Sunday, 29 January 2017

Using The QPS Statistics Tool

The Queensland Police Online Crime Statistics tool is an excellent resource for Neighbourhood Watch Groups seeking up-to-date information about crime in their patch. You can find the link to the tool at the top of the North Buderim Neighbourhood Watch group page:

Here's a closer look (the link in question is highlighted pale yellow in this image):

Copy and paste the link into your browser and hit the GO button. The browser I am using is Mozilla Firefox so your screen might look a little different if you're using Internet Explorer, Edge, Google Chrome or Safari. After you've copied and pasted it's a good idea to Bookmark / add to Favourites. The first time you go to this page you might get something mysterious (particularly if your browser window is small):

Don't Panic, Scroll Down - the funny little thing at the bottom of the image above turns out to be a notification that Microsoft Silverlight needs to be activated:

So click on the link and you'll get one of those really pesky 'Are You Sure You Want To Do This?' alert messages:

Yes, you are sure, you do really want to do this. After Silverlight is activated there's a bit of loading and then you are presented with a screen that has a map of Queensland and some menus on the left. It's the menus that are the interesting bit at this stage. We want to contain the results to our patch and not worry about Fortitude Valley. Let's have a look at the filters:

So the first filter is the 'where' part. This is top left of the window. I type in Maroochydore rather than using the drop-downs because it's faster for me (everybody who lives in this part of the world knows how to spell Maroochydore, right?):

And I use Maroochydore because 1) I don't always get what I'm expecting if I type in Buderim, which is not a police district, and 2) I'm actually interested in what's been happening just beyond the borders of North Buderim. Now, before you click the GO button, scroll down a bit, because we need to define the time period of interest:

So I changed the dates to be the whole of December 2016 by clicking on the start and end calender icons and selecting the dates I wanted. The next thing to do is hit a GO button but it's not the one next to the date settings, it's the one next to the Police District:

Here is the whole of Maroochydore (wow, what a lot of red dots), but that's fine, we can zoom in. If you have a wheel mouse, zoom in. If you don't you're going to have to use the navigation tool, which is partly greyed out at the top left of the map (it brightens up if you hover over it):

Now you know why you need a wheel mouse. So after zooming in this is what you get:

The legend for all the icons is on the left of the window. If you point your mouse pointer at an icon, you'll get information on the offence (what it is, time and date, and whether it's been solved), although my mouse pointer is not visible in these screen grabs:

But what about the other red dots, that just have a number on them? The number refers to the number of crimes at that particular location. Hover your mouse pointer over the red dot and the number of subsidiary red dots will spin out. Then hover your mouse pointer over one of the subsidiaries to get the details (the one on the right in this case):

So there you go - as much information about crime on your patch as you are ever likely to need.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Award Winning Whisky

Sullivan's Cove single malt whisky is made in 3 variations: one matured in French oak, one matured in American oak, and the last a 50:50 blend of the previous two. The French oak version has just been named Best Single Malt Whisky in the world:

Best Whisky In The World

All of the previous winners since 2007 have been either Scottish or Japanese,so congratulations to Patrick Maguire and his team at Sullivan's Cove.

The observant among you (and those who refer to the previous post) will see that I used Sullivan's Cove Dual Cask as my test bed for the 'Add A Little Water' experiment, so half the whisky in that experiment was the best in the world. The other half would have been a close second.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Earwig-O. Earwig-O. Earwig-O.

Let the whisky tasting begin. Remember, the object of the exercise is to discover whether the addition of a small amount of water makes the slightest difference to the taste of a non-chill filtered single malt whisky. In the process I will enjoy the flavour of an Australian whisky, Sullivan's Cove Double Cask Single Malt Whisky. Around $100 per bottle, depending on where you get it from, this is certainly not your standard mixer base:

So I gabbed two Luigi Bormioli 'Michelangelo' tumblers and poured a measured 60mm of the whisky into each. Here is the first one:

The other thing to note here is that the 'Michelangelo' tumblers are quite tall, forcing your nose a long way into the glass to get at the whisky. Here is the second one, with exactly 6 drops of water added. The slight difference in colour is only partly due to the water; it's mostly due to a subtly different camera angle.

So the first thing to note is that drinking whisky from these tumblers is a wonderful experience. Because you breath in the whisky long before it reaches your lips, you are already getting a lot of the aromatics through your nose before anything reaches your tongue. The tasting note on the bottle says: " ... a perfect balance between sweet malt and oak that ends with a hint of dark chocolate and rainforest botanic."

So I inhaled a great deal of malt and oak flavours as I snuffled my way into the glass, and, yes, I would have to agree with them, the flavours do seem perfectly balanced. I let the fire of the alcohol settle on my lips and tongue for a few moments, swirled and swallowed. The residual taste in my mouth was very definitely dark chocolate. How remarkable.

But could the addition of a few drops of water possibly improve these exciting flavours? Poisonally I haz gots doubts. Nevertheless, in the spirit of scientific discovery. I went ahead and tried the second one.


The aromas in the glass are very similar, although more distinct, but this time I also detected a faint aroma of wet foliage, which is what they daintily described as rainforest botanic. A beautiful aroma, and very faint. And with the addition of that aroma the whole character of the taste changed.

Tasting the whisky on the tongue provided another subtle change - the whisky is both smoother and more complex, without losing any of the character I tasted in the first one. You almost feel you could chew it, and the chocolate residual taste is slightly more pronounced.

And now as I sit here and write this I have been sipping away at the first one, without the water. Well, what did you think I was going to do with it, tip it down the sink? The flavour smooths as some of the more aggressive volatiles evaporate, but it still doesn't quite approach the flavour of the slightly watered one. I daresay my ability to be objective is somewhat impaired now, but I will be adding a tiny amount of water to this whisky every time I drink it.

And to think I still have several bottles of Australian whisky that need tasting. Wheeee!

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

A New Calendar

Yes yes yes, I know this has been done dozens of times before and it never works because we're all too conservative. But I'm not sure that is completely true: Australians took to decimal currency with barely a murmur, and we took to the ISO system of measurement without much trouble either (unlike the whingeing poms, who flatly refused to have anything to do with decimal currency and rejected ISO weights and measures, preferring thus to stick to their stupid pounds (of the shillings and pence kind, albeit metricated) and stupid pounds (of the ounces and stones kind, avoirdupois).

Time for a change, I say. Now in most Australian jurisdictions employees get 11 public holidays a year, but many of those holidays have different names between jurisdictions, and happen on different dates. And most of those are less than 2 centuries old; barely enough time to grow a little moss. And as for religious holidays: bah humbug.

A little rationalisation is required. The detritus of the past must be swept away. No more of this "30 days hath September ...", all months will have 30 days, and there will be 12 of them, retaining their current names. That leaves a few days over, depending on leap years, so the catch-up month of Toshvember (feel free to propose alternative names in the comments section below) will have 5 or 6 days, commencing after December. Australians will love Toshvember because, wait for it, every day is a public holiday, with the first day in the month of Toshvember being Christmas.

So what happens with the other public holidays? Simple: the first day of every odd-numbered month (not including Toshvember) is a public holiday. And to eliminate the complaining from the various States that Proclamation Day trumps Inception Day, and both are way better than Waratah Day, all of the public holidays except Christmas Day will be renamed. (I was too much of a coward to take Christmas away from the little kiddies, I just was). Tentative names are Loaf Day 1 - 6.

Oi, I hear you say, what happened to Easter? Wot, all you twice-a-year Christians are feeling deprived of your public holiday celebrating the gratuitous murder of an innocent man 2000 years ago? Well, fear not: you can celebrate Easter as much as you like. In your own time. The percentage of Australians who are genuine church-going Christians is approximately the same percentage as are smokers (a bit under 20%). Different sets of people, of course. So we should all get a day or two off because a minority want to do a bit of praying? Nonsense, away with it.

Finally, to complete the simplification, we have to reduce the number of days in the week. This is so that the number of weeks in a month is a whole number. Now the calendar certainly doesn't require this, but I'm OCD, and I require it - each week has 6 days, and there are 5 weeks in every month except Toshvember, which is a special week in its own right. So the only question remaining is: which day gets blitzed? For a long time I toyed with going with the least controversial solution (bye bye Thursday), but in the end I had to accept that my nerve couldn't fail this time: take a rest, day of the Sun, here's your gold watch. Christians will complain loud and long, of course, but employers will cheer; in fact, I'm predicting a 3% minimum boost to GDP as penalty rates get blitzed.

And it gets better. There are no weekends, every day is a working day except the 1st day of every odd-numbered month. Hey, that's not fair, I hear you say. Yeah, well try telling that to a farmer. Crops and cows don't have days off. Henceforth Australians will work 354 days a year (not counting annual leave, flex days, cousin's funeral, and such). There's probably another 30% boost to GDP right there.

As compensation for these changes the minimum number of weeks off for annual leave rises to 5. Look at that, a whole extra week. Yeah, orright, I know it's only 30 days but that still beats 28.

I'm predicting that at Referendum the Yes vote will get up by a whisker, but with a little bit of campaigning, who knows? It could be a landslide.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Whisky Has Arrived

Actually, the bottles for my first round of whisky tasting arrived a few days ago, I just haven't done anything with them. So here are the first candidates (none chill-filtered as far as I can ascertain).

Three 250ml bottles from Whisky Tasmania: Hellyer's Road Original (centre), Hellyer's Road Slightly Peated (right) and Hellyer's Road Peated (left). All 46% alcohol, all 10 years old (I think, bottle doesn't say). They all appear to me to be exactly the same colour, so the peat is purely flavour.

The other one also comes in three flavours, but not in 250ml:

Tasmania Distillery Sullivan's Cove Rare Tasmanian American and French Oak Double Cask Single Malt Whisky. Catchy name, eh? The three flavours are Single Cask American Oak, Single Cask French Oak, and, illustrated here, Double Cask (a blend of the previous two). 40% alcohol, 13 years old.

I have just read the little note that came with Sullivan's Cove, which confirms that the whisky is not chill filtered, tells me the bottle and cask numbers, and tells me that I can buy my own 20-litre cask if I wish; since my own cask would cost nearly $3,000 I might not take up that opportunity anytime soon.

Tasting will follow after Australia Day.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Whisky Tasting

I subscribe to the magazine New Scientist, and in July this year they ran a competition for subscribers where you had a chance to win 12 sciency books. Since entering involved no more effort than providing them with my email address, I did so, and promptly forgot about it. I never win anything, and after 30 years of buying Lotto tickets with no success, I am completely immune to disappointment.

Months later I got an e-mail from them telling me I'd won, and could I please provide the delivery address. I couldn't even remember what the books were. When they arrived about a week later I discovered a very mixed bunch: one on the search for the Higgs boson was probably the most demanding, but it was also the sort of book that gets overrun with new discoveries; on the other hand, some were keepers, such as this one:

This book is a useful reference on all things alcumohol, but I was particularly struck by Page 40:

As some of you may know, I splosh some water in my whisky, but I had no idea you were supposed to do that; I do it because I enjoy the whisky more with a little water softening.

So, purely in the spirit of scientific endeavour, I grabbed my bottle of Johnny Walker Red and some measuring things and set to work. The standard Andrew serve of ice, two fingers and a splosh of water in a tumbler didn't sound much like the description above, so I placed ice in a tumbler, added my whisky and then immediately tipped the whisky into a measuring vessel. Result: 60ml (more or less).

So I pour myself a double shot with each glassful, which means I'm a soak but I already knew that. Next I got myself a small glass and, using an eyedropper, I put the recommended 6 drops of water in the glass. I could barely see it. So I doubled the number of drops, to match my standard double-shot issue of whisky, and I discovered the water made a very thin film in the bottom of the glass. This is not surprising, because 12 drops is only about 0.6ml.

So I think the correct technique is to wet the interior of a glass, shake out all the water that is not filming the glass surface, add 30ml (1 shot) of whisky, agitate to let the water get at the fatty acid molecules, then enjoy.

At which point I discovered that if you want fatty acid molecules you need a whisky that has them; Johnnie Walker Red Label doesn't very much because it is chill filtered to remove them. And why do they do that? Because Johnnie Walker Red Label, a blend of 35 different whiskies from both the east and west coasts of Scotland, is designed as a mixer base, and has been for decades, long before the company now known as Diageo bought the brand.

I also discovered via research on the Interwebs that I was using the wrong glass if I was going to start whisky tasting. So I went and bought some more appropriately shaped and sized glasses (not actual whisky tasting glasses as used by distillers, because they were stupid expensive) and I am now prepared to repeat the 'add a weetle bit of water' exercise with a non-chill filtered single malt. However, since it is presently 10:00am I will defer the exercise to a more appropriate time. As far as I am concerned, when whisky tasting you sip, swill and spit back into the glass, not into a spittoon, and when you've finished writing up your notes you consume the whisky. I may be a soak, but even I don't drink whisky at 10:00am.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Devils Born To Be Wild

On ABC News Online this morning (Wednesday 27 November 2013):

"Devils Born To Be Wild: Captive-bred Tasmanian devils are thriving on their new island home, breeding and interacting with tourists."

Really? Breeding with the tourists? Who'd a thunk it? Gives a whole new meaning to animal husbandry, I can tell you that.

I used to make a joke about a colleague (and friend) of mine, who had a desk with something special. He had the usual array of little containers we all have, to hold pens, and paper clips, and so on, but he also had an extra one - a punctuation container, filled to the brim with commas, semi-colons, full stops and an em-dash or two. He would write a letter (by hand) with perfectly conventional addressing, lead-in and salutation, but the body text was stream of consciousness with irregular capitalisation. He would then revert to convention for the sign off. To complete the task he would dip into his punctuation container and apply an even (and random) sprinkling of punctuation.

Of course he didn't really do this, but looking at the result you would be forgiven for thinking that my little joke was no joke at all.

I am reminded of the book 'Eats, Shoots and Leaves' by Lynne Truss, a how-to manual for punctuation. Truss hosted a BBC Radio 4 program on punctuation before publishing that book, so she's well positioned to write about the topic. Using punctuation correctly shouldn't be hard, but so many people make it seem so that I am forced to conclude that, in fact, it is hard.

Nevertheless, you don't expect sloppiness from the ABC: " ... new island home, breeding, and interacting with tourists ..." is hardly physics; it just takes a little care.