Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Awkward "British" moments

I think I experienced a archetypal "British moment" the other day.. 

I was out on my daily lunchtime walk following my normal route which is a loop of about five kilometers. I was plodding along at my usual pace when I noticed a chap on the other side of the road, he didn't notice me. Suddenly in my peripheral view I saw him cross the road and essentially only notice me once he was committed, his pace placed him on my side of the road only inches away from me. Now, this shouldn't be any kind of problem but now we had two blokes walking along a narrow pavement shoulder to shoulder at exactly the same speed, neither one wanting to make eye-contact or invoking the possibility of engaging in conversation, it felt like an outdoor tube-train moment! 

The apparent solution precipitated-out in both our minds simultaneously, walk-faster!

The outcome of these thoughts was comical, we both gradually accelerated, to a bystander it must have looked like the final straight of the Olympic 20 kilometer race-walk. Just before breaking into a jog I think we both finally realised our error, the solution miraculously materialized via a convenient side-road, which I took, breathing a sigh of relief in the process.

It's a funny old game is this "being British"...


You have to ask yourself, how difficult should it be for an all-powerful, universe-creating, super-being that can read all our minds simultaneously, to simply communicate with a few primates clearly and unambiguously, not rocket science you'd-a-thought..

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Typical commute

Well, the "snowpocalypse" finally caught up with me. I was in the City (London) today and saw the streets quickly dusted with the white stuff (I mean snow, not the normal white-powder city-folk get "dusted with") Luckily it had disappeared by the time I left but, judging from the performance of the railway system, you wouldn't have thought so. It was one of those days on the tracks, my outbound train was "cancelled" (aka an hour late) then the tube line I needed had a power failure and then my home-bound train from Paddington was 20 minutes late and rammed to the gunnels - lovely. I'm so glad I don't have to commute every day.

Monday, February 26, 2018

To snow or not to snow..

Still no sign of the snow-apocalypse here in Berkshire...

Follow the bear

Some companies are agile, others less so. My local craft beer brewery "Siren" is one of the agile ones. They're very good at leveraging social media and reading the zeitgeist when it comes to naming their products and promoting them to a customer base that could probably be labelled "East-London Hipster" and therefore by definition, around 26-35 and highly social-media savvy. The image above shows their latest beer. As you can see it's a pretty topical name. 

If you'd said, even as recently as 10 years ago, that any brewery could have created a brand new beer and the marketing materials to go with it, having named it after a Winter storm that hadn't even arrived yet, I think people would have said that's too difficult and highly-unlikely. When I think back to the time when big brewery firms like Green King, Fullers and Courage (et al) ruled the roost and we inhabited a world where drinks brands and products didn't change at all from one decade to the next this kind of thing feels really refreshing (in more ways than one!). The advances required to make that possible in terms of marketing, production and supply-chain not to mention meteorology in the last few years have (surprisingly) made the world of beer production quite an agile kind of place to be.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Friday Smirk

... and you thought you were having a bad day

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


New J&M today, illustrating the pure misogyny present at the core of the Abrahamic religions. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Atheist dating?

We all know this would never happen of course, proper Science geeks would be far too insecure to speed-date :0

Monday, February 19, 2018

Psychopathic tendencies

Atheist pig has a thing or two to say about some people's assertions re. the characteristics of their God and the mass-shootings of innocent people by psychopaths (also presumably made in his image?)

Not my school

Following the school shooting in Florida last week there's been a lot of banter on the inter-webs between the usual polarised factions. On the (soft) right we have the "thoughts and prayers" brigade, some of whom are well meaning but as a group are totally impotent (because praying doesn't work). On the (soft) left we have the "whole world is going to hell in a hand-basket" brigade who are incandescent with rage but lack the political-clout and organisational competence to get anything done. Both sides have positions based on fallacies, prayer is demonstrably pointless and from the point of view of violence we live in the most peaceful times there have ever been. However, it should be trivial to make an argument that there shouldn't even be a single school shooting, let alone one a week. There is simply no need to exaggerate or make-up anything to make the case for gun controls.

Then we have the religious (hard) right who want to conflate all kinds of mindless God-bothering into the mix (see tee-shirt above), this is a political tactic and cynical exploitation of a tragedy but as we all know, these guys only seem to care about kids before they're born. I saw this slogan and it amused me to think that these people believe their God is so weak that he's constrained by the US constitution's separation of Church and State in the case of schools, and yet, is unable to prevent kids being molested in churches by priests where one assumes he most certainly IS allowed to operate? Make your mind up Christians, is your deity omnipotent or not? To the rest of us it seems like bad stuff happens to good people all the time, just like you'd expect it to if Yahweh didn't exist at all. So he is either impotent or capricious (take your pick) or, if you don't fancy either of those choices, non-existent (which is most probable).

In Britain we have a Government who seem hell-bent on reintroducing religious segregation into our schools (because that worked so well in places like Northern-Ireland) The Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, is planning to scrap the 50% cap on faith-school admissions which has until now prevented such schools selecting their entire intake based on the religion of the parents of the children. This kind of tribal thinking will lead to disaster, it always has; we'll see how long it now takes before some moon-faced, smug, Conservative Christian appears on our screens telling us how good faith-schools are at drilling their constituents to pass exams and the lunacy-cycle will be complete.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Friday Smirk

Not often you see a David Hume/Philosophy cartoon, happy Friday!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Slaughter-town USA

Another day, another slaughter of innocent school children in the richest country on the planet. A country that has the singular misfortune of being mostly full of people who care more about machismo than kid's lives, you couldn't make it up.

Conversion therapy

One of the country’s leading gay activists has called for an increase in the use of a controversial conversion therapy to try and ‘cure’ Christians of their gay obsessions.

“Christianity is a fundamental danger to the well-being of society,” said Simon Williams, a gay anti-Christian campaigner.

“To have a group of people so obsessed with what other people do with their genitals is, frankly, scary and just plain weird.

“Now, yes, I accept that their Bible actually has very little to say about sexual behaviour, but Christianity seems to have moved so far away from those teachings that now it’s primary reason to exist is to be angry about what other people do with their genitals.

“Can you imagine bringing up children in that sort of environment? It simply can’t be healthy.”

Mr Williams went on to describe the nature of the conversion therapy.

“Well, we start gently with just showing the Christian videos of people happily chatting normally and not being angry about the sex that other people are having. Then we say words like ‘homosexual,’ ‘oral,’ and ‘girl on girl cosplay,’ and the subject is taught ways to not spend the rest of the day unhealthily fixating on the topic."

“Finally, the subject goes out for a drink with a homosexual and if they make it through the evening without once thinking about that person engaging in acts with another gay person, then they’re cured.”

Although the majority of the population are skeptical about the morality of so-called conversion therapy, if it’ll stop Christians endlessly banging on about homosexuals, people seem perfectly happy for it to be used.

*Idea stolen from the wonderful "News Thump"..

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Unreliable meters

The real shocker is that most religious people can't even see the irony..

Consumer holiday

Happy Valentines day!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Darwin day

Happy Darwin-day (for yesterday) - looks like I'm late to the party, hopefully I won't win the award..

Monday, February 12, 2018

Something to do..

Read an interesting article today about crypto-currencies. Apparently the appetite for them in certain circles is such these days that the power being planned to be used by massive data-centres feeding off of the (relatively) cheap geothermal energy supplies in Iceland exceeds that needed to heat the houses of the population (and it's not usually warm in Iceland - the clue is in the name). Many people I talk to about Bitcoin and other digital currencies based on blockchain technology don't seem to have the first clue about them, but in reality the principal of something simply being worth what someone is willing to pay for it is as old as the hills, digital or otherwise (think the fiver in your pocket, which isn't intrinsically worth anything either!) 

It's all about trust. The point about the blockchain is simply that this new technology provides a mechanism for everyone to maintain a digital ledger of all (yes all!) transactions world-wide and therefore balances that isn't "owned" by any single organisation or Government (i.e. like a central-bank) meaning that punters avoid having to pay a transaction-fee to anyone when you buy things, and, it's also possible to remain much more anonymous than if you had to open a normal bank account with your utility bills and passport etc. This aspect of anonymity makes digital currencies attractive to criminals but then again, what's new, criminals are inherently attracted to things that make it easy to cover your tracks they still can't fiddle with the details of their transactions, like they can in the old-economy. The idea that everyone in the crypto-world has a copy of all the transactions that can easily be compared to each other in order to validate a buy/sell event is really clever and ensures that transaction fraud is really, really hard.

The problem (and I think weakness) with crypto is the instantiation process. Since no one person or organisation "owns" the currency, how it gets created is somewhat problematic. The way this works for things like bitcoin is that you simply need lot's of computing power, thousands of servers crunching lots of numbers trying to find solutions to mathematically difficult problems that when solved are rewarded with new bitcoins. The problems are specifically design to ensure a smooth and predictable flow of solving. This relative openness in the instantiation process means that all kinds of crafty ways have been invented to hijack unused processing power, sometimes without the consent of the owners of those resources and sometimes by organisations that are distinctly shady. The solution of course is also ages old, figure out a way to tax bitcoin mining!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Only the best...

I guess being the best doesn't necessarily correlate to being the smartest..

Friday, February 09, 2018

Friday Smirk

Is it the weekend yet??

Thursday, February 08, 2018


Saw this on the inter-webs today, made me smile, feeling that inner sparkly!

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Dude where's my car?

Well done SpaceX - audacious, we like!

Unreasonable choice

New J&M today; Many people try to palm off the "Burka issue" as simply a matter of choice and who are we to oppose people wearing what they want, this is a straw man argument. The issue isn't about choice, it's about coercion and dominance. Most Women (especially in the 3rd world) who are forced to wear such garments have as much control and say over what they wear (or don't) as Male Jewish babies have over having their genitals mutilated, i.e. to all intents and purposes, none at all. This is by definition a straightforward denial of choice.

Of course, the "head-in-the-sand" types will say "yes but what about the uniforms of Catholic nuns or Police Women?" however, that's simply not a reasonable or fair comparison, last time I checked you had to opt-in to becoming a nun in the same way you have to opt-in to becoming a policeman, i.e. by definition you are choosing to wear a particular uniform. Muslim women don't "opt-in" to being born into that religion, they are just born and then indoctrinated into it, they have no choice (the penalty for apostasy is death) to do anything other than follow overwhelming societal and family pressures.

Just take a look at how brave women in Iran are choosing to react to this garment at the moment, for them it's a symbol, a symbol of an oppressive male dominated theocracy based on a religion that is extremely backward in it's attitudes towards Women. Women (and men) should be free to wear what they want, say what they want, think what they want and to follow any  particular religion or none, these are basic human rights in my view that are incompatible with Islam in both extreme and mainstream flavours.


The only "spirit guide" any rational person will ever need is someone who'll help find the best picks in this little lot... :)

What's in a name?

Here's an interesting set of diagrams. They show how different parts of the UK have different ways of saying and pronouncing certain things and how those differences correlate highly to geography and therefore language evolution.

Having lived in many parts of the UK over the years both as a child at school and also as an adult these differences do seem to resonate. Above we have the classic Tea/Dinner/Supper distinction, instinctively if someone was coming round our house for "Tea" we'd be thinking about Earl-Grey and Victoria-sponge, maybe some hot-cross buns if you're lucky, however, when I used to live in Manchester it would mean beans on toast or perhaps pie and chips!

Then we have the age old sc-on or sc-own. In our family we've always asserted that "scone" rhymes with "gone", although bizarrely my kids seem to like toying with the other way, I guess that reflects teenage contrarianism rather than anything else.

Less controversial but still quite confusing for the uninitiated we have the bread-roll dilemma, is it a roll and bun or a bap? In honesty my family wouldn't entirely conform to convention on this, we would say bun for burgers but roll for the bread you have with a meal. I think of all the variants this one might be the most diverse, especially since most people in the South-East that shop in places like Waitrose seem to buy French bread these days (what the hell would they call that in Stoke?)

Definitely "Tag", "Tiggy" sounds a bit kinky to my "South-Eastern" ears...

Monday, February 05, 2018

Dreaded lurgy

Been suffering with a rather persistent cold over the last few days (perfectly timed for the weekend) Normally when I get a cold it's the usual sore-throat runny nose kind of deal that lasts a couple of days and responds well to Lemsip et al, but this one is a a real humdinger and seems to be throwing the kitchen sink at my upper respiratory system. High temperatures, shivers, red-raw throat, dry cough, wet cough and headaches, one after the other and then back to the start again! The normal drugs seem to be having very little impact, I even had to take a day off work today (which is unheard of for me) 

Of course my family are having none of it "man-flu" is all I get from them, and to cap it all my colleagues reminded me that today is "national sickie day", so that's my credibility shot to pieces. Having spent most of the day feeling sorry for myself in bed I've been trying to sweat the beasties out of me (viruses don't like it hot) with an electric blanket (and yes, that is as unsavory as it sounds), I must say that I'm feeling a lot better now than I have been! Hopefully I can get some quality sleep tonight and be tentatively up and about again tomorrow, pesky viruses, whoever thought that part of "creation" was a good idea?

Tear down the wall

Today the Berlin wall has been demolished (10,316 days) for a day longer than it existed - amazing how time flies when you're not walled in (or out)!

Friday, February 02, 2018

Friday Smirk

See what they did there..

British Values

I've been pondering the stupidity of identity politics recently, both the far left and the far right at the moment seem to be keen to engage in this kind of blunt (but popular) form of discourse. We have the left accusing everyone who doesn't agree with them of being racist or sexist and on the right we see lines being drawn around race and nationality. More often than not, these accusations are simply aimed at convenient straw-men, carefully crafted to be impossible to tolerate.

The game is played by making one group, or identity, the oppressed and another (i.e. the people who disagree with your position) the oppressor, it's a very common thread that runs through the core of the worst atrocities in history. From the middle-ages when the manufactured identities tended to pivot around religion (Muslim, Catholic vs. Protestant etc.) through to the last century when man-made identities tended to pivot around things like Communism, Nationalism or even Imperialism. In the end it's just a tactic for one group to gain dominance over another, a way of de-humanising your opposition which in turn justifies (bad) actions to the foot-soldiers.

We're often told by politicians these days that what we should do is focus on "British values", although I'm not entirely sure what that means? If I'm honest, it smells a little "identity-politic" Why not just say ethical values? It's a bit like saying what we all need is Catholic Chemistry, one of the words is almost certainly unnecessary.

Fortunately there seems to be a bit of a backlash going on at the moment against identity politics, a core of support is definitely forming (mainly online) against radical feminism, social-justice-warriors and people who claim the right not to be offended (especially in universities) These proponents of identity based discourse tend to come from the left of the political spectrum, but there's also danger from the right. I sense that many ultra-right wing agitators are looking at the tactics of the ultra-left and concluding that if identity-politics is the game then fine, they simply stake their claim as white nationalists and set their sights on "winning", usually by jumping straight to violence or intimidation.

The remedy, to this slippery-slope of identity politics leading to conflict, is to talk and listen to each other more. This doesn't mean having to accept unsubstantiated nonsense, more a simple realisation that conservatives need liberals and liberals need conservatives and by always assuming that the other person/team/side may just know something you don't. For me the term "British values" has a rather comical, self-depreciating feel to it, for me it means polite but also socially awkward, traditional but also adventurous, fair but also sometimes stubborn. In true Barnum fashion of course, these descriptions could apply to every human-being there's even been, given the right context.