Saturday, January 27, 2007

A Night at the Races

Given the current penchant for recycling, it is surprising that no one thought of it sooner. Some capitalistic minded individuals have come up with way of reusing something way beyond its sell by date: the humble horse race. Yes, at a Race Night, you can place your bets on a steeplechase that has already been run. It sounds like a sure fire winner doesn't it, except that when you lay down that hard earned cash, no one knows which DVD will get stashed in the slot and consequently which equine will come out on top.

It's the latest money spinning idea for your favourite good cause, and last Friday, we were there in aid of the school PTA. 'Mr T' was in town, with his smooth DJ patter and box of yesteryears nags outings. Basically any race with eight horses will do. The identities on the video are suitably anonymised and simply replaced with their numbers, to allow for maximum flexibility and re-usability. The commentary has been re-voiced to use their numerical classifications and helpful banners are super-imposed to show race order and the eventual winner.

All you as the casual punter have to do is to make your selection from the race card with its innuendo-laden sobriquets and make your way to the Tote table, where you purchase the requisite number of one pound tickets for your chosen steed. When all have taken their fill at the table of betting plenty, Mr T selects a disc, puts it in the player, and they are off and running on the big screen.

Five minutes of screaming by the assembled baying crowd later and you have lost your money, or at least that's what happened to me. My selections, using the blunt pin of good fortune in the race card of destiny, rose, shone briefly, if I was lucky, before fading away to end the race a few lengths shy of the winner. At least it was all in a good cause: fifty percent of the pot went to the PTA, and it was a highly entertaining way of spending an evening in the company of like minded individuals, or 'other parents' as we like to call them.

Just call me 'lucky' eh?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Technorati and Wioneers

What's a Wioneer then? I have just coined the term to describe a Web Pioneer: someone who is making waves on the web today and really doing something new. Perhaps you have your own picks for Wioneer of 2006 - it really is a bit early to be choosing them for 2007.

My votes are for Tantek Celik of Technorati, the blog and other tagged item aggregator, whose wioneering work includes inventing microformats, a way of showing the meaning of all that text in your web page, such as dates of events, contact information and tags themselves. This is the beginning of the third wave of web ideas: search engines will be able to distinguish people, places, happenings and products rather than a sea of words that they don't understand.

Tantek gets the vote for Global Wioneer of 2006 and my local choice would be Gill Durrant, current Mayor of Newbury for her solo project to document her entire mayoral year in blog form. Surely this must be a first, and shows the sheer amount of voluntary hard work and dedication put in by the holder of that office. In previous years all we had to go on was the news that made it into the local rag, but now we have every function, every opening, every good community deed. Well done.

Speaking of Technorati though, I'm now a member, so lets see what that brings. Perhaps a few other West Berks Bloggers would like to join me in my overall blog tag. We'll see what happens.

See my Technorati Profile.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Boxing Clever

It must be a sign of the times that all manner of goods can now be delivered to your door following some furtive ferretting about at a website or three, but surely the most rewarding must be opening your front door once a week to find a box of organic produce sitting on your doorstep.

I know that organic food is now officially a lifestyle choice, according to a quote by Environment Secretary David Miliband, but is a choice that an increasing number of people are beginning to take. That box of vegetables positively communes you with nature, as you extract the contents, which you feel have been plucked from the ground, merely shaken free of excess soil and placed lovingly in the cardboard receptacle.

This is food that hasn't been mucked around with before it reaches you. It is raw produce in a raw state, not some pristine, blemish free, washed, screened, sanitised vegetable that graces the supermarket shelves. That's not to mention the variety. Before we started receiving the weekly dose of goodness, I wouldn't have recognised a Swiss Chard or a Jerusalem Artichoke if my life were to depend on it. Of course, there is the weekly 'and what's this?" question, as another knobbly item pops out of the container, followed by a swift perusal of the contents list, but helpfully there are quite often recipe ideas included, and we usually end up with some tasty dish as a result.

So Mr Miliband, even if you are correct in your assertion that organic produce is no better than the factory farmed varieties, then at least I feel ten times healthier as a result of a more varied diet, with more green leafed anti-oxidising recipe ingredients than you could shake a tractor at. This new diet has taken some trial and error though. At first we opted for produce delivered by the milkman, which appealed to me as being the greenest way to receive your greens, but the variety just wasn't there. Week after week we would open the box to find that it was deathly similar to the week before, and there are only so many dishes you can make with a chard before you get 'green fatigue'. The second supplier was Riverford Organics, although this didn't seem very good value - admittedly we only tried one delivery.

Finally we opted for Able and Cole, which scores very highly on the quality and variety front, and seems to be the best value. We get the 'Family Organic Box' which serves our complete greengrocery needs for the week, as it contains both fruits and vegetables. The healthier diet has expanded along two axes. In fact, almost our entire Christmas menu last year was supplied by them, and consequently our waistlines have expanded along the same lines.

New for 2007 in the Rod K household, is the arrival of another ice-packed, insulated container full of organic meat, from the nearby Sheepdrove Farm. This carnivores behemoth will probably keep us in butchery products for a month. We have taken the plunge to see if we can enlarge our repertoire of culinary ideas and to see if we can cut out visits to the supermarket except for non-fresh items. It is early days so watch this space. All we need now is to find fish and eggs - not for the same meal - although there's always kedgeree - and we will be laughing.

It does help that the smaller members of the family have been raised not to be as fussy as I am ashamed to say I was when I was a child. They are reasonably up for trying new dishes and ingredients. The incentive tends to be that 'nothing' is the alternative, so that usually does the trick.

As I said at the beginning - it may be a lifestyle choice, but that's the lifestyle for me.