Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Food and drink

Tuesday December 16 2014

Photoed by me earlier in the month, outside Green Park tube station:

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Is this fair?  Publicising these two face-recognisable guys, after they’ve had a hard day hard selling something that looks like it was a rather hard sell?  Well, they’re in uniform, a uniform donned precisely to attract attention, which is what I am giving them.  They are public figures.  Insofar as they are rather letting the uniform down, that too is a public matter.

They remind me somewhat of Dan Aykroyd’s drunk Santa in Trading Places.

In this clip, Aykroyd (a) answers questions about Trading Places, and then (b) plugs his vodka-in-a-skull-bottle.  Really.

Quote:

“Love Capitalism.”

Yes.

I am, however, puzzled by those strange looking marks in the wall, at the top of the picture.  Anyone?

Saturday December 06 2014

As earlier promised, a selection of the better photos I took at that Adam Smith Institute Christmas Party:

image image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image image

Click to get them bigger.  If you want to recycle these photos, please feel free, with or without gratitude to me.  Email me (see top left where it says “Contact") if you’d like any of them bigger.

Tuesday December 02 2014

Defence Minister Michael Fallon addresses the throng at the Adam Smith Institute Christmas Party, earlier this evening:

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More to follow.

Sunday November 23 2014

Yes, I think so.  Shot by me last Easter time:

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If Hitchcock had ever made a movie called “The Rabbits”, this is the kind of shot that would have been in it.

So, a while back, I copied that shot over into the I Just Like It directory, all the time lamenting that I had no idea what the rabbit was doing in that particular part of London.  I still don’t really know, but today I found a picture that I had taken one minute earlier, from which the rectangle below was cropped, in a way that removed people, kept the rabbit, and also kept the writting underneath the rabbit:

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“London Eye presents Bunnies on the Run” proved more than enough to get an answer from Google, but really, I am none the wiser.  Were there other bunnies dotted around London that I could have photoed?  Who knows?

But, I do like my bunny photo.

Thursday November 13 2014

Complicated day today, and then a complicated evening this evening, trying - and almost totally failing - to record a succession of tv shows each of which ended just as the next was starting.  Luckily, the ones I screwed up will be repeated during the next few days.  But, no thought of blogging until now.

So, one from the I Just Like It subdirectory.  I’m on the south side of the River Thames, and I think I’m quite close to that bridge that now has a station on it.

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Yes it’s a shadow selfie, involving very colourful food which contrasts well with the drab surroundings and the drab shadow of drab old me holding the food.

Taken in May 2006.

Friday October 31 2014

First, what’s going on in this picture?  What’s weird about it?  How did I contrive the weirdness?:

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Hint: One of the categories for this posting is “Computer graphics”.  Another hint: I like reflections.

Second, what’s the Feline Friday connection in this photo, taken earlier this week outside the Tower of London?

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Hint: There is also a clue to this one in the categories list.

If nobody else supplies the answers, I will!  Only by refusing to read these answers will you be able to escape them.

Thursday October 30 2014

This article confirms not one but two of my medical prejudices, which is double nice.  Experts have their uses, one of which is to tell you that you have been right all along about something they’ve only just discovered.

The article is about artificial sweeteners, and this is how it ends:

What does this all mean?

1. Our gut bacteria matters a lot. Some guts can withstand artificial sugars well and others can’t. It stands to reason that, as we learn more about the uniqueness of our own microbiome, those of us who want to lose weight would be well served by diets that are tailored to the way our body and its biomic mini-me processes sugar.

2. Artificial sweeteners are pervasive and some people still can lose weight and enhance their health while consuming them. But since we now know that, on balance, they seem to be more bad than good, moderating how much we consume might be smart, too.

3. The study suggests that if people replace artificial sugars with real sugars or cut it out, their biomes could change in a way that contributes to the restoration of normal glucose tolerance over time, all other things being equal.

So, artificial sweeteners have a tendency to be very bad for you.  That’s prejudice of mine number one.  But, they may not be bad for you because, and this is prejudice of mine number two, people vary, physically.  There is not just the one way of being healthy.  There are a minimum of several, and what is harmless or even beneficial for you and to those like you may be very bad for other sorts of people.

The basic reason I came to think that artificial sweeteners might be bad for me was, to begin with, pure rationalisation of the fact that I have always thought that they taste disgusting, compared to sugar.  “Diet” stuff, as a general rule, tasted, to me, horrible compared to regular stuff.  In particular, Diet Coke tasted like that pink liqued they make you gargle with at the dentist.  I started out believing that Diet Coke is bad for you because I wanted it to be, and I wanted the Regular Coke that I have always chosen when coking up to be less bad.  But the more I thought about that early frisson of (literally) distaste, the more I came to believe that my at first merely wishful thinking actually did make some sense.  Sugar really is somewhat more natural than most sweeteners, or so I assume, and we are more likely to be creatures that can handle sugar, even if not in the quantities that life now offers.

Plus, about five years ago, my niece told me that aspartame (which she said is an evil chemical used to make evil non-sugar) is evil.  Rubbish says Big Aspartame.  But I reckon, for some people, it is evil.

Thursday October 23 2014

Earlier this evening, I attended this gathering.  I took a ton of photos, of which I choose this one to show you:

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I choose that photo not because it is any great shakes as a photo, but because it focuses (insofar as it does focus) on what was in many ways the most impressive thing about this event, namely the number and quality of those who attended.  In this respect, the evening reminded me of those big Liberty League gatherings that happen earlier in the year. Simon Gibbs and his helpers put in a huge effort to make this occasion work well, and to get a decent turnout of intelligent, paying customers.

Don’t get me wrong, the speakers were numerous and articulate, and all admirably concise, which was necessary given how many of them there were.  A lot of ground was covered.  A lot of food for thought was served up.  If there was a big winner issue, so to speak, that best explains how much harder it has recently got to make ends meet, it was probably the cost of housing.  There was general agreement that planning regulations need to be relaxed, although also general pessimism about the politics of accomplishing that.  Also making a strong showing were energy costs, and the heavy and rising taxes on petrol and drink and tobacco.

But you can have all the speakers up front that you like.  If enough aren’t there to listen, then your event falls very flat.  This one was the opposite of that.

Saturday October 18 2014

This funny letter posting got me googling for Viz, which has the best letters page bar none.  I found a clutch of Viz epistolatory masterpieces here, of which this is my favourite:

What is it with vegetarians and their veggie sausages and burgers?  I’m a meat eater, but I don’t go around making carrots and sprouts out of beef.

This is also a good one:

I work in a call centre in Norwich and we’ve just been told our jobs are moving to India.  I’m so excited!  I’ve always wanted to visit India and with the salary they pay me I’ll be able to live like a Maharaja over there.  Well done Aviva, keep up the good work.

Interesting piece about the rise and fall and rise of Viz, here.

Wednesday October 15 2014

It’s that time of the year when I go into one of my local supermarkets and immediately start taking photos, like that, or like this:

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Yes it’s Halloween.  And the shops, in this case Sainsbury’s, are full of Halloween crap.  And I photo it.  I wouldn’t buy any of it.  Oh no.  I am far above that sort of thing.  But, I photo it.

Except, how about these rather cute buckets?  Just the thing for my Last Friday of the Month meetings, to put crappy food in:

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Only 50p per bucket!  I got two.  And I just might go back for more.

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Not that.  I wouldn’t want one of them.  That’s my picture of Sainsbury’s, having the last laugh.

Tuesday October 14 2014

A few days ago I purchased a small loaf of sliced bread of my favourite sort, namely Hovis Original Wheatgerm.  And I found something rather strange about it:

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Not all the slices were like this, but most of them were.

I’m guessing that what happened here was that part of the previous loaf inside whatever space this loaf was cooked in got left inside, and hence incorporated into the next loaf, my loaf.  And, it would appear, it got cooked twice, or at least rather more than the rest of the loaf, and before the rest of the loaf was inserted.  And then everything sliced and sold to a supermarket, and bought by me, just as if nothing odd had happened at all.

I happily ate the resulting hybrid loaf, which seemed fine, even if the darker bits were a bit drier.  This is not a complaint.  If Hovis want to send me more sliced bread, they are welcome, but that is not my purpose with this posting.  I’m just trying to entertain, with an oddity.  Because, odd, don’t you think?  Never seen that before.

On a slight tangent, I believe that I am becoming a better photographer with the passing of the years.  By this I do not mean that I am getting technically any cleverer, although mercifully my cameras are.  What I mean is that now, I realise that this is the kind of thing that needs to be photographed, before it is merely consumed.  A few years ago, I might have eaten this, and then only later realised that I would have liked a photo of it.

Just to emphasise that my improvement as a photographer still has some way to go, I vaguely recall trying not to get any shadows in this photo.  But, if I was so trying, I failed.  You can make out the shadow of my photoing finger, towards the right.  Apologies for that.  You get what you pay for here.

Saturday October 11 2014

Indeed.  You don’t see this kind of thing every day:

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But I did.  Today.

As a general rule, I don’t advise combining ice cream with photography.  Do one or the other.  That is the rule I recommend.  But these guys were doing an excellent job of merging these two things, and they weren’t just eating their ice creams and doing photography.  They were photoing their ice creams.

I congratulated them for the excellence of their photographic imagination, and they were really pleased to hear this.  I asked if I could photo them.  Yes, they replied.  And when I said “photo”, I meant, as they surely understood, photo them and put pictures of them up at my blog:

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I also took lots photos of a demo outside Parliament by Kurds, demanding help from Britain in their battles against ISIS.  Maybe (I promise nothing) I’ll put some of those snaps either here or on Samizdata, perhaps tomorrow.

Sunday September 21 2014

Yes, me times 3:

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Plus Goddaughter 2 and her mum, plus a pot plant, times 2.  Click for the bigger picture.

Taken in an eatery where they have mirrors on every wall, to make a small place feel bigger.  The eatery being the tuk tuk in Old Compton Street.  Cheap.  Cheerful.  Recommended.

Friday September 19 2014

I’ve been reading Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life, and very entertaining and informative it is too.  Strangely, one of the best things about it for me was that he explained, briefly and persuasively, both the rise to global stardom and the fall from global stardom of British agriculture.  The rise was a lot to do with the idea of crop rotation.  I remember vaguely being told about this in a prep school history class, but although I did remember the phrase “crop rotation”, I didn’t care about it or about what it made possible.

Here is Bryson’s description of this key discovery:

The discovery was merely this: land didn’t have to be rested regularly to retain its fertility.  It was not the most scinitillatingof insights, but it changed the world.

Traditionally, most English farmland was divided into long strips called furlongs and each furlong was left fallow for one season in every three - sometimes one season in two - to recover its ability to produce healthy crops.  This meant that in any year at least one-third of farmland stood idle. In consequence, there wasn’t sufficient feed to keep large numbers of animals alive through the winter, so landowners had no choice but to slaughter most of their stock each autumn and face a long, lean period till spring.

Then English farmers discovered something that Dutch farmers had known for a long time: if turnips, clover or one or two other suitable crops were sown on the idle fields, they miraculously refreshed the soil and produced a bounty of winter fodder into the bargain. It was the infusion of nitrogen that did it, though no one would understand that for nearly two hundred years.  What was understood, and very much appreciated, was that it transformed agricultural fortunes dramatically.  Moreover, because more animals lived through the winter, they produced heaps of additional manure, and these glorious, gratis ploppings enriched the soil even further.

It is hard to exaggerate what a miracle all this seemed.  Before the eighteenth century, agriculture in Britain lurched from crisis to crisis. An academic named W. G. Hoskins calculated (in 1964) that between 1480 and 1700, one harvest in four was bad, and almost one in five was catastrophically bad. Now, thanks to the simple expedient of crop rotation, agriculture was able to settle into a continuous, more or less reliable prosperity. It was this long golden age that gave so much of the countryside the air of prosperous comeliness it enjoys still today, ...

The fall of British agriculture was all mixed up with refrigeration, which enabled the wide open spaces of the late nineteenth century world to make masses of food and to transport it to hungry urban mouths everywhere before it went bad.  Prices fell below what the farmers of Britain (where there were no wide open spaces by global standards) could match.

Tuesday September 16 2014

While browsing the archives looking for a photo to have on the front of my computer, combining niceness with not making my stuff invisible, I came across a rather good photo.

The horizontalisation opportunity was too good to miss:

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Click to get it all.

Not good for the front of my computer.  Too much going on.  No big clear slabs of nothing for computer ikons to be seen against.  But I like it.

It was taken in 2012, from the top of a car park in Peckham.

More shots of and from the same spot, here.