Saturday, July 29, 2017

Nothing to see here..

Trying to think of something to post today, but I'm feeling particularly lethargic so here's an amusing sign I spotted the other day, says it perfectly.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Friday smirk

Couldn't resist a little "rapture" humour on a rainy Friday afternoon from the wonderful xkcd, anyway, it's about time we had another end-of-the-world scare isn't it?

Faith in faith

The subject of "faith schools" is in the news again lately, our current Prime Minister is keen on them, being an intelligent vicar's daughter and a practising Christian she will be well aware of the benefits and  power of childhood indoctrination. Advocates of these kinds of schools nearly always trot out the same old arguments when these matters are debated, i.e. that existing faith schools out-perform non-faith schools so therefore detractors are simply jealous and should shut-up, certainly a very religiously stereotypical attitude.

The truth of the situation, as always, is slightly more complex. Most faith schools have some kind of selection process and any school that selects it's pupils will have some advantages over those that do not and will therefore create a selection pressure of their own, regardless of the particular flavour of cult they choose to indoctrinate the children with. The whole thing becomes a downward spiral of selection and division leading to absurd situations where people with resources physically move house and/or adopt the particular faith just to get their kids into a school that is perceived to be good. In addition to this it seems a matter of simple logic that separating children on the basis of the religion of their parents is inherently divisive, we wouldn't dream of doing it on the basis of politics or skin colour, so if it's not about indoctrination then what is it really about?

I would much prefer it if learning was a purely secular endeavour, I have no problem with kids learning about different religions (in fact I would insist on it) but denying children the advantages of properly experiencing and mixing with their peers and reaping the benefits of diversity seems to be bordering on the abusive and/or paranoid to me.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Still feel that way..

Pretty much sums up how I (still) feel about Brexit..

Collecting wine

One of the great things about collecting wine over many years is that occasionally you forget what you bought and re-discover it years later. This happened to me today as I was having a clear out of old boxes and rubbish from the room I use as a cellar and I discovered a large format bottle that I'd completely forgotten about. I bought it in an auction back in 2003 and it's from a chateau in Bordeaux (the St. Estephe region) called Chateau de Pez, the vintage is 1975! The format is an Imperial which is 8 standard bottles in one, so pretty big!

Now this isn't one of those wines that's worth thousands or anything, I seem to recall only paying around a hundred quid for it back in 2003, for me it's more about the idea of drinking a wine this old (I was 13 years old when it was made) and seeing what it tastes like (of course there's some good probability that it's vinegar by now) Hopefully it will be a complex, smooth and wonderful old claret that I can enjoy with friends and good conversation, but now my problem is finding enough friends to consume such a large bottle (it won't last more than one sitting) As fortune would have it, there's one friend who's having a "big" birthday in a few weeks, he might just provide the opportunity I'm looking for, if so I'll let you know if it was brilliant or just balsamic.


One for the geologists among you.... (interesting "rock" formation?)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Good reasons

New J&M - reason is the good reason to read it..

Bad press

Brilliant - I'm sensing a whole new kind of advertising emerging here.. :)

Room with a view

I think this is possibly the best "breakfast view" I've seen from a hotel restaurant window, it's from our Summer holiday in Tuscany this year and is taken from the hotel we were staying in at the hilltop village of San Gimignano (about an hour south of Florence) We hadn't even realised this particular hotel even had a nice view having booked it because it was cheap and also closest to the village car-park (less distance to lug the suitcases etc.) All the streets there are traffic free so if you're staying in the village itself you have to transport your own bags to where you're staying (no small feat with my lot!)

PS. Only snapped with an iPhone through a window, even better in reality.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


J&M on the money again (this guy is GOOD!) I always find it amusing to listen to the "moderate" and well-educated Christians and Muslims scoff and scorn at Atheists who continue to point out how ridiculous these beliefs are but totally ignore the actual numbers of their brethren (42% of Americans believe in the garden of Eden story) who categorically believe such things; the dissonance seems not to phase them one bit (I guess they're used to it?)

Monday, July 24, 2017

Homage to Galileo

Whilst in Tuscany (Florence) I felt obliged to perform a little scientific pilgrimage to the final resting place of Galileo Galilei (who Pisa airport is now named after) Here is his tomb in all it's splendor. I'm not sure why it's quite this splendid or indeed why it's in the famous church that it is since he had such a public falling out with the Catholic Church but there we are, I guess when it comes to that organisation even bad publicity is somehow turned into cash. Interestingly, in the same church I found a little side chapel (built by the Medici family) that was the initial tomb of the great man. I know there's a linkage between the scientist and this super-rich dynasty but I hadn't perhaps realised the strength of it (must do some Googling on the subject) without Medici support I doubt Galileo had the political clout or required degree of fame (even though he was infamous) to have his bones put in such a vain-glorious building. I was also surprised to see that the corner of the nave Galileo inhabits has now been put aside for "scientists", Fermi and Marconi also had plaques, not sure if they were actually buried there though. Amusingly on the opposite side of the room there's a row of "artists" tombs, Dante (which is empty) and Michelangelo etc. is this a case of divide and conquer?

His original tomb is shown in the photo above, as you can see it's not as ostentatious as the one he's got now, I guess in the end it's not about what you know, but who you know.

PS. I also visited the Galileo Museum in Florence, well worth an hour or two.

Berkeley berks

I see that Richard Dawkins (Atheist in Chief) has been "de-platformed" from speaking at Berkeley University (wherever that is?) after the radio program sponsoring a lecture/talk discovered that he's an Atheist and in the past has said some horrifically obscene and abusive things about Islam. Apparently, in "The God Delusion" book back in 2006 (you'd have thought they'd have guessed his position just from the title) Dawkins said that Islam isn't true and in politicized form (Islamism) represents a dangerous set of ideas. You may disagree, as is your right, but if you do it's likely that you've had your head firmly lodged up your bum for the last 10-20 years, or possibly even 1400.

Now, I'm not going to get on any high-horses about free-speech or what constitutes abusive talk, the lefties at Berkeley are entitled to do whatever they like on their own campus, including making themselves look like twits, but I will offer sympathy to those that brought tickets expecting to listen to one of the worlds leading scientific and atheistic writers. Ironically, at the home of the "free speech movement" they seem to have forgotten two important principals that back in the day they supposedly championed. Firstly the right of people to HEAR views and positions that may oppose their own and secondly, the importance of treating ALL IDEAS equally, i.e. able to be critiqued. 

Dawkins has said equally negative things about every religion I can think of at some point or other, so why the special treatment for Islam? For those that know the origin of the English rhyming slang "berk" it seems as though over the bay they're trying their hardest to look like a bunch of them.

First day back

That first day back to work after your Summer holiday feeling..

Sunday, July 23, 2017


Italian wines

As you can probably guess I've been on holiday this last couple of weeks in Italy (Tuscany), had some top quality R&R with the family and also sampled some of the great wines of the region, a couple of new ones and some old favourites, here are my notes. 

First off (above) we have Flaccianello Della Pieve, made from 100% Sangiovese grapes plus some loving care and attention including 18 months in new oak barrels, an absolute belter! As a side note we drank this beauty in a wine shop slash restaurant in Florence where you could wander around the shelves and pick something nice then have it with dinner for no more than the normal retail ticket price - what a brilliant idea, shame there are no such places in the UK (or at least they're as rare as hen's teeth). It means wine lovers can actually afford to drink decent bottles of wine without the obligatory 2-3 X price mark up for the pleasure of having the bottle opened for you. This bottle was just under 60 Euro's, in a UK restaurant you would pay at least £120 for the exact same thing, probably more, quite sobering.

Next, Il Poggione, a classic Brunello di Montalcino made from the same grape as the previous wine but totally different in character, really classy and full bodied with spice and tobacco under-tones and a great life ahead of it. Great value for money in a restaurant in Florence, only 50 Euros with a retail price in the UK of around £50-60, again the absence of a ridiculous mark-up was refreshing, and the food was excellent too. Note the home-made limoncello in the plastic bottle straight out of the freezer in the background, things got a bit messy after this.

Next we have an old favourite, Tignanello from the Antinori estate; a classic "Super Tuscan" wine that blends the Italian grape Sangiovese with more "international" varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. A super wine, bursting with flavours of red and black berries, vanilla, chocolate with hints of mint and coffee on the finish. Another stunning price too; back home you'd pay at least £200 for this in a London restaurant but in a rustic hotel in San Gimignano it sets you back less than 80 Euro's I couldn't resist (even though it was the most expensive wine on their list!)

Now a wild-card. Italy isn't normally associated with the Syrah grape, it's more at home in Australia (where it's called Shiraz) or the Northern Rhone in France but this one came the coastal region of Tuscany called Bolgheri. Not expensive (around 20 Euro's in a restaurant in Chianti) but a great value wine, plum and violet with super acidity, easy to drink with Italian staples like Ravioli or Spaghetti with meat and tomato sauce; unfortunately, probably impossible to get in the UK.

Lastly a new wine for me, Il Bruciato, again from the Antinori estate and again from Bolgheri, but this time a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah (65/20/15%) this one was a little more pricey at around 30 Euro in a restaurant in San Gimignano, but a real surprise. I was expecting a rather ordinary commercial (large production) wine but this was really good; nice vanilla/oak, red berries, good balance and a great finish with some spice notes, delightful with steak and cannellini beans. The production of this wine is large so it's easily obtainable in the UK, around £22 in Waitrose if you're that way inclined!

In summary a fine-wine extravaganza, super Italian wines paired with splendid food; what more can you ask for?

Monday, July 10, 2017

Proudly secular

Many people get confused about what a properly "secular" state should look like (the UK is not one BTW) It's not about promoting or establishing the religion of the majority, it's about promoting (or persecuting) NONE by maintaining a separation of state machinery and religions (or lack of) so that theocracy or atheistic totalitarianism becomes impossible.

An arm and a leg

Another great Brexit analogy I couldn't resist..


(only some people believe these things)

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Bluffing for beginners

Apparently God doesn't approve of gluten-free bread for use in Catholic rituals. According to official Catholic instruction, bread used to celebrate the Eucharist can be "low gluten" but must contain enough protein in the wheat to make it without additives. One wonders how the bronze age goat herds who wrote the scripture upon which their religion is based, knew about Gluten and wheat proteins sufficiently to under-pin Catholic dogma, but apparently, they did! Or at least the current day (scientifically educated) Catholics are sufficiently good bluffers to make it seem as though their prescriptions regarding the gluten content of communion bread are sufficient and credible enough to please the creator of the universe, and importantly, are in some way any more credible than mere random cherry-picking or as I like to put it, "making shit up as you go". 

The rest of us non-Catholic primates can see right though this nonsense of course. We know that the only truly holy bread substitute is brioche, with apricot jam and unsalted butter, ideally served with a nice Chianti or failing that, Cotes du Rhone, at a push.

Darwin awards

I'm put in mind of this famous quote whenever I hear about the "running of the bulls" in Pamplona, Spain - what is it about jocks and their fascination with male cows?

A real smoothie

In the spirit of supporting my local economy I bought a couple of bottles of the new beer from Siren Craft Brew (based just up the road from me in Finchampstead, Berks.) It's called "Comfortable Silence" and is made in a fruity, sweet style with tons of hops, lactose and with hardly any bitterness at all; it's a real fruit bomb of a beer. They also added peaches, apricots and sweet cherries to the mix giving a tremendous fruit smoothie feel to it; highly recommended.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Mr Angry of Mayfair..

Superb letter in the FT; surely one of the more astute commentaries on the whole Brexit fiasco.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Mid-week musings

If you follow the news these days I reckon you'd be quite justified in being seriously concerned about the health of certain Western governments, particularly in the US and the UK. It's like some cosmic force has slammed the bus we're all travelling in into reverse and is pressing down hard on the accelerator without once looking in the rear-view mirror.

In the UK we have Brexit, May and the DUP and to top all that, the revelation yesterday, that one of the main "vote leave" campaign leaders is now saying that leaving the EU might be a big mistake! At least we agree on that point. In America things aren't that much better, we have Trump narrating a barely coherent stream of narcissistic consciousness, mixed with highly sensitive international policy matters on social media platforms like Twitter! All rounded off by Syria and Putin with a dash of nuclear holocaust fancying Asian dictators with their pudgy little fingers on the big red button.

Ho hum..

Reasonable Doubt

I feel for Jesus in this J&M cartoon, it's like most conversations you have with Theists, i.e impermeable to reasonable doubt.

Monday, July 03, 2017