November 30, 2007
I came across this post by Doug a while ago, and have meant to comment on it for quite some time. While his post is largely a question of whether there can truly be a wine “expert”, since there is subjectivity to taste, the key that I saw was this quoted passage from his source article:
What these experiments neatly demonstrate is that the taste of a wine, like the taste of everything, is not merely the sum of our inputs, and cannot be solved in a bottom-up fashion. It cannot be deduced by beginning with our simplest sensations and extrapolating upwards. When we taste a wine, we aren’t simply tasting the wine. This is because what we experience is not what we sense. Rather, experience is what happens when our senses are interpreted by our subjective brain, which brings to the moment its entire library of personal memories and idiosyncratic desires.
What got me thinking about this was an experience I had at the Great American Beer Festival in October. One of the “need to try” things on my list was the Samuel Adams Utopias, a beer unlike any other I’ve tried. At 27% ABV, it’s strong, and due to the way it’s brewed and packaged, it’s a still (uncarbonated) beer. So I stood in line at the Sam Adams booth, I pushed my way up front, I got my 1 ounce taster, and I hated it. I couldn’t stand to even drink the stuff. I simply though it sucked.
But an interesting thing happened. I got a chance to try the very same beer at a beer/food pairing event the next day. Instead of being in a loud convention hall, I was in a nice quiet restaurant. Instead of pushing through hordes of people to get my glass filled, I was seated comfortably chatting with fellow beer lovers. And when I tasted the Utopias, suddenly it had changed. Of course, it hadn’t changed a bit, but I was in a completely different frame of mind when I got the chance to taste it. Suddenly it tasted great! It seemed (as is intended) as a perfect end to a nice meal. Sweet and complex, with a definite “beer” character that you don’t find in a brandy (as it does have hops), but not overpowering or harsh, as I had thought before. When I had a chance to sit down and drink it slowly, I was able to appreciate the subtle flavors inherent in the beer rather than simply feel the warmth in my stomach that something so high in alcohol will bring.
The beer which I had decided merely a day earlier that I’d never buy a bottle of (it’s well over $100 for a bottle, so it is a difficult decision) now seemed like something that might be a good thing to keep for special occasions. And I might end up doing that, as it has just hit its 2007 release here in California.
But it proves that a lot more goes into the taste of anything than simply its ingredients. Much of what we taste is due to what we’ve brought to the table within ourselves.
Yesterday I picked up a copy of The Dangerous Book For Boys, a book full of the sorts of things that Wyatt’s mother will get very upset if he does in a few years [but that he's going to do anyway].
But I’m a bit worried. He’s already reading The Economist, so this book might be a little bit below his level
November 29, 2007
A thief made off with 180 kegs of Guinness beer after smoothly driving into the Dublin brewery, which makes the black stout and snatching a trailer load of drink, police said Thursday.
“A man drove into the yard in a truck and took a trailer containing the drink which has an estimated value of 64,000 euros ($94,770),” a police spokesman said.
He drove “smoothly” in…
…and swerved his way out!
November 28, 2007
From stand-up comedian Keith Alberstadt:
Fantasy Football is like Dungeons and Dragons for the guys who used to make fun of people who played Dungeons and Dragons.
I take part in neither. As I’ve said to the many people who suggested I join either: “I’m a geek. But I’m not that kind of geek.”
November 21, 2007
It almost passed by without me realizing it, but The Liberty Papers is now two years old. It’s come a long way in the last two years, from a third-rate blog that nobody has ever heard of, to a second-tier blog pulling in thousands of visitors each day. I’ve had a lot of fun over there, including having the chance to meet several of the contributors in person while traveling. Head on over and give some congrats.
Oh, and it did pass by without me realizing it, but The Unrepentant Individual has now passed 3 years! I do pretty much neglect the blog these days, as I find I have little to write about other than personal news, and keep all of my political writing over at TLP. As I adjust to parenthood and get more free time, though, I hope to find some clearer focus for the blog, and keep it to write about things I’m truly interested in.
Until then, you can always stop by for baby pictures!
Wyatt and I out for a stroll:
Wyatt getting ready for his baptism:
November 11, 2007
Intelligence is not the most understood of human attributes, and is quite certainly one of the most contentious, especially when the field of genetics become involved.
Breastfeeding has been shown in some studies to be correlated with higher intelligence. But a recent study, reports The Economist, suggests that there is a genetic component as well. But here is where the story gets strange:
Dr Caspi and Dr Moffitt, however, were not so sure. They suspected the involvement of a gene called FADS2. This regulates the metabolism of a group of molecules called long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. These are important for the growth of nerve cells and are abundant in human milk but generally absent from formulas. FADS2 comes in two varieties, known as C and G, and the researchers wondered if these two varieties interacted differently with breast milk.
What Dr Caspi and Dr Moffitt found was that the increase in intelligence associated with breastfeeding only happened to people who had inherited at least one copy of the C version of FADS2. (Most genes are present as two copies, one inherited from the mother and one from the father.) The effect did not depend on the social classes or IQs of the parents, nor on the birthweight of the child in question (low birthweight has been linked to lower IQ). And the difference in IQ was preserved into adulthood.
Only about 10% of the population is double-G, but what is curious about this result is that the G version of the gene has survived at all. If intelligence is valuable, the C version might be expected to have become universal. Indeed, this is the nub of the nurturists’ argument. Natural selection should have pushed intelligence genes as far as they will go, so all variation should be environmental. That it is not suggests there is some unknown countervailing advantageâ€”at least in reproductive termsâ€”to being less than averagely bright.
This is incorrect. That the gene has not disappeared does not show that there is an advantage evolutionary to being dull, only that being dull isn’t a disadvantage to mating. Evolution is not necessarily based on what is optimal, only what is “good enough” to find a mate. I’d say that looks and pheromones are probably much more important traits than pure intelligence. After all, Britney Spears was able to reproduce twice, and nobody will say it was her brainpower that got her knocked up!
PS – I wonder what sort of Google hits this title will bring in!
November 10, 2007
Well, at least the new camera arrived, so the pictures are good this time!
Wyatt in a contemplative mood:
Yeah, Purdue lost, but he’s thinking about Notre Dame getting beat now!
November 3, 2007
Well, Purdue didn’t win today, but unlike the OSU and Michigan games, we actually made a game of it. And I can always blame the officiating, which was horrific.
But when I think about the ugliness of the men in stripes, I can look at the below sight and feel a whole lot better
He must be a Selwyn Lymon fan
Of course, many thanks need to go to frequent commenter and former Purdue roommate Nick M, who sent Wyatt the jersey (along with a copy of “Radicals For Capitalism” for me).
(In other news, a much higher quality camera was ordered last night– early Christmas gift from Joanna and I to each other– so within a week we can avoid the weak poor-quality pictures like the above).