Thursday, December 31, 2020

Mustn't grumble


Well what a bizarre year it's been! I think many people will be glad to see the back of 2020, so much sadness and frustration, so many people whos lives have taken unexpected turns for the worse. Our family has been very lucky compared to many, but to be honest, this pandemic thing is wearing a bit thin now, I'll be glad when we can start getting back to normal but I fear that there's still some twists and turns to come yet. Anyway, we're having a little in-house party on our own this year, I've got some great wine for everyone to try and the kids are making a course each for our evening meal which I'm very much looking forward to (less so the washing up!) anyway, onwards and upwards and in the best of English traditions, mustn't grumble and see you next year!
 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Favourite Hops


Had a can of this while making dinner for everyone last night (dregs of the turkey - hurrah!) and it was an absolute belter, containing my two favourite hops of all time Mosaic and Simcoe. A delicious pale ale from Cornish wizards Verdant, a light, fruity well balanced beer coming in at around 4.5% so a perfect weight to have a couple, unfortunately I only had one left! But will definitely look out for this being re-brewed next year, it might also be a "shoo-in" to this years list!

 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Mythology


Does anyone actually know what mythology Christmas is supposed to mark? Horus, Mithras, Dionysus, Krishna etc., it's clearly a complete hash up of many stories and ideas, does anyone really care (probably not)? Confusion and mixed metaphors reign at this time of year. One of the funniest Christmas things I ever saw was a Japanese department store whose marketing team had set up a display (no irony intended) showing Santa Claus being crucified! You can understand the mix-up. It would be nice to have a holiday/celebration that was secular and inclusive to help with societal cohesion in this tribalized age, but that would take organization, imagination and leadership, not attributes that are abundant in this land of ours.

 

Craft Beers of 2020


It's been a strange old year for craft beer fans, no events, no tastings and only a handful of visits to pubs/bars during the Summer. Still, the year hasn't been a complete right off, because of the on-line market we've been able to support the trade by buying directly from the breweries, the variety and quality of the beers on offer has probably never been higher. In the photo above you can see the double fridge at my local craft brewer Siren (still open for takeaways) it's always interesting to pop over there and see what the latest batch has to offer, even if it is only for consumption at home.

Anyway, here's my usual roundup of the more noteworthy beers tasted this year..

1. Fruit, Car, Sight, Exhibition – Verdant (Falmouth) Citra is the hop in this double IPA, an 8% fruit bomb of a beer, layer upon layer of wonderful grapefruit and tropical fruits, soft pillowy mouthfeel and just the tiniest hint of bitterness. Verging on a perfect East-Coast DIPA.


2. Every Minute Matters – Siren (Finchampstead) A classic West Coast IPA made in collaboration with Green Cheek Beer Co, based in Orange County, California. Mosaic, Citra, Simcoe and Sabro combine in this beauty to give a crisp and clean marmalade of a beer, perfect lip coating bitterness, textbook!

3. This is a concept – Verdant (Falmouth) Old school American hops in a West Coast style, assertive bitterness but balanced with a dank fruity core, pithy citrus for days!

4. Neal gets things done – Verdant (Falmouth) A hazy, juicy, fluffy, yellow, almost glowing beer. Classic American hops plus Nelson from NZ give a wonderful umami vibe to this rather unusual IPA, really addictive nose and satisfying flavour combo. A few of these and nothing’s going to get done!

5. Azaccattack – Siren (Finchampstead) A single hop IPA featuring Azacca from Australia, mango and pineapple heaven, decent bitterness and perfect balance. At 6.1% it’s also got good body and mouthfeel, wonderful with a BBQ.

6. I Left my wallet in El Dorado – Siren (Finchampstead) Along the same lines as Azaccattack (they look identical) but different hops. El Dorado hops take the lead here and deliver a dank and more piney core with nice citrus and stone fruit notes to follow, not really East or West, an IPA for the over-fly zone.

7. Best foot forward – DEYA (Cheltenham) A unusual choice among all these hazy IPA’s but this one stood out for me this year, a classic English bitter. Light citrus, bitter and a golden malt core, sessionable for days, a beer to savor on a rainy afternoon.

8. NZ Pilsner – Verdant (Falmouth) Not content with making the best IPA’s (West and East) the Cornish maestros can also turn their hand to lager. This one was the best I tasted in 2020, featuring Nelson hops it was bright and bitter with a lovely citrus tone (lager-top’ish). Perfect thirst quencher in the warmer weather.

9. Caldera Lake – Vibrant Forest (New Forest) Loved this beer, I had a couple of cans of it and can’t wait to buy some more. A hefty 8% single hop DIPA featuring Simcoe in all its dank, piney glory. Thick and juicy but this one is all about the hops, delicious.

10. Sonoma – Track Brewing Company (Manchester) a relative lightweight in this company at only 3.8% but so, so tasty. Plenty of American C hops plus Mosaic lifts the taste of this beer well above the ordinary. Try taking a sip and not saying “wow”!


 

Saturday, December 26, 2020

A walk in the park..


I've been religious (for once in my life) about keeping up my walking regime this year, and keeping a log as I go. The grand total (as of today) is that I've walked just over 1000 miles slightly more than last year and a satisfying round number to end the year on. Mapped out from my house 1000 miles gets me past Rome to the South East or Seville, Spain to the South or perhaps Stockholm to the North East, all places I'd quite like to be on holiday at the moment! Anyway, next year I'm going to set a new goal, Reykjavik! If not in person then metaphorically!

 

Monte Bello


We had the usual Christmas fayre yesterday, turkey, spuds, veg, stuffing etc. but the highlight for me was this little beauty from California. Ridge produce many different wines but this one is made from the more accessible vines on their premium estate called "Monte Bello" up in the hills above Silicon Valley. The other wine they make from there has the same name as the mountain and is really expensive however this "companion wine" expresses all of the same character as the top wine but at a less eye watering price, it's lovely. Blackcurrant and licorice, coffee and tobacco wonderfully tannic for its age a wonderfully elegant wine.

 

Friday, December 25, 2020

Deal or no Deal


So, it looks like we've got a "deal", not the deal we were promised, not the deal our children deserve, not a deal our country deserves, not even a deal as good as the deal we have right now! And all announced on Christmas eve to achieve minimum scrutiny. Forgive me if I'm not in the slightest bit grateful or impressed, a massive "bah humbug" to the lot of them..

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Holiday games


Since there's bugger all chance that we'll be socializing over the coming couple of weeks and new films this year are very thin on the ground, we shall just have to look to ourselves for entertainment. Been dusting off some family board games this morning, there's Trivial Pursuits of course but also we found a box of "Risk" and "Connect4" neither of which I've played since I was a teenager! We also found an old Nintendo Wii from the stone age but everyone seems keen to get it going again. Anyway, speaking of teenagers, my son helpfully suggested some ridiculously irresponsible "drinking games", which as a dedicated full-time "student" now he would know a lot about! Although, he clearly hadn't factored in the quality of his Christmas lunch should both his parents be incapacitated, the idea was pushed out until later in the week.

 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Weird holiday


Waitrose open until 11pm at the moment providing a beacon of familiar light in an endless abyss of darkness, it's gonna be a weird holiday season this year..

 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Unanticipated Consequences


I seem to remember Farage campaigning for the reopening of Manston airport, well, I guess he got what he wanted eventually. Funny how unanticipated consequences turn out sometimes, what a shambles!

 

British Carrots


I can't help noticing the shortage of certain foodstuffs in supermarkets this year, normally the shelves are heaving with a surplus of unnecessary calorific excess at this time of the year! However, this year, I can't seem to find any Brussel Sprouts for love nor money! Of course the situation should be the opposite of this, i.e. since "Big Christmas" has been cancelled for most of us now, logic would suggest that food consumption should also be less? However, we seem to have conjured up the perfect storm of irrationality and Brexit bollocks just in time for the festive period. 

Not only are people seemingly buying stuff they can't actually need, but there's also a panic going on over the closure of the French border because of Covid. It's enough to make us all spontaneously perform Gallic shrugs in abject surrender. I do wonder why so many people in our country refuse to acknowledge how interdependent and linked we are to other nations and economies these days, not only does much of our food come from abroad (45%), also power (25%) and quite a lot of our labour does too (20%), disrupt that lot and it's inevitable a rather abrupt (and unwelcome) adjustment is coming, and coming rather soon! 

Of course we keep calm and carry on, it's the English way, alternatively, you could see this as taking great delight in fooling ourselves! As the picture above shows, the label says "British Carrots" but the subtitle reveals that they were in fact grown in Spain! Counterintuitively, our Government seems complicit in this modern fad for mass delusion in fact they seem to be fueled by it! Ironically one of the things I'm struggling to buy this year (for the first time ever) is a simple Gammon joint for New Years day; it would seem that since things have been getting worse and worse since 2016 the Gammons have made themselves scarce, who'd have thought it..

 

Tuesday Titter


Yep, that would have put the cat among the patriarchal pigeons...

 

Saturday Slurp


Last weekend (now that we're in T4) was the first Saturday night that my Son has been in "residence" (i.e. not away or out!) since leaving for University back in early September. So, we decided to make a nice home-cooked meal and open a good bottle of wine to mark the occasion, and to also facilitate a good old chin wag around the table to catch up on his news. I decided to play things safe and revisit St. Julien, a sub-region of the Left-Bank in Bordeaux and home to some of my all time personal favourite wines. 

This one (pictured above) was from top producer Leoville Las Cases and is their (kind of) second wine called "Clos du Marquis", it's a beauty. The 2006 vintage wasn't that great in Bordeaux so the Chateau deselected a lot of the grapes that would normally be destined for their top "Grand-Vin" (i.e. their most expensive wine) and instead, put them in the second wine. Consequently their second wine was appreciably better than it normally is (and it's normally pretty good) I've tried this wine a couple of times since I bought a case back in 2007/8, the last time I tried it was early 2019, so nearly a year ago, and it was tasting pretty fine then. Pleasingly, this year, it tastes even better, more balance, more linear fruit and an inky, blackcurrant, talc kind of vibe that's very distinctive, a superb effort and very much enjoyed on a rainy Saturday night in deepest Berkshire; it instantly transported us to warmer climes and better times!

 

Monday, December 21, 2020

Stoic Winter


So, it's the shortest day of the year today, from here on in the days get longer (and hopefully less wet!) even though it probably won't be noticeable for a few weeks. It's normally a "cozy" time of year, things starting to wind down toward the holiday break and food consumption steadily increasing as tins of yummy things start to appear. In past years, after work drinks and celebrations (usually starting at lunchtime and especially when working in London) have been the norm and it's often a time to relax a bit from the normal humdrum of the daily slog, stop and chat to that work colleague over a couple of Quality Street rather than rushing around as we normally tend to do. This year is different of course and we're all having to reconcile ourselves to a largely "DIY" holiday, isolated from family and friends, dependent on "Zoom" for essential communication, hey ho.. At least I learned at the weekend that my elderly Mum is lined up for a vaccine in January, just need to remain stoic for a couple more months and then that'll be one less thing to worry about!

 

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Cracker


Another cracker from Verdant, "Home from Home" a pale, hazy IPA with one of the softest mouthfeels I think I've ever experienced in a beer, just pillowy! Tasted great too, a slight dank vibe but mostly tropical fruits from a mix of Citra, Nelson and Galaxy hops, a serious contender for my best beers of 2020 list.

 

Friday, December 18, 2020

Friday Smirk


A humorous J&M today; the "war on Christmas" has well and truly begun (not that you'd notice!)

 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Child in snow


Wonderful photo by Don McPhee, a young child walking home from school through the snow in 1982 (Watersheddings, near Oldham) - you'd struggle to see something like this today..

 

Am I bothered?


So, Berkshire (where I live) is in T3 now, are we to somehow feel special now, perhaps like the naughty cool kids at school or should we just mumble under our breath and do our time? In any case, it won't affect my family much as we aren't going to pubs at all at the moment and have only eaten out a couple of times in the last two months, I'm sure we'll survive just fine. I do feel sorry for the local businesses that will now have to shut up shop and I hope that people will realise that the way out of this is to actually listen to the advice and, you know, take it! 

I can't say I'm particularly surprised, the amount of traffic and shop footfall around here is practically normal and I know for a fact that many households are mixing right, left and centre! Some schools seem to be a bit of a hotspot too, but some less so, my daughter (who goes to a local school) has only been off for a week since they went back which seems reasonable. I did have an experience today which illustrates how I think many organizations and people are unprepared for this Winter. Around lunchtime we (4 of us) walked into town to our local Boots chemists to get a flu jab, when we got there the place was packed (lot's of people collecting prescriptions etc.) so we hung around outside as best we could, waiting until our turn. When that came we were asked to fill in a form which took around 5-10 minutes (impossible to socially distance), the form simply repeated all the information already given  when making the appointment (?!). To cap it all everyone in the group of people waiting were passing around the same clipboard (to write on) and the same Bic biro to write with, an unnecessary transmission waiting to happen I think. I do wish some companies would actually take the time to risk assess their businesses, if chemists can't be bothered then we have to wonder who is?



 

A fishy tale..


Interesting that the "gammons" among us are hyperventilating about "fishing" at the moment, there's not a right-wing newspaper, blog or newsgroup that you can find that doesn't at least have some blowhard banging on about sending in gunboats to blow the French fishing fleet out of our waters (and similarly pathetic and jingoistic garbage). 

Of course, as per usual, reality is somewhat distant from their narrow nationalistic perspective. Above you can see an image showing the radar signals from every British fishing vessel the other week, and as you can see, in terms of boats fishing in actual "English" inshore waters (12 miles from our coastline), or, our offshore waters (200 miles) there's not a lot going on. Take a look at the official map of our "waters" and count the boats for yourself (see below)


It would appear that British boats prefer to fish off Irish, French and Icelandic waters rather than our own which begs the question when we piss off all our neighbors by being pedantic about fishing rights (0.12% of our economy) who is really going to lose out, we watch with baited breath...

 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Interesting, amusing and eloquent


It was the anniversary of this man's death yesterday, someone who told it like he saw it! I wonder what he'd make of our sorry arses these last few years.. we'll never know but I bet it would have been interesting, amusing and eloquent..

Red Tape..


This one is for everyone who has had to implement GDPR regulations in their processes and products! One of those necessary things that costs a load of money, time, torture and tears, particularly when you know damn well that hardly anyone gives the first fig about any of it and it's not like you're dishonest or reckless with private data anyway. Ah well, I suppose our laws are dictated by the lowest common denominators in our societies.

 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Course correction


So, America has corrected it's 2016 mistake, thanks goodness for that. Here in the UK I fear that our 2016 mistake will take a lot longer to correct and will be a lot more harmful to us all for many years to come.

 

Monday, December 14, 2020

Ledge fever


I see that London is moving up to T3 this week, it's sad, but I fear an inevitable consequence of more people gradually cranking up the level of contact (inadvertent or otherwise) that they have with others. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that people are generally "lockdown fatigued", especially younger people and especially those that haven't yet been affected personally by this virus. It feels to many like we're the chap on the ledge (Alex Honnold) We're stuck in a precarious position, a wrong move in any direction may be fatal (for us or someone we love)! Sure, we can see the rescue team starting out on the climb up to our position thousands of feet below but we simply don't want to be up here any more, the urge to attempt to "move" unilaterally is proving irresistible. I think we have a real challenge ahead, I hope we don't get to March and look back at the Summer and Autumn of 2020 thinking those were the "happy times", I have a sneaking suspicion that we may. This uneasy feeling was compounded today by the announcement of the discovery of a new strain of Covid in around 1,000 people recently, a mutation that invalidates the vaccines might just tip us over the edge at this point. 

I must say, I'm gradually leaning toward scrapping any notion of meeting up with people (outside our little bubble) this Christmas/New Year, it's starting to feel like a bad idea. As a family we might just isolate ourselves by clinging to our own "ledge" for a little longer, chalking this yuletide up to "experience". As someone funnier than me once said, "One day we'll look back at this moment, laugh nervously and change the subject"..

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Collector genes


A celebration of 2020 (not something you'll hear often)! My local craft brewery Siren have put together a collage of all the beers they made over the year. It's an amazing collection, and typical of modern craft breweries like them, variety and experimentation is their "thing" and I'm all for that. The picture shows 10 barrel aged ales (in bottles) and 14 examples of their "suspended" series (in cask), basically the same light sessionable 4% base but with different hops each time (the blue labels at the bottom) The other 71 beers are a collection of one offs, repeats and collaborations with other breweries, all in can, it's an impressive haul!

I had a quick scan of the hi-res PDF and reckon I've tried 56 out of 71 of the cans but only 2 of the barrel aged beers in bottles. I've had quite a few of the "suspended" in series, probably around half of them. That's pretty good from one producer, certainly not possible from more traditional, larger brewers who tend to limit their production to a handful of regular (i.e. the same) recipes. Siren are lucky, they did a small funding round two years ago and installed a swanky canning line just in time for the pandemic and the lockdown, pretty much all of their business this year has switched to cans from cask (to pubs and bars) and that format is perfectly suited to high turnover and variety, particularly when they can sell direct to people with the "collector" gene (like me). 

 

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Moonlight Beams


Tried a new beer whilst preparing supper last night, a lager no less, from my local craft brewer Siren. Called "Moonlight Beams" it's a pokey 7% imperial lager and is flavoured with oak. I wasn't really expecting too much (not a massive strong lager fan) but it was actually very good, clean, crisp, bready with a nice touch of complexity from the oak that eliminated any trace of alcohol burn that you often find in lagers at the higher end of the ABV range, may even be tempted to revisit this one sometime soon, while it's still available on the Siren website.

 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Australian Style


Great news! Microsoft have agreed to buy my software company in an "Australian-style" buyout, i.e. they have neither agreed to buy us or even heard of us. In other news we're thinking of having an "Australian-style" Christmas, i.e. no gifts, decorations, good humour, turkey or roast potatoes, just the lump of coal. Later next year we're thinking of taking an "Australian style" holiday, it'll be mostly about being on fire, venom and, with a bit of luck, an unlimited supply of peppermint burgundy.. 

Sunlit uplands all the way..

 

Friday Smirk


Jesus and Mo pointing out the potentially confusing and humorous outcome of messing around with pronouns that we're all familiar with and have used to address one another since childhood.



 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Thought for Thursday


I sincerely hope that the legacy of this trump (meant in the schoolboy sense of the word) of a man is that he presided over the worst government in the history of the USA. More lies, more failure, more anti-science, more foreign interference, more cronyism and more incompetence! In short America has never been less great!

For reference here's a list of the worst 8 days in American history expressed in American deaths..

1. Galveston Hurricane - 8,000
2. Antietam - 3,600
3. 9/11 - 2,977
4. Last Thursday - 2,861
5. Last Wednesday - 2,762
6. Last Tuesday - 2.461
7. Last Friday - 2,439
8. Pearl Harbor - 2,403

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Words are important


I'm happy to see that Cambridge University has (via a vote) rejected guidelines that would mandate students, staff and visitors be "respectful" of the views and identities of others. Whilst this may sound reasonable, any analysis that concludes this is clearly only superficial, and IMO woefully inadequate! "Respect" totally depends on the view being expressed and is something that should be earned, not granted unilaterally! For example, having such a rule would make it extremely difficult to speak truth to power, a vital pillar of free-speech. 

So, ironically, a rule that was intended to prevent hate speech would in fact achieve the opposite, i.e. hate speech could thrive unopposed so long as someone expressing it was feeling "disrespected". For example, Islamists could preach what they liked about gay people, i.e. that they should be thrown from tall buildings! "Hate speech" if ever I heard it, but such people could simply hide behind the fa├žade of their "religion" and claim that any protest against them was "Islamophobia", i.e. disrespectful.

In the end the smart people at that institution changed the word "respect" (a weasel word if ever there was one!) to "tolerate" a much better formulation. Now the rule is that all views should be tolerated, i.e. not silenced or muzzled (particularly by violence or threats of violence) by anyone, however not necessarily respected. So now (hopefully), opposition to any idea, via ridicule, counter-argument or even protest is fine, i.e. free-speech properly implemented!

End-game strategy

As I get older I'm becoming much more conscious of the dwindling amount of productive time that I have left and it's becoming clearer to me how I ideally don't want to spend this time. I'd like to think that over the years I have acquired a reasonable degree of competence in my chosen field and have accumulated a good set of skills and knowledge about how to achieve concrete things within it. I'm finding that the challenge is that when you reach any significant point of competence in any field then it becomes as much a curse as an opportunity. This may sound strange, but, once the people around you in your particular field, who lack this competence, but who don't lack ambition or opportunity, realise what you can do, then the pressure to start new projects with them to achieve some desirable outcome becomes ever more numerous and superficially attractive. It's an obvious fact that building value from scratch is often more lucrative than piggy-backing on something that's already established, albeit much more risky.

The realisation is that new projects are more expensive (and risky) for the people who have the competence because they end up being the ones who have to create and deliver stuff first, as opposed to the ones who manage, sell, market or administer that stuff. This is particularly so because at the start of any project (i.e. when nothing exists) those early days are all about precisely that, i.e. inventing, creating and delivering new stuff! Once the project starts to mature (i.e. there's something to sell) then the roles kind of reverse and the pressure becomes greater on those charged with the selling, promoting, managing and administering of the things that have been delivered. Of course this is somewhat of a simplification since the job of delivering never really ends, it more usually simply changes into one of maintenance and evolution, but in general I do think that "new projects" are harder and more risky for the creators and builders among us and mature projects more onerous for the administrators and sellers/promoters. 

My conclusion is that as I get older and the sand starts to run out, I think I will reflect more skeptically about starting new projects and creating value from scratch, perhaps focus more energy on evolving and maturing value that already exists. As a new years resolution, develop and perfect a less onerous and less stressful "end-game" strategy perhaps.

 

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Heavy burgers

 


I came across this little diagram on the interwebs the other day, if accurate, it's an interesting perspective on our (Human Beings) abuse of the natural world. Amazingly the largest mammal biomass is cows, of course the vast majority of which only exist for us to eat or extract milk from. You could say that we're weighing the natural world down with beef burgers and lamb chops!

Monday, December 07, 2020

First world problems


Apparently this is a section of a real form for entry into an American University, first world problems hey..

 

Zoom expenses..

 


Back in the day (during the late Cretaceous), back when we bought physical newspapers, I used to very much enjoy the Alex cartoon strip. Good to see that it's keeping up with the times and perfectly capturing the current zeitgeist!

Sunday, December 06, 2020

A promising start


Interesting science news this week about Google's company "DeepMind" who have been using a neural network (AI software) to attempt to solve the Biological riddle that is protein folding. We have been able to discover the molecules that make up proteins for many years now, but this simplistic one dimensional view, i.e. essentially a list indicating the order in which particular amino acids are linked together, only tells part of the story. Proteins are three dimensional structures, not flat lists, and their shapes often dictate what they do or don't do, computing the three dimensional shape from a flat list has been somewhat of a holy grail of Biology and Medicine for decades. DeepMind took a large database of protein shapes and trained a specially designed neural net using the data, the network then predicted the 3d structures of proteins with a roughly 80% accuracy, importantly, it only takes minutes to find the answers whereas traditional methods (such as x-ray crystallography) may take years. Of course this isn't the end of the puzzle, even with the huge resources that Google has and the outrageous cash that they pay their AI gurus, their tech isn't able to handle the computation of complexes and interactions of proteins that work together so there's still some way to go, but it's a promising start!

 

Saturday, December 05, 2020

Pancake Day



Spent a pleasant couple of hours last night listening to a talk from the head brewer of four new beers from my local craft brewery Siren, accompanied by a tasting and online chat. The beers in question were a series that's been running for a few years now of stouts flavoured with various different things on the theme of "Caribbean Chocolate Cake" (CCC). This year we had "Nitro CCC", "CCC Pancake Stack", "Barrel Aged CCC" and "Death by CCC". My favourite was the pancake stack, a delicious 7% dark beer that had a touch of smoked malt in the grist and had also been spun on maple wood that had been soaked in Bourbon, a real guilty pleasure! An American breakfast in liquid form! 

Would be wonderful to sup by a roaring fire with some stinky cheese and crusty sourdough bread, unfortunately I only bought one set of four and these beers are so rare that they sell out almost immediately, ah well, there's always next year. The others were pretty good too, a royal flush of four great beers from Siren, you can see them all together in the picture below.



 

Friday, December 04, 2020

Un-Poured...


Oh the anticipation, a cold Verdant beer un-poured (on a Friday night after a manic week!)

 

Friday Smirk


Nice J and M cartoon this week, pointing out the layers of unreasonable assertions stacked one on top of another required to fully buy into most of the common religions around today (never mind about the thousands of dead ones).

 

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Bah Humbug..


Went past a house this evening that had the full Christmas light show blasting out into the December drizzle, visible from space I reckon. This kind of thing should surely be phased out soon, when multiplied up by a few hundred thousand properties it must be a small, but not insignificant contributor to unnecessary power consumption and therefore greater greenhouse gas emissions.. bah humbug etc..

 

Is there a God?


The question about whether there's a God or not (which one I hear you ask!) has perplexed mankind for millennia, however now, in the age of artificial intelligence, we finally have an answer!
 

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Reap what you sew..



Gabriel Sterling a Republican election official in Georgia emotionally pointing out that when Government officials (even Presidents) taunt the more reactionary factions of a society and then remain silent when those factions begin to make threats of violence in order to achieve the parochial aims of those officials, then that often leads to real violence and innocent people die. The sorry condition of American politics and statecraft after the shit show that was Trump, very ugly indeed.

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Timing is everything..


Take a look at this video of a scene from James Burke's TV programme "connections" first aired in 1978. Stick with it all the way through, when you get to the end you realise that this may be one of the best timed sequences in history, a one shot (no green screen) only deal, superb timing on the part of JB.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Ideas worthy of discussion


Strikes me that there are two types of people in the world, those that inhabit the domain of ideas, and thrive there, and those that don't. Eleanor Roosevelt is often quoted for suggesting that great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events and small minds discuss people. I can kind of see where she was going with that but I don't totally agree, in my experience the domain of ideas is often as much about who has the idea as the idea itself, you can have the best idea in the world but if you don't have the personality, drive, incentives, resources, contacts, platforms etc. to spread it then it might as well not exist and therefore won't be "discussed". Of course you can have an idea (even a bad one) and give/sell/lose it to someone with these attributes who can go on to exploit it, but it's still mainly about people. For me Socrates was closer to the mark when he said that the "unexamined life was not worth living" and I think that's true. It seems to me that an essential component of happiness and feeling fulfilled in ones life is to be curious and possess a spirit of adventure that leads to new ideas and experiences, ideas that are worthy of discussion.

 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Double Citra


We "zoomed" a few mates for drinks and a chat last night, it was fun and good to catch up. I tried a new Verdant beer called "Fruit, Car, Sight, Exhibition" a luscious DIPA (Double IPA) loaded to the brim with Citra hops in the boil kettle (hot side) but also loads of Citra hops in the dry hop (cold side) too. I love Citra hops, and this just burst from glass, mango and citrus, hazy and pillowy with a really addictive spikey carbonation, excellent work from the Falmouth firm.

 

Saturday, November 28, 2020

A Hit..


We had a bottle of wine with dinner last night for a change, lush it was too, a grand cru from Burgundy (Musigny) with a decent bit of bottle age. I'm always apprehensive about Burgundy, it's such a difficult region to pin down and very hit and miss for the uninitiated (like me) Fortunately this bottle was a hit, lovely lifted fruit, cherries, farmyard and a lingering finish. I bought this wine in a sale about 15 years ago and it's aged beautifully, in fact I reckon it would last another 15 at least and be none the worse for it.

 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Ear, ear


The "Vincent" mug...

 

Friday Smirk


I'm often amused at how some of our religious brothers and sisters think about "atheists", there's often a perception that non-believers are somehow boring or "less fun". I guess the crux of this debate is in how you define "fun"; if it's spending hours on your knees whispering magic spells to an invisible patriarch then I guess religious people have more "fun", and they're more than welcome to that! I, for one, think I'll just crack on with thinking for myself, a "monkey in shoes" rather than a "sheep", after all we all know what shepherds end up doing to sheep! (the pretty ones at least)

 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Mustn't grumble..


The Sun was out today (for a change) and although chilly, my walk at lunchtime was very pleasant. I spotted this weathercock (not a word you use very often!) on top of a local church spire gleaming in the November sunshine. It made me reflect on our current predicament, we've ended up in Tier 2 of the Government lockdown rules, so no inter-family mingling for us for a while, still, at least we can meet outdoors for bracing walks like the one today. It would be a shame to get this far and catch this pesky virus just when the cavalry is about to arrive, anyway, mustn't grumble! (as Chas and Dave would say) This particular building has been here since the 1860's and the town itself since Roman times, i.e. over 2000 years, so the current pandemic certainly isn't the first or the worst to afflict these parts! However, we should feel reasonably smug in the thought that this is the first pandemic that will (hopefully) be snuffed out by a newly invented vaccine created during the epidemic itself! We do science, we learn about how reality works and we adapt, perhaps with the exception of what goes on in the building in the picture.. 

 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Midweek Mirth


It must be Christmas soon, there are Easter Eggs in the supermarkets..

 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Taste experiment


Last Friday night, as I was constructing a culinary delight for my family, I thought I'd crack open a little "novelty beer" that I've had in the cupboard for a while. Called "The Tickle Monster" it's a beer from Siren, my local craft brewery in Finchampstead. Labelled a "Triple IPA" it's essentially a pale ale but made in a very strong (alcohol) style, it had also been flavoured with mango fruit and been "spun" on cedar wood giving it some very bold flavours to play off against the 11% ABV. I was expecting it to quite boozy in the sense of leaving an alcohol burn in the throat as some Imperial stouts and barley wines do, but it was surprisingly drinkable, no hint of it's underlying dangers! Certainly not a beer to quench your thirst with, more a "taste experiment", but a decent one never the less.

 

Monday, November 23, 2020

End in Tiers?


So, the "end of lockdown" tiers have been announced, but no one knows which one they're going to be in yet. We're hoping that we're going to be a T1 kind of place next week, allowing family to visit etc., but we're on the borderline in terms of infection rates so could be a T2 if unlucky. Good news about the various positive vaccine results popping up now though, Science to the rescue! The mRNA techniques used in the Pfizer and Moderna products are really interesting, something that may bear tremendous fruit in years (and future pandemics) to come, just need to sort out the cold-chain constraints. I have a couple of good friends in the "Pharma biz" on the scientific side of these efforts, they seem very optimistic that they (we) can get these jabs distributed quickly (and that's not "corporate happy-talk") Let's hope nothing untoward springs out of the woodwork between now and the safety sign-off in a few weeks time..