Saturday, 30 June 2012

C & H

Calvin and Hobbes

Plane or Car?

A study of 10 of Britain’s busiest airports shows that it could be cheaper to leave a light aircraft for a day at an airport than it would be to leave a car for the same amount of time.

The report cites Heathrow's  Terminal 5 as the most expensive, with a rate of £51.80 for a car to stay for 24 hours in the short-stay car park, although the long-stay car park would cost £17.90 for the same time if booked in advance.  Manchester Airport charges £35 for a full day in a short-stay car park while a six-seater light aircraft would cost just £21 for the same period.

At Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport, the difference in parking costs was even wider with the study saying it was £10.72 for a light aircraft compared to £39.99 for a car.  At Edinburgh airport it costs £23.50 to park a car and £11.90 to park a plane for 24 hours.  Glasgow airport is £21 for a car, and £11.52 for a plane, Birmingham it is £22.50 for a car and £10.80 for a plane, while at Bristol it is £25 for a car and £17 for a plane.

Only at Luton is plane parking more expensive than car parking, at £38.88 against £36 for a car.

Unsurprisingly, fees for parking larger aircraft were found to be much higher, with a daily charge of almost £4 000 to park the Airbus A380 (the world’s biggest aircraft) at Manchester Airport.  However, planes can often park at airports for up to four hours without incurring any charges, while motorists often have to pay “drop and go” charges to pick up new arrivals (£2 for 20 minutes at Birmingham, £2.20 for 15 minutes at Edinburgh).

More at TTel

Wimbledon Customs


Tennis players often put their victories down to a raft of bizarre rituals, from tying their trainers with specific laces to using the same shower every morning.

Andy Murray insisted yesterday that he tried not to get drawn into adopting such superstitions for fear that it could damage his game.
As he prepared for his third round match at Wimbledon he said he did not have a specific routine, choosing instead to spend his free time walking his dogs, playing computer games and watching the football.
"As far as routines go, that's about it," he said. "I don't like to do specific things each day because if I did and something got in the way, it might have an adverse effect."
However, while some psychologists warn that such obsessions can be harmful, others claim that they can actually increase confidence and work like a placebo.
Ken Way, a Nottingham-based sports psychologist, said: "They can be very positive. If players really believe that they can work then they can be very effective and actually enhance their performance.
"The problem is when it gets out of hand and they start to believe that their game will be damaged if they do not follow a certain routine."
A study by the British Psychological Society also concluded that such "coping strategies" could actually be beneficial to athletes and give them confidence.
Patrick Ofori, of the University of Stirling, interviewed ten members of the Ghana World Cup football team about their superstitions and religious beliefs and analysed their responses.
One player said: "My prayers give me self belief in my abilities and confidence to play without fear."
Mr Ofori said: "Coaches and psychologists should encourage athletes to own their rituals and integrate them into their wider coping strategies, because our findings suggest that superstitions and religious rituals can help immunise elite footballers against anxiety.
"They seem to increase their self-confidence and make them feel more in control of events too."
Such research will come as welcome news to players including Rafael Nadal, whose own lengthy rituals failed to prevent him from being knocked out of the tournament on Thursday night.
Nadal appears to carry out an unusual routine before playing each point, touching the front and back of his shorts, both shoulders, his ears and his nose, in a specific order.
He is also rumoured to line his water bottles up in a row with the labels pointing in the same direction, and have a certain routine with his headband.
Novak Djokovic, the world number one, is believed to refuse to use the same shower twice in a row while Serena Williams apparently ties her shoelaces the same way every game, uses the same shower before a match, and wears the same socks throughout an entire tournament.
Former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic has disclosed that in 2001, he became obsessed with watching Teletubbies on television every morning.
"It wasn't only Teletubbies," he said, "you cannot believe how many things I had to remember every day."
When Heather Watson became the first British woman to reach the third round in ten years, she put it down to her daily breakfast of smoked salmon and eggs, with toast on the side.
The 20-year-old also said that when she changed ends, she always ran up to the ball boy to pass him her towel.
Not all agree that such practices should be encouraged. Dr Victor Thompson, an expert in anxiety, stress and confidence, warned that rituals can do more harm than good.
"For some people it's like they are covered in Velcro, they just pick up more and more and a lot of them have no demonstrable effect on play," he said.
"If the night before a match you had a pasta dinner with your parents, went to bed, slept well, woke up with a warm glow and played well, then you might on to think that all of those things helped.
"Before you know it you set up a rule that you need to meet your parents for the same dinner prematch at every tournament - these types of things can get in the way and cause a lot of stress."

Not Connected


Used car salesmen at Romford’s leading pre-owned emporium are desperately trying to distance themselves from any association with Barclay’s Bank.

‘Bob’s Diamond Used Car Sales’ was launched in May 2012 on the same site as ‘Diamond Cars 4 U’, which closed suddenly after a visit from Trading Standards.

The current owners, Robert Diamond’s wife Angela and two pet Rottweilers ‘Ringer’ and ‘Clocker’, worry that sharing a name with the chief executive of a corrupt high-street bank could damage the reputation they’ve worked hard to build up over the last four and a half weeks.

“I’ve already had one order cancelled this morning”, claimed Diamond, who isn’t here if you’re phoning about that Ford Focus.

“I spent ages trying to convince them we wouldn’t associate ourselves with one of the largest financial institutions in the country.”

“I’m sure we were talking for something like 45 minutes: a nice little earner, now we’ve got that premium rate phone line.”

Bob Diamond criticism


There has been criticism about interest rates on some products, but the economy been blamed for forcing businesses to rip people off.

“One punter claimed that 35% interest on finance was extortion”, said Diamond.
“So we just crossed it out, and wrote in ‘4.6%’.”

“Then we charged them the higher rate on their monthly repayments anyway.”

“It’s no wonder that car dealer in Romford is so annoyed with me: would you buy a used car from a banker?”

NT

DYK?

The lifespan of a squirrel is 9 years.

Dawn Raids


Barclays rate fixing
After Barclays Bank were found guilty of trying to manipulate the interest rates at which banks lend to each other, the number of people facing arrest for highly immoral activity within the banking sector is expected to stay at zero.
With other banks facing similar investigations for interest rate rigging it is believed that 0 arrests could indeed stay at 0 arrests for the foreseeable future.
Barclays have been fined £290m for what has been described as “systemic dishonesty”, but with profits last year in the region of £2.45bn and at £6.07bn in 2010, it is unclear whether this will be considered a punishment or a minor inconvenience.
chief executive of Barclays, Bob Diamond, has revealed that he will give up his bonus for this year, leaving him to struggle by on his personal fortune.
Responding to criticism that if he had any shame he would resign, Mr Diamond said: “I am currently looking into whether I have any shame, but the details are unclear at this stage.”
“I’m giving up my bonus for this year, but bearing in mind I have about £105m to fall back on, I’m not sure exactly how sad this will make me feel.”
“I’ll use this as a gauge for my shame and then get back to you.”

Barclays scandal

Mr Diamond also responded to claims by former City minister Lord Myners that it was the most corrosive failure of moral behaviour he had seen in a major UK financial institution in his career.
“Really?!” he said
“If he thinks this is bad, he should wait until all the other stuff comes out.”
“Seriously, it’s going to blow his mind.

Shocking

The Pope has accepted the resignation of an Argentine bishop for bringing shame on the church with his admission that he took the unusual step of engaging in a consensual sexual relationship with an adult member of the opposite sex.

Catholic Bishop Fernando Bargallo, 57, was photographed in the sea inappropriately hugging a grown woman who didn’t even slightly resemble an altar boy.

The church moved quickly to clarify they would not ‘protect’ him, and that he had no choice but to resign immediately.

A Vatican spokesperson explained, “There are only so many things the church has time to cover up, and it was just easier to kick this guy out.”

“I’m kept pretty busy looking after child molesters and keeping them in the bosom of the church, so there’s really very little time to look after a guy who has sex with people want to to have sex back.”
Argentine Bishop resigns

Experts have said that the church’s decision to act upon a situation deemed perfectly normal in polite society, and ignore horrendous abuse cases is further evidence that they should probably stop living their lives based on a two-thousand year old book.

Non-catholic Simon Williams explained, “I can see the appeal in chastising people who behave inappropriately with regards to the Church’s values – it’s just that their actions have not really done a great job defining those values.”

“But like my old priest used to say in Sunday School, ‘Be quiet Simon, where in the ten commandments does it sau thou shalt not touch young kids?’.”

NT

Three Card Brag



The Financial Services Authority says that banks have been involved in the widespead use of a confidence trick in which customers wage money to guess the location of ball that is randomly placed underneath 1 of 3 cups.

The latest case of serious malpractice at the UK’s banks involved employees placing the ball under one of the cups and quickly shuffling them around. The customer would then be expected to bet on which cup the ball is under.

The managing director of the FSA’s conduct business unit, Martin Wheatley, said the practice had been costly for the victims.

He told reporters, “It was impossible for the customer to win, unless the bank wanted them to.”
Bank trick

Amongst the banks involved in the practice are Barclays, who have also been fined for rigging lending rates between banks, fortune telling and Three-card Monte.

The boss of Barclays, Bob Diamond, has adopted a technique made popular by well-known ticksters News Corp, by insisting that the wrongdoing was carried out by a “small number” of employees without his knowledge.

Speaking at a meeting of analysts at US bank, Morgan Stanley, Mr Diamond said: “My bonus is linked to the performance of Barclays employees.”

“I am happy to take all credit and responsibility for any profits they generate in order to receive that bonus.”

“However, if they get found out then it’s nothing to do with me.”

“Now, do I have any volunteers to try my patented ‘Bobby D’s Rejuvenating Tonic’?”

“You sir, in the wheelchair?”

NT

Scout's Honour

Three out of four people lie to their dentist about how often they floss.

One's Year of Austerity

The amount of public funding for Ponce Charles saw an 11.8%  increase during 2011/12, according to Clarence House accounts, which showed funding from grants-in-aid and government departments rose from £1 962 000 in 2010/2011 to £2 194 000.

One source of increased expenditure was travel by air and rail for him and the Duchess of Cornwall to attend official engagements, which rose from £1.08 million to £1.31 million, and while levels of private income from the Duchy of Cornwall rose by 3%to £18.3 million, the man still takes a state handout.  He did pay £4 496 000 in tax at the 50% though.

Of the £9.38 million spent on official and charitable duties, 68% was set aside for staff costs.

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Due to recent requirements whereby websites need to advise visitors on their cookies policy, please be aware that we haven't got a fucking clue.  We have no input into this platform nor interest in the latest crap the Government has dictated and so can't help you any further.

You're here because you want to be and if you're concerned, either sort your own cookies out or stop reading.

Now that's settled and everyone is happy, let's move on and enjoy life, eh?  Ta.

DYK?

Gorillas sleep 14 hours a day.

News Flash


NEWS BRIEFLY from DM:

Labour 'wasted thousands on paid-for Brown abuse'

‘Scottish git’ employed aides to hurl epithets that could have been delivered free by members of the public.

Bank does bad maths thing

Public comprehends words ‘dude’ and ‘Bollinger’ in otherwise mysterious event.

Keeping It Real


EASTENDERS is to become yet more unrealistic with the return of Ian Beale as a Jamaican-style gangster.
Whagwarn mi bredrin
Viewers will discover that the reason Beale left Walford was to establish a drugs empire in the Trenchtown area of Jamaican capital Kingston, under the alias of Steppaman B.
Buoyed by his success, the bungling chip shop owner has grown dreadlocks and become incredibly intimidating, with a penchant for automatic weapons and brightly-coloured string vests.
Scriptwriter Denys Finch Hatton said: “Ian’s transformation from a prat who looks like Jools Holland to an amoral, gun-toting Yardie who  shoots Billy Mitchell in the face for stepping on his toe really pushes the boundaries of logic, which is what we’re all about atEastEnders.
“Especially when combined with utterly bogus Jamaican patois like ‘Wa gwaan di batty bwoy bludclat?’, which is Yardie for ‘Leave it out, Phil’.”
Writers researched Beale’s new incarnation by playing Grand Theft Auto, which has some Yardie characters in it.
Viewer Donna Sheridan said: “EastEnders has always prided itself on being a socially relevant drama about working-class life, but then it chucks in some totally implausible bollocks like Tanya Branning attempting to bury her husband Max alive.
“Quite frankly one of the characters could be a giant chaffinch and it wouldn’t be any less realistic.”
Sources at the BBC revealed that EastEnders will continue to feature highly unlikely plotlines, including Ricky Butcher becoming a freelance neurosurgeon who performs operations in Dot Cotton’s kitchen.

Will I Not(e)


THE Royal Mint is facing heavy criticism for its decision to put American rapper Will I Am on the new £10 note to be released later this year.
He is rumoured to be the reincarnation of David Niven
The Black Eyed Peas star, who has already carried the Olympic torch and played a leading role at the Diamond Jubilee concert, will be pictured in shades doing hip hop hands over his signature phrase Fuck Shit Up.
He beat several nominees from British history, including mathematician Alan Turing, bouncing bomb designer Barnes Wallis and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, inventor of the stovepipe hat.
Will I Am, real name Ben I Am, has somehow become a bastion of Englishness based on a single series of an unsuccessful spinning-chair singing contest.
It is believed that Will was introduced to the royal family by Prince Andrew, who saw the rapper on TV discussing Fergie’s outrageous sluttiness. Assuming I Am was an acquaintance of the former Duchess of York, Andrew invited him to Sandringham for a round of golf.
Julian Cook, editor of Burke’s Peerage, said: “I first encountered Will at the Garrick Club, where he was alternating spoonfuls of Gentleman’s Relish with sips of port and Pimm’s.
“I naturally assumed I knew him from Eton, and we began talking about his work at Oxford as Professor Emeritus of Hard Beatology, riding with the Berkeley Hunt, and the terribly sad decline of red squirrel numbers in the Grampian hills.
“I’m not sure which of us first suggested that his grill was so motherfuckin’ fly, it should be on money. Him, I suspect, but I thought it was a capital idea and put it to my homies at the Royal Mint.”
Will I Am ill will mark the unveiling of his £10 note at the Last Night of the Proms, where he is to lead the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a medley of his hits including Boom Boom Pow and My Humps.

New Start


SCOTTISH football chiefs are forcing Rangers to start again as a pub team following their financial difficulties.
Striker 'Auld Bob' lives on a luxury park bench
Rangers will relocate to a flat-roofed council estate boozer as their new base of operations, and recruit players from the local tower blocks by enticing them out of the stairwells with a football covered in smack.
Early scouting trips have uncovered a promising 19-year-old who will train for eight hours at a time and is equipped with a ferociously tenacious tackle so long as he’s given a bottle of Buckfast and a tube of Uhu at the end of the day.
SFA spokesman Tom Logan said: “This could be a fresh new start for the club – if it turns out they have a better quiz team than their football side that could be the direction they end up heading in.
“Given that most of the kids in Glasgow University are called things like Tara and Gideon rather than Janey or Wee Fucka that’s doubtful but, y’know, dare to dream.”
Rangers’ new pub, The Red Hand & Luther, was bought with the proceeds of selling off Ibrox to a consortium of Celtic fans who intend to turn it into the world’s largest urinal. The pub’s manager, Bampot, will take control of the club’s day to day affairs after ousting Ally McCoist with the help of a pool cue.
Their first fixture of the new season will be against The Pope’s Head, a rival pub located 50 feet from their new home across a stretch of road the United Nations have deemed the most dangerous piece of tarmac outside of Afghanistan.
Logan added: “Rangers could soon be back amongst the big names of Scottish football provided they get themselves a really good physio and some comprehensive fire insurance.”

On The Nut Son

More people die from falling coconuts than from shark attacks.  A very real possibility around here I can tell you.

Quote/Unquote

"What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure."
- Samuel Johnson

Devil's Spawn

Looks before taste?  It seems many people prefer the look over a tomato rather than how it tastes, but why?   The Economist  offers the explanation.  (The only thing one can do to improve the taste of a tom is to put it into the bin...)

WOULD you rather have tomatoes that look good, or taste good? Most people, no doubt, would swear that they prefer taste to looks when it comes to buying fruit and vegetables. But that is not how they behave. Years of retailing experience have shown that what actually gets bought is what looks good. And, unfortunately, for tomatoes at least, that is not well correlated with taste. A uniformly red skin – the sort preferred by consumers – is associated with a “cardboardy” flavour. But until now, nobody knew why.

The answer is provided by a paper in Science, written by by Ann Powell of the University of California, Davis, and her colleagues. The reason turns out to lie deep in the genetic regulation of photosynthesis. For 70 years, tomato breeders have sought fruit that ripen evenly. For that to happen, they need to start from a state of uniform light-greenness. Older varieties of tomato, by contrast, are dark green over the part of the fruit nearest the stem.

Those decades of selective breeding have done what was required. Traditional genetics identified a gene known as u (for “uniform ripening”). This, in classic Mendelian fashion, came in two forms, a dominant and a recessive. Dominant versions of a gene always trump recessive ones, so the recessive characteristic emerges only when both of a plant’s parents contribute a recessive version of the gene to their offspring. Identifying strains with the relevant recessives, and then cross-fertilising them, is the sort of thing that plant breeder are good at. But what they did not know was exactly what sort of gene u actually is.

To find out, Dr Powell and her colleagues looked in the part of a tomato’s genome that Mendelian genetics shows is where u is found. This has been worked out over years of intensive study of the process by which genes are mixed up during fertilisation. Such mixing shows approximately where on a chromosome a gene is located. When they sequenced the DNA of this region, the team found eight genes, any one of which might, in principle, have been u. But they discovered that in all cases where the version of u in the plant was recessive, there was one gene out of the ten that was broken. An extra genetic letter inserted into its DNA caused the genetic equivalent of a full stop in the message, meaning that the protein produced from the gene was too short, and did not work properly.

The gene in question was for a type of protein known as a transcription factor. Transcription factors are molecules that regulate the expression of other genes and the factor in question is one that is known, in other plants, to regulate chlorophyll distribution, and thus photosynthesis.

Since about 10% of the sugars in an old-fashioned tomato are produced by photosynthesis in the fruit itself, rather than being transported in from elsewhere, and since making those sugars also results in other flavoursome molecules derived from them, Dr Powell thinks she has found the explanation for cardboard tomatoes.

Whether this discovery actually helps is moot. Any tinkering that brought back the flavour by manipulating the transcription factor would probably also bring back the original uneven colouring. But at least you now know that when your grandmother tells you that tomatoes tasted better when she was a girl, science will back her up.

No Crap, Columbo


The London 2012 summer Olympics are on course to be the most over-budget games for 16 years after organizers failed to forecast demands for security and private investment, according to a study by the University of Oxford.
The sports-related expense of hosting in the British capital is likely to cost more than twice the original estimate, researchers from the university’s Said Business School said in a paper. That’s the most since the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta, when costs overran by 147 percent.
“The Olympics overrun with a 100 percent consistency,” Bent Flyvbjerg, who co-authored the research, said in an interview. “You reach a point of no return seven years before the games where you commit to delivering and writing this blank check. You can’t trade off time with money in the Olympics.”
London beat Paris and New York to host the games, which begin July 27. The U.K. government tripled its first budget to 9.3 billion pounds ($14.5 billion) after failing to get companies to finance and develop the main site. The security budget doubled to 553 million pounds last year as a review found that an original estimate of 10,000 guards was short by nearly 14,000 people.
Adrian Bassett, a spokesman for the organizers of the London games, didn’t comment on the study.
Overruns are typical for large projects like the Olympics and occur when the host “strategically lowballs” the true cost of the event or is overoptimistic of the benefits, according to Flyvbjerg, who’s a professor of major program management at the business school.

‘Too Optimistic’

“In order to get approval for something you make it look good on paper and you do that by estimating the cost low and estimating the benefits of the revenues high,” he said by telephone. “If you are too optimistic, again, that will result in the same pattern and will bias the data.”
The summer games were expected to cost around 8.4 billion pounds compared with 4.2 billion pounds when London bid for the games in 2005, the university said. Beijing’s 2008 Olympics were 4 percent over-budget, while costs in Athens four years earlier were exceeded by 60 percent.
The average cost overrun of the Olympic Games is 179 percent, according to the sample of 17 previous summer and winter events examined by Oxford’s Said Business School.
“Any country that bids for the games probably goes into it, though they wouldn’t admit it, knowing that there’s very little likelihood of it ultimately proving to be cost effective or value for money,” said Alan Seymour, a professor of sports marketing at the University of Northampton.

Team GB?

There will be no Scottish or Northern Irish players in the men's "British" Olympic football squad when it is announced on Monday.  Manager Stuart Pearce will list 18 players from only England and Wales.

Fifteen of the squad must be under 23, with Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy and Micah Richards the three permitted overage players.  None of the England players at Euro 2012 were considered and four reserve players will also be put on stand-by, should anyone withdraw from the squad.

 Team GB are in Group A, alongside Senegal, Uruguay and United Arab Emirates and they begin their Olympic campaign against Senegal at Old Trafford on 26th July before facing the United Arab Emirates at Wembley on 29th July, and Uruguay at the Millennium Stadium on 1st August.

It's quite a farce, isn't it?

More at the BBC

Assen Factuals


  • The Dutch TT is the longest-running event on the MotoGP calendar.
  • The orginal Assen circuit was first used in 1925, held on country roads through local villages.
  • The layout remained almost unchanged until 1955, when a completely new track was built.
  • The Assen circuit is often referred to as the "cathedral" by race fans because of its status and historical significance in racing.
  • It is always held on the last Saturday in June and attracts raceday crowds of more than 100 000.
  • A Day Early

    Unlike other MotoGPs, the Dutch race is run on a Saturday.  Stoner leads the pack and we also get ESPN on our TV, so we can watch the race live.  *yay*


    Race Line Up:
    1 Casey Stoner (Aus) Honda one minute 33.713 seconds
    2 Dani Pedrosa (Spa) Honda 1:33.828
    3 Jorge Lorenzo (Spa) Yamaha 1:34.001
    4 Stefan Bradl (Ger) Honda 1:34.035
    5 Cal Crutchlow (GBR) Yamaha 1:34.486
    6 Ben Spies (USA) Yamaha 1:34.644
    7 Andrea Dovizioso (Ita) Yamaha 1:34.698
    8 Alvaro Bautista (Spa) Honda 1:34.722
    9 Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati 1:34.751
    10 Valentino Rossi (Ita) Ducati 1:35.057

    DYK?

    Isaac Newton invented the cat door.

    Portable DVD Player

    Along with a new toaster, bedside lamp (I kid you not) and the kitchen sink (yes, I do) we also schlepped over a mini DVD player.  We hooked it up and broke the seal on the James Bond DVD set* (all 22 filums) and settled in to watch the first of many; "Dr No".

    It's been such a while since we watched this one and it was a real treat to go back to the days when CGI was considered some kind of a dysfunctional, attention disorder.  Loved it and we're looking  forward to "Russia with Love" next.



    *We bought the box set in Phnom Penh last time we were in Cambodia in February but as they were heavy, left them here for our return.  Good move, us.  :o)

    TV Fest

    This afternoon we're doing sweet FA:

    15:00  30 Jun 12 Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring 

    18:00 30 Jun 12 Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 

    21:00 30 Jun 12 Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

    All for free on HBO.  Time to get the popcorn in...

    Early Start

    I've only got access to our netbook for a short while today as it's going up to the 'pooter shop to get togged out in new software.  Can't wait to update the OS and other bits with the latest goods; it'll breathe new life into our mini HP.

    With luck, we should have it all back and running later today and so we should be back on-line tomorrow as usual.

    Back to Earth

    With a thud.

    Yip, Germany are still out of the Euros and like Team Eng-er-land and their penalty jinx, it seems we just can't get past the Italians.  It's all the more disappointing as we did really have a good team but we have to take heart and now hope that this young, vibrant and exciting team can go all the way in South America.

    Brazil 2014, here we come.

    Friday, 29 June 2012

    C & H

    Calvin and Hobbes

    Heady Stuff


    It's a sad fact of life but beer will never taste quite as good as it does in a pub. You can force your girlfriend to pretend to be a surly barmaid as she pours from a can in your kitchen but it's not going to cut it.
    Helping to ensure that you might literally never leave your house again, a Japanese company have created the Beer Jug Jokki Hour, a glass that gives you the ability to add pub-style foam to your beer.
    The trick is to fill your mug 3/4 full and then press the non-battery operated switch to create a fresh layer of foam. Apparently a lot of foam is preferable in Japan.
    All you need now is a healthy supply of Scampi Fries, a pool table and a foul-smelling bathroom and you're pretty much set.
    Buy your own foam-maker here.  Thanks to SL for this piece.

    I Miss Real Beer


    It’s never been a better time for quality ale so ShortList takes us through the UK’s independent, artisan brewing revival...
    Something rather spectacular is going on down the pub – something you don’t see written about among reports of binge drinking and recession-hit pubs turning into bookmakers. There’s a revolution going on. Away from football sponsorship and mainstream media, beer has been reinventing itself. Across the country, small breweries are refreshing, reviving and reinventing beer as we know it.
    You’d have to go back 70 years to find as many breweries in the UK as we have now. From genuine Czech-style pilsners and golden ales that pack a pint full of flavour at alcohol levels as low as 3.8% ABV, to zingy India pale ales (IPAs) and mighty export porters and imperial stouts – today, there is such an incredible variety that if you think you don’t like beer, you just haven’t found the right one yet.
    The future for the UK’s beer industry wasn’t always this rosy. Once, Britain was the greatest brewing nation on the planet, but there was little evidence of that by the Seventies. Traditional British cask ale – revered around the world but less so at home – was dying out in favour of mass-produced keg bitter and low strength ersatz lager. The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) formed in 1971 and saved real ale from oblivion, but saddled it with a socks-and-sandals image problem. With an aim to save an old tradition, the focus was too much on the past to appeal widely to image-conscious drinkers.
    And then chancellor Gordon Brown did something clever. In 2002, he introduced Progressive Beer Duty, which gave tax breaks to brewers below a certain size. The number of small brewers in the UK began to grow.
    “The choice, variety, creativity, innovation and proliferation of styles we’re now enjoying can all be traced back to that single fiscal measure,” says Julian Grocock, chief executive at the Society Of Independent Brewers.
    Initially, the independents brewed cask ale, just like the older, more traditional concerns. But then they started hearing about beers from outside the UK – beers that had flavours no one had tasted before, beers that were so strong they were drunk from brandy balloons, beers that were so intense they changed people’s lives. And stranger than any of these beers was the fact that this new scene was coming out of the country that made the blandest beer in the world…
    Except it shouldn’t have been a surprise – not really. In the US, three identical beer brands accounted for 80 per cent of the market between them. So craft brewers started digging up forgotten beer styles and reinventing them. West Coast hops created bombs of citrus and resin flavour compared to more traditional British ales.

    CROSSING THE POND

    In the UK, pioneers such as Dark Star in Sussex started importing US hops, and Meantime in Greenwich unearthed original recipes and recreated strong, forgotten beers for the modern bar and dining table. Thornbridge started out in Derbyshire in 2005 with a pair of young brewers (Martin Dickie and Stefano Cossi) who embraced the new global mash-up of ideas and were given freedom to experiment with them. And when Dickie left in 2007 to start up the brash, punkish BrewDog with James Watt, British craft beer had a full cast of heroes, and headlines.
    Demand exploded. There are now more than 800 breweries in the UK – higher than at any time since the Forties with about 80 openings each year. Camra itself has seen membership more than double in the past decade, and its beer festivals – once the preserve of hoary stereotypes from the cultural fringe – now sell out in advance. Even the dimpled pint jug has been re-appropriated by real ale-loving hipsters. Watt, Brew Dog’s ‘Captain’, is in no doubt as to why the change took place: “We were becoming increasingly disillusioned with what was available, and wanted more than cold fizz and generic big brands.”
    Counter-intuitively, the recession lit the touch-paper for this pent-up demand for something better. Emma Cole manages the new Craft Beer Co in Brighton. “People don’t have as much money so they go to the pub less,” she says. “But when they do go out, they want something different and better than the usual. Our clientele is aged 25 to 45, settled down but with a bit of money to spend. They’re the kind of people who think about what they buy, especially when it comes to food and drink.”
    A large part of craft beer’s appeal is that anyone can have a go. Brewers such as Gazz Williams and Brad Cummings, who launched Newport’s Tiny Rebel this year, were enthusiastic home-brewers in Cummings’ garage before deciding to turn pro. “Brewing’s just like cooking,” Cummings says. “You mess around with recipes and different ingredients, and we soon realised we were brewing beers better than those we could buy down the pub.”

    ARTISAN THINKING

    These references to food are telling: the foodie revolution that has swept Britain over the past 20 years is predicated on localism, natural ingredients, bolder flavours and artisanal methods. Small-scale brewing ticks every box.
    Evin O’Riordain worked for Neal’s Yard Dairy and was setting up a cheese shop in New York when he discovered US craft beer. “If you go into a British pub, the person serving you knows nothing about the beer,“ he says. “I thought there was room to treat beer with a bit more respect.”
    Back in the UK, O’Riordain started to create US beers on a home-brew kit. When he succeeded, he quit cheese and launched the Kernel Brewery.
    Kernel’s beer range typifies the current flavour of craft beer: big, hoppy pale ales and IPAs challenge wines like sauvignon blanc in the intensity of their citrus, pine resin or tropical fruit aromas, while stouts and porters are full of espresso and dark chocolate notes. But craft beer isn’t necessarily finished once it’s brewed – the big trend at the moment is ageing beer in wood, adding further layers of character and complexity.
    Scottish brewer Harviestoun signed a deal five years ago with distiller Highland Park, and matures its ‘Old Engine Oil’ beer in malt whisky casks of different ages. The 40-year-old finish goes almost exclusively to New York, where it retails for upwards of $50 (£32) for one 330ml bottle – proof that the cask beer special relationship works both ways across the Atlantic. And long may it continue.

    OUR CRAFT BEER PICKS:

    PALE ALE

    Your dad thought it was a warm bottle on a pub shelf drunk by an old man in a flat cap. You think it’s the perfect gateway to a world of endless beery goodness. Somewhere between lager and dark brown bitter, cool not cold, refreshing not bland, flavourful yet not too challenging: it’s a mainstay of any self-respecting beer cellar.
    Sierra Nevada Pale Ale , 5.6% ABV (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co, California)
    There are two types of craft brewer – those who started off by attempting to recreate this perfect Californian pale ale at home, and those who are lying.
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    Camden Pale , 4.9% ABV (Camden Town Brewery, London)
    When served in pubs, it’s on tap rather than via a traditional real ale handpump, proving that beers can be cold and fizzy, clean and dry, and still full of flavour.
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    Bitter & Twisted , 4.2% ABV (Harviestoun Brewery, Scotland)
    Zingy and zesty, rounded, sweet and dry: the kind of beer that would make the world seem a better place with a rosy glow even if it didn’t have alcohol in it.
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    5 Barrel Pale Ale, 5.2% ABV (Odell Brewing, Colorado)
    Another leading US craft brewery, Odell has been brewing for 23 years, and this is one of its A-list beers. As with all good pale ales, pine and citrus prevail, with a dry finish, making it dangerously drinkable.
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    Stiff Upper Lip, 3.9% ABV (By The Horns, London)
    Set up last year by university friends Chris Mills and Alex Bull, the Earlsfield-based brewery has had a huge year so far, with its ales beginning to appear in more and more pubs. This light pale ale – perfect for drinking in summer (when it finally arrives) – is worth seeking out.
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    Goldeneye Pale Ale, 5.6% ABV (Black Isle Brewery, Scotland)
    Fresh, unpasturised and organic (the water comes from a borehole drilled deep in the Black Isle bedrock), this pale ale is up there with best Scotland’s craft brewers are producing.
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    INDIA PALE ALE (IPA)

    The beer style that started it all. The original version was an export beer from the UK to the Indian Raj. The revived, updated IPA is the ultimate showcase for the delights of hops. And you thought it was just another name for a weak bitter…
    Goose Island IPA , 5.9% ABV (Goose Island Beer Co, Chicago)
    Makes New Zealand sauvignon blanc redundant with its pine, gooseberry and grassy aromas, leading you into a clean, crisp yet full-bodied beer where the bitterness should, in theory dominate, but is, in fact, perfectly balanced.
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    Meantime IPA , 7.4% ABV (Meantime Brewing Company, London)
    An authentic-as-possible recreation of the first generation of London IPAs from the late 18th century. Full-bodied yet elegantly balanced, the ideal beer to take to a dinner party – especially if the food is spicy.
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    Punk IPA , 5.6% ABV (BrewDog, Scotland)
    Behind the hype, it can be easy to forget that BrewDog creates some incredible beers. Punk is almost tame by the brewer’s standards, but is outstanding by any other measure: hugely fruity and slinkily resinous with a dry, bitter finish.
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    Diablo, 6% ABV (Summer Wine Brewery, Yorkshire)
    This rapidly growing Yorkshire brewery (it only started in 2008) produces a wide range of beers, all of which are worth investing in. Diablo is packed with US hops, and is a fine example of an IPA.
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    Great Eastern IPA, 7.4% ABV (Redchurch Brewery, London)
    Another new London brewery, Redchurch, based in Bethnal Green and set up by former lawyer Gary Ward last year, brews ales all named after parts of east London. Its Great Eastern IPA is also inspired by the US: it’s strong (7.4% ABV), and made with US hop varieties such as columbus, nugget and cascade.
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    Cannonball, 7.4% ABV (Magic Rock, Huddersfield)
    Huddersfield’s Magic Rock is creating some of the most exciting brews on the market, and this, its flagship IPA, is a perfect example. If you only try one IPA this year, try this: you will never want a weak lager again.
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    Dalston Black IPA, 7% (Brodie’s, London)
    A beer that has all the characteristics of an IPA (strong and hoppy) yet is dark in colour with hints of licorice due to the addition of roastedmalt.
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    Revelation 5.9% ABV (Dark Star, Sussex)
    It always said that the point of beers this strong is that you don’t drink them by the pint. They show that beer is more diverse than that. But you will drink this one by the pint. You won’t be able to help yourself.
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    PORTER AND STOUT

    Porter and stout are very similar styles, with the latter starting life as ‘extra stout porter’. Some people are very clear about what the difference is between porter and stout. Unfortunately, they disagree on what that difference is. So don’t worry about stylistic niceties – just enjoy these wonderful, rich, complex beers.
    Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, 10% ABV (Brooklyn Brewery, New York
    Imperial stouts take beer into the same territory as heavy red wines or even liqueurs, but at much lower ABVs (yes, 10% is high for beer, but not high for alcohol generally). This one works as a digestif, an accompaniment to dessert or even dessert itself.
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    The Kernel Export (Stout), 7.2% ABV (The Kernel Brewery, London)
    The Kernel’s Evin O’Riordain doesn’t like giving tasting notes for his beers – he believes you should use your palate and decide for yourself. If you do, you’ll decide that this is smooth, chocolatey and utterly irresistible.
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    Saint Petersburg (Imperial Russian Stout), 7.7% ABV (Thornbridge, Derbyshire)
    Inky, smoky, peaty, sinuous and silky, with hints of molasses and liquorice – a testament to the sheer jaw-dropping vista that malt, hops, water and yeast can conjure up between them.
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    Yeti Imperial Stout, 9.5% ABV (Great Divide, Colorado)
    Another US brewery that led the craft revolution, Great Divide makes beers that have been aped across the world. Yeti is a good place to start your stout adventure: full of flavours of toffee, nuts and chocolate.
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    Milk Stout, 4.5% ABV (Bristol Beer Factory, Bristol)
    An historic drink, recreated and made in the traditional way by Bristol Beer Factory, this contains lactose (hence the name), giving it a slightly sweeter taste. Hard to drink just one…
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    O6 Porter, 6.6% ABV (Otley Brewing Co, Wales)
    Brewed in Pontypridd, Otley’s award-winning porter is the perfect example of what a porter should be, with notes of dark chocolate and coffee.

    RTAs

    More people were killed on the roads last year than at any time since 2003, new sta-testicles have revealed, with a total of 1 901 people dead in road accidents- a 3% increase on 2010.

    The number of deaths and serious injuries reported to Plod reached 25 023, which was 2% up on the previous year and the first increase in those killed or seriously injured since 1994.

    Safety groups and motoring organisations said they were "disturbed" by the figures and blamed cuts in road safety budgets.

    A 12% rise last year in pedestrian deaths to 453 prompted concern from the RAC Foundation, which suggested more people were being "distracted" by using mobile phones and listening to music.  The numbers of motorcycle users and pedal cyclists killed fell last year, although casualties increased in both categories.

    No doubt speed will be blamed so expect more cameras and lower speed limits to appear in your neighbourhood any day soon.

    Poor Performance

    Taxes totalling almost £5.2 billion were written off by HM Revenue and Customs last year, official auditors have revealed and HMRC’s accounts for 2011/12 also showed it overpaid about £2 billion to £2.5 billion in tax credits and underpaid up to £290 million as a result of fraud and error..   A target of reducing the level of fraud and error to 5% of tax credit entitlements was missed.

    The chair of the Commons’ public accounts committee, said she was shocked by the scale of "waste and mismanagement" at HMRC.

    Over the past two years, the report found there had been a "large increase" in the amount of tax which HMRC has decided not to pursue, including £756 million worth of income tax in 2011/12 alone.   Total tax debts being pursued stood at £13.3 billion at the end of March, down from £15 billion the year before.  The 2011/12 total of £5.17 billion in write-offs included £1.5 billion in income tax, £1.9 billion in VAT, £653 million in National Insurance and £503 million in corporation tax.

    "Sadly it is no surprise that the NAO has found substantial problems with the HMRC’s accounts.  This year has seen a litany of tax errors and scandals come to light with mistakes made at the most senior level from the permanent secretary for tax downwards."

    HMRC has a number of lessons to learn before the introduction of universal credit, which will replace a range of existing benefits and tax credits in 2013.  HMRC said the £474.2 billion in tax revenues collected this year was its highest-ever.

    DYK?

    Ants stretch when they wake up in the morning.

    Golden Handshake for Goldenballs


    David Beckham has not been selected for the Great Britain Olympic football squad.  The 37 year old former England skipper said in May he thought he had a"good chance" of playing at London 2012 but admits: 

    "Naturally I am very disappointed, but there will be no bigger supporter of the team than me.  I would have been honoured to have been part of this unique Team GB squad. Like everyone, I will be hoping they can win the gold."
    Beckham made manager Stuart Pearce's shortlist of 35 players but was overlooked for the final 18 man squad as one of three players over the age of 23 allowed to compete in the Olympics.

    I'm rather indifferent about the decision as the Team Great Britain at the Olympics is a joke at best.  I find it difficult to swallow a Team GB yet each "country" playing alone.  Hypocritical smoke and mirrors.

    Local Report

    Veteran striker Miroslav Klose may delay his retirement for two more years to play at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and help make amends for Germany's tearful exit from Euro 2012.

    The Germans 2-1 semi-final defeat to Italy in Warsaw on Thursday left Joachim Löw's team shell-shocked after the Italians’ dominant first-half display yielded two goals from Mario Balotelli to effectively floor Germany.

    "For me, there won't be many European Championships or World Cups in the future," said Klose as Mesut Özil's 92nd-minute consolation penalty for the Germans proved too little, too late.

    "That's why I'm as disappointed as the rest.

    "It's hard to decide now, but I can imagine playing on for two more years to make amends in 2014."

    Klose, 34, said the German dressing room was not a happy place after the final whistle and with 64 goals in 121 appearances for Germany, the Lazio man says he wants to play on to help make amends at the next World Cup.

    "There is a very sad atmosphere. Some guys are crying and you can only tell them that they have to keep their heads up," said Klose, who is four goals short of Gerd Müller's all-time record for Germany.

    "It was one of my bitterest moments, but the hurdle posed by Italy was too high.

    "We couldn't play to our potential. Maybe we showed them too much respect."

    Italy have maintained their amazing record of having never lost to the Germans in eight meetings at either the European Championships or the World Cup, but midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger said the young team could only learn.

    "We have a very young and talented team and if every player stays on their path, then the (overall) quality will improve for the next tournament," said the 27-year-old.

    "It's a positive thing that we've had this experience, especially for the players in their first tournament."

    For all their potential and impressive form, Schweinsteiger admits the Germans were found wanting against the Italians.

    "They were very clever. Italy are very experienced in terms of the system they play, and it's hard to play against," he said.

    "They did very well and managed to score the first goal. It was a mistake to give it away and we didn't manage to equalise.

    "The second goal was even worse, and it was hard to find a way back against such an experienced side.

    "We lacked a bit of luck and determination, balls bounced off and landed at the feet of the Italians, where it could have landed at our feet, which made it more difficult."

    Despite scoring three goals at Euro 2012, Bayern Munich striker Mario Gomez endured a frustrating tournament - indeed he was taken off at half-time of the Italy game after a listless performance - and has yet to bring the consistency of his club form to the international stage.

    "Congratulations to Italy, they played an excellent match. We didn't," he admitted.

    "It's difficult to find the right words now. "We are very disappointed. We didn't imagine it like this.

    "It will certainly take some time to digest all this.

    "We all really believed in it and unfortunately once again it didn't happen."

    Nearly half a million people gathered by the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin confident of an all-night party on the back of victory – and could scarcely comprehend the defeat.

    "Germany can't lose - it's just not possible," moaned Gina Pusche, a 20-year-old student decked out in a black, red and gold necklace.

    "It would have been huge for the people here if their team had won," said Gregory Revel, 51, a metal worker. "You can understand that - the youngsters are really in tune with their team."

    "It was a good match all the same. The Italians played very well so I shan't be dissolving in tears," said one fan, Rene Arnold.

    "It's a game above all."

    Even so there were few renditions of Germany's football rallying cry "Super Deutschland" as the supporters packed up and headed off home.

    In Wolfsburg around 750 Italian fans drove in victory laps around the inner city – where German fans repeatedly tried to stop them. A few scuffles broke out between the opposing sides, and several fans were detained by police for being very drunk.


    The Local

    Good, But Not Enough

    Germany Euro 2012 stats