Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A couple of interesting bottles

I helped to consume a couple of interesting bottles of mature Bordeaux this weekend, graciously donated in the interests of science by one of my work colleagues. The wines came from opposite ends of the Medoc, one from the far North and one from the South and the styles really showed that well, very distinct and different wines probably separated by no more than 30 miles distance.

First up was a 1986 Chateau Rollan de By; this one had a good fill and a very badly soiled label, although the cork was in good condition. Nice ruddy colour, interesting nose, blackcurrant, tobacco, wet leaves; quite angular in the mouth, probably what you would call "classic", quite a lot of iron/blood taste but with good grippy spicy fruit underneath. I liked this and it did improve after an hour in the decanter, softening up quite a bit. Certainly well within its drinking window and probably best to drink up now if you have any, decant it for at least an hour though. We drank this with no food, I reckon it would be lovely with a good fillet steak or similar.

The next one was from Margaux in the South of the Medoc (Soussans); 1989 Chateau Deyrem Valentin; a very good year and the bottle and cork were in very good condition. Nice colour slightly lighter than the Rollan and initially the nose showed some "farmyard" with red berries underneath, after a while this completely blew off and the wine seemed to really shine; good balance, nicely rounded and fruity, soft and resolved, surprising weight and finish for the age and colour, a very pleasant wine clearly from a good vintage. Although this certainly has life left in it I reckon it's probably not going to get any better than it is right now.

It was very surprising how a couple of relatively cheap (i.e. roughly £10-15) cru bourgeois wines like this can age well and improve like this over 20+ years, it just confirms in my mind what an interesting region Bordeaux is and what a fascinating hobby wine can be.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mainstream lunacy

I couldn't help but wince when I saw this story today (here);

WTF are these idiots doing, much like the freaks who nail themselves to crosses and the imbeciles who drop babies from tall buildings these pious retards think that grown men jumping across live babies serves some actual purpose other than proving natural selection is alive and well and is still selecting the human species for intelligence.

Their mothers must be so proud..

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What would sir prefer with his Anthrax, red or white?

An interesting wine related story came up on the BBC news feed today (here) about how in tests wine apparently tasted different according to particular music that was being played as it was consumed. Now I know some singers styles could be described as whining but music affecting taste, surely not?

However, having pondered this for a bit I think they could be onto something here, its very obvious that certain music affects your mental state in different ways, fast, slow, happy, sad etc. and since taste is as much a brain function as a physical response I don't actually see why this couldn't be the case, perhaps a good test would be to play simple "Mediterranean" music whilst supping a nice rose from Bandol to see if the combination mentally transports you back to that leafy terraced restaurant you sat in on your holiday this year, and suddenly hey presto, the wine tastes better..

Anyway, interesting research, just think of the matches, I wonder what wine would go with opera, fat bastard Chardonnay maybe?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


In Jerusalem, a journalist heard about a very old Jewish man who had been going to the Wailing Wall to pray, twice a day, everyday, for a long, long time.

So she went to the Wailing Wall to check it out, and there he was.

She watched him pray and after about 45 minutes, when he turned to leave, she approached him for an interview.

"I'm Rebecca Smith from CNN. Sir, how long have you been coming to the Wall and praying?"

"For about 60 years".

"60 years! That's amazing! What do you pray for?"

"I pray for peace between the Christians, Jews and the Muslims. I pray for all the hatred around the world to stop and I pray for all our children to grow up in safety and friendship."

"Sir, how do you feel after doing this for 60 years?"

"Like I'm talking to a f#### brick wall."

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Nout as queer as the platypus?

I spotted something in a newspaper today that on the surface seemed positive but scratch below the surface and it just confirms the shallow attitude of the media to serious and important scientific endeavours these days. You can read the article accompanying the paper here.

The article was about the recent decoding of the platypus genome, and a paper that has just been published entitled "Genome analysis of the platypus reveals unique signatures of evolution."; so far so good, at least it's an article in the mainstream media about a serious scientific principal, i.e. evolution, but then I read further, "the egg-laying critter is a genetic pot-pourri — part bird, part reptile and part lactating mammal", wrong, wrong, wrong. Don't these people know anything about evolution, for a start species aren't "mixed up" as this quote implies, like some giant tumble drier or a marvel comic, half man, half spider etc. secondly they simply miss the whole point of the paper which is about lineage and what is "similar" about this creature to other mammals, not just its unique phenotype (physical body).

The platypus is NOT part bird, in fact birds are an independent and unrelated lineage, birds and the platypus certainly had a common ancestor but the evolutionary trajectory split around 315ma (million years) ago when the Synapsids and the Sauropsids went their separate ways. It is true to say it's part reptile since it directly descends from reptiles (reptiles are much older than birds), you can also equally say that we are part reptile also since we share a big chunk of that lineage up to a point around 160ma ago deep in the Mesozoic era. (see diagram below)

The platypus is certainly unique it never lost the egg producing machinery that the rest of the mammalian tree did, it also evolved the ability to produce venom as certain of its reptilian ancestors do, but interestingly all other mammals did not. This paper is a fabulous confirmation of our present understanding of evolution and as more and more genomes are decoded that confirmation gets stronger and stronger, an absolutely fascinating subject.

Some of the hard numbers stick out, for example the platypus has roughly 18,000 genes, slightly less than us (we have around 20,000), approximately 82% of the genome is shared between marsupials, eutherians, reptiles and monotremes etc. and about half the genes are "junk" (which doesn't necessarily mean pointless). All of this adds weight to the current picture of common lineage derived from the molecular biology, which in turn overwhelmingly confirms the same conclusions reached via other paths, i.e. the fossil record, comparative anatomy and animal distribution patterns etc.

I'm sure Charles Darwin would be astounded (and just a little smug) if he were alive today!

What can you do...?

As an atheist and a rationalist I find it very frustrating to read to the utter made up nonsense spouted by the likes of Cardinal Keith, or more importantly reconcile the prominence such commentary receives in the mainstream media. I think this is because the normal cornerstones of reasonable argument don't work with them, it is impossible to bring logic, evidence and shared human solidarity to bear on their bigoted, misinformed and archaic ejaculations. I'm reaching the conclusion that by far the best way to deal with the idiocy of the Archbishops is through humour, never a truer word and all that, see here

Friday, May 09, 2008

Cardinal Keith does it again..

Some people just don't know when to quit do they; just when the condemnation of the Archbishop of Westminster over his recent uninformed remarks on medical research has subsided he's at it again! Now the target of his ignorance is "reason", apparently, according to big Keith "reason" leads to terror, funny that I thought it lead to knowledge. Its clear from his remarks that he thinks reason is an enemy of the Catholic church, but then why make such a transparent comment?

Here is a quote from an interview he did with the BBC today..

"Danger because, if you go just by reason, I think, without faith, without belief in God, you can imagine, for instance in the last century, some of the faith(less), or supposedly faithless societies - people, whether it's like Hitler or Stalin, bringing up - having a country in which, if you like, a God free zone, a dictatorship ruled by reason, and where does it lead? To terror and oppression"

Wow not the old "Hitler and Stalin" chestnuts; perhaps he'd like to recall what happened the last time our country was run entirely by "faith", the "dark ages" I think it was called..

Is this just a snake-oil salesman trying to justify why you need snake-oil, Catholic church attendance has declined more than 50% in a generation you think they'd wake up and smell the coffee? and get themselves some updated arguments, I'm sure most "rational" people really don't care what imaginary friends the Cardinal has, he clearly is hopelessly out of touch with the real world.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Busy cutting code at work; some heavy stuff and some tight deadlines so a good soundtrack is essential; I've been listening to the "Nine Inch Nails" recently, not a band I've really come across before although they are hardly fringe; they have a kind of technical, industrial, grungy sort of sound of music lots of synthesisers, drum machines, effects and distorted voices with an occasional "kicking" guitar backing. The lead singer is a guy called Trent Reznor who is about my age but looks like he works out more, apparently he used to be a programmer (or similar) before he got famous as a musician, I feel empathy with him, or is it envy..

This is a recent album (2007) that I've had on shuffle & repeat a lot, it's called "year zero", I particularly like the track called "Me I'm not", recommended!

2001 Coudoulet de Beaucastel

Had a bottle of this on Friday night;Ch√Ęteau Beaucastel is one of the premier estates of the southern Rhone valley, their top wines fetch a tidy sum sometimes reaching into £hundreds for a single bottle. This one is much more reasonable though, weighing in at around £15 , it is often called a "second wine" because it's not quite up to the same level as their "grand vins" but nevertheless is made by the same team and more often than not punches above its weight.

The 2001 Coudoulet is a very good wine; the vintage itself was a good one in the S. Rhone and this is a great example, good fruity nose, plummy, inky, but not overpowering, nice rounded feel in the mouth revealing some spiciness and a good finish. I'd recommend it, should be great with a BBQ as well as being a superior dinner party wine, versatile is the word.

You can read more about it here.

We want high speed networks, when do we want it, now!

I noticed today that Bournemouth has a new toy; 100Mbps broadband supplied via their sewers, see the story here.

What a great idea, why can't this be rolled out everywhere? Its about time that our Government looks at our network infrastructure as something that's strategic and not just for "internet shopping", our European partners such as France are (as usual) way ahead of us rolling out higher speed networks to homes as a matter of course.

The "free market" is all very well and good but it's not much use if all your competitors have better equipment than you!