Saturday, 28 June 2014

Now I know why the West is going under…

This morning, dear reader, young Hannibal and fair Ivana stumbled into my kitchen study in search of sanctuary from parental supervision, and as I carefully put aside the brittle cuniform clay fragments of the Gilgamesh Epos which I was translating for breakfast (they break things, these youngster, they break things of invaluable worth…!), they settled down into the more comfortable chairs at the kitchen table and opened their survival kits.

Both took out their tablets; Hannibal one of chocolate, his sister one of Apple. They opened their priced possessions and went to work. I refrained from looking at the boy (Hannibal chewing is one of the less pleasant sights this universe offers), but I did shoot a passing glance at Ivana’s digital activities. And as these new-fangled gadgets no longer have a top which blocks the outside view (as the old, paleolithical ‘laptop’ at least still had) I could not help but perceive what was on the screen. This what I saw:

Now, ever since I helped my good old buddy Oswald with the preliminary chapters of his Untergang des Abendlandes (God, that man was a bad stylist! He would never have made it to his persisting fame without my skilled editor’s help!) I have been a sucker for numbers and mathematics in general. So you’ll understand, dear reader, that this picture fascinated me immediately.

            ‘Dear girl, what in the world is that?’ I asked the fair Ivana.
            ‘Facebook,’ she answered with the unmistakable tone of ‘mind your own damn business old jerk’.
            ‘No, I mean the numbers… Those numbers there…’ I said, pointing cautiously towards the picture (for all I know these screens may explode on touch…)
            ‘Ah, thát. That’s a stupid riddle some dork posted. Says most people will come up with the wrong answer. But it’s simple comme bonjour… A child could do it. Why: even an utter imbecile can do it! You, Hannibal! Stop smearing chocolate all over them shards and calculate this equation…!’

Hannibal dropped my now totally illegible baked clay Gilgamesh, hopped over to his sister’s spot, and studied the Facebook page for 30 seconds over her shoulder.
            ‘Why, that’s easy!’ he exclaimed triumphantly. ‘The outcome is 111,111!!’
            ‘Oh you stupid nerd!’ the fair Ivana exclaimed. ‘Can’t you do anything right? It’s 63, you moron de la frontera!’

I frowned, dear reader. I frowned like nobody frowned ever since they told old Chris Columbus he had not landed in Japan but on the coast of Columbia…
            ‘Mind if I look at that a moment?’ I asked.
            ‘Be my freaking guest,’ the fair Ivana spoke, and turned her tablet 180º towards me.

Well, what shall I say, dear reader? Two immense Oh Weh Erlebnisse were mine in the course of a mere ten seconds. The first was that neither Hannibal nor Ivana had discovered the correct answer. That was small surprise, since they go to school in Spain. But worse still: beneath the posted picture were 131 answers, and not only did these answers vary incredibly and astonishingly, but out of the 131 replies, the correct solution GOT ONLY 32 VOTES!!! With which it came in third!!!

Would you believe it? Can it really be true…? I now understand, dear reader, why the West is sinking. Why its 2,500 year culture is finally going down the drain, swept into the sewers of oblivion by lousy education, Hollywood morality, the Musical Industrial Complex and the tongue of Miley Cyrus… The word ‘mathematics’ has its origin in the Greek for ‘That which is learned’. And there’s the crux: it is learned no longer! Our digital young are almost totally ignorant of even the barest numbers!

Bitter, bitter tears did I shed over lunch, dear reader, thinking of the Hochkultur we inherited from Imhotep, Pythagoras, Euclid, Archimedes, Brahmagupta, Khayyam, Galileo, Gauss, Descartes, Schicklgruber, Newton, Leibnitz, Euler, Einstein, Gödel, Escher, Bach and many, many more… And I am almost ready to throw in the towel and give up my belief in Human Kind.

But perhaps you can help me, and save me, and solace a sad old man. Perhaps you, my dearly beloved readers of taste, sophistication, maturity of years and old-time education WILL score better than the Facebookies who performed so dismally this morning?

So here is the challenge I put to you: calculate the outcome of

7 + 7 : 7 + 7 x 7 – 7

and post it below in the comments (preferably under your own honest name). As soon as I have 25 answers, right or wrong, I will tally up the outcome, and publish the correct solution, with its (simple simple simple) explanation.

And, just for your amusement, here is a summary of the answers I found on Facebook:

0 – 1 – 7 – 14 – 47 – 49 – 50 – 54 – 56 - 91 - and last but not least ‘Albania’.

One of which is actually correct. And one of which I found hilarious (guess which?)

Yours, MathemathicAl.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Cookbook: Aioli Potatoes

Impress Through Simplicity and Please Through Ease! How often have I told you, dear reader? The best way to triumph when throwing a dinner party is by serving food easy to make, easy to preserve, easy to serve and easy to take. And yes: that’s a deliberate rhyme! Wisdom, you see, ALWAYS rhymes; on paper as well as in the kitchen!

Now how does this timeless insight translate into your choice of dishes? Well, as you are surely aware, most hosts and hostesses built their menu around the plat de resistance, the roast, or fowl, or stew or splendid platter of fruits de mer which is meant to catch the eye of the guests and generate the Ooohs and Aaahs that every cook so deeply craves for.

That, however, is the easy bit.

The real trouble starts with the side dishes. An elaborate, decorative salad is still easily invented or copied from a cookbook or a website. A worthy sauce is whipped up in a matter of moments. But what about the starch? The stuff that fills the hollows left in the ravenous stomachs when all those sophisticated frills and extras have been consumed? There, most of us reach a horrid level of despondency and despair. Pasta? Boiled potatoes? White rice? Oh, it is all so very prosaic…!! So bland. So tasteless. So very much out of tune with your other efforts!

You will want a filling side dish with spunk. With phenomenal flavour. With character and personality. And so I offer you today a marvellous option: Al Mittington’s Aioli Potatoes, tremendously easy to make, and – as it must be served cold anyway – a little godsend for the hard-pressed dinner-throwing chef who has no time to spare.

Some 6 hours before dinner time, boil 1 large new fresh potato per guest, cut into slices as thick as, say, your copy of Death In Venice. Once done, put these potatoes into the recipient in which you plan to serve them, and let them cool off.

Chop an onion into slices. Fry these, ever so slowly, in sweet butter in a frying pan. It is essential that neither the butter nor the onions burn. Once the onions turn glassy, toss in a teaspoon or two of sugar. Let it fry a fair while longer, until the onions are perfectly limp and only a little brown. Now simply spoon them on top of the potatoes, and let them cool as well.

Next make the sauce (which is a simplified form of the world famous Aioli al-Fredo, therecipe of which I revealed long ago). For every potato you boiled, put a generous tablespoon of quality Mayonnaise into a bowl. Peel and then crush half a modest clove of garlic.

(NOTE BENE: The one and only one rule to this recipe is: UNDERDO the garlic by all means. At least at first. You can always add garlic later if you really think the sauce lacks strength. But raw garlic is the Big Bertha among alliums; and – as they say – you can’t get the garlic paste out of the tubers again…)

Add the crushed garlic to the mayo. Add salt, some fresh white pepper, and a small spoonful of mustard. Toss in a tablespoon of milk for every potato as well. Stir diligently. If the sauce is very thick, add some more milk, but do not overdo it.

Once the potatoes & onions are perfectly cold, spoon in the sauce, and stir until the sauce covers every potato on every side. Chop – if available – some fresh chives, or fresh parsley, or fresh dill. Sprinkle on top. Keep in the fridge until it is time to serve dinner.