Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Good ideas

Nice little meme; we're clearly in desperate need of some good (new) ideas for the world these days.


Been talking a lot recently about Gods and Philosophy with my Son who is doing his RS, Philosophy & Ethics GCSE this spring. It's the subject his school use as a kind of "warm up" as he's taking the exam a full year early (his other GCSE's don't happen until 2018) Like me, he is also interested in the subjects covered, and is really animated about them. TBH I wish he was also animated as much by Science, Maths & English, but if truth be told, I'll take teenage enthusiasm for education whenever and however it comes! 

Over the last 6 weeks or so we've been cramming for his mock exam by reviewing and debating the various materials of the course, lot's of interesting stuff, ethical dilemmas, religions, beliefs, deities, arguments for and against gods etc. I reckon he has a good grounding in the subject now and asks really good (searching) questions for someone of his age. He took the paper last week and got the results back today, and we were both really pleased, he got an A, which bodes well for the real thing in a month or two. We'll just have to see if we can't bump that up to an A*; maybe he'll even contribute to my ramblings here one day (although I'm sure that would be the epitome of un-cool)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Teenage life

From xkcd, (and my own observations) this is what teenage life is like these days. I'm not judging, just casting a skeptical (and at the same time, slightly envious) eye.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Time's up

This man said he'd defeat ISIS in 30 days.. well, time's up!  (perhaps he meant at golf?)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

They don't like it "up-em"...

The ever excellent J&M covering the story about free booklets on Humanism being distributed in schools around the UK. Many religious people don't like it "up-em" especially in Northern Ireland; that superstition soaked, sectarian obsessed outlier of the United Kingdom where one of Ian Paisley's old buddies Rev. David McIlveen has come out and condemned the move saying, 

"I think that they are far too young to even make that decision as to the rights and wrongs of Humanism and I think this is an exploitation of young people to try and indoctrinate them into a view that many people in NI would reject. I would feel very strongly about the fact there there should be a clear barrier between the message of Humanism and impressionable minds."

The irony and hypocrisy dripping from his words is nauseating; this sad old man is quite happy to oversee and condone the continuance of a system of segregation based upon ridiculous Bronze age myths that has ruined his entire country and set it back decades. Not to mention indirectly and directly led to the murders of thousands; yet objects to educating children about equitable and humane systems of philosophy and ethics that don't require his particular brand of voodoo and magic. As the old saying goes, "turkeys don't vote for Christmas" and that sentiment is plain for all to see in his spiteful and self-serving attitude. 

I spent a year living in N. Ireland and loved the place, particularly the welcoming and generous people, they deserve much better political representation than they've historically had from narrow minded bigots like this. The sooner the younger generation kick these ancient religious relics into touch the better off I believe they'll all be in that land.

Here's a sample from the book, as you can see, it's terrifyingly subversive (or for the rational, non-religious reader.. common-sense)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Right of reply

I wonder if this could be legally binding? 

TBH I would probably discount religious messengers as long as they agreed to me having equal time in the conversation, i.e. a right of reply, insisting that they listen to my response in the same way that they expect me to listen to their pitch. Unfortunately, most religious sales people aren't too interested in the listening part in my experience, preferring the classic "FUD" factor pitch (fear-uncertainty and doubt) an ages old sales technique; spread it thick and get out quick, before the punter has a chance to see too many flaws, then follow up with a momentum play, always keep them moving through the funnel.

Friday, February 17, 2017

We'll never know

The most beautiful chart in the world. Humans and science did that, not Gods, in case you were in any doubt. All of the thousands of Gods that our species have invented over the years were silent on the matter; perhaps they were happy with the way it used to be? They're still silent now, so we'll never know..

Friday Smirk..

I've always said that if someone provides sufficient (or any) evidence of a God or Gods then I would seriously and honestly reconsider my Atheism. 

It seems like that day has arrived; here we see some poor Woman in South Africa with one hand shorter than the other being healed by a miracle of God! No question about it, irrefutable proof that hands exist. So, give generously people, This preacher may well be able to make bodily appendages grow in front of our eyes but he still needs cash, apparently God can conjure up whole universes on a whim, but is hopeless with money.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Anti-vax = pro-death?

I see that Robert de Niro is making a right tit (see above) of himself again over vaccinations. In a recent publicity move he has teamed up with well known vaccine sceptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to offer a silly prize of $100,000 dollars to anyone that can "prove" vaccines containing Thiomersal (which was a compound used as a preservative up until 1999 and hasn't been used in almost two decades in children's vaccines) are safe. It's worth noting that there is no scientific evidence that this compound ever caused anything let alone autism. People like de-Niro and Kennedy harp on about Mercury in vaccines being a potential cause of autism, Mercury is one molecule in the compound that is Thiomersal along with Sodium, Carbon, Oxygen, Sulphur and Hydrogen; if I injected pure Sodium into a Human Being (especially a child) they would probably die; but as a compound bound to another deadly chemical Chlorine, in say, common table salt; it's perfectly safe. A point of detail that these faux crusaders seem not to want to grasp.

Even if Thiomersal were still used (and it isn't) each dose of vaccine would deliver roughly 1 micro-gram (1 millionth of a gram) or less of Mercury; this is an amount equivalent to the average amount of Mercury found in a portion of barbecue sauce containing HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) and certainly exceeded in most fish species these days. Eating a Swordfish or Tuna steak could easily deliver a dose of pure Mercury (i.e. not bound into any compound) of around 0.5 micro-grams per gram of fish which means a 250 gram steak would contain 14 times as much Mercury as a vaccination.

None of this is even relevant if you simply look at the numbers; 85 percent of children in the world have been immunised against Measles so according to these people most of Humanity is in peril? The only study ever to make a link between vaccination and autism was written by a fraudster and convicted criminal; a corrupt doctor who used fear to extort unnecessary fees from gullible parents. The hypothesis is dead in the water, has been for years.

Talking of death, it could be your own child (like in the case of a young boy in Spain) that dies, it could be your baby cousin who's too young for a vaccine, it could be your Father battling cancer and going through chemotherapy with a suppressed immune system, more likely it will just be strangers. Widespread vaccination generates herd immunity; people who are vaccinated keep the ones who can't safe, between 2000 and 2015 roughly 20 million children were saved by the Measles vaccine alone. It's a simple equation, if we don't vaccinate kids, people are going to die, choosing not to vaccinate is choosing death.

Global warming?

Here's some interesting research, it's from the Pew Center and attempts to document the changing attitudes among Americans of differing political leanings, ages and personal circumstances towards different religious groups or none. The good news is that Americans generally are at last realising that the childish view that Atheists are demons in disguise is in fact, childish, and in most cases have "warmed" toward none-believers over the last 3 years. What is most promising is that among young people this warming effect is the most dramatic; having gone from second lowest as a respected group (only slightly above rapists) Atheists are now higher than Mormons, Evangelicals and Muslims, no longer in the relegation zone! Of course among older bigots people Atheists are still thought of as pond scum, battling it out (in their minds) with Islamic terrorists for the chance to corrupt the youth and destroy the American dream; although from here in Europe it looks like Americans these days seem to be perfectly able and willing to do that for themselves, particularly the older ones.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Freedom of religion

Latest J&M cartoon; to re-purpose an old saying, we're all equally free, it's just that some are more equal than others.

A couple of old balls

Happy 453rd birthday Galileo Galilei

It may be slightly fanciful to believe that the man actually dropped a couple of different sized cannonballs from the leaning tower of Pisa but he certainly worked out that acceleration due to gravity does not depend on the mass of the object. 

I remember visiting Pisa many years ago, before the tower was closed to visitors, and the weird feeling of climbing a spiral staircase that's tilted was an intriguing distraction from the oppressive Summer heat. The view from the top was wonderful and the thrill to think that the genius that was Galileo may have once stood at the exact same spot was well worth the sweat of the ascent. Much later Newton added some flesh to the bones of Galileo's ideas and then in more recent times Einstein polished them even further. In these days of the LHC we've been fortunate to witness even further refinements but lest we forget that the whole edifice of explanation rests on the shoulders of many giants, not least of whom was this persecuted (but brilliant) Pisan.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Origins of atheism

Viral business model

Happy Valentines day! If truth be told I'm not really convinced about this particular annual ritual. It seems to me that if you have to wait a whole year to give or receive love and affection from your partner then you're doing it wrong. Still, I suppose it makes some kind of focal point for important relationships (or not!) and there are strong evolutionary underpinnings to displays of affection; it's generally good for gene transport down the generations!

These days most people don't realise that the origin of this particular feast day is much darker and sillier than red roses and chocolates. It stems from that eternal religious obsession with martyrdom and death by some form of execution (the bloodier the better) Apparently back in Roman times some geezer called "Valentine" was imprisoned for practising Christianity and later executed, however whilst banged up he supposedly healed the daughter of his jailer (oh really) and wrote her a letter signed "your valentine" (not entirely unreasonable for someone actually called "Valentine").

Of course saintly origins are by definition mythical, they have to involve some kind of suspension of the natural order otherwise no one would take any notice. From Mother Theresa to Valentine of Rome the pattern is a familiar one, take some poor sucker who had a hard life or did something exceptional, add a layer of supernatural (unfalsifiable) hocus-pocus and bingo you've got an excuse for a piss-up and a reason for followers to donate cash to your particular cult. Simple really; one of the first truly viral business models.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Caption time..

- Trudeau thinks, no way am I touching that, I know where it's been..


- Trump says, look Justin, fishy fingers..

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Henley trainers

Spotted in Henley-on-Thames (near where I live); ha, ha.... pompous gits.

Happy Darwin day

Charles Robert Darwin was born on this day in 1809... to celebrate I had a little lie in (nice) Then I cut and paste my favourite little quote from his best work below, grandeur indeed..

“Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

Friday, February 10, 2017

Friday smirk

A couple of one-liners that I heard this week... (all very politically incorrect of course)

- Did you hear about the dyslexic prostitute? she got a job in the warehouse..
- I had to dump my cross-eyed girlfriend, she was seeing someone else..
- My bed got stolen, I can't rest until I find it!
- A lorry load of Oxo cubes got stolen on the M4, no CCTV but police have some stock photo's


In for a penny...

Here's an interesting chart. It represents the break-down of discretionary spending for the US Government in 2015. As you can see, if Americans are wondering where their tax dollars go it's mostly on the Military. 

By way of comparison the UK military budget in 2016 was $42 Billion, which is less than a 10th as much for a population that's 20% as big. Talk about Military-Industrial complex! This isn't the only thing that American tax dollars are spent on. This chart shows only the discretionary spend (i.e. the debatable chunk), the compulsory spend is twice as big. I can't help thinking that a few more dollars spent in the yellow, dark green and dark purple segments might render the dark blue segment slightly less necessary?

Going to 11

I really associate with this little cartoon; most of my life has been spent on the left-hand side of the dial (safe) but as I've grown older and accumulated responsibilities for things like children, customers and companies I have found myself drifting to the right-hand side, it's a scary place if you're not used to it. But, I've learned over the years that spending some time there (even if only hypothetically) can be as rewarding as it's possible to be for evolved apes living on a little rock spinning through the void.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Educationally devoid?

Whilst on the subject of Trumps lame cabinet picks, Betsy DeVos is another totally unqualified flake that scares the bejebus out of Democrats in the USA. As previously mentioned DeVos is a billionaire (on a mission from God) who seems to have made a career out of donating millions (of her husband's money) to the Republican party and trying to interfere in the education system, much to the annoyance of many experienced educators. DeVos has never held office nor has she any educational leadership qualification or experience, it seems to be just a "hobby" for her. She was confirmed by just one vote, and that had to be cast by the Vice President himself, the first time ever that a "VP" has had to intercede in this way. The closeness of the vote says it all really and also says to me that the Republican senators are a bunch of "pussies", I'm sure the Trump will be glad to have such a target rich environment.

Reality distortion field

Trump is putting together a truly terrifying (as opposed to terrific) "team". Jeff Sessions is his pick for Attorney General recently revealed why so many secular people in the USA (and around the world) are terrified of what happens next. During his confirmation hearing the following exchange took place between Sessions and Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island..

Whitehouse wondered whether Sessions would have a problem with career lawyers “with secular beliefs,” having in the past criticised department attorneys for being secular. Sessions replied that he has used that language about secular attorneys to differentiate between people who recognise objective “truth” and those who take positions “in which truth is not sufficiently respected.”

Whitehouse replied, with a leading, and perhaps slightly conclusory question: “And a secular person has just as good a claim to understanding the truth as a person who is religious, correct?” At which point Sessions responded, “Well, I’m not sure.” For a few seconds the Senate chamber seemed to go completely silent.

Just parse that for a second, what Sessions is essentially saying is that he puts "faith" above "reason" when it comes to determining objective truth; a move that any legal system worth it's salt should be running a mile from. Don't forget, all the word "secular" means is equality for all religions and none when it comes to Government and Law, i.e. one of the basic pillars of the US constitution enshrined in the 1st Amendment (see below),

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

I can't see this ending well.


The latest J&M cartoon is up today; as usual it's "on-point" when it comes to the miraculous (aka. silly) things people have to convince themselves of in order to square the circle of the ghosts, ghouls, angels and gods.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

United States of Hypocrisy

There's lots of protests going on at the moment regarding Trump wishing to disallow people from several Islamic countries to enter the USA for a period of time. I find it ironic that a major youth institution inside the US religiously discriminates against at least 25% of their OWN population and no one there really seems to care a jot. It's 2017 and you still can't join the boy scouts in the USA if you aren't religious, they insist that members swear an oath to at least one of the standard portfolio of (currently worshiped) imaginary beings and refuse to allow people to swear a secular oath (as done in court rooms)... 

Imagine what would happen if boy scout leaders decided that you couldn't join if you were a Muslim...

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Tip of the iceberg?

Apparent climate problems in Spain have causes a shortage of certain vegetables this Winter; things like courgettes, lettuce and other vegetables grown above ground are having to be rationed in supermarkets around the UK. Many are commenting on the fact that these days consumers expect everything to be available 52 weeks a year, i.e. even items not in season. I fear we may need to retreat slightly in our expectations as climate change (hot and cold) impinges on traditional growing seasons in Northern Europe and elsewhere. Personally I wouldn't mind too much, I never eat much salad in the Winter months, I feel the need for more substantial fare when it's freezing outside. 

I suspect with all of the problems these days around obesity and the UK population being (on average) overweight it's not surprising that January and February spike in salad/veg consumption. Typically our household only finally gets rid of the last of the Christmas holiday food by the end of January after which we start to get back to a normal rhythm. This week I decided that I needed to lose a few pounds; normally my weight fluctuates between minimum and maximum according to (roughly) a five year cycle. To reverse the upward trend I usually crank the calorie intake down to around 1200-1400 calories per day and the exercise output up for 6 months or so in order to get back to my median range BMI score (around 80-85 kg), I reckon I should be there by July/Aug (Broccoli rationing permitting!)

Looks like I picked the wrong week to give up calories..


Explains American Republicanism perfectly...

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Stupid is as stupid does

I think this simple quote/joke posted on an office door sums up 2016 perfectly for me..

Birds of prayer?

Spotted this photo the other day; I guess if you're a Saudi Prince, need to transport 80 falcons in a hurry and money is no object then this is the obvious solution. (Not sure I'd like to share a cabin with 80 falcons, imagine if there was turbulence or someone made a meowing noise and there was a panic!)

Of course the birds could take just one dead vole with them as Emirates only allow a single piece of carrion...

Friday, February 03, 2017


Got to get me one of these...

Friday smirk

The excellent J&M on the subject of "fake news". 

I always cringe when the (more fundamentalist leaning) Christians in our group of friends bang on about how their "faith" teaches them to be "good"; Whenever the dinner conversation takes this kind of a turn, I get those "evil eyes" from my wife across the table encouraging me to restrain myself (which of course I always do) 

In my mind, perpetuating an untruth, or passing off an ancient myth as "fact", is no different from telling an outright lie. Instructing your children that you know things to be "true" that, as an evolved primate, you cannot possibly know (like the wishes of the creator of the universe) is easily on a par with "fake news". Unfortunately these observations are lost on most religious people, it seems that blind faith and indoctrination inoculates them from seeing self deception; the most simple of "truths".

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Anti-education task force..

As previously covered, Trump seems to be making some kind of unholy alliance with scary religious groups at the moment. The latest "WTF" moment for me was caused by the information that Jerry Falwell Jr. will be leading Trump’s higher education task force. For those that don't know the name, Jerry Falwell (senior) was an evangelical preacher who made a small fortune from preaching his religion to the credulous, so much so that he built himself a University (Liberty University). Now, Falwell famously blamed the 9/11 terrorist attacks on gay people so obviously wasn't the sharpest knife in the box; the only use I can imagine that he'd have for an institution of higher education would be to brainwash a new generation for his descendants (like Falwell Jr) to fleece?

Interestingly someone who attended this establishment posted some of the "science" material taught there in 2007, predictably, it's laughable and you can see a photo of it above. If you want to see a classic "Hitch-slap" for Jerry Falwell take a look at this short video..

Burn baby, burn

I came across this little exchange on Twitter the other day, all very informative until someone called "North Stand Stevie" learns the hard way that sometimes it's best to say nothing and listen for a while; 3rd degree burns, hilarious!

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Scottish poem wins NZ poetry prize..

America, aw whit ye dain?!
How could ye choose a clueless wain
Ti lead yir country? Who wid trust
A man sae vile?!
A racist, sexist eedjit
Wi a shite hairstyle?

Yet lo, ye votit (michty me!)
Ti hawn’ this walloper the key
Ti pow’r supreme, ti stert his hateful,
Cruel regime.
A cling ti hope that this is aw
Jist wan bad dream.

But naw, the nightmare has come true,
A curse upon rid, white an’ blue,
An’ those who cast oot Bernie
Must feel sitch regret
Fur thinkin’ Mrs. Clinton
Was a safer bet.

So noo we wait ti see unfold
Division an’ intolerance, cold;
A pois’nous bigotry untold
Since Hitler’s rule
As the free world’s hopes an’ dreams
Lie with this fool.

Alas, complainin’ wullnae change
The fact this diddy has free range
Ti ride roughshod ow’r human beings
That fall outside
The cretinous ideals borne of
His ugly pride.

Awch USA, we feel yir woes
An’ pour oor wee herts oot ti those
Who ken this oarange gabshite isnae
Who they chose,
But jist sit tight;
Trump’s cluelessness
Will time expose.

Fur sittin’ there beside Obama
Efter the election drama,
Trump looked like reality
Had finally hit:
Aboot the role of president
He knew Jack shit.

Poutin’, glaikit through this farce,
His mooth wis pursed up like an arse,
His Tangoed coupon glowin’ like
A skelped backside.
Despite all his bravado
Trump looked keen ti hide.

Let’s therefur no despair an’ greet,
Or see this outcome as defeat.
Let’s wait an’ watch this bampot
Flap his hawns an’ squirm
When presidential pressures
Crush him like a worm.

Hawd oan ti values you hold dear,
Don’t let this numpty bring yi fear,
His chants of hatred don’t speak fur
The human race.
Love will endure despite this
Oarange-faced disgrace.

So USA, in ma conclusion,
Know we Scots feel your confusion:
We are also chained ti those
Not of oor choosin’ .
Stand firm fur unity will break
Through Trump’s delusion.

Yes, really.

You can see the poem being read in its intended accent by the author Lorna Wallace (any relation to William I wonder?) here.. what can I say? The girl done good!

Alternative Science..

I see that Trump is attempting to muzzle scientists who work for central Government; the word has gone out that they (particularly in the EPA) shouldn't issue press releases, post on blogs or tweet etc. without "screening" by the administration. It's not clear what his motives are yet but it's not easy to think of any that could be positive. Are we about to see scientific papers authored like the one above? Are leading American climate scientists (and others) going to be reduced to sneaking around passing notes via drop-boxes and in folded newspapers, like they used to do in the Soviet Union under Stalin? Science works via cooperation and the sharing of ideas and data, I wouldn't expect a ignoramus like Trump to realise this, but, I would have thought his billionaire cronies understand the value to the economy in having a strong science base underpinning it. Let's face it, the World needs the USA to transition from fossil fuels as fast as possible and consequently needs it to lead the world in replacement technologies. I can't understand why good capitalists can't see the upside in getting 100% behind people like Elon Musk and the like, ultimately if they don't then I'm sure the Chinese or the Europeans will be glad to pick up the slack. Won't it be ironic if when the oil runs out that America has to switch it's total dependency on crude from the Middle East to a dependency on battery or hydrogen technology from China.

Pants on fire..

Here we see the European Parliament on one of the rare occasions Nigel Farage could be bothered to turn up. I suspect the reason he did was to provide a platform upon which he could kiss Donald Trumps arse (notice the nauseating Trump lapel pin) by praising him for his immigration ban. The sensible fellow behind him is the Labour MEP for London, Seb Dance, who was slapped on the wrist by the the powers that be for ridiculing Farage. I'm sure most rational people here in the UK think that he should be given some kind of award, a chocolate biscuit and a pat on the back at least!


Just leaving this check-list here... if you're wondering it's an exhibit in the Holocaust Museum.