Archive for the ‘beer’ Category

So, Chris “Chris” Williams, J. Carter Wood, and I met up in London to attend the aftermath of this ORG event. A good time was had, even though we didn’t find Charlie or Cory at the Three Kings; we heard of how I made an epic fool of myself in Berlin, how policemen are exported, an uncharacteristic moment of feminism at the Daily Express in the 1920s, British advisors to South Vietnam, and Chris’s vow to avoid sit-ins until his kids have grown up. The crowd was unusual; a mixture of tall and skinny fashion-twits and politicised computer-folk. Which is roughly what it’s like in my head, I suppose.


Back in 2004, this blog went to the European Social Forum – we weren’t that impressed, but we did call it “the Caesar’s Palace of Ranting”. I’m not sure what the equivalent for the UKUUG’s OpenTech 2008 would be; there was plenty of ranting, but a sight less committee wank, more practicality, even if no-one can answer the question of what any of this stuff stands for. I ran into, among others, Liz Henry, most of MySociety, the author of Spyblog (who has some damn good war stories), various readers including Duane Griffin, and a small galaxy of assorted hackers, militants, gawpers, freaks and mutants. Good People, as the Doctor would say.

And they are, too; even if the live demonstration of the ViktorFeed didn’t happen due to the lack of a routable IP address (or even working connectivity for that matter), there was the loan of another laptop when OpenSUSE didn’t want to speak to the projector. When I’d finished the show and dealt with all the questions, I was faced with at least two offers of colocated server capacity, and the services of at least three professional software developers, as well as an interview for the BBC World Service, a spare USB key, and a pint of lager. All of which would have come in handy the night before, when I foolishly attempted to change something in the code after midnight and borked the whole thing, forcing me to get up at six the next morning to fix it.

As it turns out, having met Francis Irving, I’m probably going to be assimilated by MySociety, or at least my project is. I was also very interested in some of the green/geek crossover projects – I missed the session on solar power and IT, but I did get to the AMEE presentation on their automated carbon dioxide profiler and Hotmapping’s show of their IR surveying work, intended to classify buildings by the rate at which they lose heat. Apparently they’d already found one urban cannabis farm.

And BT Osmosoft’s TiddlyWiki – a wiki in a single file – may not sound all that much; but I really liked the idea of a zoomable, pseudo 3D interface for wikis. I’m quite keen on the idea of using this to organise contacts – who puts their friends in alphabetical order after all?

Time for some rugby league blogging, right? I saw London knock Castleford out of the cup on Saturday, and I can report that I’m beginning to think London (sorry, sorry, Harlequins RL) are getting to be dangerous. Cas dominated the first half and went in 12-0 up, but ended up with a 42-14 thrashing. They were, as it happens, missing their star loose forward Jon Westerman, who I was looking forward to seeing, but I doubt he’d have changed anything. When a team just gets run over like that, individuals don’t matter much.

What does matter is that London are ferociously fit this year; Brian McDermott has really prepared a side almost as tough as he is (hey, he’s been a Royal Marine Commando, a prizefighter, a British Lion, and a Yorkshire Dales hill farmer; enough macho to kill a normal man). And they are making a strategy of it; every time I’ve seen them recently, they’ve soaked up the pressure in the first half and then unexpectedly cranked up the speed after the break, which is a killer if you haven’t either got the stamina to match it or a 20 point lead. It’s an old Wigan trick from the 90s; it’s probably as old as the game.

However, I would like to say that whoever introduced those inflatable sticks you whack together to generate noise deserves everything they get. It’s not just the volume, it’s the odd piercing quality of the sound; I can happily put up with RL terrace fixtures like the old dear driven by a truly disturbing blood lust, but this is new. Perhaps that’s what pushed the youth-team guy who picked a vicious brawl in the club bar after the match, incidentally hurling his target at my girlfriend, over the edge. (He also saw his way to trampling on a Cas shirt and assaulting someone who looked to be his father, so who knows.)

Here is the news; we’re meeting up on Thursday, the 17th April, after 1900 at the Globe pub in Southwark. Here’s a map; your nearest Tube station is Borough. There is no dress code, but I’ve been asked to put the whole thing under Chatham House rules (you can say what was said, but you can’t say anything that would identify who said it).


Who’s up for a reader meetup on the evening of the 17th of April in Big London? So far, most of the Danosphere, Charlie Whitaker, EJH Pollard, Alan Beattie and I will be meeting that evening in a pub yet to be determined in the general area of Blackfriars. I predict there will be ale, and an answer to the question of whether I have any readers who aren’t called Dan, Charlie or Chris. Or, indeed, if any of them are women. At all.

Someone suggested subfusc and Venetian masks, or else a NANOG-style 5 minute lightning talk on a subject of common concern each. (Why not lightning talks while wearing masks?) But don’t worry; come as you are; you don’t want to end up looking like the great Richard Clayton in this photo. He didn’t wear that suit to the Royal Society…

There is no British netroots, and God forbid there ever will be.

Why? Well, the original thing is/was an effort to mobilise the grassroots support of the US Democratic Party, to shove in the underpinning of a mass party that it doesn’t really have. This was intended to a) supply activists and donations, and b) exert a leftward pressure on the party leadership. This doesn’t really translate in British terms, because British political parties are much more substantial organisations than the US ones.

Not only do they have long-term mass memberships, they have a professional organiser caste and an ideological history. They also enjoy much more tribal loyalty. What worries me about any attempt, as Sunny “Pickled Politics” Hundal seems to want, to lash the Internet community in the UK to any one political party. In the US, the problem is that one party has gone berserk and dragged the Overton window off across the countryside with it. The corrective is to whack it in the teeth.

In the UK, the problem isn’t one of Westminster democracy but Whitehall and off-Whitehall democracy, something we’ve arguably never had. (Pickled, by the way, is doing something useful in being a much less London-focused blog, but that’s for another time.) I would far prefer that blogs stayed like Lawrence’s army – “a thing without front or back, drifting about like a gas”, agreeing on a few but powerful rules, trying to enlarge the zone of sanity.

(PS, the other night I met Daniel Davies, Tess, and Sunny. That would be Dsquared, Shesquared, and Psquared, right?)

It’s come to my attention, again, that the fine Samuel Smith’s Brewery of Tadcaster, West Yorkshire produces beer that a nontrivial number of bloggers enjoy and recommend. Smiths is best-known outside Yorkshire and the real ale community for the clutch of pubs it owns in central London, much favoured for their low prices and scruffy ambience. Exhibit A: Brad of Sadly, No! brandishes a Smiths glass. Exhibit B: Alex “WorldChanging” Steffen advocates sustainable lager. Exhibit C: well, me, really. Sam Smiths: top bloggers recommend it.

It’s come to my attention, again, that the fine Samuel Smith’s Brewery of Tadcaster, West Yorkshire produces beer that a nontrivial number of bloggers enjoy and recommend. Smiths is best-known outside Yorkshire and the real ale community for the clutch of pubs it owns in central London, much favoured for their low prices and scruffy ambience. Exhibit A: Brad of Sadly, No! brandishes a Smiths glass. Exhibit B: Alex “WorldChanging” Steffen advocates sustainable lager. Exhibit C: well, me, really. Sam Smiths: top bloggers recommend it.

More mass biometric surveillance evil. Home Office wants to fingerprint guests at pubs as part of war on anti-social behaviour, torture dolphins parenting binge estates, etc. We’ve long been documenting the biometric and RFID vendors’ war on dancing, but this is a sinister new step. The government wants a monster database of everyone who’s gone to a pub. Who voted for this?

There is something almost atavistically horrible about this. It may just be that I drink too much beer, but pubs are traditionally where people go to conspire. The original Ranters convened in taverns in places like Kildwick, according to Christopher Hill’s The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution. Later, in the 18th century, groups of revolutionary sympathisers, Revolution-Men and followers of John Wilkes, met in pubs to evade the press censorship. One could go on. Crick and Watson burst into the Eagle in Cambridge to celebrate the discovery of DNA. I hear a lonesome whistle blow.

I wonder if the data from this scheme will be hooked into the DHS computer? John Reid is the most dangerous man in Britain. And if this had existed when he was still on the sauce, there wouldn’t have been enough hard drives in the world to hold his file.

The use of ethanol as motor fuel is controversial for various reasons – efficiency, land use and cost being first among them. But has a more direct problem been overlooked? The Des Moines Register reports.

Neddermeyer was fired after an April 21 incident at the Denison plant. According to Neddermeyer, he showed up for work that morning and saw that there had been a spill of fuel alcohol. Hundreds of gallons of 190-proof alcohol were contained in a 6-inch-deep holding pond that was about 30 feet by 24 feet.

It proved to be too much to resist, Neddermeyer said.

“I am a recovering alcoholic, and I thought about the availability of this alcohol throughout the day,” he wrote in a statement later provided to state officials. “Curious about the taste and its effects, I dipped into this lake of liquor and drank what I considered to be 2 to 3 ounces. The next thing I remember is waking up in Crawford County Memorial Hospital.”

Neddermeyer had been found by his co-workers in an incoherent state, unable to say his name or the day of the week.

He was taken to a hospital, where his blood-alcohol level, according to state records, was reported at 0.72 – nine times the legal limit for driving, and almost double the level that is considered potentially fatal for many adults…

“The employer has a right to expect employees not to drink the fuel,” Hillary ruled. “Just because some of the ethanol leaked onto the floor is not a good reason for the claimant to drink automobile fuel.”

Court records indicate Neddermeyer has twice been convicted of driving while intoxicated.

Neddermeyer said Thursday that he has been struggling with alcohol for at least 10 years and is now getting additional help.

“Things were going pretty well until that day at work,” he said.

He should have stuck to Sam Smith’s sustainable session bitter.