Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ask Militant Ginger

It's that time again - to tackle some of the genuine questions entered into a search engine that randomly led to my blog.

I'm now allergic to almonds and never was till I went into anaphylactic shock...

Ah, nut allergies. One of the most mysterious and growing allergies across the civilised world.

There are plenty of theories behind what's causing the massive increase in the number of people effected by nut allergies. Perhaps in your case, you had a 'bad nut.' I know my reaction to mussels started off when I ate a bad one.

But my blog is really the wrong place to go to find credible information on the subject (as illustrated by this popular post.) Instead, I'd recommend popping over to visit my friend at NoPeanutsPlease - which is an excellent blog exploring the realities of having a child susceptible to food allergies.

At the end of Death Proof, what happened to the cheerleader?

Tarantino's return to the big screen didn't quite live up to the hype. In his attempt to create a perfect pastiche of the cheesy, crappy 70's horror flicks he grew up with, he created a cheesy, crappy horror flick. Death Proof wasn't so-bad-it-was-good. It was just so-bad.

But the film raised some interesting questions. At the climax of the movie, the evil Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) had been driven off the road by stuntwomen Zoƫ Bell and Tracie Thoms. Rosario Dawson, playing leggy model Abernathy Ross, dispatches him with a stiletto-heel through the eye-socket.

But while the three of them were off smashing two perfectly good classic cars to pieces, their friend Mary Elizabeth Winstead (playing cheerleader Lee Montgomery) had been left behind to placate the unwashed yokel car-owner - who'd been lured into letting the girls take his car off by the promise of sexual favours from our unsuspecting cheerleader.

Her fate is a deliberate mystery. I think Quentin Tarantino wisely decided to let us draw our own conclusions regarding what happened to the cute little cheerleader. Doubtless, our imagination can provide a fate far more titillating than anything he'd be allowed to show on screen.

But imagining for a second that this isn't a Tarantino flick, I think it's fair to imagine that Lee explained her situation to the oversexed car-owner, who was a perfect gentleman and didn't press the issue. How he reacted to his Dodge Challenger being returned in several mangled, tattered pieces is another matter entirely.

Where is Pat Sissons going on Original 106?

My old colleague Pat Sissons has been driving Original 106's breakfast show since radio veterans Simon James & Hill swapped the early mornings for late nights. However Messieurs Hill & James have now left Original 106 - so a schedule shuffle has plonked Pat in their 6pm to 10pm slot. Tommy Boyd will be taking over the breakfast shift.

Pat's an enormously talented radio presenter and while Simon James & Hill will be tough act to follow - they've won three Sony awards for their ribald evening shows - I think Pat is more than up for the job. The best of luck to him!

I need to pee!

This isn't really a question - although it does make me wonder why so many people are being driven to my blog by this four-word phrase. I blame this post, which I wrote while frustrated at the speed at which my life was whizzing by.

Although it might equally refer to this post, which records my brief foray into the world of pharmaceutical sales, shifting a drug developed to treat 'overactive bladder.'

Whatever the reason, if you really, really need to pee, the solution to your problem is probably not to be found on the Internet. I'd recommend the nearest bathroom. Leave the tap trickling if you need motivation.

My Beer Machine beer is cloudy. Do you have any tips?

The Beer Machine! My most aspirational hobby - aside from novel writing - is attempting to brew foamy, delicious beer in this miraculous invention.

All in all, this process is beautiful in it's simplicity. The keg-shaped brewer is filled with water, 'beer mix' and yeast and then left to ferment for about five days. Following that, the fermented beer is chilled in the fridge to clarify it - theoretically producing a crisp, clear beer.

I have tried four brews in all - two in America and two back in England. While I have produced drinkable beer on all four occasions, there are several things an amateur brewer can do to dramatically improve the quality of his product.

  • Use tap-water. It sounds abhorrent - the thought of using chlorinated tap water to brew your meisterbrau. However, the most important aspect of the brewing water is to keep it bacteria free. Bacteria can dramatically effect the taste of your brew - and never for the better. That's why spring water - even the stuff you buy in bottles - has to be boiled first. Chlorinated tap water is a quicker and easier option. I've tried brewing with tap water and Poland Spring and the tap water beer was astoundingly better.
  • Keep it cold! All four of my brews have experienced cloudiness. This is caused by yeast swilling in the fermented beer. Only a long, cold period of chilling will help sink the yeast to the bottom of the barrel - producing clear beer. This is tough - I've yet to successfully manage it. However, there are two tips that might help.
  • Firstly, after placing the Beer Machine in your fridge, keep it protected from taps or upsets. That will cause the yeast to swill (and the cloudiness will never fade.)
  • Secondly, try to assemble the beer machine with the gravity spigot (the bit the beer feeds through to reach the tap) high up, out of the murky yeast sediment. It will mean your beer will 'run out' quicker, but should keep it clearer.
While The Beer Machine eliminates a lot of human errors, brewing beer successfully is still a science of trial and error. Keep brewing. Sooner or later, you'll crack it! And you have to agree - there's nothing quite as satisfying as enjoying a flagon of your own cold, foamy, home-brewed ale. The Beer Machine rules!

You can't turn left in New Jersey?

This is true! Sort of!

A commonly heard complaint from out-of-staters is the fact that you can't 'turn left' in New Jersey. No, this isn't quite literal. Cars do have turn signals on the left hand side (although few New Jersey drivers use them) and at junctions and traffic lights, you can turn left.

The 'no left turn' occurs on US Highways - two or more lanes of traffic in which the central partition is blocked by concrete blocks.

In New York and other states, if you want to cross the two lanes of incoming traffic, you can pull to a halt in the left hand (fast) lane and keep your turn-signal blinking until you have the opportunity to cross over the opposing traffic. On a busy day, however, this can block an entire lane of fast moving traffic.

In New Jersey, you can only turn 'left' on US Highways by using a 'jug handle.' This is an exit lane on the right (just like leaving a motorway) which curves ninety degrees to cross over all four lanes of traffic following a green traffic light.

This is how you're expected to make U-turns and left turns on the highway.

In theory, it speeds up the general progress of traffic by stopping selfish people from clogging up an entire lane of traffic. In practice, it's often frustrating because you have to double back on yourself (sometimes by as much as a mile or so) if the next 'left turn' jughandle isn't for a while.

Frustrating as it is, it's a pretty foolproof method. However, you'll still see plenty of idiots trying to make illegal left turns as long as traffic conditions allow it (i.e. there isn't a cop within sight.)

Ask Militant Ginger will be back in February...

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