Bhutan, Meditation, Bread, Learning, Friends, Family, Music, Books, MT

Saturday, December 31, 2011


Happy New Year and thanks for looking.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


A wonderful friend sent me this book recently.
It is about a maths professor with only 8 minutes of short-term memory and his housekeeper. I am guessing that he has the housekeeper for more than 8 minutes.
Thank you so much T.

And The Junction bookshop, down near the main traffic, provided the other book that will keep me company in the upper Paro valley.
I thought about stealing it off the shelves. I mean, what else could you do?

I will be away from the 28th November to the 14th December. Expect to hear from me shortly after my return. If a miracle happens, and I spurt upwards, then expect to hear from me longly.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


See the door?
Not so unusual here in Bhutan. The latch, I mean.
All the doors in our old apartment were like that. Yes, that includes the inside ones too. You could lock them from either side. Well, some of the bolts did not quite line up, so it took a bit of pushing and shoving.
People could also lock you inside your house. That happens sometimes.
Something like that happened to Elaine and Terence when they were in their hotel room in Thimphu. That was a slightly different problem. That door had a handle. It fell off while they were inside. They called up room service. They came up promptly to the room to help, closing the door behind them. Then they had to call out to passers-by below to get someone to come up and let them out.
Our new apartment has Yale locks with handles on all the doors. The kind that you can lock by pushing a button. Just pull the door behind you, and it is locked tight. We had these in the Family Mansion. Not on all the doors though ... just the outside doors, and the toilets. There was a spare key somewhere on the back porch for when we locked ourselves out of the house by mistake. Now, I cannot remember where exactly. I could not remember 30 years ago either, but managed to locate it in the end. The toilet door did not have a key. When it got locked with nobody inside, I had to climb through the window. Dad could remove a couple of the shutters and that gave me enough space to squeeze through. I was a tad smaller then. Good at climbing trees.

Here, all the doors have keys. The keys are in constant use because that wee knob gets pushed accidentally, then the door is closed, locking it. The Bhutanese members of my family are still not used to the door handles.
"Stop slamming the door," Mum always used to call out.
I did not know why. I was not aware of what I was doing.
Now I am. If you pull the doors sharply, you don't have to turn the door nob.
It makes a lot of noise though.

If only they could turn the door knob.But I should not complain. They look after me very well.

Friday, November 25, 2011


What will I have for breakfast at Drukgyel?
Yesterday, I was reading the instructions on the oats packet. "Put 35g in plate then add 200 ml of hot water."
What? No need to stir for 10 minutes? No roasting the flakes gently to bring out the flavour? No need for a pot? This was ideal. But how would it taste?
This morning, I tried it. It passed. Ok, it does not feel like real porridge when you don't get to stir it, or watch the bubbles glumping up. Frogs. It is like frogs croaking. This is what I remember when Dad made porridge in the morning. Dad did not make porridge, porridge made Dad.
This need for speed reminds me of another couple of stories...
One was up in a mountain hut in NZ. I used to do a bit of tramping. Most was with my high school club. Making breakfast in the mountains needs speed, and a minimal set of kitchen equipment. What I saw one climber doing was questionable though. Not at all appetising. The red saveloys looked nice. And so did the porridge. But when they were cooked together, the layer of fat from the red saveloys was layered on top of the porridge. No thank you!
The other story also has a setting in the mountains. It was a school camp. The students had to spend a night out in tents. Their challenge was to build a fire and cook dinner. One of the items was a sausage. The idea was to pierce it with a stick, then roast it over the embers. Stuart saw an easier way. He preferred to save energy. That is a nice way of saying he was dead lazy. He did not bother cooking the sausage. No, he just ate it raw. Now that was fast. He was still alive the next morning.

If you have not sampled the blogs of Jon and Zeb when they were in Bhutan last year, then I highly recommend it. Here are Jon and Zeb writing about their encounters with food in Bhutan:

Jon here and Zeb over here. I really miss those two.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Leak Proof? What's that on the second battery then?


I won't be going to Kuenga High School after all.
School got a request for me to swap over to Drukgyel High, further up the Paro Valley. We agreed to the swap. I am going with two other teachers from school. Lopen Ugyen is one of them.

By some strange coincidence (most coincidences are strange, aren't they?) I had a photo of Drukyel Dzong a few posts ago. The school is not far from there.
Now I am planning what to take. This is quite exciting and interesting for me, but probably not for you. Too bad though. It is my blog!
I like to travel light. If I can get away with less, then that is what I will take. Ideally, just the clothes I wear and necessary changes. My initial plan was to take my bike. That would give me some freedom, and a chance to visit further away places. Paro town is quite a distance away. However, a bike would mean extra things .... for example, cycling shoes and cycling pants. So, cancel the bike. Will I take a pillow? Probably not. Just a pillow case will be enough as I can stuff that with something soft. Marion is lending me a sleeping bag and Letho promised me one of those thin sleeping mats. One pair of shoes should be plenty. Matthew gave me a pair of shoes that did not fit him. They are still going. Not strong, but going. The stuffing is coming out of the back of the heel. Ugyen wants me to replace them, but a new pair from here would not be up to the old pair from there. Paro is going to be quite cold, so I want to take a warmer pair of trousers for evening wear. Some lovely Japanese students from Yokaichi gave me a nice thick shirt. That is still going very strong and will do nicely for exam duty. Hopefully that will last a week. When I left Japan, I got a very warm down jacket from one of the outlet stores near the airport. There is so much down, and a large hood that does not detach, so it does not pack down as much as I hoped. I have to turn sideways when I go through doors. Did you ever see that man made of tyres? He was the symbol for some brand. Michelin. No, I remember someone called 'Sam, Sam, the Bicycle Man'. Can any of you remember him? There is a small hole which I asked Matthew to find a patch for. He did. He posted it too. But it never made it. The post to Bhutan sometimes goes astray. Nice merino hats and sleeping bag liners have been swiped too. But I digress.
Are you still there?
Yes, the jacket. That will be good. If the nights are too cold for the bag that Marion gives me, I can sleep in the jacket. On the Sunday, I can wash the shirt. Instead of washing t-shirts, I can take enough to last. They don't take up much space. Maybe take an extra shirt too. There is just on thing that cannot go more than one day without cleaning. Something that I cannot do without.
Isn't it time that some cunning scientist came up with socks that could be worn for a week?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I got a short message from Karma, in response to yesterday's 'Ugyen' post.
"Please write about me :)" 
He could really mean not to write about him, playing some kind of double entendre. 
But I am not sure, so I will write about him. 
I have not spoken to him much since he returned from studying in America. Now his messages come to me with 'Written on my glorious iPhone' or 'From my new and fancy iPad' attached on the bottom. (A little poetic license on my part there.)
It would be nice to get together with him for a decent chat. Conversations with Karma are always very stimulating. He has lots of good ideas. Creative thoughts. 
And if he is tired of his boring old iPad, he might give it to me.
You can read of an earlier adventure to Phajoding with Karma here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Ugyen said not to write about her. So I won't.


This morning, some time between 4 and 5, I found this article on Leonardo da Vinci's notebook. The article goes on to talk about creativity, and how being able to let the reins loose brings about more ideas. Interesting.

This links in with something I was pondering the other day... diaries. The diary I have at school is more of a to-do list. Not quite as exciting as Leonardo's one. As I cycle to school most days, and that involves a long uphill climb home, I keep the diary at school most days. Trust me, the few grammes saved make a difference. In the past, my diaries have included more personal notes. When reading a book, I would find a quote and jot it down for future reference. If I saw something of interest, that would be recorded. Recipes that I saw on TV were written down throughout the diary. My bookshelf has diaries going back over the years. I cannot throw them out, even though I hardly ever refer to them. Throwing away a diary seems like throwing away your past. That could be a good thing.

My daily emails to Don now record some of my daily activities. You can read more about Don here. There are 1105 of those mails now. So, the computer could be a good place to keep a diary. There are many choices of software. A simple text programme would do fine, but then you do not get the calendar. Day One is a nice looking application for the Mac computer. I thought about getting that. I thought some more, and realised that I like having a book that I can carry with me. Something that you do not have to plug in to recharge. A thing that looks like a diary. Joe and Jenny gave me a beautiful leather bound book that looks just like the image of Leonardo's diary. That was a year ago, and the book has hardly been touched.

Next week, I am going over to Kuenga High, in Paro, to do invigilation duty. That means watching students sit their exams. Three hours of enforced meditation. I will be staying there without internet access for a couple of weeks. There won't be the daily mails to Don. It is going to be a change not having the internet. When I first came to Bhutan, one of the things I liked was not having the comforts of home. No phone to interrupt. No electrical appliances to fail on you, just when you needed them. No washing machine .... well, I did miss that. And no TV. There was time to sit and read again.

And write notes in a diary.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


I walked into town the other day. Thimphu is the capital city of Bhutan. Having lived here for 10 years, about 20% of my present life, I am used to most things I see there. Today, I tried to see things through fresh eyes again. What were some sights that viewers from outside Bhutan would not see in their cities? These are some of the photos:

Saturday, November 19, 2011


There is a magnificent collection of photos from Bhutan on The Atlantic website here.

I am hoping they will tempt some of my family and friends to make a visit.

The photo above is part of the Eyeamempty Exhibition, currently showing on Mark's Mac. It is a shot of Drukyal Dzong in the upper Paro valley, a Dzong built in 1649 which was destroyed by fire in the early 1950's.

Friday, November 18, 2011


If you go to Wolfram Alpha and search for "planes overhead" you get a list of planes in the sky above your location, and a wee map showing them all. Apparently. I tried it, and there was nothing. That, or it did not work.
I wonder if it includes the International Space Station. Those in NZ may be interested in that. They dump their rubbish over NZ. See the article here. Carry an umbrella if the space station is up there. Those outside NZ may be interested because they don't have to worry!

What I like about searching on Wolfram Alpha is that you don't get all those ads. And you get the answer instead of a link to the answer. Well, the answer may not be what you expect...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

More Porridge

I have talked about porridge before. The Guardian has another post on the perfect porridge here. I am not sure if my oats are pinheads or rolled. There is not much choice here. They come in a plastic jar, are packed in India, and originate in Australia (or so they say). One thing I am trying, is to toast the oats first. This does give a nuttier flavour. Earlier in my life, I was exploring dal recipes, and found the same thing there. Spend the first few minutes tossing the lentils in a dry frying pan before you boil the hell out of them in the pressure cooker and the taste improves. While the Guardian suggests that salt is a must, I leave it out. Not because I am worried about my salt intake, but because it was too...umm... what's the word ... salty.  But I was put off brown sugar after reading a New York Times article about the toxicity of sugar. Read it here. My preferred topping is honey. I think my cooking raisins in the porridge phase is over.
What do all my beloved readers have for breakfast?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


The term 'cousin' is a bit imprecise, here in Bhutan. Well, so are the terms 'brother' and 'sister'. Those two terms can refer to someone from the same village. When you get 'cousin-sister' you know things have become a little twisted. When my students bring their 'sister' to collect their school reports, I have to ask "Real sister?"

Wikipedia is very helpful, with a mathematical definition for us (click on it for a more readable size):

Got that? Maths .... the universal language, eh?
What the heck is 'consanguinity'? Is that some kind of integral?
I am working on a modification which includes the Bhutanese term. I think I will need x and y to be negatives ... or imaginary numbers.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Hey, look at today's date. All those ones at the end.

Oh, last Friday was all ones. I missed it.

11-11-11 slipped by me, even though I had been reminded of it the day before, and vowed to honour it. It happened to coincide with several grand occasions here in Bhutan. First, it is the fourth king's birthday, Constitution Day and most importantly, Children's Day. That meant we had to go to school and celebrate with the students (those that could be bothered turning up). There are some photos in the Pelkhil School photo gallery:
Click on "Children's Day". If you click on "Awaiting HM's Arrival" you will see some of my photos from when we waited 6 hours for the king to arrive in Thimphu with his new queen.

If you want some mathematical celebrations from 11-11-11, have a look here: Highly recommended. You should.

The Quake ... it's old news

There was an earthquake in Bhutan on Sunday 18th September, 2011. The quake is known as the 2011 Sikkim Earthquake. Wikipedia has information on it here.

This is my report, which I sent to my friends in Christchurch this morning. I know. A little late!

Dear Elaine and Terence

Thanks for the nice photos. Stephanie sent me some photos from her trip into town last weekend, and I have seen some videos of the damage. Then all those aftershocks. Shocking. Our shock was a oncer. I was watching TV and then that familiar noise began. A rattling of the doors. The TV kept going, and the power. I thought, oh yeah, another wee quake. I continued watching TV. I'm from Christchurch. Tough as old boots. The shaking kept going. Oh. What to do? The TV did not worry. Ugyen was down in another room. Angay was in the altar room, probably spinning her prayer wheel a lot faster. There are no dinner tables to dive under. The construction of these tall apartment buildings with lots of bricks worried me. At least if I were in Christchurch, buildings would not fall down. Oh, maybe they would. I headed down to the bedroom. It was still rattling. Not furious, but constant. I have a table that this computer is on. But it stopped before I got under. Ugyen and Angay appeared. It annoyed me that I had been more concerned about my own safety than theirs. There was little damage to the place. A pile of magazines in the sitting room had toppled. The books had fallen off the bookshelf in my bedroom. The TV was still going. I changed over to BBS to see the reports. There were none! The live interview was continuing, and they never broke away to report on the quake. Very strange.
People from the apartment were gathering outside. I watched them from the window. It was more interesting than the TV. Power was still on. Water was still on. This was nothing compared with Christchurch. Our apartment is tucked up into a valley, and we cannot see town. I imagined places having toppled. Piles of bricks. Cracks in roads. Hillsides sliding away. I saw no point in going outside. Ugyen told me I had to. Ludup, who had returned from town, came in to the room to ask if I was coming out. I said no. A belligerent no. No, obstinant. Intractable. Well, dogged and brave. Not at all pertinacious. (Thanks Mr Thesaurus). "Is someone going to tell you when to come back inside?" I asked, in a very friendly way. Ugyen said that her friend had told her there might be an aftershock at 10 p.m. Oh, I said, and went to bed. There had still not been any report on the TV. 
The next day, we had to fill up our big red bucket with water. The owner said the water tank had cracked. That was all we suffered. A day without water in the tap. Oh, and I had to straighten the pile of magazines. Nobody helped me! And the books. I got a little tired doing that. There were no landslides to negotiate on the bike ride to school. No piles of bricks that used to be apartments. Things looked about the same as pre-quake. There were lots of cracks in the school buildings, but the owner assured us they were not structural. School as normal. But we did have an earthquake drill. The sign for that is a long ringing of the bell. We all run outside with a book held over our heads. Some of us have to stay back and pretend to be injured. I wonder if we have to do this in a real quake.

The blog has been dormant for some time now. I may just post this wee message. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Are any readers still out there?
I am not dead. Not yet.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


How the Irish police tracked down Prawo Jazdy, a serial offender who had evaded justice with a cunning ploy.

The story is here.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Mango Lassi

Another bit of our family language was Dr Turner's Health Drink. Dad was known for his culinary skills, having lured mum with his steak and kidney pie. He made her initials out of pastry. I recall mum keeping those for some time. Mum had a super-duper Kenwood mixer. One of the attachments was a mincer, and I remember being fascinated watching the worms spiral out the end. Dad found a use for the blender. He regularly mixed up his so-called health drink. Perhaps dad can give us the recipe. I remember bananas being one essential ingredient, and there was probably a few scoops of ice-cream. I guess the ice-cream was the healthy part!
There is a blender here. Ugyen won in it in a raffle. She used it once to mix up suja, the local blend of tea, butter and salt. Another health drink. However, she did not put the lid on securely and ended up plastering the kitchen and her face with hot suja. She put the blender away and never used it again. I found it covered in dust, and resurrected it to whizz up a rather nice spinach-paneer curry.
I found a recipe for mango lassi recently. It could be made with a blender, but I just use a whisk. It is damn easy to make. Ludup never says no to a glass of Mark's Mango. I love the Bhutanese respect for the aged and infirm.
To make the mango lassi mix yogurt and mango juice in equal quantities. Add a pinch of cardamom, a squeeze of lime juice and whisk away.
Serve in a tall glass with the blue Himalayan sky in the background.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Things I Miss 5

The bottom element in my oven.
Just a few days ago, I was trying out a nice looking recipe from Dan Lepard (he writes for the Guardian) for semolina BBQ buns. The recipe is here. Read the forum for some details from Dan on scoring the tops of the buns. The buns are not separated after cutting and the scoring is done by pushing a butter knife right down to the base.
I let my buns rise for over an hour, but it was quite a cold day. Apparently breads rise faster at altitude. The explanation requires an advanced degree in physics and biology.
After 20 minutes in the oven, the buns looked great. On top. Then I noticed that the underside (the ass ... arse?) was still very moist and not nicely browned like the tops. Had I made the dough too hydrated? After flipping the buns over and baking them longer, they came out quite well. Perhaps not as well-risen as expected.
Then I realised that the bottom rod was not hot. No cozy glow. A cold black. That would explain things. The next problem was the two loaves well and truly risen, and needing a good baking in a hot oven. I used all my mechanical skill to repair the oven. That meant turning it off, waiting a few minutes, then turning it on again. That often works with the computer. Not with the oven. Twiddling the dial to Grill, Toast, Warm and then back to bake had no effect either. I waited more. Patience. That is the solution.
The oven temperature did not get above 150. There were plans to make a visit to Letho at the Ambient Cafe. They have installed a new oven there. Ideal for baking bread. No. In the end, I stuck with my disabled oven. The bread was cooked and edible, but rather flat and insipid.
Yesterday, I took the oven to the appliance store. He was a nice man. Very helpful. The diagnosis was very fast, no need to even plug the thing in. But the news was not good. They did not have any "rods". The last customer that had this problem is still waiting for the part to come.
"How long?"
"We cannot say. It comes from India."
"What .... months, years?"
He took my phone number and wrote some details in his diary. Then he phoned up the supplier. Or was it his mother?
Now, I have a very large toaster that looks like an oven. And I am exploring recipes like Grilled Lebanese Flatbread. See the recipe here.
But I do miss my oven.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

For the lard lads

This cannot really go as one of the things that I miss. I cannot even remember if I ever ate it much. Lard comes up in conversation with Matthew. It comes as an adjective for the arses of several Kiwi cricket players. Matthew prefers "arse", but others use "ass". Matthew uses ass for hoofed animal of the horse family. He is not alone.

Anyway, I just came across an article defending lard. Here it is.
That lard is both "healthier" than butter and yet so despised shows the empty logic of the standard position. The fat amply qualifies as "real food", that definition popularised by Michael Pollan as "the sort of food our great grandmothers would recognise as food".

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Things I Miss 4

While I do miss my sister, today's thing is Fish and Chips. And I will include wine too. There is a beer in the photos too, but I was never a big drinker of beer. Besides, we get some decent beers here.
F 'n' C ("Feeshers" in the Turner dialect) is something that I pine for when I get home on Friday and do not feel like cooking. The ability to jump on the bike and ride a few minutes to a supply of something hot and greasy. Not necessarily healthy, and not always that great tasting. But fast, relatively cheap, and filling. There are no fish and chips shops here. You can get fish and chips at some of the restaurants. But who eats fish and chips at a restaurant?
Wine is available too, but it costs the earth. And tastes like it.
The other night I attempted to make my own fish and chips. The chips came out quite well. The fish came from a packet. Frozen. Thin. Lots of crumbs. Not much fish. Two thin rectangles masquerading as two chunks of meaty fish covered in batter. They were pathetic.
Something else is missing here. It is the culture. The shared understanding.
"Two fish, one scoop?" would be met with a blank stare here.
Back home, Matthew would be heading to get his bike to join me.
Note: I stand corrected. The word was "Feeshies" or "Feeshees". Turner Talk was a spoken language, never a written one.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Stephen Wolfram and tedious mathematics

There is an article at the Guardian about Stephen Wolfram, the person behind Wolfram|Alpha. Here.

Below is what he says about people losing the ability to perform (tedious) mathematics by hand because now computers do it for them:

 "There was a time when we had to cut feathers to make our own pens. Gradually more levels of civilisation and automation happen, and this is another such layer," he says. "What should happen is that you can build on to what is now automated and do the next level of stuff, where you need to add the human touch." It also cuts both ways since, if calculus is mechanised, this opens up new worlds for students for whom solving problems by hand was too difficult.
And I agree. For the last few days I have been going through the new maths text for class 12 here in Bhutan. The chapter was on something called determinants of matrices. There are 12 rules to learn, and then puzzle how to apply them. It is rather like a game of chess, where you have to see several moves ahead. The problems are made harder by using variables instead of numbers. Why? I waded through twenty worked examples trying to see some pattern in the methods. Trying to see some way to explain to the students how they could work out what to do. Their method is to learn them all by heart.

I shared my thoughts with Don, my Canadian friend. He is a real mathematician. This is what he said:
 "If you are serious about needing the value of a determinant it will be numbers and you do it on a computer. What you are learning is a lost art and it should be! It is a little silly to require people to learn all those rules.

I hope someone from the curriculum division is taking notes!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Things I Miss 3

Mussels. Smoked mussels. Fresh mussels cooked with wine.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

We've won the World Cup!

Yes, NZ have won the World Cup for one day cricket.
Not exactly won it yet, but ...

Kyle Mills backs Black Caps to peak in India

When you have been at the lowest point ever, a peak is not very high.
A bit like the "low clouds" here being above the highest mountain in NZ.
No, that does not quite match. You know what I mean, don't you?
Good luck to the team, anyway.

Things I Miss 2


Water that just comes when you turn on the tap.
A few years ago, the water was fine. In the weekend, when everyone in the apartment washed clothes, the water would run out. There would be a few hours without running water.
Now, we get an hour when water trickles, and not every day. Yesterday, there was none.
We have to manage things. When we hear the water, we man the buckets. Not all the taps go. In the kitchen, there is a large red bucket. Water gets ferried from the bathroom to the kitchen. Then other buckets are filled up and left in the bathrooms.
Today, the red bucket is nearly empty, and the bathroom ones are all empty. That means trips down to the outside tap. The down is easy. The up four flights with laden buckets is more tiresome.
But we are not as badly off as others. Now, out the window, I see people from other apartment buildings carrying their buckets to the tap at the neighbouring construction site. That tap must have running water.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Things I Miss 1

Another series.
Ashley teaches at the same school as me. She comes from America.
Last I saw her, she was heading down to India, via the border town Phuntsholing.
Astute readers will remember this as the place where I crossed into India on my dash across the plains to Nepal. Nar will remember that trip.
Ashley sent me an email a few weeks ago. She was making a trip back to the States, and would I like anything? A magnanimous offer indeed. It set me on a path of desire.
It is best not to think about what I want, when most is beyond me.
Anyway, here are some of the things I miss.

Going to the mailbox to check for mail. Here, houses do not have them! No people riding around to deliver the mail. At least I don't have to face the disappointment of an empty box.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Anyone for Tea?

We get use to things being done a certain way. Some of us then close our minds to alternatives.
Ugyen was away for a two-week course. Ludup went with her. Deki, Nono and Angay were also away. I was left alone. Alone, but not lonely. One of the things I did was make tea again. The drink.
Tea in Bhutan is made the Indian way, unless it is made the Tibetan way with salt and butter. That means the tea comes with sugar (usually lots) and milk. The milk comes as a white powder with sweetener included. I am not sure that it is milk. It makes the tea white.
It must be the only thing that does not have chili in it.
There is no tea-pot in the house. The tea is made in a big pot, and then transferred to a flask. The leaves get strained out.
Now most of this goes against all the tea-making tradition I was brought up with. So I had to relearn. Not that it was difficult.
I often watched Ugyen making the "tea". She uses her hand to measure things out, then tastes to check. The tea comes out quite pale, very sweet and tasting little of tea. But nice all the same. Like her. Though she is not so pale. She does taste little of tea, and is very sweet!
Luckily, Skye Gyngell, of the Guardian, had an article about cardamom, and one of the recipes was for chai. Perfect! The quantities were given in spoonfuls. I was in my element. Skye Gyngell's recipe for chai. His recipe uses fresh milk.
When Ugyen returned, I decided to surprise her the first morning by making the tea. When she came in to the kitchen and found me boiling the water and tea before adding the milk, she was appalled.
"Take the pot to the kettle, not the kettle to the pot," I tried to cry.
"Don't stew the tea," I pleaded.
"One for each person, and one for the pot."
All to no avail. I was pushed out of the kitchen and Ugyen started shoveling in the dairy whitener.
"We make tea the Indian way," she muttered.
As if tea came from India!
Where did it come from?

This article, India's Passion for Tea, has another story about the meeting of two teas. Plus some interesting facts about the clay pots that tea used to be served in. They have been replaced by disposable plastic cups. And boy, do they make a mess of the ground. You cannot find rubbish bins in India. No need for a bin, just toss it on the ground.

Have a nice cuppa.

Friday, February 4, 2011


My brother Matthew has started his first novel.
After playing with Wolfram|Alpha the other day, I thought I would give it a real test.
First I entered "write novel." Sometimes you just have to try the obvious.
Wolfram failed quite miserably, but I was expecting a bit much. And there was some interesting stuff:

Then I tried again. Spiders can build webs, and I can write a novel for my brother.
This time I was smarter. "write novel for Matthew."
It is going to be a very small book, but could be a real hit ....

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Happy Losar

Today is the start of Bhutan's New Year.
Happy Losar to all.
Here is the first line of the Bhutanese year.

You see the Dzongkha script. The red numerals are for holidays.
The observant will notice that both days have the same Bhutanese number (that is a one).
This happens on other days in the calendar. It is something to do with the calendar being based on the moon. I imagine this conversation...
"See you on the 1st, then."
"Oh, which one?"

The first month of the year is auspicious, and so no meat is to be sold. Many people have been stocking up at the meat shops. Meat may not be for sale, but that will not stop them eating it. Interesting that some Buddhists can eat meat.


The following link is especially for Matthew, Keiko, Tomoyo and Hideo. Others may look too.
Extra Sips of Sake.

The next one is for Stephanie and family.
But first, a neat story from David Leite, who puts together Leite's Culinaria...

"My dear friend Roland, who hails from the Dordogne region of France, once told me that his grandmother would make him take a crepe to the chicken coop on La Chandeleur to encourage the Egg Gods to be generous. “You know, the chickens only ate half the crepe,” he said. I leaned in, eager to unravel the uncommon willpower of these French fowl. “Why?” I asked. “Because I ate the other half on the way to the chicken coop,” he laughed."
Now the link: Crepes.

I have not found anything for Martin yet!
Hold on, Martin and Machiko can read How Meditation May Change the Brain.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Neat Software

John Gruber of Daring Fireball has a post here about some software designed to create digital books. But taking books beyond the paper.
Now I have to buy an iPad to go with my iPhone. 
Check out Push Pop Press.
Should they still be called books?


At the Ambient Cafe yesterday, Letho was telling me of plans for new granite tops.
He said granite to rhyme with night, stressing the last syllable.
I told him how I pronounced it. Then I tried to think of other words that had a similar spelling and pronunciation. Pronunciation was often spelt wrongly by instructors at the English language school I taught at in Japan.
"His pronounciation is poor, and so is his grammer."

It took a long time to come up with other words. Last night, as I was trying to get to sleep, my mind was still working. I was interested in how I tackled the problem. It seemed quite a different process to a mathematical problem. One technique, which I use when I forget .... what are those things called....words, is to go through alphabet. Oh, that is a systematic approach, which is used in maths. At another stage, I found myself thinking visually. When spell, I like to see how a word looks.

The first word I came up with was composite. Opposite quickly followed. There were a couple more, but I did not write them down, and cannot remember them.  What I really wanted was a word ending in nite that sounded nit. Favourite came later, then one of the cakes in the cafe spurred on carrot. We were getting further away from the spelling I wanted, but the same idea. Chocolate.

Then I fell asleep.

This morning, I visited my favourite computational knowledge engine Wofram|Alpha. There must be other places where you can do similar searches, but I have found Wolfram does some neat things with words. If you want anagrams, just type "anagrams of (insert word here)" and up they come. How many words can you make using the letters GRANITE? Type "words from granite". Up come several options, including three anagrams at the bottom – ingrate, tangier and tearing. You probably want without repetition, so click on "Disallow repetition". Up come 152 words. 

I typed "words ending nite" and got this:

It was just a matter of spotting the words with the right sound. Not like right, that is.
There are not that many, but some. Infinite is a difficult one to explain when you have finite.

If you just want ite on the end, there are more.

Again, not many rhyming with granite.

Probably the most common word that I hear pronounced differently by Bhutanese (and Indians, who often are their English teachers) is determine. Yes, deter mine. It looks like two words put together. Can you think of some words which have a similar spelling to determine and rhyme with it? Rhyme with determine, not rhyme with it!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Looks like I may have to get an iPhone.
Someone has made a trumpet app.
There is more information here, including a video.
Should I trust a company that made Vuvuzela Man first?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Awarness 4

The Walking Fool had an embarrassing admission on his blog the other day. But I am sure that many people, even non-walkers, would be fooled by teetotaller. In fact, the Google spellchecker has just underlined it in red! But that was because of the British spelling with two ells.
At least the Fool did not emblazon his lack of awareness across the world as the headline in a newspaper. And not on an article about education.
See this article from a NZ news website: Roll models for tomorrow.
In case it gets edited, I took a snapshot.
Or do you think they were being ironic?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Awareness 3

This is one of my favourite books. And I thoroughly recommend it.
It is a translation of a teaching on life based on instructions to head cooks in monasteries. Eihei Dogen is a very famous Zen master. The commentary is by Kosho Uchiyama, who had been a teacher of one of my students in Japan. I met Thomas Wright, the translator, while spending a day at a lovely temple in Kyoto.
Now this is a true story.  The following typo appears on page 4 ...

"Do not be absent-midned in your activities..."

Friday, January 28, 2011

Awareness 2

Mornings are the best times for awareness. The gods are up early too. 
I have never forgotten to grind the coffee beans, that just made a better picture.
What has happened, in another moment of profound awareness, is forgetting to switch the jug on. The coffee does not quite have the same aroma after pouring a pot of cold water onto the freshly ground beans.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Awareness 1

An ongoing series where I highlight my acute state of awareness, developed from years of meditation. Signs of a truly enlightened being!

This morning I went to wash my face and realised that I was still wearing my glasses.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Some Stuff I've Found, Possibly Interesting

Here are a few sites I have explored recently. Feel free to explore:

This is some recent research which could put the cat among the pigeons:
Test-Taking Cements Knowledge Better Than Studying, Researchers Say -

A neat idea to leave journals for people to contribute to. None have made it to Bhutan!
A real page-turner: The results of the 1,000 Journals Project are revealed - Features, Art - The Independent: ""

This one is especially for Anja and Elisa. Some neat maths from doodling and lots of other cool maths stuff.:
YouTube - Vihart's Channel

There is an article about her here:
Vi Hart’s Videos Bend and Stretch Math to Inspire -

Wow, I never knew what the people at IBM had done. This documentary has music by Philip Glass:
YouTube - IBM Centennial Film: They Were There - People who changed the way the world works

Please check out Zeb's blog after his escape from Bhutan. Great fun to read:
Flaming Thunderbolt of Wisdom

Jon too, though Jon is more intent on enjoying himself at the moment:
Happy Ending Offer

That should keep you busy. I have to go and check the Australian Open.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Feast of Recipes

As kids, we used to play a game with a catalogue of toys. Going through the pages, one by one, we would have to choose one item from each page. You had to pick quickly, before other players took the one you wanted.
Now, I don't play that game much, probably because Matthew is in another land. However, I do spend time online filling up shopping carts. Unfortunately, my wallet is empty, so the carts remain full.
This morning, I found yet another site with food recipes. It was the Los Angeles Times. One page that kept me busy for several hours was the following page with a long list of recipes from restaurants.
Which recipes would you like to try? Click on the link below to find them.
Happy New Year!
Culinary SOS: Your recipe requests answered -