Friday, 25 June 2010

Excellent news

Anyone need any of the following: healings and awakenings, a cure for cancer, a raising of Chi or Om Energy beyond comparison and awakening of the soul to its highest potential? I know I need my Om Energy boosting. Fortunately, recent Observation has revealed the answer: Shekina.

It's changed my life. Now, some of you may be wondering how Shekina can do all that, over and above being quite cute. Here's the answer and, like, it must be true, cos it's on her website:

What is So Unique About Shekina, Harmonic Vocalist?
Shekina is a Harmonic Vocalist, and what is so unique about her sound transmissions is she is a direct voice messenger for Mother Goddess of Creation and the Blue Ray. Shekina has never sung before, not even for karaoke.

"... not even for karaoke." Well, that closes it out for me. And how exciting to think that, since I've never sung for karaoke, I might be a Father God of Creation and the Blue Ray too. How cool is that?


Thursday, 24 June 2010

Random thoughts

A busy week, partly because I shall be away next week - so apologies in advance to the few deluded souls who read this nonsense. We can all comfort ourselves with the thought that the French are out of the World Cup, and England are still in, and that means life can't be entirely bad.

No carefully thought-out post tonight - so situation normal, then - but here's something I've been meaning to post for a while. Holders of the Prince 2 qualification, look away now:

Click to enlarge (for those of you not used to driving on the internet)

And now a thought courtesy of this week's Private Eye:

Number Crunching
11 People killed in accident on oil rig leased by British company BP, resulting in four presidential visits, a $1.6 billion clean-up and the establishment of $20 billion compensation fund in two months.

15,000+ People killed in accident at Bhopal plant owned by American company Union Carbide, resulting in 0 presidential visits, no clean-up and $470 million compensation in 25 years.


On a lighter note, a 'compare and contrast' exercise. One picture depicts national support at the World Cup from England, the other from the Netherlands.

Oddly enough, it wasn't the English that were thrown out of the stadium, just for once. These days it's all about the sponsorship. Hey ho.

Live long and prosper.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Lord, what fools these mortals be

It seems no more than a couple of pints ago that I noted the winter solstice, and here we are at the summer one. Who - as they say - knows where the time goes?

I've only seen Stonehenge once, and that wasn't under the best of circumstances, stuck as we were in a traffic jam on the A303 caused by people slowing down to look at Stonehenge. Mrs QO, who was driving and therefore waiting for her first drink, said something quite unrepeatable. But one day I'd like to go back and have a proper look. It's a shame that the plans for improving the site have had to be axed but it's been around quite a while, so I expect it'll still be there when things pick up.

And we can of course still celebrate it in song. I leave you with Spinal Tap. Nobody does it better.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Self sufficiency

"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer."
-Abraham Lincoln

Long ago and far away, O best beloved, there were three young males at university. Blessed with more time than money, and more money than sense, they decided that during the odd four or five days a week they weren't studying, they would make beer. A relatively modest capital investment was made in bins, barrels, demijohns and such, as well as various plastic impedimenta like long spoons, buckets, syphon tubes and what-have-you. Such was their youthful energy that between them they were soon turning round 120 pints a week. The Rocksoff Brewery soon became rather well-known among the beer cognoscenti of their colleges, and legendary were the end-of-term parties when the accumulated termly surplus was disposed of in the best possible way. Back in the day, our beardless youths estimated the cost of a pint of Rocksoff Best at 10p (compared with a pint of electric soup from the subsidised college bar at around 50p), and the brewery mission statement was "Pissed for a Pound". This, unlike most corporate mission statements, was not only entirely accurate but if anything a slight understatement.

Moving forward some - dear Lord - 28 years, Mrs QO and I (erstwhile stakeholders in the Rocksoff Brewery as well as long-standing CAMRA members) recently became a little tired of handing so much tax to the Guvmint for each pint of beer we consume, and so decided to delve into the depths of the cellar and see what brewery kit we still had to hand. Quite a bit, even if a lot of cobwebs had to be blown off.

My excellent father - never one to miss an opportunity for a canny investment, or indeed a pint - offered to put some capital into the new venture, dividends to be paid in liquid assets. With such financial backing, it was not long before the new Stoats Brewery (we like mustelids) was launched and the sweet scent of malt liquor was in the air here at the Observatory. This 110-year old house is in many ways ideal for brewing. The bathroom upstairs is where the boiler lives, so is constantly warm and therefore perfect for the primary fermentation. The hallway is at a good temperature for secondary fermentation for the 48 hours or so required, and then it's down into the cellar to condition and clear in cool darkness.

Here we see a barrel of Stoats Summer Ale conditioning, and a half-pint drawn off tonight suggests it's nearly ready. This is a light, golden bitter which we plan to make even more summery by adding more hops to the mash. Purists may be disappointed to note the CO2 dispenser on top of the barrel, but purists can, frankly, go and boil their bottoms. It's only to keep a blanket of gas on top of the beer to prevent oxidation, not to force excess gas into the beer. And yes, that is a case of Grolsch - but hey, sometimes you really want a cold one from the fridge. And we're going to be using the bottles to put some real beer in.

The cellarage - a bit low on stocks at the moment, but that's partly because we've had a Canadian around. Fortunately, there's another batch in secondary fermentation in the hallway. This is our way of welcoming visitors to the house.

And tomorrow night these little puppies can go downstairs to mature.

But what is it like, I hear you enquire? Well, not bad at all. There is - to the discerning palate - a certain 'homebrew' flavour to do with using malt extract, but it's one that you can get used to quite quickly. We estimate that today we're brewing at around 3.8 ABV for about 25p a pint, and by my calculations less than 4p goes to the Treasury by way of tax. Is that not a result? There is of course a labour element - roughly three hours per brew of 40 pints - but one can listen to the radio and drink beer while carrying out the duties. It could be worse.

And the end product? Well, you're welcome to come round and try. Here's what it looks like - note the well-conditioned natural head and clarity, he said modestly. And do treasure this shot as a particular rarity - the glass is full.

I leave you with this gem of philosophy.

"Well ya see, Norm, it's like this... A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. That's why you always feel smarter after a few beers."
-Cliff Clavin, of Cheers

Monday, 14 June 2010

Back at the BP press conference

Chaotic scenes again today at the latest BP press conference. The newly-appointed chief media officer, Ms Lulu Mortenson, paid tribute to her predecessor Bernard Hofsnider whom she described as "A wonderful human being now pursuing exciting new opportunities," before going on to hotly deny that BP had in any way tried to influence the result of Saturday's World Cup match between England and the USA.

"OK, we have to accept that in many ways a draw was the right result for us here at BP, aware of tensions between the two countries right now. But there is absolutely no truth in the rumours that we hosed down anyone with money to ensure that America got a good result and had nothing new to whinge about, apart from, like, you know, the whole of the Gulf of Mexico and all those oily penguins. I don't know much about English soccer, but I've been briefed that the England team are quite capable of being crap all on their own."

British journalists at the press conference were seen to nod ruefully at this comment, but proceedings were then disrupted from the back of the room when Mr Bernard Hofsnider burst in wearing a Marty's Bar T-shirt and waving a bottle of 'Crazy Dog Detroit Bourbon'. He was heard to shout:

"What a crock! Those guys were told weeks ago!! OK, we never paid Robert Green cuz we never thought they'd be dumb enough to pick him, but Jeez Louise, the others were told three-nil to the US of A. Sheeit. Guess we shoulda post-dated the cheques..."

At this point Mr Hofsnider was tazered repeatedly by security guards, and is now said to be "resting". Ms Mortenson issued a press release later categorically denying everything, whether or not anyone was saying it.

Friday, 11 June 2010

An apologetic Observation

I note with some chagrin that it is over a week since I last updated this corner of the blogosphere (and we pause for a moment to sip some of this Rioja and ponder whether any kind of sphere can have a corner). A combination of Canadian flu and a heavy workload have left little time and energy over the last week, though things would appear to be settling down again.

To London today for a client meeting. Several questions arose:

1. Why can London pubs not serve beer in a proper fashion? Warm, flat and overpriced is not the way to go, chaps. (I should say this is not mere Midlander prejudice; I took care to acquire a substantial body of evidence.)
2. Just how difficult is it - in a major capital city - to keep public 'conveniences' stocked with paper and to equip them with hand dryers that will, you know, work?
3. What part of the 'quiet zone - please do not use mobiles' stickers on Carriage A of East Midlands Trains services to London is so tricky for some people to understand? 'Tis a sad indictment on our education system, I fear.
4. Talking of mobiles, can we not have a new law (and I never ask for new laws lightly) against 'walking on a public thoroughfare while looking intently at one's mobile and therefore being a complete menace to one's fellow pedestrians'? A level 5 fine (£5,000) or six months would be appropriate, I feel. I do however have hopes that eventually sufficient of them will just walk into traffic while texting and Darwinian selection will weed out the tendency to be such a numpty.
5. Talking of traffic, why would anyone with half a brain drive in London? I swear the cars I saw stuck in gridlock outside St Pancras at 10.20 were still there at 18.30.
6. Would anybody mind if I killed the very next person that tripped me up with one of those stupid little suitcases that half the world seem to tow around behind them in London? You know, the ones they have to stop and tinker with immediately after getting off a Tube train or right at the top of the escalator, so that you can't help bump into them? No, I thought not. Thanks so much. I'm proposing to hurl them under the next northbound Victoria Line service, but if you have other suggestions I'd be glad to have them.

This is a grumpy old Observer signing off. It's been a long day.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Nature notes

[We would like to assure readers that here at The Quizzical Observer we see no need to resort to cheap and tacky totty-shots to bring in extra traffic. Any pictures posted will be of strict relevance to our material. We now return you to tonight's latest post.]

Assiduous readers will recall the posting about swifts a little while ago, and the QO has been much concerned that the numbers of birds seen has been terribly low - our local colony seemingly amounting to only three individuals.

It is therefore a great relief to note that Springwatch tonight reported that there is a reason for this: the Icelandic volcano eruption has left hundreds of thousands of swifts stranded in southern Europe, having to slowly make their way north on over-burdened public transport. It is expected that very soon the number of swifts in UK skies will be back to normal.

Kate Humble, one of the Springwatch presenters. The show charts the progress of the rampant mating habits of many creatures at this time of year.

At the latest BP press conference

There were chaotic scenes earlier today as the chief BP media officer, Mr Bernard Hofsnider, apparently suffered some kind of breakdown while delivering the daily briefing to representatives of the world press.

A reporter from the Daily Gripe, of Pigsknuckle, Arkansas, asked what the latest plans were to cap the leak, currently estimated at some 12,000 barrels a day. Mr Hofsnider responded:

"We are currently attempting to pump some 30,000 barrels of heavy materials through the blow-out preventer into the well-head..."

At this point Mr Hofsnider paused, crumpled up his notes and swept them off his lectern.

"You know what, guys? We're shit out of plans. We're fucked. You want an honest answer? We have no fucking idea what to do next. It's 5,000 feet down, it's flowing out faster than shit through a goose, we can see damn-all and everybody - but everybody - in the whole goddamn world is bitching and moaning at us, from the President of the United States to the secretary of the Accrington Stanley Supporters Club."

Mr Hofsnider scratched his head.

"Does anyone here know who the fuck Accrington Stanley is? Or what he's in prison for? Anyway, moving on. We do in fact have three planning teams working twenny-four seven on possible solutions."

"Team A is calling the BBC in London, England, asking for Dr Who's cellphone number. We're hoping we can lease the Tardis to take our contract managers back in time to before they signed up with those shit-for-brains sub-contractors. Team B is lighting incense and preparing to sacrifice a few of those contract managers to Kali, the Hindu devil Goddess, to pray for intercession. Team C is beaming messages into space hoping that Thunderbird 5 will pick 'em up and get International Rescue here. I hope you'd agree that's a pretty comprehensive package of total desperation, ladies and gentlemen of the press. Any of you got any good ideas?"

There was a short silence before a correspondent for the Telford Advertiser enquired whether Mr Hofsnider was aware that BP's share price was dropping rapidly.

"No shit?" said Mr Hofsnider. "Well, don't that beat all. We kinda thought investors would approve of us rendering the entire Gulf of Mexico unfit for life and fucking up the Gulf Stream. Guess you can't please all of the people all of the time. And hey, you Brits had better get used to weather like Labrador. You might wanna suggest to your councillors they buy more salt in for next year. Any other stupid fucking questions? No, cancel that, cuz you know what? I quit. I'm heading down to Marty's Bar to drink myself comatose on cheap whiskey."

Mr Hofsnider was said by BP to be "resting", and that a further press release would be forthcoming as soon as they'd heard back from Dr Who.