Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tuesday one-liner


When people annoy me and disrespect my ideas, I often have to check my temper and think... "wait, what would God do?" - then I drown them all.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Kiwi's cup (now)


Congratulations to New Zealand for winning the America's cup! 

Their competition the USA and a boat owned and run by Larry Ellison the Chairman (ex CEO) of the Oracle Corporation. Larry is a legendary alpha male, ego-maniac and billionaire, someone who hates to lose. Which, if I'm honest, makes the Kiwi victory even sweeter.

Brexit - simplified..

Nailed it!


Congratulations to SpaceX this weekend, two launches and two landings, one from Florida and the other from the West Coast. When you look at the scale of the craft (photo above) you begin to realise how amazing their engineering and software control systems are these days, that's a big vehicle to land on a raft bobbing around in the Pacific ocean, by remote control!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Secular religion


Original notes, story-boarding key parts of Pink Floyd's famous "wall" album (picture taken at the V&A "Their mortal remains" exhibition) - this is the closest thing I've seen to a secular version of "holy" scripture, who knows, give it 500 years and it could well become part of some religion (seems to be how that stuff works)

Lazy hazy days


I'm always up for trying a new beer and whilst in London enjoying a little R&R with my wife this weekend I popped into the Draft House (a craft beer bar) in Charlotte Street. There I found a beer from Cloudwater called NE DIPA Citra, which if you're not into beer probably sounds like gibberish. When decoded by the nearest hipster, we learn it stands for "New England Double India Pale Ale with Citra hops". The resulting beer is hazy and thick with a mango/citrus/peach laden flavour, and packs a heavy punch at around 9% ABV, the beer uses oats as well as barley to achieve the haze and copies a popular style from the North East of the USA (i.e. New England) I would imagine this isn't to everyone's taste, probably a bit of a "marmite" beer. I couldn't drink more than a half a pint in a sitting, but, like good wine, I found it had a strangely alluring finish that keeps you coming back for another (small) sip, intriguing.

Decent plonk


Decided to celebrate my 18th wedding anniversary with a decent bottle of plonk last night. 

So we cracked open a bottle I bought back in 2001. It was the second wine of a well known Bordeaux chateaux called Pichon-Baron in Pauillac. I visited this chateaux about 10 years ago, it's a beautiful place and a delicious wine, typically "Pauillac", bold, intense and full of the joys of cassis, spice and resinous dark fruits. Even though this wine was a "second wine" (i.e. made from the grapes left over after the main wine selection has been made) it has aged beautifully and (unlike me) will effortlessly improve for another 10 years. I think I paid around a tenner for this bottle but if you were to seek it out today it would be at least 4-5 times that; a real treat.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Back to the future


Saddened to see that Turkey took another step backwards into obscurity and ignorance recently. The government there voted to stop teaching the scientific facts of evolution in school; now Turkish children will be denied access to one of the most elegant, true, and wonderful scientific theories there is, child abuse by any other name.

Of course the culprit is the usual one, the politicized religion of Islam and it's childish insistence on teaching a plagiarised version of the Old Testament myth of Adam and Eve, a ridiculous and obviously allegorical tale of men being "magic'd" out of the dust by the Jewish sky god Yahweh. I feel sorry for Turkish children, a generation denied the magic of reality.

Floyd


Just spent an enjoyable couple of days in London having some "grown-up time" (kids both away) Even managed to visit the Pink Floyd exhibition at the V&A museum, highly recommended!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Send prayers


Luckily, Gene Roddenberry wasn't a religious man..

"Special" ideas


Even though you could argue that plurality and freedom of speech are just "ideas", I believe it's a slippery slope when you make one idea "special" and protect it through law or violence from scrutiny and criticism over all others; every dictatorship, theocracy and despot has started out that way.

Coz I said so..


The argument from authority, nicely summed up by J&M today..

Monday, June 19, 2017

Another day


It's another Monday morning and we're digesting another terror incident in our Capital, sadly, it seems like barbaric terror attacks are becoming part of the fabric of things, could we see a point when they're almost expected?

It's early days but I'd bet a lot of money on the motivation of this attack being some twisted notion of revenge for Manchester and Borough Market (and possibly other actions) My worry is that this kind of tit-for-tat killing will start to become a "thing", you kill one of ours and we'll kill one of yours. We've heard it all before in Northern Ireland, that little spat lead to over 30 years of terror attacks that created inconsolably deep divisions between communities based along religious and cultural fracture lines, it's easy to see how that kind of intractability and frustration could easily emerge from the current situation and would probably be far worse.

It's at times like this we look to our leaders to lead; unfortunately we seem to be in a deep trough of despair at the moment in terms of the quality of leadership we should expect. I can only hope that our Prime Minister doesn't go for the low hanging fruit of censorship in a futile attempt to shut down debate and criticism of religion so as not to "offend" the sensibilities of Muslims (or capitulation to violence as I would call it). I can already see some of the warning signs of this, that silly word-salad of  "Islamophobia" and "racism" is being liberally sprayed around the news today and no doubt we will hear lots of victim-hood speeches from "pop-up" Islamic apologists as the investigation continues.

The attributes and motivations of the murderers  in recent events were certainly different but from the perspective of how we should respond, and what laws and processes we use to do that, no distinction is needed.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Carpe diem


Cartoon in the Times today captures the moment perfectly..

Friday, June 16, 2017

Friday Smirk


Sad but true!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The evolution of Farron


I read today (with some surprise) that Tim Farron has quit the Liberal Democratic party. He left with a rather strange parting shot, "We are kidding ourselves if we think we live in a liberal and tolerant society,”. 

The underpinning of this comment, I think, comes from the idea that it's impossible to be a "Bible believing" Christian and a leader of a political party in today's UK. It's an interesting idea but is it true? I'm left wondering if the Liberals couldn't live with a Christian leader or whether they simply couldn't live with this particular Christian leader or even if this particular Christian leader couldn't sit comfortably in a secular society that is essentially"liberal"? It's not clear to me what specific aspects of Christianity Farron felt weren't compatible with being the leader of his political party, I wonder if it was the whole "is gay sex a sin" thing, probably, but then again no one was asking Farron to have gay sex (presumably?) so in what way does having a viewpoint on something that runs counter to the majority, or even just some other interest-group, count as a disqualification from holding high-office? 

The absence of detail is causing many in the media today to speculate on the "real" reason for this resignation. Some are saying that it's just a cover story for his failures to win more seats, whereas others are digging a bit deeper into the whole church-state separation issue. I have sympathies with both these points of view. I believe that it's quite right and proper for the public to be able to question, probe and criticise the personal beliefs of someone standing for public office, after all it's these beliefs that will understandably influence positions taken. Anyone in this position must understand that people are free to disagree, no one is telling Farron what to think but if he holds a view that runs seriously counter to most people then he needs to be prepared to defend it. Unfortunately defending a societal position based on the defence that "it's written in a 2000 year old magic-book" is only going to appeal to a small minority of the population. At what point does a belief in the Bible stop and theocracy begin? For example, I suspect that in this very picture he's wearing a tie made from multiple fabrics, should we be expected to hold Tim to his word?

No doubt we will find answers to these questions in his memoirs, available at fine bookshops everywhere of course! (I bet Karen Armstrong has cash-registers ringing in her ears right now)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Inconvenient truths


J&M on the money as usual, pointing out the facts of the matter as opposed to the cherry-picked delusions of the followers and lies of the apologists. This also illustrates nicely the position of many left-wing feminists who find it impossible to criticise Islam, better examples of cognitive dissonance you will struggle to find in this world.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Theresa's downfall


It was only a matter of time..

Refreshingly miserable


Listening to the new Roger Waters album (Is this the life we really want?) at the moment, it's an eclectic mix of simple guitar based songs with some rich synth/orchestral accompaniment and a kind of "Animals" vibe (lot's of contemporary TV/Radio dialogue in the background tracks, including a guest appearance by the Trump!) The main themes are his normal soap-box themes i.e. war, liberty, fighting "the-man", paranoia, fear, capitalism etc. It's good though, I particularly like the track "Deja Vue", a song that proposes an interesting thought experiment, "if I had been God".. I enjoyed the line, "If I had been God, I would have sired many sons and would not have suffered the Romans to kill even one of them".. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Minorities



So, next time you hear some apologist say "it's only a teeny, tiny minority of Muslims that support the nasty stuff in the Koran" point to Pakistan and ask them how many of the 180 million or so people who live there will be protesting against this execution? Even if many were opposed the death penalty for "thought-crime", how many would dare protest against a regime that kills you for what you think? 

Then remind them that Pakistan is supposed to be a fairly "moderate" Islamic country, a Western ally even, compared to say Iran or Somalia, where people still get executed for "witchcraft" and gay people are hanged from construction cranes in town squares. Perhaps even be so bold as to point out a recent pew poll that estimated 88% of Egyptians (some 70 million Muslims) would like to see the death penalty for apostasy, another form of thought-crime, then ask them again about that so called "minority" position.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Extremely tedious oncological platitudes


Top notes


I never wear trainers when brewing..

Saturday, June 10, 2017

What a cracker


Tried a new beer last night (needed something after the last few days!). Made by the Cloudwater brewery based in Manchester, this session IPA weighed in at around 4.5% ABV and was loaded to the gunnels with juicy Mosaic and Simcoe hops. The Simcoe contributed a decent amount of "dankness" and piney flavours, but the Mosaic sang pure grapefruit juice which was dominant. Great smooth mouth-feel and all in all a cracking drink, shame I only had one!

Friday, June 09, 2017

Balance of power


Meet our new political overlords! 

Funny, I can't remember seeing the homophobic, science-denying, creationists party option on my ballot paper, let alone ticking it?

I've blogged about these clowns before but the more you read about them the more incredulous you get. Common themes emerge around science-denial, creationism, religious zealotry and corruption that are more reminiscent of the deep-south than the hallowed halls of Westminster. Mind you, the Tory party has quite a few nutters (and more than it's fair share of crooks) too, maybe these guys will fit right in?

PS. In case you're wondering this mural has been "digitally enhanced" (i.e. altered with extreme prejudice) with photo-shop, oh well, fake news and all that..

Friday Smirk


Orangemen in number 10 and an orange man in the White House, coincidence?

The results are in..



Well, well, well. I bet there are some bruised ego's within Tory inner circles this morning, although I can't help thinking that the PM will stubbornly cling onto the last vestiges of power, like an unwelcome wasp in your pint glass.

A better outcome IMO would be that Theresa May (or TREsemmé as we like to call her) resigns and the Tories find someone to lead them that at least has some charisma (definitely not Boris) and is softer on Brexit. Ideally they would have an actual plan for it that's a little more substantive than standing on the cliffs of Dover waving two fingers in the air. Someone who can silence the loony right fringes in that party and someone who has the guts to push through more centralist (less austere) policies in order to carry a new mandate, i.e. call a new general election in the Autumn.

I fear this is unlikely though.

The only good thing to come out of this debacle so far is that hopefully this is the last we'll ever hear from UKIP! Can all media outlets take note, there's no good reason to ask the opinion of that scumbag Farage ever again!

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Voting


Got to the polling station early, normally I vote after work, this way was much more civilised, no queuing at all. I decided to vote tactically, picking the party that came second behind the Tories in this constituency last time around, although round here blood tends to run deep blue. 

Personally, I don't like the idea of TM having a big majority as I am pro-EU and not keen on a hard-Brexit (no deal better than bad-deal etc.), on the other hand I also wouldn't naturally vote for someone with the left of centre views of Corbyn, democracy in action, or "Hobson's choice" as I like to call our first past the post system.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Flawed logic

Came across this little cartoon on the inter-webs today, made me smile, it highlights the fundamental flaw in the recent WannaCry (ransom-ware) virus..

Gospel truth


J&M debating the truth of the Gospels, discovering the drawback of hindsight..

Suicidal pedantry


The problem with apologists for irrationality and relativism, in a nutshell..

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Bad news

For many years now I have been a big fan of Crispian Jago, fellow skeptic and atheist, Crispian has produced many wonderful and amusing cartoons on subjects such as "alternative medicine", religion and anti-scientific quackery of all stripes. His blog "The Reason Stick" has provided many fabulous images and inspirations for my own. I hadn't visited his site for quite a few months and for some random reason took a quick peek today. Unfortunately, I learn that Crispian has terminal cancer and to cap it all, in a strange cosmic coincidence, I also learned this week that the wife of a very good friend of mine also has a tumor on one of her kidneys and goes under the knife this Thursday, I can only imagine what feelings they must both be experiencing right now.

Crispian has decided to write a journal about his illness, it's brilliant, and can be accessed from his blog. I recommend you take a look, as is his inimitable style, it's really human, funny and irreverent.

I've decided that there are a few things I really dislike about getting older; mostly it's hearing about more and more talented people getting shitty diseases.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Dysfunction


Ha! Must be really difficult for some people working with the dysfunctional regime in the USA..

Finding a weakness


As I'm sure everyone knows by now we experienced another weekend of Islamist fun in London on Saturday evening. We learn today (again) that the criminals who perpetrated the attack on innocent people enjoying a Summer evening in Borough Market, were known to police. It will be interesting to see what kinds of Muslims this group were, obviously not the brightest of bunnies and clearly catastrophically gullible (as, by definition, all Islamist foot-soldiers are) but were they also petty criminal stoners and losers, as many of their predecessors have turned out to be? As many have suggested there is perhaps a correlation and possible weakness in this area that's well worth investigating.

It's crystal clear from eye-witnesses what was motivating these particular people, "this is for Allah" was being shouted as knives were plunged into the bodies of terrified and defenceless Women. It's also clear that we no longer have any use in our public discourse for religious and liberal apologists telling us that these crimes are nothing to do with Islam, they clearly have something to do with it. Even the Prime Minister acknowledges this fact (at long last!), although I'd prefer it if she'd had said not that this is a "perversion" of Islam, but that it's more of a "literal reading" of the scriptures of that religion. When you combine a tradition and celebration of martyrdom with a literal reading (brainwashing) of 7th century feudal mythology it isn't beyond reason that you will end up with at least some being lead to the kind of vengeful and irrational murderous acts that we now seem to have to endure on a monthly basis in Europe.

The big question of course is what we do now? You could argue that we were lucky on Saturday night, the police response was absolutely stunning, but that was this time, next time it might not be eight minutes and for those of us that frequent our capital city on a regular basis this thought is never far from our minds. "Enough is enough" say our leaders, but concrete actions appear as nebulous as ever. It would however seem clear that what we are fighting here are a set of ideas (an ideology). Religions (and literalist/political interpretations of them) are after all, just ideas. So how do we displace a set of ideas? There are two most likely routes, either you replace the ideas with better ones or you remove the ideas and/or people that hold them by killing the people and/or suppressing the ideas to an extent that they fade away. Many kings, popes, chancellors, dictators and generals have favoured the latter approach over the years but it seldom works well and more often than not, rebounds. So, where are the places that pre-existing closed/literalist thinking could possibly be challenged and/or replaced?

There are a number of areas that I think are worthy of looking at, my list would include,

-Speakers at Mosques and other religiously framed meetings/events
-Sources of funding for the spreading of literalist interpretations (Saudi-Arabia for example)
-Single faith schools that flout pluralistic standards
-Conditions of citizenship
-Restrictions on travel to and repatriation from certain places (like Syria)
-Support for moderate Muslim groups
-Coordination of approach across government departments
-Sharia courts
-Review enforcement of secular, anti-discrimination laws within Muslim communities
-Education (ensuring plurality) and especially in religious education
-Police and anti-extremism policy funding

There are also a number of areas that I think would be unfruitful,

-Censoring of social media or other internet resources
-Internment of any kind
-Overt banning of any religious practice (that doesn't conflict with existing laws)

Whatever happens in the coming days, weeks and months we can only hope that our security forces are at the top of their game and that our politicians start getting their act together; I can guess which is more probable.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Hellish eggs


Inspired by a recent Iberian trip and still watching my calorie intake I decided to attempt a typically Spanish kind of brunch I'd never tried before, it's basically tomatoes, garlic and red peppers with an egg poached in the middle of it and sprinkled with a little Parmesan and finished off under the grill, apparently it's called "eggs in purgatory" (being a "militant atheist" sort, I liked the cosmic irony of that) it looked so good I took a picture of it, tasted divine!

Friday, June 02, 2017

Well done Denmark


In an eminently sensible, pro-freedom of speech move the Danish government has decided to repeal an 150 year old blasphemy law. The country that is often voted into the top three "happiest places to live in the world" is now a tiny bit happier.. (and slightly more free from stultifying superstition)

Missing inaction..


One for the "political" geeks out there... 

Friday Smirk..


More of an exasperated scream than a smirk today though..

Thursday, June 01, 2017

And the winner is.... China!


Well done Elon Musk for quitting the corrupt, ignorant fiasco that is the Trump administration. As Musk later points out, China is committed to producing more clean energy by 2030 than the whole output of the USA from ALL sources today. Makes you wonder who will lead the planet in developing, building and selling next generation green energy technology to the world? Certainly not the UK as our research & development grants shrink along with the number of scientists remaining here to do that research post-Brexit; and apparently now the USA isn't interested in it either.

The most dangerous people in the world



If you asked this question to most people I'm sure you'd get one of two likely answers, they'd either say ISIS/Islamists or Putin/Russia. Perhaps these would be the most obvious choices from the point of view of publicity and media "noise" but according to many academics, the real danger to the largest number of people on this planet exists in what's going on right now with Trump and his ignorant cronies around their approach to their denial of the scientific evidence (and experiential evidence) of climate change. By pulling out of the Paris accord the USA, the second highest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world, will at a stroke effectively kill any possibility of any serious progress in reducing emissions (so as to make a difference) for at least the duration of this idiotic presidency and possibly longer, another 4 years of pollution and environmental destruction at "full-steam".

Our grand-children will look back at these fat, greedy morons and wonder what the hell we were all thinking.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Apologetics


The eventual end-point of most religious apologetics and particularly the root of the modern accusation of "Islamophobia" (a word created by fascists and used by cowards to manipulate morons) All summed up in one simple cartoon, well done J&M!

Ahead of his time..


Unbelievably finely detailed pictures of the atmosphere of Jupiter coming in from the Juno probe at the moment, many from angles and perspectives never before seen by Human eyes. From the look of the swirling and spinning involved, Jupiter's upper reaches isn't a place that is "fine-tuned" for living things in any way, shape or form. The deep vibrant colours of the images are stunning too, I wonder what Galileo would have thought if he could have seen what we can see now, I bet he would have been thrilled. I'm very much looking forward to visiting Florence later in the Summer and will make a point of calling into the Basilica di Santa Croce to pay my respects at that dusty old shrine to a man who was undoubtedly way ahead of his time.

be de be de be de..


Classic formula, but no less true.

Friday, May 26, 2017

1st world problems


For those of us who feel we've have had a hard week but in reality whose problems don't even register on the scale of many less fortunate, don't worry, it's nearly wine-o-clock..

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Doesn't work


You'd have thought that the kinds of people that "pray" would have realised that it doesn't work by now... I would argue that what the world needs at this time is less praying and more action.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Lawyer-speak


Entirely √°-point as usual J&M exposes the fallacy inherent in the comments of many of our politicians and media outlets in refusing to acknowledge and discuss the real motivation for the Jihadists in our midst, i.e. Islamism.

For example, Andy Burnham said after the Manchester attack, "the bomber no more represents Muslims as the killer of Joe Cox represents white British people". Whilst factual (in a lawyer-speak kind of way) we need to unpack that comment slightly to get at the root of my assertion. Burnham neglected to mention that Salman Abedi did in fact represent (even if it was only in his own head) an Islamic ideology called “Islamism” and was most certainly not a “lone-wolf”. Of course, not all Muslims are Islamists, but many millions of them are and hundreds of millions more have sympathies toward Islamist goals, because of common upbringings, beliefs and cultures. These Islamists and their sympathisers have the structure, backing, money and influence to reach many people and recruit them, and they mainly utilise religion to achieve this. To say or imply that these kinds of terror attacks are nothing to do with Islam is false, they have something to do with Islam since all Islamists are Muslims. Islamism is simply one kind of literal interpretation of Islam for political ends, replete with imperialist ambitions justified and motivated by scripture and “revealed commandments”. Thomas Mair (the killer of Joe Cox) on the other hand was most definitely a “lone wolf” and did not possibly “represent” anything because the ideology (Nazism/Apartheidism) he obsessively followed is long since defeated and the ideas contained within it only remaining alive in a relative handful of losers, loners and people with mental health issues. We can all abhor and reject the objectives and/or mental-states of both these killers but to directly equate these two positions is not really comparing apples with apples.

I believe the issue with not acknowledging the true nature of the challenge is that it dis-empowers the moderate Muslim majority in their attempts to reform and expunge the literalist elements in their communities and traditions. This space gives oxygen and “cover” to the extremists allowing them to operate under the cloak of political correctness and liberal paranoia about being seen to be racist, divisive or persecutory. Challenging the ideas and goals of Islamism is NOT racist, divisive or Islamophobic in the same way that challenging the burning of witches is not Anti-Catholic. Our goal should absolutely be to drive a wedge between moderate Muslims and Islamists, all the while walking the obvious religious tight-rope that one is a sub-set of the other, in the end it’s going to be decent, moderate and secular Muslims that defeat these literalist barbarians, not “crusader” bombs and missiles.

Pope faced


A picture paints a thousand words..

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

"Normal is not enough"...


I came across this response to the Manchester attack from the think-tank Quilliam. I thought it was good, not the usual platitudes you usually see at this point in the hype-cycle around terrorist outrages. Simply carrying on as if nothing happened is not a strategy, our Government needs a plan, the alternative should be unacceptable to everyone now. The key bit for me is reproduced below.

“Calls for unity and calm are needed, but we must also call at this time for things not to return to normal. If normal means regular unpredictable attacks by suspected jihadist terrorists against our children and youth at the dawn of their lives, then ‘normal’ must not be allowed to continue. New thinking needs to emerge in the halls of Whitehall and for our communities.”

Manchester


Woke up to the terrible news this morning; being a parent of teenage kids myself I feel numb at the thought of such a callous act, deliberately targeting and killing defenceless children. No words can properly express the overwhelming abhorrence and sense of resistance I feel toward the ideas and goals of these theocratic death-cults (of all stripes). I'll leave it to the Hitch, who prophetically illuminates our predicament with much more precision than I can muster.

"What nobody in authority thinks us grown-up enough to be told is this: We had better get used to being the civilians who are under a relentless and planned assault from the pledged supporters of a wicked theocratic ideology. These people will kill themselves to attack hotels, weddings, buses, subways, cinemas, and trains. They consider Jews, Christians, Hindus, women, homosexuals, and dissident Muslims (to give only the main instances) to be divinely mandated slaughter victims. Our civil aviation is only the most psychologically frightening symbol of a plethora of potential targets. The future murderers will generally not be from refugee camps or slums (though they are being indoctrinated every day in our prisons); they will frequently be from educated backgrounds, and they will often not be from overseas at all. They are already in our suburbs and even in our military. We can expect to take casualties. The battle will go on for the rest of our lives. Those who plan our destruction know what they want, and they are prepared to kill and die for it. Those who don't get the point prefer to whine about "endless war," accidentally speaking the truth about something of which the attempted Christmas bombing over Michigan was only a foretaste. While we fumble with bureaucracy and euphemism, they are flying high." (Christopher Hitchens, Slate 2009)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Bricks


The whole Brexit, post-truth, May/Corbin/Trump era summed up for me in one shot, i.e. it feels like talking to a bloody brick wall..

Mood


Sometimes your mood is entirely dependent on simple perspective..

Friday, May 19, 2017

Strong & Stable


Genius...