thinking outside the tank

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So I says to Fay I says

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On Thursday, 07Oct2010, I attended a prize-giving lunch in Kensington in the company of the three judges: Fay Weldon, James Buchan, and Deborah Moggach. My entry to the Mail on Sunday novel competition had come third. This earned me £200 in book tokens or £1.37 for each of the 146 words I submitted. Also present were the other five winners and a handful of literary agents and commissioning editors.

Talk about dance of the the trolls in the hall of the mountain king. In this literary landscape we winners were the foothills sitting between mighty peaks of writing achievement – small fish in a big pond. The lunch was excellent, as was the generosity of the judges all of whom gave their advice and encouragement freely. All my illusions about my ability to write were reinforced.

Since hearing of this success in August, I’ve stretched those 146 words to 79,000 which is only 1000 short of the minimal entry length for submission to the Terry Pratchett Prize. The writing was described by the judges as: ‘a quite grand idea, an alternative universe, done most elegantly’.  Here it is:

The Gates-Guggenheim Museum on the Upper East Side of New Manhattan, Antarctica was a faithful copy of the building that had once stood at the southern end of Museum Mile in New York City. Frank Lloyd Wright would have appreciated its unexpected harmony with the new setting. It was a small step from his Prairie Style to this building which stood in the bleak landscape like a great slab of ice at the nose of a glacier, seemingly about to topple into the sea. Its pale, outward sloping exterior, emitting a bluish pearlescent light, evoked memories of building-sized floes breaking away from the ice-shelf that many New Manhattanites had seen and feared towards the end of their difficult journey south. In the imaginations of some, the curved lines brought to mind a trapped cruise ship with decks tilted, crushed and creaking in the grip of the freezing winter.


Lemon and courgette soup

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Lemon and Courgette Soup

Here’s a recipe to help cope with a super-abundance of courgettes. There are only a few ingredients, so preparation is quick. Even so, the flavour produced is light and fresh and this soup is delicious hot or cold.

Ingredients Method
2 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saucepan.
  2. Sauté the onion, courgette, and garlic on a medium heat for 10 minutes, avoiding browning.
  3. Add the stock and seasoning. Bring to the boil then turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat. Blitz until smooth using a hand-held or worktop blender.
  5. Stir in the lemon zest and juice.
25g butter
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
900g courgettes, chopped
800ml vegetable stock
Salt and ground black pepper
Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Written by netkingcol

August 17, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Posted in cookery, culture

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Inside Epub Project Review – feedback welcome

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The project to develop an online wysiwyg epub editor has reached a critical point. It’s time to make the application multi-user and no longer rely on the type of hard-coding that’s common in prototypes.

This article from Inside Epub: Online wysiwyg epub editor project review looks at what’s been achieved to date and what remains to be done.

If you have any comments, observations, or suggestions or if you think this project should take a direction that’s different from the one I’m proposing, I’d be happy to hear from you.

Written by netkingcol

February 18, 2010 at 6:04 pm

XML Islands in epub publications

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The Open Publication Structure’s Preferrred Vocabulary is a subset of XHTML 1.1 modules. This identifes the groups of tags – <div>, <table>, <p> etc. that all reading systems must be able to render. 

A very high proportion of existing printed matter, including its illustrations, could be converted to epub format using this vocabulary – with formatting and layout support from CSS.

However, XML is a widely used technology and there is a rapidly growing amount of XML content that ebook authors and publishers are sure to want to include. Using open standards means not restricting content to proprietary reading systems, so the problem becomes how to make that content available to all.

The latest Inside Epub article explains how using XML Islands in epub publications extends the power and flexibility of the epub format by specifying how a non-preferred XML vocabulary can be incorporated.

Creative avoidance – with yeast

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I’m experiencing a bout of creative avoidance – finding useful and easily justifiable tasks to do in order to avoid tackling a bigger, more important activity. At Christmas, our daughter Frances made a delicious batch of bread following a no-knead recipe which originated in the Sullivan Street bakery in New York, courtesy of the New York Times. Her results were inspirational. I’ve dabbled with yeast for many years with varying degress of success – basic loaves, bloomers, plaits, bagels, croissants, muffins – I’ve tried them all and with a wide range of flours. What made me try again was a combination of Fran’s superb bread and the availability of fresh yeast at a nearby supermarket.First, I repeated the no-knead recipe and followed this with a bloomer and two coburgs. The results with the fresh yeast, I found, were much better than with the dried yeast I’ve used before.

So, what else could I make in order not to do that other job? First it was baps (see first photo). That went well – nice and soft – thanks to a heavy dusting of flour and covering them with a tea-towel as they cooled. The drawback was the 40g of lard that get rubbed into the flour at the start of the recipe – that’s more fat than I would like in my diet.

What else? We recently bought a Czech cooker. This is a low energy cooker that can be used instead of an oven. The difference in power is considerable – a typical oven might consume 3 kilowatts while the Czech cooker at full power consumes 450 watts. I made the casserole, shown left, in 2 hours with the power set to 1, which I think equates to a 100 watt light bulb.

My problem with the yeast was that it was sold as four 1oz packets and had an imminent ‘use by’ date. I realised that, to get the best out it, I needed to get kneading. I like making bagels; they have extra ingredients compared with plainer bread, like whisked egg white and melted butter. There’s also a poaching interlude when you get to toss the rings of dough into simmering water for 30 seconds. Glaze with the egg yolk and bake for 20-25 minutes and you get the bagels shown here.

I suppose I should get on with that job that’s looming. I know, I’ll just blog about creative avoidance first.

Written by netkingcol

February 8, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Six eggs – twelve yolks

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Four eggs - eight yolks

The Telegraph this morning told the story of a Cumbrian woman who discovered that all six eggs in a box had double yolks: six eggs – twelve yolks. They put the odds of this happening at over one in a trillion.

Does that mean more than a trillion boxes of eggs have been consumed since 16May03 when the photograph shown here was taken? We had a box of six double-yolkers, though only four were used for the meal we were preparing.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2010

Written by netkingcol

February 2, 2010 at 9:40 am

Posted in culture

Inside Epub – design of an NCX handler in C#

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The NCX document of an epub publication contains information about its structure. When presented to a reader using a reading device it acts like a Table of Contents. As such, it plays a key role for content providers; authors and publishers want to be able to organise their documents; they want to add and remove content and change the order in which content is presented to the reader.

The article published today in the Inside Epub series looks at the design of software that provides this functionality in the context of an online wysiwyg epub editor.

The article can be found at: Design of an NCX handler in C#

Figure 1. shows the latest user interface design for the editor and shows how the <navMap> of the NCX is displayed as a table of contents.

Figure 1. Online wysiwyg epub editor

Figure 2. shows the actions that can be performed by the content provider. All of these action involve changes to the NCX document, and mostly they need changes elsewhere in the OPF Package. For instance, whenever a content document is added or removed or its position in the reading order is changed, there will typically be changes required in the <spine> and the <manifest> elements of the <package>. These topics are covered in the article.

Figure 2. Editor Actions that affect the NCX

Written by netkingcol

January 29, 2010 at 12:53 pm

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