Friday, December 25, 2015

Atheist values

I see our beloved Prime Minister David Cameron has chosen to reference one particular religion in his Christmas message to the nation. In it he recommends that we all take stock of our "important religious roots" and that we adopt "Christian values".

I'm fascinated to understand what "Christian values" actually are? It seems to me that judging by the observed beliefs and actions of Christians both past and present the set of particular values that might be labelled "Christian" seem to overlap by about 100% with regular Human values; much like a puddle fits a hole. Cameron suggests two such "Christian values", those of sharing and giving, I'm not sure what's specifically "Christian" about these things, maybe he's referring to indoctrination and tithing or perhaps this is a Christmas "making stuff up" game we can all play?

I'd like to put forward a couple of important Atheist values that are also essential for building stable and happy societies, language and learning, without which we wouldn't have made it out of our primitive hunter-gatherer cave dwelling phase; although thinking about it, perhaps some politicians still haven't quite.


What happens when you ask your hard of hearing Nan to get you a mine-craft book for Christmas...

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Comedy greats #12

Baldrick, if a hungry cannibal cracked open your skull there wouldn't be enough in there to cover a small water biscuit...

Comedy greats #11

Back on safe ground..

My favourite Cardinal

Cardinal Vincent Nichols is by far my favourite Catholic Cardinal; he never misses any opportunity to insert his feet into his mouth and confirm every stereotypically troublesome attribute that atheists and rationalists think a completely backward, uninformed, bigoted and arrogant Catholic henchman should possess. Today on Radio 4 he said,

"A fact" Christians most persecuted people on earth

I'm sure the Yazidis (currently suffering genocide in Northern Iraq) might contest his assertion there.

Nichols seems to be playing fast and loose with words here, clearly when he says "fact", he means in the Biblical sense (i.e. not a fact at all) and "persecuted" by which he means, "annoyed because nasty non-Catholics keep pointing out the ridiculous, hypocritical and evil BS that members of his religion perpetrate and shelter every single day".

Possible to imagine a more self-serving assembly of words it is not.

Seasonal treat

I decided to get the holiday season off to a quality start last night by opening a white Burgundy wine from a tiny area called "Batard Montrachet" It's a bottle I've been saving for about 12 years and I'm pleased to report we weren't disappointed! The wine was still really tight and fresh, lovely matchstick dryness, apricots and hazelnut on the nose and a seductive deep straw yellow colour (indicative of it's age) Tasting revealed many layers of complex flavours, there was apricot, honey, hazelnut and a wonderful tangerine-citrus twang on the finish. The wine had that classic oily viscosity that only the best examples from this region seem to have, a real luxury that I can still taste vividly (in my memory) 12 hours later, it's hard to top Chardonnay from the Cote de Beaune when it's in this kind of form.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


Perfectly circular; as a lot of in-group thinking often is.

Comedy greats #10

Another potential classic; bit rude for some, but observational comedy to die (of laughing) for.

Comedy greats #9

Ok, maybe a controversial entry, but remember that the Office did break new ground when it first aired..


The more you read about some people the more you become convinced that there's more to the story than the "official PR" suggests; this is particularly true of "Mother Teresa". When it comes to religions and politics I often find that a useful rule of thumb is to read the official party line and simply assume that the exact polar opposite is true. In the case of Teresa many people have researched her and come up with a very different perspective than the generally accepted public one (i.e. that she was a "saint") Christopher Hitchens (peace be upon him) wrote a whole book about her and also did a series of talks around the time that it was revealed in her letters that she didn't actually believe in much of Christian theology (i.e. God) for the last 40 years of her life. Here is Hitchens spelling out the inconsistencies and dodgy parts of her story, a viewpoint that is, if true, hard to object to and suggests a morally repugnant woman peddling a vile and pernicious version of Catholicism.

I read now that the Catholic establishment has cleared the way (whatever that means) for her to become an official saint. Apparently all you need are a couple of miracles to be attributed to you and hey presto, vendors of plastic action-figures in Lourdes and countless senile old ladies will be lighting candles in your honour for ever more. The first of these "miracles" was reported by a Woman in India who claimed that she was cured of a tumour because she wore a picture of Theresa with the face turned toward her body; of course, as is the way of faith, this is nice and unfalsifiable. Any doctor will tell you that tumours go into remission all the time and often we don't know why in detail other than there are lot's of different processes and systems involved that are unique to the sufferer. 

The cherry on the cake now though is that the woman involved in reporting this "miracle" is now complaining in the media that the nuns who encouraged her to tell her "story" have now abandoned her to her poverty having promised to give her financial help. I guess once those Catholics have what they want from you then you're back to being a worthless sinner again. I find it quite incredible that this kind of shamanism still goes on in the 21st century, in my mind the true miracle here is that there are people around who apparently still believe this stuff; although on reflection maybe they're all just like Theresa herself was and are just pretending.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Comedy greats #8

Actually I liked the films more than the stand-up; but great comedy none the less.

Comedy greats #7

Quite agree Eddie, some plan indeed!

Comedy greats #6

Perhaps not quite a comedy great yet but its only a matter of time..

Comedy greats #5

We're all slightly allergic to that, some more than others..

War on Christmas

It always amuses me when I hear of Christians bashing atheists (usually in the USA) for objecting to religious symbols and ceremonies being rammed down our secular throats at this time of year. Almost invariably all that's really happening is that (in the USA at least) secular patriots are simply asking that their (hard won) constitution be properly followed and that no particular religion is promoted by the government over any other, this seems totally reasonable to me. In the UK of course we (unfortunately) don't have any such clear constitution, the Government here are at liberty to shove the state religion down our throats any time they feel like it. Fortunately for secularists and atheists here, the state religion isn't particularly aggressive or pushy and is pretty much universally ignored by everyone apart from it's adherents (which is kind of how it should be with any private belief system IMO) Before anyone thinks I've gone soft on state religions, rest assured I haven't, I still think we need to change our system as even our relatively benign state religion can still be manipulative and insidious, particularly when it comes to children and schools.

Compare and contrast this with the situation in Islamic dictatorships like Brunei where the supreme leader has banned anyone from celebrating Christmas without Government sanction. Apparently it's now a criminal offence there to openly celebrate Christmas (presumably in a Christian way) for fear of corrupting the poor weak minded Muslims that must obviously inhabit that sad little country; a slightly surreal state of affairs. Now that's what I call a real "War on Christmas".

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Comedy greats #4

Thanks for all the fish Douglas...

Comedy greats #3

Wise words Billy..

Comedy greats #2

Bill Hicks, burning tonight.. (allegedly)

Comedy greats #1

Enough said.

George Carlin, one of the comedy greats, much missed.

Piri piri amphibian

I see that a customer of a Manchester Nando's found a decomposed frog in her salad. Now I'm not generally a picky eater but I think even I would have a bit of an issue with munching through a fossilised amphibian for lunch, I hope they compensate her well.

For those who've never sampled the delights of Nando's all I can say is that it's one of my 14 year old Son's favourite eateries, in other words it's mostly breadth over depth. Not that there isn't a place for cheap, fast food but for reference, he also loves pot noodles (must be a teenage rebellious phase). The most ironic thing about this story is that Nando's is primarily a chicken restaurant and the first thing most English people say when they tentatively try "cuisses de grenouille" on holiday in France or the far East is ...."tastes just like chicken"!

Three cup shuffle

Baroness Warsi has an article in the Telegraph today that perfectly illustrates why apologists for Islam either don't understand the true nature of the problem or are being willfully dishonest by attempting to misdirect attention away from the reality of it. Warsi is clearly a well educated and intelligent Woman so I'm going to assume the latter. The basis of her argument is that if we simply disguise mosques to look like "English village churches" then problems of multiculturalism, societal divisions and a general lack of respect between communities might be solved. 

To me this just sounds just like Kenny Craig the creepy hypnotist character on the show Little Britain, who used to chant "look into my eyes, look into my eyes, not around my eyes, into my eyes" as he was attempting to extort sex or money from unsuspecting victims. In a similar act of diversion Warsi is attempting to distract our attention away from the real poison that divides people and causes cultural friction; it's not what the buildings look like it's what's being preached and said within their walls! 

We only need read any number of undercover sting operations conducted by TV programmes or news papers to see that hate and medieval barbarity is still being openly preached in mosques in this country and in many other European countries. Not only is this hate being preached in mosques, it's also being preached to children within faith schools; fortunately I think people generally are becoming more aware of this problem, the problem is Islamism, more specifically, how many Muslims choose to interpret Islam, i.e. literally. To combat literalism we need not worry about what shape the minarets on English mosques are, but we do need to worry about supporting and encouraging the Muslim reformers, the secular Muslims who are pro-free speech, pro LGBT rights, pro gender equality and are the people who need to be given the confidence and resources to marginalize the literalists within their own religion. This is not something that can be done from the outside, it needs to be done from within. Nor can it be done by temporarily hiding the literalists from view; in this respect apologists like Warsi are part of the problem and not part of the solution.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


New Jesus and Mo. cartoon up today, looks like one for the Arch Bishop of Canterbury.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Turing test

When AI gets to this stage it will be time to catch the shuttle "off planet".

Just following orders

Jesus and Mo looks at the problem with "opinions" this week; a classic bait and switch tactic used by moderates and fundamentalists alike, the old "I don't hate gay people, I'm just doing Gods' will" shuffle. It's an ancient strategy that has many modern corollaries, for example, "I was just following orders" comes to mind...

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Triple twits

So, someone who claims that they act on behalf of a Deity who is against killing unborn foetuses thinks that the way to solve this problem is to take an easily obtainable lethal weapon to a medical clinic and ... kill... people.. And to cap it all the penalty for killing people in this great patriot's home state is ... death.

It seems obvious to me that there's an unhealthy obsession with killing things over there.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Boxing for Jesus

I noticed the story about the boxer Tyson Fury today, somehow I've managed to avoid it up til now. It's one of those car crash kind of stories that's totally cringe-worthy but hard to put down once discovered, such is the cognitive dissonance on display. 

Big time Christian, Fury is being vilified in the media at the moment for repeating the sentiments articulated in the holy book at the centre of this most populous of religions, uninteresting you might think but apparently he has a track record of making outrageously sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, racist and bigoted comments. Thumbing through the alleged examples of this makes him sound like some kind of old testament version of Dapper Laughs. 

Tyson has clearly been successfully indoctrinated into some kind of born again, evangelical flavour of his religion, one which actually takes the central texts seriously and literally; this seems to be mixed with an unhealthy obsession with machismo and violence. He also brings to the narrative a "traveller" upbringing, and a family history of violence, you could say a one-man Jeremy Kyle episode.

I always find it amusing when talking to more progressive religious apologists, that they so easily and conveniently dismiss beliefs like those held by Mr Fury when in fact such views are probably represented to a significant degree in a sizeable chunk of the Christian following (it's certainly the case for Islam). The pitch always goes something along the lines of literalism being merely a fringe activity, a tiny minority, a few rotten apples; I don't buy it for a second, it's so trivial to point out examples and the infrastructure that supports and encourages them. I do wonder where this particular story will end though, in tears surely? It's a shame as the man is clearly hugely talented at his chosen sport; but as the old saying goes, no brain, no pain, in this story that seems prophetic on so many levels.

Internet debate

This cartoon sums up how many people "debate" on social media networks like Twitter and Facebook; especially when discussing hot potatoes like politics or religion. It's sad how often conversations (particularly on such important topics as these) so quickly descend into personal attacks and straw men. Still, I suppose arguing is a form of communication and communication of some kind between people of differing viewpoints is almost always better than none.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Keep taking the medicine

According to IFL Science (only partially trustworthy) scientists at Fermilab, near Chicago, have done a mind bending experiment with a laser interferometer that suggests our universe is not a hologram. They apparently measured space down to a resolution of 10 to the power -35 meters (a size just slightly smaller than the dignity of an "I'm a celebrity get me out of here" contestant) If we were living in a version of the Matrix then this measurement should have shown a distortion suggesting interference from the hologram, no such fuzziness was detected so we can all carry on in our normal state of denial, i.e. denying that it's just us and we're totally responsible for the crap that we do to each other. Of course this might be exactly what the designers of the hologram want us to detect so who knows. Personally I'm just going to carry on taking the blue pills and hope for the best, surely no sane Universe designer could have come up with something as ridiculous as Donald Trumps hair?

Monday, December 07, 2015

Religion in modern society

Top (former) judge, Baroness Butler-Sloss has concluded that we're not in fact a "Christian nation" any more and we should probably stop behaving as if we were (as if this weren't blindingly obvious to everyone). The Baroness reached this conclusion after a two year commission into the role of religion in modern society involving leaders from all faiths and none. 

Having read some of the highlights of the report (I haven't read the detail yet) I would say that I agree with some aspects, and not others but all in all it seems to be headed in a reasonable direction (i.e. equality between faith and non-faith in all public matters) 

The main points that I agree with are,

-Faith schools are generally divisive and need to be reformed
-Additional protection for women in Sharia law courts
-Civic events should better reflect the plurality of our society
-Schools should not have a compulsory daily act of worship
-Reform to hate laws to allow more free-speech in places like Universities etc.
-The RE curriculum is broken.

The bits I disagreed with were,

-The house of Lords does need reform but replacing CofE Bishops with other flavours of unelected religious leaders seems wrong to me.
-Disestablishing the Church of England not considered
-Faith schools should be reformed but ideally abolished (the publicly funded ones at least)

It seems as though some in the Government and the Church have come out and condemned the report; whenever zeitgeist shifts are formalised like this I suppose we should expect to see establishment fossils getting huffy (turkeys don't vote for Christmas etc.) and it gives the old farts something to do after all. One senior member of the Church of England is reported as saying "it appears the report has been hijacked by Humanists" - when I read this I did think to myself.. I wonder if that feels like Humanists feel about the generation upon generation of our ancestors who have been "hijacked", brainwashed and exploited by your lot for the last 500 years?

It seems to me that the key difference between the religious side and secular side in this debate is that only one side is arguing for the maintenance of a "privileged" position in our society. A position which they cannot justify or provide unbiased, reasoned evidence and argument for. The rest of us are just supposed to take it on "faith" they deserve it. Unfortunately the reality these people are yet to grasp is that the majority of us these days simply don't do "faith", at least not the blind variety they're peddling and we've also realised that our morality is not founded on or tied to an unelected clergy interpreting ancient books; as if it ever was.

Full production

So holiday beer production is in full swing round our house; a grand total of 32 pints bubbling away, hopefully enough to keep guests lubricated as different people waft in and out as we tend to do this time of year.

The line up here (left to right) is a single hop (Simcoe) strong ale (~9%) that will hopefully fend off the coldest English drizzle, a hop forward IPA flavoured with fresh orange juice (yum!), then a traditional bitter copied from the recipe of Fullers London Pride and finally a crisp, dry American pale ale (APA) made with Amarillo, Bravo and Columbus hops. Most of these will be bottled up and ready by 24th December with a bit of luck.

Four gallons (i.e. the 4 demi-john's you see here) is my productive capacity at the moment (no more cupboard space left!) I could trade up and use 5 gallon jars but TBH I prefer experimenting with different flavours and making smaller, more manageable and frequent batches, 5 gallons of beer would take me months to get through and I'd probably get bored and end up pouring most of it away. It's the learning part that I find most satisfying, it's a bit like playing around with a Chemistry set where the final litmus test is how it tastes and what other people think (most satisfying of all to get a thumbs up from guests)

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Think about it..

Unfortunately many American (and a few loony UK) politicians need to look at this and then take a few quiet moments to themselves to think about it. It's plainly obvious to the rest of us that weather is not the same thing as climate.

Read the Bible lately?

Here's an interesting little prank by a couple of naughty Dutch guys; they took a Bible and disguised it as a Koran, then read out particularly barbaric and medieval passages (there are so many to choose from) to people in the street and asked them what they thought. Predictably, the people shown had no clue that it was a Bible being read and weighed into Islam; I suspect you'd get a very similar response from people here, most Christians I speak to have only ever been spoon fed the verses that a) make sense and b) have some well rehearsed and contrived allegory associated with them, the rest of the nasty stuff surprises them when pointed out. This is often true even though many have been "Christian" for their entire lives. 

Nothing like a bit of confirmation bias to generate that warm fuzzy "in-group" feeling..

Friday, December 04, 2015


Well stone the crows, a true and accurate headline about gun control ... rare for an American newspaper these days.

Move on!

J&M on the money as usual; as evidenced by the recent experience of prominent Human rights campaigner Maryam Namazie at Goldsmith University where she was invited to speak but was heckled and harassed by members of the Islamic society to the point where they were making gestures suggesting that they were going to shoot her in the head. In the ultimate act of irony Maryam (a lone Women standing up to a bunch of bigoted misogynists) was abandoned by the Feminists of Goldsmiths who aligned themselves with the religionists, accusing Maryam of "Islamophobia", a word invented by fascists and used by cowards to control morons.

Ssssssh, you know who..

As the background to the mass shooting in California unfurls the mists are hopefully clearing and the police there are getting closer to understanding the motives of the killers, several important clues have emerged over the course of the day. Firstly this wasn't a random or spontaneous act, the shooters were well prepared and had a stockpile of weapons, bombs, bullets and bomb-making equipment, they even had military style clothing to slip into before embarking on their rampage of death. It appears that the main killer was a devout Muslim, had been in contact with known extremists and had recently visited Saudi Arabia; to most casual observers it would seem that this looks like another Islamist inspired atrocity. As usual most media outlets do their utmost not to mention the "I" word, most ordinary people you talk to about it mention this first. Much like the Christianism inspired killings a week or so ago I suspect this crime will turn out to be another example of religion helping to inspire terror and stupidity, it doesn't seem to matter which particular flavour we're talking about, in some brains this mind-virus has an unfortunate capacity to inspire acts of pure evil.

After the positive vote on Wednesday our air force is now attacking ISIS in Syria directly; as most experts agree this will probably only have a small effect on them but will almost certainly increase the risk of attacks like this happening in big cities around the UK. We can only hope that the intelligence agencies have the resources and the smarts to figure out the who and the when before the psychopathy takes control.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015


An old one but still highly relevant to many conversations today between liberals who can distinguish between ideas, people and race and those that can't.

To bomb or not to bomb..

Lot's of debate going on around the place at the moment about whether or not the UK should join in the anti-ISIS bombing campaign over Syria. It's not a simple decision; the situation is complex and as the recent terrorist attacks in Paris have shown it's also not an entirely academic exercise for most Europeans either; particularly the ones that spend time in our various capital cities.

It seems clear that ISIS intend to do us harm and we (UK) are already doing them harm via bombing in Iraq and assisting the bombing effort in Syria, you could argue that this move will simply enable us to do more harm to them than we're already doing and since we're effectively at war with them then this is surely a desirable outcome. The argument that we could avoid terror attacks by not bombing them seems flawed, we've already been attacked by proxy in Tunisia so it seem like a safe bet that if ISIS has an opportunity then they will take it. There are other reasons not to take this action, fear of collateral damage would be one as would not wanting to help the corrupt Assad regime would be another, but since ISIS seems intent on laying waste to the entire region then it would seem like there is a balance to be struck between damaging the country further and removing the force that's doing a great deal of that damage.

For me the best (and pivotal) argument for attacking ISIS (in whatever ways possible) is that they are clearly committing genocide and other crimes against humanity in the territories they hold. For those of us old enough to have watched the videos of UN troops standing by in Srebrenica, powerless, as Serbian thugs lead the boys and men away into the woods or remember our paralysis as a million Tutsi people were hacked to death in Rwanda in front of CNN cameras this kind of thing sticks in the throat, sometimes we can only take the least worst option. Those that argue bombing would not be a "solution" should perhaps consult with the widows of Srebrenica; I suspect they would put the case that some action is be better than none much more persuasively than me. Clearly we need to do more than just drop high explosive from 30,000 feet; the case for this is evident in the last 20 years of often misguided intervention in the Middle East; we will need deep resolve and persistence to truly combat this disease and not feel sated just treating the symptoms. People (particularly on the left) need to wise-up in my view, the real problem is a set of ideas, not just the current army of extremists.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Reality is optional

I see that Homoeopathy is in the news again.. This time the debate is about whether or not this controversial treatment should be funded by the state and given out free on the NHS?

The correct answer is, "of course not!" This answer seems pretty obvious to me, for pretty obvious reasons, i.e. that we already have an established set of mechanisms (peer reviewed double blind trials) for determining whether or not any particular treatment works and should therefore be subsidised by tax-payers cash. According to that (agreed) standard Homoeopathy doesn't work and so shouldn't be funded, hardly rocket science! If fans of whatever "alternative" medicine wish to propose a better (or different) mechanism for determining drug efficacy then they are free to do so and lift the Nobel prize in the process; but if the basis of their argument is simply that "they felt better once after taking a sugar pill" then I'm afraid that's not good enough.

No one is saying that people aren't free to spend their own money on whatever treatment they like, if some numpty thinks "beating with sticks" cures haemorrhoids then have at it, so long as that person is a consenting adult then no one is going to stop them chucking their money at some huckster who offers this. At best the person might benefit from a placebo effect that improves their condition and at worst the person will simply be ruthlessly ridiculed by all and sundry in the best tried and tested tradition of these things until they go to a proper doctor.

If it quacks like a duck..

Last week in Colorado Springs, USA there was a shooting at a planned parenthood clinic in which three people lost their lives. The murderer was arrested at the scene and is now in police custody, initial reports suggest that Robert Lewis Dear fits the stereotypical profile of a mentally deranged loner living "off the grid" on a trailer park, seemingly rambling and incoherent at the point of his arrest, hopefully the authorities can get to the bottom of his motive and help bring some closure to the victims.

It's a rather odd phenomenon that in the USA, Christians (of all manner of flavours) seem to have a disproportionately unreasonable reaction to legal abortion. In most European countries (except Ireland) abortion is a medical procedure that, although very serious for the participants, is technically fairly routine, but it has never achieved the same levels of acceptance in the USA. For example, since 1977 there have been 8 murders, 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings and 186 arsons in and around clinics like this in the USA; someone, somewhere is trying to make a point about something, but the rest of us are not entirely clear what that point is.

It's strange because more often than not the same Republican (they're mostly right-wingers) Christian voices are first in line to promote the freedom of access to lethal weapons for school children, bombing other people's children they disagree with and are also first to advocate denial of publicly funded social care services to the most needy in their society (like children!), a somewhat dissonant set of ideas? It's like they're arguing that unborn foetuses should be protected at all costs until they are born, sentient and able to suffer, then it's OK to hurt or kill them so long as God is on your side; particularly if the parents don't conform to a rather parochial mid-western view of how a "good" life should be lived. Christians like this are quite common in the middle of America (less common around the edges) I've met a good number of them and if the conversation should stumble into this topic area I always ask, "would abortion be OK if the foetus is going to grow up socialist, gay and atheist"? It's fun to watch the blood vessels in their temples pulse whilst perusing this question.

Christians everywhere seem to be distancing themselves from this event; many pro-abortion activists and supporters on social media have been asking where the moderate Christian voices are on this and the response from what I've seen so far has been along the lines of condemnation of the act but denial of any linkage to the broad set of Christian dogma at the centre of this dispute. I find this position slightly disingenuous, it seems to me that if you belong to a club that openly promotes the doctrine that abortion is murder and murder carries the death penalty (as it does in most of the states in question) then you bear some responsibility when one of the members of your club (albeit a mentally deranged member) goes out and murders a doctor. The reaction of most Christians I've seen is that this guy wasn't a "real" Christian (no true Scotsman?) , maybe he wasn't, but in that case I would question where he got the idea that killing doctors is sanctioned by something or someone from in the first place, wouldn't it be most likely from pro-life Christian propaganda? I would also ask how the following message from Joshua Feuerstein (a hugely popular Christian vlogger) would sound to a mentally deranged follower, is this tantamount to incitement, listen carefully, I think it's pretty close.

Many Christians don't seem to want to ask hard questions about the authenticity of people claiming to be Christian when it comes to census results and disputes about wearing crucifix shaped nose rings to work, but when the boot is on the other foot, I must say they seem rather quick to do an "apostle Peter" and deny, deny, deny.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Taste test

About 4 weeks ago I made some beer that was based on a famous commercial brew called "Punk IPA" I posted about it at the time and today I decided to crack open a bottle to see what it was like.

As you can see in the picture above it has a great colour (although darker than the original) and a nice foamy head; the aromas of the various hops involved hit you as soon as you open the bottle and the taste is really good. Good clarity, nice malt backbone, good balance of bitterness and a lovely mix of hop flavours. If I were critical (and I am) I'd say it could do with a touch more sweetness and a tiny bit more alcohol (came in at around 4.5 ABV) but all in all not to shabby for 40p a pint (the commercial version is roughly £3 a pint in the supermarket).

Friday, November 27, 2015

Combo platter

Nice xkcd cartoon about made-up food combinations; so true. Although the options sound like a bunch of things Americans might put in their coffee or on their pancakes..

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Hate speech

Some religious people, actually quite a lot of religious people, think that when someone says something like "treating Women like property is wrong" or "believing in God is a delusion" or "Gay people should be given equality under the law" or "all genital mutilation is bad" then this represents "hate speech", they say it insults their deeply held beliefs and therefore offends them; I disagree but there we are, it's a childish and irrational point of view, but I suppose it's a point of view.

However, when they say to a small child something like "if you don't believe the same thing as me then you'll burn in a lake of fire for ever" then this (according to them) is simply "freedom of conscience", an inalienable right ? Personally I define hate speech as something hateful directed at an individual or group of physical Humans, not an idea, philosophy or a policy. For me, saying to someone's face that they're going to eternally burn for not believing x or y is much closer to hate speech than saying the Bible is wrong about the big bang. I experienced this first-hand the other day and it felt surreal!

I was talking to a Christian (Baptist flavour), we're not close friends but it's someone I've known for years (our kids go to the same school) and we were having a friendly (touchline) chat about evolution. I didn't realise previously, but he's a denier, so we were talking about all the various pillars of evidence for it (which he knew nothing about) and we talked about all of the supporting science that would have to be wrong if evolution were also wrong, things like Geology, Physics, Chemistry, Biology etc. We also touched on atheism, and what I thought about that etc., but he gave me the impression that he'd never heard or read a single one of the many, many arguments against his position, ever.

Now this isn't a stupid man, he's polite, funny, well educated, successful, well travelled and went to a fabulous school (Wellington) Anyway, we ended the conversation cordially and in the parting comment he shrugged his shoulders, shook his head and said "I don't understand why you don't just become a Christian, I'm sorry, you're a good bloke but you are going to hell". I wasn't offended, I just laughed, that kind of nervous laugh that says "get me out of here" ; but honestly, what a crock of nonsense, how can these people expect not to be ridiculed when they believe things like this?

A smaller slice of pi

There's been a quiet revolution going on recently in cheap computing power; it started a couple of years ago with the launch of the raspberry pi machine which I blogged about at the time and since then (as is the norm with these kinds of things) the original $25 device has become more powerful and better tooled through several iterations. Now, for the first time ever (that I can recall) the original pi team have launched a new computer (the Raspberry pi Zero - pictured above) that not only is the size of a stick of chewing gum but also so cheap ($5) that it's being distributed on the cover of a magazine!

This little device is a fully functional computer in every sense, it plugs into your TV or monitor and has micro-USB connectors so that you can plug in a keyboard and mouse; it uses an SD card for memory (like the ones used for digital cameras etc.) so all in all is a very cheap package indeed. This little device is many hundreds of times more powerful than the first computer I ever used and smaller than the logo printed on it's sheet metal case! That computer was enough to inspire me sufficiently to launch my entire career in the direction of computer science and software; hopefully this wee gizmo can help do the same for kids of this generation, our economy certainly needs them!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Small victories

I read with pleasure today that a recent High Court legal case (that I posted about earlier this month) to do with our religious education curriculum not including humanism (or non-belief); has been won by the three families who brought the case; yay!

When it comes to education (as opposed to indoctrination) it seems obvious to me that equality is better than preferential treatment and that public religious education should properly reflect the plurality of beliefs in our society as they are now and not as they were in the 18th century. For example, it's baffling why people would think that covering "Sikhism" (400,000 people) is more important educationally than the non-belief of over 14 million people in our country today (and probably many more!). Now, of course, I have nothing against teaching kids what Sikhism is about but in reality they are much more likely to work with or sit next to an atheist (or non-believer) than a Sikh! Decisions like this should be based on evidence and numbers, not special pleading from minority interest groups, it seems as though the judge in this case agreed!


Jesus and Mo. nail the recent navel gazing in certain religious quarters over recent terrorist attacks in Paris. Funny how God always always seems to say what his particular audience wants to hear; predictably this appears to be a reliable property of all Gods, not just the Abrahamic one.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

VTOL success

Holy crap, Jeff Bezos just launched a rocket that ascended to 100 km (space), deployed a viewing capsule and returned both safely to Earth, landing vertically less than 5 feet from a target on the ground. I bet Elon Musk is gnashing his teeth about the successful VTOL landing (the SpaceX equivalent crashed) let's hope the obvious competition between them accelerates development.

I wonder how much the tickets are going to be?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Media strategies

It seems that the Church of England may have finally hired someone who understands how modern media works. They recently created a 60 second proselytizing film mainly featuring that mainstay of attention-seeking masturbatory traditions, praying. The message being that people from all walks of life and from every kind of background in this country can and do masturbate like this; it makes them feel good and good luck to them.What people do in those private moments behind closed doors with their eyes closed is entirely up to them, so long as it's not done whilst operating heavy machinery.

The piece was designed to be shown in cinemas and they had hoped that it would be screened before the new Star Wars films this Christmas. Unfortunately their advert conflicted with the DCM (which covers Cineworld, Vue, Odeon and others) advertising policy which clearly states that it doesn't allow,

"Political or Religious Advertising"..

Of course we all know that any and every agency worth their salt would check this first so the Church's claim that they are "bewildered" and that this represents some kind of "snub" is frankly, fatuous. I can't help thinking that this is simply a cynical ploy to get more air time than they otherwise could have got; I think this high-profile story pretty much guarantees that vast numbers of people will view the film on social media, which, from a media strategy point of view, is probably much more useful than cinema and I'm not the only one that thinks this. I hear now they are even thinking of legal action, making this a free speech issue! That would complete the circle for me and if it happens then I'd feel even more confident this was all just manufactured to generate publicity (a religion, making stuff up, perish the thought!).

I believe this is the right decision by the DCM, proselytizing of any stripe has no place in the public square (adverts for Islam anyone?) where there is a captive audience like this who cannot realistically walk away. Although, judging by the amount of phone and nacho action in our local cinema during the show, it's a wonder anyone can concentrate long enough to make sense of anything! For me this isn't about being offended (I've seen it and it isn't offensive to me in any way, in fact no one is saying it is) it's about appropriate content for the setting. If there were no adverts at all in cinemas I'd be delighted, personally I go there to watch the movie I paid to watch, not to receive a hard-sell for trainers, Indian food, bank accounts, cigarettes or anything else, particularly not heavyweight things like politics or religion.

What is more amusing about all of this is the fact that the Church has to advertise Christianity at all? To me it sounds completely ludicrous that Yahweh, the guy that created our Universe, and who is omnipresent and omniscient is such a bad communicator that he needs a bunch of hipsters from Soho to tell us anything at all, why the need for so many middle-men? (I'll just leave that question hanging, I know everyone with any sense knows the answer and has done since the middle-ages)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Doubt it.

Archbishop Welby has admitted that the terror attacks in Paris recently have made him "doubt" the presence of God. Welby questioned where his God was while these barbaric attacks were occurring, its a good question and this is certainly an honest revelation of his feelings, I can't fault him for that. However, I must point out that "God" was smack bang in the middle of these terror attacks. What Welby didn't acknowledge, which seems obvious to most people, is that the God of Islam was very much "present" in the imaginations of the jihadists as they ran around the Bataclan firing bullets into children.

From an atheist perspective the question that Welby asks has a fairly obvious answer, i.e. nothing that happens on this planet suggests the presence of a (benevolent) God; everything suggests the absence of one, particularly the irrational evolved primate behavior of a few of it's inhabitants. For all of us, the insertion of the invented values and edicts of imaginary "Gods" into national politics is a big part of the problem here.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Looking vs. seeing

I watched Roger Waters performing "The Wall" on DVD last night, quite superb it was too, albeit slightly self indulgent. It's rare that music today grabs me like this did back in 1979, it was the sound track to my coming of age I suppose and I consider myself lucky that it was so brilliant. A sheer accident of birth of course, I could of had much worse (Kajagoogoo for example). Anyway, this film which shows a staging of the famous Floyd album by Waters in Berlin (appropriate) is about personal isolation, fear, group-think and circularity is Waters best work and has in it one of my favourite tracks ever, comfortably numb, and a guitar solo that's hard to top IMO.

As if by divine revelation I saw this little cartoon today (above), it struck a double chord, there's the obvious symbolism of the wall but also the underlying message is very relevant to the news this week. The way I see it is that the wonders of life, love and the universe will be unseen by you if you limit yourself to only reading one book, this is bound to generate resentment but the solution is in plain sight.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Evolved DNA

Great bio-computational truism from xkcd, appreciated more by those of us that have to make sense of and create WEB site code.

Many people consider genomics as a branch of computer science already; I'm not sure about that, but the possible applications in medical treatment that could emerge from the combination of the two disciplines is mind boggling.