Saturday, 22 March 2008

The Whisky Shop

It took a long time before someone offered me a whisky I could drink without the burning sensation making me want to pass out. The first whisky I really liked was a 10 year old Isle of Jura single malt and to this day it is still me favourite.

Given that good whisky is expensive I'm always wary of buying a bottle only to find that I don't like it. Given this I'm definitely a fan of the Glenkeir Treasures range from The Whisky Shop. They buy barrels of whisky direct from the distilleries and then decant into small bottles upon request. This way you can try lots of different whiskies at a fraction of the cost it would cost you to try them by buying normal sized bottles. I found out about the shop when I was bought a 10cl bottle of 12 year old Ben Nevis whisky for my birthday last year. A truly fantastic whisky!

Now I have a clearer idea of what I think makes a good whisky I'm going to follow this flavour chart and try some more light and delicate whiskies. Although I won't rule out trying a smoky rich whisky either!

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Lego Computer Games

On paper they seem ridiculous: take a well known film franchise, re-imagine it in Lego, and then turn it into a computer game! How anyone ever managed to persuade their boss that it was a money making idea is beyond me.

Having said all that I'm blown away by just how good they are and how much fun they are to play. My current favourite Wii game is Lego Starwars. If you still can't imagine the concept then here is a trailer for the game:

I've previously mentioned that some of my favourite childhood films are the Indiana Jones movies. So given how much I'm enjoying Lego Starwars I've just pre-ordered Lego Indiana Jones!

Thursday, 13 March 2008

A Unique vs An Unique

Yesterday I was reviewing a paper that had clearly been written by a non-native speaker of English. When reviewing papers I try and give as much feedback as I can, mostly as I appreciate it when reviewers do that with my papers. As well as commenting on the content I also try and correct any spelling and grammar errors that I encounter. This may be a surprise to many of you as my own level of spelling and grammar is not considered world class, but when writing or reviewing papers I seem to get a better feel for when things are right or wrong.

So I was happily reviewing the paper when I encountered a sentence that started "An unique aspect of ....". I instantly changed the an to a and then stopped. Clearly "a unique" sounds right whereas "an unique" is difficult to say, but wasn't I always taught that words starting with a vowel should be preceded by an not a?

A quick look at my copy of the OED showed that it is definitely "a unique" as it gives the example "a unique opportunity to see the spectacular Bolshoi Ballet." A longer hunt through my English textbooks (working in natural language processing I have a surprising number of books on the English language) drew a blank so I turned to the web for answers.

It looks as if the reason for "a unique" is that it isn't the starting letter that is important but rather the starting sound and the suggestion was that the word unique is pronounced yoo-neek and the constant sound means you use a not an -- although I'm not entirely convinced that yoo is a constant sound!

When I dug a little deeper I found that there are actually many more examples of this in everyday usage that I'd never noticed. For example, we say "an hour" as we don't pronounce the h and we say "an MP3 file" as we pronounce MP3 em-pee-three. No wonder non-native speakers get confused when we make up easy to remember rules and then break them at every available opportunity!

While writing this post I remembered something I overheard a few years ago at work. A non-native speaker had seen a carpet described as "shag pile" and was totally confused!

Tuesday, 11 March 2008


After my previous disaster I finally got around to making another batch of flapjacks, so I can finally post the recipe that you have all been waiting for! As some of you can attest to, this recipe really does make very good flapjacks.

Ingredients (makes 12 flapjacks)
4oz margarine
4 rounded tablespoons of golden syrup
3.5 oz granulated sugar
8oz rolled oats
a pinch of salt

Cooking Instructions
Put the margarine and syrup in a pan and heat gently until the margarine has melted. Remove from heat and stir in the oats, sugar and salt.

Carefully press the mixture into a greased 12"x7" shallow tin. Cook at 160C (325F) for between 30 and 40 minutes until golden brown.

Immediately on removing from oven cut into 12 with a round bladed knife, but do NOT attempt to remove from the tin. Allow the tin to cool for 10 to 15 minutes and then gently remove the flapjacks and place on a wire rack to finish cooling.

Completed TV

A while back I blogged about American TV series that I really enjoyed even though they were cancelled before they had been allowed to run their course. I thought that today I'd show the flip side -- the American TV series I enjoyed that were allowed to end correctly.

So if you want to watch good American TV that doesn't suddenly stop in the middle of a story line have a look at these.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

The (Slightly) Hot Seat

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Footprints In The Snow

Following on from the footprints in the sand I bring you footprints in the snow.

I've no idea what caused them although I'd assume a mammal of some form. They were too big for a cat and too elongated for a dog so I'm assuming a fox, although I have no reason to really believe that is the case.

Any suggestions?

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Handle At The Back

Surely the answer is to simply point the handle towards the back when putting something into the microwave when there is no chance of burning your fingers!