Saturday, March 31, 2018

Blending in

Whilst in London last weekend I popped over to Hackney Wick to visit a craft-beer bar and "blendery" called the Beer Merchants Tap. The reason for the trip was that I made a small investment in the place (via crowdfunding) at the end of last year and I wanted to see what it was like. 

It was impressive, very chilled place and a fabulous selection of beers both on-tap and also in bottles to take-away. Hackney Wick is one of those areas of London that is just on the cusp of being developed, it's right next to the Olympic Park and is an eclectic mix of old Victorian warehouses, building sites, run-down industrial units and shiny new apartment buildings, I'm hoping that with all the development going on there'll be an influx of thirsty hipsters into the area and a business like this should do well. The blendery part is also interesting, they basically take beers from various brewers and barrel age them, then they blend different batches to make the final product. It's something that's been done in Belgium and Holland for many years and can create beers of huge complexity and depth, much like fine-wine. Can't wait to see how it pans out!

Good Friday

For Atheists, every Friday is good and, no one has to die! 

To celebrate it being Friday we popped over to our local craft brewery (Siren Craft Brew) to visit their newly opened "tap-room" for an hour. It's a great idea for small breweries to have a direct channel to market like this, it helps the bottom line of course (no middle men taking their margin) but it also gives them somewhere to try out new ideas and get feed-back from the punters. Here we have a dark beer called "Shattered Dream" made with salted caramel and cacao nibs, it was delicious, sweet from the lactose in the beer, coffee and chocolate flavours from the dark malts and then a salty caramel/chocolate finish. The beer was pretty strong at 9.1% probably what you'd call an "Imperial" stout so you'd only want a half, but a I reckon a suitably chocolate leaning way to kick off the long weekend!


Here's an interesting photo. As it says it's a cross section of an elephant's foot and as you can see the bone structure inside the stumpy foot-flesh is remarkably similar to ours. It's an amazing fact that every single creature on the planet is related to every other, some more closely than others, for example Mammals like Humans and Elephants are closer than Humans and Haddock (of course there are some exceptions to this rule, some of these exceptions even get to be President)

Friday, March 30, 2018

Friday Smirk

The Friday Smirk this week is at the expense of our God fearing American cousins ...

Thursday, March 29, 2018

All quiet on the Western front

Pretty quiet in the office today - you can tell it's the day before a long weekend :)

Rocky road..

We had a little works-outing to the local climbing centre in Reading yesterday. It was great fun, I haven't climbed anything since I was in my twenties and to be honest was a bit apprehensive about revisiting the activity in my 50s. I needn't have worried it wasn't at all stressful on my various middle-aged ailments like a bad-back and various worn-out joints!

Here is yours truly just negotiating a little overhanging section near the top of one of the walls (about 30 feet up) I'm pleased to report that I held up the "end" of the older generation pretty satisfactorily, in fact none of the youngsters managed to complete this route at all! (although I expect they lasted longer in the pub afterwards...)

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Faith ain't what it used to be..

New J&M today - pointing out one of the more weird and troubling stories in the Bible, the one about Abraham following the voices in his head telling him to murder his own Son. Luckily, these days, people that claim to be following voices in their heads telling them to commit atrocities are locked up for a very long time in psychiatric hospitals and kept away from society.

It's surprising how many of the actions taken by characters in Bible stories would nowadays be put down to mental illness and deviant psychopathy! Of course the number of modern believers who would kill, maim or enslave purely for their religion is much less than it used to be in the "Christian" West since the enlightenment and the rise of secularism over theocracy. Unfortunately though, in the Islamic world the balance is much less favorable to the point of serious concern, as is their proclivity for exporting such acts abroad.

Important vs. Urgent

Sometimes the Dilbert cartoon strip is so "on-point" it's scary..

Seems to me that, these days, whatever business meeting you attend and however you measure the importance or urgency of the topics being discussed, it's become completely socially acceptable to take a call or message from (literally) anyone, i.e. your husband, your wife, your hairdresser etc. And to decide to prioritize it over the other five people in the room and the thought-thread of the current speaker. It also seems increasingly common that people call you 15 minutes before a meeting is due to start and cancel it, even though you may well have traveled some distance to attend. Sometimes people just take the call and at other times they just walk out and take the call, often they just sit and twiddle with their messaging platforms.

Call me old-fashioned but I think how a person handles a distraction says a lot about that person. Personally I'm always dubious about the sincerity and motivations of people who can't tell the difference between "important" and "urgent".


Interesting analysis of how people think about probability. Plotting labels (language) against quantitative measures you don't get a specific point but a distribution of "opinion" regarding what the label means. 

Probability is something many people have a great deal of difficulty understanding, when you ask most people the following question .. "if I flip a coin and it comes up heads 10 times in a row, is it more likely to come up tails on the 11th throw?" they'll say yes, when the true answer is that the odds haven't changed, i.e. it's still 50-50 that you'll throw a head. This is called the "Gamblers fallacy" and is littered throughout the culture. You see variations of it in many religious views, the classic one being that if we don't understand how the universe got started then "God did it", or since there are two views of why we exist, i.e. Evolution and "God did it" then they must both be 50% probable among many others. Of course the best (and most universally successful) approach is to apportion your beliefs to the available evidence, the more evidence there is for something then the more likely it is to be true, but beware, Human-beings are masters at fooling themselves and intuition is almost always wrong, probably.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Final draft

I don't know what those Brexiters are worried about, the final draft for the new UK passport being manufactured in France is in, and it looks fabulous.. none of your stinking multicultural commie-rouge here, only pure-bred royal blue!

Monday, March 26, 2018

The old, odd, ways

Weird stuff in the Bible? What, you mean those bizarre, obscure and ancient religious practices that are no longer relevant today, and anyway, would never be performed by sophisticated modern theists like you...?

Questions, questions..

Sounds more realistic to me...

Peak murk?

So the fashion for hazy pale ales and IPA's seems to have reached all but the most pedestrian of London pubs. It's fairly easy to make a beer look like this, you just add a load of wheat and oats along with the usual malted barley and then don't filter it. It's what is known as an "East-Coast" or "New England" style pioneered in the USA in places like Vermont and Boston where the local yeast strains are particularly suited to the more hop-forward flavours that give these beers their characteristic low-bitterness and orange-mango twang. Of course as the style has developed over the last couple of years it has evolved and brewers have added other things like Lactose and Dextrose to make the mouthfeel more creamy, and also ever more dry-hop additions to ratchet up the fruit flavours. But, I think we're reaching the peak of the style, this example was purchased in the Rake pub in Borough Market and looks just like orange juice - I'm sure if I presented this pint to many of my more "traditional" friends  they'd throw their hands up in horror and take it back to the bar in disgust! But, in my opinion, it tastes brilliant, fruity, zesty, refreshing with a creamy almost Guinness-like mouth-feel, you wouldn't want half a dozen of them but for a quick pint on the hoof it was just the job.

I've been enjoying a weekend in town with my family and dropping into the odd trendy bar and restaurant. I did notice that many hipsters seemed to be reverting to more traditional, clearer, (West-Coast style) IPA's and I even spotted some Lagers being drunk (shock horror!) If I were a betting man I'd say the next wave will be centred on lighter (in colour) more continental style beers, there seem to be a whole bunch of American style IPA and Belgian pale-ale hybrids coming out at the moment and bitterness along with European hops are gradually moving back into vogue.

The beer in the picture above is "Muse" from London brewer Gipsy Hill made in collaboration with Boxcar Brew Co. Made with no bittering hops whatsoever, 30% adjuncts in the mash and using Simcoe, Magnum and Citra hops. It weighed in at 5.5% ABV but you wouldn't have known it, smooth as a baby's bum (but without the talc)!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Dizzy heights

Interesting view of London Bridge station from above. I went up the Shard today for the first time, it's a wonderful view of London up there, well worth a visit if you find yourself with time to kill in that neck of the woods.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Friday Smirk

Masterchef is ruining my life..

Passport to freedom

Passports, or more accurately where they are made has been in the news a lot lately. Printing company De La Rue (traditional English name?) got it's nose all bent out of shape because the Government has awarded the contract to print the new "blue" passports (post-Brexit) to a French company. The argument around this contract seems to me to be a perfect metaphor for the whole Brexit argument and will almost certainly end up with ordinary people losing money and the country being worse off. 

Lets look at the facts.

It seems to me that the objectors (see tweet below) main argument is that passports should be made in the country that they are issued for, i.e. the UK passport should be made by a UK company. The flaw in this position is that De La Rue make passports for many different countries (and banknotes) so are we saying that they need to give up this business so that native companies can start to make their own passports, surely we should practise what we preach?

Then there is the issue of price, the French company bid was £120 million pounds less (over 10 years) than that of De La Rue. Many claim that if De La Rue lose this contract then they may have to make redundancies and that would end up costing us more than the apparent savings. It's worth noting  that De La Rue is a large company, this activity is only part of their business, see some numbers below (2017):

Turnover: £480M (this contract is worth £40M per year)
Operating Profit: £70M
Employees: 3,151(100 work in the passport division)
Highest Paid Director: £900k
Profit per employee: £18k

As a businessman (as opposed to a patriot) I have to ask, 

- You are the incumbent supplier
- Your home market
- Know the customer
- Know the job
- Bid 20% too high

Who's to blame?

Prior to De La Rue, the company 3M (not a UK company) used to make passports, presumably De La Rue offered a better deal at the time than them in order to secure the current contract? Isn't this exactly the kind of "free-market" scenario that Brexiters wanted?

I would ideally love to see this business being awarded to a UK company and our passports made here. I would like to see a UK company becoming the pre-eminent supplier of all passports world-wide because of unbeatable quality and price. I can guarantee (British Leyland anyone?) that we're not going to get there by presenting a closed-shop to the outside world and allowing our own companies to overbid and fleece the taxpayers.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Thursday therapy..

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Careful what you wish for

New J&M today.. Freedom of speech and religion have always been awkward bed-fellows.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Hanging around

In town (London) for the second day running today. Yesterday was more fraught than today, a broken-down train on my normal Waterloo line forced a detour home via Paddington, ended up hanging around quite a bit in the freezing cold and being glad that I chose to take my ski-jacket with me! So glad I don't have to do this commute every-day.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Cold beer

I spent a couple of hours at my local craft brewery yesterday helping to celebrate their 5th birthday. It's great to see a local business thriving and so they should, their beer is outstanding. The only drawback was the weather and the fact that most of the party was housed in one of their industrial units which had a large sliding door that was open to the elements. Warm it was not, but in the best tradition of Englishmen and good ale, the inclement weather was unable to separate us.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Life in England

Yesterday I went for a walk at lunch-time and it was so hot in the sunshine that I had to take my coat off and still ended up sweaty. Today however, we have blizzard conditions with a centimeter of snow and 15 degrees colder. 

Yesterday all I had to do was sit in a nice warm office, today however I am attending an outdoor birthday party - such is life in England.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Friday Smirk

Not much in the news at the moment to be cheerful about, but hey, it's Friday and that's a reason to smile in itself! Here are a couple of photo-captions I came across this week that made me grin..

Spotted at Charing Cross, the UK expels the first of the Russian diplomats...

Spotted outside the Russian embassy, a handy guide to their canteen..

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Can't beat a-bit-a bully

What with Stephen Hawking dying yesterday events kind of overshadowed the death of another legend later in the day. The incomparable Jim Bowen of "Bulls Eye" fame, the mainstay of many an 80s student day-time TV consumption, including my own. Bulls eye was just the right combination of mind-candy (the questions weren't too taxing) and social experiment, centered around the game of darts it certainly weaved its way into the zeitgeist of the time. 

I actually played darts for a pub team back then, I wasn't too bad, I remember taking part in the county championship and losing my "arrows" the night before at the pre-match practice session. I had to dash out the the shops during my lunch-hour and get a brand new set on the day of the tournament which I thought would completely scupper me (i.e. because I wasn't used to them) But, in my first match, first throw I hit 180! I thought I'd hit the jackpot. Of course reality set in on the next throw and I soon settled back into my average scoring rate, I didn't do too badly individually, but our team came fourth overall, a placement which provided much needed "free pints" for many months. I was trying to think of a link between Stephen Hawking and Jim Bowen and couldn't, anyway, the balance of the Universe wasn't upset by their passing, after all, the non-darts player always goes first.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Cups of poison

The gangsters masquerading as the Russian Government really take the biscuit! Not only do they chuck their military grade nerve agents willy-nilly around sleepy Wiltshire towns, threatening life and limb, they then rub salt into the wound by insulting our intelligence, calling us "unprofessional" and claiming that it's all an invention of our imaginations. Thuggish and arrogant behaviour, unworthy of a supposedly civilised nation in my view. I see that we're to expel a few diplomats, no doubt they will follow suit and expel some of ours, a pretty pointless tit-for-tat exchange of paper-shufflers whilst innocent people lie in hospital critically ill.

There's not much we, as individuals, can do but I will make a strong conscious effort to boycott everything Russian from now on, both in my business and at home. No 2018 World Cup match will grace my living-room LCD panel, nor will any hint of a Russian product (not that there are many) cross my threshold or be bought my my firm. I'm sure Mr Putin, the absolute dictator of that land, will be quaking in his boots. No matter, I take solace in the fact that the ordinary Russian people have historically had a habit of eventually rising-up and dealing with absolute dictators in suitable ways.

A radiant mind

Very sad to hear that Stephen Hawking died today. I guess you really know you've made it in this world when you get a piece of the universe named after you. We have Darwin's Finches, Faraday Effect, Volts, Kelvin Bridges and, of course, Hawking Radiation. A great mind lost but also a great deal of value for Humankind gained from a life lived against all odds. I wonder if he'll be buried in Westminster alongside Newton? (he was an Atheist)

Miss gender

New J&M today, looks at the thorny subject of gender assignment. This is a modern problem invented in the noughties by primarily left-leaning academics who decided that people should be identified and addressed according to gender aggregations or groups that are entirely constructed, or even self identified. This (vocal) movement has lead to some countries (like Canada) enacting legislation to the effect that people must be referred to by the gender pronoun of their choice, or the person mis-gendering them could face prosecution. 

There are of course many problems with such legislation, not least of which is how the hell do you know how someone prefers to be addressed if you don't know them (and new labels are being invented all the time) The more insidious issue is that this represents compelled-speech, in other words a Government is telling it's people what words they MUST say (as opposed to banning certain speech, like hate speech). From here we take a short step to Animal Farm, Gulags and the killing fields, something that should be resisted by all reasonable Liberals the free-world over.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Smile, it's Sunday!

Clearly an atheist who's experienced the M25

Thursday, March 08, 2018

International Women's Day

On International Women's Day we have lot's of positive heart-warming stories about Women who overcame disadvantage and/or prejudice to succeed in their chosen fields, this is a good thing. 

From Tehran, that bastion of irrationality, we have the news that a Woman there has been sentenced to two years (yes, you read that right!) for simply removing her head-scarf in public. I guess that's what you get when you live in a theocracy based on misogyny disguised as ancient superstition. I believe it would help the lot of Women in those backward countries if more feminists here spoke out against the abuses of religions like Islam and Catholicism with regard to equal gender rights. A campaign focused on Women and oppressive religions along the lines of the successful resistance to Apartheid back in the 70s and 80s would seem to me to be entirely justified and appropriate.


Brexit - The undefined negotiated by the unprepared to secure the unspecified for the uninformed.

Winston would turn in his grave..

Many faiths

Faith. It's such a loaded and emotional word for many primates, but what does it really mean? 

For me it's just a simple short-hand for expressing hope that something is going to happen. I think the key difference between this definition and the religious kind is that I would only subscribe to something if there was sufficient evidence that what I was hoping for was actually likely to happen.

Some would argue that the word "faith" implies belief in or hope for something with no evidence or perhaps even, despite the evidence. In the religious usage of the word this might well be true, it certainly seems that way for most of them. On the other hand when I say something like "I have faith in the people I work with", it's not because I have some fluffy, emotional or "spiritual" connection to them but because in the past they have proven (many times) to be competent and I have no reason to believe that will change. I suppose I would use the word faith in everyday language to substitute for the word "trust" whereas in a religious setting it seems to have completely different connotations. 

Language is such an imperfect method of communication.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Religious feminism?

As long as I live I will never understand why intelligent Women (who have a choice) subscribe to any of the Abrahamic religions. Of course most (globally) Women don't actually have a real choice. If they don't submit to the same male dominated cultures, superstitions and rituals that the men do in the places that they live, they'll be ostracised, beaten, disfigured or far worse. We really are just a bunch of monkeys in shoes.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Name rethink..?

Looks like Facebook are branching out into sponsoring some Arts events, might want to re-think the name though...


Data-loss anxiety reaches it's peak as the zapping of all the files on his old laptop nears completion... 

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Belgian Saturday

Finishing the last of my stock of Belgian IPA yesterday. A blonde Belgian style beer made with light pilsner malts, candi-sugar and using a fruity Belgian yeast. The twist was to add some belting American hops to the end of the process that brought in some citrus and peach flavours. The beer tasted good from day one but it's also aged really well, I reckon showing it's best after a month or two conditioning in the bottles. Shame that's the last one, must put this on the list of beers to make again!

Friday, March 02, 2018

Friday Smirk

New J&M today and as usual pointing out the obvious in a humorous, satirical cartoon. 

Today we see the way in which religion exploits human weaknesses in order to hook them. In this example we have the link between ritual/repetition and the way in which our brains physically organize connections between neurons, the more we do a particular thing the more our brain gets wired to do it without conscious effort. This technique seems to be a particular favourite of Islam, it's even used on children in Madrasas who are forced to chant verses from the Koran over and over again, eventually burning them into their brains. Christianity used to be keen on this but in Western countries has been beaten into submission by a couple of centuries of reform and secularism although I believe that some Catholic schools still indoctrinate children using mind control techniques like this.

Winter Warmer

Did a new brew recently, here's the grains I used. A nice mix of lager malt, oats, roasted malt and some Munich malt. The beer I'm making is called "Zombie Dust" and is a heady soup of American Citra hops that give it grapefruit and orange kind of vibe, I'm hoping that the roasted malt will add a bit of character too, like toffee and biscuit. It's going to come in at around 6% so a real Winter warmer!

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Weather warning..

I'm loving this advice to British people from a concerned Canadian...

1. Layer your clothes, with a wind/waterproof on top, & hat!
2. Don’t drive unless you have to.
3. If you do drive have a candle/blanket/full phone&petrol.
4. Alcohol in moderation as it lowers circulation.
5. Don’t leave the EU!