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From the always-interesting Mind Hacks (and they got it from

In 1995, New Mexico state senator Duncan Scott introduced a legislative amendment providing that:

When a psychologist or psychiatrist testifies during a defendant’s competency hearing, the psychologist or psychiatrist shall wear a cone-shaped hat that is not less than two feet tall. The surface of the hat shall be imprinted with stars and lightning bolts. Additionally, a psychologist or psychiatrist shall be required to don a white beard that is not less than 18 inches in length, and shall punctuate crucial elements of his testimony by stabbing the air with a wand. Whenever a psychologist or psychiatrist provides expert testimony regarding a defendant’s competency, the bailiff shall contemporaneously dim the courtroom lights and administer two strikes to a Chinese gong…

The amendment, which was intended satirically, was passed unanimously but removed from the bill before it became law.

If you want to know more, there’s a good post by Karen Franklin Ph.D. here expanding on the story.


BLOOM by Anna Schuleit. White Tulips

In 2003, the Massachusetts Mental Health Center (MMHC) was to be demolished, after 9 decades in operation. As a memorial, artist Anna Schuleit was invited to create an artwork, and chose this incredibly vibrant installation, entitled “Bloom”.

BLOOM by Anna Schuleit. Blue Hallway

In an interesting interview (with some great photos) on Colossal, she talks about the project: “Twenty-eight thousand flowers arrived on trucks in the span of a few days, all needing to be watered as they came in, all having to be placed in the building, unwrapped, arranged, watered again. I had a team of about eighty volunteers to help me with this, all spontaneous helpers”

BLOOM by Anna Schuleit. Orange Tulips

“After four public days of Bloom, the building was closed for good and we delivered all twenty-eight thousand flowers to shelters, half-way houses, and psychiatric hospitals throughout New England … Bloom was a reflection on the healing symbolism of flowers given to the sick when they are bedridden and confined to hospital settings … Here, patients receive few, if any, flowers during their stay. Bloom was created to address this absence, in the spirit of offering and transition.”

There are more photos here and more info here.

I posted that I’d been at Betty’s Cookery School for a week. The course, Advanced Kitchen Skills, was brilliant. It was a lot of work, and I came home every evening utterly wiped, but very happy, and feeling that I’d learnt a lot. The staff, from the tutors to administrators and housekeepers, are all friendly and efficient, and my fellow students were a great bunch. I was one of the slower ones (which I’d not expected), but I was far from the only one who got cross with themselves when they couldn’t get something perfect first time. I guess it’s that sort of course, and attracts that sort of person!


Monday was bread day – pretzels, ciabatta, croissants, pain au raisin with crème patisserie, and a sweet bread from Belgium called Craquelin, which was delicious. The croissants were too much work for me to try them again at home, I suspect. There’s a real skill to keeping the layers through all that rolling and folding, and I think I’ll leave it to the professionals. I will do the pretzel dough again, though, and probably the ciabatta and Craquelin for special occasions.

Tuesday was the hardest day of the lot, but we ended up (at about 7pm) with melt in the mouth oxtail suet puddings, red cabbage, and a nearly-finished hot water crust pork pie. We also made chilli jam and cucumber pickle to go with the pie, and red cabbage to accompany the oxtail puddings. Those are in my freezer, awaiting a visit from my Dad in May.

Wednesday was fish day – we filleted a whole salmon, then cured parts of it two ways (gravadlax was one, and the other was beetroot and vodka) and smoked some it over lapsang souchong tea leaves. The final part went into our lunch – a delicious mussel and langoustine broth, with bean sprouts, carrot and mange tout. I can see me adapting that one into a diet-friendly version. :-)

Thursday was butchery; we watched half a pig being expertly dissected by Brian Noon of Sykes House Farm, which supplies Betty’s with their bacon and sausages. We then had a go ourselves, but on a slightly scaled down level – rabbit! We stuffed the loin, rolled it in Parma ham, and served it with carrots, beans, fondant potatoes and some curly kale with pine nuts and raisins. Here’s one I made earlier! We also got to try making sausages, and I discovered that I am actually rather good at working them into those long ropes of sausages that you see hanging in butchers’ windows. If I ever lose the day job … :-) I’m toying with the idea of trying some home-curing in the garage. It’s not as hard as I’d have thought, and it would be lovely to have some decent bacon and ham. I hate how watery shop-bought bacon can be.

Day five, Friday, was my birthday, and it was such fun, one of the best birthdays I’ve had in years. My colleagues on the course surprised me with a card and flowers, and the tutors gave me a little cake with my name on it, which was really kind. We spent the whole day making desserts – six ways with apple, and some chocolate curls and spun sugar. What better way to spend your birthday than playing with chocolate and making puddings all day? I particularly liked the apple, vanilla and cinnamon ice cream and the apple and honey soufflé, but it was all yummy. :-)

I learned a lot of culinary skills from the course, and, as always, when trying a new thing, something about myself too. I forget, between times, how much fun it is to learn new things, and I will try to remember that more often. I think I will also try to practice getting faster at food prep whilst keeping some precision. I was unhappy that I was slower than most of my fellow students. On the other courses I’ve been on, I have been one of the quicker ones, and it’s clear this was a course for people at a different level. Being stretched is a good thing, though, and it’s given me something general to work on aside from just the recipes and techniques we were taught.

Thank you, Dad, Adie, Tan and James for buying me such a great present. I’ll be cooking you all something yummy from the long list of new and delicious scoffs I’ve learnt, promise. :-)

Edgar Mueller - The Crevasse

I live in a tourist destination, which is an odd thing, some of the time. In the summer, we get street painters – I’m sure you’ve seen them – recreating famous pictures (which we get quite often here) or making 3D images on the pavement. I was thinking about those today, and went looking for one I recalled specifically. It’s by an astoundingly talented artist called Edgar Mueller, and his website has loads of really stunning images, and fascinating videos of him creating the works. Although, even when you see how it’s done, and watch it come together stage by stage, it still fools your eye.

Guido Daniele - Elephant

The reason I was reminded of the pavement art was a feature on Trendland about a hand painter called Guido Daniele. His work recalled that of Mueller and the like. I particularly liked the elephant featured in the article and the dolphin (24 on this page of his website) but the two-handed ones are equally clever and the body art section also merits a visit [NSFW].

A fascinating article by Adam Gopnik in New Yorker magazine on the American penal system, including some scary facts and figures – like, that the population of the US prison system, if residing in a single city, would make that the second largest city in the US. It covers, very articulately, a lot of ground, including the historical, philosophical and political drivers of penal policies, relationship to crime rates, and what could help reduce the incarceration rate. Some of the last are really simple, like reducing the opportunities for crimes to be committed.

It’s worth reading the whole thing, but here’s a few of my favourite quotes:

“Crime is not the consequence of a set number of criminals; criminals are the consequence of a set number of opportunities to commit crimes … Curbing crime does not depend on reversing social pathologies or alleviating social grievances; it depends on erecting small, annoying barriers to entry.”

“Epidemics seldom end with miracle cures … Merely chipping away at the problem round the edges is usually the best thing to do with a problem; keep chipping away patiently, and, eventually, you get to its heart.”

“A conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged; a liberal is a conservative who’s been indicted; and a passionate prison reformer is a conservative who’s in one.”

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2012 by Eau de Nil. Please do not use my original text, recipes or photos without obtaining my permission in advance. Many thanks.

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