Sunday, December 31, 2017

C U 2017

Our New Year party is just about kicking-off now; corks beginning to pop and cans beginning to crack open, everyone is watching the fireworks in Sydney on YouTube and wishing they were somewhere warm! I'm not a massive fan of this kind of thing but don't mind a decent knees-up every now and again, always an excuse to open something nice and to delude yourself that it's fine to have another shandy as it only happens once a year (actually I'm out early tomorrow so can't go too mad). I've no (new) resolutions this year, just the usual ambient ones of trying to stay healthy, exercising more, being less of a curmudgeon and not doing anything too excess that I might regret (like New Years Eve parties!), not exactly the rock-star lifestyle but then again that lot didn't do too well in 2017 did they! (bang goes the curmudgeon resolution)..

Anyway have a good one and see you back here in 2018, don't be late.

Pretty Mess

One of my favourite beers of 2017, Pretty Mess by Burning Sky Brewery down in Sussex - full of juicy hop goodness; check out my other favourite beers of 2017 here!

2017 Top 10's - Wine

I've been collecting and geeking-out about wine for over 20 years now; found some interesting new discoveries this year and some re-acquaintances that stood out too, here's the list...

1. Flaccianello - A beautiful Sangiovese based red from Tuscany, a new discovery for me whilst on holiday in Florence, a real belter, aged in French oak and beautifully balanced, one bottle would never be enough.

2. Tignanello - An Antinori classic. I've had this before, many years ago, but I had it again this year whilst on holiday in Italy. Something about drinking this wine in it's natural home made it even more special, a superb wine.

3. Les Tourelles de Longueville - Classic Pauillac from Bordeaux, the second wine of famous Chateau Pichon Baron. I was fortunate enough to buy some back in 2000, we opened a bottle this year, it was singing.

4. Il Bruciato – Another Antinori wine, really surprised at this one, I expected a generic "industrial" Sangiovese blend but got a pleasantly refined and structured red, must get some of this.

5. Ch Moulin Riche – Second wine of Leoville Poyferre in St. Julien, Bordeaux, my favourite wine producing region in the world (probably); classic, refined, balanced and from a really top vintage (2010) - I have a case of 12 bottles which will hopefully provide pleasure for many years to come.

6. Il Poggione - Another Italian discovery, not particularly rare or expensive but really good in-situ with Italian food, unbeatable value compared to other prestigious wine making regions (I'm looking at you Bordeaux!)

7. Wild Boy – Chardonnay, from American producer Au Bon Climat, this was a real surprise, wasn't expecting much but got a real cracker that would give top end Burgundies a run for their money.

8. Dog Point - Chardonnay, a leading New Zealand producer, stunning depth of flavour and real character to this wine, will probably age well too.

9. La Compagnon – Domaine Ledogar, a wild-card choice from a restaurant menu whilst visiting friend near Toulouse, a beauty, inky, fresh, flavorsome, shame I can't find it here in the UK. Oh well will just have to go to France again!

10. Ch. Montus - Another wine from the South West of France, probably one of the best from the Madiran region, a monster of a wine, would benefit from some more age but undeniably classy.

2017 Top 10's - Books

An average year for book reading I'd say, quite busy at work so not a huge amount of spare time but I managed to get through a few hefty tomes and learnt some stuff into the bargain, here's my list...

1. The Strange Death of Europe - Douglas Murray's book about the predicament that Europe finds itself in currently, immigration, popularism and militant Islam all feature prominently in this engaging book. This is a book that hardened lefties and militant relativists are going to rail against but it's hard to find fault in Murray's logic.

2. The Greatest Story Ever Told, so far - Lawrence Krauss at his story telling, analogizing best. Science, cosmology, quantum theory and physics fascinating and mind boggling in equal measure.

3. Mikkeller’s Book of Beer - Danish beer magician and gypsy brewer Mikkel Borg published this book a while ago now,  but I received it as a gift in 2017 It contains a precis of his brewing philosophy, techniques and a really decent set of recipes that I'm gradually working my way through, they're excellent.

4. Secularism - A small manageable book by Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association about Secularism; easy to digest and a must if secularism interests you, I learnt a lot reading this.

5. Everybody Lies - An eye-opening book about the stark reality of our Human existence in that we all lie to each other all the time about pretty much everything except when we're running Google searches. The data from which could form the basis of the most important (honest) data-set on Human behaviour ever assembled, fascinating.

6. Science of the Soul - Latest in the series of Richard Dawkins biographies, as always a really easy read, finished in no time at all and leaving me wanting to know more.

7. The Open Society and its Enemies - Not a new book but new to me in 2017, Karl Poppers classic on liberal democracy; I must confess that I haven't finished this book yet but I'm loving it (hard going in parts though!)

8. Strategy - Sir Lawrence Freedman, more a book about the history of strategy; fantastic range and depth, took me months to get through this and when at the end realised that I'd probably need to read it again several times to really do it justice.

9. The Curry Guy - I had to include a cook-book, this one contains the best curry base-sauce recipe I've yet encountered. If you like to make your own curries then you MUST get this book.

10. The Road to Wigan Pier - Another classic book new to me in 2017; Orwell in his role of social justice warrior (not of the modern gender police kind!) an eye-opening read, short but dense, not sure why it took me so long to get to this.

2017 Top 10's - Craft Breweries

I've been lucky enough to visit several craft beer establishments this year and I hope to visit many more in 2018! Here's my list of top 10 UK breweries for 2017...

1. Verdant - Based down in Falmouth, Cornwall this small independent brewery is knocking it out of the park at the moment, their beers have a rock-solid rep. and are becoming as rare as hen's teeth with every new release!

2. Burning Sky - Sussex brewer Burning Sky has been on my radar for a year or so now, very close run thing with Verdant for the #1 spot on my list, their beers seem to be getting better and better.

3. Cloudwater - Manchester masters Cloudwater have gone from strength to strength this year, I have been particularly impressed with their collaborations, long may it continue (now if I could only find somewhere reliable to buy them)!

4. Magic Rock - Huddersfield is the home of this up and coming brewery, I've tried a couple of their beers this year and hope to try many more next year!

5. Lost and Grounded - Bristol based and making a name for themselves this year with some interesting takes on some old classic styles.

6. Elusive Brewing - Local (to me at least)  Elusive is based on the same industrial estate as the #7 on my list (Siren) I've only tried one of their beers and it was a cracker; can't wait to try more!

7. Siren Craft Brew - I've been following Siren with interest for a couple of years now; hopefully now that they have a new tap room and shop I'll be following them more closely!

8. Beavertown - London classics, perhaps a little large to be called "craft" these days but the spirit that's projected is still hardcore East-end hipster!

9. BrewDog - These guys must be approaching major industrial brewer status by now but they proved they can still create interesting beer, Hazy Jane was one of my favourites of the year.

10. Kernel - One of the original Bermondsey-beer-mile pioneers, still cranking out great IPA's (among other things) always a banker if you can't see anything else on the list that you recognise.

2017 Top 10's - Albums

It's been a fairly quiet year in terms of music, I probably haven't bought as much this year as I have done in past years but what I have bought I have enjoyed and listened to a lot. So, here's my list of 2017 albums ...

1. Endless forms so Beautiful – Nightwish, a bit of a wild-card discovery for me in 2017, a style that mixes classical and heavy metal, very good musicianship and imaginative production. This particular album wasn't made in 2017 but I heard it first in the Summer, it caught my interest because it's main themes are around evolution and science. It even features Richard Dawkins reading from one of his books. Not for everyone and probably won't endure but I enjoyed this very much.

2. Is This the life we really want – Roger Waters at his miserable best. A political rant through the major topics of the day from the master of music as a political statement. Compelling listening, I hear something new every time I put it on.

3. As You Were – Liam Gallagher, fan of Oasis or not there's something in this one for most people. Hopefully this marks the maturation of Liam or at least the start of it which is a good thing the boy has talent.

4. Scream Above the Sounds – Stereophonics, solid rock, good lyrics and rasping lead vocals from Kelly Jones, what's not to like?

5. Visions of Life – Wolf Alice, haunting vocals and a really distinctive sound from this four-piece, diverse and very promising.

6. Other – Alison Moyet, loved her in the 80s, her voice is still wonderful and the lyrics on this one are memorable too.

7. Utopia – Bjork, annoying and yet irresistible, Bjork really is an adventurous artist.

8. Songs of Experience – U2, perhaps getting a little long in the tooth these days but still capable of cranking out a decent tune IMO; lyrics good too.

9. Original Soundtrack – La La Land; nothing particularly new here, just a bunch of classics that no one can argue with.

10. Watching Angels Mend – Alex Lloyd, not a new album, but new to me in 2017! What a great singer Alex Lloyd is. An Australian who isn't well known here in the UK but some classy stuff here.

2017 Top 10's - Craft Beers

One of my most enjoyable hobbies this year has been all manner of craft-beer geekery, making it myself, visiting pubs and breweries but also discovering and tasting great new commercial offerings. I'll do a separate post to cover my top 10 breweries, but here's my "craft beers of 2017" list...

1. Easy Answers - A straightforward hoppy IPA by Burning Sky based down in Sussex, don't quite know why this is number one but I had a pint of this one lunchtime in the Old Red Cow pub in Farringdon (London) after a particularly tough set of meetings in the morning and it was just spectacular!

2. Loral & Ardi - Collaboration beer this one, three separate (and leading) brewers (Cloudwater, Lost and Grounded & Verdant) got together and produced this Belgian Triple with an American IPA twist; hoppy and hazy with candy sugar for days, a stunning beer.

3. Hazy Jane - My favourite BrewDog beer this year, a New England style hoppy IPA, just tasty.

4. Session IPA Simcoe, Mosaic - Maestros Cloudwater knocked this one out around the middle of the year and it was the perfect accompaniment to the English Summer (wet and wonderful)

5. Comfortable Silence - From local (Finchampstead) brewer Siren this East Coast style IPA hits the spot, hops, hops and more hops with a touch of lactose.

6. Tasty Juice - Leading Norwegian  brewers Lervig had a winner on their hands with this East Coast IPA, dank, murk and juice sum this one up.

7. Love Action (12" Remix) - From local brewer Elusive, this blueberry and vanilla Imperial stout is just the job for a cold Winter evening in front of the fire.

8. Pretty Mess - Tried for the first time in London this December and later in Bottle (tonight!) - just wonderful flavours, balanced and brilliant by Burning Sky.

9. GammaRay - The Beavertown beer has been around a few years now but it's my go-to beer when there's nothing new and untried available, a rock-solid fruity APA.

10. Some Fifty Summers - Verdant again, lovely session IPA, only 4.5% but loaded with hoppy goodness, a real desert island beer.

2017 Top 10's - Movies

So, as we approach the end of 2017 I thought I'd attempt to recall all the things I saw and read over the course of the year in the style of a series of "Top 10" lists. We start with films, or movies as our American cousins would say. Some of these films weren't actually made in 2017 but my criteria for qualification is that I saw the film for the first time in 2017, anyway, here's my list.

1. Dunkirk - Christopher Nolan is one of the best directors around at the moment in my view; this is one of his best films to date. Loved the switching of perspectives, the audience watches the same event through the eyes of different characters, it's a technique that makes the most of a relatively simple story and an ending that everyone knows. Loved the spitfires.

2. Mother! - To be honest I didn't have a clue what this film was about and whilst watching it felt a whole range of emotions from confusion to frustration thru anger and revulsion. It was a very uncomfortable film to watch, but, when you get to the end to don't want it to stop! After watching this I just had to Google for an explanation of the characters and plot, turns out the film is entirely metaphorical and drawn from the Bible and the book of Genesis! Understanding this made the whole thing make sense, you have God (kinda), Mother Earth, Adam, Eve, Cain and Able among other well known figures from that story, it also made me appreciate the film much more on a intellectual level, very clever, very powerful film-making.

3. Back to Burgundy - A wonderful little French film about three siblings reuniting at their parents Vineyard in Burgundy after a period of separation. Gradually their different stories emerge against the backdrop of the death of their father and the complexities of having to potentially sell-off their ancestral home. Lot's of wine-geekery going on and a nice interplay between members of the family, very French (in a good way)

4. Tulip Fever - The story of a beautiful young Woman living in 17th century Amsterdam who marries a much older (rich) man who then commissions a painting of her. The young artist who turns up is instantly attracted to the sexually frustrated wife and a passionate affair develops. All this is set against the backdrop of the Tulip bulb financial bubble. Lovely period drama, costumes, atmosphere, music and sets all really well done.

5. The Big Short - This film was made in 2015 but somehow I missed it. A colleague at work recommended it to me this year and I got a copy. What a great film! Set in and around the financial collapse of 2008 it tells the story of a geeky financial wizard who bets against the rising housing market (essentially predicting the collapse) and makes millions. There's also great performances from a number of well known actors (like Brad Pit and Steve Carell) as several sub-plots and parallel threads emerge as the crisis gains momentum. Based on true stories, it's a riveting film.

6. Maudie - Bit of an odd-ball film about Canadian artist Maude Lewis and her desperately hard life and eventual recognition and success. A bit of a "chick-flick" but also gritty and complex, excellent acting by those playing the main characters; gripping stuff.

7. Get Out - A disturbing story about a mixed race couple visiting the parents of the girl in the relationship for the first time. In the beginning all seems fine but as is usual in these kinds of suspense stories something very dark gradually comes into view and the climax is tense and unexpected. Very much along the lines of the Stepford Wives.

8. Baby Driver - Top action film about a young get-away driver who gets sucked deeper and deeper into an underworld of crime and violence. Fantastic car chase scenes and a kicking sound-track, exciting and very easy to watch. Top blokes film (cool, cars, music, action etc.) but also has a romantic core to it that delivers an uplifting ending.

9. Manchester by the Sea - A powerful story about a working man struggling to make a living in a small Eastern American fishing town. At first the man seems like a bit of a drunken, violent yob but gradually his story emerges through a series of flash-backs and you end up feeling sorry for him. The twists and turns that unfold are gripping, and the ending highly emotional.

10. I Daniel Blake - Dark and yet simultaneously uplifting story of austerity Britain. Set in the North-East of England (Newcastle) it's about a middle-aged man who has a heart attack and whose doctor deems him unfit for work. A horrendous "jobsworth" saga emerges of the man attempting to claim benefits and survive against a tide of bureaucratic catch-22's He discovers that to get paid he has to look for work, which he can't then do because of his medical condition. It's a frustrating subject and difficult to watch but the film has a wonderful human feel to it.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Piggy philosophy

As the atheist pig points out, along with other notable thinkers like Bertrand Russell, men tend to invent religions and gods that mirror their own natures, often they use the God to justify this nature. However, occasionally, their nature happens to contradict their religion, in these situations the plasticity of language and its interpretation comes in very handy.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Imperial blueberry

In an effort to promote local businesses I dropped into my local bottle shop in Reading today and picked up a bottle of this beauty from Finchampstead brewer, "Elusive"; they're probably only 2-3 miles from my front door but I'd never tried any of their beers before. That's all changing tonight as I sup my way through this monster. It's called "Love Action" and is what's known as an "Imperial Stout", no, nothing to do with Star Wars, but referring to the strength of the beer (10%) and the fact that strong stouts like this used to be brewed in England and transported by ship to the Imperial court of Catherine II of Russia; they had to be strong in alcohol to remain in good condition for the duration of the voyage. This particular stout has been made with blueberries and vanilla and boy can you pick up these flavours in the beer, they complement and balance out the dark chocolate malts and heavy hit of alcohol really well, a thoroughly delicious, dark, thick syrup of a beer. I'll definitely be seeking more of these guys' brews out in future, may even wander over there one afternoon and see what they're up to!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Poor Thor

Probably the last J&M of the year! Here's to 2018 and a whole new set of cartoons deliciously pointing out the daftness and hypocrisy of many of the ideas and traditions encapsulated by man-made religions of all stripes.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


If something is legal but you don't like it because your religion says it's bad then simply don't do it. 

If you really can't live with that then feel free to try to get the law changed; but, at least be honest about where the disagreement comes from, it comes from you, not your "god" or your "magic books".

Oh really..

When you get cornered at a New Year party by someone who's dead keen to explain to you how, after multiple complex surgical operations and six months of chemo-therapy, the Jewish air God Yahweh, delivered his Mother from breast cancer. Oh really, you don't say...

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Peak pork

Lovely wine from Bordeaux, France. We had it with our Christmas dinner yesterday, it's the second wine from the famous Leoville Poyferre Chateau one of the three properties with the Leoville name in and around the small hamlet of Saint Julien. Second (and third) wines are often produced by some of the bigger chateau and usually contain the younger or less prestigious grapes left over after the main wine or "grand vin" selection has been made, in good years they offer a flavour and style of the grand vin and are usually capable of aging well. They can also represent really good value for money, being much cheaper than their more famous cousins but made by the same team (i.e. with the same skill and attention to detail) 2010 really was a good vintage for Bordeaux, ripe fruit and good balance, this wine will easily last another 10 years and probably improve in the process.

On another food and drink topic, I think we over-purchased bacon and ham this year, my wife and I seem to have inadvertently doubled up on everything pig related for some reason? We'll have to see if we can donate some of it or freeze it or something, or else I reckon we'll end up a right couple of porkers!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas

Well we made it to the main event, although I must admit, still feeling slightly full from last nights food and festivities. Its 9 am as I write this and we're just rousing the kids from their pits (teenagers!) and starting to think about gifts, putting birds into ovens and peeling spuds, ah Christmas day. I'm hoping to receive some interesting new books over the period, I always enjoy a quiet read in the afternoons at this time of year along with a sneak-peak at the Christmas lectures on the telly! So, here's wishing that, like this photo, the holiday break will provide you too with some enlightenment! We could certainly all use a little more of that these days!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Taking it easy

Just been out to the shops, it was scary (didn't linger long), people get so frenzied and impatient at this time of year, don't they know it's supposed to be a holiday? I bet our ancestors wouldn't comprehend this behaviour, here's a map I found of how long it took to get places back in 1881, as you can see, not much choice than to take things easy in those days..

Holiday season

And here we go! Officially ON HOLIDAY! It felt like a long time coming, the work-week was dragging on a bit and time seemed to be slowing down as 5:30 pm approached yesterday evening, but we're finally here and to celebrate I opened my latest beery creation, a clone of a beer made by Siren called "Lupuloid". It's a pale ale made in an East Coast style and loaded with a ton of American hops, a complete juice bomb, delicious! Fortunately I have 12 bottles to get through over the next week or so, although I'm sure certain friends will assist in the task.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Friday smirk

The latest Government Brexshit news that we're going to "reclaim" the colour of our passport covers is greeted with enthusiasm, mainly from those standing in food-bank queues.. (the irony is that there's no compulsion within the EU to have any particular colour passport covers, we actually chose to have burgundy ones)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Shortest day

It's the shortest day of the year today, the day when the Sun sets before 4 pm and we all feel like the sunlight has been alarmingly fleeting. This time of year has been mythologized by many civilizations over the millennia, the Egyptians had a God called Horus who was supposedly born on this day (he was the Sun god). Apollo of Greek fame was also born on this day as was the Persian god Mithra (a temple to whom you can now see in London). Many ancient deities emerged into the light around this time of year, I guess ancient peoples didn't have much else to do other than survive and notice the effects of the natural cycles going on around them. 

Owing to lackadaisical copyright rules back then, our very own Jesus also (allegedly) peaked his haloed head out into the world at this time, such were the imagined connections between celestial bodies, Gods and Human beings back then. Just like the alignment of the Sun with the stones at Stonehenge, it's interesting how these myriad myths themselves align and converge over time, even the most ardent modern theocrat would have to acknowledge that cultures (particularly in the Golden Crescent around the time of the first Agricultural Revolution) have told, re-told and plagiarized the same stories for thousands of years, re-shaping them again and again to suit their own purposes and times.

Here in the UK, the rock hugging Pagans gather at Stonehenge at this time too, the Sarsen stones align with the sunset today. Clearly even our prehistoric ancestors understood these planetary cycles and marked them in dramatic, and thought provoking fashion. Today of course we know so much more, we know that this particular combination of season (Winter) and alignment (Solstice) only plays out in the Northern Hemisphere and that it's entirely due to the tilt of our planet in it's orbit. We even know that our planet wobbles slightly due to the difference between it's rotational axis and the figure axis around which the mass is balanced (our Earth is not a static body!) we can even predict the weather (fairly well at least) a feat I'm sure our Neolithic cousins would have viewed as "magic!" 

I used to visit Wiltshire quite a bit back in the late 90s, my parents lived in a little village near to some of the main Neolithic sites, it was a wonderful landscape, a "big sky" and at this time of year very dark (compared to the rest of the South-East of England) and, I'm told, "spiritual" (which I put down to the copious consumption of Wadworth 6X in those parts) Writing this reminds me of times spent laughing and walking to the Pub in the dark with a thick-coat and scarf, pair of wellies and a torch that occasionally cast strange shadows as it illuminated odd looking stones in the middle of fields, a special time and a special place indeed.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Gods hate progress

Luckily the God you believe in is the real one, not all those other Gods people believed in, no, they were just imaginary, false Gods, you on the other hand, you chose the right one. Must be a big relief.


One of my favourite Hitch quotes and a counter-spell used as an antidote to the proselytising BS employed by Christian teachers in their attempts to indoctrinate kids, which even in this day and age, happens all the time at school to my children. Fortunately teenagers are pre-programmed to be skeptical of anything adult authority figures tell them to do; a trait that I'm hoping will endear them to this idea. With a bit of luck they'll reach adulthood inoculated against childish group-think and will continue to question and reason-about everything as they intellectually and emotionally develop, no lives un-examined allowed!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Endings and beginnings

When you say it like that it seem obvious...

Monday, December 18, 2017

False claims

Hear, hear Christopher, we don't indeed.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Banana and clove

Just spent a cracking weekend in London with friends; we did a ton of stuff, nice food and excellent libations. Everything ran like clockwork except the weather which was typically British (cold-drizzle) but we didn't let it dampen our spirits and for a few hours yesterday visited a bar called "Lowlander" which is essentially a little piece of Brussels transplanted to Covent Garden, they serve Belgian beer in proper glasses. It's wonderful. Here you can see one of my favourites, Orval a real spritz of a beer, fine bubbles (like Champagne) with typical banana and clove flavour really different from your usual London dishwater pints, and, as a pick-me-up after battling through the festive London crowds, just the job!

Clean as a whistle

Made some Pilsner back in October and it's been conditioning in a freezing cold cellar for about six weeks - when you do that it makes the finished product really smooth and really clear/clean, as you can see as clean as a whistle! Bottled it up today and should be ready for New Years Eve!

Friday, December 15, 2017


Christopher Hitchens died this day in 2011, fans of his oratory and writing (like me) will be marking the date I'm sure. The above quote is one of my favourites, a perfect counter-balance to the mealy-mouthed theists who bleat on about how religion does no harm and is a force for good in the world, pull the other one, it's got bells on it!

Friday Smirk

For me this has to be up there among the best Twitter smack-downs of all time, just perfect.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Product of the year

Damn, it's good!


For me this is an epic battle between two Tyrannosaurs in a swamp as the circular saw closes in...

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The value of lies

J&M on-topic as usual. This follows the recent House of Lords speech by the Arch-Bishop of Canterbury, a cynical abuse of religious privilege, in which he claimed (with no evidence) that children who attend non-religious schools lack "values" and that successive Governments have inserted a "weak, secular and functional narrative" in place of "historic Christian-based understanding". Perish the thought that we end up with a "functional" society, is he claiming that it would be better to have a dysfunctional one, perhaps run by a few men in frocks (like him)?

Many people have pointed out the obvious errors and omissions in his claims, Welby clearly has a cynical political agenda here, i.e. that of promoting more Church run schools for the purposes of indoctrinating children into his own preferred religious cult. Whatever we need in this multi-faith, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, interconnected world of ours today, it almost certainly isn't more Christianity from an organisation that's in terminal decline! It would be like trying to counter the de-industrialisation of our country by training more coal-miners. In the same way that societies tried Communism, Nazism and Totalitarianism in the 20th Century, we also tried religion and theocracy back in the middle-ages, they didn't work, and all ended in rivers of blood, it's time to move on.

The "elephant in the room" for many people here is the myth that there's such a thing as "Christian values". It's something that declining religions like his seem to love to promote and cling onto, for them, it must seem like a life-raft in a sea of increasing irrelevance. Unfortunately if you talk to most non-religious people these days, they (from evidence and experience) interpret "Christian values" to imply the high-profile negative Christian "issues" things like child molesting, misogyny, gay scandals, intransigence, science-denial, exploiting the poor, political manipulation, worldly power and unfair material wealth. On the other hand, the things that modern Christians tend to claim (as opposed to what their holy book actually says) as their "values" would be things like, charity, tolerance, peace, love, forgiveness and all of that. The problem for them is that these things are plainly accessible and desirable to all of us, the rest of their superstitious baggage seems contentious, unnecessary or simply unbelievable to most of us in the West. I suppose you could argue that at least non-believers have these desired values in common with Christians, but even then it's somewhat of a stretch to conclude that these values are particularly "Christian", I would go so far as to say they are "human" values, desirable because we are a highly-social mammal with alarmingly apocalyptic faculties for killing one another.

The evolution of our values is slow and gradual, sometimes acting across many generations, but, every now and again we experience a tipping point in our moral landscape. For example, realizing that there's no such thing as a "witch" or that Women are indeed equal to Men. There was a point in time when the majority agreed (at least here in the UK) that it's not OK to own other people as property or that homosexual people do in fact deserve equal treatment under the law, rather than being thrown in jail. Our values change, it's a demonstrable fact. In my view we should embrace that reality or else I fear our "values" will face the same fate that Welby's organisation seems unable to extricate itself from, i.e. a gradual slide into obscurity and division.

Driving home for...

Looks like Fred Flintstone is driving home for Christmas...

Non-spiritual Christmas

Not being religious and/or superstitious there's very little about the "spiritual/religious" aspects of Christmas that I subscribe to other than that feeling of fuzzy solidarity we get when a group of human beings have a common reference framework within which to act out certain rituals (like family meals etc.). I wouldn't really label that feeling as "spiritual" more like a neurochemical reaction that we all experience in our similar brains in similar ways (apart from psychopaths and some Tory MP's of course) You might think that this philosophical position in some way limits the ways in which atheists or non-religious people might extract enjoyment or meaning from holidays like Christmas or Easter etc. 

The best analogy I can think of is that of when someone loses one of their senses, like eye-sight then the tendency is for the other senses to become more acute, for example their hearing becomes better or their sense of touch increases in fidelity etc. For me this kind of adjustment is reflected in the way we celebrate less of the religious traditions and more of the modern/secular ones (apart from the silly consumerism ones), for example the food, wine, the films, the playing games, the outings and the family solidarity aspects of this holiday, viewing it through a secular lens if you will. Do I lose anything by looking at things this way, do religious people lose something by not? No, I don't think so, we simply find our kicks and enjoy our down-time in different ways, much the same way that we all have different tastes in food. 

Many people I know think of the humble Brussel Sprout in the same way as the cartoon above (Devils Haemorrhoids etc.) , me on the other hand, I've always loved the things!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Mission complete

I saw this Brexit cartoon today, couldn't resist.

Daily constitutional

Over the last couple of months I've been suffering from a bad back. It's a recurring theme that I've had since my late 30s in fact it runs in my family, lumbar disks that like to wander a little too much for comfort. To counteract the dreaded "LBP" I've been taking to the streets every lunchtime and going for a brisk stroll around the office park adjacent to where I work, the loop that I walk around is just under 3 miles and it takes me approximately 50-60 minutes.

The exercise does seem to help my back related woes (albeit temporarily) as well as do good things for my calorific output, although I don't particularly enjoy the scenery (it's an office park near Reading after all!) However, on the upside, I do feel invigorated when I get back to my desk, today especially, as it was bracing to say the least! Luckily today the Sun was out, so I thought I'd snap a picture for posterity. I see on the forecast that another Atlantic low is moving in and we'll probably not see it again for a couple of weeks!

Monday, December 11, 2017

(Godless) Monday mirth


Just heard/read a joke by Jewish academic Devorah Baum via David Badiel on Twitter...

"Jewish survivor dies, goes to heaven. To break the ice with God he tells a holocaust joke. God says that's not funny. The survivor says, oh well, I guess you had to be there..."

Robot Apocalypse

Working in the software business as I do and dabbling with a bit of "AI" now and again, friends often ask me how long it will be until their jobs disappear and the robot apocalypse kicks-off. I can confidently predict that we'll all be safe this side of Christmas at least, after that, who knows what all those new Alexa speakers will do.. probably gang up and bore us to death with around the clock Christmas songs until we all lose the will to live.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Last brew before chrimbo

Last brew before the holiday, a dark, rich, malty IPA style beer made exclusively with Simcoe hops, gonna be a banger!

Friday, December 08, 2017

Friday Smirk

The excellent xkcd summarising the dilemma environmentally friendly geeks have regarding solar panels, in cartoon form of course...

Eye, eye

Fascinating story on the BBC site today about the discovery of the oldest "eye" known to science. The Trilobite fossil found in Estonia contained the very well preserved remains of a pre-compound eye. Compound eyes are the type we now see in insects like bees and flies, they consist of a collection of rod-like cells that act as tiny eyes in their own right, the aggregation of signals from each of these cells forms the image in the brain of the insect. The eye found in this fossil is simpler than modern compound eyes, it lacked a lens and only has around 100 cells, perhaps a pre-cursor to later compound eyes found in Trilobites from a few million years later. The fossil dates to around 530 million years ago, an era when there was relatively rapid (in evolutionary terms) changes going on in the warm seas of the pre-continental Earth. Another "smack in the eye" (see what I did there) for our creationist brothers and sisters who insist that eye's are "far too complex" to evolve, well, here's a simple eye for us to feast on, only a 100 modified cells, in fact just one single light sensitive cell would quite probably provide a selective advantage (i.e. quite easy to explain in genetic-mutation terms). 

Thursday, December 07, 2017


Thinking about the announcement today by Dunkin Donald that Jerusalem is now the "official" (according to America) capital of Israel I'm reminded what the Hitch used to say about this subject, see above, it's a nice summary in under 4 minutes. The most religious country/region there has ever been in the history of the world, and look at it, a boiling cauldron of violence, ignorance, injustice and war. He was right, it poisons everything.

In a nutshell

This cartoon nicely sums up Brexit for me..

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

"Deeply" held beliefs

New J&M today; celebrating the effect that most religions have on matters of gender equality. 

I always find it amazing what people can get away with so long as they label it "deeply held belief". It's as if they think that the word "deeply" adds some kind of stamp of authority, like, everyone else has to lighten up with the scepticism just because they say it.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017


I was reading an article on the BBC web site today about the most re-tweeted UK tweets of 2017, this one from Obama was high on the list, it's fairly obvious to see why. I don't disagree with him, but would have one small criticism...  

He didn't fully utilise the new 280 character limit to properly complete the tweet, what he should have added was simply that "no one is born with a religion either", that idea has to be "indoctrinated" in exactly the same way as all other irrational and divisive beliefs.

Who's the daddy now?

At moments such as these even "we told you so" doesn't seem to cut-it..

Monday, December 04, 2017

Monday mirth

Marks and Spencer launch their new "trying to hold it together at the Christmas party" range...

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Cream Soda

Took a sneak-peak of a new beer last night, it's got another week of conditioning to go before it's properly ready but I have 15x330ml bottles of the stuff so no harm in seeing how it's getting along! 

"Hard Rollin'" is an American style IPA made with a mix of American (Equinox) and German (Hallertau & Mandarina) hops, fermented with a classic London ale yeast (from the Fullers brewery). It tasted really good, nice levels of citrus fruit and malt, good mouth-feel and around 6% ABV with a really fine fluffy white head. The German hops had really added something unusual (in a good way), a taste that had us all perplexed for a while until we realised (dredging the memory banks) that it was cream soda A childhood memory for most of us over-40s (especially with vanilla ice-cream floating in it!), as I don't think you can buy the stuff anymore? Or at least, you don't see it much in the shops these days, I must remember to have a look next time I'm in the supermarket.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Friday Smirk

Those old Disney cartoonists certainly knew how to mix the light with the dark...

Thursday, November 30, 2017


Here's a photo of a nice assortment of grains that I used for a brew at the weekend; we have, pale malt (malted barley). flaked oats, Vienna malt, roasted golden oats and Carapils (adds body and head retention). All contribute something different to the flavour, texture and strength of the final drink; if alchemy was real I somehow think it would be a bit like brewing.

Brain-fart culture

Lot's of hot air being expended in cyber-space over the last day or two about Dunkin-Donald and his hilarious tweets. I've met a few people like Donald over the years, you learn to spot them and basically steer well clear. Narcissists who only like you when you have something they want and with whom you always fall out eventually; often successful, but toxic, concoctions of over-simplifications, arrogance and ignorance. 

If we're honest with ourselves, the UK and the US haven't had a "special" relationship since Suez. We kid ourselves if we think that the yanks give a rats-bum-hole these-days about a minor trading partner like us, they'll screw us over as quickly as they'd screw anyone to win a good deal for themselves; they are and always have been a mercenary and insular bunch. Of course, like any population there's a distribution and in my experience of having lived and worked in the USA, some Liberal Americans are really quite reasonable and nice, easily lulling a naive Brit into a sense of false security. However, our problem today is that rational Liberals seem to be in decline over there and the Trump seems to be quite adept at exploiting his very own "brain-fart" culture to take advantage of this. Now if only we could ride-out this storm from within the safe-harbor of membership of the largest non-US trading bloc in the world, oh wait...

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Brain box

Back in October my daughter had a brain scan at Reading University. A research team there were scanning the brains of teenagers whilst they performed specific tasks to see if the areas of the brain that were stimulated aligned among close peer groups. Today we received a picture of her brain from the team, probably the coolest picture I have of her ever! Just had to share it.

Pulling a few strings

New J&M today, exploring the idea that Jews hold positions of undue power and influence in our societies. This isn't backed up by any hard data of course, unless you count the number of Nobel prizes awarded to that particular Human segment. You could argue that Jews seem to do quite well at things requiring hard-work, diligence and intelligence, clearly something unattainable to those that propagate this kind of cultural conspiracy theory.