Jubilee by Shelley Harris

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Quite surprised by how poorly others seem to have thought of this book on Goodreads. I enjoyed the two pronged approach showing what was really happening behind the scenes of a Silver Jubilee party photo; the story is told switching between the children’s view in 1977 and their adult views of 2007. Mostly centring on Satish, persecuted as the only non-white child on the street as a 12 year old in 1977 who has become a successful cardiologist by 2007, I thought this was an interesting take on Britishness but mostly about growing up. I suspect that being of a similar age to the characters in the book coloured my good opinion of it; I found it an enjoyable light but not lightweight read.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.
This was a kindle eBook.

Map Overlay

The map above shows a bike ride I took last weekend, from home to a local coffee shop. Except the ride was at home in West Yorkshire and the map shows the route taking me through London from Wandsworth, up through Kensington and Holland Park to West Hampstead. I suspect there are significantly more coffee shops on that route. I always want to do this kind of thing when walking and cycling: “If I was in [X place] how far would I have been?”. Your sense of scale changes in different surroundings, it is interesting to be able to compare them directly and easily. Created with a new tool for “cartographic mixtures” called MapFrappe; I look forward to seeing more. (The ability to rotate your outline would be my first request.)

[via As Above]

Darbyshire’s Holmfirth Cream

Darbyshire's Holmfirth Cream III

This isn’t baking but the recipe is so good I need to shout about it!

In fact it’s barely a recipe: pour some stuff into a bottle and swish it about. (I used a liquidizer but I think it’s a bit excessive really.)

The problem with online supermarket shopping is you actually notice how much you are spending when you are stacking your trolley up with goodies, whereas in a bricks and mortar supermarket you don’t really find out until you’ve already committed to buy it. I kept putting a new litre bottle of £20 Baileys Irish Cream in my virtual trolley, and then taking it out to save for a week when the rest of the shopping was cheaper (this never happens). Baileys always seems expensive for something that is only 17% alcohol.

Then as part of an ongoing thing I have going on with trying to buy ingredients rather than ready-made items as much as possible, I thought “Can I make it myself?” and I found a recipe at the BBC and thought it was worth checking out. Of course you still need to buy the Irish Whiskey to go in it (my “make it yourself” kick hasn’t got as far as distilling whisky… hmmm). But you only add half a bottle of Jameson’s. So only £11.50 of whiskey, plus £1 of single cream and £1.44 for a tin of condensed milk. That makes a bargain £14 for a litre of homemade Irish Cream. I’m not going to try and cost the extra bits of flavouring you add as well!

So a 30% discount over the ready made price isn’t bad. But the bonus is that it tastes really, really, really good. It was in the back of my mind that it might taste like a cheap rip off version despite the good whiskey, but it actually gives you that fabulous homemade “Whoa! Why was I buying this rather than making it?!” kick that all the best home bakes, cakes and jams do. I will see how it keeps (the recipe says two months in the fridge) but I can’t see myself buying the Baileys again.

I’m also thinking of how nice it would be to experiment with different flavours. I didn’t have any Camp coffee to use this time so I’d like to try that. More chocolatey would be good obviously. Could you add vanilla pods to infuse? I’ve had ready-made rum cream liqueur before which was nice too. Lots of ideas.

A quick count up of the calories in it actually managed to give me a lower number than Baileys which surprised me, perhaps I need to double check on that. The homemade version works out to be slightly lower alcohol content and a bit thinner than Baileys though which may account for the difference.

Overall I am really very impressed and wish I’d thought of the idea of making my own years ago.

Math on Trial: How Numbers Get Used and Abused in the Courtroom by Leila Schneps

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As a mathematician I really enjoyed reading most of this book. I’m someone who jumps up and down and gets annoyed when I notice statistics being misused in the news and especially in legally binding situations: typically when something like “1 in x million” is used to mean “so unlikely that it couldn’t happen” which it certainly doesn’t mean[*]. I’m not a statistician though and I’m sure plenty of number-misuse gets past me too, and I was pleased to read this and add a few more tools to my news-busting mathematical arsenal.

The format of the book is to point out a mathematical error and then go into the detail of a legal case that rested on that mathematical error. My only complaint is that some of the legal case details went on a bit and went far beyond what was needed to see the maths problem. That possibly makes it a better book for a general readership though – it’s not constant bashing you over the head with maths – but basically I thought some of it was better written than other bits; the opening chapters better polished than later ones. It was nice to see cases from all over the world included and for the most part you didn’t need to have any prior knowledge of the cases to follow the book although some of them are pretty well known.

It has been proposed in the past that probabilistic evidence should not be admissible in court, basically most people (lawyers, judges, juries) don’t understand it and it is easily twisted to give a damning result by someone who does (or thinks they do) understand it. Even as a mathematician who thinks we all ought to be more numerate I can see that there is sense in that argument. In the age of DNA profiling though we are only going to see more number based evidence turning up in courtrooms. I’m sure the authors will have no trouble in finding material for a follow up book!

[*] I’m pleased to see the authors used my standard comeback to explain this fallacy: With a “1 in 14 million chance” of winning the lottery we would all be hugely surprised if we ourselves won the lottery, but it doesn’t surprise us at all that someone wins it almost every week.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.
This was a kindle eBook.