Saturday, February 28, 2015

Perfect tribute


I'm taking some time off bitching about religious perversion and idiocy; their delusional clap-trap is so pervasive and depressing that sometimes you need a break to recharge the batteries on more positive and inspiring things. Here's a picture taken by NASA astronauts from the ISS, it's a LLAP tribute to Leonard Nimoy who died recently and played Spock in Star Trek, one of my all time favourite film franchises and a staple TV series when I was growing up as a boy.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Avijit Roy


This was the moment that author and Bangladeshi blogger Avijit Roy was hacked to death while walking home from a book fair in Dhaka; his wife Rafida was also seriously injured losing a finger in the attack. Avijit was an Atheist and author of a well known free-thought/secular blog which promoted rational thinking in his native Bengali language.

Islamism, it's insecurity and ingrained victim-hood psychopathy would appear to underpin this murder (again) it seems not a single day passes when we don't hear of some violent attack against an act of free-speech or indeed any unfortunate soul who dares hold a different view to these thugs. The people that suffer the most are the poor sods who have to live alongside or under the heal of these groups, mostly Muslims of course; its hard to imagine what that must be like. The closest perhaps is that it's akin to being held in a WWII Japanese POW camp, where the psychopathic guards feel free to beat you to within an inch of your life at any moment for a completely random infraction, all the while stealing your food parcels and burning letters home; the stress and feeling of hopelessness must be unbearable. Here's a link to his last ever article you can see what a reasonable, peace loving and enlightened chap he was.

People like to think this kind of bullying and intimidation couldn't happen here in the UK, I believe they are wrong about that. We don't even need to concern ourselves with the thuggish behaviour of certain Islamist groups we only need to read the drivel pumped out by the likes of Eric Pickles MP who sounds just like a proto-theocrat when he says "Faith should no longer be treated as a personal hobby which should be for the few". For those people besotted by "magic" (as Pickles clearly is), after centuries of privilege and protection any dissenting voice threatens to break the spell; that's why such voices are heard as an "attack" and not the reasonable argument that they invariably are. In the end Secularists simply want there to be parity between all religions and none in the public square, such that no specific group has a privileged platform upon which to proselytise (as Pickles so blatantly abuses) or impose its supernatural beliefs on others, is that too much to ask?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Islamist tools


This is what ignorance looks like. Sometimes it amazes me when religious people here in the UK moan and bitch about their faith being "attacked" by secularists for simply expressing contrary views using words and pictures, they should get far more excited about their fellow religionists if you ask me!

Take a look at the morons in this image; these wannabe theological Einstein's are so insecure in their beliefs that they feel the need to destroy artefacts from a civilisation that died over 2000 years ago; as if it represents some kind of threat to their Deity. All we can reasonably conclude is that God is not that "great", he clearly needs help from Wickes DIY! (it's good to see Thor being celebrated here, nothing like getting completely hammered!)

The only positive I can draw from these images is the certainty that all religions, creeds, countries, cultures and Gods eventually die out and are consigned to the dustbin of history; for some that day cannot come soon enough.

It's true, for me...


You have to laugh at the way some of our religious brothers and sisters defend their pet delusions; for example by trying to argue that science is "just a belief system" like theirs. They freely toss words around like "theory" and "proof" in arbitrary and obfuscating ways. They say things like, "the fact I personally experienced the spirit of Jesus when I was at my lowest ebb of depression is proof that God cares for all of us, whereas Evolution, well, that's just a theory". They must hope that creating such conflation and false equivalence somehow deflects people from engaging with their assertions and negates them having to justify themselves, heaven forbid they might suffer "offence" a word that is increasingly coming to mean simply "disagree with".

This is how the game goes... suggesting that a particular behaviour or idea is irrational or divisive from the logical/rational or secular perspective becomes an "attack", simply pointing out that what we understand about reality makes the religious position highly unlikely becomes "scientism", questioning subjective and out-dated traditions becomes "militancy", expressing your views via a personal blog or newspaper article becomes "stridency"; you get the idea.

Let's face it, apologists everywhere would like nothing better than for Science and Secularism to keep it's nose out of religion; in fact they would prefer it if religious ideas were protected from criticism completely via blasphemy or ridiculously "PC" hate-speech laws and many support violence to that end. What they universally fail to admit or acknowledge is that Religion so often oversteps it's boundaries and "interferes" unjustly with people's lives that any possibility of quid pro quo with secularists disappeared long ago. My own view is that the question of free-speech is not one where a solution can be found half-way; either we have it or we don't, it's a binary thing. We must allow a plurality of views and protect none; ideas must stand or fall based on their own merits. Unfortunately for the religious they have no objective way of showing the rest of us that their ideas are true, rationalists have evidence, the superstitious have only faith.


When you think about it, Science is one of the the only (major) fields of Human endeavour that demands scrutiny via peer review, even then it's not perfect, cheats and scoundrels sometimes get away with murder, but even so, religion has no such checking mechanism and therefore the scope for hucksterism is many fold. When was the last time you heard a politician or a priest announce that they'd welcome more robust rebuttal, more evidence against their position or more universal exposure of the weaknesses of their arguments, imagine what that would even look like..

"What we really want is more critical thinking and evidence based scrutiny of ALL religions taught from junior school upwards; teach kids to think for themselves and not just accept authority" - said no Pope/Bishop/Rabbi/Mullah ever.

When you hear a believer say "it's true.... for me" that's the precise moment of self deception; they know it, you know it but they have too much invested to admit that.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Keep your enemies closer?


Saudi Arabia shows again today that it's ruling elite subscribe to a system that treats subjects as property, their lives can be given or taken away according an ever changing (and politically expedient) interpretation of certain verses of their holy book, and by definition, the convenient ignoring of other verses.

A man from the Northern town of Hafr al-Batin apparently uploaded a video clip of him tearing up a Koran (which he owned) and hitting it with a shoe, a Saudi court has sentenced him to death. Shown above is our King in waiting Prince Charles who is as thick as thieves with the Saudi royals and judging by this photo is either practising his Sun Tzu by keeping enemies closer than friends or is so callous that he's indifferent to the human suffering that this backward regime imposes in the name of it's inhumane and immoral ideology, Wahhabism; let's all hope it's the former.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The books always go first...


It would seem that ISIS is intent on reversing every hard won civilised norm from the last 500 years, burning people alive, beheading, slavery, genocide and to round off all that - now they're burning books. Apparently the public library in Mosul has been raised to the ground by a mob of these Islamist cult followers and the many rare books and manuscripts housed there are no more.

Despots throughout the ages have always done this, from the Christians at Alexandria to the Nazis on Kristallnacht; the more insecure your intellectual foundations then the more likely it is that you need to erase the learning of the past in order to inculcate your own dogmas. If ideas stand on their own two feet (i.e. they're good ones) and can be argued through reason and evidence then you don't need censorship, pogroms or apostasy to protect them, it's as simple as that.

Monday, February 23, 2015

And the Oscar goes to...


Its that time of the year again, when the Hollywood great and good congratulate themselves on another year of creativity and cash-flow. As a film fan I tend toward the more "independent" end of the spectrum, I usually find mainstream Romance/Comedy/Action films a bit "formula" these days, there is the odd exception of course. For example, I particularly liked the geek orientation of some of the top films last year, I thought "the theory of everything" and "the imitation game" were both excellent, as was Boyhood. For me the only general category that seems to be pushing boundaries these days in Hollywood is Science Fiction. I think largely born out of the revolution in CGI that has happened in the last 10 years but also the effect of latching onto the wonderful comic-book hero narratives that came out of the 50's and 60's especially from the houses of DC and Marvel. Pixar would also be pivotal in my book and of course, later this year we get JJ Abrams version of Star Wars, something eagerly awaited in our household.

I don't pay much attention to the Oscars (Eddie Redmayne deserved one for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking) but I did read a funny story about the "Razzies" which are essentially the "anti-Oscars" handed out for the very worst films of the year, the "golden raspberry" for worst film of the year was awarded to Christian film "Saving Christmas" by creationist, science denier and all round dimwit Kirk Cameron of "banana-man" fame (worth a watch if you need a laugh); many commentators suggested that this film, described as having "no cinematic value whatsoever", may even clinch the coveted "worst film of all time" award, high (anti) praise indeed!

Friday, February 20, 2015

What's that in old money?


In praise of Fahrenheit; it's more organic...

Memories


Watched a documentary on the Prog-Rock group Genesis last night, called "together and apart" it tracked the story of their formation, evolution and demise spanning almost 4 decades. All the main twists and turns were covered, bust-ups, fall-outs and theatrical excesses but I must admit the band members all looked pretty good for a bunch of old gits in their mid-60s and the film really captured something of the group "dynamic", really fascinating.

What struck me most was that listening to clips of the classics spanning their entire discography it was amazing they had so many memorable songs and also how those albums provided a kind of soundtrack to my life. Not that I didn't love other bands as much, I did, but for every album shown I could remember precisely where I was, who I was with and what I was doing; it left me with the feeling of a real journey. I'm sure many other people feel this way about this music, it was that kind of music; these days my kids look at me in horror at the thought of listening to a whole album in one go, it seems the world prefers things sliced up into smaller pieces these days.

I'm working from home today as I have a raging sore throat and burgeoning cold but the upside is that I have Supper's Ready blaring out at full blast!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Double standards


Dinosaur deniers?



I came across a stupid web-site today called "Christians against dinosaurs" it's basically a site that claims dinosaurs never existed and fossils are a conspiracy by scientists against the delusion that the Earth is only 6 thousand years old (as per a literal interpretation of the Bible). Now, this is such a stupid idea that this web-site surely has to be a fake, a spoof, but then again religiously inspired ideas can be so dumb sometimes that you never know, it could be real..

In the video this woman claims that fossils are not bones but rocks (kind of true) but then goes on to say that scientists excavating fossils carve out the intricate shapes themselves, complying with previous notions of what the bones of a particular dinosaur should look like. (if real) this lady clearly has never been fossil hunting, she should try it, anyone can and it's great fun and nothing like she imagines.

Below is a picture of a fossil my son found last year on a trip to Charmouth beach in Dorset, it's a 200 million year old Ammonite (we found lots), if he carved this out using his bare hands in the 5 seconds it took him to cleave the rock and turn around to show me I'll eat my left testicle.


You may well ask how I know this fossil is 200 million years old; that's another wonderful story of scientific discovery but rather than going into that now perhaps we should see if "Christians against dinosaurs" make a video about radiometric dating methods too; at least then we'll have a low-tide mark of ignorance upon which to build.

Round up


For a change I thought I'd do a quick round up of stories so far this week that grabbed my attention sufficiently to form some kind of opinion, here's a selection..

Designers: I notice that Apple design guru Jony Ive is in the news for slagging off a phone design concept from rival firm Motorola; in doing so he perfectly illustrates why he's a designer and not a businessman. First rule of sales, don't get caught publicly slagging off your competitors, especially on subjective matters like design, it just makes you look like a dick. This market is big enough for all kinds of players and design isn't necessarily the most important factor for many people; no point in alienating potential customers by intimating that they are "wrong" if they don't buy into your particular philosophy. Like many creative people he has an air of arrogance about him which he almost certainly doesn't see and which I suspect is also instrumental in his undoubted success. He has strong views on things and is single minded, a strength and a weakness rolled into one; this is one of the reasons why he's probably best exploited in Apple by being put on a pedestal in a glass box and told to make the latest widget "shiny" and not speak to people, a case of less is more.

Football: We've all become accustomed lately to re-awakening phrases and words that most of us thought were consigned to the dustbins of history; words like "blasphemy" and "apostasy" along with phrases like "offending the prophet". I notice this week that we need to re-open yet another pointless tribal bullshit term, "football hooligan". Along with large swaths of the Islamic world it would appear that some Chelsea fans still inhabit the past; a past where it's reasonable to be intolerant, racist and homophobic and where those who threaten mindless violence get their way. It's a shame that there isn't as much public outcry when some poor soul is violently abused by a Government in say, Saudi Arabia or Egypt as when it's Neanderthal Chelsea fans on the Paris Metro. I'm not a football supporter so I wouldn't like to comment on what action is needed to sort this out at Chelsea, but hardcore football fan Alistair Campbell has 10 ideas that look pretty reasonable to me.

Atheists: Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA has been in the news lately, an Atheist (Craig Hicks) murdered three Muslim people by shooting them, apparently over a parking dispute. Many apologists and left leaning commentators in the USA (and some here in the UK) have been jumping on the bandwagon of "militant atheists" and "atheism inspired hate crimes" and you can't help but feel that such people have been yearning for such a combination of events to occur. Was this a "hate crime" inspired by Atheism? Well the honest answer is that we don't know, but fortunately the killer is still alive so we can ask him. Until that happens as part of a due process of Law all we can do is go on the evidence and that evidence would suggest not. America loses roughly 30 people PER DAY to gun crime and the vast majority of those are simple inter-personal disputes between people living in the same locale. In a society where getting access to a high powered weapons is trivial (and positively encouraged) it's no wonder that every-day arguments escalate all to easily.

Russia: As the polemicist and political commentator Christopher Hitchens once said "We will live to regret the conversion of Russia into a heavily-armed, self-pitying, chauvinistic theocracy." I worry that recent events in the Ukraine and now possibly lining up in the Baltic might just prove him right. Russia has it's own interests and those interests are not necessarily aligned with those of the "West" this is a plain fact of life and should be factored in. But, any reasonable person must look at some of these alignments and raise questions. For example, Russia is the biggest supporter of the barbaric Assad regime in Syria, it supplies significant quantities of weapons (10% of Russian military exports) that are essentially the only thing keeping him in power. The thought of another "cold-war" and endless proxy wars in places like the Ukraine, Georgia and Iran fills me with a real sense of foreboding; the Human species was lucky to get through the last one without nuking itself to ashes, the balance of probability is not in our favour to survive another.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Bad science


So here's a map of the USA (from Slate) with creationist schools marked as coloured dots like little colonies of bacilli on a Petri dish. There seems to be some definite concentrations of this religiously inspired wilful ignorance or as enlightened people would call them "educational black-spots", these include Tennessee and Mississippi followed closely by Florida and Indiana.

The "Christianisation" impact of this kind of abandonment of reason on the American economy won't be known until these students enter the work-force but I can't help thinking that in some places the religious right are raising up the least scientifically curious generation in several centuries, ironically just at the point in history when we have the biggest Human challenges to face. Questions such as climate change, food production, energy deficit and environmental destruction. No doubt these kids will be eminently well qualified to pray for deliverance from these threats and will excel at telling each other feel-good allegorical myths by candlelight (when the power goes out)

Science is used as a political football in many places (including the UK) the more the opponents of progress and change make it look the same as "just another opinion" the easier it is for them to insert their own particular flavour of dogma and scripture into the public arena. We see this all the time with things like climate change and so called "alternative medicines" where the masters of the anecdote ply their trade in fear, obfuscation and doubt; sucking in unwary recruits with sound-bites of certainty born of conclusions that are engineered to be immune from testing.

Along with the rise of theocratic, radical lunacy in the Middle East this fundamentalist regression in the heart of a leading secular nation paints a depressing picture; to me it looks like an object lesson in how to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Galileo refuted..


Here's something funny; this "Cleric" in Saudi Arabia confidently asserting that the Earth doesn't spin because he personally can't understand how you can get in a plane and fly to China if it was.

The moral of this story is that if you're going to understand reality beyond your own personal incredulity then you need to read more than one book!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

To win the lottery... you have to buy a ticket


Here's a question I hear quite often.

"Why should we waste UK taxpayer money on academic research for things that we can't use or sell?"

It sounds like one of those "Daily Mail", UKIP, common sense, ordinary bloke holding a pint kind of questions that everyone nods sagely to without really being invested in finding a good answer; a bit like "would we have more jobs if we had less immigrants?" Unfortunately reality isn't as simple as most people would like it to be; the answer to almost every question ever asked is "it depends"..

Here's a worrying statistic:

The amount (per head of population) that we spend on science and technology research and development in this country has gone from £89 in 2010 down to £75 in 2015 (adjusted for inflation) it has steadily declined for the last 4 years. In contrast China has tripled it's equivalent budget since 1995, and will invest roughly 16 times more than the UK this year ($163Bn vs. $10Bn). To put the £10Bn number in perspective, people in the UK will spend roughly $7Bn on their pets this year.

Here's a great statistic:


The critical question for me is, will we continue to see statistics like the second one unless we fix the decline suggested by the first?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Miracles


An old one but worth reminding ourselves...

Nicely put



Commentary from Canada on the recent phenomenon of anti-vaccination campaigners - surprisingly hard hitting for this kind of program. I particularly like the phrase "displaying the intellect of a dead tree stump" and will be using that line in future I'm sure.

I suppose it's inevitable that whatever advance is made in whatever field of human endeavour (or even the suggestion of an advance), no matter how impactful, there will always be an opposer or two keen to crawl into the light and blame their misfortunes on it; as a wise man once said, an amateur "expert" is someone who can tell you exactly how something can't or shouldn't be done, but little else.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Victimless crime


You have to wonder what kind of strange logic lead the Irish government to introduce a new blasphemy law in the 21st century (the only European country to do so), a law which is frankly illogical from top to bottom.

Predictably there are now Islamic apologists over there getting all hot under the collar to test this new law over the publishing of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons claiming that the depiction of Muhammad meets the condition necessary for a prosecution in that a) "its grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion" and b) "thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion".

Let's take a minute to pick this apart;

- Firstly, not all Muslim sects feel that the depiction of their prophet is insulting; in Iran for example the Shia population actually make art depicting the prophet that they hang in mosques and in their homes; so whose version of Islam are the Irish government going to take as correct, and won't that (by definition) be insulting to the other versions?

- This law would appear to encourage people who wish to prosecute for blasphemy to behave in an "outraged" manner in order to meet the laws conditions; "outrage" is what people with no reasonable argument hide behind and also very easy to fake - I wonder how "outrage" will be objectively measured; number of burnt flags perhaps?

- Countries that are run by tyrants who use blasphemy laws to silence opposition and crush free-speech (Saudi/Pakistan) are pointing to Ireland as a benchmark with which to justify their own human rights abuses under the banner of blasphemy; is this really the most admirable example to set?

- Why does the Irish government deem that religion is somehow different from any other deeply held belief or idea that human beings might sincerely hold (or none)? Why would they not prosecute someone for being grossly offensive about a football team or a political party or style of music; would a fine of 25,000 Euro be appropriate for scribbling a dick on a poster of Roy Keane at the bus stop?

- What if one person expresses a belief in a God that is grossly insulting to a different persons belief in a different God?; who would trump who? Wouldn't the banning of one expression of sacredly held beliefs against another set of sacredly held beliefs end up in an infinite regress?

- What about freedom of expression?

- What's the definition of sacred and what legal test can be applied to distinguish it from any other deeply held, unfalsifiable or supernatural belief? Could a belief in fairies be "sacred" if the believer held it strongly enough?

I don't envy a legal system that aims to administer such a law fairly and justly; it just seems far too riddled with holes to me. Fortunately there are many voices in Ireland (religious and otherwise) who share this unease; Eoin O'Dell a senior lecturer in law at Trinity College labelled it "literally medieval" and polls conducted in 2014 showed less than a fifth of the population supported it. There is growing pressure to hold a referendum on the matter, for the sake of European solidarity against the forces of anti-free speech and intolerant religions let's hope it happens soon.

Arguments revisited



What with recent revelations about microphone equipped smart TV sets apparently being able to record living-room conversations and transmit them to mysterious "third-parties" over the internet perhaps we all need to be more careful about who's listening to (and watching?) our private lives.

This video is a perfect illustration of the problem, the keen eared cockatoo perfectly mimics the venom and vitriol overheard when residents of this home have been knocking seven verbal bells out of each other and seems delighted to remind everyone of how those arguments played out (hilarious). Its a shame cockatoos aren't compulsory members of investment banking boards, we all might learn something.

Priestly deception


Sometimes I get the impression that certain people are on the fast-track of life; regardless of how competent, resourceful or intelligent, they're going to end up being your boss and making more money than you because, well, just because. Stephen Green the ex-Chairman of HSBC bank looks like such a person to me; with a name like "Baron Green of Hurstpierpoint" he was probably born into a family that made more money than yours going right back to the Norman conquest when the right to fleece everyone else was ordained by God himself (and the small matter of a fleet of ships containing archers and cavalry); not his fault of course, such are the random twists and turns of history.

Some careers must seem like a trip to a giant Michelin star cafeteria; for starters we have a top boarding school followed by Oxford or Cambridge and then for main course we pick from McKinsey and/or the City of London washed down with a vintage magnum of Civil Service and then to cap the meal off we gorge on flambéed Investment banking, Cabinet Minister topped with Quango chief and a selection of exotic holiday homes from the Retirement trolley. Nice work if you can get it, as my old man used to say. Now, none of this strikes me as a problem if the people receiving such privilege are ethical, competent, hard-working, charitable and leave the world a better place than they find it. As it now transpires HSBC under Mr Greens leadership looks like it was helping a significant number of it's (rich) customers to avoid paying tax and therefore facilitating them breaking the contract we all have as evolved primates to invest in the societal infrastructure used to make our wealth in the first place; perhaps there was a warped sense of entitlement prevalent here or maybe Mr Green knew nothing about the scale of the fraud, either way he was either bent or incompetent and needs to answer these criticisms.

Greens example illustrates some important philosophical life-lessons for me, firstly as an ordained (Christian) minister and author of a book on corporate responsibility what people say is rarely a foolproof indication of what they believe or how they act when they think no one is looking. Scepticism is the most valuable sense we have, it's hard not to conclude that he was either astronomically cynical and hypocritical or some kind of patsy. In plain language, born to rule doesn't mean capable of rule.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Jab at anti-jabbers


Topical at the moment. I know many people like these stereotypical liberal fuzzy thinkers; very nice, reasonable (usually "spiritual") people who just don't seem to accept that reliable, peer reviewed scientific evidence trumps "feelings" 99% of the time and the other 1% is when we're all being scammed or there has been a dreadful mistake. Even then, the odds of not getting side-effects from a modern vaccine are still better than dying, unprotected, from a preventable disease like measles or mumps and this is before we look at how anti-vaxxers are reducing herd immunity to dangerous levels. Then again I guess if your world-view doesn't value evidence then its pretty pointless me trying to convince you how important and reliable empirical evidence is!

After all we could go back to the good old days when humans used no manufactured chemicals, no drugs, no antiseptics, no vaccines and everything we ate was organic, problem was, we mostly kicked the bucket aged 35 years; the number of dopey 50-70 year olds that seem to need constant reminding of that is a reliable, evidence-based source of amazement.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Did someone say "cut"?



Love it - ridicule and humour is a great way to deal with wannabe tyrants.

Some Gods are more equal than others



Many people will have seen the video of Stephen Fry talking about his view of a theistic God in an interview on an Irish TV program last week (see above). In the cold light of day it's simply an articulate statement of one of the main arguments against the existence of the Christian God (and some others) The broad argument is known as "the problem of evil", i.e. how can there be an all loving, moral, beneficent man in the sky when there is so much pain, evil and suffering of innocents in the world, it simply doesn't make sense. It's not a new argument and has probably been around for thousands of years, certainly there were Romans and Greeks who documented this thought; actually the Greeks had a much better idea, as Fry points out, at least the behaviours of their Gods conformed to our experience of reality i.e. their Gods were unabashedly random, petty, capricious and vindictive.

No doubt religious apologists of all stripes will now respond with indignation and the stock responses to this argument; totally childish and inadequate responses (which they always are) like, "God is mysterious" or "that's not my God" or "it's the work of the devil", which as explanations are about as insightful as saying "shit happens!" Over the years the number of lethal phenomena that are unexplainable has diminished enormously; things like earthquakes, tsunami, volcanoes, plagues, crop failure, floods have all been explained by natural processes, nothing in recorded history has ever gone the other way, i.e. something with a natural explanation that is better explained by a supernatural one. For some of us this is a logical and rational reason (among many) to reject the whole "God hypothesis", for others it's a reason to find ever smaller indistinct gaps to insert their God into.

Back when religion was in charge of meme creation in the west we used to think disease was a punishment (some people still do) from God for contravening some petty rule or not grovelling enough to him.  Fortunately thanks to the enlightenment and science we now we have a germ theory of disease and an understanding of genetics which explains things properly. Clearly, we don't yet know all the answers in terms of prediction and prevention but we can take comfort in the knowledge that very smart people dedicate their lives to work on such problems and the rate at which these kinds of inflictions are yielding to science holds great promise for the health of future generations. As a side-note I was pleased to note the comments of the Arch Bishop of Canterbury regarding this interview, he reiterated the point that in our (modern) society people should be free to express their views, even though they may conflict with the deeply held convictions of others. Justin Welby himself has expressed similar doubts in the past all very reasonable and progressive; perhaps he's an Atheist too?

Monday, February 02, 2015

Leaders of Greeks


I must say that I'm beginning to admire the straightforwardness of the recently elected Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Whilst many would argue that his ideas on national debt are a bit too blasĂ© evidence suggests that he may be more openly true to his beliefs than many other (similar) politicians and is certainly no slave to tradition.

Normally Greek Prime Ministers are sworn into office via a religious ceremony conducted by the Archbishop of all Greece; Engineering graduate Tsipras is an Atheist and has informed the current Primate that his services are not required, the swearing-in ceremony will be a secular one. However if there are religious ministers who would prefer some supernatural theatre with their oath taking then a suitably religious person will be on hand to stand in for the creator of the Universe; who is clearly much too busy killing African children to be there himself.

Austrian food


I just spend an enjoyable couple of days skiing in Austria with a couple of mates. I haven't been to that part of the Alps for many years and it made a nice change to see how things have moved on and developed in the past 20 or so years. I must say the lift system in places like St. Anton and Ischgl is second to none, nice big covered chair lifts and comfortable cable cars, some even with heated seats! The slopes were very busy, especially on Saturday but overall everything moved along quickly, I can't recall having  to wait more than a few minutes at any lift, which is not the case in some resorts.

The only thing that hadn't moved on much seemed to be the food and the drink available. Lot's of pig based meals and fizzy beer; not that there's anything wrong with this of course but even after only 4 days I must confess I was struggling to work up the enthusiasm for yet another sausage or rasher of bacon. One rather strange looking dish which seemed to be ubiquitous was the "currywurst" (see picture above) There were a couple of variants but it was essentially a big bratwurst kind of sausage that's cooked in a spicy sauce and then smothered with curry powder, typically served with chips. I had heard of this before but never seen one so I had to try it. For me the experience was a bit like eating a McDonald's burger, i.e. seems like a good idea at the time but was instantly regrettable; I suspect that like the infamous kebab (from a van) here in the UK this is a popular choice after a few beers. On the subject of beer, unfortunately the beer revolution going on in the rest of the world doesn't seem to have reached Austrian ski resorts yet; not much choice available that I could see. Perhaps the bars there are even more tied into particular brewers than most pubs are here? In any case Austrians still have a way to go to match the more enlightened French or the even more enlightened Americans when it comes to apres-ski refreshment!