Thursday, May 31, 2018

Friday Smirk (early)

With Fathers day approaching next month, this is how it usually works in my house too.

Puzzlement of youth?

Is it just me or is supporting the World Cup in Russia on a par with supporting the "rebel" cricket tours of SA in the 70s & 80s? For some it seems that thinking about football temporarily evacuates the brain of everything else. Some of the younger lads in the office started talking (with much excitement) today about starting a World-Cup sweepstake. I pointed out that this may be in bad taste when we have people from the Ukraine working in the same office and bearing in mind the latest violent incursions by the current Russian state into our own green and pleasant land?

My comment was received with much puzzlement (and ignored) ...

Racist drugs

Best corporate response to the whole Rosanne Barr racist tweet episode! Not sure why people are so surprised, plenty of evidence from past behaviour that at best she's an idiot without a good sense of where obvious "what's actually funny" boundaries lie but even if she is racist, the best counter-measure against it is withering ridicule and/or simply ignoring her, just like this. 

Ironic that Rosanne is Trumps favorite TV star.. case rests me'lord.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Belief in belief

Excellent new J&M up today, poking fun at those "rational" religious people who poo-poo new-age nonsense like crystal healing, psychics and morphic resonance. Many seem to have a complete blind-spot when it comes to critically evaluating their own (even less likely) deeply held beliefs in superstition and the supernatural. Such is the seemingly ubiquitous Human need to possess a belief in "belief", or in other words, all those other Gods and beliefs are so obviously made-up, apart from yours of course, yours are real.

Rocky road to fame..

You have to marvel at the sheer emotional impact of this picture. It's a man in his mid-30s who was killed (obviously) by means of a bloody great boulder flung at his head by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Examination of his leg bones (because there's nothing left of his head!) show that, although he survived the initial eruption itself, he would have had great difficulty running from the pyroclastic flows and debris raining down on the town (Pompeii) and met his end in this cataclysmic event so long ago. 

We can't help but feel for him, we can't help but wonder what he was thinking, seeing and experiencing and how the preservation of his remains combined with the blatant evidence of his sheer bad-luck married with the fragility of existence somehow link us via shared Human insecurities across a vast swathe of time. One thing is for sure, he could not have imagined how his demise would be shared around the world some 2000 years later, or (from his perspective) the magical devices that we all use to consume his dramatic final resting place, on the other hand I bet he'd understand perfectly how we all feel looking at him.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Bad arguments

One of the most common creationist arguments you come across (especially on the internet) is a classic argument from incredulity. It's an example of someone making an argument based on the premise that since they can't understand how something could have happened a certain way then it must be false, oh and therefore "God-did-it". The something in this case is Evolution of course, and the argument is the "something from nothing" spiel as popularised by literalists Christians like Ray Comfort, or as everyone knows him, "the banana-man". I know people who have found this argument to be compelling, surprisingly, they hadn't ever been shown or considered the obvious flaw in it.

The basic argument runs something like this,

1. When you see a building you know it must have had a builder
2. When you see a painting you know it must have had a painter
3. When you see the universe you know it must have had a "universe-maker" and that's God.
4. We know this because it's impossible for something to come from nothing.

Let's look at the basic problem with this argument.

1. What builders and painters do is re-arrange existing material (paint, canvas, stone, bricks, wood etc.) in order to "create" whatever it is they're making.
2. If some God created the universe in the same way, then the materials for the universe must have existed before he made it, where did these materials come from?
3. If the materials didn't exist beforehand then the God must have created them from nothing, but this entire argument rests on the premise that's impossible.

There are many other problems with the argument, for example the conclusion that something can't come from nothing is a fallacious one based on a very specific and philosophical definition of "nothing" that is artificially crafted (i.e. man-made) to suggest this conclusion. In reality no one has ever experienced or tested a "nothing" like this, if it does exist then we have no idea what it's properties might be.

Marketing by dummies

Cricket is the one thing that definitely does have a boundary?

Geometrical humour

Spent an enjoyable evening last night (Monday) watching Bill Bailey at the Hexagon theatre in Reading. It's a good show, mild-mannered and silly but with an undercurrent of tension as he examines the state of current affairs. Topics such as Trump and Brexit come in for particular scrutiny (and ridicule). The show is very diverse, everything from stand-up to steel-drums, I particularly liked the guitar made out of a Bible and it's two settings... I won't spoil the joke, you'll have to go see it yourself.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Victory for a compassion

Delighted for the "YES" campaigners in the Republic of Ireland who achieved a land-slide victory yesterday, just the North to sort out now..


Spend a delightful day in Oxford yesterday with some good friends. We met up at the Grand Cafe at around 11 am for a spot of coffee and cake and then had a bit of a wander around the covered market. After that we headed over to the Cherwell Boathouse restaurant where we had a splendid "fine-dining" lunch, I had a pork filet with charred cabbage (essentially burnt to a crisp with a blow-torch) sounds terrible, but it was a great contrast, also a nice cold Macon La Roche to wash it all down.

After lunch we headed out again into a glorious sunny day. Oxford town centre was packed and so the boys in the group decided to forgo the obligatory "shopping" excursion and headed down the Cowley road to the local Brewdog bar where we whiled away a couple of hours putting the world to rights over some nice craft beer. Fortunately the guest brewery taking over a couple of their taps was "Wiper and True" of Bristol, who are on top form at the moment, I had some of their Quintet IPA which was just singing.

Then it was time for home. Back to the station and a fast train to Reading, tucked up in front of the telly by about 9 pm, this is how Summer should be.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Catholic correlations

The people of the Republic of Ireland vote tomorrow to decide whether or not to repeal their draconian abortion laws. Currently in that country it's illegal to have an abortion for any reason at any time unless  the life of the mother is in danger, reformers claim that even this caveat is very difficult to prove and trigger, and in some cases leads to the unnecessary death of women having difficulties with their pregnancy.

Most other western democracies have long since implemented more flexible laws around abortion. Using the best scientific evidence available, limits are typically put on aborting fetuses by age, 24 weeks in the case of the UK. A case of changing our laws to reflect experience, evidence and the well-being and pragmatic choices of human-beings in impossible situations. This way of creating and refining law seems to me to be far superior than more old-fashioned ideas that stem from institutions like the Catholic church, where what seems more important is dogma, compliance and a slavish subversion to authority, laws being made to be immutable unless they prove inconvenient to clergy or subverted by greasing the right palms.

Any country that has laws that are so easily subverted by people (who have the money) travelling to neighbouring countries for particular medical procedures needs to ask some important questions of itself. Questions like why so many people who can travel to get treatment do? and questions like who is actually running your country, the elected Government representing the will of the majority, or some unelected ancient religious sect that's accountable to no one and hell-bent on defending it's own parochial interests?

No system is perfect of course, every country has it's issues, just look at the fiasco that is Brexit, but when it comes to such sensitive and human issues I would certainly try to vote on the side of maximum compassion for all the people involved.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Not really..

New J&M up today. I almost always respect people more if they are willing to change their views based on evidence, I often think it says something about their character and perhaps indicates a lack of intransigence and/or arrogance.

Monday, May 21, 2018

What to brew?

Came across this today, perfect remedy to my problem of being hopelessly indecisive about what to brew this bank-holiday weekend. So, an ice distilled, no hop stout aged on wild raspberries then... (I don't think so)

Lazy weekend syndrome

Not much enthusiasm for work this morning, need to get back into gear after a very lazy weekend..

Sunday, May 20, 2018


Trying to book a Summer holiday at the moment and came across this little meme - made me smile.

Coffee break

Since it was such a cracking day yesterday (Sat) we decided to pop over to the Siren Tap-Yard for an hour before eating to see what new beers were pouring. We weren't disappointed, they were officially launching "Project Barista" which is an initiative aimed at making coffee flavoured beer for a festival in London (they didn't make one, they made four!). In the middle picture you can see "Affogato" which is a coffee and Ice cream pale-ale flavoured with a Brazilian roast, it was marvellous, silky mouthfeel, hardly any bitterness and a very creamy (alcoholic) coffee milkshake-like taste. On the right you can see a red beer called "CapHeine" which is a kettle soured beer flavoured with coffee from Costa Rica and Hibiscus flowers, it wasn't too sour but just enough to make it distinct, very well balanced, nothing too jarring and a nice beer although I preferred the Affogato. 

On the left-hand side you can see a picture of one of the bottle fridges at the Tap-Yard, a complete selection of all of Sirens recent beers, must be over 40-50 different beers in there including the latest coffee flavoured efforts a positive treasure trove for Siren fans. I've got two more of the barista beers to try, "Breakfast Shake" and "Cold Brew", an excuse to have a re-match next Saturday perhaps :)

Friday, May 18, 2018

Becoming an Atheist..

Friday Smirk

I love the way that "Theology" (or as I call it "the study of the unknowable") is the biggest "we have no idea" on the chart. 

I once challenged a mate of mine (a Theology graduate) to name one (impactful) question that the study of theology has answered that a) wasn't already known or simply a description of human nature, b) isn't just in the sub-set of history and c) is testable and hasn't yet been obliterated by science; I'm still waiting for an answer.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The rise of craft

Back in 2015 (left) I was very excited to find a couple of bottles of craft beer from my nearest local brewery (Siren) in Waitrose (it was only distributed in Waitrose stores locally). In them days the closest thing to craft was a bottle of Chimay, certainly much more interesting than Budweiser or Fosters but still pretty large-scale corporate brewing! 

Fast forward 2 years and look at the same shelf in the same Waitrose, bursting with beers from small independent breweries from all over the world, UK, America, New Zealand, Belgium and many others, an embarrassment of beery riches that fills my heart with joy. If you'd had said to me 2 years ago that I could simply walk down the street and pick up a can of Beavertown's excellent Gamma-ray pale-ale  to enjoy on a Friday night then I would have called you a dreamer, but, such is the power of market-forces!

Playing tennis without a net..

New J&M today. I love it when Christians criticize the doctrines of Islam for being inherently violent and Muslims respond by saying "but the Bible is just as bad" The bizarre thing is that this tit-for-tat position seems to satisfy both parties; they seem content by calling it a draw and moving onto more pressing questions, like, whether or not an imaginary character in a 2000 year old collection of myths was actually the offspring of himself and how all credible 7th century Arabian warlord's should own flying horses.

Tap heaven..

Some people would see this and feel intimidated, but, most bars these days let you sample a beer before you buy it, so this is the kind of tap selection that I (and many people) actively seek out!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Pub night

Had to meet someone in Reading last night so the whole family took the train into Reading and walked (short 10 mins) across the Thames to Caversham. Spent the evening in a rather nice boozer called the Fox & Hounds that sells all manner of craft and foreign beers. The teens had pizzas and we listened to a DJ playing assorted rock classics until around 9 pm and then caught the train home again. Haven't spent an evening in a pub like that for ages, it was fun! 

In the picture you can see a pint of Beatnik by Gypsy Hill brewers (London) splendid uber-fruity IPA, clean and well balanced, recommended!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Friday Smirk

It's always interesting to probe what self-proclaimed "Agnostics" actually believe. Quite often you find that it's simply a hypothetical position taken in order not to upset anyone, usually couched in the phrase "I'm not religious but I am spiritual" (even more vague) Unfortunately, for language/logic pedants (like me) it makes no sense to say that someone is not an Atheist but is an Agnostic instead. We all kind of know what they mean, but if you don't know if something exists or not then how can you believe in it? It must be the opposite, i.e. surely the only logical position is to NOT believe in things that you don't know exist (like Unicorns, Fairies and Dragons), making you (technically) an Agnostic Atheist when it comes to God! 

If you are certain that God or Gods don't exist of course, then, you are 100% Atheist, but that position clashes with a proper scientific world-view that everything is provisional and dependent on weight of evidence (or lack of) Best approach is honesty, i.e. there is no evidence for God or Gods, never has been, everything in recorded history would seem to suggest that the thousands of gods that have existed in the minds of men are simply that i.e. man-made ideas spread as memes. No one knows for sure about the origins of the universe so until evidence surfaces and the various conjectures become testable then the only logical position to hold (if logic and reason is important to you) is to be an Agnostic Atheist.

Don't Panic

17 years ago today the wonderful Douglas Adams died in California. We miss him. 

Here are some quotes from the great man to ponder on a sunny Friday afternoon...

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

“I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don't know the answer”

“A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”

“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.”

“Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”

“Nothing travels faster than the speed of light, with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws.”

“If there's anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now.”

“For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.”

“I'd take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day.”

Something missing?

Satellite pictures of the Bearing Straight over the last 6 years taken on the same date (April 29th) - can you spot the difference? Apparently a lot of people can't (or, more accurately, don't want to)...

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Honey traps

New J&M today looking at the delicate subject of sex-education, more specifically, the fear and loathing exhibited by organised religions of all stripes for that subject. I always wondered why religions were so fearful of something as natural and enjoyable as sex until I began to understand one of the key purposes of religion, i.e. the control of the many by the few through the suppression and censorship of knowledge, where the few are exclusively men. Then it all made perfect sense.

Staying alive..

This turned out surprisingly well... (won't make any sense at all unless you've seen the movie)

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Saturday Smile

Me: "Siri, surely it won't rain today, will it?"

Siri: "It will be 22 degrees and sunny, and don't call me Shirley"

Oops, must have left my iPhone in Airplane mode..

Friday, May 04, 2018

I'm not sour

Attending the Reading beer festival for a couple of hours - chilli-peanuts and a half of Siren Calypso sour Berliner-Weisse to wash them down, diet of kings!

Friday Smirk II

I just noticed, it's May the 4th (be with you)

Friday Smirk

The three emotional states of development-team members: guilty, scared or oblivious..

Coders of a "certain age"..

So true. 

I find that people get to a certain age in my business (software) when learning new complicated stuff is simply too much like hard work. They start saying to themselves things like "the people paying the bills don't care or understand how it works, they just care that it does", and hence justify writing stuff using older, more established patterns and technology that they know inside-out. Then that little plan comes into contact with the enemy, in this case the enemy are the youngsters on the team who (in the boundless flush of optimistic youth) see the world quite differently, and, thank goodness they do.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

The "cloud"

Unfortunately it was fake-news...

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Threat envy?

Question, are some fundy Christians secretly jealous that Islamic violence insulates their religion from the same level of broad criticism that Christianity generally receives in secular countries?


I'm reliably informed that for weak-minded people power often becomes a kind of drug.

Living longer

Been reading/trying some interesting things lately on general health and how we might stack the odds in our favor when it comes to longevity (i.e. not "kicking the bucket" too soon) I guess it's something that we all start to think more about as we reach our 50s and beyond. A few topics have been spiking my interest, optimal diet, exercise mix and intermittent fasting.

Under the "optimal diet" heading I have tried to adopt the 5 well established tips for things that help you live longer (or at least give you a smaller statistical chance of getting some nasty diseases earlier in life), barring holidays, weather events and special occasions I more of less follow these,

1. Don't smoke and get 8+ hours of sleep per night
2. Eating a healthy diet (right mix of food groups)
3. Regularly exercising (30+ minutes a day of moderate to vigorous activity)
4. Keeping a healthy body weight (BMI between 18.5-24.9)
5. Moderate alcohol consumption i.e. less than 40 ml per day.

The term "healthy diet" is a bit vague so here's a more tangible definition,

a. 5-a-day fruit & veg + starchy foods (grains, pasta, potato etc.) (45-65% of total)
b. Dairy, Oils & Spreads (small amount) (20-35% of total)
c. Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat (lean) & other proteins (10-35% of total)
d. Avoid saturated fat & sugar

According to the literature, ideally, men should be aiming for around 1800 - 2500 calories per day with this mix of carbs, fats and protein (depending upon size, age and activity levels etc.) Any exercise done can be offset against these totals, broadly I try to do at least 20% of my calorific input as output (i.e. exercise), for me that's around 400 calories per day which boils down to a 30-40 minute brisk-walk and perhaps 30 minutes of weights or something else like 15 minutes on a cross-trainer, gardening or whatever floats your boat etc.

My next interesting "health" topic is a new craze that's sweeping the more bio-hacking obsessed cliques of Silicon Valley (which might just put many off right there) called "IF" or Intermittent Fasting. The effects have some interesting evidence-based outcomes which would suggest benefits along the lines of increased mental and physical function as well as a longer term benefit for longevity.

"IF" is simply about managing when you eat rather than what you eat (within reason) The basic idea is that certain things happen in your body when you don't eat for a while, these are natural processes that essentially provide "down-time" for your various systems to repair themselves. Since we evolved in an environment that has day and night many of our biological systems became tuned into this cycle and generally speaking our bodies expect to be sleeping (and not eating) when it's dark and eating and moving around when it's light. This all makes perfect sense from an evolutionary point of view but what are the practical implications?

There are many ways to do "IF", I prefer to fast for 16 hours per day and eat for 8, meaning that I have my evening meal around 5-6pm then don't eat anything at all (water only) between 6 pm and 10 am the next morning, then I have a couple of smaller meals between 10 am and 6pm (i.e. 8 hours), then repeat. Doing "IF" like this allows you to have 2 "cheat-days" per week, which fits in nicely with the weekend when the eating part is usually shifted by a few hours toward the evening (i.e. eating meals & drinking later etc.) I'm not a big breakfast fan so it works well for me, others may wish to skew things later or earlier in the day according to preference, ideally you want to not eat late if possible.

Here are 10 (evidence based) benefits to "IF"

1. When you don't eat for a while, several things happen in your body. Cellular repair processes start and changes to hormones make stored fat more accessible (Ketosis). When you fast, insulin levels drop and human growth hormone increases, this particular hormone is linked to longevity.

2. "IF" does help weight loss (for me at least) - short term fasting increases metabolic rate by 4-14%, you basically burn more calories for the same amount of work. Fasting also tends to (habitually) reduce the total caloric input benefiting both sides of the calorie equation.

3. Reduces insulin resistance and risk of type 2 diabetes - blood sugar is reduced when fasting although Men seem to benefit more than Women. There are many documented cases of people eliminating diabetes completely by simply fasting or doing a 5-2 diet etc. See stuff by Dr Michael Mosley on this for more.

4. "IF" reduces Oxidative stress and inflammation - these are two important contributing factors to many chronic diseases associated with ageing.

5. "IF" may be beneficial for heart health - studies show that intermittent fasting can improve numerous risk factors for heart disease such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglycerides and inflammatory markers.

6. Fasting initiates various cellular repair processes - fasting triggers a metabolic pathway called autophagy, which removes waste material from cells.

7. Intermittent fasting has been shown to help prevent cancer in animal studies. One paper in humans showed that it can reduce side effects caused by chemotherapy.

8. Intermittent fasting may have important benefits for brain health. It may increase growth of new neurons and protect the brain from damage.

9. Studies in animals suggest that intermittent fasting may be protective against neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease.

10. Studies in rats have shown that intermittent fasting extends lifespan in a similar way as continuous calorie restriction.In some of these studies, the effects were quite dramatic. In one of them, rats that fasted every other day lived 83% longer than rats who weren't fasted.

I find that intermittent fasting (for me) provides a great way to swap body fat for muscle, there's no doubt that since I've been doing it I've become a lot leaner, and I have the measurements to prove this (30% down to 18% body fat). I haven't been losing weight per se, maybe a kilogram or two but it's the increased leanness that's more marked. Over the 3 months or so since I started I haven't particularly noticed the often reported increases in energy levels and brain function (alertness and stamina) but I certainly don't feel tired or hungry (as might be expected) either. Clearly there are many variables and people need to find their own niche, but I can certainly recommend giving it a go for anyone interested in "Bio-Hacking"!

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Tuesday Titter

Remember folks, God says it's only "knowledge" that's taboo... (wink, wink..)

For whom the "pell" tolls

It's been a long time coming but it looks like leading Australian (Catholic) Bishop and suspect in historical sex-crimes, Cardinal Pell has finally been ordered to stand trial in Melbourne. Let's hope that if there is any culpability it will be exposed and justice served; it's about time one of these high-ranking guys faced the music for historical crimes against children, most have slipped through the net.