Friday, 23 September 2016

Tea


Today is apparently the 358th anniversary of the first advertisement for tea in Britain, albeit at the time being described as a "China drink".

Tea is the quintessential British drink, I venture to say.  There's nothing I like so much as the idea of afternoon tea, reviving yourself after a hard day of writing letters and walking the estate by taking on a pot of tea and a selection of cakes and sandwiches.

There has been many recipes over the years on how to make the best cup of tea, and I'm sure that they are all very good.  But allow me to put forward my method:

One - Kettle on

Don't fill it up too much, or you'll be waiting forever.

Two - Teabag in a mug

The choice of teabag shows your social standing.  If you're using square teabags, you're salt of the earth. Pyramid ones are for those aspiring to the aristocracy.  Everyone else has a decent round teabag.

Three - When the kettle boils, fill the mug about 75% full

Not too full!  You can always put a splash in later if needed.

Four - Milk in

Don't even think about telling me that the milk should go in first.


Five - Sugar if required, otherwise, stir to a good colour

The right cup of tea should be a decent beige colour, not quite brown, but heading that way.  White is a no-no.


Six - Drink it!

Ideally accompanied with a rich tea, digestive (even though you have to bite the edge of it before you can dip it in your mug), or a Chocolate Oreo if you're just a crazy fool who likes living life on the edge.

Cheers!

 Tea - how do you take yours? Drop me a line in the comments :)


Thursday, 22 September 2016

Melted chocolate

So, I was going to a meeting last week, and decided, being a team player, to pick up a pack of biscuits en route to take for everyone to enjoy.

I decided to purchase a pack of KitKats (as an aside did you know that in the Dubai airport duty-free, 1 tonne of Kit Kats are sold every day?) put them on the passenger seat in my car and immediately forgot all about them, going to my meeting without them.

It was a hot day, and when I returned to my car several hours later, the packet of KitKats was decidedly warm to the touch.

I took them home, and put them in the freezer for a day with the hope of salvaging them.

When I took one out, it looked like this:


Not too bad, you might surmise, the silver foil looks a little crumpled, but otherwise not too shabby.

However, inside they had essentially moulded into a single lump of chocolate, with two biscuits hidden somewhere within, plus they had taken the opportunity to absorb as much of the foil wrapping as possible.


How long does it normally take you to eat a Kit Kat? A minute? Two? If I'm in a hurry I could eat a two fingered KitKat in one bite, pop it sideways into my mouth, use my tongue to snap it in half and crunch the sucker into a chocolatey biscuit goodness.

These babies took a good ten minutes to eat, simply because you had to carefully extract tiny bits of foil from the confectionery, bits of foil which cheerfully ripped into even tinier bits of foil whenever you touched them.

You'll be pleased to know that the saga of the KitKats is now well and truly over, each one has ultimately done its duty and been eaten, and I feel that the world is a better place for it.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

AI and the future of work

I've gone a little bit thoughtful on this one, don't worry, in a couple of days I'm going to be talking about chocolate :)


I read this interview with Mike Lynch today, which mentions the company Luminance and how its AI can automate part of lawyers workloads, handling due diligence and other tasks, work which would often take up a great deal of time, freeing up lawyers to spend their time on the more complex and challenging elements of their role.

I view this as one of the steps on the road to having a society dependent on AI.  For decades now technology has been used to carry out tasks quickly and easily, like car assembly and other manufacture.  Now AI is coming in to automate the more routine elements of what, for the sake of this blog, I'll call "professional work" (not that I think that the work undertaken by lawyers or other professionals is more important than manufacturing, merely different).

It won't stop there.

Think of all the repetitive tasks in any office job.  In fact, not just office jobs - in any job.  The combination of AI and physical technology will result in machines able to carry out larger elements of any job.  Consider medicine - how much of the typical doctors work could be done by a sufficiently knowledgeable database, a computer able to analyse symptoms to produce an answer?

I foresee work as we know it changing massively over the next 2-4 decades.  Humans won't be needed for so much work - we will get to the point where technology is quicker, and most critically cheaper, to do so much. Society will have to come to terms with the reality that not everyone has to work.

I don't look upon this brave new world with fear.  It'll be fascinating - we should be able to run the world with every human suitably fed, clothed, and enjoying at least a minimum level of comfort.  We'll be set free to spend our lives creating, with our families, exploring, and thinking.

There will be huge challenges, of course.  The removal of the link between work and having a reasonable amount of money to live on, perhaps resulting in the provision of basic income, or the Finnish experiment currently being undertaken. The challenge of course will be to ensure that people are happy, that they still contribute in some positive way to society - but there would be opportunities also.

How many people are in jobs that they truly enjoy, and how many have ended up in jobs which are tolerable, maybe even reasonably pleasing, but not what they ever really wanted to do - and because of the position that we are now in (mortgages, families and the like) people are unable to consider retraining to a job that they might enjoy more?

Exciting times.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Four Naughty Trees

I haven't blogged for a while, I was struggling for something to write about, and then...


Here's a picture of some prickly branches in the back garden this evening.  Or, as my son described them, when attempting to come inside and discovering them in his way, "Daddy, there are FOUR NAUGHTY TREES!!!"

Guess I'm cutting the grass this weekend :)

In other news, check out my wife's latest flosstube video, she's giving away a cross stitch magazine (and check out her 500 sub video, she's giving away more stuff in that one too, you just have to tell her your unicorn name!)

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Star Trek 50th Anniversary


It's Star Trek's 50th anniversary today!

Star Trek was one of my favourite shows and big interests when I was growing up.  I even painted a huge control board, based on information from the Next Generation Technical Manual, so that I could pretend to be controlling the Enterprise (Enterprise-D for those fellow fans, TNG was always my favourite)

Ooh, there's a Deep Space 9 technical manual...

I don't know why I liked Star Trek so much, but the characters were cool (there was even an android on the bridge!), the ship did all kinds of great stuff, and the special effects looked amazing (at the time, anyway).

Anyway, I had an idea a little while back to start a series of videos looking at some of my favourite games (mainly computer but maybe a couple of tabletop or mobile games also), and it seems to make perfect sense to start it off today with a look at Star Trek: Birth of the Federation. Enjoy :)





Wednesday, 7 September 2016

September Heatwave


It's early September, and it's HOT.

So hot, in fact, that my son is having trouble sleeping.

When I say hot, it's actually reasonably warm, but it's humid, which is possibly the worst form of weather known to anyone in the UK.  You see, us Brits like the weather, because we can complain about it. We're geared up for fifty weeks of the year complaining about the cold and the rain, and we can't wait for the handful of days when we're able to say "Isn't it warm?!? I like it warm, but not this warm".

The news lives for the weather.  It's great.  Heatwave?  Roads will start melting, and train tracks will deform.  Cold?  Roads are blocked by three inches of snow, and train lines ice up.  Wind? Trees block roads and train lines (you get the pattern - essentially we want to know how the weather will inconvenience our travel plans).

Anyway, it's humid, or muggy, or close, or whatever you choose to call it.

Last night about 2am, our son woke up, declaring "My bed is broken, it's too hot" (to be fair he's only six so you can forgive him for not understanding that beds don't actually have an integrated air conditioning system), so we went on an epic journey trying to sleep everywhere in the house, including:

  • The spare bed
  • The living room sofa (after I'd gone round and turned off all of the plugs in the room powering the standby lights of various bits of electronic entertainment)
  • The playroom sofa
  • The carpet on the first floor landing


I actually have a great deal of experience sleeping in places that aren't my normal bed (that sounds wrong), when I lived with my parents there were many months that I slept on the sofa, generally because I wanted to watch a video or DVD and fell asleep watching it - pro-tip if you want the feeling of deja vu, fall asleep while watching the 24 hour news channel, you wake it convinced that you dreamt about all of the "breaking news" they cover over breakfast.

I've also slept on a jeep safari, in a submarine, floors, in far too many cars to count, the list goes on. However my son hasn't gained the same level of experience, though he is learning quickly.

After trying these many places we found that his bed had been uninhabited for so long that it had actually cooled down, so he happily went off to sleep.

Before I finish, I made this a while back, but can't remember ever posting it.  So here it is.


Sunday, 4 September 2016

Guest Post - Pulleys!

Today's guest post from my father Graham covers his delight of globalisation, and how it lets him order hardware.  He was after a pulley, apparently.

---------------




ON A BRIGHTER NOTE, EXCELLENT NEWS! PULLEYS!

I can tell you're impressed! Indeed as we are in this modern age of Google and global economies, market places etc it would be grossly old fashioned to try the hardware shop - one of which still does exist down a sleepy road in Hull, nay perish such thoughts, Google will answer all my needs!

Indeed, and lo, there were a staggering variety of pulleys, plastic, galvanised, stainless steel and even some steel/brass constructions. Unsurprisingly my preferred option was 'Outstandingly strong and serviceable, but amazingly cheap'. This took some searching for but eventually under 'Chinese Imports' I found gold dust (well, pulleys actually).

I could either purchase perfectly good pulleys at around 20p each, and an absolute bargain price - minimum order 1000 units (!), or, I could buy single items at approximately £3.50 each. I chose the latter!

Mike, my favourite son, did the doings, clicked on - oh 'things' on the computer screen, I gave him real money and I now await a package from Hong Kong anytime this or next month.

Mike is well versed at this frankly amazing sort of purchasing, indeed only last week we received a T Shirt on his behalf all the way from the USA via Germany (as proved by various labels attached to the packaging).

Yes, I thought so too ... why via Germany?

Erm, clueless I'm afraid, I blame the EEC myself, well politicians anyway.

Anyway ... what?

Oh pulleys? Ah er, exercises! Persons who know me are aware that I am an exercise freak. It seems that if you lift a weight via a pulley you have 'constant tension' applied to the muscles via the rope - pulley system thingy ... apparently, and this is good ... allegedly. I read it somewhere on Google, so it must be true! Even better than that, you can perform some seriously odd exercises from an amazing variety of angles with a pulley ... what is there not to like?

Don't answer that!


Discover my parents weird and wonderful mail order business Raven, which offers all kinds of magical goodies - www.facebook.com/RavenMagical

Monday, 29 August 2016

International Relations



Howdy Y’all! My name is Jesse and I managed to catch Mike in a confused state somewhere between oblivious and generous and got him to agree to letting me submit a guest post on the Blog of Thog. I’m an average everyday (American) guy currently living in Minnesota. I believe that makes me a Yank to you. (At least those of you who are neighbors of Mike.)

For some reason I am completely cool with Brits calling me a Yank, but I get unnerved when my own countrymen from the Southern states call me a Yankee. That’s more than likely because I was born and raised in Texas and grew up being proud of my Southern heritage...and occasionally making fun of the Yankees in the Northern States.

I figured I would take the time in this post to review a couple differences between life in the US and life in the UK. My own personal experience with life in the UK is fairly limited and somewhat flawed. Besides history and the news, my “education” of life over there comes mainly from movies and we all know how accurate they are.

My first real world education about life in England goes way back to 1987. Mark Thatcher, son of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, married a woman from our church in Dallas, TX. My parents had the pleasure of attending that wedding in London. This trip for them included a wedding dinner at the Savoy Hotel and getting to meet the Queen. Since that’s probably not an everyday occurrence for most of you living in the UK, I would consider that a flawed impression.

As of late, I have noticed that a large number of the bloggers I follow are from “across the pond.” (Sorry – I love saying that almost as much as “grab a pint at the pub.”) Since there isn’t a whole lot jumping out at me as different in their lives, I thought I better do a little research to help identify some of our differences. Fortunately our differences are fairly trivial with the exception of that whole Revolution thing back in 1775.

I turned to the BBC for info and found two lists to get me started. “10 Things Americans Do That Drive Brits Nuts” and “10 Things Brits Do That Drive Americans Nuts” are what I found. For the sake of not turning this into a novel (I have a bad habit of doing that because I ramble.), I am only going to cover item #1 on each list.

Saying "I love your accent" is apparently the top complaint Brits have about Yanks. I can understand that. It's how you talk. Deal with it. Right? I think it's similar to the way my wife giggles every time I'm talking to one of my buddies from East Texas and my old Southern Drawl slips out. It's kind of funny because I never had much of a drawl to begin with. That makes me wonder if I would start talking with a British accent if I were to spend any amount of time talking with a Brit.

Apparently, Americans put food on the top of their list because "overcooking vegetables" takes the #1 spot on the list. I don't know how to feel about that for two reasons. First, it supports AND disputes the concept that Americans are all fat. Putting food at the top of the list supports that concept, but the fact that it involves vegetables kind of disputes it. Second, I always thought we were know for hot dogs and apple pie. When did we start caring about vegetables? I'm not sure overcooking vegetables is a valid complaint, but I won't fight it too hard since it could be a lot worse.

In general, it looks to me like we should have no problem getting along. Especially if a pint at the pub is involved. I will promise not to comment on your accent (and try not to accidentally mimic it) if you promise not to serve me vegetables. I would be completely fine with you substituting the vegetables with a side of those sausage rolls Mike wrote about yesterday.

Thanks for taking the time to read the rambling thoughts of a Yank. I feel working on these two issues I listed will lead to improved international relations and probably create world peace. Until next time....  Cheers! (I always wanted to say that too, but I suppose it's as bad as saying I like your accent.)

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Sausage rolls

Before we start: I didn't realise this, but sausage rolls aren't really a thing in the US, apparently.  If you're not familiar with this delicacy (essentially sausage meat cooked and encased in puff pastry) you may wish to do some brief research.  I welcome any and all Americans - and other nations - to discover the sausage roll. And if you like the sausage roll, just wait till you have a yum yum.


I've been to the bakery today.

You see, my son quite likes on a Saturday morning to go to the bakery for some sort of biscuit - today it's a dinosaur biscuit - and while we're there, it seems churlish of me not to partake in something, after all I must have burned at least three calories walking there, and I wouldn't want to risk fainting with hunger on the way back.  So, I decided that a sausage roll might be nice.

The trouble is, you can't just buy one sausage roll.  Technically, yes, I suppose you could, but when the price for one sausage roll is in the region of £15,000 each, or four are on offer for just £1, you get four.

But what do you do with four?

They are provided hot, or at least warm, from being cooked this very morning.  Over time they will become less pleasant as they cool.  So it makes sense to eat them all up.

But is four sausage rolls excessive, as a mid-morning snack?

Well, yes, they are.

One is absolutely fine, and two is a good amount I would suggest which indicates that you are going to be involved in some form of physical labour (knocking down a wall, perhaps, or stopping a car rolling down a hill with nothing more than your burly muscles and iron will) and therefore in need of the energy provided by two sausage rolls, but more than two is excessive, however tasty and warm they are.

Don't get me wrong, they obviously have no calories because my wife isn't present to see me eating them.  But the quantity is really just a bit too high for my conscience.  If only they had been formed into a single really big sausage roll, then it would have been fine (or even chopped up into those mini bite-size sausage rolls you can get for buffets, you can eat an infinite amount of them)

Then I realise, wonder of wonders, that it is actually twelve o'clock - that means that they can be classed as lunch.  And whilst four sausage rolls might be considered unusual for lunch, it's not absolutely ridiculous.

Except my son has now paused the consumption of his biscuit to have a go at the remaining sausage rolls.

I trained him well.




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