Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Nice


The new J&M cartoon today is an homage to Kurt Vonnegut, who said (among many other things) "If God were alive today he'd have to be an Atheist" .. IMO a great author, Humanist and all-round cool-guy.

Queuing up?


I thought they were going to be "queuing up" to make trade deals with us?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The religious method


American politics these days, perhaps most politics, i.e. using the "religious method" of knowing stuff.

Blinkered leaders


Fixated on the wrong things



Looks like the people in Texas have had to re-organise their weather maps to accommodate the new levels of rainfall experienced around Houston over the last few days, this should be worrying for Governments and those that they represent around the world. But, as usual in Human affairs, we seem to be more fixated (via our media) on things like who won the fight at the weekend or sabre waving because an infantile dictator fired a rocket into the sea. Talk about fiddling while Rome burns.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Critters


I discovered this little beauty lurking in the undergrowth at the house we were staying in France last week. We were all perplexed about what species of spider it could be, no one having seen anything like it before. Turns out that it's a Wasp Spider (for obvious reasons) and lives in North African and Southern/Central Europe, it's also sometimes seen in the Southern parts of the UK. As our planet warms though it would seem likely that the range of this species will spread as higher average temperatures move Northwards.

The other noticeable critters that lived around the house were hornets, these large wasp-like creatures seemed to perform regular hunting raids at dusk (you could set your watch by it) when it sounded rather reminiscent of a squadron of Lancaster bombers flying in. Quite intimidating for the mammals eating cheese and drinking wine a few meters away, but after a few visits it became clear that these beasties weren't in the slightest interested in us, however, all the other moths and bugs gathering around the lights seemed to be just the ticket for a light "hornet-supper".

Special pleading


Special pleading as cartooned by J&M this week is something that almost all religious people I've ever met seem happy to do to varying degrees. Having strongly held beliefs based on "faith" rather than reason is almost guaranteed to lead to division and conflict, it's an obvious problem since there's no reliable mechanism to discover which side represents the truth!

French wine


Delightful wine discovery in France on Thursday evening, we went out for a meal with the friends we were staying with and I chose a wild-card from Corbieres I had never tried this before and had never thought that region particularly memorable but this wine was a real cracker. Very young and grippy, the tannin's particularly mouth puckering but the raw fruit, dense texture and purple colour of the wine utterly compelling with the regional French cuisine. Will need to see if I can find some for sale, it was not an expensive wine, only around 18 Euro's in the restaurant, so I expect this would be between 8 and 10 pounds a bottle retail here in the UK. Just goes to show, occasionally you have speculate to accumulate!

Pleasure


One of my favourite things in the whole world. Just back from a few days holiday with friends near Toulouse in France, I'm pleased to report that despite Brexit the weather, wine and cheese remain up to standard, although, for cheese aficionados out there the orange one nearest the camera is in fact Dutch and not French, I guess you can't have everything :) The wine pictured is from Bordeaux, Chateau Cantemerle and was outstanding for a relatively poor vintage (2012) I reckon this one would benefit from another 5 years in the bottle. Since there were a few of us present we quickly dispatched the claret and moved onto something much more local to where we were staying.

 

Probably one of the best examples of Madiran today; Chateau Montus, highly grippy, tannic red wine with a core of black fruits made from Tannat grapes and perhaps a little Cabernet or Merlot. The wine has certainly seen a lot of oak and is really "big" flavour-wise, nothing subtle here, suggesting that perhaps a little longer is required for things to mellow out in the bottle a bit. Very good now however, if you like this kind of punchy "Malbec'esc" style with food and good friends.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Satire


Charlie's back, and "a point" as usual

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Tuesday titter


A classic "dad joke" if ever I saw one :)

Perspective


My favourite eclipse picture from yesterday; it show the usual progression of the moon across the face of the Sun but if you look closely you can also see the ISS (International Space Station) contrasted against the yellow background. An amazing picture, the ISS is 200 miles away, the moon 200,000 and the Sun 9 million, a lesson in perspective.

Monday, August 21, 2017

American Eclipse


Very envious of our American cousins today; total solar eclipse travelling smack bang across the middle of their continent, I still haven't seen one (apart from behind UK clouds!) yet. Next total eclipse over the UK will be 2090 so I reckon I'll need to get on a plane if I want to see one before I kick the bucket!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Saturday smile II


Saturday smile


Sometimes the best solutions are the simplest ones ... 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday smirk


Apparently chameleons are fun because they grab anything you give them... :)

Un-Scholarly scholars


Here's a joke, the hopelessly abused term "Islamic scholar" 

Unfortunately hucksters like the one pictured above continue to influence and pollute the minds of young people in the Islamic world (a quick search on YouTube will illustrate my point).

Predictably, the thuggish and theocratic regime of Saudi Arabia has given this scam artist awards and citizenship, I assume because of his support for their particular brand of mythology. For the rest of humanity it's perfectly obvious that his true calling is no more than the usual meme-making survival strategy of all religions, with a specialism in the most despicable part, i.e. "lying to children". All of this adulation for someone who has an outstanding arrest warrant in his native land of India. I guess in some religious circles this kind of talent and the behaviour it engenders is considered de rigeur?

Friday philosophy


The insightful XKCD beautifully illuminating human psychology with stick figures (as usual) It's an interesting point, many people that don't have a scientific bent or simply aren't interested in it, often think that science is cold, boring and above all else it's constituents lack emotion; in my experience this couldn't be further from the truth. Most science practitioners and fans I've ever known are by far the most energetic, inquisitive and imaginative people I've had the pleasure of knowing. Of course it's never wise to generalise (but I will) on the other side of the house quite a few of the so called "artsy" people I've known have been lovely in their own ways too but (frankly) a little self-obsessed. Even so, truth be told, it wouldn't be any fun if we were all the same would it..

When the fat lady sings (i.e. biologically) we share many more similarities than we have differences regardless of any cultural or environmental influences, it's a shame a majority of people (still) feel it necessary to invent concepts like religions, race, class, nationalism etc. that continue to violently divide us.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Intolerance


Nice little cartoon illustrating the problem with intolerance and why it should be resisted at all costs. A topic highly relevant to the current "fake moral-equivalence" and "is it OK to punch a Nazi" predicament we find playing out in Charlottesville, USA and elsewhere in the world.

Retardation


New cartoon from the excellent J&M ; this time it's talking about the retarding effect of religions on people, the way in which being enslaved to ancient ideas is problematic and leads to the fragmentation of societies and almost inevitable conflict. Of course religion isn't the only reason that societies fracture, sometimes it's pure tribalism, despotism or simply squabbles over resources, but who has the biggest and best imaginary friend is probably the most prevalent and certainly the least worthy reason.

I was watching a programme on TV last night about the events surrounding partition in India in 1947, it's a subject I know little about as it's not really taught as history here or even discussed much. It was incredible to learn that roughly a million people lost their lives simply because of their religious differences as nearly 15 million people scrambled across newly created borders to escape sectarian violence. The idea of the program was to follow the stories of a handful of UK born people of Indian heritage who wanted to discover what happened to their own families at that time, each person was either Hindu, Muslim or Sikh. 

The stories were pretty much identical, what were fairly harmonious societies in different parts of the country, where people of different religions lived side by side and got on, disintegrated into mob violence and genocide along purely religious lines. It's interesting to note that pretty much all other factors were identical, i.e. wealth, biology, language, geography etc. the people that were slaughtering each other were effectively the same, apart from, the mythology that they were indoctrinated with as children. If you ever wanted an example of why religion combined with stultifying ignorance is bad for human beings then the partition of India is an excellent case-study. Some of the people who witnessed events first-hand were interviewed, quite incredibly the response of many was simply to shrug and say "it was God's will". There's not much hope for humanity when vast numbers of people remain enslaved to fantasy like this, the saddest thing is that the stupidity of insisting that morality and ethics should be eternally locked onto ancient myths continues to this day in both India and Pakistan.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Alt-intelligence


Been following the news from the USA with increasing alarm over the last week or so. It seems that not only have many Americans forgotten what those with humanist morality on their side were fighting for in their civil war, but also what their grand-parents fought and died for in Europe just 75 odd years ago. 

As someone once said, "those that cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it". Comparing lard-arsed, gun-toting, gas-guzzling racist slobs with those that oppose them is ridiculous, it's like demonizing fire-fighters for making burning buildings wet! False equivalence is fast becoming the butt-covering (and you need a lot of it to cover those butts!) mantra of the right, let's hope Americans who have read more than just one book gain the political ascendancy again very soon.

Anti-social media


I feel an idea coming on..

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Backlash


I posted about the Google memo scandal a few days ago, the backlash has started, many anti-Google posters and notices have sprung up around Silicon valley, free speech is a potent force against injustice and stupidity. You can certainly understand why the powerful of the day, whether it be religions, governments or companies, hate it so much.

Not bitter


Whilst in London yesterday I couldn't resist dropping into a craft beer bar (Charlotte Street) to have a look at what was on. I only had time for a swift pint so picked something I wouldn't normally choose. A sour beer from a brewery down in Sussex. The beer was called "Saison l'ete" or Summer Saison and the brewery called "Burning Sky". Saison beers are essentially ales or pale ales that have a particular kind of bacteria added to them during fermentation that essentially turns them sour, it's not a lemon kind of sour more a yogurt kind of sour (I'm not doing it justice) it's quite a complex set of flavours and I can imagine not to everyone's taste. I must say I wasn't overly impressed to begin with but like a lot of things in this life, after a few sips it was growing on me, after a whole pint I could have easily drank another. Unfortunately I didn't have time as my Son was eager to visit a shop on Percy Street that specialized in fancy sneakers, it was an impressive shop but what blew me away was that quite a lot of the shoes on display there were priced at over £1,000 pounds, yes you read that right, a thousand quid! Apparently the leading shoe companies like Nike, Adidas etc. release limited edition shoes that are often endorsed by rappers and other celebrities, these small batches become highly sought after and are collected by enthusiasts, such a diverse and multi-layered world we live in, I learn something new every day!

Up the smoke


Spent a great day in London with the family yesterday, visited the museums, big lunch, shopping and to cap it all we watched Dunkirk at the IMAX in Leicester square. WOW what a movie, really enjoyed it, gripping from start to finish (even though we all know the ending!) very cleverly put together, overlapping of timelines and observations from different characters' perspectives; the Supermarine Spitfires were magnificent. Thoroughly recommended if you get a chance to see it on the big screen!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Foolish senses


So here's an optical illusion that had me going for a while.. if you stare at this seemingly straightforward set of square "door-panel" patterns for long enough you eventually start to see circles! It's true! The trick is to stare at the horizontal divides between the squares - spooky..


Next we have some wonky blue lines with patterns in them.. or so you think. But look at this image from the side and you realise that the blue lines are in fact parallel! NO WAY! It's amazing how easily our senses are fooled.

Don't be evil (unless it's PC)


Last week it emerged that a Google engineer had sent an email around (representing his personal opinion) discussing the differences between men and women, exploring the fact that even today the majority of engineering jobs in Silicon valley are occupied by males rather than females. The memo was basically sent as a set of counter arguments to some of the gender diversity policies being implemented within the company and pointed out some of the differences between the sexes and surmised that (most) women just don't want to do the same kinds of jobs as men. The email was jumped on by the "PC/Feminist brigade" and the author derided and hounded via social media. We learn this week that Google have ended up actually firing him (WTF!)

There are lot's of problems with this story, the more you look into it, the more it stinks. Having read the document in full, I conclude that it's a thoughtful, well-researched opinion piece that in no way promotes or advocates sexism. It's not just me that thinks that, many social commentators have chipped in and supported the engineer and his right to free-speech. The bottom line is that he got the science right, men are indeed different from women (no shit Sherlock!) and tend to have different interests, goals and methods, HOWEVER, this isn't the same thing as discrimination. 

Basically Google just fired someone for telling the truth!

It's a screwed up world when feminists can hound someone like this for an opinion that essentially concurs with scientific truth, and yet remain silent on cases of real sexism. You don't hear people screaming sexism about the fact that only 3% of garbage collectors working at Google are female and yet the mainstream (left/liberal) media constantly moans about the fact that there aren't enough Technology company CEO's who are female. Then we have the third world, coincidentally the BBC ran a story just today about a change in the law in Nepal, the Government there have finally made it illegal to banish menstruating Women to huts at the outskirts of the village! I don't see much feminist condemnation of real sexism like that in mainstream or social-media outlets. 

We can all see the problem with this picture, call it "culture" or call it "religion" and sexism seems to get a free pass however when you challenge irrational feminist ideology with actual "facts" then all hell breaks loose. What this engineer should have done is to claim that his (factual) opinions were his deeply felt religious beliefs and none of these feminazis would have gone within a mile of it.

Hobson


See if you can spot the over-compensating, ego-maniacal, trigger-happy, wanker - tricky isn't it.

Cakes & plates


Another compelling Brexit analogy, this one's a bit "technical"...

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Bird in a bag


J&M covering the little known advantages of Islamic feminism..

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Balding in Lyme


My Son and I strolling down the high-street in Lyme Regis a couple of weekends ago; two bothersome things... a) pretty soon he'll be as tall as me and b) definite bald spot appearing on the back of the old bonce! (no wonder those mosquitoes had a field day the other evening..!)

BTW. If there was a league table of the most "English" towns then Lyme must surely be in the premiership?

Bloodsuckers part II


The picture above shows a group of Malaysian atheists enjoying a recent get-together in KL to celebrate their activities, such as, raising money for disaster victims in the Philippines. Looks harmless enough (actually it looks like a nice group of people) but apparently the Malaysian Government have taken a very different view. The thought police within that state have become suspicious that some of the people in this group may have been Muslims, and if that's true then they must be punished. 

In theory, Malaysia has freedom of religion, but there are different rules for Muslims and it's very difficult for people of that faith to de-convert to Atheism (or any other religion), like the mosquitoes in my previous post, it would seem that once the Malaysian version of Islam has it's blood-sucking mouth parts stuck into you then it's difficult to escape without them extracting their pound of flesh. All of this because a handful of Atheists wanted to hangout together and enjoy some like-minded company.

It seems hard to believe that this kind of thing goes on in the 21st century; I guess Malaysia is another country that I have to cross off my list, shame, I really love the (regular) people and the food from that region. Atheists in the (free) world will need to watch out for these guys now, hopefully the international media attention will go some way to helping their cause and ensuring they don't "disappear" into the Malaysian legal system for the crime of "thinking differently".

Monday, August 07, 2017

Bloodsuckers


Spent a lovely evening celebrating the birthday of two good friends last Saturday, the gazebo assembled without a hitch and the wine flowed, but unfortunately so did our blood! The venue for the event featured a large pond that looked great on the postcard, but was a bit on the "swampy" side. This meant that as soon as dusk fell the mosquito hoards descended en-mass, it was impossible to avoid them. I'm sitting in the office today and my scalp feels like a pin-cushion, I even think I was bitten through my (long sleeved) shirt, having several very itchy lumps up and down both arms!

It's really fascinating (and somewhat annoying) to consider how evolution has sculpted these insects to prey on us mammals, providing them with all the equipment and anaesthetic chemicals necessary to inject hypodermic mouth-parts through our skin into the capillaries beneath, extract blood, insert bacteria and then fly off with us being aware of a thing (until the next day of course!) This kind of biological complexity is often cited by our creationist brothers and sisters as evidence for their particular "god", of course since Darwin, any thinking person knows this to be bunkum but if you think about it, the existence of such fiendishly efficient bacteria spreading creatures begs a somewhat more challenging question for them...  

Why would an all-loving God create a planet and a biosphere just for Human beings then put disease spreading biting insects in it too? 

Sounds more like evidence for the absence of such a being to me, regardless, the genetic drift of such critters seems quite sufficient to explain the lumps on my head this morning for me, God or no God, praise the Lord but pass the "Deet"!!

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Past it


Watching the Athletics last night, sad to see Usain Bolt just losing out to Justin Gatlin in the 100 m final, is this the end of an era we ask? 

Still, even if Bolt never wins another race, his performances will remain legendary. The list above shows the fastest 100 m runs in history with the athletes who have been caught taking drugs crossed out, says it all really; I doubt if I'll see another like him in my lifetime.

Friday, August 04, 2017

That Friday feeling...


2:30 sounds good to me!

Visualisation


Whilst on the subject of climate change, here's average temperature data organised by country over time; as you can see the trend over this period (1900-2016) is for significant warming. Someone should sit down and explain this to US and UK politicians who stubbornly hold onto the parochial view that a) there is no significant climate change and b) even if there is it's not man made.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Phew, what a scorcher


We love to moan about the weather here in the UK, this last couple of weeks has been particularly poor in terms of rain (rather than sunshine) but if we zoom out a bit and look at averages world-wide we see a somewhat different picture. This chart shows the number of record-breaking (temperature-wise) years there's been in recent decades (going back to the 1880's) as anyone can see the frequency of records for the hottest average temperatures is becoming worse (i.e. hotter) and more frequent the closer we get to the current day. 

Sometimes I do worry about the future well-being of my children and grandchildren (as I'm sure most people do), issues around ISIS and North Korea fade into insignificance if these trend continue, climate change should be (by far) the biggest source of concern for thinking people today.

Happy with your wash?



You would have thought that being the recipients of a "special" message from the creator of the universe and the promise of eternal bliss that they'd be as happy as Larry, but apparently not, many don't seem content until YOU believe it too! 

The Christian lady in the photo above is an NHS worker who was recently disciplined for using her position to proselytize her religion to colleagues. She denied the charge and claimed "religious discrimination", which as we know, is often a reaction that religious people have to not getting their own way. This feeling of indignation is based on hundreds of years of privilege and positive discrimination in this land, which many believe should continue, "this is a Christian country after all" you hear them claim. The complainant in this case claimed harassment and bullying, ultimately an industrial tribunal found Victoria Wasteney (above) guilty of gross misconduct, suspending her for 9 months. Many patients at the Trust where she worked are vulnerable people with mental health conditions and several work colleagues expressed concerns about Wasteney's behaviour and that of her church.

Of course, many people (including me) are quite happy to discuss and debate religious topics at work, just as we would political, sport, music or indeed any other field of interest that might come up. But I've never come across anyone who exploited their position to proselytize or harass (either for or against). When you occupy a position of seniority care and humility is required, however, I believe that if challenged, anyone should feel free to offer robust arguments for or against the various theistic positions. In my experience, most religious people (arguing for) find this approach difficult to deal with, they often seem totally unaware of the depth and breadth of the arguments against their position and are surprised, if not slightly shocked, when exposed to them in a coherent way. Whilst I would never try to convince someone to change their conviction (especially at work), I wouldn't hesitate (if invited) to make the strength of the atheistic/rational position clear, if nothing else I find it helps engender respect for the ideas if not the people that hold them, something religious people don't seen to get much from their books and churches.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017