Saturday, 30 April 2011

A Tale Of Cocktails #17

Jelly Baby


1 oz Peach Schnapps
1  oz vodka
1 oz Malibu
1 oz Blue Curacao
1/2 oz grenadine
4 oz pineapple
4 oz lemonade

Taste: 8
Look: 5
Cost: 8
Name: 6
Prep: 8
Alcohol: 2
Overall: 6.6

Preparation: Half-fill a Collins glass with ice. Pour in ingredients, stir and serve.

General Comments: I'm claiming a small amount of credit for this recipe, for no better reason than I took two clearly sub-standard recipes and combined them to create something much better.  If you're particularly interested in the kinds of mixtures that I leave by the roadside, you can remove either the lemonade (which has the advantage of making it stronger) or the grenadine (which makes it look a bit nicer, but removes the taste of jelly babies, which I would suggest was pretty clearly crucial to the whole damn operation).

In any event, in its current incarnation, it's very tasty indeed.  It's not massively reminiscent of jelly babies, but I can see how the link was made, and jelly babies aren't exactly high on my list of awesome sweets in any case (blackcurrant and liquorice on the other hand...)  It's a bit murky looking, though, which has cost it vital points.

Travel Games

Opinion seems divided on the second episode of Game of Thrones, in a way that I find interesting. Based purely on my own observations, rather than anything approaching data, it would seem that there’s a very high correlation between having read the books, and preferring the season opener to “The Kingsroad”.

(Spoilers follow).

Thursday, 28 April 2011

To Think I Lived To See The Day

Holy cockballs!  Martin's only gone and finished A Dance With Dragons!

This means two very important things.  Firstly, we're only a year or two away at most from hearing that Martin's realised he'll need eight books to finish the series (the last one presumably being called A Paradox of Zeno's), and now fans the world over can start preparing the dream casting choices for the fifth season that Game Of Thrones will never, ever get!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Deviations From The Mean

Urrgh.  People just keep getting stupider:
A group opposed to gay marriage says Judge Vaughn R. Walker should have disclosed that he was in a long-term same-sex relationship and recused himself from presiding over the Proposition 8 case.
Welcome to the mind of the homophobe, in which being gay makes you biased, but being opposed to gay marriage is apparently the very definition of impartiality.

I think my favourite quote is this:
A spokeswoman for ProtectMarriage said Walker's conflict was not his sexual orientation, but the fact that he was in a serious same-sex relationship that could conceivably lead to marriage.
Erwin Chemerinsky, UC Irvine law school dean, does his best to highlight the bullshit-
[Chemerinsky] likened the legal maneuver to an argument that black judges cannot decide race discrimination cases or female judges preside over cases involving sex bias.
- but actually this doesn't go far enough. The better analogy is telling female judges they can preside over cases involving sex bias, but not if it's over an employment issue. After all, those grasping bitches are bound to want more money, huh, lads? Can't trust those addle-minded harpies to decide whether a woman deserves equal pay!

Naturally, the "ProtectMarriage" argument (bet the KKK wishes it had had the forethought to call itself "ProtectFreedom") leads to the immediate corollary that if a legislature ever became insane enough to outlaw marriage, only single judges could be allowed to judge its constitutional validity.  Well, them and gays, obviously.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Random Thoughts

Because I can't think of anything coherent enough to sustain a full post:
  1. I finally watched Carry On Camping this week, one of the only classic Carry On films I'd never seen before (due it being to risque for me to be allowed to see when I was a child). I realise the series as a whole (along with the society it reflected in its heyday) is hardly a bastion of feminism, but carrying the message "Attempt to screw enough schoolgirls and your frigid girlfriend will put out" has to rank as rather creep even by their own low standards;
  2. I realised today that Kate Middleton is actually very pretty (previous observations have been taken up with fervently wishing my television would show me something else).  Certainly pretty enough that it seems very likely that she's broken her share of hearts.  I wonder if there's anyone out there still carrying a torch for her.  How much must it absolutely fucking suck to be them right now?  Good luck, my hypothetical comrades.  I hope you don't really exist!
  3. If there's one thing I hate about living in Kenilworth - aside from the fact that I had to drive through an actual goddamn fire to get home this afternoon - it's that they're all either a) technologically backwards or b) liars.  Four attempts it took me to find a pub with wi-fi tonight.  The first one turns out to switch off their internet on a Monday (despite it being fine last week, and being told this was standard).  The next two both have wi-fi, but it's broken, leaving them to stare forlornly at the (occasionally) flashing lights and grunt impotently.  By the time I found somewhere that actually knew it was doing, I was in time to watch all of six minutes of Game of Thrones.  Combine this with the fact that this entire fiasco only took place because Sky likes to hire congenital incompetents, and I have been left exceptionally cranky.
Anyway. That was my Easter Monday.  How was yours?

Sunday, 24 April 2011

A Tale Of Cocktails #16

Blue Lagoon


1 1/2 oz vodka
1 1/2 oz Blue Cuaracao
6 oz lemonade

Taste: 7
Look: 6
Cost: 8
Name: 6
Prep: 9
Alcohol: 3
Overall: 6.6

Preparation: Half fill a highball glass with ice.  Pour in first the vodka, then the Blue Curacao, and finally the lemonade. Stir briefly and serve.

General Comments: One of the risks you run putting together a series like this is that you may become jaded.  I'm pretty sure I like this cocktail, but... it's a bit dull, isn't it?  Lemonade and vodka is one of mankind's least inspiring drinks, not so much a beverage as an attempt to make vodka drinkable.

Adding Curacao to it is a good idea - it improves the taste and makes it look pretty - but it still strikes me as more workmanlike than anything else.  When Archemides figured out how to use water to measure volume, he legendarily ran naked through the streets of Syracuse shouting "Eureka!" with joy: he knew he had conceived of something truly revolutionary.  It's hard to imagine the creator of the Blue Lagoon so much as taking off their sweater as they mumbled "M'eh, fuck it; whatever".

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Worst Terrorist Plot Ever

Barbara over at Mahablog is appropriately disgusted by the Republican's latest "fuck you" to the emergency service and construction workers who are suffering after their exertions on and following 9/11:
[B]efore [those eligible] can receive health care benefits Congress (begrudgingly) voted to give them last year, their personal data must go to the FBI to be sure they aren’t terrorists...

You’ll remember that House Republicans didn’t want to pass the James Zadroga 9/11 Health And Compensation Law at all, and only did so after Jon Stewart made fun of them about it. But apparently they were so resentful about having to appropriate health care money to the one-time heroes of 9/11 that they had to toss in this petty insult.
I agree that this is clearly petty and ludicrous, but to be honest I think this is just a particularly egregious and unfeeling example of standard Conservative mentality: making sure that people who deserve help get it comes a (very, very) distant second to making sure those that don’t deserve help don’t get it.

I've said this before, but once you use that as the central principle of organised Conservative thought, you very rarely go wrong. And in this case, once the Republicans found themselves forced to do their very least favourite thing – giving money away to those sorts of people that can’t afford an appropriate thank you cocktail party on a luxury yacht – they had to console themselves by throwing in an arbitrary sifting process to ensure “the wrong types” don’t get hold of the goodies.

I’m not sure why they picked “terrorist” as the search option here, though at a guess it’s because everyone who stands to benefit is already proven ill and a US citizen, so the usual tricks won’t work. “Terrorist” sounds scary, though, so they probably figure they can get away with it. It’s not like their similar trick with the no-fly lists did them much damage.

And like the no-fly lists, the true scandal here isn’t the sifting itself, it’s that one needs only to be unlucky enough to share a name with a known (suspected?) terrorist to be shit out of luck. Which, as I’ve said, is just the way these people do business. Remember all the hyperventilating about how “Obamacare” might make it easier for illegal immigrants to get healthcare? I mean, who cares about the millions of US citizens at risk, we can’t risk helping our own people if it means some foreigners get in on the action!

It’s all just another manifestation of the Republican worldview: “Better a hundred innocent men starve than one guilty man gets the crumbs from the table”.

Friday, 22 April 2011

When Code Gets Source-y

The sixty-second review goes like this: it totally confirms my initial suspiciom that this is just a 21st century revamp for Quantum Leap, but manages to impress nonetheless by demonstrating how much mileage can be gotten from making Al a woman, and Gushie an amoral shithead.

It's a pretty good film ,then.  But - and from here on in spoilers abound - there was one thing about it that left me a little perturbed.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

1.3 The Mathematics Of Terror

Man, two more names!  And some upcoming exposition too, I'll bet!  This shit is heating up!

1.4                                                                                  1.2

We're Back

Somewhat delayed by moves, technical issues, and Chris getting closer to being a world-renowned novelist, but issue 13 of Panel Talk is out in the world.  This time round we discuss whether LXG is anything more than hollow style, the disturbing implications of the new Wonder Woman costume and, rather ironically, the problem of delays in the comics industry.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

To Quote Grand Admiral Thrawn...

...Roughly, at any rate: "A error only becomes a mistake when you refuse to correct it."

Ms Bellafante, like all the worst people in the world, cannot be happy with just disliking something; she has to come up with reasons, spun from whole cloth, as to what exactly is wrong with the people who do like it.  In this case, she decides that fantasy is of no interest to girls (because she doesn't know any women who like it), so the only ones who will watch it are those who hunger for lashings of casual sex.  And no, I don't know anyone engrossed by re-runs of House either, but since it would be obviously ludicrous for me to leap from that to "British viewers don't like American shows being on TV more than once", I don't see how it helps her case.  It's straight up proof-by-solipsism: I don't hang out with anyone who would like this, therefore no-one will.

So, that's her error.  Her mistake is to look at the staggering amount of objections to her review, some smart, some dumb, some well-written, some doubtless entirely written in capitals, and to choose to take issue with the very worst.  Yes, Ginia, idiots have broadband too.  We're looking into an a-hole V-chip, but we're not even at the beta testing stage.  Plus, I think you'd be surprised as to how you'll fare once it's up and running.

In the mean time, either engage with the smart responses (I notice you've linked to a few without any sort of comment), or shut the hell up.  The original article was bad enough, this is just an extended whine about how lots of people were nasty to you.

P.S. The one part of the whole sorry issue that needed saying: "To my mind, “Game of Thrones” was not engaging or transcendent enough to draw in the average non-fantasy viewer, for which I am a more than suitable stand-in".  That's all you needed.  Hell, you could have put it on Twitter, and saved everyone some time.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Game's Afoot

Having watched "Winter is Coming" last night (after a intense half-hour panic after Sky Player refused to show the preceding documentary), I think a number of my (as admitted at the time) unreliable preliminary fears about the show have been allayed.  On the other hand, at least one new concern has raised itself.  More after the jump.  There are spoilers, but only for the first episode.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

If You Oppose Dehydration You Must Support Drowning

There's a nice catch here from Jonathan Chait, relayed by E.D. Kain. It's worth being careful about this, though.  Accusations (or implications, as we have here) of hypocrisy and/or its little brother flip-flopping are very common in politics, and you need to be sure about what you're saying.

I actually think it would be pretty unfair to label Ryan or any other Republican a hypocrite because they claim to worry about significant budget surpluses and significant budget deficits.  Unless the former ("We haz too much money, oh noes!!1!1") is a ridiculous worry in itself - and if that's so, no-one has said so - calling hypocrisy on this alone is as foolish as doing so over a parent who is worried about their two children; one morbidly obese and the other anorexic.

We'll get nowhere pretending this on its own is ridiculous.  Moreover, as Chait goes some way to acknowledging, whilst Ryan's ideas actually helped cause the change from surplus to hideous deficit, that doesn't mean he can't be worried about the mess he's helped cause.

The point at which Ryan deserves all the scorn we can heap on him isn't that he's worried about both extremes of the scale, then, it's that his solution to both extremes is identical. To return to our worried parent, it's like they decide that both their children are suffering from eating disorders, and therefore must be put on the same diet - which has less food than the one they were previously on.

If the solution to a budget surplus is tax cuts for the rich, how in the name of all that's unholy can tax cuts for the rich form part of a plan for deficit reduction?  Chait calls this a partisan slant, but I think it's easier to see it as ideological intractability on a breath-taking scale.  Of course, one of the common features of this level of dogmatism is that it makes no sense in comparison with itself. For years American conservative thought has been convinced the US is behind the Laffer curve, and reducing tax levels will actually increase revenue as the rich find new ways to spend all that delightful cash on business.  Now we find out though that Republicans only think that's true when the economy is rubbish.  When the economy is most friendly to new business schemes - well, of course it won't work then.

The only holistic conclusion then is that Republicans believe the degree to which new business and investment creates amounts of money in direct proportion to how difficult the circumstances are for creating amounts of money.  Well, that or it's all bullshit. I think you can guess which side of that dichotomy I'm on.

To be clear, I think Chait is pretty much on the money, and I think Kain clearly intended people to read Chait's article (it just raised my eyebrows that he did so whilst using a common term for accusing people of flip-flopping), so this isn't intended as a complaint against either of them specifically.  It's just something I think is worth pointing out.  It's always important to ensure Republicans are skewered on exactly the right issue.  It's not like we lack for targets.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Still Alive

Just a quick note to say I'm still alive, and will be back to blogging very soon.  I'll be moving my desktop computer (along with everything else) to Warwickshire tomorrow, and will hopefully have internet in the flat before next week is out.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

A Tale Of Cocktails: Here Are The Facts (Part III)

Gosh.  Fifteen cocktails!  This requires an analysis that can only be properly described as statistical. How are the respective boozes stacking up?  This information is now yours!

Yet perhaps you desire more?  My pleasure!  Take this graph: it is my gift to you.

Top Five

1. Brain Hemorrhage
2. Fuzzy Shark
3. Baby Guinness
4. Malibu Pop
5. Angel Delight

(It would seem that my sweet tooth has pretty clearly won the day.  It might be time for a Top Ten after the next quintet)

The updated list of ingredients used.


Blue Curacao
Irish Cream (Baileys)
Peach Schnapps
Rum (dark)
Sloe Gin
Tia Maria
Triple Sec


Cranberry Juice
Lemon Juice
Lime Cordial
Orange Juice
Pineapple Juice


Whipped cream
A shark



Estimated amount of ice used: 232 cubic centimetres.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Business As Usual

Now that David Broder has passed away (and obviously, the fact that I despised his "journalism" doesn't mean I'm glad he's died), there's a case to be made for David Brooks taking up the mantle of Lord Priest of High Broderism.  After all, he's certainly high up on the list of American pundits who are quite convinced that bipartisanship is automatically the highest goal, rather than compromise being just a tool (however reasonable) to be used to advance one's priorities and policies.

High Broderism is one of the things in this world I truly despise.  Lots of people I disagree with, lots of things make me angry, but HB tips me into full-on loathing.  I realise that almost everyone, to varying degrees, can be guilty of starting from a position and then working backwards to the justification - and I'm most certainly not excluding myself in that - but there's something uniquely enraging about one's default position being "Everyone must meet in the middle", partially because it requires a very narrow and thoughtless model for reality (it is a rare issue indeed that can be divided into a simple 1D scale), but mainly because in the 99.99% of cases in which the most plausible arguments are coming from a point some distance from the centre, you're required to ignore/marginalise/attack them in order to perform your balancing act [1]. For all I dislike dogmatic conservatives, and for that matter, dogmatic liberals (both of whom are far rarer beasts that the Acolytes of Broder think they are), at least they don't tart up their refusal to think outside their own mind-set as being the antidote to people refusing to think outside their own mind-set.

Indeed, even that doesn't entirely capture how worthless High Broderism is, because it misses one critical point: the most well-known HB proponents (Broder himself, Brooks, and to some extent George Will and latter-day David Frum) don't actually start out at the centre, they start out at their preferred point on the line (which in all four cases is between centre right and right, to differing degrees, but in theory you could have a left-leaning purveyor of High Broderism - and no, Richard Cohen doesn't count) and then use the most inane arguments imaginable to try and convince observers that they really are in the centre, honest.  It's following this obviously ludicrous doctrine that leads to people saying things like "FOX is biased, but so is MSNBC", or "Obama is no different from Bush".

Note that this is not, I repeat not, an argument against people who consider themselves in the centre, mainly because as far as I can see people in the centre are there not because they believe the centre is by definition correct, but because over the thousands of discrete issues people have to consider and deal with, they find themselves tugged to the left roughly as often as they do to the right.  That's fine.  I don't agree with them, obviously, but that's fine.  That's holistic [2].  Nor is there anything wrong with taking each individual issue, listening to the multitudes of takes on both sides, and then figuring out where you lie (indeed, that's what you're supposed to do).  It only gets stupid when people confuse "On balance, I am in the middle" with "The middle must always be correct".

That's what's wrong with HB in theory.  In practice, things get murkier still, because their professed love (idolisation, really) of bipartisanship miraculously disappears the moment the people they support get into power.  In that, they are much like the Republican Party itself, who have only two settings: "We must move beyond partisan politics" and "Elections have consequences", depending on their current political fortunes (naturally, in situations like this, where they control the House but the Democrats control the Senate and White House, they have no problem arguing both simultaneously).  That's just standard political hypocrisy, of course (as oppose to the specific brand of political hypocrisy that defines 21st Century Republicanism).  What's surprising is how completely Broder and his acolytes swallowed the idea.

This is all back story (plus venting, obviously) to give some context to the latest developments in the continued attempts to avoid a government shutdown.

Government shutdowns are bad.  Obviously, they're bad on their own terms, because a country needs to be run, and I'd hope not even the most ardent Galtian libertarian maniac would think it a good idea to just stop everything all at once (though I'm probably being overly optimistic), and they're additionally bad because a whole mess of people end up without wages, at a time in American history where unemployment is grazing double digits and the economy could really do without people stopping spending (which of course they're already doing, in case they need the money during a protracted shutdown).

You don't need to take my word for it.  Both sides know a shut down would be bad, and the reason I know they know is that they're both screaming to the roof-tops that the other side secretly want it.  You don't accuse your enemies of secretly desiring something if you think it'll play well.

So, has a deal been reached?  Well, yes, for a bit.  But then the Republicans apparently backed away from it because - I'm not making this up - it would require bipartisanship to work.

Working on what I believe is a reasonable assumption - that Harry Reid isn't going to lie on the record and that a refusal to comment from GOP aides makes the story likely to be true - the Republicans have gone from demanding bipartisanship whilst out of power, to ignoring the idea when in power, to actively spitting on it when they could use it.

I'm just flagging up how far we've come in all of six months or so.  I'm also recording for prosperity the following prediction: David Brooks will not mention this development.   He will continue to tongue-bathe Paul Ryan for being "courageous" [3], but there will be no space in future columns (I'll let him off his most recent one, since at the time the Republican move hadn't been confirmed) for him to decry that his previously sacred tenant - that bipartisanship is what's best - has been abandoned by the very people he insisted be offered it only two years earlier. If it does get mentioned, it will be in a single sentence that starts with "True, Republicans XYZ, but Democrats ABC" and goes on to explain why the shutdown is everyone's fault.

Anyone want to take the other side of that bet?

[1] You can learn to recognise the tactics once you see them in action enough times.  One particularly common method is to find one statement by any given person you find particularly stupid (Keynes suggesting the government should bury treasure and pay people to find it, say) and then use it as a reason to ignore anything else they ever say or do.  That person is now "unserious", which we'll come to later.  Another option is to link them to someone you already dislike, making them unserious by association (see Wright, Reverand).  A third is to find an issue on which your target's opinion intersects with that of an idiot, and pretend that their reasons for holding that opinion are the same as well. 

[2] As Chris Rock once said "There are some things I'm liberal about, and some things I'm conservative about.  Crime, I'm conservative.  Prostitution, I'm liberal".  

[3] Note that this has a very different meaning to the one understood by Sir Humphrey Appleby. In American politics everyone is either "courageous", "principled", or "unserious".  "Unserious" means being on the left. "Principled" means being on the right, and pretending not to notice a coherent application of right-wing policy approaches would destroy the country.  "Courageous" means actually trying to apply those policies, but only those ones that will screw the poor and the elderly.

Judging A Book By Its Cover

Well, its first chapter, at any rate.  Still, things have been quiet around here for a bit, I may as say something about HBO's Game of Thrones preview.

It's... a big maybe.  The sequence north of the Wall was brilliant. I'm not sure it needed Cliche Creepy Girl to make it work, or why the Others thought it was a good idea to spend hours putting together the most fucked-up collage this side of Jeepers Creepers just to spirit it away the instance a ranger saw it, but still, a very effective opening (and one that felt genuinely cold).

After that, though?  I get that the people of Winterfell are supposed to be as cold as their surroundings, but that's the sort of idea that really only works in books. On screen, it just looks like a whole mess of people who all look either massively bored (Jon) or under heavy sedation (Eddard).

Still, that might have just been a directorial mis-step that won't really matter when we get to King's Landing.  Or I might get my head round the presentation and not be bothered at all after another ten minutes (it certainly felt like it has it's own atmosphere, which is critical I think for fantasy TV).  It's far, far too early to tell.

Plus, it did its job, from my perspective at least - it didn't put me off seeing it.  Which, in my case - and that of many others - is all it had to do

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

I Step Away For A Few Days...

I had a bit of a look at my traffic numbers this evening, to see how things have been ticking over whilst I've been busy.

This is the graph for the last seven days.

What... the... fuck?

I can only assume this is once again the work of the leopards.  Deleting the stats of my most popular posts didn't work, so now it's time to try to break my server with random insane surges of traffic.

Postcards From The Front

Since I've been in Kenilworth for 48 hours now, it's probably time I put together some initial thoughts.

It's difficult.  Not being here, just summoning up a description.  It's all so... calm.  Even during the holidays, Durham University was always afflicted by a sense of barely-contained chaos.  It was the same at the school I spend two years teaching at.  No matter what the time of day or year, you could feel it, as though decades of accumulated mania had saturated the place, leaving every wall and door gradually leaking out manic activity.

There's nothing like that here. With the exception of a brief attempt to arrange a meeting (that was then postponed) nothing has interrupted me these last two days.  I simply arrive; read or write what I had intended to that morning, and then go back to the hotel.  The most surprising event of my time here so far was having my introductory chat with my new boss interrupted by the sight of rabbits playing outside the window.  The loudest sounds are those of ill-tempered ducks on the pond nearby.

It won't last, I realise.  We're in a fallow period right now, but the next wave of desperate, statistically illiterate panickers is already cresting.  Indeed, I'm not sure I want it to last - there is only so much staid quiet I can take before I start having to make my own noise.

I have to admit, though, it's making for a nice change.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

In Which I Am Censored By Villains Unknown

So, here I was, all ready to slap together a new post on the wonders of cocktails, and I notice that my list of ten most read posts has altered.  Which, you know, would be fine and all, except that the new entry at number 10 has four hits less than what was previously there. The previous rearguard has been erased from contention!

Now, I don't know why that's happened, but given the post's content, I can guess: powerful Midlands forces don't want you to know that Robin Hood was a terrorist!  They don't want his name besmirched, and they'll stop at nothing in their mad quest to keep it all quiet! Up to and including tampering with almost entirely pointless list that only I can see!

Clearly they've been doing some checking up on me now that I work in their patch.  I've done some checking of my own.  I took a quick look at Twycross Zoo; right between where Robin Hood's legend originates and where I'm working now.  Look what I found.

Coincidence?  I very much doubt it.

We must fight against the leopards, my friends!  I urge you all to click here as soon as possible.  You don't have to read it! In fact, it's probably better you don't! But my statistics must once again be accurate.  I will accept no alterations of my data set, thank you very much.

In summary: fuck all leopards.