Monday, October 02, 2017

Winter-Kreationen 2017

Rejoice, for winter is upon us! Or, at least, Ritter Sport's Winter-Kreationen are upon us, and it didn't take me long to get hold of them.

Spekulatius: 9/10
It's amazing that this one didn't exist before (well, I've never seen it). It's basically a variant on Knusperkeks, except that the giant biscuit in the middle is a speculoos, with its signature cocktail of spices. I'd rate it just as highly as the original Knusperkeks.

Weisse Zimt Crisp: 6/10
This one is absolutely bursting with flavour: you open the packet and an explosion of cinnamon assails your nostrils. Unfortunately for me, that is a rather traumatic experience, as it brought back memories of the time a friend knocked a jar of cinnamon powder off the shelf in my kitchen and it smashed, showering cinnamon everywhere. I had to live with the consequences for months. So maybe it's just me, but I can't quite deal with how cinnamonny this is. It's also an extremely sweet combination, with nothing to cut the inherent cloyingness of the white chocolate, though the crunchiness is good.

Gebrannte Mandel: 6.5/10
Meh. Tasty enough, good and crunchy, but more or less just works like any other version with tiny smashed up nuts in it - not very distinctive.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Fame and fortune: the Cambridge effect

One thing that you often hear when at Cambridge, usually said by people not at Cambridge, is that you're going to university with people who will one day be famous. For me, at least, that never seemed very realistic at the time. I'm feeling reflective now, though, so here's a quick look back.

I was involved in at least 20 theatrical productions in Cambridge, depending on how you count, but the first one was a biggie: in December 2004, when this blog was in its infancy, a bunch of us got on a bus and performed Romeo and Juliet in venues around Europe (mostly Switzerland), then at the ADC Theatre in Cambridge in January 2005. This is the European Theatre Group tour, and, considering that it's featured folks like Stephen Fry and Sir Derek Jacobi, it's a good place to start in more ways than one.

My role was as a humble "fresher techie". I'd assumed that my experience of occasionally pressing buttons on a 20-year-old lighting deck and carting props around for the Tideswell Community Players would set me up well for this. In fact, I was touring with several people who'd worked with state-of-the-art sound and lighting setups at their secondary school, who had serious ambitions to go into technical theatre, and who took the whole thing very seriously. I certainly learned a huge amount - it was another instance where I had to rein in my inherent arrogance and lap up what was thrown my way. Once or twice, being able to speak semi-decent French or German actually made me more useful than just another pair of hands. Most importantly, I guess, I had a great time. Anyway, enough about me. More important are the interesting people I was touring with.

Twelve years later, the fame thing is very clear when you look at the cast. The most striking fact is that, of the eleven of them, six now have their own Wikipedia pages. Obviously that's not a perfect proxy for stardom, but not a bad indicator of success either, given that all these people are broadly the same age as me. The standout is probably Lydia Wilson, who played Juliet and has now played a good-sized role in a flippin' Star Trek film, but it's hard to compare. Two of the other cast members, Simon Evans and Alexandra Spencer-Jones, are now successful directors in their own right (as is the director of the play, Max Webster). The other cast members I know about are also doing just grand for themselves. On the crew side, the only one with a Wikipedia article that I know of is designer Simon Fujiwara, but of course crew by their nature prefer to stay in the shadows, on the whole.

What does all of this mean? I revisited this lot out of curiosity, not because I wanted to make a point, and I still don't. There are lots of points to be made. The obvious ones are about nepotism and about the Cambridge brand value. While there's obviously something to be said for both of those, it's also the case that, to the extent to which one of those is explanatory, the other is less so; and there are also questions about the direction of causation. The other obvious point is that people who go to Cambridge are often very capable and (perhaps even more importantly) incredibly ambitious. And that there are established routes into the theatre world that people are aware of should not be very surprising to anyone: it's not a huge industry and by its nature has to cluster around particular cities, neighbourhoods, and theatres. Furthermore, who you are, and who you can be, matters in theatre - for actors it probably matters more than anything else, and so it would be hard to envisage a theatre industry that wasn't nepotistic at least to some degree by necessity. Good looks don't hurt either (and I now know that good looks are much more a matter of hard work than I was aware in 2004-5).

So you're welcome to read into this retrospective what you like. It's clearly illustrative of something.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Lactose-free, gluten-free milk chocolate

A quick and easy Ritter rating:

Vollmilch Laktosefrei: 9/10
The reason this one is easy is that it literally tastes exactly the same as its non-lactose-free, non-gluten-free counterpart. If only it were always this straightforward! (NB: apparently this one contains no more than 0.1% lactose.)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Why I'm voting Pirate in Manchester Central

I'll be voting for the Pirate Party in the upcoming general election. Here's why.

Lack of digital literacy among the major parties

It's time to end digital illiteracy. Internet policy is an area on which the major parties are both astonishingly ineffectual and terrifyingly illiberal. Amber Rudd has been much mocked for her reference to people who "understand the necessary hashtags". Less amusingly, but more importantly, Rudd has spoken of her desire to ban encryption, a move which is both anti-privacy and anti-business. End-to-end encryption is crucial for banking, for instance. You'd think there'd be outcry, or at least that Labour would use the issue to score some points. But that hasn't happened.

Online privacy and security is a matter of life and death, as the recent NHS attacks have shown. It's an open question whether the underfunding that allowed our NHS to get so royally screwed over was a result of miserliness, cynical targeted defunding, incompetence, or all three. In any case, it's clear that this isn't a purely abstract issue: increasingly, it's a matter of defence. This could well be the form that future warfare typically takes. Anyone who made as many gaffes when discussing Trident as Amber Rudd has made when discussing encryption and digital rights would be considered a danger to national security, and unfit to hold office. Meanwhile, the Labour manifesto only mentions "cyber warfare" in the vaguest of terms (p120), and elsewhere states that it will require tech companies to take measures against online abuse and inappropriate content for children (p96), without any indication of how this could be done while respecting basic civil liberties. (The corresponding section in the Conservative manifesto, p79, basically sings from the same hymnsheet, but is even more disturbingly authoritarian.) I'm sick and tired of the continual erosion of our civil liberties in the name of the fight against terrorism and paedophilia.

The Pirates understand the necessary hashtags. Just look at their manifesto.

Distrust for the Labour candidate

Lucy Powell is a Labour careerist, who has almost never defied the whip: only twice in 607 votes, of which the most recent rebellion was in order to support airstrikes in Syria. To me that indicates a lack of independent thinking and moral fibre. She was also part of the damaging attempted coup against Corbyn. I've written before about my reservations with regard to Corbyn, but he didn't deserve that - and, more importantly, neither did the country, given the move's deleterious effects for Labour credibility in the run-up to this election.

The first time I emailed her about an issue I considered important, I got no reply, but I was added to her mailing list.

"But we need to get the Tories out!"

I'm a leftie and a liberal, so I agree. If I were in a swing seat, I'd be voting for the party most likely to oust the Tories. But Manchester Central is an incredibly safe Labour seat, where Labour have never received less than 50% of the vote.

A futile gesture?

Perhaps. Certainly the chances of getting a Pirate elected are vanishingly low. But we shouldn't underestimate the effect on policy that an electoral threat can have, even without elected representatives. The prime example here is UKIP, who never once succeeded in getting an MP elected (if we discount temporary turncoat Douglas Carswell), but whose policies are nonetheless reflected to an alarming degree in the current Conservative manifesto. The Labour Party in the northwest has called out the Pirates by name before: then-MEP Arlene McCarthy was concerned about potentially losing votes over net neutrality.

One thing's for sure: this is not a protest vote. I'm voting for the party that I want to win. I would love it if a Pirate MP was elected in Manchester Central. The combination of liberal principles and evidence-based policymaking is a great one, and so I wish Neil Blackburn all the best for his campaign.

Full disclosure: the author is a former member of the Pirate Party UK National Executive, and is currently living and working as an immigrant in Germany.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Sommergenuss 2017

Three new varieties for me to try! That means little that's new until the autumn... but I've already noticed some that have sneaked in below the radar since I was last paying proper attention (2007), so it won't be an entirely choc-free summer.

Brombeer Joghurt: 9/10
This one definitely does it for me, to the point of being one of my all-time favourites. When you open the pack, the blackberry flavour just bursts out at you, and it's well-balanced in terms of sweetness and sharpness. Pity it isn't going to stick around.

Pink Grapefruit: 4.5/10
I'll admit: I'm biased. I don't think anything should ever be grapefruit-flavoured, and I don't think I'm alone in that. So the main saving grace of this one is that the grapefruit flavour is fairly moderate, rather than overwhelming as in the Brombeer Joghurt. White chocolate was a nice touch, but can't save it.

Eiskakao-Creme: 7/10
Nice, but it's pretty uninspired compared to the other two, and reminds me a lot of Eiscafé (which recurred in 2014 and 2016). Are Ritter running out of ideas?!!111

Monday, April 03, 2017

The all-time Ritter Sport ratings so far

Now that I'm back in Germany for good, it's time to get serious about Ritter Sport. The last time I summarized my 'findings' was back in 2013, so it's high time I do so again. But first, some brand new reviews:

Weisse Joghurt-Mousse: 7.5/10
This one reminded me so much of my first Magnum that I couldn't help but be swept away to Carlisle in my childhood, where I was treated to one by my dad as part of a steam rail excursion. Mmmm. Still, it was better cold.

Honig & Crisp: 5/10
On the basis that anything less than 5 I actively disliked, I'm giving this one a 5. It doesn't taste of anything very much other than some sugary mush in a chocolate bar. Certainly not honey, certainly not crisp. Very disappointing.

Johannisbeer Streusel: 8.5/10
See, this is exactly the kind of Ritter Sport that does it for me: sweet, citrus, with chocolate, and a great texture. Happy George.

Schokobrownie: 8.5/10
Another one that falls into the category of 'uncanny'. Very tasty, very brownie-esque. One of the big fat mousse varieties, but cunningly constructed.

Macadamia: 8/10
I usually don't get hugely excited about the nutty ones these days, but this was a nice surprise. No-nonsense dry nuts and happy creamy chocolate makes a great team.

And here's the run-down:

Cherry & Mini Smarties: 10/10
Caramel Orange: 9.5/10
Rhubarb, strawberry and yoghurt: 9/10
Milk Chocolate: 9/10
Alpine Milk Chocolate: 9/10
Knusperkeks: 9/10
Caramel & Nut: 9/10
Kakaosplitter: 9/10
Coffee & Hazelnuts: 9/10
Mixed Fine Nuts: 8.5/10
Corn Flakes & White Chocolate: 8.5/10
Cookies & Cream: 8.5/10
Johannisbeer Streusel: 8.5/10
Schokobrownie: 8.5/10
Nougat: 8/10
Cappuccino: 8/10
Hazelnut (milk chocolate): 8/10
Hazelnut (dark chocolate): 8/10
Edel-Bitter: 8/10
Rum, Raisin & Nut: 8/10
Orange & Marzipan: 8/10
Amarena Kirsch: 8/10
Eiscafé: 8/10
Baiser Nuss: 8/10
Brombeer Joghurt: 8/10
Macadamia: 8/10
Fruits of the Forest & Yoghurt: 7.5/10
Peach & Passionfruit: 7.5/10
Bourbon & Vanilla: 7.5/10
Himbeer-Cranberry Joghurt: 7.5/10
Erdbeer Vanille-Waffel: 7.5/10
Strawberry & Mint: 7.5/10
Weisse Joghurt-Mousse: 7.5/10
Marzipan: 7/10
Blood Orange: 7/10
Raisin & Nut: 7/10
Coconut Batida Liqueur Truffle: 7/10
Vanilla Liqueur Truffle: 7/10
Knusperflakes: 7/10
Stracciatella: 7/10
Vanilla Cookie: 7/10
Waldbeer Joghurt: 7/10
Crema Catalana: 7/10
Vanilla Mousse: 7/10
Chocolate Mousse: 7/10
Edel-Bitter mit Edel-Kakao aus Ecuador: 7/10
Buttermilk & Lemon: 7/10
Vanilla Chai Latte: 7/10
Milk & White Chocolate: 6.5/10
Alpine Cream & Praline: 6.5/10
Hazelnut & Almond Crumble: 6.5/10
Sunny Crisp (sunflower seeds): 6/10
Espresso Crunch: 6/10
Half Dark Chocolate: 6/10
Marc de Champagne Truffle: 6/10
Amaretto Truffle: 6/10
Whole Peanut: 6/10
Hazelnut (white chocolate): 6/10
Raisin & Cashew: 6/10
A la Crema Catalana: 6/10
Nusskipferl: 6/10
Buttermilch Zitrone: 6/10
Nut in Nougat Cream: 5.5/10
Dark chocolate with Creme a la chocolate mousse: 5/10
Jamaica Rum: 5/10
Kakaocreme: 5/10
Peppermint: 5/10
Bourbon Vanille: 5/10
Honig & Crisp: 5/10
Whole Almond: 4/10
Golden Peanut: 4/10
Yoghurt: 4/10
Napolitaner Waffel: 4/10
Lemon: 3/10
Egg Liqueur Truffle: 3/10
Coconut: 2/10
Diet Half Dark Chocolate: 1/10