's probably not just racism, either. I suspect (given the size and popularity of Mardi Gras in Sydney, for example) that we're not so terrified of homosexuality as they'd like us to be either. And who knows? There may actually be a lot more of us who think like sane creatures on a whole range of issues!
The Egyptians did it. The Tunisians did it. The Libyans are trying like hell to do it. And in Wisconsin, even some of the Yankees are giving it a go.
Speak up. Be heard. There's enough of us to drown out the tirade of hate and fear, and maybe together, achieve something positive for the people of this country, whatever colour or creed they happen to be.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Yeah, I figured it had to happen sooner or later. Young Jake is -- well, he's not an average kid. And eventually, that was gonna cause problems.
Those of you who have met him will be aware that he's not at all a villain. He's curious, and intelligent, and gregarious, and his worst fault is not unexpected: he believes instinctively that everybody else his age shares his interests, and that the offbeat stuff he knows must be just as cool to every other person out there.
So yeah, sometimes you have to shut him up quite directly.
But he isn't malicious, or destructive, or vicious. Unfortunately, he is imaginative and outgoing... and eventually (I always assumed) that was going to be an issue.
I don't actually blame the school. I figure this is simple primate behaviour. Jake is ten, going on eleven. His classmates are similar, and even a year older - being as how he's in a shared 5/6. At that age, boys are just beginning to move out of simple childhood, into the complicated area of adolescence. And the hairless ape begins to make himself known.
Evolution... I have no idea why anybody bothers to argue against it. You only have to watch a troop of monkeys or baboons, and then sit through a session of Parliament to know without the slightest doubt that pretty much all of humankind is only a hair's breadth from picking fleas off each other, and enjoying a quiet banana on the sly.
So, you know. Boys. Beginning to feel the first stirrings of adulthood. And what do they do? They set about playing dominance games.
The same things occur when they're younger, of course. There are all kinds of competitions and struggles. But it somehow gets more important at this age. And it gets more overt, and unpleasant.
Naturally, there's nothing I can actually do for young Jake except listen, and talk to him, and maybe share my own experiences. (Yeah. Of course it happened. What would you expect? I grew up with a Yankee accent and an IQ a couple standard deviations above the norm in rural, bassackward Far North Queensland. I know about this shit first-hand, naturally.)
The school will do its best, of course. And who knows? Maybe things will fall out well. Maybe the idiots in question will find some other kid to pick on, and forget about young Jake.
But probably not. And sooner or later, all this primate bullshit will have to run its course. Jake will just have to learn how to play out the stupid ape games in a way that leaves him free to do what he likes.
My heart goes out to the little guy.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Elder Son brought a filthy cough with him from music camp. It's doing a number on me.
Lungs rattling, can't actually cough effectively -- something went wrong in my throat a few years back after a massive bout of laryngitis, and the whole 'deep cough' thing just doesn't happen -- I wind up in spasmodic fits that just shake me down. My head hurts, and I'm exhausted. Wondering how much of your lung capacity has to be fucked before they call it pneumonia.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
D'you remember when Asperger's Syndrome didn't exist? Wikipedia calls it: "... an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. It differs from other autism spectrum disorders by its relative preservation oflinguistic and cognitive development."
And I suppose that's fair enough. Except that up until 1994, when it was standardised as an actual-factual diagnosis, persons suffering from Asperger's were more commonly called "clueless munters", or something similar.
Blind folk, deaf folk, amputees, victims of cerebral palsy -- these are disabilities you can see in action. It makes sense. We can imagine being blind, or deaf, or missing an arm or a leg, or being stuck in a wheelchair. And people with these disabilities have the good manners to be obviously different.
On the other hand, the most notable effect of mild Asperger's would appear to be an inability to read nonverbal cues, a lack of empathy, maybe a little clumsiness. There's no prosthesis. There's no guide dog. No wheelchair. The person with Asperger's is just... difficult and irritating to be around.
There was a bloke back at university. He wasn't stupid. He did well enough in computer science to go on as a programmer for Defense, and I understand he may have been involved in a couple of fairly exciting development projects. So: not actively stupid, no.
But oh. He was so difficult to be around.
He wanted to be liked. That was obvious. Painfully obvious. He would go to ridiculous lengths to repay a favour. He'd bound out of bed at two in the morning to pick up some drunken fool from the outer suburbs, merely because they'd rung (while the rest of us in the house would say things like "Tough shit, ya drunken sot.") He'd be first in line to pay for shared food or drinks. He'd offer you just about anything in his power.
I'm sure you've met people like that. The harder they try, the more obvious it becomes, and the more painful it is.
He really didn't understand personal-relationship stuff, either. Couldn't tell when he should get the hell out and leave a room to the two people who were just about stripping each other with their eyes. Couldn't figure out that five or six polite refusals to different events meant the girl wasn't actually interested. Didn't know when he was too early, couldn't figure out when he stayed too late.
Once I saw him slap a mutual friend. It was like a scene from a movie, and in retrospect, I think that was the mental model he was drawing from.
The bloke he slapped is a long-term, unshakeable friend of mine: Mick. Mick is quick-witted as hell, but deeply non-confrontational, and he's learned humour as a form of defense. At one point, the cry of "Hey! Your mother!" was a standard tagline and greeting from Mick. He'd heard a bunch of Yankee 'your mother' jokes, and in his way, he'd simply boiled them down to their absolute minimum. He'd point, and in a gruff voice, he'd say "Hey! Your mother!" and instantly you'd know he was referencing all those stupid jokes - but more importantly, he was referencing and lampooning the kind of macho, braindead oik who might make a joke like that. He was, in fact, making himself the butt of the joke while sharing it -- and since he has genuine comic timing, it worked.
At least, it usually worked. Except this one day, sitting down to a late breakfast in a Uni cafeteria. In walks Mister Clueless, and sits down opposite Mick. Conversation starts. Mick cuts to his tagline -- and out of the blue, Mister Clueless reaches out and slaps him on the cheek, like some eighteenth century period piece gentleman putting a cad in his place. And he says: "Don't you say anything about my mother!"
Mick was confused as hell, and surprised, but being Mick, he just shrugged and said something like right, yeah, whatever.
I was confused too. But it was obvious it was going no farther, so there was nothing to be done.
You see my point by now. When was the last time you saw anyone, anyone in the normal spectrum of emotional development act out a scene like that?
So. It's probably twenty-five years since that happened, at a guess. And honestly, I haven't seen or heard from Mister Clueless in probably a decade. I don't really care to hear from him, either.
But... I always had a certain degree of sympathy for the guy. He was an utterly clueless, graceless munter, but he meant well, and he wanted to be liked. I couldn't find it in me to really enjoy his company, but I can say truthfully that I never disliked him. It was just uncomfortable to be around him.
Of course, nowadays there would be a label for Mister Clueless -- because if ever there was anybody who should be a poster child for Asperger's Syndrome, it's him. And it's that post-hoc label, that after-the-fact knowledge that gives me considerably more sympathy for him than I had before.
The thing about Aspbergers... not only is it invisible, but it's bloody difficult to compensate for. Blind? Canes, guide-dogs, Braille, and lots of assistance from a sympathetic public. Deaf? Sign language, hearing aids, cochlear implants. You get the picture.
But - how do you replace that invisible sense of social aptness, of propriety? How do you instill a situational sensitivity? If the bloke is twenty-five, has had a reasonably normal upbringing, gone through schools and societies and clubs and shit, and he STILL doesn't know that he should go home when his hosts are turning off the house lights and going to bed, how do you fix it?
I can imagine being blind. I can imagine being deaf. But I can't imagine being unable to perceive social, emotional, and behavioural cues. I try to think about it in terms of, perhaps, a language I cannot understand, like Russian -- and then I remember that at least I know Russian is a language, meant to convey information. And I can watch, and I can listen, and I can learn, and maybe one day I can speak enough Russian to say ja jebal tvoyemadj in a friendly fashion, and not get my teeth knocked down my throat.
That's not the same thing at all, is it?
And so, probably ten years too late, I'm offering a limited apology to Mister Clueless. I'm sorry, mate. There wasn't a word or a name for your condition back when we were around each other. I knew -- hell, everyone knew -- that you were fairly useless at sorting out social stuff... but I didn't understand that it was truly, honestly, something you couldn't help, and I never really thought of how it might be, groping your way through a world of information, cues, rules and responses you couldn't even perceive, let alone act on.
It wouldn't have made me any happier to be in your company. But if I'd known, I could have been more up-front, and tried replacing the subtle social stuff with more direct verbal instructions. I didn't do it back then because I didn't want to hurt your feelings -- but that seems kind of stupid, in retrospect. You need empathy and social skills to have easily bruised feelings. Just coming out and telling you when you were behaving inappropriately would probably not have hurt you, and quite likely would have helped us all. I should have twigged, eh?
Sorry about that.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Okay. I dunno about you, but to me, this is both appalling, and hilarious:
The headline is linked directly to the article from the Northern Territory News, so feel free to click it. My absolute favourite line is:
"The NT News understands the 50-year-old patient assistant carer was trying to handle the disabled man when the man punched the carer repeatedly with his good arm and flailed his stumps angrily."
I know it's wrong. Yes. But... that final image just won't go away. I'm afraid there's beer in my keyboard now.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Where did that week go?
Well, part of it went to illness. Elder Son's cough has come my way, and I'm pretty badly screwed up for breathing at the moment. Oh, and sleep. It's nice to be able to stop coughing if you want to sleep, isn't it? Yeah.
Part of it went on regular stuff. Running the pump. Cleaning, laundry, gardens.
Part of it was a Big Errands Day -- into town to confront the Telstra people over the complete lack of a high-gain aerial. Yeah. I know. It was a month ago I went in there and spent nearly an hour in conference with their sales johnnies. The goal was to improve our 'Net access. I laid out cash for a 'base station' thing - a plug-in unit which acts as a wireless 3g receiver and LAN router all at once. I made it clear that the local signal was inadequate, and we'd need a high-gain aerial as well. Telstra assured me it was all in hand.
So. A month later. The base station arrived in a few short days. I set it up, tested it, etc. Yes, it will connect. Sometimes. Briefly. But it drops out. So it's completely useless for Internet purposes UNLESS THERE'S SOME KIND OF SIGNAL ENHANCER. Like, for instance, a high-gain aerial. Right?
(Drums fingers. Sound of crickets.)
The Telstra people were nice. We chatted. They assure me that they're chasing it all up. And meanwhile, I've taken steps to ensure that my ten-day refusal period on the base-station is being extended until we can actually try to make the frickin' thing work...
There was also prep-work for Nat. She went to Melbourne on the weekend; took the Mau-Mau to see 'Mary Poppins' at Her Majesty's Theatre. Booking tickets, flights, and hotels: that was my job. And a complicated little task it was, too.
It almost didn't come off. Virgin cancelled their 2100 Friday flight, and Natalie wasn't happy about waiting for an 0400 flight. But a 0100 flight came about, and the Mau-mau was exceptionally well behaved, and eventually they made it to their hotel room at 0400 Saturday...
...and of course, the Mau-Mau bounced out of bed again at 0800. But I'm told that the performance was good, and that they had a fine time in general. Hooray.
Of course, with the girls out of the house, the boys and I decided it was time to have a Jackie Chan movie night with the new Yankee doc and his Jackie Chan-fan family. And of course, with the redoubtable Smileyfish, who also was on her way up for the weekend.
That mostly worked out. We did the barbecue thing Saturday afternoon -- couple of chickens, a bunch of skewers, smoked veges, a few snags (we had a random kid-visitor too: Jake's best friend, who we encountered at the supermarket on Saturday morning. Why not? It seemed to make sense at the time...) Watermelon. And then plenty of popcorn, and a bunch of old chop-socky films.
Things probably would have been better if Smileyfish hadn't come over all horrific of the belly, for no reason anybody can really discern. Tweren't food poisoning... nobody else was in the least affected. She just got very ill very quickly. Sick enough that New Yankee Doc decided to lug her down to the hospital for a litre or so of saline.
Never mind. It was a nice visit anyway. Smileyfish is Good People, and she brought many fine things with her, including her euphonium, a kilo of black pepper, a large bag of Szechuan pepper, and other goodies. Hooray the Fish! (She also told us, in no uncertain terms, that Younger Son's new pet goldfish are suffering from constipation, and must be fed boiled peas. Apparently, 'stringy white poo' isn't normal for goldfish. I'm glad Smileyfish is trained in these matters...)
All right. I've got to run. I still have to organise myself for sword training this evening. And meanwhile, Younger Son has decided we must have Lemon Mousse for dessert and a pasta/cheese dish for dinner, and I have to help him cook. Yes.
Oh -- Havock, check your post over the next couple of days, eh?
Monday, February 7, 2011
It's that time of year again. A little over, actually.
Every year, for Natalie's birthday, I try to scratch-build a recipe. Something new, especially for her.
One of the benefits of being untrained in cooking is that I don't know what's been done before, you see. I can blithely go ahead, put some stuff together, and be pleased with it, neither knowing nor caring if it already exists in some celebrity chef's compendium of recipes somewhere. Therefore, the dish that follows is an original - as far as I'm concerned. Your Mileage May Vary.
Smoked Salmon Salad With Sour Cream, Grilled Vegetables, and Potato Rosti.
Obviously, this one comes in several parts. First, preparing the cream:
I wanted a little texture, so I didn't stick to plain sour cream. I added chopped fresh dill and baby capers and black pepper for flavour, and I used a little gelatine to 'set' the sour cream so I could layer it without having it run everywhere. Pretty easy -- 400ml sour cream, a dessertspoon of gelatine powder, and just enough boiling water to dissolve the gelatine. Whisk the gelatine until it's a bit cooler. Throw in a good handful of chopped fresh dill, a couple tablespoons of pickled baby capers, and whisk the whole lot together. Put it in the fridge to cool.
This was nice and easy. 250gm or so smoked salmon, chopped into little pieces. Four nice, ripe tomatoes, cut into small cubes. A handful of fresh basil leaves, shredded. Sea salt to taste, squeeze of fresh lemon juice over the top, stir the lot together.
The rosti: Oh, come on. Potato rosti, man. Grate the better part of a kilo of fresh, washed potatoes. Squeeze out the moisture. Add a couple eggs, some salt and pepper, and 1/3rd cup of so of self-raising flour. Stir the lot together. Put enough oil in a well-seasoned pan to allow shallow frying. Fry big dollops of the potato mix. Use a metal eggflip to squish your dollops down to about 1cm thick. Turn them once. Fry over moderate heat until both sides are golden brown. (If you wanna get really arty, grease a couple egg-rings and throw them in. Use 'em to confine your rosti into an anal-retentive circle shape.)
The grilled veg: I used big slices of capsicum and garden-fresh zucchini. They got salted and peppered, and coated with olive oil. Then I put them under the grill until they got a bit of colour. Finally, I put them in a bowl and drizzled them with a little balsamic vinegar and a little white truffle oil. (Don't miss that last, if you can. Mmmm!)
Assembly: on each plate, I laid out the zucchini and capsicum slices in a star shape. A potato rosti went into the centre of each star. On top of each rosti I spread a thick layer of the sour cream. And atop that went a couple good dollops of the salmon salad. Finally, I laid some very thin Vidalia onion rings decoratively over the top.
The dish went really, really well with a truly remarkable '03 Pipers Brook Chardonnay cleanskin. The sweetness of the vegetables and balsamic vinegar nicely complemented the smoky, salty salmon, and the tang of lemon, with the tomato and the basil providing lovely, complex aftertastes. The rosti were crunchy on the outside, and firm but soft through the middle, providing a lovely contrast of textures - and the amazing scent of truffles kind of floated through the whole meal.
Natalie actually had two whole plates worth - which is a bit of a miracle, since she's a careful eater. But it really was a wonderful dish.
I finished up with a baked custard (because the chickens have been laying heavily) and stewed blackberries. So now we're all lying around, burping gently...
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Once it was clear that cyclone Yasi hadn't actually eviscerated anybody I know, I dragged the kids out today. We've been blindsided by rain for a few days, and at least once by 30C heat. (Yeah, okay. I know. "That's not hot!" Bite me, you hippies. Down here, 30C is hot.)
We jumped into the Mighty Earth King and roared off in the direction of Lilydale. Cunningly, I told the sproutlets that we were going to walk to Lilydale falls. They weren't overly impressed, but I didn't care. I've lived here for ten years and never bothered to visit Lilydale falls. That seemed like something to remedy on a beautiful, clear summer day.
I did, however, have an even more cunning plan.
The pick-your-own blueberry farm we visit each summer has had an odd year. They've had a week or two without any picking at all, due to (according to their ad in the paper) 'unrippened fruit'. I didn't know whether they'd reopened yet or not, but I figured that I could check as we drove by (since it's on the way to Lilydale), and if it WAS open, I could change the agenda and we could pick blueberries.
It was open. We went picking, to the delight of the kids. An hour and a half and eleven kilos of big, perfect, ripe blueberries later, we decided we'd had enough (filled our buckets!) and headed home.
I'm not surprised they've had issues with ripening the fruit, though. Summer has been cool, and slow in arriving, with unexpected rain. I had good raspberries this year, but the blackberries have been disappointing: affected by fungus, often weak in flavour from heavy rain, and more than a little tart. I'll cut them back drastically in late autumn, dump plenty of blood-and-bone around them just on springtime, and hopefully next summer we'll be swimming in blackberries again.
I really was relieved that cyclone Yasi passed with so little harm to people. Sure, there's property damage, but so far I've only heard two people reported missing, and no major casualties or injuries. That's damned amazing for a storm of that size. I had a phone call from my stepmum this evening. She and my dad live up Mareeba way. She ducked into Mareeba to see out the storm with her sister, in a brick house. Dad stayed at the old wooden place, battening it down.
In Mareeba, the power went out, so my stepmum and her sister played cards by candlelight, and drank champagne. (They do it tough up there, yep.) Dad, however - in that old, wooden place well outside the town proper - eh. The power never went out. He just sat and watched the one-day cricket-match to its conclusion.
So much for their cyclonic experience.
Back on planet Oz, though, there's that buffoon Tony Abbott again. I hear he's made some sort of halfwitted retraction for that signed letter he sent out, requesting donations to fight against the flood levy. Yeah, fine: retract away, Tony. Like it makes a difference.
It does fascinate me, though: the difference between social conservative voters (as opposed to fiscal conservatives such as Paul Boylan, who has a disturbing habit of demonstrating both compassion and rationality) and liberal/progressive voters. I'm aware of the research linking conservatism with fear-dominated thinking, yes. I am also aware of the research which indicates that hardcore social conservatives really don't respond to logic or rational debate - that confronted with evidence which disproves their pet theories, they are actually MORE likely to believe those theories than they were before.
And it's scary. Because, of course, if you are a fundamentally rational person with a live-and-let-live approach; if you believe in tolerance as a principle, and in debate and discourse as a means to discovering a path to acceptable social policy -- you are by definition incapable of working with these people. Further: the only effective way to oppose them is either to be fortunate enough to outnumber them and to live in a country where tolerance, debate, and discourse are ensrhined constitutionally and in the national character... or to compromise your own principles by taking a hard line against these idiots.
Take this latest caper from that craphound Abbott. If you take a pace back, and consider what's going on: on one hand, you have a government which has with obvious reluctance raised the issue of a one-off levy to find the money to make infrastructure repairs in the wake of the most damaging natural disaster of a generation... or even more. And on the other hand, you have an Opposition leader who is asking for money from people so he can campaign AGAINST raising this levy.
There really is no way to put a nice face on it. It's the act of a man without conscience or empathy. Sure, he can oppose this levy on ideological grounds (although you have to wonder about that, in the wake of all the goddam levies the Howard government created: the gun buy-back, the Stevedore affair, the Ansett collapse, and the milk thing... I think there were others, but that's all I can remember off the top of my head.) but to produce that kind of thing even while the same state slammed by floods is being blasted by the biggest cyclone in Australian history shows a lack of empathy worthy of a genuine sociopath.
And yet if you read the debate playing out in various columns and blogs around the country, time and again you see the reactionary/conservatives defending Abbott, and desperately trying to put the boot into Gillard. Some very few are prepared to admit they are embarrassed by Abbott's behaviour. Most simply continue with the same ideology-driven ranting drivel; screaming about 'taxes' and the 'battlers' and the 'fiscal irresponsibility of Labor'.
No embarrassment. No acknowledgement. Nothing.
If a Kevin Rudd or a Julia Gillard or even a Paul Keating pulled a stunt like that, it would be the end of them. Not because the Labor party is particularly progressive, but because Labor does depend on votes from the progressive end of the spectrum... and progressive voters are prepared to stop supporting candidates who do not behave appropriately. (Because we're 'weak', you see.)
It really does raise a question, one which keeps arising when I watch US politics too: what would it take seriously to discredit a conservative 'hero' like Abbott?
In the US, Republican politicians have rampant gay sex in public toilets, snort cocaine, embezzle -- hell, I doubt I can list it all. And yet all they have to do is break down, announce that they're sorry and that they're making nice with God, and voila! It's all forgotten.
Here? I dunno. I'm really curious. I wonder what it would take for Abbott's zombie army to wake up and smell the horseshit. A dead hooker? A kilo or two of coke? A closet full of leather-wearing gay soccer stars? Co-star role in a pedophilic snuff movie? What?
There really ought to be some kind of experiment done. It would be fascinating to see just how much degeneracy, depravity, corruption and bastardry the average hardcore social conservative can handle before the cognitive dissonance makes them explode with rage. I realise that the ethics of such experimentation would be tricky... but on the other hand, if we just let the stupid fuckers govern for a while, I'm sure they can fix the ethical obstacles for us, eh? I mean, who really needs ethics in science if there's corporate money to be made?
Not Tony Abbott, one strongly suspects.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Man, Queensland's copping it. Cyclone Yasi -- that is the biggest murtherin' storm I've ever seen on Australian radar. Category five, headed for Innisfail. (Guess we're going to be paying a fortune for bananas again.)
Silliness aside... I'm nervous. My Dad lives up on the Atherton tablelands along with my stepmum. They reckon it'll still be Category Two when it blows through their place.
Dad's no fool. He's got the place taped up and battened down, and Rose has already trundled off to her sister's brick and concrete place. But a storm this size... fuck. And then there are my Cairns-based friends.
I'm kinda chewing my nails here. I went through a few cyclones as a kid. They were a bit scary during the blowy part, but afterwards the rain and flooding were pretty much just an irritation, for a kid. Power outages, roads cut - yeah, we'd eat tinned food for a few days, read by candlelight, take cold showers.
But nothing I went through was bigger than Category 3. And this thing... it's a friggin' monster.
Take care, those of you in that part of the world. Look after each other.
Meanwhile, down here in Tas it's Natalie's birthday.... yay!
There's the Mau-mau applying rainbow sprinkles to the epic two-story chocolate cake I baked. The Mau-mau is of the opinion that there's nothing which cannot be improved with a liberal spray of rainbow sprinkles.
That's the cake-beast from above. Two layers of rich chocolate cake with a layer of home-made raspberry/lemon jam between, and vanilla-cream icing. The writing on top is... kind of messy. I admit this. It isn't easy to write in pink vanilla-cream icing using an empty syringe as your piping bag, you see.
I wouldn't have it any other way, though. There's something about using an empty syringe to decorate a doctor's birthday cake which is just... proper.
She got two Wii games, a couple of books, a couple more books -- and flogging great 1.5 terabyte external backup drive, plus a promise from yours truly that I will back up her damned computer every week or two.
I mean - she did finally get rid of Vista, after all. It's the least I can do.