Older blog entries for danstowell (starting at number 56)

20 May 2013 (updated 4 Jun 2013 at 15:23 UTC) »

Boulder Colorado IPAs

Not only is Boulder Colorado the Hebden Bridge of the USA (I'm told it's "where all the hippies went"), but it also has a really impressive amount of craft beer. Following a tip-off (thanks Bob), tonight I went to sample a few IPAs in the Mountain Sun pub. For the education of no-one except myself, here are my tasting notes - first in visual form:

then in words:

  • Illusion Dweller IPA: described as "biscuity" and "english-style" but still with a hoppy sour tang at the back of the mouth, very clear and nice. Tastes like a modern American IPA to me, doesn't remind me of England - but a great balance of tang and biscuit, super drinkable.
  • Vagabond IPA: almost a pure grapefruit hit, reminds me of that Metal Man which I loved in Ireland.
  • FYIPA: "piney" is the main impression. However it's not got the sharp piney poke of Becherovka which I really like. Maybe it's unfair to compare a beer against a spirit, but Becherovka integrates its alcohol flavour in with the pine, whereas FYIPA has a kinda noticeable alcohol taste separate from the pine, which is a bit of a shame IMHO.
  • Hop Vivant: yes it's a hoppy IPA, but more balanced, multivalent, colourful than the others I'm tasting tonight. Not a session beer, a bit too rich for that.
  • Cat Burglar: black IPAs are really confusing. Erm. I like it less than the Thornbridge Raven, but I don't know why.

Not to look a gift-horse in the mouth, these are all lovely beers, very well served, but when they're sitting next to each other I have to compare them. Hence the ups and downs in the notes. The winner for me is definitely the Illusion Dweller. The ratings over at ratebeer tell almost the opposite story for some reason, with Illusion Dweller the only one not scoring ninety-something. Who knows what to make of that.

Updates - more beer I've tried from Mountain Sun:

  • Java Porter - a lovely perky porter, coffee flavours as the name suggests but not too exaggerated.

More beer from other breweries:

  • 90 Shilling by Odell - I was not into this at all. Too caramely I think?
  • Old Elk Brown Ale by Walnut Brewery - really really straightforward brown ale. Not too sweet which is good.
  • 1123 IPA by Walnut Brewery - really very nice IPA, perky and floral, assertive yet balanced.
  • Hoppy Knight by Twisted Pine - this black IPA is much nicer than the Cat Burglar, IMHO. It does remind me of Thornbridge Raven, both of them having a kind of clarity to the taste that other dark things like Guinness have (though they don't taste like Guinness! much hoppier etc etc etc). This has a very refreshing taste up-front, with a clearly-separated coffee flavour at the end - neat! And not weird either.

My faves, I think, are 1123, Hoppy Knight, Illusion Dweller.

Syndicated 2013-05-19 23:13:49 (Updated 2013-06-04 11:04:46) from Dan Stowell

Haggis and orange salad

Haggis and orange - why of course! This salad serves 2. The red wine vinegar really helps the flavours marry, and the beansprouts add a nice bit of crunch - if you're being posh you could also/instead add some pomegranate seeds.

  • 1 portion of cooked haggis
  • 1 medium orange
  • 1 generous handful rocket
  • 1 very small handful beansprouts (probably no more than 10 sprouts)
  • 3 tsp olive oil, approx
  • 2.5 tsp red wine vinegar

In a large bowl, break the haggis into small pieces with a spoon. The haggis we had was a little dry so I also added a dab of oil at this point.

Now prepare the orange. First, with a zester, scrape off about 1/4 of the orange's zest, into the haggis. Then, with a knife slice the top and bottom off the orange, then stand the orange on a chopping board and slice off the rest of the peel. Then cut the orange into segments, and cut each segment in two, so you have little bite-sized bits. Pick out any pips. Add the orange pieces to the haggis, and also tip in the small amount of juice from the chopping board.

Add the rocket and the beansprouts, and mix. Add the olive oil and red wine vinegar and mix it to dress evenly. You won't need to season much, since the haggis brings a lot of seasoning.

Serve with toast.

Syndicated 2013-05-12 14:29:31 (Updated 2013-05-12 14:33:42) from Dan Stowell

python: combining interpolation with heatmaps

I saw Brandon Mechtley's splmap which is for plotting sound-pressure measurements on a map. He mentioned a problem: the default "heatmap" rendering you get in google maps is really a density estimate which combines the density of the points with their values. "I need to find a way to average rather than add" he says.

Just playing with this, here's my take on the situation. You don't average the values, you create some kind of interpolated overall map, but separately you also use the density of datapoints to decide how confident you are in your estimate at various points on the map. Python code is here and here's an example plot:

Dataviz folks might already have a name for this...

Syndicated 2013-04-16 10:33:02 (Updated 2013-04-16 10:42:43) from Dan Stowell

16 Apr 2013 (updated 17 Apr 2013 at 17:13 UTC) »

Sandwich of the week

The Little Woodford Cafe does a nice line in sandwiches. They often have a Sandwich Of The Week which adds variety. Here I'm just noting down some good ones they've done, for the purposes of sandwich-filling-inspiration:

  • Salmon, freshly-poached, with cucumber and a homemade tartare sauce
  • Tuna fiorentina (with boiled egg and spinach)
  • Christmas special (turkey, sausage, cranberry sauce, stuffing - oh my)

Syndicated 2013-04-16 09:14:36 (Updated 2013-04-17 12:59:53) from Dan Stowell

9 Apr 2013 (updated 10 Apr 2013 at 07:14 UTC) »

How many persons under trains on the tube, so far in 2013?

There seem to have been two separate person under a train incidents on the London underground today. I know nothing about either of them, but there was also one last Friday - and the cluster of events, well, first it made me feel awful, but then I wondered if there were any stats to help understand how common these events are.

Well yes there are. For example you can see some old-ish data for 1998-2005 here. I couldn't find any more recent data - you could file an FOI request if you like. BUT - TfL's twitter feeds tell the public whenever travel is disrupted. And since they use the standard form of words, it's quite simple to go through and find all occurrences, for example, for 2013 so far. So here they are:


Fifteen in total, so far for 2013. Roughly one per week. This is not the same type of data as the old data I linked above (it includes fatalities and nonfatalities, I expect, whereas the old data is just for the former).

You can do some basic statistical modelling on this: if you assume these are independent events and model them with a Poisson distribution, then you find the probability of seeing two-or-more incidents on one day is 1.04% - which essentially means there's nothing particularly weird about seeing it happen at some point over the past three-and-a-bit months.

Syndicated 2013-04-09 17:36:27 (Updated 2013-04-10 02:19:44) from Dan Stowell

29 Mar 2013 (updated 3 Apr 2013 at 13:11 UTC) »

Clementine cake

This clementine cake is lovely and juicy, with a nice sweet chewiness to the crust. And look at that crumb:

When I took the next photo I accidentally left the flash on - but it does show off some of the bright orange colouring in the cake:

It's an easy cake to make. Cos of the juiciness it doesn't keep for that long... but that's no problem. If you have a pressure-cooker it really speeds up the bit where you cook the clementines (or tangerines, or whatever).


  • 4-5 clementines (350--375g)
  • 6 eggs
  • 225 g sugar
  • 225 g ground almonds
  • 25 g flaked almonds
  • 3 or 4 cloves
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder

Put the clementines (WHOLE AND UNPEELED, but without any stalky bits) into the pressure cooker, or a big pan with a lid. Add cold water to cover. If it's a pressure cooker, put the lid on, bring it up to pressure, and cook for 15-20 mins. If it's a normal pan, simmer gently (covered) for 2 hours.

Then turn off the heat, release the pressure, and let the clems and the water cool down. You have to let them cool before the next step, so the clementines don't scramble the eggs! Here's a picture of our clems cooling on the back step.

Put the clems into a food processor and blend them up. (It's handy to keep some of their cooking water in case the mixture needs a bit more liquid, but in my experience it's generally not needed.)

Crush the cloves in a pestle and mortar. Add the flaked almonds and crush them too. No need to crush the almonds too fine - the point of the flaked almonds is to give an occasional bit of crunch to the cake.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, then mix in the clementines. Then add everything else, and mix it up.

Pour into a 21cm springform tin (greased, and with baking paper in the bottom) and bake at 180 degrees (gas mark 4 or 5) for about an hour. Cover the cake loosely with greaseproof paper or a tray, for the last 20 minutes or so.

Take out of the oven and let it sit in the tin for 10--20 minutes or so, before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool properly.

Syndicated 2013-03-29 16:18:11 (Updated 2013-04-03 09:07:24) from Dan Stowell

Bird sound analysis with MPTK: chirp vs gabor

I'm just back from a great two-week research visit to INRIA in Rennes. The fruit of our labour will be a new release of the Matching Pursuit ToolKit with some whizzy extra features and polish. In my previous blog entry I showed how we can use Matching Pursuit to detect patterns in spectrograms - now I want to show you a quick example of how these techniques can give you a clearer, more meaningful representation of sounds such as birdsong.

On my way home one day I got a nice recording of a chiff-chaff, so we'll use that as our example. (I also put the longer audio on Xeno Canto as XC125867.)