Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Militant Atheists


So this is what "militant atheist" means (in the eyes of believers)...

Tuesday titter


I've only felt like this for a very few box-sets, House, Soprano's, Breaking Bad not much else..

Collide and conquer


I was sitting in the car with my teenage son yesterday and we were listening to someone on the radio talking about the announcement from scientists at the LIGO detector this week. In it they were discussing the incredible detection of both visible and gravitational waves from a neutron star collision, in which the flash of the smash was seen via telescopes at exactly the same time as a gravitational wave passed through our planet, distorting space-time under our very feet. I noticed that he (my Son) was fiddling with his phone and not really paying attention, I asked if he was impressed at this detection but he said that he wasn't very interested in it and didn't really understand what was being said. I can understand his frustration, it's unlikely that many people really understood the magnitude of this feat nor the amount of skill, dedication and hard-work required to achieve it. 

I took some time to try and break it down for him, explaining what happens to stars as they grow old and run out of fuel, how gravity causes them to collapse and become super dense and how even a teaspoon of matter from such a star would weigh millions of tons. Then I asked him to imagine what it would be like for two of these super-heavy monsters to smash into each other, creating a black-hole and completely obliterating themselves causing ripples in the very fabric of space-time itself, and, how unlikely it was that we would be able to see all of this from Earth and detect the minute distortion at exactly the same time as seeing the explosion through various telescopes, demonstrating that gravity travels at the same speed as light. Then to cap it all, to think about the fact that all this mayhem was actually going on over 130 million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed our planet and before Human beings had even evolved on the savannas of Africa, ergo, it's amazing what we can achieve and learn when we just collaborate.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Seasonal vistors


We had an unusual visitor to our little garden today, it's a Goldcrest, a lovely little bird with a striking yellow/gold stripe on its head. It must be something to do with the weather at the moment and also that I spent most of the day standing by the kitchen window (I was brewing beer and had my camera out, hence the snapshot) I noticed several interesting species of bird including, coal, long tailed, blue and great tits, chaffinches, wrens and several jays, all of whom popped by briefly to (I guess) feed on the various insects around who are being fooled by our Indian Summer into much higher activity levels than usual, either that or birds are oddly attracted to the smell of malt!

A little of the dark-side


It's a beautiful day here in the South East of England, unseasonably warm and sunny. So, to celebrate I thought I'd kick off a full brew-day to make a Christmas beer, a dark Winter-warmer! In the photo above you can see the different grains I used, we have pale malt, pilsner malt, roasted malt, chocolate malt, brown malt, crystal malt and various other adjuncts like flaked oats and lactose. Hopefully this little lot will combine to make an unctuous black beer  that I'm going to flavour with cacao nibs soaked in Cointreau, giving it a kind of Chocolate-orange vibe, should finish around a cockle warming 8-9% ABV so ideal to sip (in suitable moderation) next to a roaring fire.


Here you can see the grains "mashing", it's essentially just mixing them with hot water and holding a steady temperature of around 65 Centigrade for around 90 minutes. When you do this enzymes in the barley convert the starch in the crushed husks into sugar giving the yeast something to further convert into alcohol. You can't really see it in this picture but the final liquid (wort) came out treacle-black and already visibly viscous, the beer will take a couple of weeks to ferment and then another 6 weeks to condition in bottles, hopefully it'll be just about ready as the holiday season kicks-off!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Puking, relatively


Reading this book currently; fascinating stuff, some of which I already know and some I don't. It's basically a history of science kind of book but drills into a little more detail on key discoveries in physics, like the relationship between electricity and magnetism and general relativity. 

I like Krauss, he's a good writer and even better speaker, he uses humour to get points across and generally keep the audience engaged in what can sometimes be a fairly dry subject. Last night I read his through his attempt at explaining relativity and the speed of light using a metaphor involving his daughter projectile vomiting onto the back of his head whilst driving to nursery school. Slightly more tangible than clocks, mirrors and steam trains; looking forward to the next instalment.

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be.


Feeling nostalgic today, must be my age..

I remember when this song (see image above) was in the charts (35 years ago!) I was at university and had a week-end job as a chef in a greasy-spoon cafe a couple of miles from where I was living at the time. I used to cycle there and back and the route had a really long hill section in it. I recall having this track pumping out of my Sony Walkman, cranking the volume up to 11 as I got faster and faster down the hill on the way to work, it felt exhilarating. As things levelled out and I was at maximum velocity an open top triumph Spitfire drew alongside me being driven by some flash bloke with shades and a tash, to my horror, in the passenger seat was my recently "ex" girlfriend! Clearly she had "moved-on" and feeling somewhat out-done that I was still on a push-bike and she was in a snazzy sports car I struck my best "uninterested look" by directing my gaze upwards and away from the car. I felt it was going well (the music was helping) until I realised that, in my state of distraction, my front wheel had brushed the curb and I was in one of those uncontrollable wobbles that you sometimes get on two wheels when steering corrections get ever more violent and pronounced ending in inevitable disaster.

Over the handlebars I went, the world spun for a few seconds and I ended up in a ditch full of blackberry bushes by the side of the road, blood oozing from several nasty scratches on my arms and face. They didn't even stop to see how I was, and I limped on to work to get plastered-up and put in a full shift (we weren't snowflakes in those days, although my Dad would probably disagree) I limped back home later that evening to fix my bent front wheel, lick my wounds and feel sorry for myself. I threw the cassette-tape into the back of a drawer and I never set eyes on that girl again, but as fate would have it, like this song, she's scorched into my memory because of the powerful sensory associations I experienced in those moments. I can't help being reminded of that event every-time "eye of the tiger" pops up on the radio or on the TV. These days I sometimes forget why I'm in a particular room but remember that moment as clear as a bell, such is the interconnected nature of memory.

Friday smirk


Patience, patience..

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Anarchy


Looks like it's started already..

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The inevitable clash


J&M bang on the money as usual. It seems to be a fundamental property of intransigent unfalsifiable beliefs that they eventually clash with cultural evolution and tolerance. The problem is that because reason isn't used to arrive at them, reason and evidence can't easily be used to dismiss them! It's usually violence, marginalisation or sheer weight of numbers that does it in the end.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Hubble trouble..


Stop sniggering at the back!

Monday, October 09, 2017

Not alot


I always thought that this whole "God" idea was much ado about nothing..

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Sunday smile..


Love this response; 

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Judging covers


It's been a long week at work and having arrived at Friday we decided to treat ourselves to a bottle of Chardonnay, some nice cheese, crackers and a chick-flick. 

So, I opened a wine from Santa Barbara that we'd never tried before, one with a wacky label! It didn't disappoint, lovely fruit, apples, ripe pears, citrus, off-dry with a really nice mouth-feel to it. I picked this up at a wine sale over in Hampshire the other week I think I paid around £15 for it (it's normally around £30) At the time I thought it looked a bit naff (just look at the label!) but now I regret not snapping up a whole case! As the old saying goes, never judge a book by it's cover!

Friday, October 06, 2017

Advertising lamb?


This ad from the Australian meat industry has sparked some controversy (which was probably the aim) It's certainly got people talking, but I'm not sure they'll go out and buy more lamb chops because of it. I think it's irreverent, edgy, topical and above all else has an Atheist in it! (shock, horror) 

I love it, it's harmless but in typical Australia fashion takes no prisoners at the same time as being genuinely amusing. Take a look and see what you think.

Brutal


The satirical cartoons this week are brutal. Good.

Friday Smirk


Spot the difference..

Sex scandals, money scandals, fame, riches, arrogance, law breaking, unwarranted adoration, silly hats, nope none of those, the only thing I could come up with was that the guy in the top picture didn't pretend to know stuff he couldn't know!

Now, call me crazy but technically, that would make Hefner more honest than the Pope wouldn't it?

Thursday, October 05, 2017

What price a pint?


Borough market pub "The Rake" was attacked in the mainstream media recently for charging around £13 for a pint of beer. As I'm writing this I can hear many of my friends saying "WTF! £13 a pint, what a rip-off", so, is it a rip-off? As usual in life, things aren't quite what they first seem.

Firstly you need to understand that the particular beer being sold for this price was a rare craft beer from a tiny brewery in Manchester (Cloudwater) only available at a handful of pubs in the country and at around 10% ABV was only being sold in 1/3rd pint measures. The beer is made using exotic malts and hops, and in minuscule (relatively) quantities, it's a specialist product made by hand that has more in common with high-end wines than dishwater pints.

There is something about the word "pint" that puts people in mind of a standard, production-line product, much like "Big-Mac", clearly you would never pay £30 for a Big-Mac! The statement elicits a visceral negative reaction because many people have one single experience and image of what a "pint" is. But, that kind of standard bitter/lager "pint" is not what we're talking about here, in this case the product is much more aligned to wine than beer. The beer in question is complex in both labour to make it and taste profile and much like a fine wine it has been specifically "designed" to deliver a particular flavour experience. For example, it has been aged in red-wine barrels for months and secondary fermented using champagne yeast. At around £4 for a large wine-glass full I would challenge anyone to find a London restaurant selling an even average French wine for less; as a taste experience and when looked at through the lens of wine this beer starts to look like an absolute bargain! For comparison, in most Michelin starred London restaurants a top (rare) Bordeaux wine would weigh in at >£100 PER GLASS, sometimes much more! When you have a limited quantity of a desirable product, with a limited shelf-life, the price just goes up, this is simple economics.

So, what's really driving these reactions? After all no one is forcing anyone else to buy beer here! (the pub had plenty of other beers to choose from at average London prices) Well, as usual it's a healthy mix of snobbery, ignorance and herd mentality. The fact of the matter is that all "pints" are equal (in volume), but some are more equal than others (in taste) Like wine, as the beer market has deepened and widened in the last few years, snobbery and ignorance start to creep into the discourse. 

You have folks creeping out of the woodwork who look down on beer, usually wine or whisky/brandy drinkers. They wouldn't pay £13 for "just a pint of beer", but are clearly ignorant of the skill, tastes, pleasures and sheer variety of beer these days, they have no clue how far we've come since the days of Watneys Red-Barrel, and should really just get out more! Then, at the other end of the continuum we have folks who've drunk Carling lager their whole lives, never tried anything else, never paid more than £3 for a pint and see no reason to change. That's fine, each to their own, but for many people the fun about beer, wine, food et al, is all in the taste experience, beer for them is not just something cold and wet to make you drunk on a Friday night, it's part of something much, much broader for which there is a (albeit small) highly lucrative market.

Mash-up?


Is this the British dream she was on about?

Hidden messages?


I see Theresa May inserted some hidden messages in her conference speech...

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Scanning teenagers


I spent a few informative and stimulating hours at Reading University yesterday at their school of Psychology and Neuroscience. I was attending a research session with my daughter who volunteered to undergo testing and fMRI scanning along with some of her schoolmates. 

During the experiment her brain was scanned in high-resolution (highlighting blood-flow to specific regions) whilst playing a video game. I watched proceedings from the comfort of the observation room (alongside all the computer screens). The purpose of the research is to look into how the brains of teenagers behave while being motivated (or not), and also, through the identical scanning of classmates the possibility that the brains of friend-groups are in some simple ways "synchronized" over time as they do similar things (like learning at school).

The game she played was specifically designed to stimulate certain areas of the brain (which you could see lighting-up on the screen) and especially what happened when subjects became frustrated (the game became impossibly fast after a while) and motivation tested. We also had a little talk by one of the PhD students on the team, who showed us several really cool brain-tech gizmos, one of which allowed you to control (i.e. move) virtual-objects using the power of thought alone (yes really!). It worked well, and was fascinating, it was like wearing a shower cap full of electrodes. 

After all the experiments ended, we were able to ask questions. I found myself having to resist the temptation to take the conversation off down a path of topics like free-will and consciousness, two areas that I would have loved to have explored the current thinking on, but, I didn't want to hijack the session (we wanted to encourage the kids to ask their own questions) All in all a stimulating diversion from the daily routine! Afterwards, I took my daughter out for a good old chin-wag about school, friends and life in-general as we munched our way through pizza at a restaurant in Caversham, a thoroughly enjoyable day, one I will treasure. 

You could say I've had a privileged insight into the teenage mind (in more ways than one!)

Premature excitement


Probably best not to get too excited about Saudi Arabia finally allowing Women to drive cars, it's unlikely that their male guardians will give them permission to leave their houses anyway..

Monday, October 02, 2017

Crazy


Apparently it's quite legal to openly carry a machine gun in Las Vegas, even when drinking; and there's no limit on magazine capacity either. The fact that many could and did have guns of their own made zero difference to the (still rising) death-toll, the NRA fanatics would defend their position by claiming that people in these kinds of scenarios are safer with their own weapons, I guess we all know the truth of that position that now.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Vocabulary


I learnt a new word today.. 

"Faraging" - To make demands you know to be impossible whilst denying complex reality in order to win hollow cheers from the furiously hard of thinking.

If you're looking for a concrete example of "faraging" then just take a butchers at what our buffoon of a Foreign Secretary is saying in the papers this weekend.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Clabbernappers


Here's an amusing list.

It's a sampling of names for different "supernatural" beings from around 1820. Amazing isn't it that at some point in the past (only 20 decades ago!) people felt sufficiently convinced of their existence to invent names for imaginary creatures like this.

Of course today, with the advent of recording devices like cameras and the thorough exploration and surveying of most of the surface of our planet, atmosphere, solar-system and oceans, all of these entities have been relegated to the realm of the mythical, except of course the last remaining and clearly more stubborn few that even today cling onto Earthly significance like a phantom limb.

Of course, I'm speaking here of "Gods, angels, spirits and demons", evidence for which is equally as strong as that for "clabbernappers", then again, am I just a bitter and twisted old militant a-clabbernappist? Probably.

Friday Smirk..


This one caught my eye today, from the excellent xkcd comic strip and, like all the best satirical cartoons, so, so true..

Wordsmiths


Love this. A letter from the archives that shows exactly how to "dis" someone whilst remaining polite and articulate. The note is from Bertrand Russell to Oswald Mosley and, in summary, is the former giving "the finger" to the latter. I sometimes wonder how these giants of the past would have interacted using modern media platforms like Twitter when they often showed great skill and economy in how they communicated, I bet it would have been a great delight, certainly more informative than most of the the illiterate bozo's that inhabit that realm today.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Better place?


I see old Hugh Hefner (Playboy magazine founder) kicked the bucket this week, he was 91 years old. Hugh was clearly someone who knew what he liked and by all accounts, made the most of his "innings" on this planet. Hugh was a well documented atheist and hedonist (those two things don't necessarily correlate BTW) and made his metaphorical "bed" and his real (circular) one, in the only reality that we know for sure exists, i.e. the one we're all living and breathing in now. Some may say that he's now in a "better place", all I can say is, I seriously doubt that!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Self-referential


Funny how Muslims are highly skeptical of the truth claims of ALL other religions but fail to see that theirs is nothing unique or special in any way, apart from in what it claims for itself. Then again, all religions fall foul of this fallacy, they're all wrong in the same way, in that their core foundations are rooted in unfalsifiable revelation and not verifiable history and/or reason.

Wednesday one-liner


I see Saudi Arabia failed to pass a resolution on reforming their punishment for theft; the vote was defeated by a show of hands...

Monday, September 25, 2017

Photos you wished you'd taken


Just fab..

Worst ever?


It looks like this latest apocalypse prediction (for last Saturday) was a load of bollocks (as usual)

Blasphemy


I've been observing the recent uproar in the USA over the last few days around sports people standing (or not) for their national anthem. The Donald has suggested that football players who don't stand should be "fired" (does he think he's still on The Apprentice?) and subsequently, most football players deliberately didn't stand this weekend in protest. It's interesting to see how different cultures deal with perceived blasphemies against their little rituals and conventions, even supposedly secular states like the USA have an almost religious attitude toward such things. 

It is a contradiction of a rather idiotic kind of course, the whole point about liberty and freedom of speech is having the right to blaspheme against such conventions when you believe an injustice has occurred, the right-wing, conservative detractors in this argument are rallying against the very thing they claim is sacred, i.e. individual freedom. One the one hand it's great to see masses of people defying the president in this way, it harms his credibility and makes him look like the fool he so clearly is. On the other hand though, there is nothing as dangerous or spiteful as a cornered rat, I hope the US system is robust enough to keep this ego-maniac at arms length (i.e. ignored) for another 3 years. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sunday Smile II


Couldn't resist this one..

Sunday smile


Its a beautiful sunny Sunday morning where I am so we're just headed out for a stroll around Windsor great park! But before I go here's a cartoon that will bring smile's to the syntax pedants among us.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Fox fury


Came across this on the inter-webs today; the colour of the foxes fur reminded me of the Donald and the incessant screeching reminded me of his approach to the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, although the foxes almost certainly have a better reason to be fighting each other.

Bells


Ring any (alarm) bells with anyone? (cartoon created in 1977, how did he know?)

Friday Smirk


Excellent observation (as usual) from J&M; sometimes it feels good to get things off your chest by saying what you really think, even if it's only in your own head!

Monkeys in shoes

What with the two freak-haired, blob-men screeching at each other like demented alley-cats, hurricanes and earthquakes ravaging the Caribbean and Mexico, not to mention the on-going atrocities and genocides being inflicted on the people of Syria and Iraq in the name of invisible harbingers of death, it would be easy to believe that things are going to hell in a hand-cart. But, fear not, it's just another day on planet Earth! This is exactly what you'd expect when the dominant species is only a handful of genes removed from a chimpanzee! (and it shows)

Doomsday (again)


Apparently a planet is going to crash into the Earth tomorrow! This latest doomsday prediction is brought to you by a bunch of people that believe the universe is controlled by a cabal of invisible Jewish super-humans, some good, some bad and that these avengers can induce the suspension of natural laws in order to intervene in Human affairs, but only when there's no one around to record it! So, no need to pay any attention other than to laugh and point (as usual).

Tomorrow would be terribly inconvenient for the end of the world anyway, for a start off, Berry Brothers (wine shop) have a sale on! I predict that this prediction is just one in a long history of failed predictions, it's a fairly safe bet that planet sized objects don't just creep up on us without NASA (or someone) seeing them years in advance. When I post a message on Sunday, perhaps we can all agree that non-scientific (religiously inspired) doomsday predictions are complete bollocks?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Religion & Politics


Politicised religiosity these days seems impoverished to the point of simply trying to stop everyone else doing things that are man-made (i.e. invented) prohibitions in the tradition from where the demand comes. Typically, most of these prohibited acts have zero impact on the actual people making the demands. Fortunately, in this day and age, the majority of us can see though this complete lack of substance and integrity to the thinly veiled attempt at coercion beneath.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Good cop, bad cop?


Interesting philosophical argument made by (philosopher) Stephen Law, is the "God" (as believed in by most modern religious people) good or evil and how could you tell?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Hobby coders


I recognise this problem in a lot of young programmers these days, they will use an inferior solution just because it's more recent. Evaluating which tools and methods are best suited to solving a particular problem involves more dimensions than just version numbers in GitHub. Enlightenment lies in realizing that the people who pay for software care much more about what it looks like and what it does than how it works. At the end of the day if people aren't paying for your software then you don't have a product or a livelihood, you just have a hobby.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Love for London


I feel this is appropriate this week, in fact, any week..

Friday, September 15, 2017

Cassini requiem


We say goodbye to spacecraft Cassini today. It plunged (by design) into the atmosphere of Saturn earlier and it's faint signal was lost. Cassini was running out of fuel and rather than allowing it to randomly crash into something like a moon or rings it was decided to use the last remnants of propellant to steer it into Saturn itself, burning up in the outer layers its atmosphere. The picture above was taken from Cassini, it shows Saturn and it's rings with planet Earth highlighted as a faint dot in the background, if this doesn't make you feel totally and utterly insignificant then you're deluded. The final moments of the mission were captured in a video (see below)


It must have been a moving moment for the engineers and scientists in Pasadena who have dedicated a large chunk of their lives to this mission, but there is something deeply satisfying about uttering or hearing the words "Mission Complete", for this team it means success beyond all expectation and most importantly it means it's time for a new mission!

Handy guide for the true European..



How to order a beer in 13 different European cities! It is FRIDAY after all...

One thing


I came across this little question today...

Name one positive thing that only religion can bring to our lives...

Architecture?
Art?
Charity?
Morals?
Solidarity?
Ethics?
Music?
Kindness?
Hope?
Comfort?
Money?
Purpose?

No, all of these things can just as easily be acquired by people of any religion or none at all. 

No, the only positive thing that religion can bring to our lives is..... Atheism :)

(clearly Atheist propaganda, but still, I thought it was quite amusing in a philosophical kind of way)

Friday smirk...


A Friday smirk from the wonderful xkcd. Apple launched their next generation iPhone this week to an underwhelming response from technical people (who the hell needs face tracking emojis??)  and a lukewarm response from accountants. The assertion that this phone represents the "biggest leap forward since the original iPhone" may just as well be talking about the price as much the technology! 

They used to be cool but Apple launches have become really processional these days, far too many unwarranted and ridiculously emotional adjectives, but then again, I'm not one of the "faithful".

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Prostate concerts


Went to see Dave Gilmour strut his stuff last night at the cinema and splendid he was too! I can't fault the concert or the musicianship on show but there were a couple of aspects of showing this kind of thing at the cinema that caught my eye and (I think) are worthy of exploration.

The cinema itself was full for this showing, not an empty seat in the house, a good start you might think and with a quick gaze around the audience before the lights dimmed, I noticed that the average age must have been around 55-60 which I suppose made sense bearing in mind the sweet-spot of Pink Floyd was the 70s and early 80s. The problem with the audience demographic became apparent after a few minutes into the 2nd or 3rd song, and then every minute or so after that. Literally every sixty or so seconds the silhouette of a balding fat man waddled across the screen toward the exit and then a minute or two later would reappear crossing paths with the next one on their way out! I wouldn't want to be sexist here either, there were a quite few women in the mix too, and many of them took what seemed like eternity to crab their way through the sea of legs in their row to get to an exit, casting a similarly significant silhouette as they went.

This continual tidal migration was somewhat distracting, I began to wonder what might be causing it? Several hypothesis came to mind. I pondered the faint whiff of mulled wine and real-ale in the air and thought that perhaps many of these good people had had a few cheeky snifters before coming into the show and now needed to release the obvious tension accrued? Then I thought about prostate glands, could this be an omen for my future? Is this lack of bladder control an unavoidable attribute of getting older, an unpleasant thought. Then there was the observation that the silhouettes seemed so large (and so bald)? Was this a weird optical effect of the new 4K projection technology or simply one too many dominoes pizzas and discount haircuts for bus-pass owners?

Luckily, whatever the reasons, this seemingly constant back and forth did only slightly mar my enjoyment of the concert. I suppose that along with people continually checking their mobile phones, this demographic has habits that don't sit too well (or too long) with a 2 hour cinema show. Maybe there's a demand for some kind of new drug that makes you forget about twitter, stem the urge to pee and sit still for a couple of hours, you could even market it to the over 50s as the little blue "comfortably numb" pill.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Time-pressed


Handy guide for blog and twitter readers..

Parrot phone


Shopkeeper: Your phone is sleeping..

Customer: Not it's not...

It's run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible
It's off it's twig,
It's metabolic processes are now history!
It's kicked the bucket
It's shuffled off it's mortal coil!
It's bid adieu to life and went up to meet St. Steve
All of these statements are valid to the effect of the current status of this here phone

THIS IS AN X iPhone!!

boom, boom..