Tuesday 26 June 2012

X is a dish best served Y

Revenge is a dish best served cold

When I was a child I spent a lot of time at one of my friend's houses playing computer games and we would also periodically tease his younger brother, another keen gamer. My friend now lives in America and is consequently watching the European Championships a day late. Shortly after England won the group and went through to the quarter finals we received this email from his younger brother.

SUBJECT: LeChucks Revenge
England 1 - Ukraine 0 (Rooney scores with header from cross). Top of the table.

22 years ago, Mr Adam Redacted and Mr Richard Redacted decided to tell me the end of 'Monkey Island 2'.

Today, I get my revenge on one of you. Adam enjoy the US 6:30pm PST England replay game at the George & Dragon Inn in full knowledge of the end result.

Richard you will be next.

How much wood can a wood chuck chuck........


Curry is a dish best served racist

Last week I went to a conference in London and we went out for a curry in the evening. We looked at two Indian restaurants, and when we went into one of them the proprietor told us that we'd made the right choice. With admirable casual racism he told us that the food here was really authentic, we shouldn't go to the other place because it's run by Bangladeshis.

Dessert is a dish best served in bulk

At the conference lunch was served from many small stands spread throughout the venue, there was some queuing, but it was pretty well organised and the food was good. After my pulled-pork, rice, and veg I walked back to the auditorium and passed a huge table full of crèmes brullee, I helped myself to one and it was delicious. It was quite small so I ate a second, this one was even better because it had a strawberry in the bottom. Nobody else seemed interested in them so I quickly ate a third before the lecture. On my was back to the auditorium I passed several other stalls stocked with smaller numbers of the same dessert, each stall was manned, each had a large queue, and the desserts were clearly being given out one at a time. In retrospect I think I was actually grazing at a staging area that the catering staff were using to distribute the food through the venue.

Richard "food, racism and revenge" B

Tuesday 19 June 2012


[contains rather more scientific discussion than humour]

It strikes me that apart from an algebraic solution to the second velociraptors question the most pressing problem for the scientists of our generation is bulk energy storage. We are going to end up harvesting energy from the sun, wind, tides, and controlled nuclear reactions, but we don't know where to keep it. For the national grid it's quite easy, you just pump water up hill on sunny/windy/tidy/fissiony days and let it come back down (through a turbine) when you want to make some electricity.

It's much harder for automotive transport, and quite frankly batteries are so poor in terms of energy density, mass, cost, and longevity compared with fossil fuels that it's laughable. I once asked a friend of mine who has much more chemistry than me, and a background in automotive engineering "If we had huge amounts of hydroelectricity, could we crack water and atmospheric C02 and synthesize liquid hydrocarbons?" I've never really understood his answer which was "Let's have lunch first shall we?"

My new idea is that cars should burn aluminium. You might think that aluminium doesn't burn, and it certainly doesn't if you just hold a fag lighter up to a bit of kitchen foil, but as a fine powder at a high enough temperature it's incredibly energetic. There's a thing called the thermite reaction, and the most exciting example is a solid rocket propellant called ALICE, it's simply aluminium powder and water ice. It burns hot enough to crack the water and the aluminium steals the oxygen from the hydrogen.

I see a future where we buy sacks of aluminium powder at the garage, and empty our exhaust hoppers into a pit of aluminium oxide which gets sent back to the refinery for the energy intensive process of turning it back into metallic aluminium.

Richard "I don't know enough chemistry to know why this wont work" B

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Class Warfare

Sometimes it's hard to know where I fit into the class system. By some measures I'm working class: I go out to work every day to pay my own bills. I swear freely and expressively, and I like pubs and beer. I might equally be upper class: My surname is ancient, regal, and all over Shakespeare. I use the verb "take" rather than "subscribe" when talking about newspapers, and I wear handmade leather boots.

The truth however is much less interesting. I was at the Cherry Tree this weekend [note1], and the singer in the band told a story about a rowdy member of the audience pushing his mic. It hit him in the face and he cut the inside of his mouth against his teeth. When I was little something similar happened to me. I used to take clarinet lessons and when I was practicing somebody pushed the end [note 2] of the clarinet so that the mouthpiece hit me in the teeth. There can surely be no more middle class an injury than nearly having your front teeth knocked out with your own clarinet.

[note1: This time nobody recognised me, threatened me, or called me a cunt.]

[note2: Yes that would be the bell end. Stop sniggering at the back.]

Richard "I know my place" B

Wednesday 6 June 2012

JFK's (2)

Last week I talked about drinking at rock night in JFK's when I was in my early 20s. Amongst the crowd of black clad misfits, there were a few regulars who stood out. I remember the woman who took our coats as very good looking in a thin and pointy, and nearly old enough to be our mum kind of way. There was another woman who always wore a white petticoat and precious little else. There was a bloke who wore a leather coat so long that it trailed around behind him like some kind of goth wedding dress. My favourite was a man on the dancefloor who played air-guitar as though he was wringing out a wet dishcloth.

I used to go with my girlfriend, we both used to wear our normal clothes, but hers were anything but normal. She used to go about her daily life as "lamb dressed up as mutton", and she would generally go to the rock club wearing a tweed skirt, high collared blouse, twin-set and pearls, or a vintage terylene day-dress which glowed brighter than the sun under the fluorescent lights.

When I was in my early thirties I went to the same club with a different girlfriend who was several years my junior. It turned out that as a teenager she had been going to the same club, lying to the door staff about her age, not going to the bar, and having sex in the toilets. She remembered the woman in the cloak room, the white petticoat, the long black leather coat and the air guitarist. To my horror she also remembered "supergran" with her white dress, and her weird looking boyfriend in his ben sherman shirts and stone washed jeans - in a rock club.

Richard "reminiscence isn't what it used to be" B