What is the answer to the giraffe riddle on facebook?

Have you heard about the giraffe riddle on facebook? Surely, either you or one of your many friends has come across this rather peculiar trend. The story goes, that you have to solve the following riddle and if you don’t, you have to set your profile picture to a giraffe:

It’s 3 a.m., the doorbell rings and you wake up. Unexpected visitors! It’s your parents and they are here for breakfast. You have strawberry jam, honey, wine, bread and cheese. What is the first thing you open?

Clearly there is only one correct answer: ‘your eyes’.

But many people also put ‘the door’. Can this be argued correct? Well, actually it can. Aren’t some of us insomniacs?

The riddle seems a bit silly, but nevertheless, it is fun to watch how many people get engaged in this game.

Giraffe

 

What are the best Halloween costumes?

This is a good question! Today is Halloween and millions are dying around the world … to know what would be THE best Halloween costume. How should you chose a good costume for the festivities today? This is no easy task and it is surely a matter of taste and it is a cultural question, too. Find here three great suggestions that might help your search …

The broken man …

broken_man

 

 

The zip woman …

zip_woman

 

The pixilated woman…

pixel_woman

Images reproduced from i47.tinypic.com, img.wonderhowto.com and panicdots.com.

Sarah Lazar: How to Reshape Your Brain

Can sport and meditation reshape your brain? Can meditation increase your attention span? Can meditation help you improve your life?

Sara-Lazar

Neuroscientist Sarah Lazar discusses how repetitive behaviour can reshape your brain. The brain is highly plastic and meditation can indeed influence your abilities to live your life and enhance your quality of living.

What this fascinating TED talk here:

The original video can be found on: http://www.ted.com/

Chocolate: From Beverage to Confectionery

In its early days chocolate was an extremely rich beverage. It contained a fatty substance known as cacao butter which tended to rise to the top, where it would float in unappetising greasy pools. Manufacturers overcame this to some extent by adding starchy substances to absorb the fat – a process similar to the Aztec tradition of adding ground maize.

Coenraad Van Houten

Coenraad Van Houten

Manufacturers also tried unsuccessfully for years to devise a way of separating out the greasy cacao butter. Breakthrough came in 1828 when, after years of trial and error, a Dutch chemist named Coenraad Van Houten patented a new and extremely efficient hydraulic press. His machine was able to extract about 50% of the butter present in the “liquor” (the paste produced after grinding the beans brackets), leaving behind a refined, brittle, cake–like residue that could then be pulverised to a fine powder.

Not satisfied, Van Houten went one step further. He treated the powder with alkaline salts in order to improve the ease with which it could be mixed with water. The process, which came to be known as  “Dutching”, also darkened the colour of the chocolate and lightened the flavour – a curious anomaly since plain chocolate is usually assumed to have a stronger flavour. Today many people believe they prefer Dutch chocolate because of its strong flavour, but it may simply be the colour that attracts them.Van_Houten's_Chocolade

Van Houten’s inexhaustible patience revolutionised the chocolate industry, leading to the manufacture of what we know now as cocoa powder, which in Van Houten’s time was called “cocoa essence”. His work also led to a complete improvement within the industry. Van Houten sold his rights to his machine 10 years after he took out the patent, bringing it into general use.

CADBURYS-COCOA-ESSENCE

Among the first customers were the Frys and the Cadburys, every eager to outdo each other. Both firms were quick to enter the cocoa essence market, actively promoting the product’s purity and ease of preparation. The oldest style starch–based products were classified as adulterated, resulting in several fears legal battles between rival firms. Van Houten’s press also initiated the industry’s next step in gearing up – the large-scale production of chocolate as confectionery.

Having separated out the butter from the bean, the industry was left with the question of what to do with it – it was certainly too good to waste. What happened was that somehow one of the cocoa manufacturers hit upon the idea of melting the cacao butter and combining it with a blend of ground cacao beans and sugar. The resulting mixture was a smooth and malleable paste that tolerated the added sugar without becoming gritty; the fat helped to dissolve it. The paste was also thin enough to be poured into a mould and cast, and it is from this concept that “eating chocolate” was developed.

FRYS-CHOCOLATE-AND-COCOA

The Fry family claimed to have been the first to market the new product. Reflecting the current popularity of French style products, they named the bars “Chocolat Délicieux à Manger” and exhibited them at a trade fair in Birmingham in 1849. The bars were an overnight success, and eating chocolate became very popular.

As a result of the new craze the price of cocoa butter rocketed and eating chocolate became an expensive luxury product popular with the elite of society. Meanwhile cocoa was relegated to the lower classes.

Images reproduced from exhibits.mannlib.cornell.edu, nl.wikipedia.org and cadbury.com

Targeting Inflammation Has Alzheimer’s Benefits in Mice

Research has shown that antibodies designed to block two proteins involved in inflammation, can reduce features of Alzheimer’s in mice. The study, which uses similar antibodies to ones approved for treatment of psoriasis, is published online on 25 November in the journal Nature Medicine.

There is increasing evidence that inflammation in the brain can play a role in Alzheimer’s disease. Specialist immune cells in the brain called microglia are thought to be involved in the inflammatory response in the brain that may contribute to the disease.

To study this further, the scientists from Universities in Germany and Switzerland studied mice bred to develop features of Alzheimer’s. The team discovered that the mice had high levels of two messengers called IL-12 and IL-23 in the brain. Both are made up of protein building blocks, and a protein called p40 is a common component of both. The researchers stopped the p40 protein from being produced in the mice and observed a marked decrease in brain levels of the hallmark Alzheimer’s protein amyloid.

The team then used antibodies designed to stick to p40 and stop it from working. The antibodies were given to the mice for 60 days and the team saw both a reduction in amyloid levels and an improvement in the cognitive problems normally seen in these mice.

When the researchers looked for p40 in cerebrospinal fluid of people, they found higher p40 levels in people with Alzheimer’s compared to those without the disease.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“There is increasing evidence that inflammation is a key player in Alzheimer’s and it is an exciting area for researchers working to defeat this devastating disease. This promising research adds further support for the role of the immune system in Alzheimer’s, linking two inflammatory proteins to the disease in mice. Early studies like these are crucial to help highlight new targets for drug development, but we need to be careful not to assume that what is true for mice is true for men. Before any new Alzheimer’s drug can reach patients, first it must be rigorously tested in clinical trials.

“Alzheimer’s Research UK is funding many research studies delving deeper into the link between inflammation and Alzheimer’s, but without continued support the potential of studies like these is at risk. Research into dementia remains hugely underfunded compared to other diseases, and with a growing number of people affected by Alzheimer’s, we must rally together to tackle this disease before it is too late.”

This material has been published with the kind permission of Alzheimer Research UK.

TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – “Girl in the Flower Dress”

 

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Ruth Negga as the Episode’s title character

Girl in the Flower Dress is the first episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to progress the show’s overall plotline since the pilot. Various plot points that haven’t been addressed for weeks are quickly resolved or developed further. More significant events happen in this single episode than in the past four episodes. In some ways, such progress is a good sign. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has had tremendous problems finding a distinct identity and tone; though none of the episodes have been terrible, many have bordered on being mediocre because of this lack of direction. The unfortunate side of an episode like this is that it has automatically made the previous four episodes utterly irrelevant. A future viewer could easily forego them without losing anything of importance. This is episodic storytelling of the laziest nature.

The episode itself, however, is certainly entertaining. A Hong Kong street magician (Louis Ozawa Changchien) with the power to project fire from his hands is abducted by the sinister Centipede organisation that was last seen in the pilot. Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and his S.H.I.E.L.D. agents travel to Texas to track a computer hacker with a connection to the abduction. The computer hacker, Miles (Austin Nichols), turns out to be Skye’s (Chloe Bennet) boyfriend. More shocking to the team is the revelation that Skye has been compiling information on S.H.I.E.L.D. in secret, breaking the bonds of trust between her and the rest of the team. Secrets and information are at the forefront of the episode’s thematic concerns. Much of the episode is spent with Miles and Skye debating the merits of freedom of information. Edward Snowden’s name is dropped (likely in an attempt to be culturally relevant) as the two characters discuss the politics of leaking potentially dangerous information to the world in the name of freedom. Unlike the similar debate that took place in the second episode, in which no conclusion was found in regards to the freedom verses security dispute, this episode almost outright condemns the “hacktivist” movement by portraying Miles as untrustworthy and arrogant; hiding behind his speeches of freedom and democracy whilst committing crimes for his own self-interest. This is a surprisingly conservative viewpoint for the show to take, considering its usually more liberal sensibilities. Depending upon one’s politics, the episode will either be more or less palatable than any other episode so far.

Alongside the Skye and Miles plot is the ongoing story of the Chinese magician, who comes to call himself “Scorch” in reference to his superhuman fire powers. The notion that all people with superpowers have to select bizarre names for themselves is an interesting way of linking the series back to its cinematic precursors; the Marvel Comics films (in which superheroes with catchy codenames are commonplace). “Scorch” is taken to a secret lab by the titular girl in the flower dress (Ruth Negga) where he and his strange powers are experimented upon. Shannon Lucio returns from the Pilot as a scientist hoping to advance Scorch’s powers. Having a character with fire powers allows for a very exciting and visually stunning finale in which Coulson and May (Ming-Na Wen) have to enter the lab facility and battle the now-insane Scorch. The special effects of Scorch’s fire powers look great, as does a surprisingly dark sequence in which one of the villains is burnt to death and melted into ash. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has so far managed to tell several varied and interesting stories centred around ordinary people gaining powers and at least at this point in the show’s lifespan, the trope has not become worn or overused. More episodes of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team taking on superhumans would be very welcome.

Like every episode of this show, there are some pretty glaring problems. All of the scenes that take place in China are accompanied with stereotypical Chinese music. Not only is this more than a little racist, it insults the intelligence of the viewer by suggesting that we’d forget where the characters are unless the music reminds us. Much of the character’s dialogue continues to be trite and witty for the sake of being witty. One imagines that Brett Fletcher, the writer of this episode according to IMDB.com, was concerned more with the characters speaking in cool quotable one-liners than he was with giving the characters compelling or realistic lines. The Scorch character’s turn from slightly unpleasant to homicidally insane was far too quick to take seriously. Perhaps the biggest problem with this episode, and with all of the episodes of this show, is the creator’s emphasis on the characters as a family rather than as a team. Five episodes in and the characters are being written as if they’ve been together for years; as if this is the second or third season rather than the first. Obviously, watching the characters bond over time is the appeal of a programme like this. The problem is that it seems like the show’s creators wanted to sidestep character development in order to make the team like a dysfunctional family from day one. Watching these characters evolve from a formal team into something more personal and familial should have been the main joy of watching this show. Instead, when Skye seemingly betrays her teammates in this episode, the other agents act like a beloved family member has been lying to them. It is too early in the show’s existence for the characters to be treating each other in this way. In other words, this episode is one of the stronger thus far but it still has not broken away from the same issues that have surrounded the show from day one.

Image from comicbook.com

Arcade Fire: New Album ‘Reflektor’

The Arcade Fire has released their new album ‘Reflektor. Again, they blow my mind. The music still has the familiar beat typical for the band and the music has evolved into a new mesmerising type of Indie Pop. The Canadian band certainly has hit the nerves of its fans and they will not be disappointed. Listen to Arcade Fire here and enjoy the new album:

Reflektor

Look Younger Using Nutrigenomics

London Life Coach & Wellbeing Consultant Sloan Sheridan-Williams talks about Dr Perricone’s research into nutrigenomics. Follow Sloan on Twitter @SloanSW_London and check out Sloan’s website www.sloansw.com

Last year, you heard us talk about epigenetics which is the study of changes produced in gene expression caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA.

Now we delve into a new and more specific niche – nutrigenomics. This field analyses both nutrition and genomics studying the relationship between what we eat and our gene expression, which begs the question on everyone’s lips – can we turn back time by changing what we eat and drink?

This niche area of scientific research questions what factors in food affect gene expression and in turn how the genes we possess react and utilise the nutrients we put into our body. If this research is proved to have any evidential value it could mean that by manipulating what we eat and when we eat it in addition to lifestyle, there is a possibility that we can change the way in which our genes are expressed and even influence the way information is transmitted.

It is commonly known amongst scientists that inflammation is present in conditions that we refer to as aging or age-related. Nutrigenomics and in particular gene expression allows us to find new ways to stop the genes responsible for inflammation by silencing them with specific stimuli.

Scientists will often discuss that genes can be upregulated (turned on) by transcription factors which translocate to the nucleus of the cell in question attaching to specific receptor sites on the genes themselves. Nutrigenomics research has shown us that although transcription factors play a very important role on gene expression,  that nutritents found in everyday foods can also affect gene expression in powerful and positive ways.

Dr Perricone’s research on nutrigenomics has revealed and claimed that his list of nutrients can result in:

  • Healthy body weight
  • Decreased incidence of cancer
  • Reduced cognitive decline
  • Maintenance of bone density
  • Optimal immune system functioning
  • Maintenance of muscle mass
  • Prevention of metabolic syndrome
  • Efficient functioning endocrine system
  • Reduction in aging

There have been many diets on the market which help aid in reversing the effects of time on your skin but Dr Perricone’s book Forever Young may have just hit the nail on the head.

Scientists working on the human genome project have for years been waxing lyrical about how genetic manipulation will transform our lives immeasurably. In the meantime the most successful diet for anti-aging so far seems to be the one that encourages a variety of colours and flavours into our diet also known as rainbow foods. The reason why this diet seems to have been working is that these foods unbeknownst to us have according to nutrigenomics been upregulating (turning on) the protective restorative genes while downregulating (turning off) the damaging ones.

For those of you wanting to add some of the superfoods that pack a powerful nutrigenomic punch when it comes to banishing aging, the next time you’re in the supermarket fill your trolley with:

  • Watercress
  • Cinnamon
  • Tumeric
  • Chocolate
  • Green tea

Watercress is useful as it contains active pharmaocophores. It is thought that these “super ingredients” control transcription factors and gene expression.  In fact, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested that not only do these pharmacophores reduce blood cell DNA damage but also help the blood cells prevent further DNA damage caused by free radicals.

If green tea is not your thing (its catechins are thought to suppress NF-KB) you could also try the following products which contain similar phytochemicals which also suppress NF-KB thereby purportingly keeping you looking younger for longer. These products include:

  • Basil
  • Rosemary
  • Blueberries
  • Cloves
  • Fennel
  • Coriander
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Pomegranates
  • Red chillis

For those of you who jumped for joy reading that chocolate was a nutrigenomic favourite, make sure that you choose an extra dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa content and where possible try to select non-Dutched cocoa. This type of chocolate not only affects brain chemistry, with particular reference to serotonin and dopamine making it a natural anti-depressant, but it also works on the cardiovascular system reducing the incidence of athelosclerosis.

If you would like to kick-start your anti-aging process I suggest you look into anti-inflammatory diets which claim a noticeable and visible improvement in your skin in as little as three days. Such diets consist of:

  • Proteins in the form of fish, poultry and tofu
  • Low glycemic index carbohydrates
  • Rainbow coloured fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Healthy fats as found in fish, nuts, seeds and olive oil
  • At least 8 glasses of water a day
  • Antioxidant rich beverages such as green tea

If three days seems too long and too much effort for a quick fix of radiance, EF MediSpas are offering DermaQuest glycolic acid resurfacing for as little as £70. For more details go to www.dermaquestinc.co.uk.

For those of you who are a little braver, the Aesthetic Medical Clinic offers the RH Nutriboost treatment which uses acupunture-style needles to deliver homeopathic remedies, vitamins, nutrients and plant extracts to the mesoderm (middle layer of your skin) followed by rehydration of your skin and correction of collagen damage. These sessions cost £280. For more details call the clinic on 020 7636 1313.

If you have any further questions on nutrigenomics or if you have tried an anti-inflammatory diet and would like to share your experiences, I look forward to your comments below.

Images reproduced from thehealthblogger.com, molgen.mpg.de, hubpages.com, amazon.com and docakilah.wordpress.com

Film Review: Runner Runner

Runner Runner
Runner Runner is an unusual film. It had me pretty divided. I loved the three main ’big guns’; Gemma Atherton, Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake. The plot and direction I did struggle with. I’ll get to that soon.

It’s all about a struggling student, Richie Furst (Timberlake) whose cheated out of an online game, which he would have won to sort out his financial mess. Hmm. Not the most promising of plots but I’ve encountered worse!

He’s getting money for his degree by telling students about on-line gambling. He gets money for recommendations. Rather like some home shopping catalogues give you money in your account for getting a friend to join – but Ritchie gets actual money! (Lucky him!)

The difference is Ivan Block (Affleck), who cheats cheater Richie; is just better at it. Richie flies to meet Ivan in Costa Rica to confront him. He ends up working for Ivan and having an affair with Ivan’s ex (Atherton). Then the film turns with a corrupt FBI agent kidnapping Richie, demanding he help being Ivan down. As far as the agent is concerned, Ivan has brought about Doomsday! A tad extreme, but there you go.

As the film progresses the plots get wilder, Ivan shipping in Richie’s father, the money does exist – no it doesn’t.. it’s electronic… and so it goes on, the plot holes are massive. I did not feel sympathy for Richie being cheated – when he was doing wrong in the first place by the way he got the recommendations. Trying to hide it from the Dean? Come on, you know he’s going to find out!

Why would you work for someone who cheated you? How can Richie fly to Costa Rica if he’s lost all his money? How was the money tied up in the website? I’m not tech savvy so it was lost on me as where the money actually was! And the biggest question – at which point did I actually stop caring?

Was the director trying to say something about real money and that it’s mostly electronic now with computers and smart phone you can swipe barcodes with? Little explanations and silly sideline plots.

It was all about Affleck and Timberlake in a gorgeous island setting. Yachts, beaches and games. All good but that wasn‘t the point of this film. If it was, I would been just happy as Larry to sail around the world with them. Timberlake and Affleck should do another film, wasn’t there a true story about a couple of guys sailing around the world?

This venture however lacked proper vision to keep focus on what the point was. Atherton is a wonderful actress, yet again she’s used as the love object with little to do. It’s a shame as she’s very good.

Where was the imagination? The thrill? The difference? The fireworks? This movie is straight guide into why films should have an accountant on site to prevent overspending! Maybe they were trying to be clever like the series Lost? But it was more like Clueless. Even BBC’s 1 new hero Jason wouldn’t be able to save this viewing.

This, after much debate, internal argument and many chocolate biscuits, I will be giving 5/10. Not the worst, but could’ve been better. Go watch it for the stars but never for the plot!

Image reproduced from wikipedia.co.uk
Trailer reproduced from YouTube / 20th Century Fox

Tinder: 2 Months On

My last article saw me about a month into the ‘Tinder Experience’. Back then, it was still early days, and I wasn’t being overly selective with who I chose to have online chats with or chose to meet. Since I first downloaded the app in July, the learning curve has been steep.

Tinder was my first foray into the murky pool of online dating, and I have to admit I became addicted very quickly. I was being called ‘beautiful’ or ‘stunning’ pretty much on a daily basis, and let’s face it what girl wouldn’t love that? The great thing about Tinder is that you’re only allowed to send messages to someone if you’ve both liked each other’s profiles, so at least these compliments were coming from guys I had already liked the look of. I’ve recently joined Plenty Of Fish (aka Plenty Of Freaks), where literally anyone can message you, and some of the stuff I’ve received on there has been jaw-droppingly weird/perverted/rude.

tinder feetFor more of the same, go to http://charlotteevr.wordpress.com/type/aside/

So, moving forwards: on to the dates themselves. So far I’ve been on a total of 10 first dates through Tinder with quite a varied bunch of guys. A civil servant, an engineer, a project manager, a digital marketing executive, an accountant, a portfolio manager, an estate agent, an IT sales specialist, and investment banker and a guy who’s job completely baffled me and I’m not too sure how to describe it (he was very boring so it was difficult to take in much of the drone). Out of the ten, only four made it to second date status, and fewer still to the third. Am I still single? Yes. Am I still going on dates? Yes. I think the first Tinder wedding is quite a way off yet.

What has been a complete revelation is how different can be in person from how they come across in written form. As a total newbie to the online dating scene, this conundrum hadn’t really been presented to me before. Everyone I’ve ever texted I’d met previously at least for a few minutes: long enough to get some idea of their personality. I can think of at least three dates where the guy turned out to be no way near as funny or charming or flirtatious as they were via WhatsApp. Which got me to thinking: have any of them thought the same of me?

A few dates have definitely stood out from the others. There was a first where I got so drunk that I could barely walk and had to be pretty much held up whilst attempting to dance in a bar where there is no dance floor (http://singlechicksblog.com/2013/10/02/how-not-to/). And yes I did hear from him again, shockingly enough. There was the time I got taken for a ten-course taster menu at a newly-opened restaurant in Clapham, which I never would have done of my own accord. There was also the date where I agreed to go on a run with someone. Hey if a guy can still be attracted to you at the end of a 5k run then surely that’s a good sign??

There have also been the dates that never happened. By this I mean you get to the point in messaging someone where you agree to meet for a drink. One of you has to reschedule at the last minute. A few days later you’re mulling over outfit choices again for tomorrow’s re-arranged date, only to have it postponed once more. Having been through this several times now, I know that a double reschedule means you should drop the guy and move on. In a similar vein, it seems that it’s quite normal to have a ‘conversation’ with someone (via WhatsApp or Tinder) that lasts for weeks but neither side makes to move to meet up. Again, not worth the time or hassle.

Overall, Tinder’s been a bit hit-and-miss, but I’m having fun and enjoying being taken out on dates. Plenty of Fish has been thoroughly entertaining in throwing up the downright strange dregs of society that can be found on the internet, and who knows there might be a couple of potentials on there. In a less tangible sense, Tinder has done a lot more for me in that it has made me re-think my attitude towards online dating. Before the summer, I was firmly believed that places like Match.com were purely for the desperate older people who thought they were going to find The One on the internet. But now I realise that this is not the case. To put it simply: it’s hard to escape the weirdos in a bar, but it’s easy to block them on the internet. Online dating means you can filter out the crazy ones (to a certain extent), and also have that boring where-do-you-work-where-are-you-from chat without having to shout over some awful Miley Cyrus remix.

tinder cheeky

TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – “Eye Spy”

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 The dramatic opening sequence.

Eye Spy is the most consistently good episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. so far. The episode boats an interesting premise, genuine emotional stakes, strong acting and much of the tension and suspense that was missing from the last episode. However, it retains many of the faults that have plagued the show thus far. The episode begins with a visually interesting sequence in which a small group of masked men in red masks board a subway train in Stockholm. A mysterious woman (Pascale Armand) stealthily follows and attacks these men in an attempt to steal diamonds that they are carrying. Aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. plane (nicknamed “the Bus”), Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) reveals to his S.H.I.E.L.D. team that the mystery woman is a former agent who has been missing for years. After some investigation, the team discover that she has been fitted with a cybernetic implant in her eye and that she is being forced to carry out criminal acts by an unidentified antagonist. With the wayward agent in S.H.I.E.L.D. hands, Skye (Chloe Bennet) hacks the ocular implant and finds a way to transfer its feedback into a pair of glasses. Ward (Brett Dalton) wears these glasses and endeavours to carry out their unknown opponents’ mission commands in an attempt to find out who they’re dealing with.

Surveillance is the central theme of this episode. Early in the proceedings, Coulson remarks that in this world of Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, there is little need to covertly watch people because so many people provide all of their personal details willingly. This is contrasted to the constant surveillance forced upon Amador, the agent with the implant. This is an interesting and heavy subject matter for such a light-hearted show; not unlike the political debate from episode two or the commentary on superheroes as gods in episode one. Despite being portrayed as a benevolent organisation, Joss Whedon and the other creators wisely choose to present the problematic aspects of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s activities such as its disregard for people’s privacy (in the last episode, they were referred to as “Big Brother” by one character). Perhaps this notion of the characters inhabiting a morally grey world could be developed in future episodes. Eye Spy is far more successful in its attempts to create mystery and tension then last week’s episode was. As it was last time, one of the agents (Ward this time) has to infiltrate dangerous hostile territory whilst communicating with other team members. The sense of dread and fear that Ward will be discovered is presented in a far more credible manner here than in the previous episode. Whereas Skye was portrayed as being blasé and overconfident when she was sneaking around enemy territory, Ward’s constant efforts to avoid exposure and his panic when he is inevitably discovered are truly exciting; more than enough to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.

The episode is also more successful in its attempts at comedy than last week. There is a very amusing moment when Ward is instructed (by the mysterious villain) to seduce a heavyset Belarusian male security guard; the unknown villain believes Ward to be Amador and Ward needs to maintain this illusion. Ward’s attempt to befriend the suspicious guard is one of the funnier moments of the whole series so far. Even the usually annoying duo of Fitzsimmons (Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge) is put to good comedic use in the episode; a scene in which they have to perform ocular surgery on Amador is both tense and humorous at the same time. In addition to the episode’s quality, Eye Spy is significant in that it may be the first episode to indicate that there will eventually be a recurring antagonist or central villain in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Amador’s mystery controller wants her to gain access to a bizarre physics equation; the nature of which has not yet been explained. Coulson refers to this equation as being of alien origin, possibly indicating a link to the Chitauri alien race that appeared in The Avengers (of which this show is a spin-off). This is hopefully the first evidence of a long-term villain for the programme, since a regular antagonist would add both a greater sense of consistency and a greater sense of tension to the show.

Whilst certainly a step up for the overall quality of the show, the episode still suffers from insufferable “witty” dialogue that sound like unnatural sound-bites and not human conversation. The sequence in which Ward murders several security guards also feels a little off; these men are hardly threats or even bad guys, yet Ward guns them down without a second thought. Worst of all is the post-credits stinger, which is both juvenile and potentially even insultingly sexist. However, these are small faults in an otherwise strong episode. Perhaps Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is starting to find itself.

Wine of the Month – October 2013

October is a somewhat confused time of year – the only month that can bring summer-like heat, damp autumnal chill and wintry darkness.

At this time of year, foods are gamey with intense sauces which means big wines with gamey, vegetal aromas.

This month, we also have a seasonally-appropriate guest entry from Norwich-based Beaujolais specialist, Beaujolais and Beyond

For sunny days Orballo Albarino, Rias Baxas (£10.49, Bacchanalia)

From north western Spain, this is made from the Albarino grape and similar to a summery vinho verde from across the border in Portugal.

Dark sandy yellow in the glass, there are aromas of citrus fruit and melon skin.

The palate is zesty with ripe citrus fruit, pineapple and yellow apricot, with fresh acidity.

Characterful more than elegant, it is bigger and fuller than the traditionally light vinho verde and would match with white fish, quenelles in a creamy sauce or chicken in a morel and sherry sauce.

For chilly days Domaine de la Plaigne, 2011, Régnié (£11.30, Beaujolais and Beyond)

Like Chablis to the north, southern Burgundy’s Beaujolais region is a once over-hyped region that is now ripe for a revival.

Made from the Gamay grape, Beaujolais does not aspire to the complexity of great Pinot Noir, for sure, but when well-made can show an alluring elegance.

Translucent purple in the glass, there are aromas of red and black cherry.

The palate shows a real purity of cherry and plum fruit and fresh, prominent acidity with real elegance and precision – this is a really lovely wine. Good.

With plenty of acidity, low tannins and pure fruit, it is a highly-versatile food wine that can stand up to stronger sauces – match with autumnal foods such as duck with cherry sauce or venison with red-wine jus.

For wintry evenings Silvern ‘Greenock’ Shiraz, Barossa 2011 (£9.25, Noel Young Wines)

Made by Noel’s partner at Magpie Estate in Australia’s Barossa Valley, this is a cancelled order offered at a bargain price.

Dark fruits, with a warming, slightly baked character, roasted spices and a slap of leather, held together by a prominent acidity.

Soft texture and savouriness, somewhat port-like.

With roast dinners Lavinyeta Puntiapart* 2011 Emporda, Spain (£14.99 CambridgeWine Merchants)

An unusual blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Samso (aka Carignan), this is dark purple in the glass, with sliced green bell peppers and pencil shavings on the nose.

There is lots of dark plummy, black cherry fruit and toasty-oak spiciness on the palate, cut through with fresh acidity and underpinned by perfectly-ripe tannins.

Long and savoury with an inky texture and a pleasant firmness on the finish, this is an extremely accomplished wine indeed. Very Good.

For days of mist and mellow fruitfulness Jean-Luc Matha, Cuvee Lairis, Marcillac (£11.50 Joseph Barnes Wines)

From south west France, this is made from the Fer Servadou grape – “fer” being a reference not to iron, but to a “feral” character of the grape.

Bright ruby purple, with initially a slight cabbagey-sulphurous aromas on the nose (often actually a sign of low added sulphur), below which are ripe strawberries and some leather.

Pure, precise red and black cherry fruit, peppery spice and fresh linear acidity.

Very elegant, with soft tannins, medium-length, some persistence and a clean finish – quite different and very interesting. Good.

Match with in-season game, especially pheasant or hare.

Other related articles

More on Beaujolais РBoJo-L̩

Wine of the month archive

 

Links

Bacchanalia – website

Beaujolais and Beyond – website

Cambridge Wine Merchants – website

Joseph Barnes Wines – website

Noel Young Wines – website

 

Main image credit: http://images.fineartamerica.com/images-medium-large/pheasant-shooting-henry-thomas-alken.jpg

Movie Review: Gravity

MV5BNjE5MzYwMzYxMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTk4MTk0OQ@@__V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_Sandra Bullock and George Clooney headline this Sci-fi/thriller as astronauts fighting to survive after a catastrophic accident leaves them adrift in space.

Sandra Bullock plays medical engineer Ryan Stone and George Clooney plays Matt Kowalski, a veteran astronaut completing his final space mission.

The astronauts are a part of a team of 5 astronauts on a routine mission to make repairs the Hubble telescope when a Russian mission also in space goes very wrong.

Debris is sent thru space and hurling toward the astronauts.

Ryan (Bullock) is ordered to abandon repairs and get back to the shuttle as quickly as possible.

But before the astronauts can make a move the debris is upon them.

That’s when all hell breaks loose and the race to survive ensues.

The special effects are superb and great acting anchors this character driven movie of survival in the final frontier.

Image reproduced from imdb.com
Trailer reproduced from YouTube / WarnerBrosPictures

Film Review: White House Down

White House Down
White House Down stars the amazing Channing Tatum! This film is so outrageous – it’s a thrill ride. Like a rollercoaster on speed, once you’re sat down – you’re in for the whole ride.

What I loved about this movie was that was just pure enjoyment. The action got bigger and the explosions got louder! You can disengage your brain for a while and get lost in what’s on the screen.

The basic plot, of John Cale (Channing) arriving at the White House with his daughter and somehow ending up trying to save the President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) from a gang of terrorists, does not do this film justice.

Cale has been turned down by the secret service before. Big mistake. As he leads a one man fight back against the forces threatening the White House.

It’s not like a Die Hard film, it IS a Die Hard film but without John McClain (John Cale is hardly original!). But despite the similarities and simple plot – this one is an enjoyable ride. It’s not better than Die Hard or the more recent one with Gerard Butler earlier this year – but I’d watch this one again and again.

Channing gives us a likable hero, one easy to root for. Foxx plays the President like an action hero, shooting guns and everything! The terrorists attacking are stereotyped but do the job. Giving something for our hero to shoot at! None of them stood out for me though. But unless the film was about Cale trying to stop radioactive blobs from marauding the White House, there’s gotta be human baddies.

Maggie Gyllenhaal plays secret service agent Carol Finnerty, whose having the day from hell was entertaining. Car chases, helicopters blasted into atoms, weapons of mass destruction – it’s all used here to maximum effect.

That’s what makes the film so entertaining, there’s no let up. Although there’s the daughter – there’s no mushy sentiment – in fact she’s rather like Inspector Gadget’s niece with the things she knows and can do. All that was missing was a clever dog. (Come on director there’s Uggie!)

I didn’t feel I was in the cinema for over two hours, which is rare. Even in some of these epics you can kinda feel time moving on. But this action feast just absorbs your concentration! (Whether that’s good or bad – I’ll let you decide!)

I’m was very happy with everything. Which lately I haven‘t experienced. The chemistry between Channing and Foxx was brilliant. They worked really well together and I would like them to do another film like this or something else. It’s so rare two people click so well.

Maybe it’s Channing’s personality? That I had a hero I cared about and was rooting for? Foxx’s savvy action pumping president? Or how things just got so mad?

I don’t know! There’s only one thing I do know – this is getting 9/10 from me!

GO CHANNING! GO CHANNING!

Image reproduced from Hollywoodlife.com
Trailer reproduced from CieonMovies

Film Review: What Maisie Knew

What Maisie KnewWhat Maisie Knew is the story of a child trying to make sense of a grown up world that seems to be giving up on her. She has to stand and watch through the crack in the door, or through an open window as her parents separate, leaving her stuck in the middle trying to understand what’s gone wrong. You begin to wonder if Maisie (Onate Aprile) blames herself. It’s not an easy thing to watch at times, but What Maisie Knew is nonetheless engaging and touching.

Maisie is an adorable pixie of a girl living with her parents Susanna (Julianne Moore) and Beale (Steve Coogan). They fight a lot, forcing Maisie to retreat into her own self contained world. She’s certainly very street smart – we see her paying for a pizza during an early scene when mummy and daddy are too busy fighting to even notice the door bell. The camera gently remains focused on her as she watches her parents’ marriage fall apart. They both fight for custody and make out that they want what’s best for her. This doesn’t stop them forgetting to pick her up from school, or allowing her to walk through a drug and alcohol soaked party. Deep down Maisie doesn’t matter to Susanna and Beale. The only thing that interests them is one-upmanship.

Susanna is a bad mother. She’s a rock musician who’s seen her career take a massive dive over the past few years. She wants to record new songs, get back out on tour, and generally refuel her professional life. She’s very possessive and needy around Maisie, to such an extent that she actually gets angry when she doesn’t feature very much in a story her daughter wrote. She spends a lot of her time talking to her daughter like she’s a teenager, leaving Maisie to just stare blankly at her.

Beale is a bad father. He’s a distant and occasionally callous person who disappears for long periods for overseas work that we never fully understand. At one point it looks like he might be an art dealer who can only seem to find work in London. He makes a lot of jokes, particularly about Susanna, and Maisie just stares at him blankly. Even though he’s lived with Maisie for her entire life up until this point, he doesn’t seem to know anything about her. He talks to her like an adult, and then sighs heavily when she doesn’t understand.

With both her parents fighting over her in a petty self-centred battle, Maisie is able to find happiness with her parents’ new partners. Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgard) is Susanna’s new husband who has a night job working in a bar. He’s a little nervous around Maisie to begin with, but his heart is in the right place. He keeps her happy and entertained while she’s staying with Susanna, who’s too busy recording a new song. He’s almost a little too perfect to be a believable character, but the chemistry between Skarsgard and Aprile is beautiful. Their bond takes time to grow, rather than just forcing itself into the story.

Beale’s new partner Margo (Joanna Vanderham) is the nanny that he and Susanna had hired when they were still together. We can see that Maisie loves Margo and is very comfortable around her, no doubt because she represents the last piece of the loving home she once had. She’s a caring person who only has Maisie in mind, even when Beale goes away on another mysterious business trip leaving her alone with his child. She’s neglected, but she doesn’t let Maisie see that. Instead she lavishes her with attention to try and keep both their minds off the increasingly absent Beale.

What Maisie Knew is certainly a triumph of acting. Julianne Moore and newcomer Onata Aprile in particularly give heartbreakingly natural performances. Steve Coogan is fairly convincing as the deviant and slightly creepy Beale who can still be charming when he wants to be. All the performances are so slick and natural it almost feels like they filmed without a script. Some scenes are very difficult to watch, in particular when Susanna decides to change the locks and leave Beale homeless. The estranged couple shout at each other through the door in an alarming moment as Maisie watches on. It comes out of nowhere because we’re looking at the world through the eyes of a child. What kind of child in a comfortable home with parents could predict a horror like this?

In contrast we also get moments involving Lincoln and Margo which are genuinely touching. The very simple scene involving them both playing Monopoly late at night with Maisie has to be one of the most beautiful movie moments this year. What Maisie Knew is an interesting film with interesting ideas that doesn’t feel the need to over sentimentalise things to make it’s audience care. It knows that we’re all hoping that Maisie is able to find the tenderness and hope that she’s looking for.

Image reproduced from Wikipedia.org
Video reproduced from YouTube / VigoTrailers

TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – “The Asset”

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Dr Hall’s gravity device.

The Asset, the third episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., is the first to feel utterly unnecessary. Nothing truly significant takes place and nothing important is revealed. That’s not to say that the episode isn’t fun or exciting; merely that for the first time, the show feels like it is dragging its heels (problematic, considering the fact that we’re three episodes in).

The episode begins with a short and enticing sequence in which a truck is ripped off a lonely freeway and up into the sky by an unseen force. It transpires that the truck is secretly a S.H.I.E.L.D. transport vehicle carrying a brilliant scientist (Ian Hart) named Dr Hall. Because of Hall’s research into gravity manipulation, the S.H.I.E.L.D. team is dispatched to rescue him from the Malta-based home of a sinister magnate called Ian Quinn (David Conrad). Because of Quinn’s bureaucratic protection from international agencies, the team is forced to send the untrained Skye (Chloe Bennet) into Quinn’s home to find and to help rescue Dr Hall.

The entirety of the episode feels like a missed opportunity. Skye attempting to blend in at a garden party of wealthy socialites could have been comedic and provocative; given Skye’s previously-established egalitarian political views, her character is written with an odd level of comfortableness among the sort of characters she should disdain. Given the even-handed and subtle political debate in the last episode, it seems peculiar that Skye’s hot-headed personality is not brought to the forefront when surrounded by the wealthy and the powerful. Similarly wasted is any sense of tension in these garden party sequences. Skye is working as a spy yet there is no real sense of tension of threat in these scenes. She and the team are entirely in control of the situation until she decides to pursue her own strategy. A viewer cannot develop a sense of concern for her safety because she always appears to have the upper hand. In addition, the biggest waste by far is in the science fiction element of the story. Dr Hall’s kidnapping is due to his understanding of a rare element that can control gravity. A device that has been built beneath Quinn’s mansion is capable of dramatically altering gravity across a large area. This could have made for some amazing visuals- seeing the contents of a beautiful Malta mansion floating around as if in space would have made for unforgettable television. Yet the best we get is two actors standing in a small room that has been set-dressed to look like they’re standing on the ceiling.

Obviously, the television effects budget of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. prevents its creators from indulging in the kind of spectacle seen in its cinematic cousins (the Marvel superhero films), but considering that the program has featured flying cars and exploding superhumans, something a bit more visually interesting than an upside down room was surely possible. Dr Hall is apparently a character plucked from Marvel’s superhero comics so it seems likely that the character will reappear on the show in the future; perhaps at that point the real possibilities of a zero-gravity weapon will become better utilised. There are certainly positive aspects to this episode but they do not help to overcome the sense that this was the first totally redundant episode of the show. David Conrad equips himself well as the villainous Quinn (much more so than the dreadful performance by Leonor Valera in episode two) as does Ian Hart as the desperate and fanatical Dr Hall. For some reason, it is revealed that Dr Hall is a former teacher of Fitzsimmons (Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge); something that never becomes relevant in the episode as the three characters do not share a scene together.

Brett Dalton’s Grant Ward is given a more developed back-story, revealing the reasons for his abrasive personality. The mystery of Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) continues to evolve in interesting ways. It now seems very likely that the Coulson who appeared in The Avengers is not the same man currently leading the team. The best aspect of the episode is that the dialogue sounded a great deal more natural. For the most part the implausibly witty banter that made all of the characters sound so artificial has been cut back; the characters now talk to one another in a manner closer to that of real people rather than talking to each other in sound bites. The Asset is a disappointing episode because it really has no impact or importance other than to set up a possible villain for a future episode (Dr Hall). None of the interesting ideas put forward are developed and nothing of real substance happens. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues to have no strong identity.

Image reproduced from comicbook.com

Online Social Work Degree

A variety of programs are offered at the University of New England, including online degrees in various subjects. Read on to find out more about our online offers on degrees in social work.

In the early days, charity work was carried out by individuals, religious organizations and churches, and many people and governments acknowledged the need that more help should come from these entities today. Looking back at history, Constantine was the first world leader known to establish funding for a church-based charity work. Government-run social worker programs did not begin until the 19th Century A.D. in England and also not across the Atlantic in the United States.

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A ‘Poor Law’ began in Great Britain in the early days to distinguish the needs of individuals who were poor and incapable of supporting themselves. The law helped the government to involve people in the right programs to help them most effectively. In the United States, immigrants overwhelming the nation brought with them acute needs for health and charity work. From immigration problems and needs, hospitals around the country starting with Massachusetts General Hospital began paying capable nurses for social work positions. These early workers labored diligently to improve conditions and make the social work field practical and efficient.

Nowadays, human rights as well as needs are addressed on a daily basis by faithful social workers. Professional and caring, these people reach out to those whose income is low. These workers are there for other people in any type of crisis and those who have experienced various types of social injustice. Compassionate people who desire careers in social work take bachelor’s and master’s degrees offered by public and private institutions of higher learning.

Such scholastic institutions that offer degrees in the social work field generally use television, radio and advertisements in target magazines as well as online spots. Those potentially interested in such a degree often receive opportunities on ‘Google Ads’ from worthy colleges and universities offering such programs. Some institutions even offer a convenient online social work degree.

During years of economic decline, the poor and needy of society often feel the crunch first, and cutbacks in government funding of social work is one of the many ways they feel the crunch. However, those in government know the real needs for social work programs and do not fold them completely. Social workers and education in the field are vitally necessary and will continue to be needed well into the future.

TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – “0-8-4”

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Sam Jackson makes a cameo appearance as Nick Fury.

The second episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. shares many of the good and bad points that were evident in the Pilot. However, this second episode in the season, 0-8-4, is an overall improvement that suggests that the show will become a great deal better once it finds more of an identity. As the character Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) says in this episode, “We’re still working out the kinks”. Now that the team has been fully assembled, creator Joss Whedon has begun to focus on the interactions between the main characters. Teamwork is an important theme in this episode; each character is called upon to bring their particular skills to the episode’s conflict. Unsurprising considering Whedon’s track record, the appeal of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is clearly going to be the team itself and how the various agents play off one another.

Picking up almost immediately from where the Pilot left off, Skye (Chloe Bennet) moves onto the S.H.I.E.L.D. plane in order to serve as a consultant for the newly-formed team. Their first mission takes them to the jungles of Peru to hunt down a mysterious artefact that previously appeared in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger (reminding the audience yet again that the show takes place in the same continuity as the Marvel Comics films). Soon they are attacked by local militants and have to make a hasty retreat with the help of a military official who happens to be an old friend of Coulson’s. Once the team is back on their plane, they soon realise that the artefact is far more dangerous than they realised and that the aircraft is in considerable danger. The good news about 0-8-4 is that its positive aspects certainly outnumber its faults. The narrative of the episode is even better than the previous one. The jungle setting sets the episode apart from its cinematic source material. The connection to the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” is subtle and clever (much more so than it was in the Pilot). The action sequences are well shot and very engaging. Most important is the fact that the tone continues to be light-hearted and optimistic. So many television shows that utilise sci-fi concepts like superheroes and alien technology (Heroes and Fringe being the most obvious examples) are written and shot with a strong emphasis on gritty realism; as if the creators are self-conscious and embarrassed about handling such out-there concepts and feel the need to disguise it with the trappings of serious drama. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has no such reservations—the creators are clearly not conflicted about making a live-action comic book on the small screen; making the show a refreshingly cheery watch.

Also impressive is the show’s subtle but mature examination of important modern political issues. Skye professes her support for the lower class revolution taking place in the show’s version of Peru, citing the use of Twitter as an organisational tool for protest as being an amazing symbol of unification against oppression. Meanwhile, Ward (Brett Dalton) argues from a more conservative point of view; that Skye is ignoring the violent militant behaviour of those she supports because she is not directly involved in the combat. The show doesn’t exactly take a side in this debate. Instead, both characters learn something from one another’s differing perspectives. This is extremely intelligent stuff for escapist action-adventure television.

Nevertheless, the episode is not without its problems. One wonders why Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) gives Skye such a hard time for not knowing about the events of Captain America; events that were supposedly classified (most likely, this scene is a shout-out to the more diehard Marvel fans in the audience). Guest star Leonor Varela delivers a pretty weak performance which tends to harm the more serious scenes. Elizabeth Henstridge’s Simmons continues to be a very irritating British stereotype. Most problematic for this particular episode is the frequently poor computer effects. This is likely due to the creators attempting comic book movie action on a television budget. The jungle action scenes are far more compelling than those in the plane because they feel more real and perilous. Most egregious is how the characters solve the problem of a large hole that has exploded in the side of the plane: their solution is so ludicrous that it goes beyond far-fetched (even in a world where Iron Man and Captain America exist). But none of these problems serve to damage the episode. These faults feel more like the natural growing pains of a very young show than they do serious flaws. Considering that the show is even better than it was last week, there’s no reason not to be optimistic about the future of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Plus, a special appearance by Samuel L. Jackson is always something to get excited about!

Image from charactergrades.com

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Birthday Week – Part 2

Girl About Town, Alexandra Abrahams, continues to relate the happenings from her Birthday Week…

On the Friday of my Birthday Week I opted to go to a gin distillery. Well why not indeed. I like to ensure I don’t run out of gin and where better than an actual distillery.  Currently the only working distillery in the city’s Square Mile, the City of London Distillery (COLD) opened last year and employs a unique distillation and infusion process with juniper, coriander, angelica and liquorice alongside pink grapefruit, lemon and orange peel – yum!  They also have a unique Master Distiller Jamie Baxter who used to be the Master Distiller for Chase Williams Gin/vodka  and is rather excellent. Such a treat to visit a working distillery within a beautiful bar and over 100 gins!

Some of their cocktails included – the Corpse Reviver No 2 (there was one already??!) This is one of the great classics and as Harry Croddock from the Savoy said ‘Four of these taken in swift succession will un-revive the corpse again. City of London gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc and lemon juice served in an Absinthe rimmed glass.

Another amazing classic cocktail included the Ramos Gin Fizz with City of London Dry Gin, orange and lemon juice, cream, sugar, soda water and egg white. The bar team were fantastic particularly Nate and Luis. Just wonderfully knowledgeable team who know everything there is to know about gin / spirits and this amazing bar and working distillery. Highly recommended.

Bday ShardIt was then time to descend onto the Shard or rather up the Shard.  The Shard.  the Shard is an iconic, landmark building dominating the London skyline and designed by Master Architect Renzo Pino. At a height of 1, 016 ft (310 m) it is the tallest building in Western Europe and redefines London’s skyline and is already being recognised throughout the world.  We tried some of the marvellous cocktails in Aqua Shard which has a beautiful Restaurant. It was very easy to access the Shard and you don’t even need to travel to the top. The best way is to access the main entrance and just use the Aquashard entrance to the 33rd floor. It certainly feels like you are travelling towards height and gravity!  Once you exit you meet hosts who show you the way. I thought it would feel rather ‘formal’ or pretentious but all staff were friendly and you are able to grab a cocktail in the Hutong Bar on the 33rd Floor or Aqua Shard Bar one floor above on the ………floor.

Hutong’s origins begin in Hong Kong with a glitzy, high end Chinese restaurant with incredible views and the London branch is no exception. There is the same Sichuan and Northern Chinese menu, Old Beijing decor and red lanterns. You could almost be in an old Colonial restaurant. I just loved the views and our cocktails!

The cocktails are described as ‘cocktail cures’ using ingredients that Chinese herbal medicine deems good for you. The Chinese believe that there are some medicinal qualities that can cure a range of ailments from abdominal pain, colds or even allergies. We take this with a pinch of salt but I like to believe there are some good qualities in all of these cocktails.

The first one we had was the ‘Comfortably Numb’ with Stolichnaya vanilla, fresh chili, Szechuan pepper honey, lychee liquor, fresh lime juice. It tasted fresh, fruity and had a very slight chilli kick – £12.50.  ‘Chinese Lantern’ contained Fresh Mandarin, Aperol, St Germain, passion fruit syrup, plum bitters and Champagne (£14).  Apparently Mandarin is good for the ‘treatment of nausea, peptic ulcers and indigestion, allergies, digestive disorders and for it’s healing powers’  I found the prices normal compared to other bars and with such unquestionable views across London – worth every penny.

Bday Hutong CocktailsWe were very comfortable in Hutong Bar but decided to venture a couple of levels down to Aqua Shard. We were not tasting food but more the cocktails tonight. Aqua Shard serves innovative, contemporary British cuisine with views to die for once again.

You now feel like you are looking over the whole of London – views are exceptional and you see the view wherever you are seated. However my companion and I chose to sit at the bar and watch the mixologists in action.  Here cocktails are certainly more experimental but some of the most unusual and wonderful cocktails I have ever tried.

Some of the cocktails included their ‘Battenberg Martini’ with Vodka, Apricot Brandy, Rubis Chocolate wine, Apricot Jam, tea tincture, egg white and lime juice. Another cocktail was the ‘Skyline Cooler’  with Ketel One Citren Vodka, Cinzano, absinthe, fennel seeds, apple juice, lemon juice and elderflower cordial…

Kefalonia – a Guide

Earlier this year, inspired by a tasting of Greek wines, I decided to take the CWB family on holiday to a Greek island.

Eschewing the prospect of being just another tourist in some large, beach-front hotel floating on a lilo in the pool by day and eating at identikit tavernas every night, I arranged for us to stay at a secluded, olive grove with just six bedrooms, a pool and breakfast on the terrace.

Ironically, despite studying classics at school, it was my first trip to Greece except for a very brief business trip to an anonymous suburb of Athens a few years ago.

So if like me, you are a Greek novice, here is a basic guide to visiting Kefalonia.

Stay

Gentilini Retreat, a 20ha olive grove in the hills above Argostoli, converted into six bed-and-breakfast bedrooms and a pool with a view of the mountains. You’ll need a hire car to get around.

Drive

All the big name car hire companies are on the island, plus plenty of local ones, which tend to be cheaper, such as Pefanis. Book well in advance to get the best prices.

Eat

En Kefallinia in Lakithra serves organic traditional Greek food with refinement and elegance.

To Castro at St George’s castle, the hilltop, former capital of the island just outside modern-day capital Argostoli, serves well-made home-cooked Greek food, with great views as well (the views at next-door Palatino are even better, the food less so).

Kiani Akte a seafood restaurant over the water in Argostoli; meat dishes can be a bit basic, but their fresh seafood is some of the best.

Drink

The island’s native grape variety is Robola – citrussy and elegant with a minerally, white pepper finish. Pure white limestone soil makes for elegant wines, the best are from vineyards cooled by sea breezes or altitude.

The biggest producer is the Robola Co-operative, the best is Gentilini. Both do tours and cellar door sales.

Also look out for dry red Mavrodaphne (more commonly made sweet on Patras).

Mythos beer is strong, malty and crisp – it goes perfectly with a plate of pork souvlaki.

Beach

Myrtos is beautiful and perhaps the most famous (it was used for a scene in Captain Corelli), but not necessarily the most accessible and has a strong rip tide.

Beaches with lots of golden sand and shallow water are plentiful; two of the best can be found at either end of the airport at either Ammes or Minies.

See

With much of the island destroyed by an earthquake in 1953 and only a few remains from classical antiquity, Kefalonia is a better place for relaxation than full-on sight-seeing.

The island’s mountainous landscape and winding roads are perhaps its most interesting feature, so the drive can be as much of the trip as the destination.

St George’s Castle is a ruined hilltop fortress that was formerly the island’s capital (allow 1 hour, plus time for a meal).

For even more spectacular views, journey up to the highest point on the island, Mt Enos 1,682m high (allow 2 hours for the drive up and down – longer if you want to go for a walk at the top).

St Gerassimo Monastery – now rebuilt, it is incongruously both ancient and modern. It features the body of the eponymous saint in a glass case (allow 30 mins).

Robola Co-operative – next to the monastery, this is the largest wine producer on the island and specialises in the island’s native grape, Robola. There is an opportunity to walk around the winery and taste some of the wines (allow 30 mins).

Melissani Lake – an underground lake some 20,000 years old whose roof fell in around 5,000 years ago. Nowadays accessed via a walkway cut through the rock in the 1960s. Allow 30 mins for the visit plus time to see the water flowing out into the sea at Karavomylos and time for a meal on the sea-front.

A short drive through Sami takes you up a hill to an ancient hilltop citadel – now mostly ruins but partly restored (allow 30 mins to walk up and take in the views, more if you have a picnic up there or want to explore).

Gentilini Winery – a few kilometres from the retreat, the winery is on a cliff edge with views across the sea to Lixouri. Allow an hour or more for a guided tour and tasting with owners Marianna and Petros or wine-maker Chris Carter.

Fiskardo – a pretty fishing village at the northern tip of the island, it was unaffected by the earthquake, but has inevitably become something of a tourist magnet (allow 2 hours to wander round, browse shops and have a coffee).

Assos – another hilltop castle set on a spur, but you’ll need to walk the 2km up to this one. Allow an hour to wander round the beaches and harbour of Assos and a couple of hours to walk up to the castle.

The stars – with almost no street lights, the sky over Kefalonia is beautifully clear. Greeks tend to eat out after dark, when it is cooler and the wasps have gone home, and we would typically sit out for a while whenever we got back just listening to the cicadas and looking up at the sky.

For kids

If they tire of beaches and sandcastles, take them to:

Prokris – an outdoor playpark in Mazarakata open from around 7:30 in the evening. Adults can enjoy beer and, on Saturdays, souvlaki straight from the grill.

Ionian Sea Hotel and Waterpark – take the “Turkish Slipper” ferry from Argostoli to Lixouri, follow signs to Xi beach, then turn off to the water park, an outdoor swimming pool with 5 slides, plus sun loungers for those who just want to relax.

The ferry departs every half hour and takes half an hour – allow a whole day for the entire trip.

There’s plenty more that we did not have time to do – but that’s the point of a holiday; always leave something to come back to.

Links & addresses

Gentilini Retreat – website

Robola Co-operative – Omala, 28100, Kefalonia (no website)

Gentilini Winery – website

En Kafallinia -  address (no website)

Prokris – follow signs in Mazarakata (no website)

Ionian Sea Hotel and Waterpark – Lixouri, Kefalonia (no website)

UK RumFest 2013: World’s Largest Rum Festival

rum03Returning to the UK’s capital this October, the world famous UK RumFest will take place on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 October 2013 taking each visitor on a voyage of rum discovery at London’s ExCeL Exhibition Centre. The seventh annual UK RumFest showcases over 400 of the rarest and most exquisite rums from across the globe, as well as cocktail demonstrations, intimate seminars and masterclasses hosted by industry aficionados. The delectable Tropical Food Market will feature mouthwatering food from all over the world, plus live music and main stage presentations creating an incredible two days of rum infused fun. This year UK RumFest presents for the first time the Connoisseur’s Cove area giving the discerning drinker the opportunity to delve further into rum’s rich culture and sip, savour and discover some of the rarest rums on the market. Limited tickets are available with standard tickets priced at £25 plus booking fee or the Connoisseur’s Cove tickets priced at £45 plus booking fee, all available with more information from the UK RumFest website.

rum01Rum’s popularity has soared in recent years, becoming the UK’s fastest growing spirit and the drink of choice for millions across the globe. The Rum Experience, founders of the UK RumFest are thrilled to invite rum lovers to join them at the world’s largest celebration of rum culture, the seventh annual UK RumFest. After 2012’s sell out success, this year’s UK RumFest will feature a series of innovations to the programme designed to deliver an excellent experience for UK RumFest visitors wanting to enjoy some rum-fuelled fun and entertainment. This year’s event will feature a mixture of rum bars, providing the opportunity to sample the best known brands on the market, either as a 1 centilitre free sample in exchange for a token or as a professionally mixed cocktail, alongside a series of stands from carefully selected rum brands.

rum02RumFest knows good rum and featured top rum brands from around the world including the likes of Lambs, Mount Gay, Havana, El Dorado and Zacapa, plus a live cocktail competition presented by Angostura inviting the public to submit their cocktail recipes now by entering here. The six finalists will be invited to RumFest on Saturday 12th October to compete live on the Main Stage to win a bottle of Limited Edition Angostura No.1 Cask Collection. Bringing together the industry’s top blenders, distillers and mixologists, visitors are invited on a journey of rum discovery with a vast array of masterclasses, talks and seminars available to all ticket holders. For those who have a passion for cocktail sampling, creating or spectating, worldclass mixologists will be showcasing their skills through cocktail battles and demonstrations. The Carnival atmosphere as always will be electric and will be heightened by a bill of live music that will reverberate throughout the weekend featuring a heady mix of reggae beats, samba rhythms and traditional souk dancers. There really is no other show quite like it.

TROPICAL FOOD MARKET

Taste buds will be tantalised at this year’s extended Tropical Food Market hosting an abundance of street food outlets on hand to help soak up the rum drenched day. Embracing cuisines from across the rum regions, where the sweet sugar cane grows in abundance, traders have been invited to bring their flavours from the Caribbean, South America and Africa. Generous samples will be available and for those enticed by the cuisine on offer will be able to purchase meals from each of the food outlets. For those interested in discovering more, celebrity TV Chef Hasan De Four will be hosting the live presentations on the Demo Kitchen Stage showcasing exclusive one-off masterclasses including rum & food pairing, cooking with rum and much more to be announced very soon.

CONNOISSEUR’S COVE

For the first time, UK RumFest introduces the brand new Connoisseur’s Cove area inviting the discerning drinker to an exclusive rum haven. Visitors can sip, savour and discover some of the rarest, most exquisite premium rums from across the globe. This exclusive area is perfectly designed to take the connoisseur on an extensive rum discovery, set away from the lively Carnival crowds and creating an incredible journey. Expect some very special rums of distinctions to sample whilst educating palates like never before.

SEMINARS & MASTERCLASSES

Over 20 seminars will take place across the weekend, including a delicious Caymanas rum cake seminar hosted by Jonathan McCulloch, who will let audiences into the secret of how to make his popular rum cake. Brands such as Havana Club will be bringing their Mojito Embassy to the festival, teaching fans how to make the perfect, authentic Cuban Mojito using only the finest natural ingredients – a surefire hit for this popular drink! Diplomatico tasting will take place on Saturday 12th with Master Blender Tito Cordero, which will be offered on a first-come-first-served basis on the day. The Rum Experience University Masterclasses conducted by industry experts and master blenders top off a diverse and extensive rum program. As well as an afternoon of luxurious rum and cigar pairing courtesy of Amathus Drinks and C-Gars Ltd, aficionados can learn and create the perfect rum and chocolate match hosted by Havana Club and Rococo Chocolatiers.

Ian Burrell, Global Rum Ambassador and founder of The Rum Experience comments, “UK RumFest is the destination event for rum lovers and we promise two days that will take each and every visitor on a journey of rum discovery. With the brand new ticketing options we aim to cater for the discerning drinker and the casual enthusiast creating a one-off experience for all. We look forward to seeing you in October!”

UK RumFest is presented by The Rum Experience and takes place on Saturday 12th & Sunday 13th October 2013 at London’s ExCeL Exhibition Centre. Standard tickets for this year’s RumFest are now on sale from £25 and includes access to central zone featuring Rum Bars and selected Rum brands, the Tropical Food Market, seminar rooms and the Main Stage presentation area in association with Pusser’s Rum & Coco Re’al. The Connoisseur’s Cove tickets priced at £45 allowing an additional exclusive access to the most exquisite rum brands available at the moment where visitors are invited to take their journey of rum discovery to the next level. Weekend tickets are priced at £80 and include access to the Connoisseur’s Cove.

Oil and Gas Exploration into the Arctic

The Arctic consists of Canada, Russia, Greenland, United States (Alaska) and Norway where each particular petroleum company is based. The multinational oil companies existent there face health and safety issues because of the extremity of those climates in the world.

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The purpose of their existence is to drill and explore in regions where drastic melting of glaciers and ice makes it simpler to do so as a result of global warming. Many scientists and curiosity seekers ponder whether the continuous exploration of oil and gas into the arctic will allow developing countries to become more advanced while safety mechanisms are put into place. On the other hand, in developing countries the question remains, is there a need for more energy to evolve in terms of technology and science when there are other natural resources? Many scientists argue that as the possibility of extracting oil in traditional fields has decreased, there is a necessity to search for new sources of petroleum in other global areas such as the Arctic. Petroleum is used to make products from aspirins and toothpaste to CDs, as well as gasoline. Crude oil is made mainly of hydrocarbons. These are compounds made only of hydrogen and carbon, such as methane. Petroleum is separated by distillation into various substances such as aviation fuel, gasoline and paraffin. As oil is heated in a distillation column, a mixture of gases evaporates. Each gas cools and condenses at different heights to a liquid, or fraction, which is then drawn off. Most emerging nations have plentiful renewable energy resources, comprising of solar energy, wind power, geothermal energy and biomass. Additionally, they have the ability to manufacture the relatively labor-intensive systems that harness these. By developing such energy sources developing countries can decrease their dependence on oil and natural gas, creating energy portfolios that are not as much vulnerable to price rises. In many conditions, these investments can be less expensive than fossil fuel energy systems. However, it has been stated that alternative resources do not produce more energy than oil does. Most emerging nations have plentiful renewable energy resources, comprising of solar energy, wind power, geothermal energy and biomass. Additionally, they have the ability to manufacture the relatively labor-intensive systems that harness these. By developing such energy sources developing countries can decrease their dependence on oil and natural gas, creating energy portfolios that are not as much vulnerable to price rises. In many conditions, these investments can be less expensive than fossil fuel energy systems. However, it has been stated that alternative resources do not produce more energy than oil does. In 2012, one of NASA’s ice experts, Dr. Walt Meier declared: “This year will without a doubt rank in the top five lowest levels of ice extent ever recorded in the satellite era and there is a good possibility that 2013 could rank second in terms of recorded ice lows”, as a scientist at the National Snow & Ice Data Center. According to the Climate Depot, earth gained a record amount of sea ice in 2013 — Earth has gained 19,000 Manhattans of sea ice since September 2012 last year which is the largest escalation on record.

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Figure 1 demonstrates that there is more sea ice now than there was on this date in 2002. 2 Figure 2 depicts the regional distribution of arctic undiscovered oil resources (including NGL)

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Figure 3 displays the regional distribution of arctic undiscovered natural gas resources (incl. NGL) Over the last decade a small number of comprehensive assessments of undiscovered petroleum resources in the Arctic have been carried out with to a certain extent different results. Wood Mackenzie (2006) assessed the undiscovered reserves in the arctic regions and questioned the perception of the Arctic as one of the last great oil and gas frontiers (Oil & Gas Journal, 2006). The study established that total arctic undiscovered petroleum resources were only around 43 per cent of the estimates in USGS (2000). For oil, the study concluded that expected undiscovered resources for North American Arctic and Greenland were merely a quarter of earlier estimates made by USGS in 2000. On the other hand, Wood Mackenzie raised up the estimates for natural gas in the Arctic West Russia compared with the USGS 2000 assessment. The petroleum supply from the arctic region as a whole would, according to Wood Mackenzie, peak around 2030 at 8 million barrels of oil equivalents per day (boe/d). Additionally, it would be with 40 per cent oil and 60 per cent gas in the most likely scenarios, as a greater share of gas would essentially involve remote gas too expensive to transport to markets according to the Wood Mackenzie assessment. Wood Mackenzie decided that the undiscovered resources are mainly located in either ice-free or seasonal ice-free areas, which call for modifications of technology only – not new solutions. Subsea drilling is to be expected to be utilized for the grander share of the offshore resources. In 2008, the USGS completed their Circum-Arctic Resource Appraisal (CARA), assessing the undiscovered petroleum resources north of the Arctic Circle in more detail (USGS, 2008). The study used a probability-geology based methodology covering sediments expected to have more than 10 per cent probability of having one or more significant oil or gas resources, i. e. fields containing more than 50 mill boe. These resources were assumed to be recoverable without explicit economic considerations; however, implicitly the size of fields accounted for indicates economic viability. The study did not consider the specific challenges associated with the ice cover and excluded resources where production would have to rely on technology that was not yet available. Around 80 per cent of the resources were found offshore, but relatively shallow under less than 500 meters of water (Gautier et al, 2009). Undiscovered petroleum resources were estimated by USGS (2008) to be 8.5 per cent higher than their 2000 estimate, leaving the Wood Mackenzie (2006) estimate at only around 40 per cent of the new USGS resource estimate. The 2008 assessment reduced oil resource estimates and increased gas resource estimates compared with the USGS 2000 assessment. Estimates of oil resources in Norway, Greenland and Russia were lowered and raised in Alaska and Canada. Gas resource estimates were lowered in Norway and increased in all the other regions. Still, after a 50 per cent downward adjustment, Greenland oil resources were estimated to 18 per cent of total arctic oil resources. As a reminder, note however that the methods used in the USGS (2000) and USGS (2008) assessments differ, hence the results are not directly comparable. According to USGS (2008), the total amount of undiscovered petroleum resources in the Arctic is 413 bboe, about 22 per cent of the global undiscovered conventional oil and gas resources. Further, they find that the Arctic contains 134 bboe of oil (including natural gas liquids, NGL) or about 15 per cent of total global oil resources. Henceforth, 279 bboe or close to 70 per cent of the arctic petroleum is gas. How much of the globe’s oil and gas resources have already been revealed and what is the prospective for future discoveries? Confirmed reserves are defined as completely identified and economically viable resources. The USGS 2000 approximation of global undiscovered oil and gas resources is based on geological information and makes up around 90 per cent of what is defined as global proven reserves in BP (2010). There is great uncertainty related with resource estimates in the Arctic, where substantial shares of the resources are under the sea bed and exploration drilling is expensive.

TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Pilot

Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill.

Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill.

(Note: Due to this being a Pilot episode, this review will be somewhat longer than those of future episodes)

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is not the first television series to spin-off from a popular film. However, there is something rather unique and ambitious about Joss Whedon’s newest creation. The show’s intention is to flesh out the shadowy elements of the “Marvel Cinematic Universe”; the single fictional continuity that all of the Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America and Thor films are set within (with more characters set to debut in the next few years). As a series of films, the Marvel movies are risky projects in and of themselves. Audience members who did not watch The Avengers were likely baffled and frustrated by Iron Man 3 because of how much of the former’s plot informs the latter. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is potentially even more problematic; assuming that the audience cares enough about the Marvel Cinematic Universe to watch a show in which none of the famous superhero characters appear. A newcomer who has not seen The Avengers may find Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. confusing, but a veteran of the Marvel films may not become invested in the programme’s new characters and settings. For these reasons, one cannot help but admire the ambition of Joss Whedon and Marvel Studios. Regardless of how financially successful and pop-culturally significant their films have been, a television show spin-off featuring an almost entirely new cast is brave.

The results are a mixed bag to say the least. All in all, the pilot episode is very good television. The show is exciting, engaging, well made and possesses a light and optimistic tone that few procedural dramas can capture. However, there are some glaring problems that can hopefully be addressed whilst the show is still fresh. Picking up sometime after the events of The Avengers, the Pilot of S.H.I.E.L.D. begins with a dramatic narration explaining that the world is full of bizarre mysteries and superhuman heroes. An exciting scene follows in which an unknown man (J August Richards) uses superpowers to rescue a young woman from an exploding building. This opening scene is a statement of intent for the show; demonstrating instantly that the popular Marvel characters are not the only superheroes in this universe. From there, we are introduced to each of our principle characters. Most of these characters are familiar tropes that have appeared in similar shows for years. Brett Dalton’s Agent Grant Ward is a sarcastic loner with a chip on his shoulder. Ming-Na Wen plays the irascible Melinda May: the veteran with a troubled past. Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge share the team’s “geek” role as Fitzsimmons (an amalgamation of each character’s surname, “Fitz” and “Simmons”). Cobie Smulders reprises her role as Agent Maria Hill from The Avengers as does Clark Gregg as the fan-favourite character, Agent Phil Coulson. A later addition to the S.H.I.E.L.D team is Skye (Chloe Bennet), a computer hacker dedicated to exposing the bizarre events that are occurring globally in the post-Avengers world.

As the narrative of the Pilot unfolds, Coulson assembles his team of S.H.I.E.L.D (a secret organisation dedicated to concealing the existence of superhumans) agents in order to track down the mysterious superhuman from the opening scene. Few details are given about each team member’s past; adding a sense of mystery to each character and keeping the narratives’ pace extremely brisk. Perhaps most intriguing is how Coulson himself is alive considering that he apparently died in The Avengers (a few lines of dialogue spoken by a bit-character suggest that the revived Coulson may not be all that he seems). Fortunately, the writing of each character is so strong that the fact that little is known about them is never a problem. Similarly impressive is the gradual revelation of the episode’s main mystery. Enough is ultimately revealed to feel like a satisfying conclusion but there is lingering ambiguity to make audiences curious about what will happen next.

Besides the mostly strong writing, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has an interesting setting with a clever question at the heart of its premise: What would it be like to be a normal person in a world where superheroes exist? So many superhero films and television shows focus on the superpowered person and their supporting cast. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. presents ordinary people living in an extraordinary world. J. August Richards’ character spends the episodes insisting that he is a “hero” just because he has amazing powers. At the episodes’ climax, he gives a speech in which he compares the Marvel superheroes to the so-called “1%”; privileged beings lording over defenceless normal people. The Marvel superheroes are treated by members of the public in a matter not unlike the characters are treated in the real world: action figures, conventions and comicbooks all exist around the Avengers (who are referred to as “The Heroes of New York” by the general public). This is a fascinating idea and one that will hopefully be explained thoroughly in future episodes.

There are still major problems with the episode. Whedon’s dialogue writing, whilst clever and witty, isn’t particularly realistic. It’s very hard to believe that real people would talk to one another entirely in quips, puns and jokes. One gets the sense that Whedon cares more about snappy dialogue than giving each character a distinct voice. The “Fitzsimmons” characters are horrendous British stereotypes (Simmons’ first line of dialogue is a Harry Potter joke). Also, despite the unique nature of the show, it feels rather pedestrian. Nothing about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D feels particularly new or revolutionary- just a collection of characters who fit into clearly recognisable archetypes that we’ve seen before (the Skye character is almost a clone of Warehouse 13’s Claudia). The Pilot is a promising start for this programme but it feels as if the creators are still finding their feet. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t have an identity of its own yet. With more careful use of dialogue and some sure-to-come character development, this show could quickly become a modern classic. Right now, it’s a work in progress.

Birthday Week – Part 1

Bday cakeIt was my Birthday Week recently. Birthday week means celebrations to last the whole week. Why should the Queen celebrate with two birthday’s and not I? My birthday week continued for a week and even this week I was taken out by another friend who I had to ‘catch up with’.  These catch up nights are becoming common place. I am finding it harder to see friends now. Time is actually quite limited with working late at times, going to the gym, seeing the odd friend, date and what time do I have left to actually get on and do some writing / reading / nothing at home?  Oh the hardship of being a social butterfly.

So the Birthday Week was something like this:

I cleverly took the Tuesday as a day off and started a late lazy day with going to a drinks show. As you may know I used to work in the drinks business although strictly speaking still am. I work for PR in a large hotel. The show was called Imbibe. Decided to take my sister who also had a day. Day was great, fuelled with unusual spirits from whisky to gin to rum. The latter part of the afternoon was hazy but hey. A massage followed via a wonderful site called www.wahanda.com. Managed to get a 2 for 1 followed by champers and afternoon tea in the  Soho Refuel Hotel.  The evening was not going to end there. We popped back to Skylon on the South Bank for delicious cocktails and a spot of steak – delish.

Bday KerbBirthday week continued on the Wednesday with a visit to another up-and-coming area behind the newly rebuilt Kings Cross Station. The area is called Granary Square which is also home to Kerb on a Saturday (see earlier entry) which houses up and coming ‘foodies’ and their wares plus a whole jet set lot of foodie lovers.  I went to a new restaurant called The Grain Store and it was pretty amazing. It is a new collaboration between a renowned French chef called Bruno Loubet and the Zetter Group who also own a trendy boutique hotel/bar in Farringdon called the Zetter Townhouse.  The bar at the Grain Store has been headed up by Tony Conigliaro ex Zetter Bar and one of the most highly rated bars in London  – 69 Colebrook Row.  The food looks and feels healthy. I left feeling almost detoxed and without that awful ‘full feeling’ I often have. Although recently I tend to eat smaller portions but a little more often. Anyways – back to the food.

My guest tried the Endive, pear, runner beans and roquefort salad with smoked pepper jelly and toasted hazlenuts. I opted for the courgette, prawn and broad bean falafel. Just delicious, light and fresh. Loved the starters so far.

Mains included Corn and Quinoa tamale, salsa with sticky pork belly. The most tender pork belly (if you like pork this dish is for you).

Guest had Spiced mash, mint pickled cucumber, raw pink top turnips, broad beans, confit lamb belly. Another friend had Kimchi & potato dumpling, Irish seaweed, chilli oil lobster broth. It was a reasonable meal: starters from £4 to £9 and mains from £10 to £15- not bad at all.

This is not your normal menu but one that is just outside of the ‘norm’ whatever that is. I am quite adventurous however feel that many others will also be open to taste the wonders of the Grain Store.

The Bar is even more unusual – drinks included the signature Mustard Martini with Mustard Vodka and dry vermouth, Fennel Pollen Vinus Lupas with Fennel Pollen, clover honey, mastic, verjus, stirred down and Pumpkin and Maple Syrup Martini with Home-made pumpkin puree with de-sugared caramelized maple syrup. Just unusual cocktails which actually seem to work. this is no mean feat and the mixologists must be scientists a la Heston Blumenthal to work their magic here…

Lovely Restaurant, great service and smiles from the staff there. We also caught a glimpse of the chef Bruno Loubet and watched him in action as we were positioned close to the chef’s table… highly recommended.

Online GIS Certificate

An online GIS certificate allows for professionals in this field to learn how to use hardware, data and software for removing geographic information. Hands-on training may consist of plotting destinations on a map. This information can be used for determining why some populations are more concentrated than other parts of the world. The University of Southern California is one of the colleges that offer degree programs in Geographic Information System. If you have a bachelor’s degree, then the next step to going further in the Geographic Information System is to pursue a GIS master’s degree program.

University_southern_california

The online Geographic Science and Technology graduate program gives students access to real world geographic information science applications and lays a geographic innovation foundation with the help of leading professors. This program is offered in the USC Spatial Sciences Institute, which is located within the USC Dornsife College of Letters. The Spatial Sciences Institute promotes analysis, spatial thinking, visualization, and modeling. This department was established in 2010.

Students increase their awareness and scope of spatial thinking on a fast pace. The faculty is made up of leading Geographic Information System experts. They regularly invest in information technology. USC GIST graduates leave the program with the tools for staying competitive in a diverse field. Graduates who complete this program are distinguishable because of how they use the GIS principles and technology. They even think different and redefine spatial thinking for the 21st century.

Students choose the University of Southern California for different reasons. The accelerated program takes 16 months to complete. It allows graduates to focus on their career. USC was ranked by the 2013 Edition of U.S. News & World Report as one of the top universities in the country.

The online program is flexible and allows for learning at your own pace. The University of Southern California is a member of the UNIGIS International Network and accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Students can also take advantage of field excursions. USC offers a one week field excursion to the Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island. Graduates can take their career to the next level with high rated certifications.