Monday, August 31, 2015

The final frontier

A little space exploration humour from the

Bank holiday metal

I was glad to see that tradition was upheld this bank holiday weekend, the weather was miserable, it started raining Friday and is still raining! I did manage to watch Metalica at the Reading Festival (on TV) it was a good show, very polished, very corporate; but I fear the old timers may have finally lost their hold over the younger fans, scanning the audience faces most of the people up the front looked over 40, nice to hear them do my favorite Thin Lizzy number though (Whiskey in the Jar).

Friday, August 28, 2015

Stock markets

This cartoon from the excellent XKCD reminded me that the stock market seems to be behaving like a rodeo bull at the moment. If only I had a spare few mil to play around, it's times like these that big bucks are made, what do we reckon Tuesday is going to be an up day or a down day, my money is on up down, but I could be wrong.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Brewing adventures

I took the plunge a few weeks ago and did something that I've been thinking about for years, I had a go at making my own beer!

Being a fan of Brewdog beers generally and Punk IPA in particular I was pleased to see that an American company called the Brooklyn Brew Shop sold a complete kit that included all of the ingredients for this legendary craft beer. I snagged one from the Brewdog site and one rainy Sunday afternoon had a go at putting it all together.

Gone are the days of canned home brew, the gut rot that we used to drink as a students after chucking out time; these days the cool kids are all into "all-grain" brewing which is much more authentic and (hopefully) produces a much better result.

The kit contained almost everything you need, the barley, the hops, the yeast, a fermenting vessel, siphon, thermometer and some cleaning chemicals; the only thing missing was some big pots to do the mashing and the boiling. The process is reasonably simple, you add some malted barley to some hot water and keep the temperature at around 65 Celsius for around an hour (basically porridge!) then you filter the liquid (which is now full of sugar from the grains) into a boiling pot; boil for another hour whilst adding hops at various intervals then cool and filter again into a fermenting vessel and add some yeast, then put somewhere warm and dark and wait two weeks! Once two weeks is up then you transfer the fermented beer into bottles with a little honey (to carbonate) and wait another 2 weeks; my first effort will be ready next weekend although I had a sneaky try of the uncarbonated version which tasted really authentic.

I fear this might become a new (time-consuming) hobby; lot's of gear, science and unfettered geekery, sounds right up my street, official tasting notes to follow!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A story about toys

Picture taken in traffic. I remember a time when my kids were of an age when this would have totally made sense to them, ah... fond memories.

Gaps sought

Another nice cartoon from the excellent Jesus and mo. strip - as supernatural claims disappear into an ever diminishing plug hole I wonder if they swirl clockwise or anti-clockwise, we clearly need to get a top theologian onto that question.

Crazy America

More citizen gun crime in America; it's baffling to most Europeans why so many Americans in feel so threatened by the idea that lethal weapons should be controlled in their country. Anyway, this time it seems that a local TV station reporter and her cameraman were gunned down live on air while doing an outside report in a small town in Virginia. The motive for the crime is not known and it's also worth noting that the report was not coming from anywhere dangerous or remote, it appears to be completely random; seems like if the cops don't get you the nutters with guns will!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Drinking, for Jesus

Plymouth church organist Robert Burgess-Moon has found Jesus, apparently (if you squint hard enough) you can see his face on this 1950s drinks cabinet in his house. Burgess-Moon is quoted as saying

"We were quite shocked really, it was just not something you expect, it’s like a Holy Spirit cabinet now"

- yep, definitely Christian humour (groan)...

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A lot of bottle!

More Islamist trouble in France on Friday as a gunman threatened to unleash his AK-47 on a crowded high speed train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris. Fortunately a couple of the passengers had other ideas and whilst the terrorist was fiddling with his bullet clip they rushed and disarmed him, they then beat him unconscious and tied him up until the train reached the next station. Two of the heroes were US soldiers on holiday in Europe and one of them was injured in the scuffle with a knife, unfortunately one other passenger was shot but hopefully will live. I hate to imagine what would have happened had these army guys not been in that carriage at that time, does the good luck of the people on that train cancel out the bad luck of the people killed on the A27, no, it's just random, no one ever wrote a fable about all the times the hare won the race.

The word brave doesn't do these guys justice, how long will it be before we have marshals on trains as well as planes?

Blind luck

Lot's of news today about the horrific air crash at the Shoreham air show yesterday. It has to be a mind mindbogglingly small probability that you will being crushed and burned in your car or on your bike by an 8 ton vintage jet aircraft but the poor people on the A27 at that moment were victims of just this. A few meters either way and the outcome would have been completely different; I guess that's what it means to live in a random universe governed only by the laws of physics and kinetic energy. There probably isn't much more to say about this accident, horribly unlucky for all involved, hopefully pilots can learn from it and hopefully air-show organisers will think a little bit more carefully about vintage planes doing aerobatics in built up areas from now on.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Wine festival

I've been in France with my family this week taking a little break from the rat race; more specifically in the South West of France near Toulouse visiting some friends who have a lovely renovated farm house down there. At the weekend we visited a nearby town to check out their annual wine festival and sampled local food and wine while the kids had great fun at the travelling fun-fair that had been installed for the day. The town is called Madiran and is famous for a particular variety of grape called "Tannat" which produces highly tannic wines, French AOC rules stipulate that wines from Madiran must contain 40% Tannat to be labelled as such and most of those wines satisfy the internal market and don't often end up in UK wine shops or in restaurants here, it's a shame because some of them are really very nice. In the picture I've snapped our little stash of bread, cheese, fruit and local wine* for a couple of nights in with good company, funny films and fiendish card games.

* Apart from the one with the yellow label which is from Pomerol in Bordeaux. I found this one going cheap in a supermarket in Auch and just had to try it (it's really expensive in the UK).

Friday, August 21, 2015

With God, everything is permitted

The title of this post is a deliberate misquoting of the famous line from Dostoyevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov" in which Ivan (one of the brothers) is supposed to say "If God does not exist, everything is permitted". Many religious apologists use this line as a way of making a claim that without a belief in "God" (of some flavour) then people would just behave like animals, raping, stealing and murdering etc. It's a stupid argument and neglects to acknowledge the necessary evolutionary adaptations favouring cooperation, required for social species like ours to thrive. Not to mention our obvious instincts for empathy and fairness which are universal, innate and shared to some degree with most of the great apes.

In actual fact the the opposite of this quote most accurately reflects reality; one only need look at what ISIS in Iraq are doing to see that if you believe you have divine permission (as written in your 7th century holy book) to rape, steal and murder then that's exactly what you do! This utterly shocking article in the New York Times tells a tale of how members of this barbaric movement are using the Koran to justify the systematic rape of children, slavery and murder of non-believers; much like Christians used to do before the obvious insanity of theocracy was driven out of Europe (mostly) by relentless secular and scientific progress.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Heroes come in many different shapes and sizes, here's a hero, his name was Khaled-al-Asaad, an 82 year old scholar of archaeology in Iraq who was murdered by ISIS because he refused to disclose the location of artefacts hidden to prevent them being destroyed or sold to fund this thuggish army and its perverse time-travel experiment (i.e. what's it like living under the most barbaric form of 7th century Islamic theocracy). Unlike most so called "scholars" in his region Khaled was a proper scholar; he had read more than one book.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Water phases

A science-pop-music crossover joke that appeals to a geek like me; ideal for a wet Thursday afternoon and from one of my favourite cartoon sites XKCD


New J&M today; a very common apologist tactic, "what about Stalin" etc..

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Concentrated craft beer

Quick business lunch with a potential client at the Old Red Cow in Smithfield Market today; decent selection of craft beer to peruse and a tasty pulled pork sandwich; must make a note to revisit this place when I don't need to concentrate so much!

Friday, August 07, 2015

Holy warrant

Atheist Martyrs

Another secular blogger and Atheist Niloy Neel was hacked to death with machetes at his home in Bangladesh yesterday. Niloy is the fourth secularist blogger to have been killed in Bangladesh this year and so far the authorities have charged no one for these killings (that they are publicising).

There exists a list of 84 secular and atheist bloggers (not all are atheists) that was originally draw up by Islamic groups in Bangladesh in 2013 and circulated with a view to getting these people arrested for blasphemy; all of the murdered people so far were on that list. Bangladesh is supposed to be a secular country, that's clearly a joke, it is obviously a deeply superstitious and insecure country that has in it groups of people (almost certainly Islamic) intent on extinguishing dissenting voices, voices that simply ask for a level playing field (legally) among all religions and none. Niloy himself was not from an Islamic background, he was born into a Hindu family and also campaigned for equality between the genders and the rights of indigenous peoples. Previously he had asked for police protection and at the time of his slaughter his wife was also present in their apartment, we can only imagine the horror for both of them.

It's difficult to know what to do in response to such unnecessary barbarism, I suppose all we can realistically do is lobby and give support to help to keep these atrocities in the public eye as best we can; ultimately the religious barbarism landscape is a very busy space.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Mac theory

It's a very old debate and probably not that interesting outside of the community of regular computer users but I noticed an interesting article in the technology section of the BBC news site today. It's discussing how vulnerable Apple Mac computers are to viruses and malicious software generally; apparently the answer is "very". For years now consumers have been spoon fed the line that Mac's are the cool choice and PC's are for geeks (i.e. technologists) It's a quasi-religious argument, emotions run high on both sides. PC fans claim that their preferred platform is superior because of it's ability to be customised and its openness and Mac people (including many people in the industry who should know better) spout lines like "Mac's are better because they just work" (believe me, they quite often don't!).

It's all marketing (i.e. mythology), Mac's and PC's are both hugely sophisticated and complex systems, both have flaws, bugs, inconsistencies and vulnerabilities, both are infuriating in some ways and magical in others; both require a significant investment in time in order to use effectively and both are sufficiently rich and deep that it's unlikely that they would ever be completely mastered by a single person. In my work I need to use both platforms and that works just fine for me, I organise things so that there's little overlap or duplication and leverage the strengths of each platform to do tasks on it that are most efficiently done on that platform (for me!), i.e. Mac for graphics and mobile work and PC for programming and office tasks.

This non-partisan but factual account of reality is probably why I'm not in sales or marketing.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Could be worse..

An old one but still a good one, made me grin on a gloomy Wednesday afternoon anyway..

Champion hypocrite?

I read today on the BBC news site that Anjem Choudary, the poster child of Islamic buffoonery in the UK, is facing charges for "inviting support" for ISIS during a lecture. I'm not sure that this will be much more than an inconvenience to Choudary and probably qualify him and/or his group of dangerously deluded parasites for even more state benefits.

Most of the papers are showing pictures of Choudary in his religious uniform, beard and beanie (as per the BBC story) etc. but I prefer to think of him in the above picture which shows an earlier incarnation of the man in a less pious setting, I think I know which portrait is more reflective of his true character, if there were awards for hypocrisy then this bloke would be world-class (fortunately there aren't and he most definitely isn't).

Get your rocks off..

So this is the magic stone that Joseph Smith used to help translate Egyptian script on a set of gold plates that he found in the woods in up-state New York. According to Smith (a convicted fraudster) God himself dictated the words to the book of Mormon to him via this stone (called the "seer stone") which he held inside a hat and stared at. In a bizarre twist God apparently spoke English to Smith but in an early 17th century dialect (i.e. in the style of the King James Bible). This amazing tale is the basis of a Christian sect that has roughly 14 million followers (mostly in the USA) but as is usual with religious relics of this kind (throughout the ages) whenever they fall into the public domain they mysteriously lose all of their special powers.

To modern ears this story seems ludicrous, I'd go so far as saying completely bonkers; but behold the power of isolation, peer pressure and childhood indoctrination. Not only is it amazing that so many people still believe/follow this blatant man-made scam but Mormonism is one of the few religions that has a foundational pillar able to be disproved by modern science. In concocting his myths Joseph Smith made some claims that were foolishly specific and falsifiable, a schoolboy error when founding a new religion.

In his story Smith claimed that American Indians are descended from a lost tribe of Israel who left the Middle East in 700 BCE; according to his tale this tribe then built a boat (presumably a very big one) and travelled to America. Ancestral DNA evidence shows this to be false, American Indians descended from Paleo-Indian tribes migrating from Asia across the Alaskan land-bridge at least 13,000 years ago (the age of the oldest human remains found on the continent). I believe Smith even claimed that Jesus himself also travelled to America, but since we have no evidence that Jesus even existed, that one is harder to falsify.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Guns don't kill armadillos...

Bizarre little story last week about a man in Texas (where else!) who noticed an armadillo in his yard and did what seemingly comes naturally to a lot of Americans these days and took a pot shot at the unfortunate animal. One of the 3 bullets fired ricocheted off the armour plating of this creature and hit the gunman in his face, he was later air lifted to hospital, the fate of the armadillo is unknown.

I'm trying to think of a clever pun at this point but can't, so I'll just leave this here and back slowly away with eyes slightly wider and jaw slightly more agape than normal.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Pinch punch, nearly Christmas

Well, it's the 1st of August already and I felt a bit chilly this morning as I was exercising, it made me think about how quick this Summer has gone so far, then again they all feel pretty speedy these days. Still, Saturday evening is here to be celebrated and I have a new beer to try which is always a cause for celebration (in my head at least)

It's a session IPA by a producer called "Cloudwater Brew Co." and has a lovely Summery label design. It's a typical IPA in a modern hoppy style, 4.8% ABV and very easy to drink. Some grapefruit and mango flavor with a fairly serious hop backbone, bitter indeed but with enough fruit and malt in the background to carry it. Recommended, although I haven't seen it in many shops and I only have one small bottle, must look out for this one in future.