Saturday, November 30, 2019

Brexit ale

Found the perfect beer for Brexiters yesterday, not because of the taste (which was splendid BTW) but because of the completely appropriate name.. For those into beer it's a double IPA from Manchester maestros Cloudwater, a lush tropical, soft mouthed DIPA that hides it's 8% ABV really well, recommended!

Friday, November 29, 2019

Hitch on London and Terrorism

At times like these it's salutatory to find a suitable quote from the late Hitch...

They will rue the day.
We will out live, out kill and out fight them.
They say they prefer death to life, maybe they do.
If they want to be martyrs then we're here to help.
Our love for London will outlive their hatred and their love for death.
Believe me...

Friday Smirk

Sam Harris using humor to make a valid point about some of the rather weird and unlikely beliefs that are commonly held by Deists of all stripes (and some non-religious beliefs too!)

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Health Fads

Apparently the latest health fad from California (where else) is to expose your Perineum to direct sunlight (as per the picture above). The practice (according to it's advocates) is supposed to boost energy, help sleep, boost libido and increase creativity, as all good woo-woo is supposed to do! 

The claim is of course about vitamin D production and it's proponents even invoke ancient Chinese Taoist practices (I guess you need to scrape up some credibility from somewhere) but doctors are warning people that it's not going to do anything for you, except potentially burn your bum hole! Come on people, this can't be a good thing, after all it's against nature, we all know that there are some places the Sun ain't supposed to shine!

NB: resisting gags like, having to get up at the crack of dawn or changing your ring tone... et al..

UK Government

New paddle-free site for UK government is finally given the go-ahead..

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Thoughts on pubs

David Nobbs's (comedy writer who wrote, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin) description of the ideal British pub, written 10 years before Brexit and something I passionately agree with. It's sad that pubs are closing down at a rate of knots in our towns and villages, and the ones that are left (with a few exceptions) aren't the convivial places they once were in my opinion. I generally don't go to the pub to watch TV, drink industrial products or eat microwaved souffles, for me it's about people, community and beer but the direction seems to be in favor of the former rather than the latter these days.

The only chink of light on the horizon for me is the craft beer scene. It alone seems to be slowly pumping life back into the tradition of going somewhere to meet people, play games, chat and drink beer. It's not a scene for everyone of course, many people (and I know quite a few) can't get their heads around beer that's not totally transparent or beer that actually tastes of something rather than fizzy corn-husks or jammy dishwater. Many can't stomach the higher prices of craft beer over industrially produced beer, of course, if you're unlucky enough to be on a zero-hours contract and only clear a few quid a week then you probably have a very good point. Surprisingly, many of the folk I know who whine about the cost difference wouldn't be seen dead in a Ford Focus or a Premier Inn and will happily drone on endlessly about the latest gizmo's in their Mercedes or the exquisite food they experienced in an exclusive Indian Ocean resort etc. I guess for some an appreciation of innovation, expertise and the best ingredients possible doesn't always extend to what you put into your mouth ?

But, things are changing, for example, in my own hometown we've gone from 5 years ago having to travel to London to try any kind of variety of craft beer, to now when we we're surrounded by an embarrassment of crafty riches. Just in my own town (pop. 46,000) there's a dedicated craft beer bar, two other bars with one or two taps and a pub where you can get craft in cans. Nearby (within a 5 mile radius) there are 9 craft breweries, most with tap rooms where you can sample a bewildering array of brews. I even learned yesterday that a London based craft brewery has bought one of our declining (scruffy, big-screen TV) town centre pubs and is renovating it to become a full-blown craft beer establishment selling a continually rotating selection of beers from all over the country. This regeneration of industry and community is very encouraging, long may it continue!

Update: A brand new cinema just opened in our town, apparently you can get craft beers delivered to your seat, jus livin the dream :)

Midweek Mirth

Every conference call (particularly ones involving offshore organisations) I've ever done pretty much went more or less like this...

A real talent

It's with sadness I learned today that Sir Jonathan Miller CBE (pictured on the far right) has died, a clearly super-intelligent man, a polymath perhaps with careers in Medicine, Entertainment, Media and Comedy, he also authored several books. I remember watching a TV series he did called "Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief" many years ago, before "Atheism" as a cultural "thing" was popularized by the likes of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. That program was instrumental in me sorting out what I thought about certain things and opened my mind to looking into the philosophical viewpoint of skepticism. An inspirational chap, a real talent.

Somewhere else...

I see the High Court has ruled that the religious protesters who have been making the lives of people involved with the Anderton Park school in Birmingham hell for the last year or so are now banned from protesting outside the school buildings. This is a battle, plain and simple, between the dark forces of ignorance and indoctrination against enlightenment values of freedom of thought and inquiry for all. Children should have a right in this country to a factual education, one that's free from false (harmful) medieval religious ideas (mostly Islamic ones in this case) about human sexuality. I think this is the right decision, the bottom line is that this is a free country and you can protest against reality all you like, just do it somewhere else.

Footnote: My irony meter just exploded reading those banners, talk about brainwashed...

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

November blues

Attempting to keep to my lunchtime walking regime but this god-damn torrential rain every single day is starting to give me the blues! Looks like I'm spending the afternoon at my desk with soggy feet and jeans again today... (and don't get me started about drivers that can't seem to avoid puddles!)


Accurate insights from J&M as usual. Of course, the sunk cost fallacy doesn't only apply to religion, I've seen it in action all over the place, property, jobs, investments, people etc. Probably one of the most common fallacies that we indulge in, as Kenny Rogers used to say, "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to run" - when you're looking down the barrel of investing in something you can't see, smell, touch, hear or taste then you probably want to seriously consider the last option..

Monday, November 25, 2019

Spiral tap?

Here's an interesting photo, I reckon the vast majority of people would have absolutely no clue what it was. It is in fact a brewing vessel pre-loaded with wooden spirals (increasing the surface area available for contact) prior to filling it with beer, once full and over time the beer will take on the flavour of the wood (among other things) which adds to the overall complexity and profile of the final product. It's a concept that's been used with wine (oak barrels etc.) for hundreds of years, nice to see modern brewers experimenting like this, I can't imagine it's cheap or convenient to be handling ingredients of this nature.

Saturday, November 23, 2019


The theist's dilemma 

Friday, November 22, 2019

Explaining what you want...

Friday Smirk

Handy Catholic tip for reaching those tricky home decoration spots..

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Antipodean Floyd

Spend a great evening in Reading last night watching the Aussie Pink Floyd (a tribute band) shred their way through all the great tracks from that band over the last few decades. I must say the quality of musicianship was amazing, the music was pretty much note-for-note perfect (as far as my untrained ear could tell) including the classic guitar solo's in Comfortably Numb and Wish You Were Here etc. They even had three great backing vocalists to do tracks like The Great Gig in the Sky and other bangers from Dark Side etc. I can't recommend this band enough, if you see they're coming to your local music venue then grab some tickets quick (the show last night was rammed!)..

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Politics and Commerce

There's an interesting phenomenon going on in an around social media these days, young and "trendy" companies (I suspect largely run by millennial's) are using their substantial platforms to make meta-political statements. Usually this takes the form of thought provoking posts and images that encourage people to do things like register to vote and to think about what they're voting for as well as some I've seen actually offer political opinions. Today I saw one of the craft beer producers that I follow even brand one of their products with a political message, has a Rubicon been crossed here? 

Personally I'm all for this, I prefer to deal with businesses that have "personality", but more importantly people behind those businesses that aren't afraid to say what they believe and I reckon this makes them more attractive to their prospective (target) customers (and they probably understand that). Many businesses run scared of being seen to have any opinion on anything these days, "corporate happy-talk" is what most of them spout, sterile and pathetically virtue signalling along with the herd, American companies seem to be the worst of all. 

Of course, gazing into the thoughts of the owners of a business may expose ideas that I might not agree with, but I do appreciate the risk being taken, transparency is usually a good thing (if genuine). For example I applaud what Cloudwater (a Manchester brewery) is doing in the photo above, it's a fairly neutral message but an eminently sensible and rational one. On the other hand since Tim Martin (Wetherspoons) and James Dyson went public on their thoughts about Brexit I feel equipped to make suitably irrational decisions about never darkening the door of either establishments or products ever again. This internet thing really has changed the game.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Mind reading

I never really understand the point of theists praying, seems to me that if you have an omniscient deity then it knows what you're thinking anyway, and if you also believe in it's omnipotence as well then there's nothing you can do to change the plan anyway. Do people really think that the supposed creator of the Universe needs people to "beg" in order to change her plans, if so then I wouldn't be inclined to even admire such a being let alone worship it?

Different times

Gary Glitter, Rolf Harris, Jimmy Savile, Jonathan King (& Pete Townshend) and under 16's get in free! My mind is suitably boggled!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Monday Mirth

American vs. European philosophy...


Nice little cartoon illustrating the GIGO principal (Garbage-in, garbage-out) What most people don't understand about the current state of artificial intelligence software is that it's really, really narrow in scope. For example it's common to see AI tackling problems such as a board game like chess and playing such games to a very high standard. This is because the rules of chess are very well defined and the problem space is very narrow, i.e. once you know the rules, you have everything you need to play. Take a more "life-experience" oriented problem, like consulting a medical patient or digesting a legal case, these kinds of problems require all kinds of tangential expertise, for example having an intuition about the state of mind of the person involved and things like dealing with exaggeration or lying etc. There are no "data-sets", i.e. collections of "results" of the form "X happened and Y was the outcome" in order to train a statistical or "AI" model with sufficient variation and breadth to be of much use in more broad and general use-cases like this. The current technology doesn't even get close.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Train tap

Out with an old friend in London yesterday, we did a little tour of new craft beer bars/restaurants around the East End, really good fun, good beer, food and company. We both came through Waterloo and so at the end of the day headed there to catch trains home. On the walk to the station came across the "Waterloo Tap" (see above) a little craft beer bar under the arches by the station, excellent choice of brews, would have been rude not to stop for a night-cap while waiting for the 8:57...

Sunday Smile

The excellent xkcd showing us how to defeat AI spam bots, can't simulate good old imagination combined with life-experience. Yet anyway..

Holy ghost busters..

As Jesus said, you must never cross the streams..

Friday, November 15, 2019

Broadband Communism?

I see that the Labour party are promising to give the entire country "free" broadband as part of their manifesto for the upcoming general election. Now, don't get me wrong I'm in favor of state involvement in the roll out of essential infrastructure like broadband but "free", really? Would this be feasible and what would it actually mean in terms of a "project".

A couple of key points for me would be firstly the numbers and secondly the quality.

Labour say that they can roll out high speed fiber to everyone for £20 Billion, now, there's no point in having fiber unless all the up-stream equipment and routing is of sufficient quality ($$) to support it, that costs tons and none of it is made in the UK (in case our currency tanks after Brexit etc.). Then there's the existing companies providing these services that employ thousands of people, presumably the plan would be for the state to somehow hire some of these people (via a nationalized BT) and to continue to do so indefinitely in order to support the network. By my reckoning that's probably a lot more than £20 Billion, I agree with the estimates suggested by BT themselves of perhaps more like £75-100 Billion. Then there are the people who work in the private sector for companies such as Virgin, Sky and Talk-talk etc. presumably these companies would cease investment and eventually those people would be made redundant, not exactly a great Christmas for them then.

The second big point would be about quality. Broadband is expensive and complex to roll out on this scale, based on past performance, I can't believe that any Government would be particularly good at a) managing a project of this scale (Elizabeth line, HS2, NHS IT projects anyone?), b) keeping costs down and quality high and c) procuring the "right" technology (networking is a very fast moving field). If any of these things fail then it's easy to imagine the quality of the "free" service plummeting and we all know what it's like to have unreliable broadband, i.e. you might as well not have it at all, especially if you're relying on it to do your job etc. The risk is that we'll end up with a "British Rail" internet, not much help to businesses or people, in fact a positive hindrance.

This is a difficult one to call, it's certainly ambitious but it's also bloody risky, it'll be interesting to see how it pans out should Labor get in (unlikely IMO)..

Friday Smirk

Bet you can't guess what is going on here, a bionic ants or perhaps a Formicidae circus?

No, it's actually a scientific experiment. Biologists have always wondered at the way in which ants seem to have an uncanny ability to find food which they take back to their nest and then to return again and again to the same spot, sometimes quite some distance. It's unlikely that their brains are sufficiently complex for them to form an "internal map" and so it was a bit of a mystery. The answer, surprisingly, turns out to be that they count their steps and this experiment proved it. By making their legs slightly longer (hence the stilts) the ants were observed to attempt a return to a food source but over-shoot it (i.e. their stride was now longer), apparently the poor little things were extremely confused!

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Tesco's value wine

We had a delicious bottle of wine last weekend. Something from South Africa that I bought in Tesco (they had a 20% off offer on at the time) for about £15 back in 2003. It's been maturing ever since and I decided to crack it open to go with some cheese, family and a film on Saturday night. I've seldom come across a wine that's so blackcurrant forward, it's a traditional Bordeaux blend called "V" from a top producer (Vergelegen) and the quality shines through, lovely fruit, balanced and with a long, long finish. I reckon this would have aged another 10 years no problem and improved every step of the way. I must see how much this wine is today, I suspect a little more than £15! (note: I checked and it's more like £60 a bottle now)

Crisp London

Had to visit a client in town today, after the meeting I had a wander around and found it nice and quiet (not many tourists clogging up the place) so I decided to walk back from Liverpool St. to Paddington (about 6 km) - in the end it was a lovely day. Snapped this shot of St. Pauls and even managed to get a bit of blue sky into the picture; London is splendid on crisp days like this.


Magellan discovered something in the 15th century that many have forgotten even today, the law of physics that states.. 

Established hierarchies of powerful and rich people will pretty much do and say anything they can to remain in power and hold onto their wealth, facts don't come into it. 

A good example of this are certain powerful millionaires and hedge-fund owners who wish to remain beyond the reach of (fair) EU tax regulations coming up with a cunning plan to exclude themselves from the EU at the expense of poor disenfranchised people in the UK, we call it Brexit.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Visible data

The beauty of someone making records about things like weather events over a very long period of time is that we're able to see trends in the data which simply aren't visible from year to year or indeed from generation to generation. In the case of Venice we have records from St Mark's Basilica reaching back 1,200 years and can confirm that this year it was flooded for the sixth time. The scary thing is not that it was flooded but that of the six flooding episodes four of then have occurred in the last 20 years (i.e. that's 70% of events in the last 2% of the period). Let's hope the Italians can come up with some kind of "plan" to save this irreplaceable treasure, I fear time may be up.


Apparently it's World Kindness Day today? I wouldn't want people thinking I didn't care about being kind, so in order to virtue signal the crap out of this one here's a picture of a kitten and a quote from one of my favourite authors Kurt Vonnegut...

"Hello babies, welcome to earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got a hundred years here and there's only one rule that I know of, babies - God damn it, you've got to be kind."

Seems fair enough, a Humanist slogan that certainly makes more sense than all that "born into sin" crap the other teams offer.

Berlin Rocks

This little story caught my eye today. It's about the Tesla car company and it's decision to base a new manufacturing plant for it's electric cars in Germany (Berlin). Now, of course, we don't know what alternatives there may have been for this location and making cars in Germany is certainly something that wouldn't be bucking any trends but I can't help thinking that Brexit may well have ruled the UK out of this particular race as it will any pan-European project involving non-European corporations. I can't imagine corporate planners in any US, Japanese or Korean corporations wanting to invest in a country that is doing all it can to leave a community when any value there may be in being in Europe at all is to sell goods to that same community, simply wouldn't make sense? Perhaps its time to dust off my great-granddad's Irish birth-certificate now?

Mid-Week Mirth

New J&M today, talking about turning the other cheek. I've never understood the whole Christian "love your enemy" narrative? From a Darwinian point of view a real enemy (i.e. that wants to kill you) represents an existential threat to the reproductive fitness of your genes and should be dealt with appropriately. Of course in reality we rarely grasp the big picture when it comes to petty (Human) squabbles, Darwinian logic seldom comes into it. Most conflicts would be avoided if we looked at scenarios in the light of the long-term survival of our species. In my limited experience so far, it's almost invariably things like nationalism, religion, greed and the desire for power that obscure the best and most equitable courses of action for populations.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Death of US leadership?

So it turns out that the USA is one a select band of countries that voted AGAINST a UN resolution condemning the DEATH PENALTY for anyone having gay sex. Other countries voting against this barbarity included all the usual "theocratic" suspects, i.e. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Qatar, Yemen and Somalia etc. An excuse was offered by a US representative, her claim was that although the US wasn't in favor of the death penalty for conduct such as homosexuality, blasphemy, adultery and apostasy they were unable to vote for the motion because of "concerns" that the resolution condemned the death penalty more broadly and the US still executes citizens for certain crimes; so, in other words, a "slippery slope" argument.

The fact that US Government were unable to condemn laws that mean someone can be killed for loving the "wrong" person is, I'm sure, bewildering to most civilised people. There was a time when the US used to lead the world on such matters, sadly that lead seems to have slipped.


Watching University challenge on TV last night with my Son (we like to have a little competition to see who can answer the most questions, we usually average around 12-18) A few questions came up on philosophy (his pet subject), some of which turned out to have Greek/Roman answers. Googling around this morning I came across this quote from Marcus Aurelius (a Stoic philosopher 121-180 AD) If you read it carefully you see that it's pretty much Pascal's Wager, simply from a slightly different perspective, and some 1,500 years earlier! Quite smart some of those Stoics.


Looks like all round action man and TV historian Dan Snow agrees with my sentiments on Remembrance Day, particularly the apparent alliance between the state and religion. His feeling was that this simple act of remembering the sacrifice of past generations of people for our collective well-being is probably one of the most important state-rituals there is but religion should not "dominate" proceedings. The reasoning he gives seems perfectly sensible to me, see below.

"We live in a country where about half the population say they have no religion. Fewer of us than ever are active believers in the Christianity of the Church of England. There is a great danger that by letting a bishop dominate and refusing to admit a secular presence at the ceremony it will be diminished or even ignored by modern Britons."

Monday, November 11, 2019

Human stories

I'm always slightly uncomfortable about the temporary alliance between the state, church and army at this time of the year, I can understand why it was an obvious link 100 years ago but today it just seems somehow cynical to me. I prefer to seek out human stories over and above the "stage-managed" ones in our shared history, I can relate to them so much more easily, like the Great War example above.

Saturday, November 09, 2019

London Map

Love maps, love London, therefore what's better than a detailed map of London, this one is from around the time of the great plague in the 1600s, interesting to look at the detail and see what features still exist.

Nero would be proud..

A month's rain in 24 hours up in Yorkshire this week, but according to some climate-change is a myth? Think about all those £billions we've spent on lawyers implementing Brexit by transcribing European legislation into exactly the same thing re-labelled as UK legislation, imagine if that money had been spent on flood defenses and green-energy generation technology; such are the priorities of our parochial culture, Nero would be proud.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Christian Comedians

Christian comedian John Crist is having to turn to his boss (the one "upstairs") in order to seek forgiveness for "sexual sins". Apparently John has been a naughty boy and is being accused by five Women of bartering tickets for "sexual favors" and making drunken phone calls and "sexts" over the last seven years. What John doesn't realise of course is that sex and sexual urges are perfectly normal for primates like us, and particularly strong in young males. Truth be told, John hasn't "sinned" he's just an arsehole who needs to treat Women with more respect. Can't really blame him though his "church" has a pretty long record of treating Women like shit. And there was me thinking I'd probably never find anything a Christian comedian said funny...

Friday Smirk

Those of us that have been working for a few decades and are familiar with leaving the house in the dark and coming home in the dark will empathize with this dilemma...

General Elections

So, we all ready and decided how we're going to vote next month?... no me neither.. Seems to me like the dilemma from hell. Vote labour and defeat the Tory's but get a Marxist prime-minister, vote Tory and get the status-quo which BTW is essentially the road to corporate UK and isolationism or vote Lib-Dem and potentially allow one of the others to win in a horribly unpredictable way (i.e. you've no idea which one might win). That reminds me, I need to check that my passport is still valid..

Thursday, November 07, 2019

A little something for the weekend sir?

Dropped by the Grumpy Goat bottle shop in Reading on my way home from London yesterday and picked up a couple of new beers to try this weekend making my fridge look quite respectable for once. (my wife remarked what pretty labels breweries put on their beers these days!) 

From left to right we have...

Sunglasses by DEYA (Cheltenham) - Top brewery currently on fire, a light 4% pale ale hopped to high-heaven.

Neck-Oil by Beavertown (London) - A modern classic, one of their core range and a benchmark hoppy pale.

A Wave In The Marlborough Sounds by Cloudwater (Manchester) - A 5.5% Double dry-hopped pale ale made with hops from New Zealand.

Odyssey by Siren (Finchamstead) - My local brewery, an 8.7%  barrel-aged blended sour, layered, fruity, complex and very deep red colour, a complete Frankenstein of a beer (minus the bolts)..

Light-Bulb by Verdant (Falmouth) - Pale 4.5% session IPA, Simcoe and Centennial hops

Fraxinus by Vibrant Forest (Hythe, Hampshire) - 4.5% haze bomb, orange juice for days..

Woke tribalism

The excellent J&M pointing out the obvious contradiction that exists when religious people criticise tribalism outside of religion (i.e. being "woke") when religion itself is the mother of all manifestations of that particular Human weakness.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019


This fancy sign caught my eye in a new bar/cafe that's opened recently in our town, a decent life-lesson in my humble view.. :)


Went to London today on business to see some clients, the vast majority are really sensible, rational folk who want the optimum balance of risk, value and cost and quite right too. One or two on the other hand are completely deluded about what it costs to run a proper business these days and expect zero risk, maximum value and for everyone in the deal but them to lose money. I was put in mind of Father Ted trying to explain the difference between reality and dreams to Dougal, for some of the time the expression on my face was just like his in the picture above...

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Real reason for the Cretaceous extinction

I knew there was something fishy about that...

Saturday, November 02, 2019


Rugby is such an undemocratic endeavor, why can't we just go with the decision in 2003 without having to re-run it!!

Friday, November 01, 2019

Friday Smirk

I think it's fair to say that one of the most common routes to violence in our world is when one set of religious literalists come up against another. History is littered with examples of mass-slaughter when one set of unfalsifiable beliefs are pitted against an incompatible set, often it's not the content of the beliefs that are the problem it's their very nature, i.e. they cannot be shown to be true and therefore the only way to resolve the dispute is through violence. There are many reasons why we kill each other, differences in beliefs is a big one as are greed over resources and land and quests for power, sometimes the reasons are just stupid, like chariot races or flags, I guess natural selection works in mysterious ways.