Monthly Archives: October 2017

Irish Red Ale

I was at an Irish pub in Charlottetown, Prince Island, Canada last evening and thought I would try one of their Irish Red ales. I realized that I did not know a lot about Irish reds so I decided to educate myself with a little research. First the definition:

Irish Red Ale is an ale originating in Ireland that has a reddish hue from the inclusion of a small amount of roasted barley. In America, some darker amber ales and ales with artificial coloring are also labeled as red ales. A more detailed description would be; medium light to medium body. Low to moderate malt aroma. May have slight roasted grain flavor. Low hop aroma. No hop flavor. Amber to deep-reddish color. Clean finish. No esters. Clean flavor with a caramel malt flavor and a hint of roasted grain. Smooth with moderate carbonation.

I was already familiar with Killian’s Red (full name “George Killian’s Irish Red”) in the US and Rickard’s Red in Canada. Checking the background of each:

George Killian’s Irish Red ale was created in 1864 by Mill Park Brewery in Enniscorthy, Ireland. You can see their full story at The version we buy in the US today is brewed in the US by Coors Brewing Company. So far it is my favorite Red, but, purely in the interest of science I have more investigating and tasting to do.

Rickard’s Red is an American Amber / Red Lager style beer brewed by Molson Coors Canada in Etobicoke, ON, Canada. . It was first brewed in 1983 and does not trace its history back to Ireland.

Other American Brewed Irish Reds (with no direct Irish lineage) are:

  • Samuel Adams Irish Red
  • Samuel Adams Brick Red
  • Great Lakes Conway’s Irish Ale
  • Red Trolley Ale
  • Thomas Hooker Irish Red Ale
  • And the list seems to be endless

The 2 most popular Irish Reds in the US which are imported from Ireland:

Murphy’s Irish Red Murphy’s Brewery was founded in Cork, Ireland in 1856 by James Jeremiah Murphy (James J. Murphy). It was known as Lady’s Well Brewery until it was purchased by Heineken International in 1983, when the name changed to Murphy Brewery Ireland Ltd. The name of the brewery was recently changed to Heineken Brewery Ireland, Ltd. The brewery produces Heineken, Murphy’s stout and other Heineken products for the Irish market.

Smithwick’s Irish Ale – Smithwick’s can trace their brewing history all the way back to 13th century monks at the St. Francis Abby. The Smithwick’s brewery was founded in Kilkenny in 1710. It was acquired by Guinness in 1965, which is now part of Diageo. The Kilkenny brewery was shut down in 2013 and all Smithwick’s and Kilkenny branded beers are now brewed in Dublin.

Other Irish Reds brewed in Ireland are:

  • O’Hara’s Irish Red – Carlow Brewing Company, Ireland
  • Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale – Smithwick’s Brewery, Ireland
  • Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale – – Smithwick’s Brewery, Ireland
  • And there are lots more that I have not discovered yet.

So, in the interest of broadening my knowledge, and sacrificing my liver,  I will keep on researching and tasting. Cheers and bottoms up.

Flying and Rage

I flew a lot when I was working. However, I have not been on a plane since I retired in 2009. Because flying commercially is such a hassle, I vowed never to fly again since it is no longer a condition of employment. However, due to a death in the family I had to fly from Atlanta, Georgia to Halifax, Nova Scotia recently. It caused me to reflect on all the reasons why flying in modern times is so distasteful.

There was a time when flying commercially was even enjoyable. Seats were large enough to accommodate an adult human being. Airplane employees treated you with respect and went out of their way to accommodate your needs. Meal service was provided on long flights; at no charge. If you were stranded at the airport over night, they provided hotel accommodations and meals. And you could arrive at the airport at a time very close to the departure time of your flight, and still make it on board.

Now, you are basically under attack from the time you enter your departure airport until you leave your destination airport. First, Atlanta now advises you to arrive at the airport 3 hours before the scheduled departure time of your flight; there is 3 hours of your life wasted forever (and flying is supposed to save you time?). At the airport you stand in line to pay for the privilege of checking your suitcase, after all the airline knows you are a sucker and will pay whatever they ask. Next comes the endless lines waiting for your dignity to be assaulted by a pat down or x-ray by a TSA agent who was a reject from McDonald’s. And perhaps the agent will chastise you as if you were a small child because you had a dangerous weapon in your briefcase, like a staple remover. (Man you caught me, I had planned to remove every staple in this airplane once we were airborne). By the way, the 3 hour wait is due to the fact that TSA places no value on your time but place the highest possible priority on keeping staff and costs at a minimum. Finally you get to rush to your assigned departure gate only to find that the airline changed it at the last minute, so you run a half mile to the new gate. You finally get to your seat, after finding there is no room for your carry on bag, and the flight attendant chastises YOU for that. It is then that you realize the seat was designed for no one larger than a 12 year old child. Your knees against the seat in front of you and elbow to elbow with your fellow passengers.

The airlines’ policies on seats is the one that annoys me the most. Over the years they have changed the seating plans of planes to move rows of seats closer and closer in order to make room to add more seats. Thus today you get the knee knocker effect. However they still allowed the seats to fully recline. So, once you are finally airborne and made yourself as comfortable as you can in the small space available to you, the person in front of you reclines their seat and now your knees are firmly against their seat back and there headrest is in your face. Also, the space you thought you had on the seat tray to place your laptop is virtually gone; you can put it on the tray but can not open it. One more example of the airline emphasizing to you that your comfort is of no significance to them, all that matters in more seats to maximize profits. They should realize that they can not ignore the consequences of compacted leg room, if they are going to put the seats that close together, they should at least eliminate the reclining function since it is no longer practical. I was encouraged to hear a news announcement a short time ago that some airlines had plans for exactly that; drastically limiting the amount of recline allowed in the seat backs. It sure took them long enough to figure out this simple fact, I hope it actually happens.

I need not spend too many words ranting about lost or damage luggage, it seems inevitable and every flier has experienced it at one time.

In the “good old days” the airlines actually knew that they were the service provider and you were the customer. Now it seems like just the opposite, their actions make it abundantly clear that you, the traveler, are there to provide a service to them. Their needs are paramount and yours are inconsequential.

There have been a number of publicized stories over the last few years of “road rage” type of incidents on airplanes. Passengers assaulting other passengers, passengers assaulting flight attendants, flight attendants assaulting passengers, etc. etc. Although I deplore these incidents I think I understand why they are happening. Since the dawn of civilization, homo sapiens has had to fight to survive. Fight the elements for shelter, fight dangerous animals for food and personal safety, fight waring enemy tribes to avoid capture etc. We have been conditioned, over the centuries, to fight anything that threatens our security. In modern times (the most recent 100 years or so) society has put great pressure on us to be totally docile. Accept attacks from other people and ignore the, shrug them off, accept them and remain calm. Because modern society is so complex and cities are so populace, this is a requirement to avoid total chaos. The majority of the population has been sufficiently neutered that they accept personal attacks and “grin and bear it”. However there are a small number of people who have not been sufficiently reprogrammed into a mindless robot, and they may snap and revert to their survival instincts under high stress situations. And as I mentioned previously, flying is a lot like being under constant personal attack.

We really need to do something to make flying a more humane experience or there will be more and more violent incidents on airplanes.

Is This News?

The shallowness of the television news media continues to amaze me.  The top story for the past couple of days has been debate on how politically correct President Trump was when talking to the mother of a fallen soldier.  And further, a debate on how many families of fallen soldiers that past presidents called.

Wild fires are raging in California, a child was killed by a hit and run driver, crazy people are killing innocent people all over the world; but all these stories are second string. The most important news is about politically correct speech.

Since he started running for office, the media will only report negative things about President Trump. They are so used to reporting on politicians who always say the correct thing, in the most un-offensive way, but actually do nothing constructive. They do not know how to report on a politician that does the opposite (genuinely tries to do what they were elected for, but are not the most elegant orators).

If you are a really lazy reporter, the easiest thing to do is to only attend press conferences and then report on the grimmer and politically correctness of the speaker. Where did all the journalists go who actually researched the background of a news story and reported on it in an unbiased way?

Windows 10 – No; Linux Mint – Yes

Although I had reservations, on November 2 2015, I finally took the plunge and upgraded my laptop from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10. This was my first attempt to like Windows 10. The upgrade went well but everything went down hill from there. As has been well publicized, Windows 10 is riddled with spy ware. Microsoft demands access to all that you do on your computer. They collect all sorts of info about you and use that info to force advertisements on you. Heck, you can not even play simple games like solitaire without signing up for a Microsoft account, giving them access to your game playing habits. In my experience Windows 10 has had problems with the print spooler since day one, and they still pop up occasionally. Other issues such as disappointing Start menu have cropped up over time since Windows 10 rolled out. The most heinous “feature” in Windows 10 (home edition) is the automatic update feature. Unlike other operating systems, there is no longer an option for the user to schedule when the system does an update; and Microsoft does a lot of them. I should note that Windows 10 Pro version apparently does have a feature to control update behavior; but I am not about to pay extra (list price $199) for it just to get that one “feature”. It is much cheaper to just change operating systems. Also, because Microsoft requires constant monitoring of your computing activity, there is not much you can do with Windows 10 unless you have a full time Internet connection active.

It has taken Microsoft years to perfect the Windows OS to be a solid and user friendly platform. Finally they got it right with Windows 7. It has been downhill ever since. The philosophy at Microsoft seems to be that the millennial generation grew up with smart phones and they are very comfortable with that user paradigm. Therefore their direction with PC user interfaces is to make them work just like a smart phone interface, thus abandoning the traditional PC user (the person who wants the PC to be a productivity tool for serious work rather than as primarily a social media tool). This is probably good for their corporate growth into the next century, but it does abandon a whole generation of hard core PC users. I have nothing against smart phones; I have an Android based phone and I really like its capabilities. By the way, the Android OS is based on the Linux OS.

Another disturbing trend in the Windows world is the trend of major software providers to switch to the “software as a service model” which means you no longer buy a user license to a software package and are free to use it as long as you wish. Microsoft and other software vendors are selling software subscriptions that must be re-purchased every year or your software “self destructs”. As a retired person on a fixed income, I can not afford this pricing model.

Some PC die hards decided to just stick with Windows 7 indefinitely. In the typical Microsoft philosophy of total control of your PC they have made efforts to block that practice. First they stopped support of Windows 7 but no longer providing updates. Then, recently, they announced that they were working with PC manufactures to block installation of Windows 7 on newer PC hardware. If you want to run Windows 7 you must only do it on obsolete hardware. They do not want you buying a new PC that comes with Windows 10 pre-installed, and downgrading it to Windows 7 (which a lot of people were doing).

In light of all of the above, in early 2016 I abandoned Microsoft Windows entirely and switched my PC to a Linux operating system (OS). I have been totally happy with Linux and do not miss Windows. In the interest of full disclosure, I do keep my Windows laptop in the closet and I take it out once a year at tax time to do my income tax on Turbo Tax. Intuit do not publish a Linux version of Turbo Tax. This will probably not be an issue in the future since the trend in tax software seems to be toward Income Tax Return preparation totally on-line.

The picture at the left is the PC I built to run Linux on.

There are several versions of Linux available. I am using Linux Mint The user interface is similar to Windows 7 and therefore there is not much of a learning curve. There are many advantages to Linux. First it is totally free to download and use. There is never any charge to use it because it is “open source” software released into the public domain. Also, virtually all the software that can run under the Linux OS is “open source” and therefore totally free. There is high quality software available for virtually every task you would want to do on a PC; complete office suites, Internet browsers, software development systems, video and audio editors, media players, and on and on. As mentioned above, the only software area that I have not found Linux software for is Income Tax preparation software.

I like my smart phone and I like my PC. But they are used in different paradigms. When I am out and about, the Android phone is a fantastic companion. When I sit down at my desk to compose a document, design a web page, edit some photos, etc., I want a ‘real” PC, not a smart phone. And I certainly do not want to be forced to have a full time Internet connection just to get some work done.

Drone? Really?

I do get amused when the news media throw words into a news story to pump up the sensationalism of a story which is otherwise a bit mundane. My pet peeve of the day is the word “drone”.

When I was a teenager back in th 60s, remote controlled model airplanes and helicopters were available. They were called RC model airplanes (RC standing for “radio controlled”). They were great toys for individuals and there were clubs of RC “pilots” that organized field days, competitions etc.. Many adults as well as children participated. The wireless capabilities in those days pretty much limited flights of these devices to ‘line of sight’ from the operator (pilot). Today these same activities take place. The main difference is that electronics have evolved since those days and now these model planes can be remotely controlled over greater distances, can carry miniature campers, and even have GPS receivers. All this at a price that the average hobbyist can afford. As these new and improved toy planes/helicopters became more popular, the media tagged them with evil and sinister traits. They became (in the eyes of the media) a threat to our personal privacy and a deadly hazard to air transportation. You can not report on something this sinister without giving it a new and sinister name.

In parallel with this evolution of the RC model airplane, our military was engaged in a deadly war against terrorism. New weapons were being developed to fight this new threat to the security of the nation. One of these weapons developments was an unmanned war plane that was capable of doing surveillance and delivering bombs and other ordinance on distant enemy locations. All this while the pilot was safe in a secure location thousands of miles away. The military named these remote controlled weapons “drones”. There have been several news stories over the past few years of impressive victories over the enemies of the nation using military drones.

So what does the media do, they decide to use the public interest in military drones to spice up their otherwise boring stories about the new generation of RC model planes. So they started calling them drones as well. Wow, doesn’t that make them sound more sinister? Hey, if you are too lazy to write an engaging story on a mundane subject like the newest generation of toy airplanes, why not just try and borrow some of the public interest generated by stories of “real” drones.

I have called the new RC model planes toys, but I do realize that they are also finding new commercial applications like aerial photography, but they are still not drones. That name is taken.

Ban Everything

I apologize in advance. I normally do not like to share other people’s stuff, but this one was just too succinct and appropriate. There are still people out there who think that passing laws against inanimate objects will eliminate violence from our society. Following that logic let’s ban everything!!

Ban guns?

Guns have existed in our society for a long time. For centuries they were made, one at a time, by blacksmiths; the same people who made horse shoes, door hinges etc. Typically the blacksmith would build all the tools required to make a gun, them use those tools to make the gun. The principles of operation of modern firearms have changed little since the late 1800s (see the list at the end of this article for a brief chronology of event leading up to modern gun design). What has improved over the years is , manufacturing techniques (allowing mass production) and materials developments (using fiber glass, polymer or carbon fiber in place of wood and metal. My point being that anyone with reasonable mechanical skills can learn to make a gun the old fashioned way. In today’s world, with very reasonably priced machine tools such as metal working lathes and drill presses available from mainstream retailers like Harbor Freight, the process can be much simplified.

Banning the manufacture and sale of firearms would likely spawn cottage industries of gun builders much as prohibition created a generation of underground whiskey distillers and distributors. It is commonly believed that the profits from these whiskey sales financed the major crime syndicates which still exist today. Similarly, the banning of marijuana (a weed that anyone can grow anywhere in North America) has created a new underground industry. In desperation, some governments are considering legalizing it since the have been unsuccessful at controlling it.

I saw a newscast recently where a local prison was subjected to a rigorous cell by cell search. It turned up a stack of improvised, and illegal, hand made weapons. An example of how, even in the most controlled and supervised environment we have in our society, evil people will create, possess, and use deadly weapons.

So, lets ban all guns and create another criminal enterprise on the level of the modern day drug cartels. Another great idea from people who can not think rationally. I guess the preceding rant is a long winded way of saying “when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns”.

A brief chronology of the the development of the modern gun.

Gunpowder was invented in 9th-century China and spread throughout most parts of Eurasia by the end of the 13th century.

In 1884 Paul Vieille invented smokeless gun powder. This enabled the development of self loading firearms.

The first practical self-loading machine gun was developed in the mid 1880s by Hiram Maxim.

The first semiautomatic pistol was patented in 1891.

The principles of gun operation have changed little since then.