Thursday, June 30, 2016


For those people who don't particularly value logic and evidence, you would have thought that labeling them irrational shouldn't be a huge problem, unfortunately it seems that's not the case for many.

Cheeky pint

Relaxing with a cheeky pint this evening, quite unusual for us as we tend to avoid drinking anything during the week but what the heck, the country is going to hell in a hand-basket so why not kick back and enjoy life while you can! Anyway, as you can see, I have a swanky new beer glass that I got for Fathers day. It's a German make (Spiegelau) designed for IPA style beers and the glass is very fine and thin, feels great to drink from. The ale this evening is one of my home-brews called "Mosaic Man" as it's hopped with an American variety called "Mosaic". It's a wonderful hop that gives the beer a delightful aroma of pink grapefruit, I realise that sounds weird for a beer but believe me it's super tasty and just what the doctor ordered.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Just when you thought..

...things couldn't possibly get worse we get a sound beating at our national game from a country with a population smaller than Coventry, the Gibraltarians are teaming up with the Scott's to exit the UK, the pound reaches it's lowest point for over 30 years, AAA credit rating gone, then, along comes Tory leader candidate Stephen "we can cure gays" Crabb - FFS!

Common interests

Saw this today, made me think about people and what's possible with the right attitude.

It's interesting how common interests help to overcome differences and "fear of the other", if only we take the time to find them. We have a German exchange student staying with us at the moment and from the moment we picked him up he hasn't stopped nattering about football and the European tournament going on at the moment. This is great because my Son is also mad about football and consequently they're getting on like a house on fire, which is wonderful to watch. Just two young boys with everything ahead of them and who know little of the barriers our society seems to want to throw up. I really hope their generation is able to patch up the mess that my generation is leaving behind, when I chat with them both it's difficult not to feel embarrassed about where I'm from.


Can anyone smell burning?

Is there a leader in the house?

OK, it's clear that our political class are in a state of melt-down now that the little-Englander genie is out of the bottle, what with the buck-passing, back-tracking and refusal to strike the final neck-blow by signing Article 50, we obviously have a national shortage of leadership.

Nature abhors a vacuum so here's my plan,

1. Immediate general election
2. Consign the current Tory party and UKIP to the dustbin of history
3. Reform our electoral system, adopt a PR system and properly reform the Upper House
4. Catalyse the break up of the Tory and Labour parties
5. Smash together the centre left and centre right factions plus the Lib-dems into a new party
6. Vote the new party into power giving them a mandate to revert the referendum decision
7. Try to patch it all up with our allies as best we can
8. Crack on with rallying people around sorting out the real problems on our (shared) planet, you know, little things like climate-change, poverty, tyrants, rampant religious fundamentalism, pollution, nuclear proliferation etc.

It's about time we focused on the species threatening things our children will have to deal with and not the petty obsessions of aggressively small minded politicians.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Best of three?

A very eloquent summary of how I feel this morning from some anonymous young man in the FT; seriously considering folding it all up and moving to California. As Philip Pullman said on Twitter, it's like we had a headache so we shot ourselves in the foot; now we can't walk but still have the headache. 

I'm sure it will pass and my optimism will return, but I can't help feeling that as an isolated, walled state, this country is fucked.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

EU Science

Some data about what scientists think about leaving the EU, in a nutshell they're not keen.

Trade deals...

Nice simple explanation of international trade deals and how they tend to work from Oxford Professor of Economic Governance, Ngaire Woods, rational, evidence based and makes total sense.

Arguments like this form the platform upon which I base my decision to vote "remain", the woolly, emotionally charged "take back control" argument from the other side seems sketchy, risky and without any concrete basis in fact. To me it sounds like more of a plea for what some people would like to be true with no clear way of determining if "control" is even the problem, let alone the solution. As a business owner with no particular axe to grind in terms of direct revenue from Europe or not I can say with certainty that if we exit, the very best case scenario is that the kinds of big companies we sell to will suspend major expenditure for at least a period of several months, possibly longer, to see what will happen. This will potentially hurt my firm and depending on the timing may even affect the local people that I employ; the exit side have given me nothing to suggest why we'd want to do that or what positive benefits I could expect as a result, other than a highly suspect claim that we might be twenty quid a month better off  (whoopty-doo!)

Vote remain!


Love this..

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Horoscopes for week of June 21st**

Aries | March 21 to April 19
Nothing noteworthy will occur in your life this week, as you have not paid your cable TV bill in months.

Taurus | April 20 to May 20
The loneliness you feel cannot last forever. It can, however, last 40 years until the moment of your death.

Gemini | May 21 to June 20
Your religious faith will be shattered when, after years of piety, you discover a little-known Bible passage condemning murder.

Cancer | June 21 to July 22
The disappearance of Mars from the sky may indicate that it is time to let go of your warlike nature. Also, it could indicate that Mars has taken orbit behind the sun.

Leo | July 23 to Aug. 22
Your beloved cats Oscar, Sophie, Tim, Gibson and Malcolm are asked to appear on national television after smothering you in your sleep.

Virgo | Aug. 23 to Sept. 22
Due to circumstances beyond your control, you will make absolutely no effort to take charge of your miserable life this week.

Libra | Sept. 23 to Oct. 22
Your birthday party will once again be ruined by highly trained, combat-tested military demolitions experts.

Scorpio | Oct. 23 to Nov. 21
Reaffirm your commitment to weight loss this week. Eat five pounds of cottage cheese, six cans of peach halves in heavy syrup, and a litre of Diet Coke for each meal.

Sagittarius | Nov. 22 to Dec. 21
A crazy person will try to convince you that the stars are vast, distant balls of gaseous matter. Ignore him.

Capricorn | Dec. 22 to Jan. 19
You will discover the power of chain letters this week when you accidentally break one and suffer no terrible consequences whatsoever.

Aquarius | Jan. 20 to Feb. 18
Nothing can stop Destiny from exerting its powerful influence over you if it so desires. However, it does not.

Pisces | Feb. 19 to March 20
You may be entitled to a large refund this week when the gynaecologist you’ve been seeing announces that you are not pregnant but male.

**From the splendid Onion of course...

British values

Now this is the kind of Britain I want to live in, one that contains people who, without fear of intimidation or recrimination, would gladly and proudly raise the Mexican flag?

Of course the flag is right on the border fence of one of Donald Trumps' fancy Scottish golf courses..

A hole in Juan?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Choices, choices

Sums things up rather more succinctly than most politicians have.

Brexit coming off the rails?

UKIP leader Nigel Farage was caught playing the "victim card" yesterday in Preston; he actually claimed that the "exit-campaign" had momentum which had been lost because of the tragic murder of MP Jo Cox and that this made him a victim of hatred. This extremely ill-judged commentary along with the disastrous poster campaign showing him standing in front of an almost national-socialist style poster clearly aimed at whipping up fear and xenophobia hopefully marks the beginning of the end for this most divisive of recent politicians.

On the other side of the fence we have one of my favourite politicians (NOT) Baroness Warsi who is claiming to have switched sides because of racism in the out campaign. This isn't surprising Warsi sees racism in everything and often uses it herself in order to avoid the effort of coming up with a coherent argument. The supporters of the leave side are frantically reporting that they didn't even know Warsi was on their side this morning, again, unsurprising, after all, who would want to belong to a club that would have her as a member.

In related news, quite a few business big-hitters came out over the weekend in favour of remaining in the EU. Many people on the left and supporters of the exit side may well claim that this is what business leaders would say as they're primarily interested in lining their pockets, an interesting point of view bearing in mind fiscal benefit is one of their strongest rallying calls. Of course self interest may well be a big factor in this vote, after all, capitalism is the system we choose to operate in this country and profit is how it works. It's pretty difficult to think of scenarios that are generally bad for business but good for ordinary people, in a similar vein it's impossible to think of examples where the government has had a tax windfall and this has been passed onto ordinary people either. It's awkward truths like this that would suggest we'll all be better off sticking to plan A and remaining in the EU.


Splendid evening listening to and watching the Coldplay UK tour last night. Good crowd and efficient Wembley set-up; only down-side was the drizzle which was causing havoc with their instruments and at times the sound was a bit patchy, but these were relatively minor glitches. One thing that I'd not seen before was that as you entered the stadium they handed out little gizmo's that you wore on your wrist. These little plastic devices flashed different coloured lights in sync with the different songs, clever stuff and the cumulative effect of 70,000 of them was quite something.

Friday, June 17, 2016


Be careful what you wish for. Many people have become atheists after reading the Bible properly and subsequently realising what it really is, i.e. one of many of our species many early attempts at science, philosophy and ethics. Like most version 1.0 things, it wasn't very good and we've improved on every aspect of it since then; mostly by inventing real versions of science, philosophy and ethics based on reason rather than fear, ignorance and superstition. Most moderate religious people have also vastly improved on these texts by "interpreting" the words in the light of real science, philosophy and ethics as informed by our evolving cultural, legal and political systems. So everyone should be happy, right? 

Unfortunately not. There remain millions of people in the world who insist everyone should obey their particular "special book" literally, this is especially true of Muslims who seem centuries behind the game in terms of reforming their own flavour of superstitious intransigence. This friction causes many of the problems we see around the world today, from the murder of gay people, violence in the Middle East, to the denial of basic human rights to Women. I wish more people on the left would learn how to detach ideas like Islamism (i.e. political Islam) from the actual reformed behaviour of most moderate followers of Islam. At the moment it seems as though many political leaders (Obama, Hillary etc.) are terrified to mention these things in the same sentence even when it's obvious that there's a direct path between a literal interpretation of the various holy books and killing gay people. Unfortunately it's only the clown Trump who provides moral clarity, he said this week that "The USA must unite the civilised world against Islamism", compare this with Clinton who said that she was against "radical Islamism", one must conclude that she is either very confused or thinks that "moderate Islamists" are perfectly OK?

The man who gunned down 50 people in Florida this week may have been a loser and a narcissist, in a land where access to automatic weapons is too easy, but he was a loser following the literal instructions of the holy book he claimed to believe, it's strange and slightly scary how most media commentators choose to miss out that last fact as if it's not relevant. What do they call it when followers of a particular idea or political ideology use extreme violence to silence opposition and create an environment of fear so that they can impose their will over everyone without majority consent? Oh yes, that's right, Fascism, we know a song about that don't we children.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Guess which one..

Say no more...

Monday, June 13, 2016

BBQ heaven

Went to a great rib-joint at the weekend. It's called Dukes, Brew and Que and is owned by the Son of ex-Led Zeppelin front man, Robert Plant. Logan Plant started the restaurant in 2011 with a view to brewing beer on-site and selling it with the steaks and ribs, turns out the beer was so good that pretty soon they were making it in a separate lock-up garage followed by a small industrial unit. Now the beers are widely available (mostly in London) and the brewery is going from strength to strength, with new canning lines and new beers. The restaurant is still there and still a great BBQ place, we had the plate above, no fuss no pomp just good meat and beer! 

Recommended if you ever find yourself at a loose end in the East End.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Best beer in Britain?

I had an enjoyable couple of days away with my Wife in London this weekend and I found myself in a restaurant with a spectacular beer list. So, not wishing to waste an opportunity to try some new things I thought I'd go for a beer that I've heard a lot about but never actually seen on sale anywhere (other than on-line). The beverage in question is from Manchester brewers Cloudwater and is a 9% double IPA or "DIPA", this particular one (shown in the photo) is version 3 of this particular beer and I hadn't tried any of them, but people who have generally rave about them.

TBH I don't think the praise is overdone at all, the beer is fantastic. A cloudy bronze pale ale, delicate carbonation, the American hops scream out of the glass at you on the nose but when you take a sip everything is perfectly in balance. The beer simply doesn't taste like a 9% beer, no alcohol burn here just a wonderfully smooth and balanced drink. Flavorsome, hoppy, malty and refreshing, but at £7 for a 330ml bottle (restaurant price) and with several different (hard to get) ales to try I only had the one. I would go out on a limb and propose that this is probably the best beer in Britain right now, certainly in it's class.

Tricky choices..

So after the blood bath in a club in Florida who will blame who? 

Will the Christian right go for the gays or the Muslims? (tough choice for them); will the liberals blame the gun laws or social injustice for minorities (tough choice for them); will the moderate theists blame a few rotten apples or the disrespectful secularists who taunt the faithful (tough one for them too). What most reasonable people know to be true is that millions upon millions of Muslims (and Christians) just want gay people to stop making them feel "icky" and embarrassed, they would prefer it if they just disappeared. Truth is, the majority of moderates and extremists only really disagree on one thing, timing.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Insurance doesn't exist for your benefit..

Saw this, made me smile..

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Just stop pointing it out...

Excellent critique of the attitude of a lot of religious people, from J&M as usual. I often muse about how atheists are frequently called out by religious people for being "disrespectful" or "insulting" for simply pointing out the obvious, i.e. what it actually says in the Koran or articulating the logical consequences of certain things if they were true, like the problem of evil, or perhaps even something as innocuous as pointing out some distant news story about an abuse or religiously inspired terrorist act somewhere in the world.

"Victim" is a persona that unfortunately religious people in many quarters seem to slip into very, very easily.

Did Farage really just say that?

I think I'm slightly more stupid this morning after listening to Nigel Farage on TV last night, at one point he argued that he doesn't mind that, upon leaving the EU large multi-national pharmaceutical companies will be much more inclined to leave the UK and set up head-quarters and research facilities elsewhere. His (bizarre) logic was that the power these companies have in the market and their influence from lobbying is forcing UK based "alternative" medicine companies out of business, implying that he'd rather see "alternative medicine" companies than "real medicine" companies here in the UK? 

By exhibiting such a poor grasp of medicine, science and basic economics all at once, I have to believe that this buffoon just made that comment up on the spot, if he didn't then he deserves to be ridiculed to the bone. Big Pharma is "big" because mainstream drugs (for the most part) are properly researched and tested, i.e. they work and are therefore successful. "Alternative medicine" on the other hand is called "alternative" because it's not real medicine and doesn't work any better than placebo; this is why it's still a cottage industry that only appeals to the credulous and the desperate. Swapping Big Pharma for "alternative medicine" would be like swapping a Macbook-pro for an etch-a-sketch.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

If you can't beat em?

Interesting article in the Telegraph today about Justin Welby (Head of the UK state religion) in which it's claimed that he will be making a speech tomorrow that will talk about the priority and status of religion within our state broadcaster (BBC). In this annual speech on religious broadcasting he is expected to say that the "promotion of religious literacy should be the specific duty of the BBC", in other words it should be mandatory that the BBC broadcast on religion topics. As a quantitative benchmark he is also expected to say that the level of this coverage should be on a par with other important topics such as sport, politics, economics and drama.

As an atheist and a secularist, I would offer two perspectives on this statement. 

Firstly, I wonder if Mr Welby (or any serious theist) has ever attempted to put herself (intellectually and emotionally) into the shoes of someone like me when considering such policy suggestions? I passionately believe that his religion, and all others, are entirely man-made memes, untrue, unnecessary and in an alarming number of cases harmful to the cohesion and tranquilly of our society. I put his religion on a par with the hobby of civil-war re-enactment, except that at least we have some evidence for the civil war! In my view his private hobby should entirely reside in the private domain of this club to which he belongs, where it can be enjoyed by him and others entirely as they like but not something that should be mandated on the rest of us (either to consume or participate in). How ridiculous would it sound to Mr Welby for me to demand that civil-war re-enactment TV coverage should be put on a par with economics, sport and politics! To my ears that is exactly what he sounds like when he says things like this.

Secondly (shockingly) I want to agree with him, with one simple caveat. I agree that religion is an important topic, something that more people should understand the history of (in a relativistic sense); it's very difficult to understand the shape of today's world without some appreciation if it. Equally (much like the Nazi holocaust) we do not want to repeat the evils and errors of the past. People should be aware of what religion was like in this country and other places, when it had absolute power (and still does in many theocracies today) If nothing else but to guard against harmful slippery-slopes in the future and to secure freedom of conscience and speech. I actually believe we should have more mainstream content on religion, BUT, I would insist that that include equal billing for the atheist/humanist position, for the history of the enlightenment and for the scientific world-view. Without such equality this feels to me like a rather suspicious attempt to push his private hobby down the rest of our throats (the UK is at least 25% irreligious) under the cover of "better understanding".

Monday, June 06, 2016

The smooth with the rough..

It's been interesting to observe the fanfare surrounding the late boxer Mohammed Ali; it's a landscape of near universal praise and adulation but as so often in life things are not always entirely as they appear to be. Not only did Ali convert to Islam after he fell out with US authorities over the Vietnam daft, but he converted to a totally wacky branch of the religion called the Nation of Islam. Invented in the USA it's a sect that seems to follow some kind of weird mash up of Scientology, Islam-lite and the prophetic (unsurprisingly it's current leader is supposedly a prophet) with smatterings of Antisemitism alongside UFOs for good measure.

The sect also claim that white people were "created" by a black man called Yakub 6,600 years ago from some form of selective breeding programme to be a "race of devils". As is convention with weird religious sects the NOI claim that their teachings are "confirmed by modern science", this claim is laughable of course, either they know less than nothing about actual science or as is the case with most religions of this kind they hold their followers in utter contempt and are quite happy to push good will and credulity to the maximum whilst no doubt fleecing them of resources in the here and now as they go. Ali himself held (at least in his early life) some very suspect ideas on race (which he seemed to conflate with skin colour) and Women who he felt were the property of men (a common bronze-age idea)

The man was evidently a superb athlete and a skilled practitioner of his sport, ironically it was this (and not the white-devils) that got him in the end, shame he didn't get out while he still had a reasonably healthy brain. What with his charisma, fake religion and anti-scientific beliefs, I'm sure he could of had a great career in US politics.

Unelected voices

Nice point being made by Nick Clegg today in the Evening Standard; his basic argument is that vocal opponents of EU membership like Digby Jones, Norman Lamont, Norman Tebbit, David Owen, Michael Howard, Nigel Lawson and others should be feeling a large twinge of hypocrisy when pontificating on the democratic deficiencies of the EU. As Clegg points out, the UK House of Lords is one of the least democratic and most bloated  houses of Government on the planet and yet these Lords don't seem to see or feel any sense of irony when they use their privileged (unelected) platform to criticize institutions they claim to be "undemocratic".

Clegg also points out that the Brexit ministers like Gove and Grayling in the current Government seem equally un-phased by the fact that only 24% of the eligible population voted for them in the last general election. Whatever happens on the EU question, we seriously need an overhaul of our own institutions; kick out the parasites and have a properly elected upper house, you know you deserve it.

Wrong is the new right

I see that the pound is falling against other major currencies as polls show that sentiment in the UK has swung slightly toward favouring exiting the EU. This is ironic since the political figures promoting this side of the argument have spent a ton of media cycles trying to convince us that an EU exit won't have any material effect on macro economic factors, i.e. things like the relative value of our currency.

I really hope that the main Brexit mouthpieces like Gove and Johnson get caught jumping a queue or abusing an animal (ideally a small pug) of some kind in the next few weeks. I despair that this is the only thing that's going to set the British public against them, facts and expert opinion doesn't seem to be working; we seem to require a reality TV ad hominem showdown, and on that bombshell etc.

These aren't the droids you're looking for

Yep that's pretty much how it works; Jedi mind tricks have nothing on reason-mashing monster myths and vague threats of eternal damnation transmitted by authority figures to vulnerable people.

Bloody Ell Clone

Several people have asked me to share my (clone) recipe for a Beavertown beer known as "Bloody E'll" - it's called that because it unusually contains blood orange juice and here's my version! Note, this isn't any kind of official recipe just my own approximation, i.e. the real recipe is probably nothing like this but to me the following tastes good and is similar enough. The ingredients have undergone several iterations and some experimentation and have settled down to the following malt and hop bills (note this is for 1 imperial gallon so you'll need to scale up or down depending on your batch size),

Maris Otter Pale Malt 950g (82%)
Carabelge Malt 100g (9%)
Carahell Malt 100g (9%)

Hops & other additions:

- Gypsum @60mins (suitable amount depending on your water profile)
- Pacific Jade 4g @60mins

- Citra/Amarillo 3g each @15mins

- Protofloc Tablet @10mins (1 tablet per 5 gallons)
- Yeast Nutrient @10mins (1 teaspoon per gallon)
- Citra/Amarillo 3g each @10mins

- Citra/Amarillo 3g each @5mins
- 250ml Blood Orange juice @5mins (roughly 6-10 oranges)

- Citra/Amarillo 4g each @flame-out

- Citra/Amarillo 5g each dry hop last 5 days

Yeast: Safale US-05
Mash: 66-68c for 90minutes
Boil: 60 minutes
Ferment: 14 days
Condition: 14 days

Target SG: 1060
Target FG: 1014 (~6% ABV)

IBU: 40-50
SRM: See photo above for rough guide (about 8-12)
Prime: roughly 20g dextrose per gallon

Any questions, drop me a comment.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Arbitrary lines

With all the fluff and bluster going on at the moment around our (UK) membership of the European Union and the exit-brigade bleating on about sovereignty and independence as if the UK has always existed as some rose-tinted Arthurian vision. I thought it germane to point out that the concept of a "country" from geological, historical and genetic points of view (i.e. reality) is an entirely arbitrary, made-up thing that only exists in the minds of people at a point in time.

It's strange how so many people feel so strongly attached to these lines on the map when history shows us that they are in reality very fluid. It's almost like they feel the need to create in-group out-group situations where none are required, is this patriotism or insecurity?

As a business founder, owner and employer of around 100 people in the UK I want us to stay in the EU, it makes complete sense to me, why isolate yourself from the largest market for goods and services on the planet that also happens to be right on your doorstep? All this stuff about bureaucracy and overhead simply isn't true, if anything it's the opposite. It's far, far easier for me to hire a European than it is say an Indian or American person, but not because of any red-tape (I employ people of many nationalities). The cultural, economic and language barriers are a lot lower and in practical terms it costs me less (Europeans can visit home over the weekend, for long-haul employees they're understandably gone for a month at a time) I also don't feel the constraints that the exit-people claim are there. Last year my company set up an office in the USA, we did this fairly easily and are now transacting business over there as easily as we are in Europe, what these people don't seem to factor-in is that business systems (the foundations upon which commercial organisations sit) these days are already internationalised, integrated and sit in "the cloud", borders simply don't feature that much in how we design, build and support products and systems now. In many ways businesses are way ahead of the politicians in terms of integration, and yet many of them wish to drag us back to an age of isolation and discontinuity, it baffles me.

Of course, it goes without saying that there needs to be constant reform and tweaking of the house-rules, this is true in any organisation; but in my experience it's far better to have a seat at the big table than to have your nose pressed up against the glass looking in, unable to materially influence things at all. Much as the exit-crew hate to admit it, the days when we could send a gunboat to resolve commercial disputes are long gone.

Cartoon from the wonderful XKCD (click for a larger view)

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Shooting the relatives

The recent killing of a gorilla (Harambe) in a zoo in the USA because a small boy fell into his compound has raised some very interesting ethics issues. Many are asking if the deliberate shooting of this mountain gorilla (through no fault of his own) was fair; questions are being asked about the role and culpability of the parents and also that of the zoo itself whose facilities were clearly inadequate for the purposes of protecting the human visitors and the animals from each other. In my view the zoo needs to be punished in some way for their clear failure in this and the laws around zoos and the mixing of wild animals and people need to be re-visited; ideally I would hope that the death of this magnificent animal would not be in vain.

In the USA many commentators have been chipping into this debate; infamous Conservative Christian blow-hard Rush Limbaugh said the following on his radio show..

"This woman obviously has not read Genesis, and even if she did it wouldn't have any impact on her. But human beings travel all over the world to gawk at animals precisely because they're unusual, they're interesting, some are cute, some are deadly. There's no way human beings are going to not be interested in animals. Gawking at them. Out on safari, hunting them or what -- By the way, you know there's another factor in this, Snerdley? A lot of people think that all of us used to be apes. Don't doubt me on this. A lot of people think that all of us used to be gorillas. And they're looking for the missing link out there. The evolution crowd. They think we were originally apes. I've always -- if we were the original apes, then how come Harambe is still an ape, and how come he didn't become one of us?"

I can't resist pointing out a few logical problems with Mr Limbaugh's commentary. Firstly I would correct his (common) misunderstanding about evolution in that humans share a common ancestor with modern apes but were never "gorillas". Gorillas are a modern day species that evolved as a distinct species to us. To aid understanding, perhaps Mr Limbaugh would like to contemplate that he shares a European ancestor with people who still live there, if there are Americans why are there still Europeans? (is this so hard to grasp?) Another aspect of his ignorance is that individual animals don't "become" other animals, this is not what evolution claims; populations evolve over generations, not individuals, and the changes are imperceptible from one generation to the next, all that's required is a big chunk of time. Mr Limbaugh is also dismissing the idea that humans and apes are related, we need only look at their DNA to establish that we are, however, I wouldn't expect this good ol'boy to appreciate such newfangled scientific mumbo-jumbo; all I suggest he do is look at the two photographs above and tell me honestly that there's no similarity (In case you're wondering, Limbaugh is the ape on the right holding the golf club)


On what must have been a slow news day for the Nottingham post here's a little story about a shop in Nottingham selling "Christian Books". Apparently Grandmother and Catholic "Murial Swan" was "offended" when she discovered that the shop only sold Protestant books and made the claim that the owners of the shop were "anti-Catholic" and that this omission represented discrimination.

I can sympathise, I had a similar thing happen to me the other day. I popped into a Catholic church to buy some crosses to help me in the important work I do and discovered a whole range of offensive activities happening inside. People (including young children) drinking blood and eating human flesh while whispering to themselves in hushed voices, men dressed as women waving burning sticks around polluting the atmosphere, babies being water-boarded and dubious looking middle-aged virgins dressed in black handing out advice on sex, it was weird and upsetting. Apparently all done in order to suck up to some giant invisible man who lives in the sky! All I wanted was a silver cross or two to ward off vampires, these people clearly discriminate against vampire hunters.

Alternative austerity

In this age of austerity many people are looking for ways to earn an extra buck or two and what better (and easier) way to leach the samolians from your fellow human beings is there than inventing an “alternative medicine”. There are however a few important tips that you should digest and follow in order to improve your chances of success; here are ten of them to get you started.

1. Minimise specific effects – Let’s face up to it straight away, your medicine won’t actually work. Progress in medicine does not happen with people just making stuff up, but instead relies on remarkable insight, careful analysis, detailed research and long and expensive clinical trials, with lots of false starts and wrong turns before progress is made. You will not have the time, inclination, money or intellect for this. So, the best you can do is ensure that you do as little direct harm as possible, choose something that is inert, harmless and inconsequential in action, like water (or something very close to it).

2. Maximise placebo effects – Make your treatment as theatrical as possible, make customers feel like you listened to them and lots of effort has gone into your cure. This ensures the placebo effect is maximised, we already know that the more dramatic the intervention the greater the placebo effect will be.

3. Choose what you want to cure carefully - The number one reason for people believing in alternative medicine is that it “works for them”. What this means is that their particular complaint just happened to improve sometime after rubbing whatever magic beans they had chosen. Chronic illnesses are ideal – they represent repeat business. Bad backs are a classic. People will come to you when their backs are really playing up.... now you have a loyal and evangelical customer. Correlation is causation to your customer. “Regression to the mean” is your friend. Understand it and use it.

4. Have excuses ready - if things are not quite getting better yet – or even if things are getting worse.... Have a story ready for every outcome, good or bad. Never admit you have failed.... Perhaps the most lucrative path is to invent illnesses. Create your own problems, diagnostic techniques and cures and you can provide an end-to-end service of imaginary illnesses and cures. The Detox industry has thrived on this. Food intolerances and allergies have made shed loads for vitamin pill sellers. People love their daily aches and pains, tiredness and mood swings to have a name and to have something to blame. You can provide a wonderful service by filling in the gaps for them.

5. Embrace the language of quackery - It is compulsory that you start using a few alternative medicine terms. ‘Holistic' is probably the most important one, say things like, “Toxins cause all illness. So do parasites, acidic blood, vitamin and mineral depletion, miasmas, vibrations” whatever. Pick one and stick to it. Describe yourself as holistic. No one will notice that you are the exact opposite. ‘Natural’ is another compulsory word... Avoid using the term ‘alternative’ to describe your ‘medicine’. It is very 20th Century, and also frightens a potential lucrative source of income – government and insurance companies. Even ‘complementary’ medicine is falling out of favour. The hot button is ‘Integrative’. You want your business integrated with the health care provision of the state and private sectors.... No, you want to be a ‘choice’ – a ‘lifestyle choice’ for the modern health consumer, and they can select you from within a single integrated market. Choice is the biggest buzz word in healthcare politics in the UK. Make sure you offer it. People criticising you will look like they are restricting consumer choice - always a bad thing.

6. Adopt the victim posture - If a critic asks you for evidence about your treatment, then do anything but answer the direct question. Scream that the questioner is closed minded and probably a shill from Big Pharma. Say that your patients’ successes are all the proof you need. Claim that your technique does not lend itself well to ‘conventional’ scientific testing. But if some dodgy paper does exist, then wave it around furiously, despite just having claimed that science cannot measure what you do.

7. Wear the mantle of science - People love science. They do not understand it, but they love the authority of science. Most people form opinions based on various authorities in their life. So, embrace the authority of scientific language, but ignore the methods of science – the methods may show you are speaking hogwash. Your customers will not be interested in the details. They will never check references or take the time to understand what you mean. But they will be impressed by science experts and scientific language.

8. Award yourself a title - If you do not have a PhD then don’t worry too much. There are correspondence courses where you can get one for a few thousand quid. A wise investment. Gillian McKeith was unlucky in being caught out. Chances are, you will not be. If you really have balls, just style yourself Dr anyway. It is not a protected title – it is yours to use.

9. Envelope yourself in ancient wisdom - Take a leaf out of the Ear Candling trade. They picked on an obscure American Indian tribe on which to base their claims of antiquity. Despite the Hopi tribe writing to the manufacturers to deny the claims and to request they stop using their name, nothing has changed. People like to think they are tapping into ‘ancient wisdom’ and more ‘natural’ health approaches. Preferably use an Oriental connection. This is much more beguiling (and also harder to check) ....

10. Embrace weasel words - Be careful what you say in advertising. Do not claim to be able to cure things. Instead, claim to ‘treat’ illnesses. You may be totally unsuccessful, but you are not lying. Your punter will not notice the subtle difference between treating and curing....

If you follow all of these tips then fame and fortune could be just around the corner, who knows, you may even start believing it yourself!