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I was watching a movie on Netflix the other day and, I have to confess, I don't "get" superheroes. Nor do I get people's obsession with them.


Consider one of the more famous superheroes - Batman. His eternal nemesis is The Joker (played perfectly by Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix, and... also played by Jared Leto).

Now, it seems to me that the fact that we have supervillians is down to the fact that we have superheroes. After all, what would The Joker be without Batman? There would be no need for all of the big elaborate schemes. He can easily run rings around the police, so a life of turning over banks and liquor stores would be sufficiently productive without too much effort, and if he wanted to be really evil and get away with it, all he needs to do is run for office.

Enter Batman. The nominated good guy. Or, rather, the nominated good guy who is incapable of dealing with the big bad. Incapable because he can't, or incapable because he won't? After all, we might ask what is The Joker without Batman, but on the other hand, what is Batman without The Joker?


This is, actually, a story as old as the Early Middle Ages (give or take a little). Because there is good and evil in mankind, their creation of an omnipotent creator is suffused with the same basic plot. Consider Satan. God's archenemy. He who controls the underworld. Terror, screaming, fire, pits of sulphur... basically a rainy Saturday in Detroit, right?
Now, the general story is that a character in the Abrahamic religion call Satan/the Devil is (except in Judaism) a fallen angel (called Lucifer in Christianity) who rebelled against God. As is to be expected with the Abrahamic religions, details and interpretations vary. I'll stick with the Christian interpretation as that's how I was brought up.

Anyway, Lucifer, fallen angel. Actually purloined from Roman mythology (it means "Light-Bringer" and was the name for Venus in it's morning aspect (which has its origins in ancient Greek)) and used as an alternate name for The Devil. This allowed them to give this whole backstory where Lucifer is a fallen angel (cast out of Heaven for rebelling against God's plan), along with the New Testament apparently describing a war in Heaven - something that budget horror movies with religious motifs have had a field day with. And as for Lucifer, seems he's quite adept at running a nightclub, among other things.

There is, of course, one giant flaw in this story.

God is supposed to be omnipotent and infallible. So how is it that one of his angelic creations was even able to rebel or disagree? If his own can't support his supposed plan, it's a bit hypocritical to judge us mere morals if we don't buy it either (especially given as we are never let in on the big secret).
In fact, one could argue that - just like Batman - it would suit God quite nicely having the Devil, Satan, Lucifer, whatever you want to call him. Because this gives him a convenient scapegoat to blame for everything that is wrong. Rather than accepting his giant fallibility and that leukemia in an eight year old is his doing...he can just deny anything to do with people's suffering, point at the Devil, and say that either you've strayed from the path or you just aren't pure enough. Victim blaming at it's finest.
God is a bastard who needs the Devil to exist.

Batman is a bastard who needs The Joker to exist.

And in between the two and this dumb struggle between Good and Evil, lie plenty of ordinary people who would, if they woke up and realised what was actually going on, tell both of them to bugger off.

If you can't have Good without having Evil, what's the point of having Good? That's why I just can't accept superheroes.


Halogen cooker and chips

When talking about what to do with my potatoes about a month ago, David Boddie and Rob both suggested an air fryer. I watched the video, and was definitely interested, until I wandered over to Amazon and saw the price of these things. A Seb Actifry is currently on special offer for €112,99 (normal price €169,99). Tefal is similar. This is for a basic model. Better ones go up into the €350 bracket! I'm looking at Seb and Tefal as given it's a cooking device using heat, I'm not interested in some cheap Chinese creation.

That's a lot of money just to make some chips.


It took a while, but I remembered something that Mom bought for €20 in a vide grenier a few years ago. Or rather, I didn't remember it so much as the really weird thing Mom said. She bought it, handed it to me, and said "In a few years, this will be useful to you".
The really weird part? This was before she was diagnosed with a melanoma and the sorry history that followed. Did she know? Did she suspect something?

So, I rummaged around and dug it out. Gave it a clean. I wasn't entirely sure how to sterilise the inside (everything here is normally sterilised before use with boiling water because it isn't useful to have any trust in slightly brown water smelling of iron that was hoiked out of a well). It's also why I use disposable paper plates and bamboo cutlery (less washing, nothing to sterilise, so less water loss).

Then I facepalmed. Literally, I smacked myself on the face. It's a freakin' oven thingy. Just, you know, rinse the bowl out with Volvic, then put it together, turn it on, and let it heat up and evaporate away all the water. I mean, what the DUH.

Halogen cooker.
Halogen cooker.

It's pretty bizarre to cook stuff by shining a bright light at it, but that's sort of how it works. There's a fan for air circulation, and a bright-as-hell circular halogen bulb that chucks out heat.
They are fairly simple devices - list price on Amazon with Prime delivery is around €60-70. Some have a mesh platter with an extension ring which is what I think I need with this one. But, alas, I don't have such a thing so will need to improvise.


The first step was to wash off (in well water, they were coated in dirt from the ground!) six potatoes and peel them. I hate this stage as they are fiddly to peel, the starch makes them slippery, and the peeler's blade is just as adapt at peeling humans as potatoes.

Peeling potatoes.
Peeling potatoes.


The next step was to pass the potatoes through a chip maker. This is a device that has a metal grid and forces the potato through. You can't be gentle with this, potatoes are pretty solid, so you have to try to slam the potato through the grid.

A plate of pre-chips.
A plate of pre-chips.
It's worth noting that those six fairly small potatoes created a plate of chips. Worth remembering the next time a burger joint stiffs you on the chips (which is why I pulled up McDo every time they did it, and don't go there anymore).


The chips were put into a strainer and rinsed off with clean water. Just like with rice, this is to wash away as much starch as possible.

They were then arranged between layers of paper towel to dry them off.


The lower half of the cooker's bowl was greased (with sunflower oil), and the chips placed into the bowl.

Chips in the bowl.
Chips in the bowl.


The cooker was set to 190°C and the timer to 40 minutes.

Cooking the chips.
Cooking the chips.


At this point, you're probably wondering "wait, the recipes on the Internet tell you to parboil them first!". That's true. Actually, I made chips a couple of weeks ago parboiling and using the oven. It took about 40 minutes of cooking, and the end result wasn't so impressive (chips that were almost soggy inside). Plus it doubled the washing up. So this time I'm trying it without boiling first.


It took about three minutes to reach temperature. When it did, I turned the timer back to 40 minutes.

After ten minutes, I lifted the lid and stirred the chips.


It is normal for the light to come on and go off a lot. When the temperature is reached, the light goes off. When it cools down, which it will do quickly as it is a metal bowl with zero insulation, the light will come back on.
I'm just mentioning this as it seems a number of question prompts on Google are people who think their cooker might be broken when it does this. It's perfectly normal. If you listen, you'll hear a click each time. That's the thermostat clicking on and off.


After twenty minutes, I stirred them again, and increased the temperature to about 220°C to help brown them.

After thirty minutes, one final stir.


After forty minutes, chips!

Chips and ketchup.
Chips and ketchup.


These were not perfect - something that I identified about halfway through was that the chips at the bottom of the bowl weren't really cooking. I have an insert tray to put into the bowl but it is a set of metal rows, not a mesh, so it isn't really useful for chips as any lying the same direction as the metal pieces would fall right through.
This isn't insurmountable. I'll just have to keep my eyes open for a mesh (BBQ tool? or maybe a metal strainer bowl?) that I can "make fit" using a pair of pliers. This can either go directly into the bowl, or sit on top of the tray that I have. Either way, as long as it lifts the chips off of the bottom of the bowl and allows airflow underneath, it ought to cook more evenly and perhaps more quickly.

I also need to experiment with the temperatures. Perhaps the chips could stand 210°C for a shorter time? It's a trade-off as you don't want the chips uncooked in the middle; but I feel that there's definitely room for improvement here.

Whilst the first attempt wasn't any quicker than using an oven, it was quite a saving in electricty. The halogen cooker heated up in about three minutes (the oven takes about ten), and when running it's drawing about a kilowatt for the heater bulb, plus a couple of hundred watts for the fan motor. The oven draws 2.2kw with both elements running. Direct comparisons are not so easy as the on/off pattern is vastly different. The halogen cooker turns the heater on and off a lot more frequently for short periods. The traditional style oven, on the other hand, goes a lot longer with the heaters off, but when they're on they're on for much longer.

It's also worth noting that the only oil here was the bowl, to stop the chips sticking. The chips themselves were only cooked in as much oil as they were able to glean from the bowl whilst being stirred.

The end result was satisfactory (not perfect). Some chips were soft, some crunchy. A reasonable mix. I prefer my chips on the side of soft, but a more balanced cooking ought to make things more homogenous.

Strangely enough, my chips were actually rather sweet. Is this normal of Bintje, or is this how chips are when they're home-grown and not industrially produced? It reminded me of the time when I first tasted Japanese koshihikari - when I realised that rice actually tastes of something, and isn't just this white stuff to dump a sauce on top of.
Suffice to say, rather a lot of the ketchup remained at the end, as I quite liked the taste of the potatoes on their own. They didn't need ketchup to enhance their flavour. Rather, I felt that ketchup detracted from the flavour...

I think I'm going to have to grow potatoes again as these - even from a crop that failed due to blight - are actually really quite nice. I'm definitely going to have to look in the supermarket for something to use as a mesh, and try this again.


And, yes, Mom. In a few years, that little halogen cooker does look like it's going to be useful.
(how the hell did she know?!?)

Apparently you can do a lot of other stuff in it, like chicken and veg. It didn't come with a cookbook, just a silly little instruction manual that's basically a folded piece of paper.
I'll need to look online to find out more. Suggestions welcome...



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David Pilling, 4th October 2021, 02:52
Grow your own spuds, store them, and if the frost gets at them they will make very sweet tasting chips.
Gavin Wraith, 4th October 2021, 13:41
I remember comics from my childhood about Captain Marvel, Superman and Spiderman. I found them embarrassingly infantile even then. There is nothing wrong with being an infant, but it is surely unwise, even for children, to wear their wish-fulfilment fantasies on their sleeves. It is the same embarrassment that I feel for Chinese martial arts or superhuman power films. They are proclamations of feelings of inadequacy.
Rick, 4th October 2021, 14:35
At school, my friends and I wanted to be ninja turtles. This usually involved a lot of jumping around and smacking each other around the head with "borrowed" plastic drainpipe. Oh, and an encyclopædic knowledge of different pizza toppings. 
Our wish fulfilment came to an abrupt end when The Man (headmaster) caught us, and felt it appropriate to blame us for ALL of the broken drainpipe, which was quite unfair as most of it was attached to the building and we didn't touch that. But, then, The Man was a dick that liked to view everything in terms of black and white only. 
Rick, 4th October 2021, 14:39
As for the inadequacy, I can't help but wonder, if there was a real superhero - why on earth would he or she want to get involved? 
What's s/he going to do, anyway? Run around SHOUTING at idiots that don't wear masks? Mock idiot anti-vaxxers? 
Or maybe be useful and learn to drive a truck. 
Gavin Wraith, 4th October 2021, 17:42
I think superheroes are mostly interesting for what they tell us about the societies for whom they were created. Odysseus is much-travelled and cunning. Guy of Warwick is good at piety and fighting, and despises more sedentary clerkly lifestyles. The most interesting is Olaf Stapledon's Odd John, IMHO.
David Boddie, 7th October 2021, 23:37
This kind of potato peeler is perhaps a little easier to use, and potentially less hazardous: 0233256/ 
It doesn't seem to be available in IKEA France. You can find the same type elsewhere for more £$€ but nobody should be paying upwards of $10 for something like that. 
The next "model" up is this one: -noir-00152159/

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