Friday, August 31, 2018

Tabloid beer

Excellent response to the recent click-bait article in the Sun about Craft Beer. The essence of the article was that people who buy "Craft Beer" are essentially just trying to be "hip" because it really tastes horrible, and also stupid because it's horrendously over priced. They then recruited a bunch of miserable old gits to sample various craft beers and do their best impressions of Monty Pythons' four Yorkshiremen. Scores out of 10 varied from 0 to 1 for beers rated on "RateBeer" (a beer rating site populated by tens of thousands of reviewers) at mostly 8's or 9's, I guess it's a case of "you get what you pay for..."

The main example they cite as evidence for this position is an imperial stout (from America) that's on tap at the Craft Beer Co. in Old Street (London) at £22 per pint. Of course the whole point about this beer, called Speedway Stout Hawaiian "Special Edition", is that it's not for drinking by the pint, it's a 12% dark beer brewed in the USA (San Diego) and imported especially. As the name suggests it's a "Special Edition" i.e. only available in minuscule quantities world-wide! A third of a pint would be quite sufficient to try this beer and form an opinion about it and it's producers.

Of course, if you're an avid Sun reader and view beer as simply a delivery vehicle to attaining oblivion on a Saturday night and are looking for the lowest unit alcohol cost and a tasteless, uncontroversial and totally repetitive (dull) experience, then feel free to join your Brexit buddies at the nearest Wetherspoons; I doubt you'll break any hipster hearts. The rest of us (hipster or otherwise) will spend our hard earned cash on whatever the hell ridiculously fruit-laden, kettle-soured, brett-infested, milkshake IPA we fancy and enjoy every minute of it, thanks..

Friday Smirk

I wish they would make this for real, although, the problem would be that no one would make eye-contact and the girls would be way more "dench" than the boys..

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Reminder from a Remainer IV

I see "project fear" is chugging along nicely, now even the Japanese are getting in on the act! 

The electronics company Panasonic are moving their headquarters to Amsterdam from the UK, where they've been resident for several decades. There are many Japanese tech companies based in the UK where they employ over 100,000 people, let's hope they don't all read Brexit the same way that Panasonic has, although I don't see any commercial reason why they wouldn't. 

You may be wondering why this move is of any importance to me, well, this office (picture above) is in a town called Bracknell which is approximately 5 miles from my front-door and I know several people who have and are working there! When something like this happens on your doorstep it makes you stop and think (or it should do!) Two years ago I had assumed my kids were growing up in a modern hi-tech area of our country with plenty of investment, expansion and highly paid job opportunities (I pay way over the national average for everything home, leisure and transport related based on that assumption) I wonder what's going to happen to prices, infrastructure and investment around here as prestigious companies like this start to relocate to Europe in ever increasing numbers, but hey, I wouldn't want to "scare" anyone! After all, we've all got so much more "control" now haven't we..

Expected results

If an omniscient God did really exist then her "instruction manual" for the Human race would likely be unambiguous, unchanging and universally communicated/understood. If such a being didn't exist then you'd expect the world to be saturated with fragmented, contradictory and inconsistent stories authored by many different tribes invented to exert control over others. In this latter scenario, the best we could expect would be a pure invention of what those people thought such a being should say based on their own cultures and parochial concerns at their time in history.

When it comes to the veracity of scripture you have to decide for yourself what the evidence of reality suggests is really true.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Post holiday grin

Back to work today (groan) but this little leaflet cheered me up, those of us of a "certain age" will remember good old Wile E. with much fondness..

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Rainbow festival

Spent a chilled afternoon at the Siren Rainbow Project beer festival yesterday, much laughter and great beer with good friends, followed by a delicious curry in town, what more could you want? The sheer quantity of different beers on offer was too numerous to cover in great detail here, but suffice to say the quality was excellent and everyone tried at least 2 or 3 new beers that they really liked! Luckily the weather held out and although it wasn't a scorcher it was sunny (in between the clouds as per the photo above!)

The background of the "Rainbow" project (started in 2013) was to bring together leading UK craft-breweries and US craft-breweries in order to collaborate on producing a beer, each pairing was allocated a particular colour to use as inspiration hence the Rainbow label. For example the brewers who got "red" chose to age their beer in old red wine barrels, i.e. it didn't mean that the beer had to be that colour!

The Rainbow beers were as follows,

Red – Wild Beer Co. & Side Project – A sour saison, barrel aged with pomegranate and rose petals
Yellow – Hawkshead & Modern Times – Barrel aged saison with apricots
Blue – Beavertown – Barrel aged with Pinot Noir grape must
Orange - Burning Sky x 3 Floyds - Barrel-aged Barley Wine
Indigo – Magic Rock & Casita Cerveceria - Barrel-aged Sour w/Blueberry, Apricot and Pea Flowers
Green – Partizan & New Belgium – Wood aged saison aged hops
Violet - Siren x Sante Adairius - Red Wine Barrel-Fermented Saison Blend

There were many other guest and house beers there too, here are a few we tried between us (comments in italics),

Little Sicily – 4.1% Sicilian Lemon Meringue Milkshake – Slim Pickens x Beavertown (OK)
Yellow Belly – 11% Peanut Butter Biscuit Stout – Buxton / Omnipollo (bonkers!)
Hop Fizz – 6% Brut IPA – Siren (good)
Red Berry Sour Shake – Sour Berry Smoothie 5% – Siren (the girls loved this, the boys less so)
Suspended in Rainbows – 4% Hazy Pale Ale – Siren (solid)
Sound Wave Sessions Double Simcoe – 4.3% Session IPA – Siren (double-solid)
Much Ado About Muffin – 5.5% Blueberry Muffin Pale Ale – Siren / Lervig (meh)
Low Side – IPA 6.8% – Siren / Finback (Outstanding)
Broken Dream – 6.5% Breakfast Stout (Champion Beer of Britain) – Siren (v. good)
Yu Lu – 3.6% Loose Leaf Pale Ale – Siren (solid)

My favourite beer of the festival was Low Side IPA a collaboration between Siren and Finback, a brewery in Queens New York, an excellent hazy IPA made in a typical East-Coast style, delicious!

All in all a great day out, congratulations to Siren for hosting the event, it seemed to go off without a hitch, shame its the last Rainbow festival but hey ho, next year you'll just have to think of something else! (TBH any excuse to sample beer this good and this "local" would be just fine with us!)

Friday, August 24, 2018

Friday Smirk II

Venn-diagram of the week!

Population Map

Cool map that shows countries scaled to the size of their population.. 

Friday Smirk

Excellent J&M today - If the Catholic Church were any other kind of human organisation, company, government, charity or group it would have been taken apart and scrapped but apparently "Religions" have special dispensation when it comes to tolerating immoral behaviour, now there's a conundrum for future historians they will be wondering why the hell we put up with it?

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Cultural appropriation

Those people who seem to make it their life's mission to attribute everything bad (or simply positions that they don't agree with) to racism and/or cultural appropriation need to get out a bit more! Take a day or two off from the virtue signalling bubble now and again, I promise you'll feel better for it..

Mid-week grin

Seems a bit harsh?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Sod's law..

Guess which is the only day I don't need to be stuck in an office...

God's plan

Saw this little cartoon the other day, it made me smile. I'm always amazed when otherwise intelligent people claim that the chaotic, random and largely malevolent, occasionally wonderful life that we all find ourselves living is somehow being directed by a cosmic puppeteer with a "plan". All I can say is, some plan!

NHS Musings

I've been dealing with the NHS quite a lot recently, fate would have it that a couple of family members have had some serious health challenges that require intervention. I must say that the people in the hospitals and surgeries are are pretty much universally polite, competent and seem genuinely keen to help. The "system" on the other hand often seems slow (I realise that's a relative measure) and also quite impenetrable in places. Having said that, I don't envy the challenges they face, it's clearly a gargantuan task to coordinate and manage health care for so many people on such a large scale, I can only imagine what carnage used to occur when the service didn't exist and people had to rely on hard currency to get help. So, don't read me wrong, I'm a fan, it's a good idea, fair and the right thing to do at the societal level, but I feel could be improved a fair bit.

I had to visit the hospital on Sunday evening, I took my Wife's mother there on the advice of a doctor, it wasn't an emergency but I'd say it was urgent. The doctor phoned ahead and gave me a note, I was hoping that someone would be expecting us. Having located the particular department that I'd been directed to (which was deep in the bowels of the facility and really hard to find) the reception was deserted and the corridors all around completely dark, no problem I thought, just go back to the main entrance (where there were people milling around) and ask. I did that, and a helpful porter directed me to the A&E department, this wasn't really what I wanted, after 30 minutes of queuing the A&E receptionist directed me back to where I was at the start, apparently I did find the right place but clearly needed to be more adventurous in finding someone. I did all that and managed to find a helpful nurse and she took the paperwork and advised me to grab a wheelchair and go get my mother-in-law (still waiting in the car-park), at this point I'd made the return trip to this far-off department three times, it was starting to feel like a gym workout!

The next hurdle was the the admissions process, unfortunately the NI number on the form completed by the doctor was incorrect, and they couldn't find her on the computer system (even though she's been before) - tracking her down in the database took about 2 hours! This didn't delay treatment of course but it did mean that she couldn't be allocated a bed and pre-existing records couldn't be seen by the attending doctor. Eventually things got straightened out (via much phoning around) and the process started to function smoothly, many tests were done, lab results arrived within an hour and more comfortable accommodation was secured, the machine clearly took a while to wind-up to speed but once there it worked very well, we got home about 3 am, it was a long night.

Whilst hanging around in the waiting room I got to thinking about how the process might be improved, being in the technology/software industry myself my mind was obviously drawn to how computer systems might assist. 

First there's the problem of having a "joined-up" process, the doctor who initially visited could/should have had access to the historical records, he had a tablet computer but only seemed to be using it to take notes. I'm not sure why, in this age of cloud hosted applications, it wouldn't be possible to have all NHS personnel accessing the same system? The second problem was one of identification, not being able to "find" someone in your database seems like a fairly basic issue to me these days, perhaps something that would help would be for someone to develop a client-app running on mobile phones  (which most people seem to have) that identifies you to the NHS. This could then be used (somewhat like checking-in to airports) to scan your Id (and visit purpose) when arriving at hospitals, and could also be used to direct you to where you need to go! Alerting staff to incoming patients/visitors might also help them in terms of having the right kit identified and acquired in advance or at least thought about. Using devices like phones or tablets as a means of identification via a custom app would also potentially save a lot of "typing" (much of which seems to be duplicated on every visit) - I've lost count of the number of times we've been asked for basic information like name, address, phone-numbers etc. It seems as though a mountain of paper is still created every time there is any interaction when a quick swipe of a QR code or similar might eradicate all that completely and improve accuracy. 

The other area that a mobile/web app might help is in the dissemination of information, once someone is in hospital the relatives and friends want to know what the status is, currently this has to be done by phone which can be a very disruptive process. It might be better (in some cases) for status notifications to be sent by text and/or via a custom app to registered groups of people (i.e. interested parties) allowing hard pushed front-line staff more time with patients and less time on paperwork and answering the phone? 

Of course there are data-protection issues with all of these ideas but nothing that I haven't seen solved before with a decent authentication system and some proper logging and auditing processes. Seems doable to me. There's just the small issue of what it would cost, I'd wager a lot less than paying people to do it but then again the Government hasn't got a great track-record in procuring software systems, especially at this kind of scale! We live in hope.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Self destruction

Interesting article on the BBC site today about Measles. Data for the first 6 months of the year (2018) show that more than 41,000 people in Europe (800 in the UK) have caught the disease and 37 have died in that period. This is compared with 24,000 for the same period last year and 5,000 for the year before that. This is a spectacular increase a real "hockey-stick" curve in statistical terms, and entirely due to people not getting their kids vaccinated. We can certainly debate why people aren't heeding the advice of experts and getting protection, but it's highly probably the the current populist sentiment of being "anti-expert", or the "Dunning-Kruger" effect as I prefer to label it, combined with the totally fraudulent "vaccinations cause Autism" scare 20 years ago have probably both largely contributed, with a predictable outcome.

You'd be justified in thinking that there's a real determination on the part of many people to destroy the advances of recent decades, scientifically, economically, culturally and politically, it beggars belief sometimes.

Monday Mirth

I see that the best joke at Edinburgh this year was about redundancy (sign of times?) anyway, like all "best jokes" it's pretty tame but still makes you smile..

"Working at the Job-centre has to be a tense job - knowing that if you get fired, you still have to come in the next day."

Boom, boom..

Friday, August 17, 2018

The best (food)

So, the best restaurant in the world for 2018 is Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy. A mere 250 Euro for the tasting menu (10 courses) without wine! This would perhaps seem extravagant to most poeple, but then again, it's probably the whole point! With dishes like "A singular interpretation of beef fillet alla Rossini with foie gras and caviar" and the labour that entails, what should we expect?

If I had unlimited funds then restaurants like this would probably make up a small, but regular proportion of my eating habit and venue, however, they would never be 100%. There always remains a place for home-cooked and rustic food in my life. I couldn't be happy without a periodic and substantial honest plate of pasta and tomato sauce, or quality beef burger with fries, perhaps even steak and chips!

When we examine what really feels good, there's no substitute for diversity!


A new beer for Friday evening. 

Lucky DIPA (Double IPA) from Siren, ultra-hazy and (tropical) fruit filled. I can hardly detect the 8.5% ABV, but after 2 (halves) you can certainly feel a beer buzz! V. smooth for the style, made with a ton of Citra, Motueka and Vic Secret hops, the aroma hits you long before the alcohol does, like an alcoholic hop-smoothie, wonderful mouthfeel, balanced sweet vs. bitterness, a flavour triumph, highly recommended (in small dosages!)

Friday Smirk

One for the science nerds this week from the excellent xkcd

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

It's not the size that counts..

Reading an interesting article about DNA at the moment. As most people know DNA is organised in the nucleus of our cells in structures called Chromosomes (see picture above). Since DNA is encoded information about how to build brains and bodies then common sense might suggest that the smarter or more advanced you are as a species then the more chromosomes will be required? However, cell biology being what it is (slippery) this is not the case, and it's somewhat of a mystery why. 

Here are some numbers around chromosomes, they're quite surprising..

Human: 46 chromosomes
Potato: 48 chromosomes
Chimps: 48 chromosomes
Rats: 21 chromosomes
Fruit fly: 8 chromosomes
Apple: 17 chromosomes
Giraffe: 62 chromosomes
Hermit crabs: 254 chromosomes

Using common sense Hermit crabs should rule the Earth but as we all know you're never more than 10ft away from a rat! Evolution is probably the explanation for these differences and the important facts that not all of a genome is actually used to build bodies and that sometimes chromosomes split (and join) for fairly random reasons like copying errors and viral infection etc. It is well documented that the explanation for Chimps having one more pair of chromosomes than Humans, even though we are so closely related, is that at some point in history something caused one pair of chromosomes to fuse. If you examine Human chromosome number 2 you can find the exact point this happened, which is an amazing discovery as well as an amazing piece of evidence for evolution itself.

Going postal

Excellent new J&M up today. Of course the mainstream media will now go to ridiculous lengths to avoid mentioning Islam in their reports about the London attack. We're supposed to believe that the set of traditions, religious dogmas and scriptures that someone is indoctrinated with as a child and governs every little detail of their life-experience, including what they can and can't eat, wear and have sex with, have no bearing on what their actions are.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018


Noticed a new program being advertised on the History Channel called "Know Where You Stand", looks like the kind of thing I'd like. It's centred around the idea of superimposing old historical photographs onto modern views. Here we have a view of the Eiffel Tower taken from the exact spot where Hitler stood in 1940 during a fleeting visit to Paris, it's a great illustration of how transient we Human beings really are, here today, gone tomorrow!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Brut force

I ventured into virgin beer territory over the weekend, a new IPA style all the way from San Francisco called a "Brut IPA". Apparently the trick is to make a high ABV full and flavorsome American style IPA (chocked full of tasty hop varieties) and then to use the enzyme Amylase to break down any sweetness remaining in the beer rendering it bone dry, like Brut Champagne. Normally amylase is used in big, heavy dark beers to snag excess sugars so that they're not too syrupy it's not normally needed in regular IPA's.

Anyway, I had one called "Hop Fizz" from my local brewery Siren on Saturday night and all I can say is wow! With little to no bitterness, the punishing dryness seemed to accentuate the hop flavour to such an extent that I could still taste them the next day (and I only had one small 330ml bottle!). I would wager that this style becomes popular among beer geeks over the coming months, just when you thought every conceivable style of beer had been done to death, along comes a new one!

Anyone there?

I always wonder how, in those quiet moments of reflection when we question our delusions, how religious people reason about their various God's lack of apparent presence in the real-world? Our little planet seems to function exactly as you'd expect if were are no such entities at all. Perhaps it's a bit like the popular phenomenon of ghosts, goblins, spirits, fairies and angels since we invented cameras and photography. Judging by the quantity and apparent veracity of stories told a century ago you'd have thought that putting a high resolution digital camera into the hands of practically every human on the planet would supply sufficient images of supernatural entities to fill the dome of Saint Paul's Cathedral by now?

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Saturday Smirk

How is it that people think putting dog turds into little plastic bags and hanging them on tree branches, perfectly preserving them for years whilst littering the countryside, is an improvement on just letting the animal crap in the woods like every other animal already there?

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Beer-mat propoganda

Apparently (un-verified) these two lie riddled beer mats have been spotted in a Wetherspoon pub. The owner of that dismal chain is a well known Brexit fanboy, I guess you don't have to be that smart to be successful at the bargain-basement end of the pub-trade. I remember going into one of these pubs once several years ago, my lasting memory is of how the floor was slightly "sticky" and the place had a lingering odour of vomit and bleach, I'm sure there must be some good ones out there somewhere but it didn't appeal to me. Anyway, the beer and the ambience weren't in the tiniest bit memorable and when combined with the Brexit issue I decided that I won't be returning to a Wetherspoon establishment any time soon, unless of course, it's to steal or deface these ridiculous beer-mats!

Blinkered Liberals

Lots of people getting upset about a comment in the Telegraph by Boris Johnson saying that Women wearing burkas "look like letterboxes". The remark has triggered a tsunami of virtue signalling from every corner of the political spectrum, especially those on the left and those with deeply vested interests in shielding Islamic culture from any kind of criticism.

My view is that Mr Johnson has indeed caused deep and serious offence to many in this country. For example, he presided over a lacklustre tenancy as Lord Mayor of London wasting much taxpayer cash, he lied to its people about Brexit, he made a mockery of high political office, he has shamelessly promoted himself and has made so many serious gaffs and errors whilst maintaining his position in office that any competent person has to seriously question the motives of those that put him there and their reluctance to remove him. In short he's a walking disaster, an embarrassment and a parasite. But, I wouldn't go as far as to call him a racist, as many on the left are now doing. Being a stickler for evidence I see none to suggest that he is? His remark is certainly a criticism of the cultural practice of insisting on the complete covering of Women's bodies in public (often against their will) and is indeed a statement of observational fact, but it's not racist. To call him racist for this remark is simply providing cover for real racists, the left need to take heed of the fact that if you cry wolf too many times eventually people stop listening.

I prefer to take my lead from the people within this culture and religion who are trying to reform it from the inside, people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz whose viewpoint I agree with when he says, "The Hijab and it's more extreme sister the Burka are the uniforms of medieval patriarchal tyranny. Liberals who defend it are akin to Conservatives defending the confederate flag".

Monday, August 06, 2018

Elementary, Anti-Vaxxers

I came across this little gem on the inter-webs today. It'a a couple of letters written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, him of Sherlock Holmes fame, on the subject of compulsory vaccination in 1887. What's interesting about it is not the fact that Doyle was very much in favor of saving children's lives by protecting them from one of histories biggest killers, Smallpox, but that the objections to vaccination were pretty much the same 140 years ago as they are today. The same cock-eyed arguments are trotted out by today's anti-vaxxers, here's a summary of the dialogue..

1. Is it "moral" to neutralize any agent "sent by providence" (i.e. God) or suffer any Government  to do the same?

Doyle answers by reversing the logic, he asks, "is it immoral to inflict passing inconvenience upon a child in order to preserve it from a deadly disease? Does the ends never justify the means? Would it be immoral to give someone a push to save him from being run over by a locomotive"? He concludes with the following. If all these are really immoral, I trust and pray that we may never attain morality.

2. The question of effectiveness.

Doyle points out that the smallpox vaccine had been around for nearly a century, with more unanimity than any other medical subject. In past centuries whole tracts of the country were decimated by the disease but by 1887 many doctors never saw a single case in a lifetime of practice.

Just as today's Anti-vaxxers claim that the disease might have changed or other factors (like hygiene or safe drinking water) may account for the reduction. Doyle points out that doctors and nurses had worked in smallpox hospitals for over fifty years without a single case of them catching it, because they were protected by vaccination.

3. The Question of adverse effects

Another tack taken by the anti-vaxxers of the time was that vaccination caused "indescribable" effects. Perhaps the reason why the effects might be indescribably was that they were imaginary. We're still seeing this claim today with concerns over autism, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

People argue that vaccines are "poison". Doyle points out that the most useful drugs like opium and digitalis are also poisons. We accept a small risk to get a great benefit.

4. Lies damn lies and statistics

Detractors often cite occasional outbreaks as a "failure" of vaccination, Doyle points out that such outbreaks strengthen the case for vaccination, because there are far fewer deaths in those that have been vaccinated than those that haven't, even at the time there was 20 years of data on this,

  • Of those with four vaccination marks: 0.5 percent died
  • Of those with three marks: 1.9 percent died
  • With two marks: 4.7 percent died
  • With one mark: 7.7 percent died
  • With no marks but claiming to have been vaccinated: 23.3 percent died
  • Non-vaccinated patients: 37 percent died

Doyle's thinking on this subject was clearly reasonable, he seemed to be fighting the same battle as many heath-care professionals are still fighting today, although it's worth noting that he wasn't perfect, his views on other matters such as parapsychology, telepathy and spiritualism weren't so insightful.

Reminder from a Remainer III

Brexit: An evolution of deceit & dissembling.
1. "They need us more than we need them."
2. "It should be the easiest deal in human history."
3. "No deal is better than a bad deal."
4. "They have to believe we'll walk away."
5. "Shit. They believed us. We're screwed. Blame them."


My biggest fear regarding this whole machine-learning gig is that, as well as the useful patterns, data-points representing many of our Human biases, prejudices and stupidity are sitting in a lot of the data we're using to train the models, particularly the ones to do with behaviour. I wonder if we know enough about ourselves (and are honest enough) to recognise and filter out the cruft?

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Fake news

When evidence-free, ridiculous and unsubstantiated stories circulate for a few weeks these days we call it "fake news", if those same stories circulate for a thousand years we call it "religion".


Another pleasant half-hour in the sunshine at the Siren Tapyard yesterday. Popped in to try a new beer (see pic. above) called "Suspended in Ekuanot" it's an American style pale ale that features a hop called "Ekuanot" hence the name. Made in a hazy "east-coast" style it was really good, fruity with a small amount of bitterness on the finish, good body/mouth-feel too for such a sessionable beer (only 4% ABV) could of easily sunk a couple of these but unfortunately had teenage offspring to pick up from the train station, pesky kids.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Friday Smirk

I guess it's all about perspective...

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Evidence of miracles

Great new J&M up today. Illustrating the facile nature of most so called "miracles". When you see your particular god absolutely everywhere then the idea becomes by definition meaningless and simply synonymous with "nature". As the Hitch used to say, that which can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed with none.