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  • Vodka

    I rightly contribute losing 20ish pounds (9kg) purely by swapping beer for Vodka. What surprised me, is as I explored this, to me, unknown drink, I have found a new world of taste and enjoyment. As such, I would like to share my Vodka journey with you lot.

    Not only did I lose weight, but I just feel better for not having the carbohydrate and grain intake.
    (And if you accidentally over do it, the hangover is (for me) totally non-existent. Not that I would know anything about that of course).

    Ok, so hears the most important thing about Vodka. If you have had it in the past and not enjoyed it, it is because you are buying cheap stuff. It is as simple as that.
    Time and time again, I have had people over (shocking I know) and asked them if they would like to try some Vodka. The answer is the same. “The stuff is nasty, I tried it once and vowed never again”. I am not for breaking vows, but if I can, I offer to open their eyes. Every single person has taken me up, and every single one has been amazed and impressed with the difference.

    Second most important thing about Vodka…. You sip it.
    The only reason to slam one down (shooting shots, or whatever your teenage self has memories of) is because it is so cheap and nasty that you want the taste part of it over as soon as you can and thus get it inside you to get the kick.
    If this is the case, and you really really want to slam it down, then please let me know, and I will adjust my tasting session. (In other words, you don’t get to try the good stuff – and I pour you half or less sized servings).
    So, shot glass, slightly over sized, ice cubes (I am looking at getting a special small ultra filtered water table top ice cube maker – the vodka warms up too fast here without the ice) and always keep the good stuff in the freezer. Fridge at the very least. With that, you are good to go.
    Seriously, good Vodka is really really enjoyable. It is not uncommon for us to enjoy a shot glass size for some 20-30 minutes.

    Matt B and I were talking about Vodka one Skype call some random day, and he asked a very good question… “What does Vodka taste like?”
    Tough to answer. Tell me what a rose smells like…. You see my point. What a wine to me and the same wine to you tastes like is hard to describe, but here again is a very important thing…. Matt, like most people, thought that Vodka was tasteless. And, even more to the point, the better the Vodka, the more tasteless it was.
    Not so.
    Here are some tasting notes from a vodka website;

    Tasting. There are three senses involved in a tasting of vodka: smell, sight and taste.

    • Smell. Smell the vodka as you briefly swirl it about in your glass. A good vodka will have a creamy, sweet or grainy odor. A bad vodka will smell medicinal or “aggressive,” with a strong odor of ethyl spirits.
    • Sight. Hold the vodka glass up to the light and look at the liquid’s clarity, texture and luminescence. A fine vodka will have a thick and creamy texture when frozen; it may also have a bluish or yellowish tint. One expert Russian taster noted that vodka is valued “not just for clarity, but for a crystalline lustre, an internal energy.” [Ben – I agree with this, a good one does not look like water, it has a shine to it].
    • Taste. It all comes down to this. A good vodka should taste soft not hard, creamy not watery, smooth not rough. It should not be bitter or caustic, it should not burn your palate.

    It very much does has a taste and there is a large variation between brands and even within levels of the same brand.
    As for the taste…. It is very unique. I can not really put a finger on it. Most people have had say a red wine and so we can talk about wood, smoke, oak, earth, pepper and so on, whereas describing Vodka is a lot harder since it is a very unique taste…. The grain is the most obvious, but I have not tasted anything else like it, so unlike red wine, I can’t talk about common tastes that we all know.

    Long blog long.
    Here is my scoring system.

    0 / 5 Mouth wash. Worse, engine degreaser. (Mostly likely, if you have tried it in the past, this is the stuff you had). Most likely flavoured. Do yourself (and me) a favor and pour it down the sink.

    1 / 5 Mixer at worse. Add it to your orange juice rather than waste the money.

    2 / 5 Suffer through it. At least it barely burns at the end.

    3 / 5 This is drinkable. Not as complex or as interesting as the good stuff, but enjoyable.

    4 / 5 Ok, now we are talking. This is the stuff I really enjoy.

    5 / 5 We have not found one yet, but many have come close. Smooth, tasty and a lovely velvet finish.

  • Hot knife

    I know Matt (BA) would be in line to get one of these….

    Short run time, but packing a lot of power.
    I like the bit that it runs underwater, could really save some lives.
    Also the bit where you can trigger a few of them from the one handle is pretty sweet.
    All in all, very expensive no doubt, but seems really well built.

  • Same problem, different motor

    This just in;


    In a sternly worded letter, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has issued a new set of allegations against Volkswagen claiming that so-called emissions defeat software has been found in the company’s 3.0-liter TDI V6 diesel engines. This is a completely different engine than the 2.0 TDI that has already been identified as an emissions cheater. In addition to VW, the EPA has included Audi and Porsche in this notification, as the non-compliant engine has been used in vehicles from all three manufacturers from model years 2014 through 2016.

    I think I have said enough on the topic.
    The only point I want to make is that this is going to go on for a while now.
    More cars will be tested, more problems will be found.

    This is not a technology problem or story at this stage, it is a human one.

  • Emission testing. Dodgy for years.

    It seems that the current VW scandle is nothing new. They and many others have been at it for years.
    This long but interesting read from Ars is worth your time if you have deeper interest in the topic.


    Here are some highlights if you are short of time.

    Because defeat devices have such a complicated history, it’s helpful to take a look at what a defeat device is, how the EPA tests for them, and what’s happened when they’ve been found in the past, to get some context for Volkswagen’s most egregious breach of public trust.

    I like this about Ars, they give a bit of history so that the current mess is better understood. This is some quality tech writing… Anyway, let’s move on.

    The current primary test procedure for emissions is called FTP-75. The car’s engine is hooked up to a dynamometer and run for about 31 minutes, testing it from a cold start, in a stabilized phase, and then with a hot start. The car has to “travel” for 11.04 miles at an average speed of 21.2mph, with a maximum speed of 56.7mph.

    Gary Bishop, a research associate at the University of Denver who has worked on building systems to remotely monitor vehicle emissions in the real world, told Ars that the EPA’s tests set the manufacturers up for success, even if it’s not entirely warranted. “If anyone (including car manufacturers) knows the test ahead of time, why would anyone ever expect you to flunk that test?”

    “One thing most people are not aware of is that manufacturers will have specific drivers who drive certain models because they can legally drive the test and produce the lowest emissions for that model,” Bishop continued. “[It’s] not cheating but one [can] expect that vehicle to behave differently off the test with real drivers.”

    So we have a really well defined test, we have a driver from the car company that drives the car for the test (in a shed, not on a public road). Its interesting to note that the test does not take the car to full highway speed.
    As the guy points out, is it any wonder then that the car companies really have everything going for them to pass the test?

    The games started almost as soon as the test was introduced.
    Back then, the cars were fitted with ‘analog defeat devices’.

    In a January 1974 Report to Congress (PDF), the EPA wrote that in the previous year it had opened an investigation concerning “the failure to report the existence of and the use of possible defeat devices by Volkswagen on a substantial number of 1973 model year vehicles”

    Around the same time (1974), the EPA also reprimanded six manufacturers—GM, Ford, Chrysler, American Motors, Nissan, and Toyota—for installing devices which would “defeat the effectiveness of emission control systems under conditions not experienced during EPA’s certification testing.”

    So to be clear, since the test is so well defined, the car companies can literally build their cars performance around the legal requirements of the test.

    Between 1991 and 1995, GM sold approximately 470,000 Seville, DeVille, Eldorado, and Fleetwood model Cadillacs with 4.9L V8 engines that turned off the emissions control system when the driver turned on the air conditioner.

    (The test, then and now, is done with no air-con.)

    In 1998 the EPA reached a settlement with Ford over defeat devices found on 60,000 1997 Econoline vans. Ford was accused of equipping its electronic control module with instructions to increase fuel economy (and override the emissions control system) when the vans were driven at highway speeds.

    The problem is not limited to cars either.

    1998 was a good year for the EPA Enforcement Action writer. In October of that year, the EPA reached a settlement with seven of the largest heavy-duty diesel manufacturers in the US—Caterpillar, Cummins Engine Company, Detroit Diesel Corporation, Mack Trucks, Navistar International Transportation Corporation, Renault Vehicules Industriels, and Volvo Truck Corporation. The accusations were eerily familiar to those made by the EPA against Volkswagen today.

    According to press releases from 1998, the truck makers all included defeat devices on their vehicles that controlled fuel injection timing, allowing the industrial engines to pass emissions tests in controlled settings but changing the fuel injection timing at higher speeds, to help trucks get better fuel economy. To achieve this fuel economy, however, the engines gave off up to three times as much nitrogen oxide (NOx) as they did at slower speeds.

    So, long story long.
    It’s been going on for years (and years), it is not unique to VW or cars.
    The EPA is looking to change its test and make it more real world, but there is no action toward that for now.

    I read one guy’s web blurb and it went along the lines of this… “mark this event in your history books, the VW / EPA mess will go down as THE event that triggered the rise of the electric car.”
    Perhaps he’s right, given the pollution issues that are starting to show up in Europe where the diesel has been king (Paris has a system where odd / even number plate cars take turns at driving to reduce air pollution – electric is exempt), and the fact that most EU members are in the process of passing (or already have passed) similar emission laws as in California, the electric car is the one sure way to mitigate all this mess.

    I have friends at church that own said models of VW’s, they are annoyed and disappointed, but feel powerless. They can not afford to change cars, and they like the one they have, but are upset that they pollute more than they should.
    It is a mess and I don’t think the end is in sight just yet.

  • 4 for 5. I should just give up now.

    Stubbed my toe on this post while looking for something else.


    5 things emotionally stable people don’t do.

    1. They don’t get offended by other people’s behavior.

    2. They don’t get lost in useless drama and arguments.

    3. They don’t let one bad day get them down.

    4. They don’t think they’re perfect.

    5. They don’t hate themselves.

    Seems the more I try and grow up, the more I fail at doing it.