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..
 

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Beer of the year


I think I might have found my "beer of the year" last night, I cracked open a can of "This is a Concept" while making dinner. It's a West Coast style IPA from Cornish wizards Verdant, now, one of the things that Verdant are renowned for is their obsession with New England style IPA's which are hazy, pale, hop forward and with hardly any bitterness. West Coast IPA's on the other hand are (usually) clear and hop forward but with a hefty whack of bitterness that leaves your mouth demanding another sip. Usually, when it comes to breweries they tend to specialize in one or the other, however, when it comes to straddling the two Oceans it seems that the lads down in Kernow know how to truly nail both styles. An absolutely stunning beer, almost perfect, soft mouthfeel with keen bitterness, a sweet malt character (like great German lager) big hit of citrus hop flavour and just perfectly balanced. Not one for the mild mannered weighing in at 8% ABV but so rich and flavorsome, definitely one for the wall of fame.

 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Live..


Live footage of the UK leaving the EU

Friday, November 20, 2020

Give it up, losers..


Donald Trump's top team to now sue Grecian 2000...

 

Urban Nature


Nature in all it's glory but in an "urban" environment. This picture is from a competition being run by the Natural History Museum you can see some more examples on their web page (follow the link) and they're stunning. I particularly love this one of the Kingfisher, the colours of these birds are just fantastic and, in my experience, they're unmissable in the wild. Often seen as just a flash of scarlet and iridescent blue darting across the surface of the river or stream, unforgettable!

 

Friday Smirk


Jesus and Mo on target as usual. When you live by "faith" rather than evidence and reason, anything you may imagine could be possible and perhaps even any deed done in it's defense justified..

Thursday, November 19, 2020

A cartoon for everything



Te he... It's true, there's an XKCD cartoon for everything!

 

Pace-maker


Continuing to notice improvements to my fitness over the Summer and into the Autumn, I did a walk today which covered around six and a half kilometers and managed to do it in under an hour. The average pace was a whisker over 9 minutes per kilometer which is pretty good I reckon (for an old git) as when I started walking at lunchtimes back in the Autumn of 2018 my average pace was around 13 minutes per KM. Onwards and upwards, next milestone will be to get a 6k done in under 9 mins per KM, now if only it would stop raining every day I might just make it before the end of the year!



 

Just a blip?


I see that the orange peril is still clinging onto the delusion that he won something, how embarrassing for intelligent Americans everywhere! Although it's not unlike our own bumbling Prime Minister who quotes pointless Latin phrases but can't seem to manage to comb his hair (what is it about some world leaders and their weird hair?). Anyway it seems to me that both cultures (US & UK) these days seem to encourage and reward infantilism, why? Is is the fault of reality TV or perhaps video games and social media, or maybe the lack of critical thinking in schools? Who knows, but whatever the reason, let's hope it's just a blip.

 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The Zoom Economy


It's interesting how different people are dealing with the move to "online working" that's been going on around the country over the last 9 months. In my own case, our (expensive) offices have essentially been shut down since mid-March and although I pop in now and again to look after various computers that need attention I'm not particularly missing "office life", nor does it seem to have affected my productivity in any way. If truth be told my productivity now is probably higher now than it was this time last year! Much less in the way of people "hovering" around my desk for political rather than functional purposes, and distractions from people bringing their bloody puppies, babies and hyper-active toddlers in for people to gawp at have fallen to zero (rolls eyes)  In all seriousness though, I find I'm working less hours and yet getting more done?

Work-life balance is definitely tracking in the right direction, in fact we switched to a 9 day fortnight over the Summer, i.e. people took Friday afternoons off, and again, productivity was just as good as a normal 10 day fortnight (just goes to show what people used to do on a Friday afternoon in the office!) As a consequence of the emergence of the so called, "Zoom Economy" I'm seriously considering moving house to somewhere with much nicer scenery, less cars and warmer weather than the UK home counties, so long as it has good broadband connectivity and decent beer of course! I was speaking to a business colleague today who has "worked from home" on the island of Tenerife for the last 2 months in a fully serviced apartment with hot-tub, pool and veranda overlooking the ocean all for a few hundred Euro a month, and frankly no one even noticed, apart from his own family! Isn't it amazing how, in every crisis, there's always an upside to be found somewhere!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Wuhan birthday wishes..


A rather grim anniversary today. It was exactly one year ago that the first known case of Covid-19 was traced to a 55 year old Chinese man who had visited a "wet market" in Wuhan, China. So far the disease has claimed 1.33 million lives (and those are just the ones we can easily count) To put this into some perspective that's roughly a 9/11 sized event every day for a year (and counting)! This puts Covid at around 10th in the list of things that kills most people worldwide, quite an impressive performance from a standing start last November. 

Let's not forget that although the cavalry is on it's way in the shape of effective vaccines, it'll still be many months before they start to reach the masses (i.e. you and me) and we're just entering the Winter flu season in the Northern Hemisphere. And yet, there are still people out there who feel "oppressed" because they're politely asked to wear a paper face mask in crowded indoor places like shops, in order to save other people's lives! Ah well, I have it on good authority from a Doctor friend of mine that it's a well known medical fact some people behave like complete arseholes most of the time, still, natural selection is usually swift and reliable.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Covid Adverts


Lovin the new German Covid-19 adverts...

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Saturday treats


Treated myself to some New Forest goodness last night (Saturday) while making dinner. It's a DIPA (or Double IPA) made by one of my favourite breweries Vibrant Forest based down near Hythe. The beer was hazy, dank and wonderfully murky and flavorsome, made with one of my favourite hops (Simcoe) it tasted of stone fruits and grapefruit with a decent chunk of bitterness, a class act..

 

History


Saw this, it made me smile..
 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Friday Smirk


"Belief" or as its more commonly known "faith" in the religious context is, I reckon, the ultimate expression of a natural Human desire for things to be as we WANT them to be rather than how they're LIKELY to be. Whisper a few magic words on Sundays and live forever with the people you love in paradise! Now, who wouldn't want that to be true (in principal at least) but, from what we know about the Universe and how it works, the chances of it actually being true are more or less zero. On the other hand, the chances of us all being evolved primates living on an insignificant rock spinning in an unimaginably vast universe that isn't even aware that we're here and who think we're clever because we've taken 4 billion years to discover shoes and fire are more or less 100% likely. As Darwin once said however, "there is grandeur in this view of life" if only you open your mind to see it.

 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Enlightenment


Reading a book about the enlightenment at the moment (Radical Enlightenment by Jonathan Israel), they certainly had lots of new ideas around that time, particularly some of those revolutionary French geezers! (see above) Some of those ideas were even on the right track, as we now know..
 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Bored students


I'm finding that working from home at the colder end of the year is a little less agreeable than the same during the Summer months. The afternoons seem longer and the walks at lunchtime less enjoyable, perhaps it's because I'm getting bored with the lack of variety or perhaps because there's less daylight or it's colder etc. but I'm definitely looking forward to the Christmas break and seeing my Son (who's away at University) and having a break from the daily routine.

The Government have been talking a lot lately about how students are going to get back home for the holiday, there's talk of them all coming back at once during the first week of December, this is so that mass-testing can be done prior to bundling them off, it's not a bad idea but may cause issues where travel options are limited, i.e. I can imagine the chaos as a few thousand students all try to catch the same trains to London on the same day etc.. It might be better to do things in waves, i.e. spread different groups/Institutions over a couple of weeks, but anyway I'm sure we'll get something sensible organized, rail and air tickets seem quite reasonable at the moment.

 

The new normal..


Hasn't that "milquetoast" orange waste of skin and organs pissed off yet?

 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

If it weren't for those pesky kids..


Sad to learn today that the creator of the hit cartoon series "Scooby-Doo" has died in Los Angeles. Ken Spears, who worked for Warner Bros. and co-animated the iconic programme was 82 years old.

I loved this programme when I was a young kid and my kids loved it too, especially the movies when they were young, we took great delight in watching them together. There was something innovative about the series, it combined a bit of comedy with a some serious science/sleuthing and came up with a compelling (for an 8 year old) and fun way to spend 30 minutes on a Saturday morning. It taught me a couple of important life lessons too. Firstly, whenever there appears to be something supernatural going on, it always turns out to be someone in a mask that's up to no good and secondly, being geeky is cool!

 

Monday, November 09, 2020

Monday Mirth


Classic Garry Larson for a murky Monday...

 

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Sufficient


Decided to cook a lush toad-in-the-hole for dinner last night (Saturday) marking the first weekend of lockdown V2.0. While it was cooking I cracked open a new (for me) can of "Saturated in Amarillo" by one of my favourite breweries DEYA (Cheltenham). Amarillo is one of the classic new wave "American hops", and is unusual to see used on it's own, it's usually paired with something more punchy like Citra or Mosaic. It imparts an orange/citrus background note to the beer but is not massively strong or pungent, it is however very distinct (in a good way!) A delicious beer that slipped down far, far to easily for it's 8% ABV price-tag, 500ml of this was, as the Rolls-Royce salesman replies when asked about the size of the engine, "sufficient"..

 

Saturday, November 07, 2020

American dreamer..



 

Fluky Escape


Loved this story during the week, it's a metro train in Spijkenisse, Holland that overshot the end of the platform and crashed through the wall at the end of the station. Luckily the driver and passengers of the train escaped the 30ft drop into the canal beneath, not because of good brakes but because of a sculpture of a whales tale decorating the end of the line! What you might call a complete fluke! Just in case you're worried, no real whales were hurt in the incident, and everyone managed to walk away unscathed, the driver having a particularly interesting tale to tell!

 

300 Laps


A real hazy, fruity treat for me on a chilly Friday night while cooking Mexican bean & rice taco supper for the fam. Called "300 Laps of Your Garden" after the activities of a few charitable souls during lockdown V1.0 it's a soft, orange and mango/grapefruit (flavour) loaded pale ale from Cornish brewers Verdant. The taste comes from two of my favourite hops, Azacca from Australia and Mosaic from the USA, delicious and only 4.8% ABV, so good, I might even have another!

 

Friday, November 06, 2020

Chilly tho..


Lovely Autumn scene this morning looking over the fields near where I live, brrrr chilly tho!

 

Friday Smirk


J&M firmly in tune with the secular zeitgeist this week, and the dismay many of us feel over the levels of equivocation that some people have demonstrated in the light of the recent atrocities in France and Austria. For the purposes of clarity, this cartoon of Mo is what's known as SATIRE and it's supposed to cause you to feel uncomfortable to the point where you question your position and sometimes even realise you made a mistake! If you can't cope with that without killing innocent people then the problem isn't the drawings, it's being a murderous snowflake!

 

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Pick a side..


I'm a Liberal minded kind of person but whenever I'm faced with the choice of denouncing the random beheading of innocent people in the street or criticizing the production of satirical drawings.. clearly the problem is the cartoons!

In my view respect is something that's earned and not granted automatically (for anything), and certainly not because of "deeply held beliefs". In fact millennia of experience shows us that "deeply held beliefs" are usually an excellent reason to be even more skeptical and/or disrespectful of someone or some idea. The key to understanding this position lies in the word "belief" which as we all know means something very different from the word "knowledge", regardless of how "deep" it runs.

 

Optimism


Now that we're all locked down again it should be a quiet bonfire night tonight! Although, there always seems to be people who delight in watching their money go out with a bang, or is it up in smoke? Anyway, whichever, I was never really a massive fan of the event although I do confess when we used to attend school fireworks evenings it was a good way of keeping the kids amused for a couple of hours, and if it happened to be a cold night, the mulled wine was sometimes even drinkable.

Desperately sad watching what's going on in the USA at the moment, childish tantrums, lying on an industrial scale and huge quantities of money (that could be used for a million more beneficial things) being wasted on legal shenanigans simply to support the ego of the orange faced huckster that was elected four years ago, I fear for the stability of that continent, I really do. It seems hard to see how any semblance of unity can be forged in the current climate and because of Covid, people can't even unite behind the goal of making money, which, let's face it, has largely kept things ticking over since the 80's. Anyway, as usual, a lot rests on the skill and dedication of scientists around the world to dig us out of this mess, people (who should know) seem optimistic about getting a vaccine going before Christmas, I suppose that's something to remain hopeful about.

 

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Work Outfits


Been totally absorbed in my work today (from home) listening to albums by Pink Floyd, one of my favourite bands and particularly the guitar playing of David Gilmour. Man, that geezer can play! Instantly recognizable and beautifully melodic and rich, loads of string bending and thoughtful silences. Anyway I thought I'd post a few pictures of the man himself illustrating his outrageously varied and extravagant stage outfits through the years.. :)

 

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

1982 vs 2020

So, this little beauty is the new Raspberry Pi 400 computer, it costs around £90 and is powerful enough to act as a fully fledged PC for educational or hobbyist purposes. I remember back in 1982 buying another British computer, it was the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and it cost me £125 (see picture below) I remember being thrilled at the performance and the capabilities of this little machine, a proper programmable computer which was almost certainly responsible for helping to launch my career ever since.




I thought it would be interesting to look at the relative capabilities of these two machines to see how much things have progressed in 38 years so I created a little table (see below) showing the various capabilities of both machines and the factor increase in performance. 


Amazingly things like processing power (i.e. the number of instructions executed per second) had increase by around 2,000 times and memory capacity by over 4 million times. I think it's pretty amazing that our collective ingenuity has created a device that's many thousands of times more powerful and still cheaper by 30% nearly forty years on, and that's not even adjusted for inflation which would make it around a quarter of the price of the 1982 machine, bravo the computer industry!



 

Cultural Consensus


Inspiring to see what Women are doing in Poland right now. Ever since a court ruling there effectively banning abortion Women have been protesting through acts of public disobedience and disruption. The demographic seems to be younger people, perhaps people that are less encumbered with dogma from the highly influential Catholic church, as the Polish Government seems to be. For many years now there has been a kind of informal cultural consensus in Poland that the Government works within the framework of Catholic doctrine, much like Ireland a few decades ago, enforced indoctrination from a very early age has lead to a system that is almost theocratic in character. Ireland has (more or less) managed to shake off these religious manacles and is fast embracing a properly secular system, let's hope that Poland follows suite! The signs are certainly good (so far) that this current wave of protests is having the desired effect, the Government seems to be looking for a way out. On a side note, I wouldn't want to be in any Government that incurred the fury and wrath of the entire female population of a country, a most inhospitable place to be.

 

Pulling focus

 


Interesting podcast from Sam Harris on why people might be attracted to Trump. Like a lot of us Harris has been somewhat baffled by why so many people in the USA are willing to overlook the obvious character flaws in someone like Trump, in fact why so many of them see these flaws as strengths when literally the other 50% of the population see them for what they are, delusion, ego and greed. His conclusion is obvious (when you hear it) but scary, and really only makes sense against the backdrop of the current narrative from the left. The two sides of this cultural penny go something like this.. 

Right leaning Trump supporters know that Trump cannot morally judge them, it's obvious that almost regardless of the substance of your own petty hates, dubious opinions and absence of factual competence Trump represents a moral "safe-space", Trump is "fat, pussy grabbing Jesus". 

On the left we see the exact opposite, nothing but sanctimony and judgement, not only are you homophobic, racist, Islamophobic and sexist you are clearly not worthy of your privilege. You are also responsible for the crimes of your forefathers, slavery, colonialism, inequality, it's all on you! If you're a cis, white, heterosexual male then you must be scum, the lowest of the low, so buy your BLM tee shirt and bend your fucking knee!

I'm not sure I like where this thought track might be headed, but I can't say I disagree.

Monday, November 02, 2020

Tasteful notes..


Ha, ha, it always amuses me how some people react to wine/beer tasting notes (and the whole idea of recording taste experiences etc.), it's a real marmite kind of thing, some people love them others think they're a bunch of pretentious nonsense. I've noticed over the years that to many people, food and drink is just seen as fuel, sure, it shouldn't be unpleasant but beyond that they don't really think about it. For others (including me) there's much more to it, a complex landscape that begs to be thoughtfully explored and assessed. I've always enjoyed trying to capture the experience of tasting things, especially wine but also food etc. for me it's like a little time capsule and really interesting to read through old notes, it brings back memories of the events, the people, the times etc. However, like a lot of things in life, they probably shouldn't be taken too seriously, as 2020 unfolds we're all too aware that there are much more pressing things to get excited about (not!)..

 

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Beaucastel


Had some good friends over for dinner yesterday (last chance saloon for a dinner party as it turns out!) so I opened a good bottle of wine. This one is from the South of France (Ch√Ęteauneuf du Pape) and was bottled in 1998 a top vintage for that region and producer. Chateau Beaucastel is quite well known and it usually ages really well, at 20+ years old this example was singing! Lovely dark fruits and berries, spice, long finish just the job for a rainy October evening!