opened bottles

I’m a member (but mostly lurk) of a couple of facebook groups on whisky: the Australian Whisky Appreciation Society (AWAS) and the Highland Park Appreciation Society. I’m on the former cause it’s sorta local and I’ve been getting more and more into whisky. I’m on the latter as I think it was Highland Park that first made whisky click for me and it remains one of my faves. I have even been to the Orkney Islands, north of mainland Scotland, where Highland Park is located but that was before I’d gotten into whisky. I visited a few distilleries on the mainland via a backpacker’s bus and must have picked up some Highland Park duty free. There’s only two distilleries on Orkney, Highland Park and Scapa though I’ve never tasted the latter and they seem to be much smaller whereas Highland seems huge and expanding.

Anyways, there was a recent thread on AWAS about how many bottles people had, and how many they had open. I figured that bottles owned would range from a few to lots, while bottles opened would range from a few to a few more. I was a little wrong on the latter assumption. Most folk seemed to have a third to two thirds of their collection open. This is ok if you’ve got 10-20 bottles but beyond that it gets sort of scary. Some folk have 70 bottles with 60 opened, or several hundred with a few hundred open. I can see easily, how whisky can be as dangerous as book collecting.

Once you open a whisky it is affected by the air that gets in, some well some not so much. I know from my own experience that if you open a whisky and leave it a few years it can go a little off. For some whiskies, additional air improves it over several months. Others need to be drunk quickly. I recall having an 18 year old Glenfiddich that tasted horrible by the time I finished it a couple of years after opening.

Taking stock of my current state of play: I have 5 bottles open out of a total of 9. To be honest, I’m a bit staggered I have so many: both open and unopened. Every time I buy a new bottle it is tempting to open it immediately. Thankfully, regular tastings and whisky fairs has reduced that temptation and improved my appreciation. Plus I have a significant understanding of collectivitis via books which are my first priority. So far at least whisky collecting has proven cheaper than book collecting.

The 5 I have open currently include:

  • Highland Park Viking Scars (10 year old) – very smooth, easy drop. It’s relatively cheap at $75 though lacks complexity. A nice, regular quaffer.
  • McHenry 6th barrel release – oh my! I love this so. Molasses and toffee. A delish Tassie whisky. The distillery in Port Arthur was alas shut when we were in Hobart last but keen to visit next time. I did meet the man himself at the Oak Barrel’s Whisky Fair and it was lovely chatting to him. Last week I picked up the 3rd barrel release.
  • Ben Nevis 1997 – 20 year old single cask, bottled specially for the Oak Barrel Whisky Fair. I have bottle 8 of 60. Delish but much improved with a few drops of water. At 48.6% alcohol it tastes much stronger but the water really opens it up.
  • Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve – was on special recently at my local for $99 (from $134). The ultimate Yamazaki is the 18 year old that sells out quickly, even at $1,000+ and then re-sells for several thousand. I have tasted the 18 year old and it is yum but I ain’t paying stupid money. This one is nice and works well as a quaffer with a bit of character.
  • Overeem sherry cask – this is probably my favourite whisky and comes from the last cask that Casey Overeem made before selling to Lark. This is my second bottle from that cask and it is oh so good. Overeem mostly mature in either port or sherry casks and while I don’t mind the port, I usually prefer the sherry cask.

knuth

I often say professionally that I did a compsci major (though can never claim it officially) yonks ago but decided against becoming a programmer. That’s not a decision I regret mostly, though it must be said I continue to have strong leanings that direction. Scarily, it’s been over 25 years since those compsci days. Still, I learnt good stuff.

I recall in the second half of first year compsci, we had an older lecturer at the time who was actually a maths lecturer who seemed to have come across into computers. I can say “older” as I’ve just found this bio which sums up very briefly a rather fascinating career. He may even have been one of my favourite lecturers as he liked to play with new ideas and introduced stuff he knew about from maths into computing. I was a very rare beast in compsci in that I was enrolled under BA and not directly in Compsci and I did no math. I had done first year math but it wasn’t quite my bag. Doherty was very big on mathematical ideas and assessing efficiencies of algorithms.

I recall him talking some weird algorithm for encrypting data and he worked through the basic idea in a lecture, I think it was based on some sort of fractional encoding model. At the end of the lecture, he said the next assignment would be to implement it. I found the idea of it fascinating. The next assignment came out and sure enough it was on encryption so I implemented the algorithm in Pascal that he’d talked about based on my lecture notes. The idea was you’d write code to encrypt a paragraph of text, and code to decrypt the text. I was mostly successful but because it relied on decimal conversion of larger numbers, it rapidly lost accuracy on the 8 bit macs we were using at the time. Out of a sentence of 10 words, it started losing letters by the end of the first word.

Turns out, I should have read the back page of the assignment. Doherty had decided that the technique was a little too experimental for first year compsci and had instead instructed everyone to use a hashing technique. I handed my assignment in and discussed with the class tutor what I’d done. He wasn’t familiar with the algorithm at all but was impressed that it worked and understood why it failed where it did. I got full marks and first year compsci was one of my few high distinctions at uni.

mini computers on top of computer books.Anyway, Doherty would often quote Knuth as the foundation of modern computing. Knuth was all about the development of algorithms and understanding their efficiencies. Algorithms are really important as they represent techniques for solving particular sorts of problems eg what is the best way to sort a random string of numbers? The answer varies depending on how many numbers are in the string, or even whether you can know the number of numbers. For very small sets, a bubble sort is sufficient, and from there you move on to binary searches, binary trees, and so on. I wasn’t always across the math but really appreciated the underlying thinking around assessing approaches to problem solving. Plus Doherty was a fab lecturer with a bit of character.

So Knuth. He is best known for his series, The Art of Computer Programming, which has gone through a few editions and I wonder if it will ever be actually finished; the fourth volume is actually labeled 4A: Combinatorial Algorithms Part 1. Volume 4 is eventually expected to cover 4 volumes: 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D. 4B has been partially released across several fascicles of which 6 have been released. Volume 3 seems to be the most relevant for where I’m at today and where I’m looking to play; #3 is around 750 pages devoted specifically to sorting and searching. So much of what we do online is reliant on being able to find stuff and to find stuff well, it helps if the data has been ordered.

Knuth has this been this name in my head though my life has gone in other directions. A few years ago, I did a google and found that not only were his books on Amazon, there was even a box set of Volumes 1-4A. I bit the bullet about 3 years ago and bought the set, cost around US$180 at the time and looks really, bloody good on the shelf. I haven’t read a great deal yet but dipped in a few times and planning to get into volume 3 properly at some point. I’ve recently being moving stuff around at home and don’t have a lot of space for books next to where my computer gear is these days. However, it turns out, the mac mini sits nicely on top of the set, and my newest computer, the VivoMini sits nicely on top of the mac. I sorta like the idea of these small computers sitting on Knuth’s foundation.

avoidance

I drank the McHenrys 6th release 3 nights in a row this week and it’s like a lovely toffee verging on rich christmas cake. I know where I can a bottle from their 3rd release, and 4th for that matter, but avoiding it as it’s a little pricey. Though today I picked up a discounted bottle of the Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve, at $99 it’s a wee bit cheaper than the 18 year old that seems to sell in uncomfortable four figure amounts.

Somehow I have found myself on Amazon…just looking at stuff, minding my own business. I could for example get a whisky flask that looks a game cartridge, or even a dodgy looking steampunk version. On the other hand, the Disruptor Rifle looks rather cool but I’ve got nowhere to display it currently and it might not be quite the thing to put on my filing cabinet at work.

I occasionally, and this may surprise some, look longingly at Richie Rich collections. I had lots of comics as a kid and I’d like to say they were really cool in a pre-hipster sort of way but nyah, I bought the regular stuff not the niche. I had lots of Richie Rich comics, the story of the poor little rich boy. Though I did also have the english whizzer and chips with its stories of Mustapha Millions. Actually I did have a bunch of Captain America too. In later years I think I even have a complete run of the Babylon 5 comics. There’s a new book on gaming that came out a month or so back that looks rather interesting: Blood, Sweat and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made.

Other temptations include omnibus collections of the original Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy, and even a couple of books on Soviet bus stops. Every other week there seems to be a new omnibus featuring Captain America and The Avengers though the really big temptation at the moment is the Complete Collection of S.H.I.E.L.D. as I’m currently enjoying the 3rd season of Agents of SHIELD via DVD. Also glad to see that an omnibus has been released of the new Ms Marvel of which I’ve read the first couple of releases. I tend not to buy much in paperback these days and prefer to wait for the hardcover omnibus releases…afterall they look rather nice on the shelf and hopefully last a bit longer.

Haven’t bought any books so far but may revisit later in the evening.

more sheep (there are spoilers)

…which sounds like it could be a line introducing the planned Settlers of Catan movie.

But no, I of course refer to a second movie picking up on the themes of Philip K Dick‘s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”. As an aside, thankfully, googling “android” and “dick” produced far less scary results than anticipated. Dick’s greatness far exceeds dodgy pr0n references. DADOES as it is often shortened to, is possibly Dick’s second best novel, the best generally regarded as The Man in the High Castle. I tend not to disagree.

When the first version of the first movie was released in, I think, 1982 or 3, I wasn’t able to see it. Dad however, bought me the book. I was 14 at the time. It blew me away. I loved it much. I’ve only read it once but it has always stuck with me. Vivid. I finally saw the film on its second release, as the Director’s Cut. Loved it. Also vivid. Seared into my mind. I saw it many times both on big screen and small.

I suspect I’ve seen the original version several times since. Comfortably double figures on the director’s cut, possibly double figures on the original. I love both though it remains true that people generally prefer the version they saw first. There is also a final cut that was much later that I tried to watch recently but didn’t quite find the right moment to pop it on. I’ve read enough to know where it differs and seen the other versions enough to work out where it fits visually.

Seriously: spoilers below.

Bladerunner is that rare, rare film that leaves out so much of the book yet captures its essence, shares its soul. Blade Runner 2049 also succeeded…mostly. I was riveted to the screen for most of it, for most of it was perfect. If it had stopped shortly after Agent K and Deckard met, or been effectively finished at that point, I would have been happy. But it didn’t finish, there were fights and kidnapping and more fights, Terminator-esque. The side plot of the tycoon Wallace, felt shallow and vacuous. Unnecessary. Even then, if the film had ended with K dying on the snowy steps it might have been redeemed. It felt so much like an interesting film with a Brady Bunch ending slapped on.

And yet, it was still so bloody good…so much perfect, visually grand (it needs a really big screen, a big space), musically, aurally wonderful. It still traces the path of  what does it mean to be human, and explores new ripples. It was well paced, events, music, landscapes…connected. I loved its play with virtual characters, and the way it overlapped virtual with real…or a sense of real. It’s all about the sense of real, and not necessarily the real itself.

random mutterings

Following a tweet this morning:

I’ve fallen down something of a rabbit hole. I made references in my response to that tweet to usenet and newsgroup creation groups. Of course, I popped into google groups and found usenet posts of my own from the early 1990s in aus.net.news and aus.sf, some of which are a wee bit cringeworthy. Oh well, it’s all about the learning…I tell myself.

Tonight, I revisited one of my earlier blogs, 2002 this time, and found an entry that I could turn into a tweet:

as sure enough, it’s still running and is in its 23rd year. I am saddened, but unsurprised at how many links no longer work. Yet shocked to discover that my link to mutt, an unix based email program, not only works but is still being updated in 2017. The link still works for pine, another email program, but development ceased in 2008. Even slrn still exists (last update in 2016) and can be grabbed in linux via apt-get.

a shipping crane by the waterSpeaking of apt-get, a tool for installing software on linux, I am liking having linux running as its own machine. Been a long time since I’ve had it on a dedicated device. I’ve set up my new box as dual mode with windows but I’m barely touching the windows side and I’m already musing on wiping it altogether. Running it in a virtualbox always had an edge of frustration, it was slower, a little clunky, and some things just never worked as you were dealing with linux and virtualbox. Now it’s just linux and stuff mostly works; muscle memory in my fingers seems to guide me through.

In other news, I am conscious I should blog more on whisky stuff. I’ve been learning lots in the last year and have a good sense of what I like. The most important lesson however is to keep trying new things and being open to things that you might otherwise expect not to like. I’m very fond of whisky matured in sherry casks, but port casks not so much. Yet I am currently sipping a delicious drop from McHenry’s in Tasmania, matured in ex bourbon barrels and finished in a port cask. So utterly delish. Also I think I need to dedicate a post to Highland Park as I’ve had so many of their releases, yet know there’s so many I haven’t had. Have also been enjoying their new 10 year old Viking Scars which is a relatively cheap whisky at $75.

Here’s my blog entry from October 2003 that I suspect includes my first mention of eating seahorse. I had a busy month in December 2003 with much to think about including the dreaded digital divide and longevity of URLs ironically. A year later, my final post noted that of the then top 100 movies screened in Australia (by box office takings), I’d seen 92. I know now that it’s not 93 as I have definitely not seen Ghost. Whereas December 2004 is full of thoughts regarding my first NLS, and my first attempts at live blogging. I think I live blogged using a psion 5mx (which I still have) connected via infrared to my mobile phone which in turn handled a dial up connection to my ISP. Also thoughts regarding how to set up some sort of group blogging thang for the following NLS though I think we ended up using ALIA’s forum for discussion in the end. December 2004 was also when I finally registered my own domain that now points here.

I continue to enjoy browsing the casualness of my blogging in those early days; blogging was about random bits and pieces, content in response to links I stumbled upon. A sentence here, a paragraph there; mutterings on this and that. Was fun. Is still fun.

threading delights

I’ve had the new machine a few days and I’m starting to get the hang of it, but learning, lots of learning. Finding linux equivalents of windows tools and then working out how to install them. Troubleshooting unexpected java errors trying to get spark shell to compile properly – turns out I had the JRE but not the full JDK which means I had to download more stuff and update some config files as well pathname references so the system knows where to find stuff.

As it turns out I completely misread the new pages for Archives Unleashed and didn’t see the black menu bar at the top of the screen for all of the docs. Was a little too tired methinks. I  installed stuff using old versions of the docs I found on the wayback machine and other bits. Consequently I’ve ended up with a more recent version of Archives Unleashed (a bit of mouthful after the easier “warcbase”) with 0.10.1 instead of 0.9.0 and I’m running a current version of Spark Shell, 2.2.0, instead of 1.6.1. Anyway it all works…I think.

The next headache was that my harvest test data was still on the mac mini. I wasn’t sure how to get the data across as I couldn’t write to a windows hard drive from the mac. Then had the bright idea of copying the data, 56 files for a total of 80GB, to my home server via wifi. That took 6 hours…to the server, so I went away and did other things. Towards the end of that process I had a bit of time so I worked out that if I formatted a drive for the mac in exFAT format, I could install some utilities in linux to read it. That took an hour, half hour to copy to the drive, half an hour from the drive to linux. Phew.

Then I tried running the SCALA code for extracting the site structure and ran into a few errors as about 15% of the files have developed an error somewhere along the way. I removed all the broken files leaving me with 47 usable ones. All up, it took 18 minutes to process the data, not quite as fast as I was hoping. On the other hand, the advantage of having lots of ram is that there was plenty of space to do other things. Running the same job on the mac mini with dual core CPU and 8GB RAM brought it to a grinding halt and nothing else was possible. On the new machine, I could run everything else normally including web browsing and downloads.

htop2

Regardless of whether I allocated 5gb, 10gb, 24gb, or even 28gb of RAM, time taken to process still hovered around 18 minutes. With 28gb allocated it only needed around 15gb to process, as can be seen in the above screenshot of htop. The other nice thing about htop is that it demonstrated that all 8 CPU threads were in use. Where I think I saved some time is that swap doesn’t seem to have been required which would have reduced some overheads. Either that, or I haven’t worked out how to use swap memory yet.

Still very early days.

some new tech

Following my fun in July when I hit a bit of a wall in playing with large data sets and brought my mac mini to a grinding halt, I ruminated on next steps. Wall aside, it was a wee bit frustrating that running experiments on larger data sets took a long time to run and that’s been a bit off-putting to further progress. So I decided that I really did a new machine and was going to get an intel NUC skull canyon as it was small and fast. I waited for Intel to announce their new 8th generation CPUs which they did recently. Unfortunately the upgrade to the current 6th generation Skull isn’t due till Q2 2018.

On the other hand, prices have been dropping on the barebones Skull and you can pick one up for around AUD$700. However a retailer pointed out to me recently that the ASUS VivoMini, while pricier, uses 7th generation CPUs. Plus it’s a cuter box. After some umming and ahhing, I ordered the vivomini with 32GB RAM and an additional 1TB drive (it includes a 256GB SSD in the m.2 port). The CPU is a 7th generation quad core i7. Total cost was around AUD$1,700 whereas a similarly set up Skull would have been around $1,400-500. It has a small footprint and sits nicely on top of the mac mini.

36938037614_0820718b3e

Picked it up yesterday and it booted straight into windows. Today, somewhat trepidatiously, I had a go at setting it up to dual boot with linux. The last few years I’ve been running linux via virtualbox on windows and that’s been sufficient. It’s been a long, long, long time since I set up a dual boot machine and that was using debian which was a wee bit challenging at the time.

This time round it was all easy as. I followed some straightforward instructions carefully and tested initially on a live boot via USB and then used that USB to install it properly. I’ve booted back and forth between windows and linux several times just to be sure and so far so good. I’m currently writing this blog via firefox in ubuntu. My next step was going to be to set up warcbase however that’s been deprecated as Ian Milligan and his team have received a new grant and are working on building an updated environment under their Archives Unleashed Toolkit. So I’ll play with that instead :) Regardless I’ll still need to get Apache Spark up and running which is likely my next step.