It's been a few months since I posted. Funny... It weeded out my collection of asian spambot worshipers.

Mind you, it's not that I didn't want to post. Here's a bit of a breakdown:

Up until very late December last year, I was busy with my thesis. It's done and I'm a fully fledged master engineer. Onwards to new conquests.

The last week of December was spent in London, and, as usual, it made up for every last little bit of bitterness along the other 51 weeks. As a neat little bonus, I got to attend "Legally Blonde: The Musical". Watching Sheridan Smith's performance live more than made up for catching the flu from the man sitting next to me. Really, now, would it have been too much to ask that he had swapped places with his girlfriend(/fiancée/wife/"Oh her? Yeah, we're sleeping together")? I'd have gotten to sit next to a pretty young girl and someone else would have caught his flu. Still, totally worth it!

January was my month off (the first in a while). Sorry I didn't post then.

I actually drafted up a post in February. I would have posted it too, but it had been written in anger and didn't deserve to see the light of publication. It went through several re-writes before earning an uncontested position in the bin. Long story short, some publicists aren't doing a very good job, some website designers are joining the trend, IMDb.com isn't infallible and when can I expect "The Sweet Shop"?

Most of February was spent moving from my adopted hometown, where I spent the last 8 years of my life, back to my birthtown. Some of the crates are still patiently expecting my attention, but, at least I have set up my little study and, by Jove, it looks like a picture straight out of my teenage fantasies (the SFW ones). Expect pictures soon (I mean it!).

Then I joined Twitter. Follow me here!

And, lastly, after three years of mostly excellent functioning, my computer had to undergo a radical reset and re-install. On one hand, I managed to clean up and re-organise my partitioning scheme (which was long overdue), but it seems these things always happen at the worst possible time. Sometimes, it just feels like the universe aligns perfectly to drop what might as well be all questions of life and death (sure, "42", but the question is...) right on your lap, but then you decide to sit down just slightly to the left -- YOU (meaning me) MORON!

Oh well...

Pax vobiscum atque vale.

ArabianShark wonders why YouTube occasionally suggests that I should look up Stephen Holland. Doesn't YouTube know he's a swindler of the worst kind?

Excuse me!?

Tonight on Shark Nibbles...

Wouldn't it have been great if I had managed to snag Mr. Clarkson for a one-off introduction to a blog entry like he does on Top Gear?

Tonight we carry on with our great culinary tradition and so we cover yet another topic: Restaurants.

Naturally, you'd be much better off reading AA Gill's column, so instead, let me show you something. That was taken out of the Readers Digest. Entertaining or useful though the majority of the article might be, I ask you now to scroll down to the end section, "Surefire Stereotypes", on page 2, and read item no. 3.

I'll be waiting here.

Still can't be arsed? Alright, I'll transcribe it for you:

"3. If you have a European accent, you are a horrible tipper. Accent = 10 percent. Always."

Now, if there ever were any doubts where this article was taken from, let's take elimination. Its not Europe, for obvious reasons. It's not Africa, because it mentions food. It's not Asia, it's much too rude for that. It's not Oceania, because not once did it employ the words "ute", "barbie", "outback", "spider" or "crikey". Could it then be America?

You see, I don't think it can. America is the place where my mother and I, both European and suitably accented, were charged 5% on top of 15% woth of tips for a maître d' we never so much as met. Where we were asked to leave 15% at the Hard Rock Café for good (but not extraordinary) service. Where we were asked to distribute little "tip slips" to just about the whole crew of a cruise ship, including people we met (exactly) once and only for as long as it took him to fill our glasses with water, which, as it seems, is the entirity of his job description. And we tipped away with a smile on our lips and a kind word on the side.

And now, for a bit of context: regarding tips, my mother and I aren't exactly alike, you see. When I forst noticed tipping, she told me she didn't like to tip because it made her feel as though she was rubbing some pretense of superiority in the faces of servers. I, on the other hand, have no such qualms with tipping, but despise the notion of unduly tipping. Sure, many restaurants and their like pool the tips, meaning that, if I don't tip as much as I would because service was sloppy, I'm unduly punishing all the other waiters, whose job, for all I know, might have been absolutely flawless, but whose fault is that? I submit to every single waiter who ever felt robbed of a well deserved fraction of a tip because the waiter who collected it performed subparly, drag the offending colleague out back behind the restaurant, perform even an half-hearted job of kicking his/her head in and I'll gladly tip as much as I would have had for good service, tuice as much if you promise to cut the offender out of the pool.

In fact, I'd like to tell you a little story that happened just short of a year ago. My mother and I had gone for dinner at Pizza Hut in Leicester Square. Our waiter was a young woman with mediterranean features and a distinctively Italian acccent. That was, without a shadow of a doubt, the most appaling service I ever had. She brought my mother a warm cider with ice. She came by our table to tell my mother they were out of the fish she ordered, but never bothered to ask what she'd like instead (in fact, judging by the expression on another waiter's face when I explained what had happened and placed another order on my mother's behalf, he was even more shocked than we were). Then she brough our entrees before the apetizers. Need I say our entrees, by the (second) time she brought them were cold and stale? And then, at the very end, she had the gall to calculate a standard 12% tip and remind us, on the bill, that it was not included, which I rewarded with the reminder that neither had it been deserved and my mother rewarded with a 10% tip.

Lousy tippers, aren't we?

And in one fell swoop, there goes every little bit of trust and admiration I ever had for Readers Digest.

Pax vobiscum atque vale.

ArabianShark would like to remind his readers from Asia, Africa and Oceania that the bit up there where some fun is poked at them is intended for comic purpuses only and bears no resemblance to my feelings towards them. Any americans who were offended by the rebutal of the stereotype that Europeans are poor tippers can suck it.


No, that's not the word...


Much better. Onwards, now.

As a new entry on the Shark Nibbles Cook Book, here's my recentely developed Quadfactor Mousse, so called because I couldn't come up with a better name for it. But stick around and the mousse might prove better than it's name. So, off to the ingredients:

      - 200 grams of chocolate (I used half sugar free plain chocolate with about 50% cocoa and half 99% cocoa chocolate, because I couldn't get regular sugar free cooking chocolate with 70% cocoa, which I'd recommend);
      - 4 eggs;
      - 200 mL heavy cream (any cream suited for whipping will do);
      - 5 tablespoons of sweetner (or the equivalent amount of sugar, if you think your teeth and your waistline are worth the puritanism of carbon hydrates);
      - 2 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter;
      - 100 grams of grated coconut;
      - 200 grams of chopped roasted salted peanuts;
      - A few shots of your favourite liqueur (I like either mint or anise. Coffee Liqueur should work nicely, as will Bayle);

Now, if you've ever made a chocolate mousse before, you can imagine what comes up next. If you don't, well, then, Uncle Shark's here to help. So:

Melt your chocolate. I like the purism of a bain-marie, but a microwave will do just fine. If you take the latter choice, hold off this step for a bit; otherwise go on and start melting. Meanwhile...

Separate the yolks from the whites. Add a pinch of salt you the whites, if you like (I do) and beat them to soft peaks. Rinse your beaters and whip the cream to stiff peaks.

Combine the yolks, sweetener and peanut butter in a bowl. Cream them together until you obtain a smooth light caramel coloured mixture. Add the whipped cream and the coconut and mix thoroughly.

If you choose to melt the chocolate in the microwave (which is much faster than the bain marie), do so now. If you chose the bain marie, then your chocolate should be melted by now. Add the liquid chocolate to the eggs, butter, sweetner, coconut and cream mixture and mix thoroughly.

Now fold in the egg whites. Don't use beaters, or you'll just ruin the whites; use a woodden spoon instead. Try not to be too rough, but you don't have to treat them like they're made of lace.

Finally add the liqueur and the chopped peanuts and stir them in. Taste the mousse and adjust the quantities until you find the right balance of flavours.

You're done! Let the mousse set in the fridge for about six hours before serving.

As ever, I'd like to know your opinion on this idea. Remember the quantities are not set in stone. Fiddle about as much as you like until you find what tastes right to you. Suggest some changes too; if you have some ideas, I'd love to know them.

Pax vobiscum atque vale.

ArabianShark bids his readers sweet farewells for now and urges you to have sweets in moderation (except for eye candy. Have as much of that as you'd like).


eBay (and Amazon) can't go for a week without trying to flog their stuff on their registred users. Hardly surprising. It's what they live on. One could make the point that the way they (especially Amazon) figure out what their customers might like is a bit less accurate than you'd think. So one day I looked for mezzalunas on Amazon and, sure enought, the next newsletter (if you can call it that) tried to sell me just about everything they had that could be in some way related to - wait for it - Nigella Lawson. Figures. So once I let them know I own an Xbox 360, and now a game can't come out without them telling me, never you mind that it is perfectly in league with some games which I've rated as "loathsome" on their site (not in so many words). So once I rated some films, and now they keep advertising to me their extensive collection of DVDs... and BluRays... which I can't do anything with. Perhaps they should have noticed I never ordered, looked at or put a BluRay on my Wish List. Lastly, I'd just like to make it perfectly clear I have no idea how they figured out that I might like a book on wearing latex. That's really not what floats my boat (but, it floats yours, drop me a line, I have some Amazon endorsed suggestions for you).

And now on to eBay. Their advertising e-mails are a bit different. They flog you some items pertaining to your last purchase and then go on about not what they think you might like to buy but what they would like you to buy. Can't say that I blame them, but it doesn't really but much ice with me. At least Amazon look like they're trying to please me.

Which brings me to the cherry on top of the eBay cake. The last I heard from them, they were trying to flog their stock of Halloween related stuff. And, to make the whole e-mail more in line with the season, they thought they'd kick it off with a slight fright. And so, the first few words of their message read thus:

     "arabianshark, boo! Get your ghoul on at eBay (...)"

Now look here, eBay: Firstly, you'll see I never really forget to capitalise the B in your name; maybe, just maybe, as a courtesy, you wouldn't mind, just once or twice, to properçy capitalise my name as well. There's a reason why I made it ArabianShark (which does not concern you any more than it concerns me why on Earth you chose eBay over Ebay, ebaY or bUyfRomuSpLeasepLeasepRettypLease).
Secondly, "boo" isn't a scary word. It really isn't. What it does is, when heard unexpectedly, startle you. If you call out to me first, than "boo" is about to scare me as much as "soft supple breasts".

Pax vobiscum atque vale.

ArabianShark begins to wonder how wise it really was to join eBay... I don't think I've ever made a purchase there that would turn out to have been a good choice (except perhaps the very first one and the one I made on behalf of a friend).

Narrow sight

Today I was having a quiet bout with my conscience when, rahter unexpectedly, even for myself, I argued:

      "What have you done for me lately?"

A bit calloes, perhaps. I apologised, but my conscience had decided to sulk and threw the match, as it were. However, I was left wondering that, in retrospect, my would-be winning argument was inheritantely flawed. However much or little a conscience does, one is invariably left never knowing of it, for even if one can plainly see the effects of the options he's taken, one can never see an iota of the effects which any other option pertaining to the same decision would have had.

So now I wonder:

What good is having a conscience?
How much do you think it would go for on eBay?

Just wondering...

Pax vobiscum atque vale.

ArabianShark wonders what the voices of your respective consciences sound like. Mine sounds rather like... strawberries. You know, with cream.

Masquerade Magic & Stephen Holland

Alright, so here's something new. Usually I come here to complain, muse or glorify something. Today, I'll mix things up a bit.

I'll start this off by making a clear distinction. While it may look like all I'm trying to accomplish with this entry is a bit more whining (there'll be a bit of that too), I'd like this to serve as a bit of a warning to you all. Also, I'll stick to the facts, so you can draw your own conclusions.

Late last year I was under the influence from Assassin's Creed II (non-fact alert), which is, in shoer, bloody awesome. It features, among other things, doctors who you can pay to have your wounds healed. Now, since the game takes place in the 1400s, the doctors depicted don't exactly wear lab coats or canes and stubbles, but rather black cloaks and a distinctive mask. This mask is plainly made of leather, with large round eyeholes and a long bird-like beak shaped protusion. You see, in the 1400s (certainly not the whole century, but I'm not really that good with dates... or history, for that matter) Europe was taken by the plague, and these doctors sought to shield themselves from inhaling the plague airs by stuffing the beaks of those masks with pungent herbs, so as to counter the effects of the smell of plague. Incidentally, some of the herbs used were able to neutralise the pathogen in some measure, but I digress.

My mother's birthday is in mid-December. She also happens to be a doctor and a mask enthusiast. Naturally, I thought I'd give her one said mask for her birthday. So I began searching. I managed to find a few plague doctor masks, but the vast majority of them were kept in the US by American traders. Jest though I may, I have nothing against shopping from American traders, but the toll costs are real killers, so I was quite pleased when I managed to find a masks dealer based in the UK.

Masquerade Magic is a commercial site that deals in venetian and dress-up masks. It is run by Stephen Holland, who can be reached at xstephenhollandx@hotmail.co.uk. This e-mail address is also used to identify him in PayPal land. And now you've met the villian of our story.

I ordered the mask in early December. Mr. Holland and I spoke via e-mail many times while I waited for the mask. In said conversations, he demonstrated chronical incompetence, which I suppose my be misconstrued as shameless thievery (or the other way around). Over six months after I ordered and paid for the mask to be delivered, I am still yet to see it. For some time, he tried to blame it on the Royal Mail, caliming that they had lost or delayed the package, but he never told me the tracking number for the parcel. Because I waited for too long to complain to the people who run PayPal (sorry to take you from the story for a minute, but let me just say the people I dealt with at PayPal were absolutely impeccable. Though I certainly hope I never have to go through this vicious cabaret again, I wouldn't mind having to deal with them), there was nothing they could do. I kept trying to talk to Holland, but, when (speculation alert) he ran out of excuses (done speculating, thank you for your patience), he simply began to ignore me.

Enter a good friend of mine, whom I won't name, who realised I was feeling a bit blue. I always get retrospective after my birthday, and this year I couldn't shake the thought that if I hadn't been swindled out of nearly 90 quid, I wouldn't have had to go through some financial hardship earlier in the year. When I told him about my dealings with Holland (not the country, but you don't need to be told that), he took it upon himself to impersionate a potential buyer and badger Stephen on my behalf. He got less than 5 e-mails out of him, but that was enough for what he quallified broadly as "bollocks, the lot of it". Having been privy to the conversation, I can tell you that Stephen claimed it was not his fault, as he only claimed ownership of the site after my order had been placed, but before he "ran out of excuses", as it were. He claimed the previous owner used his name because he knew he was going to sell his business.

Now, here's where the fact ends and the questioning begins, so correct me if I'm wrong, but when this Stephen knave bought the company (assuming he bought the company after I was swindled, which, for some reason, I find unlikely. I just have a hard time taking his word), didn't he acquire all of the company's debt? Isn't it his responsability to refund me? Seeing as I paid directly to his PayPal account (see, here's where I think this gets tricky: the PayPal account I paid to didn't belong to "Masquerade Magic" or whoever the previous owner was; it was Stephen Holland's), doesn't that make him directly responsible for seeing that I either get my goods and/or services or my money back?

If any of my readers would like to tell me I'm wong and why, I'd love to know about it. All my other readers, please beware of this crook. It's a bit cliché that a conman would run a mask business (O, the irony), but it didn't stop the wretched Stephen Holland from picking my pocket with this scam of him. Additionally, I will personaly give a one free internet voucher to anyone who can prove to me that he or she has insulted this prick Holland and told him to return my money*.

And now that I have addressed my human readers, here's something for my asian flavoured spambots (you know who you are...):

- xstephenhollandx@hotmail.co.uk needs herbal pills for larger breasts;
- xstephenhollandx@hotmail.co.uk needs cheap V14GR4 (or however you spell Viagra theses days);
- xstephenhollandx@hotmail.co.uk needs his penis enlarged. By a factor of 10^5. Just so he can see it;
- xstephenhollandx@hotmail.co.uk needs nude pictures of underage boys;
- xstephenhollandx@hotmail.co.uk would like to buy replica Rolex watches (but he doesn't care about receiving them, just pocket the money and carry on);
- xstephenhollandx@hotmail.co.uk needs to be sent staggering amounts of e-mails in non-roman writing, just so his mailbox is thoroughly jammed up;
- ArabianShark has never deleted any of your scantly-clad women filled comments and hopes you'll be nice to him in turn.

Right, now to address the Cylons. Oh, right...

Pax vobiscum atque vale.

* ArabianShark would like to remind you that "a one free Internet voucher" refers to a single voucher, good for one free Internet, which is a token of appreciation and cannot be cashed in or redeemed anywhere, as there is only one Internet that I know of and a great many people are using it, so you can't have it, least of all for free (sorry about that). ArabianShark would also like to remind you that this is not in fine print as there is no fine print to be found at all, as ArabianShark, unlike some cowardly cutpurses out there, is most unwilling to deceive you.

Film theory

My relationship with movies is a rather colourful story. When I was very very young, they were something well beyond my reach, as hardly any children appropriate movies ran at my local theatre. However, occasionally, another, smaller theatre (an auditorium, if that's the hair you want to split) ran cartoon deature films on Saturdays and distributed flyers around schools, prompting me to get my first taste of what a cinematigraphical experience should be like.

I remember the first non-animated feature film I ever watched at a cinema was "RoboCop 3", in 1994 (shortly followed by "Jurassic Park", in the same year). "The Mask" would follow soon enough, and then I had a spat of a rather strange phobia. It struck for the fist time in 1996, if memory serves (it hardly ever does...), and went on for a good three years, until in 1999 I would conquer it by watching "Pink Nightmare" (the things teenager boys won't do for a crush on Catarina Furtado...) and several others not consequential enough for me to even remember them. Minf you, for those three years I was scared of the movies, I was absolutely terrified of the very notion of a cinema screen. Even the very sight of what would become my favourite theatre was enough to make my heart race and my stomach turn (mind you, despite there being a small theatre within the confines of a small shopping centre, we were nowhere near the multi-screen cinema complexes you can't not find at any self respecting shopping centre, and The Theatre was a venerated building, which is now, rather sadly, been demolished to make way for a pharmacy. Not so good for what ails you, if you ask me).

Long story short, I now love the movies. As such, you'd understand that if I spend what really is a trifle (compared to what people in civilized countries spend) to watch a movie at a proper cinema and the experience turns out not to be at least as satisfying as I expected it to be, I should feel at least a bit ripped-off. Usually, this could serve as a stepping stone towards an apology of piracy and a demand that corporate advertising be removed from cinema screens and (especially) DVDs, but not today.

I'll assume everyone here knows there is such a thing as a school for people who want to make movies (and no, this is not me setting you up for a special education pun; I have a great deal of respect for the good people delivering my high-grade entertainment). Sadly, I have never attended such a school, and so my theories might sound strange, silly or downright idiotic, but I'm allowed to, as I don't expect anyone to be made to pay to watch some movie loaded with what I should think are great ideas that would turn out to be absolute crap.

So today I submit to you one such crazy idea: Drama relief.

The concept of comic relief should be familiar to just about everyone: in the middle of a tense or sad movie, one bumbling character keeps the whole thing from being entirely too depressing or a despair-wracked character delivers one well turned pun or makes a joke of his dire straits (no, not the band) to lighten up the mood.

And now, for the novelty: amidst a comedy, one certain character, likely perfectly useless, as far as the plot is concerned (and, then again, maybe not...) does asolutely nothing funny. Despite madness and pantomine all around him (or her), they keep perfectly level headed, handle every situation in a most sensible manner and manage to avoid every situation that would make for a risible setting.

Case in point: well, there aren't any that I've noticed, but picture a comedy set in an English girls boarding school. (Oi! I said comedy, you perverts!) I can think of two I watched last night, one of them quite good, on spote of a not-so-great sequel (pro tip: You don't cast Russel Brand in a movie only to leave him out of the sequel! That would be akin to Mr. George Lucas deciding he'll be making three more Star Wars films, but none of them will feature any Force users.) Each film has a perfectly sensible, albeit bumbling, teacher who manages to be bullied or otherwise caught in some setting made to tickle a larf out of your sense of schadenfreude. Even their appearence (especially their apparel) is made to indicate a gentleman of tranquil reason, but not much fortune.

Consider instead, in keeping with the theme here, Professor Snape of Harry Potter fame, transplanted from Hogwarts to whatever boarding school the film is set at, leaving behind his magical prowess, his knowledge of both potions and the Dark Arts and any semblance of relevance to the grand scheme of things (a. k. a., the plot) and instead gaining the uncanny ability of teaching math (well, you try it, then).

Much as I like Alan Rickman, I wonder if the man has ever said anything funny in his career. He does, however, make great dramatical characters, and his seemingly out-of-place presence in an otherwise irreverent and inconsequent comedy might oerhaps act like that pinch of salt in your merengue or that dash of vineagre in your Pavlova (assuming that does do anything for taste, rather than just help with the consistency of the egg whites) that makes the dominant sweetness seem all the more intense by contrast.

You know, just a thought. I'll be banging this drum much harder the day I make a major grossing film featuring my concepts. Don't hold your breath.

Pax vobiscum atque vale.

ArabianShark is still waiting for an English chef to suggest an asian recipe featuring Spam to blatantly rip off here, where it would be most adequate. Now who would like to see Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsey compete for the priviledge? We only need a Drama Relief character to make a comedy out of that, now. Until then, let's have a new poll.