Thursday, January 31, 2019

True believers

Excellent new J&M today - illustrating the difference between believing things you would like to be true and things that are scientifically and/or historically reasonable, a common point of confusion among "true" believers.

Champion Cellaring!

Interesting story in the news today about a discovery in a Cambridgeshire archaeological site where the earliest traces of British beer has been discovered. The site has thrown up traces of charred residues from the brewing process, the microscopic particles unearthed show tell-tale signs of mashing and fermentation, key processes in brewing. The amazing thing is that the estimated dates for the site stretch back as far as 400 BC, it seems that ancient Britons were mashing-in and necking home-brew before even the Romans got here!

There's currently a trend in craft-brewing at the moment for barrel aging certain styles of beer, in the photograph above you can see some product from my local brewery (Siren) which is a smoked porter that's been flavoured with coffee and blackcurrant and then aged in Bourbon barrels for many months. The result is an extremely complex drink, only just recognizable as beer, more like barley-wine. Shame those ancient Britons didn't discover bottling technology maybe we could have tasted what two and a half millennia old beer might be like :) ..


I read on the BBC web site that the Whitehouse press secretary (Sarah Huckabee Sanders daughter of religious twerp Mike Huckabee) is claiming that "God" (she is unspecific about which one) wanted Donald Trump to become president. Is it just me or is this pandering to the religious one of the most vomit inducing things you'll ever read about an American president? He even tweeted recently that it was a "great" thing that certain States were re-introducing Bible literacy classes, he should really be careful what he wishes for, it says in the Bible that adulterers should be stoned to death!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019


It's interesting how some Brexiters define their relationship to "the truth", seemingly it's not the same relationship that the rest of us have with it..


I can safely say that I'm getting well and truly sick of talking to ignorant company executives that believe "AI" is some kind of panacea solution for every little data-related inaccuracy or unknown correlation that may exist. If I was a more dishonest person I would spend all my energies simply fleecing twatish CEO's and clueless CMO's by convincing them to spend thousands on pointless "data-science" projects that (totally predictably) deliver absolutely nothing. 

The problem with this stuff is that ignorant people (usually hyper-impatient, A-type personalities) operate on the basis that marketing bullshit is actually true. The net-result of this is that often what they expect to achieve is delusional, simply because, they lack the knowledge to understand why the desired outcome is unlikely or impossible. This is compounded by a lack of will and inclination to understand the detail of why. Whilst delusional expectations are nothing new, whole industries have been sprung from them, the problem comes when people who actually understand the limitations of the latest gizmo's are commanded to "explain" why. As the Nobel-prize winning scientist (and genius) Richard Feynman so elegantly put it in the video below, sometimes "understanding" something is based upon critical foundations without which understanding is impossible.

Modern life is rubbish

I often have philosophical discussions on the why's and wherefore's of modern software development with the younger members of the team at work. One of the enduring themes that often comes up is the difference in attitude between us old-timers and the young-bucks when it comes to building brand new stuff. Invariably when presented with a challenge that needs basic components to be built, like say a parser or lexer I will simply build it from scratch using patterns that I learned years ago, and I modernized them to take advantage of newer frameworks and language features. The youngsters, on the other hand, wouldn't dream of doing it this way, what they do instead is spend the time I would spend building something by looking on-line for a piece of open-source that someone else had already built and modifying it to fit the required scenario. Both approaches end up at the same place (hopefully!) but illustrate perhaps a slight shift in attitude and approach; they look at what I do and pour scorn on the amount of testing and de-bugging I inevitably need to do and I look at them and pour scorn on the amount of customization they need to do to achieve a good fit and the inevitable compromises they need to make. In the end I'm not sure what the best solution is, I suspect there might not even be a "best" solution as every scenario is unique, but I can't help feeling that on balance I create better results in the end, albeit slightly slower.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Prosthetic drama

Watching Silent Witness tonight, it's becoming a quasi-religious thing in our house at the moment, mind you if I see that open-chest prosthetic (I reckon they've only got one) once more I think I might demand a small refund on the licence fee.. 

Friday, January 25, 2019

Crisis, what crisis?

I often wonder at what point do people in the USA start thinking enough is enough? It seems as though their aggregated ability to ignore the evidence of a crisis knows no bounds these days.

For example,
  • 1 warming planet 
  • 96 people killed by guns every day 
  • 115 opioid overdoses daily 
  • 2,737 separated migrant children
  • 2,975 dead in Puerto Rico
  • 40,000 homeless veterans
  • 800,000 unpaid federal workers
are all reaching what I'd call a crisis point, on the other hand what's not in crisis right now is..
  • The Southern border
But, this arbitrary line on a map is the only thing the leader of that country seems to give a shit about. Then again, I suppose over here (UK) we're all passengers on a bus headed for a cliff called Brexit, is the problem our leaders or us?

Fullers farewell

Saddened to learn today that 170 year old Fullers have sold their entire brewing business to Japanese drinks conglomerate Asahi. Fullers (especially London Pride) used to be one of my favourite breweries when I lived in London as a student, many a memorable weekend was spent discovering the characterful boozers of the West and East ends and many of them were Fullers pubs. It's a shame that this historic company has had to sell out like this, the current management team are claiming that customers won't see much difference but this seems unlikely to me. Larger corporations in this particular sector tend to have a much higher emphasis on cost-cutting and efficiency rather than consumer choice and quality. Apparently Fullers will be retaining their pub and hotel businesses, I expect this means they will remain tied to Asahi products which, if correct, will be a shame and a missed opportunity. There are a ton of good UK brewers and beers out there at the moment that just need a channel to market to thrive.

Friday Smirk...

Quite so, i.e. best not to think about such things! Life is such an improbable and fragile thing that trying to reason about the fact that we're descendants of an unbroken line of eukaryotes stretching back more than 4 billion years half a chromosome away from chimps and living on an unstable volcanic rock spinning it's way through a Universe that is utterly indifferent to our existence is quite tricky sometimes. Time to check Twitter.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Strangled by time

So here's a thing. For those of us that can remember, this is a "Top 5" UK singles chart from 1982. "So what!", you might well say but an additional sobering fact is that 1982 was closer to the end of World War 2 than today is! I remember all of these songs like they were hits yesterday and I distinctly remember loving the way being a Stranglers and Jam fan made me feel, i.e. young and cool! Now they just make me feel old and nostalgic, don't you just hate it when the time dimension has this effect on our lives.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Resist, while you still can

J&M highlighting how religion used to behave when it had power and authority. Unfortunately for mankind, some modern versions of certain religions would like to return to those days, as the Hitch used to say, resist them while you still can.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Slow going..

Proper snow this afternoon in Berkshire - looks like it's going to be slow going getting home later on..

Monday, January 21, 2019

God is everywhere

Here's an amusing story. Apparently a Muslim man posted a video on social media encouraging people to boycott Marks and Spencer because he'd discovered "Allah" written in Arabic on their own-brand toilet paper. People will need to judge for themselves whether they think that the indentations in the paper (see above) are actually deliberate or merely an artifact of the production process, personally I always apply Occam's Razor to such matters, i.e. the simplest explanation is the most likely. Sometimes I do wonder what is more pervasive (i.e. existent everywhere) paper manufacturers with anti-religious ideologies or people simply looking for things that they can claim offend them? Probably not something that needs to be reasoned about for too long.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Friday Smirk II

Couldn't resist this one... 

Friday Smirk

J&M highlighting the cognitive dissonance of those liberals who can't seem to sort out the rights of people for freedom of expression and the rights of a patriarchal culture to subjugate 50% of it's population by compelling it to wear something akin to a bin-bag with an eye-slit. Sometimes it's necessary to moderate the oppressive desires of a few fundamentalists (i.e. those who believe the creator of the universe actually wants all Women to wear such things) for the benefits of liberating the majority who so clearly don't.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Our own worst enemy

I see that the WHO (World Health Organisation) has listed "vaccine hesitancy" or in other words, people who are too scared, ignorant or both to get their kids vaccinated against killer diseases, as one of the top 10 health threats facing Human kind in 2019. This wanton stupidity shares it's place in a list alongside things like climate-change, obesity, Influenza pandemics, antimicrobial resistance, Ebola, HIV and other potentially cataclysmic health events. It's baffling to think that there are people who believe so strongly in conspiracy theories and vapid scare-stories that they will risk the lives of their own children and also threaten the herd immunity of entire communities and nations. We really are our own worst enemies sometimes.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Age of Reason

I re-read the Age of Reason by Thomas Paine over the weekend. I'd forgotten how sensible it was, a cracking secular/deistic essay on life, the universe and everything and at only 200 odd pages an easy shoe-in for a lazy Sunday afternoon; certainly more enlightening that that other book supposed to be read on Sundays! I reckon that if Paine had lived longer to appreciate the discoveries of Darwin he'd have dropped the Deism thing completely. Admitting full-blown atheism at that time was dangerous, even so, his writings leave you senses the rational tension gravitating him towards it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Compulsory Happiness

I often come across people in my industry (software) that think the path to success is lined with an endless stream of foosball tables, bean-bags and beer-o-clock Fridays. It's almost as if they wish to blur the distinction between work and play to such an extent that workers lose any sense of where they are or what they're doing, incapable of recognizing when they are being paid to do something vs simply doing it for kicks. This desire seems to be driven by a couple of key industry attributes (i.e. its fast-moving and largely staffed with youngsters) but is ultimately built on the idea that a happy worker is a productive worker, however, is happiness really correlated with productivity in this way?

There's little doubt in my mind that miserable people aren't as productive as contented ones, but, since "happiness" is such a subjective thing is it really possible to legislate for it in a workplace that contains many individuals with many different roles? In my experience there's always a spectrum of personalities in any team, more often than not in technical teams (like engineers or programmers) the the people will be lower in extroversion and higher in conscientiousness whereas in more customer-facing teams (like sales or support) this is often the opposite. People with such diverse personality traits will almost certainly be motivated by very different environments, some thrive on "buzz" usually meaning plenty of distraction, noise, conversation and banter. But, others, such as engineering environments usually require a degree of quiet and tranquility for deep and extended-duration thought, it's hard to mix the two things together and achieve harmony. Whenever I encounter managers who are keen to turn their workplaces into extended "social-clubs" I always counsel caution, sometimes what's cheese for some is chalk for others.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Grim times

J&M illustrating why, from the point of view of random acts of violence, living in the world we inhabit today is much better than living in Biblical times. If that book is at all accurate, things were positively grim back then!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Inconvenient Truths

Next time a bleeding heart lefty claims that Islamic fundamentalism wouldn't be a "thing" if the West (i.e. the USA) would just stop interfering in the internal politics of Islamic countries or would just stop removing the crime-families that run those countries, remind them of the following (below) historical fact.

In 1788 when the United States was barely a country, was having its sailors taken as slaves by the Barbary states (the states of the Ottoman Empire and North Africa, ‘Shores of Tripoli’), having its ships stopped, its cruise carried off into slavery – we estimate 1.5 million European and American slaves taken between 1750 and 1815 – Jefferson and Adams went to their Ambassador in London and said, Why do you do this to us? The US has never had a quarrel with the Muslim world of any kind. We weren’t in the Crusades and we weren’t in the war in Spain, why do you plunder and enslave our people? and the Ambassador said very plainly said, Mr. Brockman, because the Quran gives us permission to do so, because you are infidels. And that’s our answer, and Mr. Jefferson said, Well in that case I’ll send a navy which will crush your state, which he did and a good thing too. Islamic fundamentalism is not created by American democracy. It is a lie to say so. It is a masochistic lie…” 

~ Christopher Hitchens

Then ask if they think that having a certain set of ideas and beliefs, beliefs that have been indoctrinated into generations of children for centuries and cannot be abandoned (under pain of death) might, just might, have some influence on the actions of (some of) said peoples?

Wednesday, January 09, 2019


Some smarty pants has done some statistical calculations around the probabilities of leading conspiracy theories surviving being exposed by looking at the key factors surrounding the events themselves, particularly the number of people involved. As expected they found that the more people involved the less likely it is that the cover-up would stay secret for any length of time, you can read the paper here.

Here are the results expressed as a maximum amount of time that any particular cover-up would stay secret..

Moon Landing Hoax  - 3.68 years
Climate-change fraud - 3.70 years
Vaccination Conspiracy - 3.15 years
Suppressed Cancer Cure - 3.17 years

You can't argue with the numbers, although the kinds of people that believe this kind of crap probably don't value mathematical demonstrations of the untenability of their beliefs. For them it's all about faith and confirmation bias.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019


Remembering events of four years ago.


So this week is the week for the reckoning! Having been watching my weight since January 2017 I let myself go over Christmas, no holds barred! Anyway when I did the same last year I gained around 10 pounds over a two week period, which then took me just under two months to lose again. This year I only gained 4 pounds in the same time-frame, and after a couple of days back on the wagon have already lost 2 of those pounds, it really surprised me! I was thinking why this might be, and concluded that having controlled my average calorie intake for a second year I'm becoming much more accustomed to lower average levels, meaning, it took less extra calories over my current average level this year to feel stuffed. I also noticed a much more robust response to a cold I had last week, normally it takes me at least a week to get properly over a cold and/or sore throat, anyway I got a really sore throat for a night and by lunchtime the next day it had completely cleared up! Of course it might have just been a light infection or something I'd had before but if every cold I get is like this then that fact alone provides incentive enough to monitor and manage my lifestyle factors even closer this year!

Monday, January 07, 2019

Group Identities

Love this little cartoon, the message is so clear, i.e. things that divide people like religions and nationalities are, on balance, harmful and (importantly) man-made! We can all agree that there are some positives in having group identities, like in-group co-operation and shared purposes but IMO we should treat them with a high degree of skepticism, their historical rap isn't a good one. Perhaps it's time to stand on our own two homo-sapiens feet for a change and evaluate the world using objective and rational methods, ditch these legacy crutches.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Cock and Bull

As per my previous post, we had an "art-themed" Friday up in London this weekend, one of the places we went was the "Tramshed" in Shoreditch. Owned by chef Mark Hix, there's an installation by Damien Hirst as the centre piece of the restaurant, it's called "cock and bull" as it contains a whole cow with a cockerel on it's back preserved in formaldehyde! It's an amazing talking point and very effective, specifically it reflects the primary style of food on offer, i.e. roast chickens and steaks. Below the restaurant in the cellar is a little art gallery which can also be hired as a venue for events and special occasions etc. quite a cool place to have a birthday party..

Bookending the holiday

Had the luck to spend a Friday night up in town this weekend, planned as a sort of "bookend" to the holiday period. The whole family stayed over in a hotel on one of those weekend deals that are popular at this time of year (i.e. off-season) and we toured some of the art galleries around Shoreditch as my daughter is doing an art scholarship at her school and needed some "inspiration", it was fun. Having walked the teenagers into the ground we left them in their room fiddling with their phones and my wife and I popped over to "The Rake" a pub in Borough Market and had a couple of crafty beers before dinner. In this pub people write on the walls, but, the catch is that you have to be a proper "brewer" before they let you do it. I was pleasantly surprised to notice that right next to where we were sitting was a little scrawl by Andy Parker of Elusive Brewing which is based in Finchampstead just up the road from my house. I visited his tiny brewery a couple of weekends ago, see here. Whilst there we had a couple of beers by Siren (my local craft brewery) it's nice to see Berkshire represented so well in the craft beer universe.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Friday Smirk (late again!)

Watch out for pseudo-science, hucksters who exploit the innocent and gullible are everywhere..

Thursday, January 03, 2019

It happens

There may be many things that may ultimately take the Human species down. Climate change, nuclear weapons, clashes of civilizations, alien invasion or simply the mind-numbingly obvious fact that evolution happens.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019


Can't go far wrong with a new J&M cartoon to get the new year off to a good start..