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 á-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...

Friday Smirk


This is so true, our bodies are pretty cool self-repairing mechanisms if you think about it, although in my experience the older you get the less robust and reliable certain bits get.. 

I'm talking about joints and eye's before you jump straight to smut..

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Conspiracies are more fun


J&M on the money as usual, sometimes the truth is staring us right in the face.

Not a mistake per se..


The story I like best is the one where God gives Humans free-will then murders everyone who didn't do what he said in a flood.. anger management issues?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wednesday grin..


The deeper you dig, the more humor looks like truth ..

Artificial, artificial intelligence


I like this little cartoon from xkcd; there's a lot of hype floating around at the moment regarding artificial intelligence (AI) and machine based learning (MBL), with many clueless journo's bleating on about everyone losing their jobs and machines bossing Humans around. In my assessment none of the current technology is anywhere near being sophisticated or capable enough of doing either of those things, far from it. 

The best and most pervasive uses of AI in the next few years will (IMO) be, primarily built to help people sort the wheat from the chaff in different occupational scenarios. For example, applications that use vast quantities of medical histories to help doctors predict occurrences of medical conditions early or applications that use past consumer behaviors and intents to help sales and marketing people predict things like churn and buying propensity, and things that disambiguate natural language so that we can interact with useful information-resources and devices in more fluent ways. For those having nightmares about terminators, chill out, relax and ask Alexa to play something soothing.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The nature of progress


With all of the news lately about NHS IT woes and "ransom viruses" it's easy for people to reach the conclusion that computer systems are more trouble than they're worth. This is a view shared by many people, in fact I have a good friend who runs his own business and needs to do things like accounting, purchasing, manufacturing and inventory control etc. He manages pretty nicely without a single computer in sight, in fact he still uses leather bound ledgers and fax machines to do most things; I poke fun relentlessly at his technological protestations but it's probably still a really common way of working for many and in some rare cases (like his) preferred by some. 

Of course when organisations reach a certain size in terms of people and/or transactions then it becomes necessary to hire more people or use software, the brutal fact of the matter is that software is cheaper than people. But software applications are complex things, buying one is probably the easiest and first step on a long and continuous journey. I've lost count of the number of ignorant sales and marketing directors who think that simply buying a CRM system will instantly lead to them selling more stuff to more people and are most indignant when told they actually need to invest time, money and effort to make it work! 

In the case of the NHS problems the causes were almost certainly multi-faceted, first the virus needs to be injected into the network somewhere, leveraging a weakness (usually a person) and then it needs to be able to propagate; having old obsolete versions of operating systems (like Windows XP) and no anti-virus software certainly doesn't help but isn't the only issue. Much like climate change isn't the same as weather, progress isn't measured in single events like this; money and time need to be invested to make systems (used by people) work, there's no way around it.

PS. the photo above is a 5 Mb disk drive being loaded onto a Boeing 707 back in the 60's. We now have thousands of times more storage capacity available in devices that we carry in our pocket, such is progress.

Curing obesity


Seems like a good idea to fix the obesity epidemic in the USA?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

16 years!


"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"

Douglas Adams, one of my favourites..

Chit-chat


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Delicate little snowflakes


As if on-cue J&M comment pointedly on the circular subject of blasphemy..

Domino effect


I was pleased to read this morning that after the Irish Stephen Fry/Blasphemy fiasco the Government in New Zealand has taken a look at it's own archaic Blasphemy law. Many there are now seriously talking about repealing the law, citing how the Irish incident has shown how such laws are an embarrassment to civilised and pluralistic countries. In fact many officials there hadn't even realised they had a blasphemy law still on their books! In the words of the NZ Attorney General (Chris Finlayson),

"Well, frankly, if a 2000-year-old religion can't stand up to someone like Stephen Fry, they may as well shut their doors."

Well said that man, the sooner these ridiculous and un-just laws are removed from statute books everywhere the better for Human-kind.

Work


In my experience, a lot of people these days think work is like this, i.e. a "loose" arrangement, based mainly on what's convenient for them; payment and benefits for the deal however don't fall into this category.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

One rule for them..


Imagine a mob of hoodie'd youths from the inner city getting pissed up and raucously marauding through everyone's gardens with the intent that their half starved pit-bulls find and rip apart a live, defenseless and terrified animal. Daily Mail readers would have apoplexy.

Now take away the hoodies and replace them with red jackets, horses and posh people and you have Conservative party policy ... unbelievable.

Ukippered?


Saw this new Banksy painting earlier, based on the recent local government results, fair enough.

Courage of your convictions?


I see that Irish police have dropped their blasphemy charge against Stephen Fry, an unsurprising, but somewhat indecisive outcome. When you make the opinions of people a criminal offence for being different from yours, then you're asking for trouble. You would have thought that most legislators would have learned this from the experience of the last 400 years and the general arc of reform in modern democracies, apparently some still remain unconvinced.

Whilst good news for Fry, spare a thought for less fortunate souls around the world who remain under the yolk of religious tyranny. In Indonesia right now a former Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, has just started a two year jail sentence for "blasphemy" against Islam, in what (from the outside) looks just like plain-old political manipulation by Muslim pressure groups there. The majority Muslim activists simply didn't want Basuki to win an election (he was ahead in polls) and so hit him with a manufactured "blasphemy" charge to knock him out of the race. This is the problem with blasphemy or any "hate-speech" laws, because they are always subjective, they become a perfect tool with which to implement "tyranny of the majority" over any minority (religious or otherwise), something that the concept of "free-speech" and Secular and pluralistic forms of government needed to be invented to overcome.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Atheist pigs


Found this, seems relevant at the moment.

French Politics


I'm pleased that Macron won and won well; the political (and intellectual) contrast between France and England is now more stark than it's been for many years, I envy the clarity of choice they had and hope that their man is up to the task. We shouldn't forget though, that 33% of French votes were cast for a right wing candidate unimaginable only a few decades ago. 

We shouldn't point too many fingers though, we have our own right wing tendency in this country who appear to be in the ascendancy at the moment. Sometimes I wonder who is really pulling May's strings (BLUKIP anyone?) , I'm sure it's not a group of people I would freely vote for if the process were truly transparent. I saw a funny tweet this morning, a fictional message from 2002 asking what it's like in 2017; to which the reply was "30% of French people voted for a Nazi" followed chillingly by, "but that's the good bit".

Sunday, May 07, 2017

The problem of evil


I see that Irish police have started an investigation into comments made by Stephen Fry on an Irish TV program over 2 years ago. The comments essentially outlined his opinion on the idea of a "God" and were in response to a thought experiment posed by the program host along the lines of "what would you say to God at the pearly gates". Fry presented a reasonable and rational argument, essentially a "show-biz" version of the ancient "problem of evil" argument, which is a well known philosophical argument against an intervening Deity of the kind that most Christians, Jews and Muslims believe in. Ireland stands alone in still having prohibitions on it's statute books for blasphemy, which simply put, protect the opinions of religious people from criticism or insult. The penalty for expressing a counter-religious view in Ireland is 25,000 Euro. In other words, to exercise freedom of conscience as an Atheist in Ireland is a criminal offence, clearly a ridiculous and unenforceable travesty of free-speech in what is supposed to be a pluralistic democracy.

In some ways I would welcome a test case, it would be a huge waste of tax-payers money, but the publicity would put this anomalous law into sharp relief for people, and the injustice of blasphemy laws would be exposed to many more people both in Ireland and in the rest of Europe. I broadly agree with the position of Atheist Ireland, an organisation that campaigns in Ireland for an end to religious privilege and the proper separation of church and state (i.e. a level playing field for all religions and none). Apparently, they are also implicated in this charge and I'm sure will relish and exploit the publicity.

You can see the interview in full for yourself above. Hopefully this police case will lead to many millions more people seeing Fry's response and perhaps looking into the "problem of evil" argument a little more for themselves, it's a very good argument against the kinds of religious ideas that we see in our world today and one which has remained without a good counter from religious people for many thousands of years.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Caption Competition


- The invisible man discovers hover boots..

Failed experiments


"Brexit logic" is set to revolutionise Philosophy in exactly the same way as "Abbott numbers" are set to change the field of Mathematics, i.e. we'll be laughing (or crying) about it for years to come.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

It's always the others


Some people even think the UK is still a "Christian country" ... looking around, there's not much evidence of that.

Hairless


The real leader of the free-world (as opposed to the fake one) photographed on her recent trip to Saudi Arabia. The joke is that Saudi Arabia is a country who's political and cultural leaders are so insecure that they forced the media outlets there to censor images of her hair (WTF?) What they think might happen if people glimpse the hair of a fellow human being isn't clear but whatever it is this kind of madness can only have religion at it's core. BTW good on Merkel for not kowtowing to blatant misogyny and ridiculous medieval "traditions".

Cry babies


Suck it up kids...

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Fading traces of pain and death


Really startling chart showing the incidences of common Human diseases and how the number of occurrences (bigger circles = more incidents) in the population has dramatically reduced after the introduction of suitable vaccinations (yellow spots). Makes you wonder how there are still people out there who question the efficacy of (science-based) medicine, preferring instead wild conspiracy theories and placebo wrapped in quackery; putting the populations they inhabit at risk of resurgences of these often deadly illnesses.

A load of "bottom"


J&M á point as usual. Doesn't matter how you skin it, most of the core ideas of religion are inherently daft and illogical when submitted to the normal rigours of reason (i.e. those standards of evidence which we apply to every other endeavour in our lives).

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Labouring arithmetic



I see that the odious Diane Abbott (can you tell that I don't rate her very much) had a car-crash of an interview with LBC recently, a more toe-curling and painful exchange you couldn't hope to have. It's up there with the best of the Farage and Nuttall crew. Abbott answered a question on how much Labour policy on hiring police officers would cost by saying that 10,000 new officers hired over 4 years would cost £300,000. I realise that most policemen probably feel that they're underpaid for the work they do, but 30 quid over 4 years seems a bit much; the canteen facilities must be out of this world! It's funny how something as appallingly inept as this looks almost normal these days. Still, there's not much chance of Labour gaining power in the next general election and you could argue, even less now.

Monday, May 01, 2017

You don't say


I've been working in software companies and development teams for around 30 years now and this is a phenomenon I've noticed many times. Over the years I've worked with many engineers, managers and administrators and some were great thinkers and problem solvers, a bigger number could only wish that they were; as with most things in life, you could say, it's been a mixed bag.

In my experience though, it's often a bad sign when the new guy (or gal) arrives and sets themselves up as the "bringer of wisdom", the chosen one who's going to solve the hardest problems and fix the most stubborn bugs with some trendy methodology or some latest open-source framework or widget. You can invariably tell who's going to turn out well and who's going be frustrated, the classic tell-tale-sign is when the person starts an annoying number of sentences with the words "why don't we just...", as if the insertion of the word "just" makes what they are about to suggest both simple and true. This comes in many forms, engineers often offer the "why don't we just use X" line, where X is the latest trendy gizmo, or alternatively management/sales types often suggest the popular "why don't we just outsource it", i.e. the delusional urge to delegate and make it someone else's problem. I'm sure everyone has their favourite "why don't we just..." line. Most of the time of course the problem on the table is still on the table precisely because it's hard and unyielding to a "why don't we just" kind of proposal. 

Of course, without optimism and trying new things we don't innovate or progress but it's also not wise to underestimate or dismiss that that went before. No one ever captures 100% of a problem space, perfect solutions don't exist, but by definition any existing solution that "works" must have captured some of it and therefore it's usually a good idea to build on this rather than ignore it. Very rarely someone or something does come along however, and really does "just" solve a previously difficult or intractable problem, these moments are often tipping points in the trajectory of a product, company or industry, and over my entire working life, unlike "why don't we just" wannabes, I have only ever seen a tiny handful of them.

Extremist states


I see that Islamic extremist state Saudi Arabia has been killing people for thought crime again. Ahmad Al-Shamri was sentenced to death for essentially being an Atheist. 

It must be great for authoritarian and despotic regimes like this one to have a legal system where the state is able to pick and choose the basis of the laws it uses on a whim, i.e. one minute they can apply a secular penal code (i.e. when wayward princes get caught taking drugs and smashing up Ferrari's) and then when it suits, apply medieval "Koranic" law (i.e. based on revelation, or in other words, any damn thing they like) to anyone that appears different to them. The legal equivalent of playing tennis without the net..

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Bath time


Took the family to Bath today to visit the Roman Baths and to have a good old mooch around the town and shops. Had a really good day, it rained but we managed to time our indoors segments to avoid the worst of it. I've been to Bath many, many times but have never actually been inside the Baths themselves, really interesting place albeit crowded on a bank holiday weekend; good lunch too at a place specializing in sausages and mash!

Burning Sky


I think this might just be my new favourite beer (for five minutes at least) - Picked up on my recent trip to the Grumpy Goat bottle shop in Reading it's a wonderful light IPA flavoured with Centennial and Simcoe hops; nothing fancy just clean, crisp easy drinking. Highly recommended.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Look into my eyes..


Tried a new beer last night from an up and coming brewery called "Magic Rock" based in Huddersfield. I picked it up in Reading town centre on my way back from London on Wednesday, from a wonderful little bottle shop called the Grumpy Goat. A hazy American style IPA made with Golden Promise malt, Oats and a bit of Rye featuring Amarillo, Citra, Mosaic and Simcoe hops; no slouch weighing in at 6.8% ABV so a 500ml can was quite sufficient to produce a nice little beer buzz on a Friday night. The beer was really good and not your run of the mill IPA, a bit different. Tropical notes of mango and pineapple with spiciness from the Rye and a slightly tart finish. It's a bit fuzzy in the photo, but the name of the beer is "Hypnotist" and after a long week and a pint of it I can confirm I was feeling rather sleepy.

Saturday smile


I love the smell of a good pun first thing in the morning...

Friday, April 28, 2017

Friday Smirk



HAPPY FRIDAY!!!!!

Recognition is the first step


Looks like a reasonable movie (I like films that have actual events as underpinnings). It covers a subject that's quite often swept under the political expediency carpet, the 1915 Armenian genocide. An horrific act of sustained violence and inhumanity which is still denied by the Turkish government to this day. Hopefully this film will help to shift the zeitgeist ever so slightly towards recognition, which as we all know is the first step in the healing process and an essential component to ensuring events like this don't happen again.

Bears in the woods (doing what bears do)


Lot's of stories in the press at the moment about Theresa May whining about the 27 EU countries "lining up to oppose Britain over Brexit". 

Why on earth would anyone think this is going to be any different from that? I can easily see things getting a lot worse from this point on; the EU clearly has all the cards both from a economic and moral standpoint. We're the ones abandoning ship and acting like spoiled children, demanding our cake and demanding that we eat it. All this political bravado when in reality everyone knows that these days we're not much more than an low-tax offshore banking zone for the money and resources that foreign organisations use to invest in developing their European markets. Just how many billionaire London property speculators do we think we need to prop up our entire economy, and for how much longer will UK based divisions of international companies feel it's worth maintaining a serious presence here

Good job we've got control of our destiny back now; now where did I put those documents about my Irish great-grandfather..

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Brexit bonkers


Nice little chart; shame it never features in barmy Brexiteer thinking or commentary...

Simple judgements


More often than not, the simplest answer is the right one; pretty sure a medieval theologian came up with that idea. He wasn't wrong.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Finances


People often think reporting the finances of a business is a scientific process; I can't say I've noticed.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Evolving opinions


People really should get on board with the whole evolution thing; the stats say that they'll be richer (and a lot closer to the truth) if they do..

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Truth march






Crash, bang, wallop what a picture..


After almost 20 years in space, the Cassini space probe begins it's grand finale this month. Fuel reserves are dwindling and so NASA have decided that rather than allowing the craft to potentially crash into one of the moons of Saturn (i.e. random decay) and "contaminate" what could be potentially life harbouring environments; a more fitting end to this stunning mission is a controlled dive thru ever diminishing orbits around the master planet. Bisecting the cloudy upper atmosphere and the rings until a final, fatal, descent into Saturn itself, gathering and sending data all the while. A truly spectacular end to what has been one of the most productive and illuminating space missions in recent times. The picture above is Cassini's final picture of our home planet, in true Sagan'esc style the pale blue dot is quite simply "us" from a billion miles distance, goosebumps..

Friday, April 21, 2017

Bias


Bias is the scourge of Human-kind; whether it's confirmation bias, survivorship bias, the bandwagon effect, ingroup bias or even the gamblers fallacy, bias invariably leads us into making bad decisions. From people who believe they were cured by sugar pills (confirmation bias) through to people who voted for Trump (bandwagon) we are all influenced by bias from some perspective or other. The challenge is to recognise that fact and to be able to step (intellectually) outside of our personal bubbles for a bit so that we can look at a situation objectively, in my experience, far more enlightenment tends to come that way.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

BS detector



I came across this old piece the other day, it's a "Baloney Detection Checklist" written ages ago by none other than Carl Sagan - still perfectly serviceable and very useful in this day and age.

  1. Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the “facts.”
  2. Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
  3. Arguments from authority carry little weight—“authorities” have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts.
  4. Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this selection among “multiple working hypotheses,” has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.
  5. Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way-station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.
  6. Quantify. If whatever it is you’re explaining has some measure, some numerical quantity attached to it, you’ll be much better able to discriminate among competing hypotheses. What is vague and qualitative is open to many explanations. Of course there are truths to be sought in the many qualitative issues we are obliged to confront, but finding them is more challenging.
  7. If there’s a chain of argument, every link in the chain must work (including the premise)—not just most of them.
  8. Occam’s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the data equally well to choose the simpler.
  9. Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, falsified. Propositions that are un-testable, unfalsifiable are not worth much. Consider the grand idea that our Universe and everything in it is just an elementary particle—an electron, say—in a much bigger Cosmos. But if we can never acquire information from outside our Universe, is not the idea incapable of disproof? You must be able to check assertions out. Inveterate skeptics must be given the chance to follow your reasoning, to duplicate your experiments and see if they get the same result.