Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Endangered species

Yet another atheist has been hacked to death in Bangladesh. It was only this February that science blogger Avijit Roy was murdered unceremoniously by a gang of religious zealots using machetes in a street in the capital city of Dhaka, his wife was also seriously injured in the attack. Hard-liners in the Government there are busying themselves trying to implement anti-blasphemy laws that curtail free-speech and effectively throttle dissent, it would seem that fear and intimidation is their preferred method of persuasion. This deep entanglement of religion and politics runs counter to the vectors of almost every other developed country on Earth (apart from Ireland) clearly some people prefer the barbarity and intellectual insularity of the middle-ages.

Next time I buy a tee shirt I will be checking the label, anything from this country will be unceremoniously dumped back on the shelf.

FYI Companies that use (or have used) sweat shops in Bangladesh include, H&M, Nike, Walmart, Gap, La Senza, Disney, Marks and Spencer, Tesco and Puma.

Oh Indianna

There's trouble brewing in the "fly-over" zone of America at the moment; Indiana Governor Mike Pence (pictured above) recently signed into law a bill that allows business owners in his state to boycott people and businesses they feel are oppressing their religious freedom. Whilst on the surface this sounds reasonable (it's designed to "sound" that way) what it really means is that Hoosier Christians can now refuse to serve or do business with LGBT people; which is 100% what's behind this new law. In my experience Indiana is one of the most God soaked states in the US, religion oozes from every orifice; it's the kind of "in-your-face" religion that thankfully we don't see much in the developed world these days, a haven for pious bigots and cover for ignorant deniers of every stripe.

Fortunately America is changing, there was a time when laws like this would go unnoticed, they'd slip into being unleashing division and discrimination, the tyranny of the majority as Mill would put it. Now though, things are different, the industrialists, cattle-ranchers and landowners of the religious right no longer possess a monopoly of wealth and power, these days the un-folksy information workers inhabiting the shining glass and steel towers of the West and East look at this delusion of righteous discrimination and know it's bad for business. Almost universally, corporate America is denouncing this new law and is putting it's money where it's mouth is, Marc Benioff the CEO of Salesforce.com (a $4bn software firm) has started to shut down his companies operations in the state, Apple CEO Tim Cook has also voiced condemnation. Where the dollars go, the US government is never far behind, several other US states are also joining the boycott and refusing to allow their civil servants to travel to Indiana.

Religious freedom is best served by enshrining the separation of church and state in a written constitution; this principal was learned and perfected by the founding fathers of the USA over 230 years ago, unfortunately a lesson that has yet to be learned here in the UK. I can't see this Governor or this law lasting; it's asinine qualities are even now being exposed via protest and ridicule (as all unjust systems should be); the First Church of Cannabis and devil worshippers have wasted no time in stating their claim for religious freedom and good on them.

Monday, March 30, 2015


Struggling to decide who to back in this year's general election? Here's a great reason to vote Labour..

Imagine that!

Silicon sexism

In February this year a sex discrimination case hit the headlines in Silicon valley, California. It involved Ellen Pao who claimed that she had been unfairly held back (i.e. not promoted) by her investment firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers because she was female. The firm eventually fired her at which point she filed against the company seeking millions of dollars ($17 Million) in compensation; she lost her case on all counts. Now, I've no idea what the details of this case were, sounds like it wasn't that strong since she lost on all counts but no matter, the rights and wrongs of it aren't the point of my interest. What's interesting for me is how the media have reported this story and the angle they've chosen to take on it.

Most of the articles I've seen on this case conclude or suggest that there's a problem in the technology industry to do with the fact that Women are under represented in top jobs, some go on to suggest that Women aren't properly represented in the technology industry across the board and that there may be gender bias going on, it's these broader issues that I want to examine. It's also interesting to note that Ellen Pao wasn't actually in the technology industry, she was in the finance industry working for a venture capital company providing investment to technology companies, an entirely different thing, perhaps a more pertinent question in this case would be is there gender bias in financial services?

So, is there gender bias in technology industries? The short answer is no. The long answer is, it depends whether you consider preference to be the same as bias, i.e. if less Women choose to take technology related courses at school and university and are therefore under-represented when it comes to technology jobs then is that the same as "bias"? I would argue it's not; bias to me means when there are 50% female job applicants and an industry ends up with a 20% female workforce, this is clearly not the case in technology. I haven't seen any verified figures on the gender of job applicants vs. employees but I have anecdotal evidence that gender bias is not at the root of the undeniable discrepancy in the ultimate gender proportion of employees.

I've worked in the technology industry for 25 years and have probably hired in excess of 500 people across many companies and into many technical roles. Only 10-15% of the applicants for those jobs were female and that's roughly the same proportion that have ended up in those roles. When I look at the (technical) team in my own (technology) company we have 5 Women in a team of 20 people which I think is probably slightly over the average. Most technology leaders I know, and others I have spoken to, all say they would hire more Women if they could, the problem is that they don't have an adequate pool of female candidates to select from so what we end up with are teams that are male dominated by definition. Rather than posing the question "is the technology industry gender biased?" a more prescient question would be "how can we attract more girls into technology subjects at school". I would go one step further and suggest that our real problem is that technology subjects (like computing) are hopelessly under represented (compared to job demand) regardless of gender in all but a few UK schools and universities, it just so happens that Women find technology less appealing than men and therefore there are less to choose from when it comes to filling technical jobs.

So, how can we encourage more girls to take up tech? I don't know the answer but I do know it's probably got nothing to do with building more pink computers; maybe what we need is to chill out a bit regarding this whole "gender politics" thing. Perhaps by educating everyone better about the challenges, diversity and advantages of a career in IT we might end up with more Women deciding for themselves that it's is a worthwhile path for them to take.

Whose land?

So true and so often forgotten.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Real men don't ...

News broke yesterday regarding the fate of Jeremy Clarkson and the BBC Top Gear program; it appears the powers that be inside the BBC have decided to let Clarkson go because of his unacceptable behaviour toward another employee. This isn't particularly surprising (or interesting) but what is interesting and I suspect will be the subject of many a psychology thesis over the next few decades is the reaction of the millions of so called "blokes" who seem to support Clarkson in this matter. Why is it that large (mostly male) swathes of our population think that it's OK for someone to verbally abuse a colleague and physically assault them over an utterly trivial matter, so long as they're "just being a bloke".

Now don't get me wrong I'm not advocating some PC lilly livered relativist culture where free speech is censored for fear of "giving offence", people are quite often dicks and this means they end up fighting, always have and probably always will. You can witness "blokes" falling out and battering each other in most town centre pubs, most Saturday nights (unfortunately), but the key difference here is that Clarkson's oafish and aggressive behaviour was "at work". The reason this kind of thing is not acceptable at work is because the victim has nowhere to go; if some drunkard insults you in a Pub you can walk away; when it's your boss or colleague bullying you you don't have this choice; work starts again at 9 am tomorrow morning. It was the only decision they could have reached IMO and its the right one. Bullying is not acceptable at work, it's a sign of weakness and is an abuse of any relationship, oh and there's the small fact that since companies are built out of relationships between people, it's not good for business either!

It's always baffled me why Clarkson is seen as an icon of "bloke-ishness", the only feature of his behaviour that seems to qualify is his monumental insensitivity; maybe I'm not down with the kids on this but for me to qualify as a proper "bloke" you need to have some credentials in the following subjects...

-Sport (and all it's pointless minutia), especially football.

Clarkson seems to be the least sporty person ever; he seems to loathe footballers nor it seems does he know much about any of the technical detail of any other sport. He's unfit, unhealthy, awkward and hopelessly uncoordinated. All the real "blokes" I know still fancy themselves as "a bit tasty" on a football/rugby/cricket pitch 100% of them had a trial for some well known club at some point (usually Manchester United) and of course in reality none ever even got close; most refuse to accept the debilitating affects on their athletic prowess of approaching middle age and the biggest insult you can offer is to question their manliness in the sporting arena.

-How stuff works

Surely any decent "bloke" knows (or claims to know) how stuff works, Clarkson makes a point of exhibiting supreme ignorance of anything technical, he's a self congratulating ignoramus when it comes to engines, electronics, design, computers and anything mechanical. No self respecting "bloke" would ever admit to not instinctively understanding something technical; we all know instruction manuals are things that you rest hot cups of tea on so you don't mark the paintwork, useless for anything else.

-Navigation skills

Let's be honest, for (real) blokes, navigation is not something to be learnt, it's innate. No bloke ever reads a map, asks for directions or ever gets lost; this is just a law of physics; Clarkson seems to always have a map in his hand and is constantly lost.

-Hair cuts

No real "bloke" ever has a perm; period.


Real blokes aren't fussy eaters, with a few beers on-board, cold pizza scrapped off the inside of a dustbin becomes a meal fit for kings. It seems like Clarkson throws a hissy fit when he can't get a Fillet Mignon and fondant potatoes at two in the morning. Any real "bloke" would have ordered another pint and re-told everyone present (like-it or not!) the story of the afternoon he was "robbed" of a place in the ManU first team; what a pussy.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

In God we trust (ish)

I read with surprise that TV evangelist and infamous faith healer Benny Hinn was admitted to hospital last week. Apparently, while peddling his particular brand of snake oil in Brazil, Hinn experienced some heart problems and upon returning to California was admitted to an intensive care unit in Orange County; since then he's been seeing a specialist cardiologist and receiving treatment; I guess he can afford the best (unlike the people he "heals").

You have to wonder why a committed faith healer like Hinn would need the full panoply of modern (private) medicine, surely he can just thump himself on the chest while yelling "heeeeealed" and be right as rain?

I Wonder..

I wonder what fundamental freak of nature could have possibly lead a crowd outside a mosque in Afghanistan to beat, stone and immolate a young woman last week. I also wonder why it was exclusively men who brutalised her, whilst (armed) police looked on. I wonder how these people will be punished, especially now that we know the woman was utterly innocent of the supposed crime (of burning some paper) she was accused of.

I wonder why it is that the people in this crowd look like they have been brainwashed with some vile and immoral set of beliefs that decisively inform their actions. I wonder why these people look like they have no idea whatsoever what constitutes humane behaviour but ironically seem to believe they have a monopoly on what constitutes "right". I wonder what education and cultural system could possibly generate such disproportionate and irrational hysteria?

I wonder..

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Snooze cruz

I was munching my cornflakes and watching the news this morning and this chap popped up (the one on the right) He is Senator Ted Cruz a right wing, science denying, climate change denying, bible bashing, anti-gay, creationist buffoon from Texas and guess what - he's running for President!

You don't need to drill too far into the ideology of this cartoon character to discover that he's an idiot, in fact he's a second generation idiot; the geezer on his left in this photo is his Dad, who's an evangelical preacher (i.e. a parasite on society) and he is on record as claiming that atheists and secularists should be transported to special "camps" in California and Oregon where they can be incarcerated behind razor wire, to be shot (between the eyes) should they dare step over the line. Presumably Cruz senior thinks the USA has an "atheist" problem in the same way that Germany had a "Jewish" problem back in the 30s?

Come on Americans you are better than this... where are the Democrat leaders?

Disposing (intellectually) of loonies like this should be like shooting fish in a barrel, and let's face it there's no shortage of people over there who love to shoot stuff.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Less is more

Tried this limited edition 10 year anniversary beer from Thornbridge on Friday night. 

Now I do like a drop of the original "Jaipur" which is light, fruity, citrus clean and hop laden and I was looking forward to this special version which is advertised as "like the original but more of everything". I'm sad to report that sometimes more isn't necessarily good when applied to "everything". The problem I have with this beer is alcohol, at 10% abv it's simply too "hot", I can't get past the thumping great hit of booze that for me obliterates any complexity within the flavour profile of the drink itself. The sickly sweet attack of this beer followed by a scorching "alcohol burn" on the finish make it difficult to enjoy; medicinal and too overpowering for me, I quickly reverted to something from Beavertown at around 4% with some depth of flavour that I could enjoy without gritting my teeth.

Friday, March 20, 2015


From the marvellous xkcd website.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Pass the razor wire...

23 people shot for visiting a museum,  a mentally ill woman beaten to death by a mob for (allegedly) burning some paper, a student sentenced to 3 years in jail for "thinking for himself".. I wonder how much hate doesn't make the papers.

Welcome to the Islamic world, where human lives are less valuable than old books.

Flash bang, what a picture.

Sometimes you can't help but wish you had a more interesting day-job. Here Texas police detonate 10,000 Kg of illegal fireworks in one go; and you should have seen the size of the sausages on the BBQ! (then again everything's bigger in Texas...)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Northern'ish lights..

Apparently there is a huge magnetic storm hitting the Earth right now and the Aurora Borealis may even be visible in the more Southern latitudes of the UK - I just looked out of my window and all I can see is cloud (typical)

The red line on this map shows how far South a storm level Kp8 should be visible, a few minutes ago the storm reached Kp8.9 so if only this bloody cloud would bugger off we might be able to see somethin!


It seems that the products making up the "inflation basket", that imaginary shopping basket representing the 700 most popular domestic purchases in the UK has been changing of late. Out are goods such as yoghurt drinks (good riddance), Sat Nav devices (not much point when most phones do the job) and frozen pizza. What's taken the place of these un-vogue products are things like protein powders (frozen pizza substitute?) and craft beer! Now that I can get on board with. All I need now is for good craft beer to become pervasive and cheap and for fine wines to fall out of favour with the Chinese so that they become affordable again, vive le progres!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Electric dreams

Whilst channel surfing yesterday I stumbled across a televised race of "Formula e", it's a new category of motor sport that features electric vehicles that look just like Formula 1 cars and I'd never seen it before. It's like watching a Grand Prix with the sound on your TV turned off! Like the original, the format of the race follows a familiar pattern, as batteries run down the drivers have to pit their cars to get a re-charge and energy management is a massive factor; the balance between going hell for leather and draining your battery quickly or going steady and playing the longer game made for good (geeky) entertainment where team strategy was just as key as individual driver skill.

It's good to see people getting enthusiastic about new technology via sport; especially technology that might just help our species avoid buggering up the environment of only place in the solar system we can actually live (always a bonus!) As ever, entrenched attitudes may well be the hardest thing to change, by comparison the technology looks like it's progressing nicely and will only get smarter the more people invest their time and energy into it.

I was put in mind of a disheartening conversation I had with mate of mine earlier this year on this subject; he works for a big oil company (so obviously has bias) and his view was that since the oil price was now so low (comparatively) technology firms were no longer interested in alternative energy research, "what's the point" was his conclusion. My own view is different, the point as I see it is not to (only) make a fast buck but to invest in the long-tail, i.e. that portion of curve where oil becomes so expensive and unpopular (because it's changing our climate!) that alternatives will become an imperative, this isn't a matter of speculation or opinion, it's just a simple matter of running the numbers. Either we (i.e. the industrial West) will lead the world in such replacement energy technology or we will follow, I'm pretty sure which will turn out to be more lucrative in the long run.

Thursday, March 12, 2015


Great wit, original author, free-thinker and sad loss.

His philosophy was a mixture of three famous schools — the Cynics, the Stoics and the Epicureans — and summed up all three of them in his famous phrase, "You can't trust any bugger further than you can throw him, and there’s nothing you can do about it, so let’s have a drink."

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Clarkson, Clarksoff

I see that Jeremy Clarkson has finally been suspended by the BBC big-wigs; it's not clear what for yet though I suspect most people could take an educated guess.

Top Gear used to be a good programme, it was original and novel for its time, but for me for years now it's been formulaic, predictable and by definition mostly boring. Millions still love it of course, most middle aged, middle class, fat, slightly balding men (who like Rugby and own an Audi, Porsche, Range Rover or Barbour jacket) I know, treat it like some kind of personal philosophy mantra; a political manifesto for petrol heads. I don't subscribe. My sense is that it's really just a simple template for a TV programme, a celebration of ignorance Benny Hill style; or possibly faked ignorance, that's dressed up as "a bit of fun". What bugs me though is that often, real bigotry is camouflaged in this way too, this uncertainty is possibly even the reason for it's success?

Perhaps you're the kind of Top Gear fan that likes the "one of the lads" feeling you get from hearing three old curmudgeons saying sexist or racist things out loud on prime-time TV, saying what needs to be said; sticking it to the nanny state who have insulted your manhood by making you adhere to a ridiculous speed limit when it's quite obvious you're easily skilled enough to drive as fast as you like on the A34! Or perhaps you think this really is "edgy comedy" and therefore to openly enjoy it means you're clearly not sexist or racist, no no, you're hip enough to know it's all just a joke. Either way, a knowing nudge and a wink would probably affirm your brotherly "cool wall" bond but not for the reason you think. Then there are all the recurring controversial themes like climate change denial, homophobia, mocking the disabled, cultural stereotyping and the constant slagging off of electric cars like the Tesla Roadster (this was very murky in my view) and many others - whatever your soap-box subject, there's clearly something for everyone, even a bit of religion bashing!.

Clarkson clearly exploits a particular crowd and has grown very wealthy on the back of it, good luck to him, such is the way of things. I see no evidence that his audience object in the slightest, quite the opposite and whatever happens I'm sure he'll be enjoyed by many via his various media outlets for years to come. I'm not one for banning or censoring, Clarkson can say whatever he likes, he is a Genesis fan after all and people do know where the switch channel button is if they're offended. I do however think it might just be time to freshen this BBC programme up a bit, get some new (younger) blood in to tackle the road transport challenges and powertrain controversies of this century rather than last; in a humorous way of course; anti-Clarkson types like Frankie Boyle or Charlie Brooker perhaps?

And on that bombshell...

Monday, March 09, 2015

Festival of Wood

My local craft brewer (Siren Craft Brew) held a little shindig on Saturday to celebrate the combination of beer and wood; namely the aging of certain types of beer in various wooden casks (i.e. casks that previously held things like whiskey and cognac). Some mates and I spent a rather fine afternoon setting the world to rights and supping numerous samples of the amber (sometimes yellow, sometimes black) necker.

The beers I tried were as follows,

Kernel, Biere de Saison - A light, citrus, sour, wine barrel aged Saison (4%) from keg  7/10
Siren, Sound Wave - West Coast style IPA, hoppy (5.6%) from keg 7/10
Harbour Ales, Barrel Aged Dunkel - Bordeaux barrel aged (6.8%), vanilla, cream and hops 8.5/10
Wild Beer Co., Special Sourdough - Aged Saison style beer, sour and citrus (4%) 4/10
Siren, Broken Dream - Porter style, coffee, chocolate, thick creamy (6%) 7/10
Mikkeller, Spontantripleblueberry - 1kg of berries/litre, thick, reddish, beer smoothie (10%) 7/10
Siren, Liquid Mistress - Red IPA, raisins, hoppy (5.8%) 7.5/10

All followed by a Chicken Dhansak and Pilau rice, life is good.

Camouflaged ego's

Next time one of those (know-nothing) management guru types tells you "there's no i in team", suggest that they check their "A-hole", which will be tricky as they will almost certainly be speaking from it at the time.

Good as gold

So the Apple Watch is here, a range of models from $349 right up to an eye-watering $17,000 (£11000) for some of the 18 carat gold versions. Unbelievably there is no difference (functionally) between the cheapest and the most expensive models meaning that the price differential is purely down to the materials used. I'm not sure I'd pay £11K for a lump of cheap gold; but then I suppose this product isn't really aimed at technology buyers like me, more your aspirational types perhaps. Still, I think it will do well and so I've already started playing around with the Watch Kit which is Apple's SDK (software development kit) to see if I can get inspired to build a couple of apps for it; the gestures and haptic features in conjunction with the inter-device connectivity (which they make really easy) are particularly interesting for business oriented notification style applications.

Friday, March 06, 2015


Big ideas helping and enriching so many, had by so few; nice little poster although I'm not sure that developing "XML" is in the same league as "On the origin of species" or special relativity somehow?

Flying solo?

Just heard the news that Harrison Ford has crashed landed his plane into a golf course in Santa Monica; hope everyone is OK.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Lucky guy..

Saw this video doing the rounds today, it's a guy in Australia who was unfortunate enough to have an epileptic seizure whilst sky-diving. Luckily for him his jump partner who was filming had the wherewithal to catch up with him and pull his rip-cord; a feat of supreme quick-thinking and spacial awareness! Apparently the man regained consciousness at 3000 feet and managed to land his canopy OK; I bet there were some beers bought in gratitude that evening!