Archive for January, 2012
This is genius! Not much more to add really. I saw this on some site or other and thought I would share it. Enjoy.
What follows is a pointless rant about coffee. I wrote it yesterday while hopped up on caffeine.
I’m writing this in a coffeeshop and quite frankly it sucks. First of all there are about ten kids running around shouting while their parents either remain oblivious to the noise and its affect on others’ enjoyment, or they stare at them proudly, occasionally looking up presumably hoping to catch someone’s eye so they can say, ‘Isn’t my child just wonderful?’ Selfish bastards.
What has made it worse though, is an argument amongst adults at the till. An older gentleman is insisting on a “coffee”.
“I just want a coffee,” he pleads.
“What sort?” the delightful Eastern European barista girl asks.
“Just, just a coffee! A normal coffee!”
“Do you mean an Americano?”
“I don’t know, just a normal coffee.”
It isn’t the first time I’ve heard this discussion/exasperated argument and quite frankly it annoys me.
I did a bit of research. All I knew about coffee was that it apparently came from Ethiopa back in the era of yore. This is pretty much true. The Internet is vague on precisely when ‘yore’ was but let’s just say it was around 1500 and became popular in the city of Mocha. In the early 1600s it spread to Turkey and Italy and the rest of Europe. It arrived in the UK soon after but the first coffee house wasn’t until 1651 in Oxford. It then went mental and rapidly spread through awesome cities like London. Apparently it was a place where writers, scientists, and political dissidents went to chat. Isaac Newton held a series of coffee evenings to discuss the movement of the planets. Byron and Shelley used to hang out and talk about poetry and getting laid. It sounded brilliant. Now they are just full of bloody kids.
Anyway, the vast majority of coffee was simply ground beans with a small amount of hot water chucked in. It was thick and viscous and left a layer of sediment. Think Turkish coffee. It pretty much stayed like this until the early 20th century. During the first world war American troops got a bit fed up with the bitterness and strength of standard coffee and started to add an equal measure of hot water to this ‘standard’ and thus was born ‘the Americano’. In the 60s and 70s percolators and drip coffee became all the rage after a few decades of tea obsession. It is the generation born between 1920 and the mid 70s that tends to have this argument about standard coffee. It’s purely because they forgot its true name.
I was born in 1972 and had almost a decade of drinking this so called standard coffee. By that I mean paying £1 – £1.50 for a smallish cup of filter coffee. Most of the time the coffee was fucking awful as it had been stewing for (if you were lucky) a few hours.
Then, at the end of the 90s came the advent of modern coffeeshops. Boo! They introduced that most hated of things to – choice. You have to pick the size and the type! Apparently this choice is too much and things were better before.
Ok, as usual I have gone on a bit here. My point is that coffee used to be the sludgy stuff for about 400 years. Then, for about 80 years they added hot water to it. Now they have lots more choice.
So someone saying, “I just want a coffee, a normal coffee!” is just referring to coffee as it has been made since the Americans invented the Americano 100 years ago. In reality they are probably referring to coffee since the percolator and drip – 50 years ago.
I was annoyed by the argument for two reasons. One was the arrogance of the gentleman in thinking that the way coffee was made from his childhood until the late 90s (in this country not the rest of the world) is the norm, and that everyone should know this. 50 years out of a 500 year history. I’m giving the guy the benefit of the doubt in that he had never been to a coffeeshop since the millenium and had therefore had never been presented with this irksome agony of choice. It isn’t too hard to remember ‘Americano’, so presumably he won’t have this argument ever again.
The other was the barista for not admitting she had had this discussion a million times and just given the guy an Americano. When people say they just want coffee, you do know what they mean, even if it’s annoying. Just politely explain that it’s called an Americano and always has been and please remember that.
If it was me I would be tempted to chuck some ground coffee into a small cup, add a small amount of water and hand the thick matter to the guy. “Here is some standard coffee as drunk for 400 years. Enjoy it. You might need a spoon.”
Anyway, bollocks to this place. Coffeeshops are rubbish to sit in these days. I’m off to the pub. Where I will have a beer. Just a beer, a standard beer!
Well, China is up to mad-science-that-looks-cool-but-suspicious-from-space yet again. I previously wrote about the huge but weird things they are building in the desert here. (If you missed it, check it out, it’s awesome.) The difference this time is that we know what they are up to and it’s incredibly beneficial to all mankind. It also can’t be seen from space. Yet.
I’ll stop beating about the bush. Chinese scientists have invented Blood Rice. I know what you’re thinking. ‘At last! That’ll be delicious.’ Sadly it isn’t destined to be a black pudding/ rice pudding hybrid. Because this is human blood. At some point, probably over lunch, the scientists came up with the idea of embedding human genes into the DNA of rice. As you do. Unbelievably this crazy idea seems to work. This could lead to unlimited blood that is untainted by any of the possible nasties you can get from blood transfused from one of us nasty humans.
Obviously a bit more research needs to be done but it seems possible that there will soon be huge swathes of red covering large chunks of the globe. When I think of ‘Fields of Blood’ I usually think of battles from olden times (up to WW1), when warfare seemed to consist of large groups of men forming up and charging at each other, followed by horrendous and tragic loss of life.
These will be the good kind. Weird yes, but good.
We’re all doomed! On the 10th of January 2012 the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (acronym is BAS but BLAMS would be better) moved the Doomsday clock from 6 minutes to midnight up to 5. In case you are unaware of this clock, midnight means we have just blown our planet up and are all dead. Most of us anyway. The few that remain will be donning leathers, forming gangs, and sharpening their finest cannibal cutlery in a cool post-apocalyptic landscape.
This is just like in Watchmen when they have a doomsday clock that counts down to midnight. In the comic/movie the clock gets to 1 minute to midnight before… well just read/watch it. The nearest the clock has been before is 2 minutes to Doom during the cold war, when the superpowers were dicking about threatening each other over Cuba. The clock was last changed two years ago when, in a spirit of unbridled optimism, BAS moved the clock up to 6 minutes to Mass Death. The reason they gave was:
“Two years ago, it appeared that world leaders might address the truly global threats that we face.” (http://www.thebulletin.org/content/media-center/announcements/2012/01/10/doomsday-clock-moves-1-minute-closer-to-midnight )
They have since decided that not only have world leaders not bothered to do anything, in most cases the world is a bit worse. Lazy arses.
It all feels a bit like the scientists felt they were missing out on all the misery of recessions and wars and wanted to chip in to add to the general malaise sweeping the globe with some scientific pessimism. Thanks for that.
I will keep you updated on any more clock movements just to make sure you feel the appropriate levels of stress and anxiety as you go about your day. At one minute to midnight, I will be doing this from a bar on a beach. Post apocalyptic tropical islands will be nicer that post apocalyptic cities.
Just keep in mind: Be mildly afraid!
The Japanese are cool. When faced with a problem the average modern Japanese person will probably take a photo and then build a robot to fix it. Or maybe I’m stereotyping.
But that is certainly what they are doing to solve their post-tsunami food issues. They are going to spend £33 million on a 600 acre site that will be run by robots. How cool is that? The robots will plant, tend, grow, pluck and package the food. All they need after that is a robot chef. I can’t wait until they create a single robot that you could have in your garden or allotment that grows all your food and then fixes you a nice salad before you go to work.
Obviously they will inevitably rise up and attack you with potatoes but until then it will be pretty sweet.
The shot-gun wielding robot farmer will be a bit scary though.
After the misery of my last post where I simply listed what happened last year, I thought I would start 2012 off with an amusing local story. In a Tesco supermarket in Coventry a 12 year old lad called Charlie picked up a display version of the iPhone 4S. He wanted to test out the new Siri system – where you can ask the phone a question and it replies with a sexless female robotic voice. It is supposed to answer your question, but not always it seems.
When little innocent Charlie asked ‘How many people there are in the world?’ The delightful android replied: ‘Shut the fuck up, you ugly twat.’ Naughty little virtual minx that she is.
Apparently some hilarious pranksters had fiddled with the settings of the phone. I’m just impressed that the iPhone 4S has an offensive sweary setting. I’m kind of annoyed that my old school 3GS is annoyingly polite. Stupid prick of a phone.
In case any Daily Mail readers stumble upon this and are about to bleat to the world how horrifying it must be for the kid and whine on and on in their pointless whingefest forums let me just point out the following. The kid was 12, he’s probably already seen porn. The kid was in Tescos in Coventry. If you’ve ever been there, you’ll know the air is riddled with swear words as people lament the fates that led them to be in Coventry. It’s a ghastly place which was completely flattened in the war and rebuilt entirely in cement by architects with no souls.
The final point is the kid’s mum. Upon hearing the swearing she was duly shocked and outraged. So asked the question again and got the same reply. Still shocked and outraged she then played the message yet again to the staff. So little Charlie heard the message three times and is now probably desensitised to the words anyway.
Intrigued by what Siri can actually do, I did some research. It seems to have a sense of humour and was clearly programmed by cool dudes into Scifi. In the film 2001 the main character suspects that the computer HAL is malfunctioning and wants it to open the pod bay doors. HAL refuses. Here’s what happens with Siri:
Here is Siri answering one of life’s imponderables with a quote from Monty Python:
Of course Siri can be helpful too:
I then stumbled upon the following after typing in ‘What does Siri sound like?’ into google. She seems rude but capable.