The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food by Garrett Oliver

The Brewmaster's Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real FoodThe Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food by Garrett Oliver

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was to add to the knowledge base, despite not being a fan of Oliver’s Brooklyn Brewery and I dislike most of the styles he crows about. Even though this was published in 2003, it still has value with respect to suggestions. He does a good job with descriptions, and food pairings (something that always makes me laugh, whether wine or beer related), and isn’t shy at all about recommending his own brewery’s beers as “notable producers” of the various styles he covers…most of which I’ve tried (the recommendations, that is…not the current menu) and not been impressed by, by the way, but that’s because my tastes are my tastes.

I am so not a lager or Belgian drinker, and he gushes the crap out of them. Most of the book is a lovefest with Euro beers, almost all of which I really cannot stand (Flemish oud bruins are an exception), but for those who do like them, the book will give you some good, albeit dated, tips. I wasn’t keen on his treatment of American beers, though he wasn’t unkind – just not as ebullient as he was for the lagers and …cringe…English beers. Oh My Flying Spaghetti Monster! We are so far apart on our evaluation of Irish stouts! Recognizing that so much has changed on the American craft canvas since 2003, I’m amused at most of his “notable” American breweries are second tier in my assessments – Anchor, Ommegang (third tier), Victory, Goose Island, … Brooklyn… Well, I know I am at odds with many fans, but as I said above…my tastes. I do think I need to explore some lambics. I’ve only had two – two individual beers – to date. I will be touring central Europe in the fall and though I will try Czech and Austrian beers just because, I’m steeling myself in advance.

Snobbery is in the eye of the beer holder. Your mileage may vary. Regardless of whether you agree with Oliver on his likes and recommendations, and though it is old in terms of modern craft, this is still a good addition to the toolbox.

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A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James B. Comey

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and LeadershipA Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James B. Comey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Confirmation biases have a few peculiarities (more than being biases, that is…) They work best when we don’t know we have them… “See! I saw on the News Channel something and I just knew I was right about that conspiracy!” But even if we know some of our biases, and consciously work to set them aside, we will still find ourselves attracted to data that support what I think we want to hear. And I wanted to hear…read…this book, which I was sure would confirm what I had been thinking for two years plus. I’d read Wolff’s creative nonfiction and dismissed it as drivel with kernels of truth. This, feels of more than kernels. And I knew that I would set aside my other readings when it came in. Which is what I did. Continue reading

The thing about walls…

George Carlin was a master of words, coaxing and massaging them like a poet. He liked to take them to extremes to show us how silly we can be. Being the edgy comedian, the words he usually mused were often those that couldn’t be said on television! And he did ponder how some words came to be verboten. In the (anti)social media, we’ve seen once descriptive words become labels and sadly devolve to pejoratives. When a mundane word takes on gargantuan proportions, I suspect George would have had a few words of his own on the matter, maybe asking: When did “Wall” become so divisive? (I couldn’t resist…)

It’s just a word. Such a friendly sounding word. Sometimes we want to be a fly on the wall. We’ll throw spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks. People can be on the fence, which is sort of a wall, about something. Humpty Dumpty sat on one – though that didn’t work out so well for him (curiously, nowhere was it ever mentioned that he was an egg…well, curiously to me.)  When we’ve overdone it, we might find ourselves hitting the wall. Frustrated? beat your head against the wall. Continue reading

A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age by Daniel J. Levitin

A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information AgeA Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age by Daniel J. Levitin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As if I need any more book suggestions, I have a couple of feeds I’ve voluntarily signed up for and this popped up on one of them some time ago and I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I eat up the good stuff on critical thinking and this just appealed. Sure, there were few revelations for me, but the composition was refreshing and even though Levitin seems to churn out variations on a theme, this is my first by him, so gets a good nod from me. It gets an extra star because I like his coverage.

Levitin covers a lot. And he covers it well. His writing makes for easy reading and easier digesting if you’ve never read anything on the subject. for those who have, it’s a nicely packaged compendium with quotable sound bites. He addresses the usual numbers game, … and also words. Lies, damn lies and…

Statistics are not facts. They are interpretations.

All right. Important safety tip. (and spot on). And when he talks about infographics? (“…often used by lying weasels to shape public opinion” [my emphasis]) He’s also spot on that “they [the weasels] rely on the fact that most people won’t study what they’ve done too carefully.” Rather disparaging to the much maligned weasels, similizing the ilk to them. Advising the reader, wisely, when encountering just about any claim: “…ask yourself: How could anyone know such a thing?” Intuitively obvious to the most casual observer? Well, of course, but equally obvious…advise so needed and ignored.

On authority, he also advises (obviously) sagely:

The first thing to do when evaluating a claim by some authority is to ask who or what established their authority. If the authority comes from having been a witness to some event, how credible a witness are they?

And in a discussion later in the book he notes that “Experience is Typically Narrow” I recalled a discourse I had on The Petition Project…appeals to an “authority” beg the question as to the source of the authority; does the authprity have any pedigree at all on the subject in question? (Great pop culture reference in mind is the television show West Wing’s character President Bartlet eviscerating a sham talk radio host for masquerading her PhD in English as some authority in divinity or psychology…)

On things like Academy Awards – something I question when I actually take an interest – he makes a very good observation that

The award system is generally biased toward ensuring that every winner is deserving, which is not the same as saying that every deserving person is a winner.

Important distinction.

There’s a lot more here. I made a lot of electronic highlights and notes (that I should remember to save in event of another device glitch…) and though I like James Morrow’s “Science has all the answers. We just don’t have all the science”, Levitin notes, “Science doesn’t present us with certainty, only probabilities.” I might need to adjust my thinking.

Highly recommended for the beginner and veteran.

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