Monday, December 31, 2018

New Year


So, here we all are again, another day, another year. I can't say that I'll be sad to say goodbye to 2018, generally it seems to have been a horrible year for many in our country, and was particularly difficult for some of the people I'm closest to, my family especially. I'm anticipating big changes in 2019, plenty of challenges still, but hopefully some space to live a bit too.

Friday, December 28, 2018

2018 Films


And so onto films of 2018, there were quite a few good ones this year but here's my top 10 list..

1. Searching - An unlikely film this, it's a plain tale about the daughter of a guy who has just lost his wife to cancer. The daughter has a secret life and goes missing, the story is about how all the father has is his daughters laptop and how he uses it to unpick her secrets via her social media accounts etc. Certainly a film of our times.

2. Isle of Dogs - A quirky Japanese film about dogs (as opposed to the island in the Thames estuary) I do like a good animation and this definitely is one!

3. Blackkklansman - Social commentary from Spike Lee, about an undercover black cop back in the 70's and how he infiltrates the KKK in order to expose racially motivated violence, poignant twist at the end.

4. Avengers Infinity War - Usual dose of uber CGI, slick and well made, can't go wrong really.

5. Ready Player One - Another quirky animation, great fun working out all the film references, quality stuff.

6. Bohemian Rhapsody - Absolute must for any Queen fan, brilliant acting and characterization, felt like the real thing.

7. Incredibles 2 - Yet another animation. Loved the first one of these as did my kids, watched it over and over, this one is good too, a worthy sequel.

8. They Shall Not Grow Old - Documentary style film from Peter Jackson, brilliant use of cutting edge technology to add colour and sound to old black and white World War One footage, startling, thought provoking and unforgettable. 

9. The Dawn Wall - Documentary film about the first ascent of a route up El Capitan in Yosemite, stunning photography and buttock clenching suspense as the finger and foot holds get smaller and smaller.

10. First Man - Interesting angle on Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon, nice interplay of real and CGI footage of the various rockets and vehicles that he used, quite sad in the end.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Lager top..


East by the Wild Beer Co. (Bristol) a Christmas gift and wonderfully refreshing, enough to cut through the toughest turkey sandwich and days old trifle ... A wheat beer flavoured with Yuzu and citrus zest, like an old fashioned lager-top but with hops!

Friday Smirk (late)


By this stage we're all feeling a little like this..

Craft Beer 2018 Review


So, it's that time of year again, time to look back over the previous year's stuff, it's a tradition, a bit like when incompetent people fill their online calendars up with meetings labelled "catch-up" and "review" to make themselves look busy.

Let's start with one of my favourite 2018 topics, craft beers, here's my top ten for the year..

1. Low Side - A Siren beer (the first of many) done in collaboration with Finback of New York, a hazy strong IPA that was about as balanced as a balanced thing should be, wonderful stuff.

2. Muse - Drunk back in March at the Rake in Borough Market, made by Gipsy Hill and Boxcar a sessionable New England style IPA that simply tasted as though it should be much, much bigger, a triumph!

3. Affogato - One of a series of four coffee flavoured beers made by Siren, this one was pale in colour but loaded with rich, creamy coffee roast flavour, a beer that beggared belief.

4. Hop Fizz - My first "Brut IPA", and completely lush. Hops for days and a Champagne, Brioche dryness that was spot on.

5. Arise - A super beer by Burning Sky, drunk at the Hoxton in Holborn from a just opened cask - super fresh and perfectly satisfying.

6. Fabulist - This one was from Magic Rock up in Huddersfield, a dank and hazy concoction that was perfect for the hot Summer we had, consumed at the Fox and Hounds in Caversham.

7. Millionaire - Almost a "mainstream" beer nowadays since you can buy it in Waitrose. This stout by the Wild Beer Company tastes like a salted caramel, chocolate and milk shake, thick and dark like engine-oil, but is completely sessionable at only 4.7%, a result.

8. The Sky was Pink - Another Siren masterpiece, this IPA flavoured with hibiscus, Mandarina and Hallertau hops was beautifully crushable in the (now long forgotten) sunshine!

9. Suspended in Space - Part of a growing family of "Suspended In ..." beers from Siren, this one stuck out for me, probably because of the Mosaic and Citra hops used in it, a crowd pleasing fruit-bomb with a 6.5% sting in the tail.

10. Limoncello - One of my all time favourites, sunk at the 5th birthday party at the Siren brewery. This lemony flavoured double IPA is really hard to come by as it's so popular among aficionados! Not even the "beast from the East" could put me off, consumed in the car-park of an industrial unit in the middle of a blizzard.. (yes really!)

Monday, December 24, 2018

Confused about social media?


Yep.. but for me substitute "donuts" with "beer"..

Plenty of room


Driving to work this morning and you could be forgiven for thinking that the zombie apocalypse had arrived, not many people about at all! Just going to do half a day today and then shut the office down, people will want to scurry off, as do I! Plenty of little jobs to do in preparation for doing nothing for a couple of days (funny how that works) Anyway, to anyone reading have yourself a cool-yule, kick back and enjoy some down-time doing whatever floats your particular boat, singing carols or playing Fortnite, there’s plenty of room for all.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Ringing in the changes..


So, it's Christmas Eve tomorrow, suppose I should start thinking about buying some presents (joke) 

Scarily I do know some people (all Men) who actually do buy most of their gifts on Christmas Eve! Personally I'm not brave enough, it would be just my luck to have something critical on my list that had run out! Talking about Christmas traditions we're going to have a bit of a change this year. For many years now we've hosted my wife's Mother for the usual turkey lunch with all the trimmings etc., the kids used to love having Grandma over to play silly games and watch the Great-Escape with, unfortunately she died in September so it's going to feel a bit strange for all of us this year. Anyway, to mark the day we're switching the main meal from lunchtime to evening, we're not big lunch eaters anyway and since the kids are older now we're going for more of a grown-up dinner kind of vibe and, to keep us going during the day, having a slightly more elaborate Champagne breakfast (I practiced my Hollandaise sauce earlier today!) followed by a long walk in the countryside together - we'll see how it all pans out.

More local talent..


Popped over to have a look at a (new'ish) local brewery yesterday afternoon as they were holding an open day. The venue was just a tiny little industrial unit and the seating was basic, i.e. cushions on top of beer barrels but it was cosy and the beer was most excellent! The name of the company is Elusive Brewing and they're based over in Finchampstead, Berkshire. It's run by champion home-brewer Andy Parker who told me that he's expanding and doubling production in 2019; if that means his beers become more widely available then that's great news, they're really worth seeking out! With established craft-brewer Siren literally across the road from Elusive, we're beginning to be spoilt for choice around these parts.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Pro-choice


Modern craft-breweries have definitely shaken up the brewing industry. It would be difficult to think of a time in the last 50 years when a single brewery offered it's customers such choice. The only beers that Siren brew regularly are the large mats on the left hand side, most of the others appeared only once in the year. I'm very lucky that Siren chose to put it's brewery just up the road from where I live meaning that I can (and do) visit their tap-room and try all these different brews over the course of a year. 

For the record, my particular favourites this year were,

1. Low Side - A collaboration with Finback from New York, a hazy IPA with real class, delicious.
2. Hop Fizz - A "Brut IPA" made exceptionally dry and very hoppy indeed, lovely.
3. Affogato - A coffee flavoured beer that had a mouth-feel like chocolate and coffee ice cream.
4. Lucky DIPA - Classic double IPA territory here, great balance and flavours from the hops used
5. Ten Dollar Shake - Uber New England style IPA, a real fruit-bomb.

Most of the "Suspended in" series were pretty decent too, although looking at this list I see quite a few I never sampled, must try harder next year!

Friday Smirk


Wonder where he's going?

It fits!


Excellent new J&M - I think the slogan of 2018 should be "I don't care if it's true or not, it fits my pre-existing beliefs". 

Perhaps it's me but I see this attitude infecting our society like a cancer, I see it more and more these days. It's pops up everywhere, in politics (i.e. Brexit) and business, in religion of course (it's always been part of religion) but also in entertainment and culture more widely. Critical thinking is the solution of course, learning how to do it would be a good start and the age-old remedies to bigotry of travelling and reading widely need to be re-learned. At the risk of sounding like an old curmudgeon (as of course I am) this worrying trend cannot possibly end well for any of us but the despots!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Soaring like eagles..


Jeez, how often do I relate to this cartoon, there really are people in business who think like this..

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Belgian delights


It's been ages since I've blogged about my brewing hobby so here's a little note about a beer that I made a couple of weeks ago. It's a Belgian style beer, and what this typically means is that it has the following (broad) attributes, it's reasonably strong, i.e. > 5% ABV, usually blond and its made using a special style of yeast, one that imparts fruity esters, spice  and a particular "funk" to the beer. The yeast I used can be seen in the photograph above, it's from a company called "Mangrove Jack's" and is supposedly harvested from a strain of yeast prevalent in Belgian monasteries, hence the name "Belgian Abbey". I've used it before and its certainly delivers a classic Belgian vibe to the beer. To mix things up a bit I've used American hops (usually Belgian beers use German or UK hops) this means an extra citrus/fruit character, hopefully the two styles can live side-by-side, we shall see! Watch out for a tasting report in a couple of weeks when everything has fermented out and conditioned..

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Missing voices


Always think about the Hitch at this time of year, he died on the 15th December 2011, his voice is sorely missed.

Greatest city in the world?


Delightful trip to London last weekend, spent two days and a night in town with some good friends, just hanging out and taking in the festive vibe so unique to what is, in my estimation, one of the greatest cities in the world, perhaps the greatest? We went to a restaurant on the Saturday night that overlooked one of the towers of tower bridge, see picture above, it doesn't come out that well in this shot but if you look in the centre of the photo you can just about make out the wire supports that hold the deck of the bridge up, the large illuminated shadowy hulk above is one of the towers. For reference, below is the exact same view taken during the day.


We were staying near London Bridge and Borough market, a great place to visit any time of the year but especially vibrant at Christmas/New Year, the pubs, restaurants and wine-bars were heaving with people out enjoying themselves and the variety of produce (especially cheese?) on offer in the market was as fabulous as ever. In the picture below you can see a quick snapshot of market life (including one of my favourite stalls selling craft beer - Utobeer), this was taken on Sunday so it was a bit quieter than the day before when you could hardly move for crowds.


Of course no trip to London would be complete without a visit to one of the famous museums there. This trip we decided to divide our forces, the girls went to the V&A and the boys went to the Imperial War Museum. I hadn't been there in many, many years (probably since I was a schoolboy) and it has certainly moved on a bit from what I remember. We only managed to visit about 30% of the exhibits in the couple of hours that we had but it's one I'd like to return to another day, absolutely fascinating. Here's a picture of the main hall with one of the famous German "buzz bombs" that attacked the city during WW2, centre picture. 


We do enjoy visiting London, as Samuel Johnson once said, "when a man is tired of London he is tired of life".


Monday, December 17, 2018

Misunderstood groups of people

Nice and tidy Venn diagram that sums up the relationship between thieves, preachers, DJ's and parents, a much misunderstood group of people..

Friday, December 14, 2018

Succinct


Fast forward to the last 2 minutes for a great summary of Brexit from Heseltine, bottom line, a betrayal of our youth.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Extremist jokes


Saw this today, made me smile..

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The answer is Trump, idiot...


I learned today that if you Google the word "idiot" then the top results show pictures and news stories about Donald Trump... It's the will of the mob, you can't fight it!

Metaphor


Yep, really tough one to "spin"... (bit like the whole Lot's daughters-angel-rape thing in the Bible) - Shame the Muslims can't take the same approach as the Christians and hand wave the whole thing away as "metaphor", cultural evolution and secular ethics are a bitch..

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

"Alternative"


At work thinking about words today! It's interesting how the word "alternative" has evolved to carry extra meaning these days. In the past the word simply meant "another choice", i.e. if you ask for a particular product in a shop and it's not available then the shopkeeper might offer you an alternative. These days it means so much more, for example if someone is talking about an "alternative lifestyle" it means alternative to a normal lifestyle but the concept of lifestyle is so nebulous that quite often it is used to mean "hippy" or "hedonistic". Similarly the term "alternative medicine" is used to describe a set of substances that aren't actually medicine, i.e. they are not alternative medicines, but alternatives to medicine. Then we have "alternative energy" which is actually an alternative energy source to carbon based fuels and not an alternative to energy! This kind of flexibility in our language makes it very powerful but makes my job, i.e. writing software to understand it, very difficult indeed!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Wisdom of the crowd


My favourite (and geographically closest) local brewery Siren Craft Brew has been busy raising money over the last couple of months. They've been using a groovy new mechanism for generating capital called "crowdfunding". Crowdfunding is when (via a web-platform) you raise money via lots of small investments from many (often thousands) people rather than through one large single investment through a bank or venture capital company (as is usual) Often there are other benefits to investing via crowdfunding, namely discounts on products and other investor perks. In all other respects crowdfunding is the same as any other kind of investment, i.e. a percentage of the shares of the company are sold in order to raise money for investing in projects that usually entail a company growing through buying new production capacity or expanding into new markets.

Siren have been very successful in their raise (which is closed now) They aimed to get £750,000 to build a canning plant and expand capacity but in the end managed to get £1.25 million. The extra cash will go towards further capacity and QA improvements and also an expansion of their retail/bar outlets, hopefully local  to the Thames Valley but also potentially in London. I wish them luck!

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Sticks and stones


Generally I'd say that people should lighten up about swearing, words without context are just vibrations of air molecules.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Friday Smirk


OK, so, if we're allowed to have TV series as well as movies then the obvious choice would be "Breaking Bad" but if we're insisting on movie titles only then I offer, "The Great Escape" or at a pinch "The Silence of the Lambs".. oh despicable me!

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Never more united


Interesting poll. If accurate shows just how unpopular the decision to leave the EU now is and how amazingly unanimous the feeling across the country. I wonder how many years it will take for the Brexiters to die off (sufficiently) and for the younger voters left dealing with decline to wrench control back and legislate us onto a more rational path. Our challenge will then be starting again from scratch with the EU, mind you, we may well find that Europe doesn't want us back, and who can blame them! By then our economy will probably be bumping along at the bottom of the G20 along with Argentina and Turkey.

Progress!


I've been trying to up my exercise/activity rate this last year or so and to help I've taken to walking every lunchtime around the vicinity of my office. I usually do around 5 km fairly briskly (although that was a struggle during the heatwave in the Summer!) and to measure progress I've been wearing an Apple watch to give me timings and distance etc. Today I broke my personal best for a 5 kilometre walk, clocking in at an average of 9 minutes and 58 seconds per kilometre, previously I've always been over the ten minute mark. This is pleasing! Being a bit of a metrics geek I do like it when progress can be measured tangibly!

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Christmas Spirit


Saw this photo, instantly sympathised with these retail victims...

Tuesday Titter


Like the prayers of Jews visiting the Wailing wall in Jerusalem, much of the debate regarding the existence of God is indistinguishable from "talking to brick wall"..

God doesn't play ... anything?


I see that the famous letter about "God" by Albert Einstein is up for sale and expected to clear a million bucks (at least) for it's owner. In this letter Einstein talks about his lack of belief in the normal Abrahamic notions of God as a real, tangible being that is capable of impinging on and affecting our reality,  he also expresses a view that the Bible is no more than "legend". Whilst not new  (atheists have existed as long as there have been theists), novel or in anyway unique these ideas and views do clarify a lie that religious apologists have been attempting to exploit for many years and it's driven by their aspiration of credibility by association. 

Famously Einstein once said (in relation to quantum uncertainty as described by theories of quantum mechanics) that "God doesn't play dice" meaning that he found it unbelievable that the physical laws of our universe should be such that uncertainty or probability lies at the core of everything rather than more comforting Newtonian absolutes. This phrase has subsequently been regurgitated ad-nausea by religious apologists of all stripes (out of context) as a "proof" that the smartest man ever (subjective) believed in their particular deity, their aim being transparently to gain credibility (by authority) for their unsubstantiated beliefs. This letter shows the true (and much more credible) beliefs of a 20th century scientist of the calibre of Einstein, it shows him (at least at the time of writing this note) to be an atheist or perhaps a deist and certainly not a card-carrying theist.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Happy teams


Here's an interesting story about "hugging". Nothing wrong with a good hug you might think but it would seem that Ted Baker founder and boss, Ray Kelvin, hasn't yet learnt that literally anything no matter how "good", when made compulsory, becomes a source of resentment and rebellion. Ray insists that people working in his company adopt a culture of forced "hugging" whenever they meet, I've known many clueless management types over the years who think that this kind of thing is a good idea. They make the fundamental mistake of thinking that everyone is cut from the same cloth as them, and will be excited and motivated by the same things. It's a bit like making it mandatory for everyone to wear fancy dress or attend the Christmas party (or both) when many would rather stick red hot knitting needles in their eyes. Ultimately this kind of mandating of emotions, i.e. "you will be happy today", fails miserably! Different things motivate different people in different ways and the sooner the management types learn this and how to leverage the individual rather than some convenient (but bogus) identity like gender, employee or race etc., the sooner they'll have happier teams.

Update: It would seem that complaints by many of the workers at Ted Baker have nudged the management there to launch an investigation, let's hope they realise the folly of this ridiculous culture and start treating people like grown-ups rather than children.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Coincidence?


I note that ex-president of the USA George H.W. Bush (aged 94) died yesterday. When he was 20 years old, navy pilot H.W.Bush was plucked from the Pacific ocean after bailing from his flak-damaged TBM avenger aircraft onto the deck of the USS submarine "Finback", a very lucky and rare rescue. Just so happens that my favorite brewery of 2018 is called "Finback" brewery based in Queens, New York, coincidence? Probably, but makes you think doesn't it?

Actually, no, not for a nano-second, that's the nature of such a complex reality, i.e. the one we actually live in right now! Correlation does not imply causation. But, religious people want us to believe that their remission from cancer is due to them whispering magic spells to an invisible man in the sky, OK, that's their prerogative, but, the rest of us prefer to go by the stats! We find we're right more often than them when we do that.