Sunday, December 17, 2017

Banana and clove


Spent a lovely weekend in London with friends; we did a ton of stuff, nice food and excellent refreshments. 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 just the job on a miserable December afternoon! 

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

HItchmas


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!

Perspective


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


and...

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

Jerulsalem


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

Incomplete


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

Alchemy


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.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Chemistry gag..


I'm not a "proper" Chemist (I studied Chemical Engineering) but I saw this and smiled..

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Observation


I saw a nice little story on the inter-webs today about a new species of finch that has evolved in the Galapagos, but not through genetic mutation. In this particular case scientists 40 years ago observed a Large Cactus Finch from a neighboring island (65 miles away) mating with a local Medium Ground Finch, the offspring from this coupling proved sufficiently different and able to carve out their own ecological niche (food/habitat etc.) that after a period of only decades the descendant population no longer inter-breeds with the resident finches, the definition of a new species.

The surprising thing about this observation is the hybridisation aspect of it, potentially providing another variation mechanism or trigger for speciation. What will, I'm sure, be much less surprising will be the predictable reaction of the anti-evolution brigade who will no doubt be revving up their fallacy engines as we speak to claim the obvious "it's not "proper" macro-evolution until the Finch turns into a velociraptor" but then again these are the same people that look at the Flintstones and believe it's a documentary.

Fake, fake news


Saw this little Photoshop'd magazine cover today, it made me smile..

Friday, November 24, 2017

Friday Smirk


Says it all really..

Show me the money..


J&M - illustrating one of the realities of organised religions.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Earliest memory?


Saw this picture today, it instantly transported me back to my teenage years, fond "memories".

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Micro-apologies


J&M on the money once again, cleverly picking up on "SJW" (Social Justice Warrior) themes in current social-media threads and the potential free-speech catastrophes going on in our Universities over the last few years.

Handling gaps


Love this XKCD cartoon today; this is exactly how technical teams behave. The excitement and imagination involved in innovation often manifests itself as this kind of gap filling game; I think it's part of the stimulating the very same circuits in our brains that are needed to make real intellectual bridges between what we know and what we don't but desire to explain. Of course in rational spheres, evidence and the scientific method serve to invalidate these ideas so that only the correct ones live on and eventually acquire the status of knowledge.

Many religious people (particularly the fundies) play this exact same game of course, but it seems to me that in their case the crazy ideas they pluck from their butts get elevated to "knowledge" (only in their minds) by shear weight of authority, time and numbers. Re-enforced and spread by the indoctrination of children with those ideas, and, the shoring up of the original memes by apologetics along with threats of violence or exclusion (often perceived to be worse than physical pain for a social animal like Homo Sapiens). Humans always seem to prefer easy or stupid explanations rather than no explanations at all.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Black days..


Black-Friday... since when was that a "thing"?

Monday, November 20, 2017

Lies


I noticed a little story floating around today about a recent vote in Parliament to repeal EU legislation recognizing the "sentience" of animals, essentially a majority of our MP's don't believe that animals feel emotion or pain, or at least that us Humans shouldn't be concerned about it. A more transparent attempt to slip in the wishes of a minority of "animal-exploiters", particularly the fox-hunting brigade, you'll struggle to find within our current, crappy, weak Government.

The ethical, scientific and logical flaws in this unbelievable move will, I'm sure, be pointed out in the coming days and weeks by people who actually work with animals, like the RSPCA, the British Veterinary Society, respected Biologists and members of the public who campaigned hard to get this important principal into EU law in the first place. This legislation has helped to curb animal exploitation since 2009, including things like inhumane slaughter, isolation cages and the testing of cosmetics. Asserting by a vote that animals aren't entitled to be treated as sentient beings is a ridiculous denial of scientific facts, a suspension of humanity, whatever next? While we're at it, should we perhaps have a vote on Gravity too?

Sunday, November 19, 2017

New Brew


Two new brews to try last night while cooking up a risotto for the family; on the left we have a chocolate orange imperial stout and on the right an American pale-ale. The stout was flavoured with cacao-nibs soaked in Cointreau and whilst subtle you could definitely get a nice hint of Terry's Chocolate Orange on the finish that contrasted the toasty flavours of the dark malts well. The pale ale was a basic recipe using American hops, it turned out OK but a little on the thin side, although I probably shouldn't have tasted it straight after the stout (which was "syrup" in comparison!)

If I made these two again I reckon I could improve both. First I'd add 20% more cacao-nibs to crank-up the chocolate flavour in the stout and perhaps sling some orange zest into the boil too up the citrus element a bit. Then for the pale ale, it needed something like flaked oats to improve the mouth-feel, or perhaps to up the grain volume a little to give a slightly higher alcohol content, which is another way of doing the same thing. The hop flavours were spot-on though.

All in all a nice brace of beers, the refinement process continues!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday smirk II


Looks like the tautology department library is closed again..

Friday smirk


Above, one of my favourite "far-side" cartoons.. (now 30+ years old!) Below another..

Liturgy for "chavs"


I see that Greggs, that temple to poor nutrition, has been upsetting our superstitious brothers and sisters recently by placing a sausage role into a nativity scene in the place of the baby Jesus. Why they thought that a sausage role should or could provide a metaphor for a mythical Jewish shamen is another mystery, but, the marketing stunt seems to have twisted a lot of theocratic knickers and has prompted an apology from the company.

I must admit I do struggle to take these "takings of offence" too seriously these days, it seems to take so little (like a pork-product placed in a plastic model) to trigger a reaction and so much (like discriminating against a whole gender) to trigger none at all. Let's face it Christmas has so many hijacked layers to it these days that most people really don't care about or understand what it means any more, and those that do are free to revere whatever they like, however they like as much as they want. Such is the benefit of living in an (almost) secular society.

Geographical bad-luck


I came across probably one of the most depressing stories I've read in a long while today.

With everything going on at the moment you would have thought it would be about the latest Brexit insult to our intelligence, Russian cyber-warfare or perhaps The Trump crime gang deciding that killing endangered animals for fun is cool again, nope, moronic as these certainly are, it's not them. It was a story tucked away on the BBC site about an indigenous tribe of people in Sumatra who after resisting for decades have finally been forced to adopt Islam. This harmless and perfectly happy group of around 60 families were bullied and eventually bussed en-mass to a nearby town to get their "appropriate" Islamic clothing and prayer mats. One of the spokesmen for the theocratic thugs that facilitated this "conversion" was quoted as saying,

"For now we are focusing on the children. It's easier to convert them - their mind isn't filled with other things. With the older ones it's harder,"

Of course, these people had their own animistic beliefs, appropriately evolved for the environment they live in, no more incredible or less likely than the ones they're being replaced with. Now, their Abrahamic overlords have imposed an alien belief system imported from a different place and time, a medieval mash-up of tribal, misogynistic nonsense that, like every religiously oppressed native community before them will fuck them up for generations and until all knowledge of their past tradition is erased from the cultural consciousness. This kind of involuntary assimilation is, I believe, a form of intellectual slavery, as immoral in many ways as the North-Atlantic slave trade. No longer will the men of the tribe be able to hunt the wild pigs that frequent their local habitat and no longer will the girls of the tribe be able to wear appropriate cloths without shame, physical prohibitions to go alongside the intellectual ones.

Of course, it isn't just Muslims that persist in this keenness to indoctrinate, dominate and bully, Christians missionaries have been doing exactly the same for centuries. We only need look to populations of native peoples in places like North-America, Africa and South-America (the only "growth" areas for Christianity) to see how that pans-out. Even here today, in our own UK school system this desire to "indoctrinate" children is as strong as ever. Fortunately in the "West", this primitive instinct for conformity has been watered down by years of secular philosophy and the limiting of religious excesses through anti-discrimination and equality law, but, we need to stay on our toes and remind ourselves, through case-studies and examples like this, of how people with these philosophies behave when they're in-charge.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Counselling


Spotted outside a (good) pub in town, put a smile on my face.. so true..

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Fighting fire with fire..


J&M humorously pointing out the bleeding obvious, i.e. that pretty much everything substantive about modern religions is firmly and demonstrably rooted in older versions of the same, parochial stories and cultural myths, i.e. almost everything about it suggests man-made evolutionary-memes and not historical fact (intentionally in a lot of cases). Religious people (especially apologists on the internet) seem to constantly try to anchor their unfalsifiable dogmas in the real-world, whether it be "christian-science", the historicity of Jesus, end times predictions, creationism or the efficacy of prayer, intentions are often sincere, but you never need very dig too deep to discover a rich seam of wishful thinking or just plain hucksterism.

Australian equality


Congratulations and well done Australia! I agree with the majority vote just held there. Equality means everyone being treated the same, despite the delusions your religious brothers and sisters seem to wish to assert or impose (without a single shred of humanity, reason or evidence). 

Slowly this world is becoming a more tolerant place, usually in the teeth of opposition from people whose perspectives rest upon centuries of indoctrinated superstition, myth and toxic cultural conventions. Australia won a small victory yesterday but unfortunately the UK at the moment seems to be travelling against this arc of progress. But, I'm an optimist, I have confidence that we'll come around again soon, progress is never a straight line and we just need some strong secular, rational leadership, we're certainly overdue some.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Night moves


I travelled up to London this morning as I had a meeting in the City (Liverpool St.) at 9 am. So, it was an early start for me! There's something surreal and exotic about standing on the platform of a railway station in the dark and the train arriving with its "headlights" on.

I only go up to town (London) a couple of times a month these days so it's infrequent enough to remain pleasant enough, although, crowded tube trains full of people coughing and sneezing soon knocked the novelty-value out of me today.

Traffic challenges..


I noticed this copy of a tweet on the wires today, it made me smile and reminded me of the horrendous traffic jam in between my Wife and I and the Royal Berkshire Hospital when our Son was arriving. In the end I had to take matters (and our lives!) into my own hands by ignoring signs and traffic cones in order to circumvent road-works. As it turned out, he took another 24 hours after that to arrive so I needn't have worried.

Compromise


I was talking to one of my friends the other day about splitting up from partners and divorce et al. He's going through a split at the moment and was saddened (and slightly bitter) about the fact that, even with the best will in the world, in such divisive processes there's an almost inevitable tendency toward acrimony. Different strokes for different folks of course, but I reckon you can tell a lot about how your divorce is going to turn out from how healthy your marriage was/is. Behavioural attributes like how often you argue, what you argue about, how quickly you recover from arguments and how generous each party is with the other would seem to me to be quite good predictors of how likely, easy or hard such a journey might be. 

Like most of us he felt much more free to (honestly) elaborate on the highs and lows of the relationship now that both parties have accepted it's finished, it was quite eye opening! I couldn't imagine living with such confrontation over such seemingly trivial matters over such a long period of time. It may be an obvious observation but clearly different people have vastly different tolerances for stress and tension in their lives. Generally, I favour compromise and consciously letting things "go" simply to avoid unnecessary confrontation and to live more harmoniously (anything for a quiet life!), evidently some people struggle to let anything go! That's got to wear you down eventually? 

I'm sure there are pitfalls to my approach too, but, after the conversation with my friend, I couldn't help concluding that my way was better.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Imperative


A truism from the wonderful XKCD - How many of us have spent ages crafting those "special" emails in anger, love, regret, respect or hope, agonising over every word? I must say that as I get older and the amount of time I have left to author emails diminishes, my ability to efficiently get to the point should feel like it's becoming ever more imperative. This thought doesn't help much though.