Our Mathematical Universe by Max Tegmark

I bought this book in October 2018 and I have picked it up several times reading bits and pieces digesting the content. This is not a book you undertake lightly for though it is written well; it’s content is revolutionary as it’s pushing at the boundaries of what we currently understand about quantum physics. I still haven’t got more than a third of the way through it as it takes complete concentration and focus which I rarely have available to me. It’s only due to storm Ciara that today I have started it once more.

I have found though that I keep coming back to this topic. When I’m bored and don’t know what to draw; I draw a rainbow, the universe, a sunset or the night sky. I have taken more photos of sunsets around the world than I can count! I’m fascinated with astronomy as I’m always watching Brian Cox. There has to be something in this for though I have explored many, many avenues; This one remains relatively untouched because of the brain power it takes to comprehend it.

I also find that only when I have covered all of the bases and I’m in a really deep meditative like state do I start to appreciate the complexities that are inherent in physics. It usually starts with boredom as I’m unsure what to do next and ends up with some amazing revelations about my self, my place and the world around me. Tapping into the strength of our minds is where our creativity comes from and our best ideas whatever they may be. Walking is good here as espoused by many a scientist who had there breakthroughs then, having a bath like Archimedes with his famous Eureka statement or the more unusual like Einstein working as a patent clerk.

Whatever it is that you do, find some time for yourself as you will be much happier once you have discovered that latent content locked within the fortress that is your brain. You have everything that you need to progress in life already. You just have to find out how to use it to benefit humankind.

Michael Pollen – Cooked

He is a famous author and chef who has written several books on the history of food that are on Blinkist and I’m working my way through them. He also has a four part series on NetflixCooked after the title of his book that it follows. The episodes deal with the effects of Fire, Water, Air and Earth. It comes as no surprise that he has worked closely with Samin Nosrat on her Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat cookbook. He taught her how to write while she taught him how to cook.

In Fire he ventures around America looking for the secrets to bbq and grilled meats. He compares traditional methods to the ones used to industry. He goes in for the science and analyses the proteins present in meat with the transformation they undergo when being cooked – denaturalisation. He also indulges in some male bonding too while learning the secrets of southern cooking in addition to the history which is rooted in slave culture.

In Water he looks into the changes that have taken place in the American food industry since the 1950’s. He also tackles the rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes. I’m shocked to find that there is no longer an adult onset diabetes as type 2 used to be called. It’s now often found in children. This is directly linked to the fact we spend less time the kitchen and more time working. Even in India, one of the poorest countries in the world, you can’t live off one income and processed food is becoming the norm.

In Air he looks at the importance of bread to the daily diet in Morocco. He gets political about what happens when the price of bread rises too much; and how these conflicts cause shortages all over the world. Due mostly to over reliance on imports from bad harvests because of changing climatic conditions. He also gets scientific examining the role that gluten performs and why it’s so difficult to get a good gluten free loaf.

In Earth he examines the process of fermentation. Here he discovers that cacao beans are first fermented for a week before they are dried and then turned into chocolate etc. I didn’t know it was necessary to do this because the raw beans are so bitter as to be unpalatable. If you’ve ever eaten cooking chocolate you might know this taste. In contrast to chocolate, cheese is a another food that undergoes fermentation that we all know about. Here still there are more secrets to be discovered by looking into the science of the rind on cheeses. He also experiments by making his own beer to continue on from when he learnt to make bread.

I have found this series fascinating to watch to realise that there is a lot to learn from traditional methods of cooking that we can’t replicate in our modern high tech kitchens. The culture of disgust in relation to the French appreciation of stinky cheese is an amazing topic to have a discussion on. Our overuse of antibacterial sprays to clean with and antibiotics to cure to disease is causing a backlash in the health of our gut biome which is only just starting to be looked into seriously. I liked the anthropological look into ancient cultures and how they would pickle vegetables to get through the winter which is why vegans need to eat kimchi etc to remain healthy. Its a source of b vitamins and even vitamin c.

Best wishes

Angela

Advocating for autism

As a proud autistic adult I have written 2 new books and these are about how to deal with the traumatic and emotional events that life throws at us like dealing with grief, social occasions, adolescence etc

Imagina and A Life of Ice and Fire.

This is in addition to Autistic Communication and Autistic Education.

My other books are on How to learn the Greek language, Greek life, More Greek, How to learn languages and finally A Life of Halcyon Days which is a romantic chick lit book set in Greece.

Best wishes

Angela

Chasing the sun and my heritage

As you all no doubt know by now, I am a child of the British Empire and the Ancient Raj. Being an army child but not having the companionship of any of the army families around me is incredibly isolating.

You start out with all of these morals and ideas from a bygone era that immediately sets you apart from the rest of the civilian world. I had a very structured and disciplined upbringing which was good for me in general but it wasn’t when it came to socialization. This made me rather awkward as to properly socialize you need to both know yourself and be yourself. This requires you to be an individual and as part of the army mindset you are just another cog in the machine. You don’t think for yourself, you just do as your told, blindly and without question as that is the nature of hierarchical authority.

This probably explains all the trouble and problems people like Lord Byron caused. They were born with a different mindset so they had to go on extended tours of the continent to find themselves. When they had and realised they were never going to fit in to the closeted English society – they stayed abroad in the many outposts of the British Empire.

This is possibly why I’m attracted to people like Patrick Leigh Fermor and Lawrence Durrell as they echo the upbringing of my parents. They were both well travelled enjoying the benefits that living in foreign countries brings. This way of living compels you to always travel, think, research, to understand the meaning of things.

There is so much history out there that has been reported in a biased way. It was always to the benefit of the victors neglecting the other side of the conflict for wars are fought by 2 sides but only 1 is recorded. Even then it was only men who recalled their lives for prosperity.

So in order to correct this I have been watching The Rise of Empires – The Ottoman Empire on Netflix and I have been reading feminist retellings of classic books like the Odyssey and the Iliad. I have written about my findings and I hope in the not too distant future to go on holiday to places like Sicily, Rhodes and Cyprus to further explore my background.

Best wishes

Angela

Nesting

This is a curious phenomenon that generally affects women. Folklore has it that if you suddenly start doing it your either pregnant or about to give birth. Now I’m going to set the record straight for what Nesting actually is – hormone related anxiety.

You can nest while not being pregnant as women commonly do this when they are missing their spouses or some other close family relation. My mother has always done it as she has always tided my clothes in the wardrobe to within an inch of their lives. She does this to cope with missing me, my brother and her only grandchild. It’s extraordinarily painful for her and it’s extraordinarily painful for me too. To this end I have tried to avoid this heartache. There is however only so much you can drink, go on holiday, stay at other people’s houses and generally avoid the issue. I nest too and I’ve never been pregnant. I have however started to employ another of her mechanisms which is to cook because that is not a thing I tend to often do.

Nesting is a very real desire to control that which you cannot control by cleaning, tidying, preparing and making sure everything is in order in your life and home.

To this end you can’t fix the problem because you didn’t create it. However, your natural state of being is amplified by your hormones. It makes you seem almost neurotic and paranoid. This is not a good state of mind to be in. Your maternal instincts are strong and there kicking in yet there is no one to protect. It’s another version of the fight or flight response but this one is uniquely feminine. It has its benefits because a babies immune system is immature at best plus your so tired from lack of sleep your grateful for having a stock of necessary items.

This is not useful though if there is no baby involved like with myself. I have been writing a lot recently but when that is done for the day, I obsessively shop to find the best outlets for my prospective house move. There are in fact no supermarkets in walking distance and it’s quite a trek by bus as they expect everyone in that area to drive a car. It’s primarily residential and it’s where the locals live instead of students or immigrants which is the rest of my city. So there is that.

The cooking is due to all the food I have collected trying to get outside exercise and the cleaning is due to several viewings of my house. It has to be showhome clean and tidy at all times. This is a big ask for me as it stops my creativity. Dressing a house constantly and being absent for viewings is no mean feat in the wind, rain and cold of an English winter.

I do not expect this situation to change anytime soon so I will continue to watch my shows and read until this particular storm has abated.

Best wishes

Angela

On finding out the reasons for things – cookery edition

When I was just starting out to cook for my self I made the usual student meals. Everyone knew that bacon and cheese were wonder foods that could pretty much rescue anything disaster that you happen to make in the kitchen. Bacon was also the cure if you had drunk too much. What those experiments teach you is the importance of salt and fat to your food.

You don’t realise this then as the object of food then is fuel that is to be cooked quickly and eaten just as quickly so you can get on with whatever activity you were doing before.

I also realised why you always eat pancakes with honey and lemon. There soft, sometimes chewy but also crispy and sweet so all your taste buds are covered.

I’ve have had Hugh Fernley Whittingstall’s 3 good things cookery book for a while. It’s another textbook sized cookbook that goes into detail about the ingredients that chapter is focused on. I’ve used it quite a lot as it’s simple and quick to put together but the results are amazing. I have his River Cottage cookbook and his Bread cookbook too. Bread is a thing the British don’t do particularly well as anyone who has even eaten a slice of white sliced bread will know.

I also like Jack Monroe as I bought her first book about cooking on a budget. She it turns out is autistic and has some Greek heritage too so that might have something to do with it. It’s a good book as the receives are simple to follow and there all costed and portioned well. They use some unusual ingredients like tinned peaches but if your as limited on funds as she was you have to improvise.

Another one of my favourite chefs is Jamie Oliver as when he first came on the scene he was known as the Naked Chef due to his stripped down style of cooking. He has made many a book and program since his Jamie’s Great Britain but I find this a brilliant book.

I also have a Readers digest book on potatoes which I find quite authoritative when coming up with new ideas for what to do with spuds.

I thought I would list the best books that I have found for autistics to use so that they can learn some independence. It works for students just as well as there are no fancy ingredients unlike Nigella Lawson.

Thriving Autistic Adult Series

  • Best wishes
  • Angela
  • Cleaning

    I thought since this is another basic area that we all need to learn I would draw attention to a book I read about this on Blinkist. Mrs Hinch’s Hinch yourself happy. This is an advertising campaign that started appearing all of a sudden when I went shopping for cleaning materials. There was never any explanation that I saw in the form of adverts for who this Mrs Hinch was or why she was so good at cleaning. She certainly wasn’t a celebrity like Kim and Aggie Woodburn became with her own reality tv show. So the conclusion I came to was she was a housewife who had just gone viral through the use of social media. This is what the book, which I came across later, more or less says. Authenticity is the key here I believe. She believed in herself and became a star.

    Part of My basics for living well as an adult with autism series

  • Best wishes
  • Angela
  • Cooking notes

    When thinking about the scientific method of cooking detailed by Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat I came across some notes that I made for myself about the basics of savoury and sweet cooking. Knowing that I have a butterfly mind it’s good to know that I had the sense to record the knowledge I had then.

    I had previously done it with card games that I learnt at sixth form but the instructions were not explicit enough. I could no longer remember how the games were played and with there being no one around anymore, the paper was useless.

    Anyone can cook they just have to be taught in the correct way. This seems applicable to any skill in the world. It can be broken down into its parts and then when they have been learnt, reassembled to create many different things.

    I feel like I’m finding my way finally after being lost in the wilderness for many years. I tried many avenues after my initial purpose of being a computer programmer was thwarted by unforeseen events. It’s really nice to be in a good place like I am right now. Yes I’ve had a lot of anxiety and indecision about plans made and unmade but that’s life. I’m learning to roll with its punches.

    Best wishes

    Angela

    Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat

    Just like my earlier post In praise of wine, it sometimes takes a novice to learn all the necessary requisite skills of an activity, to be able to explain them to others in an easily digestible manner.

    She has a 4 part Netflix series which I watched over Christmas as it gave me insights into Mexican cuisines use limes and sour oranges (acid), The Japanese obsession with the sea (salt), The Italian love of dried meats (fat) and her own life as an American immigrant from Iran. (heat).

    There is also a Blinkist book which I read this afternoon that gives some scientific explanation for the use of different elements in cooking. She explains why

    • Middle Eastern cooks love salt to an unhealthy degree (not just the climate),
    • why vegetarian cooking takes some re-education (fat is flavour),
    • why white wine or tomatoes are counted as a cooking acid where as lemon juice is a garnishing acid
    • and why we love crispy food (heat).

    I have just received her cookbook in the post from Amazon and it’s a veritable textbook! It’s at least an inch thick so it’s certainly a distillation of all other knowledge that she has gained while working as a professional chef in America.

    I like cookbooks that go into depth about the why things happen rather than just assuming you know all of the kitchen tricks already. When girls left school during my parents era they were given a book that detailed how to do all the different dishes that were commonly eaten them as well as advice about the ingredients. This was to back up the domestic science lessons that they had received. It helped them to run the household a lot smoother. While this was patriarchal, gender equality wasn’t present then. It did however allow women the skills to perform to the best of their ability.

    I think we have lost something essential by stopping teaching cooking in schools. I don’t have the innate knowledge that has been passed down from generations or a handy cookbook to assist me to run my own life. I think it would benefit all students if they had such a book. Good mental health comes from good food and the knowledge that you can look after yourself on a budget. With this in mind I have decided to make this a part of a series on things that an autistic adult needs to survive in the world. When there mind is calm then they can contribute there brilliance to the world whatever it may be.

    Best wishes

    Angela

    In praise of wine

    I has just finished Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker on Blinkist and it made me think of the wine tasting I had been on when I was on the cruise in the Canary Islands and the many wine tastings that I had attended in Greece. They do all follow the same guidelines of

    • Observing the colour of the wine,
    • Swirling the glass to check the viscosity of the liquid – the more slowly it drops down the glass the better the quality,
    • The smell of the wine to appreciate its aroma – this builds appetite for the wine to come,
    • The tasting of the wine by sipping – allowing it to run all over your mouth so that all areas of your tongue can appreciate the liquid and finally
    • The mouthfeel of the wine itself – is it light, medium or full bodied.
  • I hadn’t until I read this considered not only the restaurant etiquette of ladies before men and guests before hosts working in a clockwork manner but the job that the sommelier (wine waiter) has to achieve of balancing his guests desires with the food that they are ordering.
  • Many of us don’t know what we want to drink as we are not well practiced in the subtle nuances that are present in wine. There are so many variants possible like vintages, varieties, the infamous terroir. It’s mind blowing the combinations that are possible but it is the job of the sommelier to know all of this while also being able to walk and talk while not spilling a drop. That’s quite an ask so respect your bar staff next time you see them.
    • I thought since drinking alcohol is such a big part of being an adult this needed to be included in the Thriving Autistic Adult Series
  • Best wishes
  • Angela