Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What goes up...

I've been doing some more brewing lately; it's in readiness for a party coming up in June to celebrate my Sister's 50th birthday. I thought I'd knock up some brews for the boys (and beer loving girls) in the family (and extended family) and as there's going to be quite a few people there I'm aiming to have quantity, quality and range covered so that people can find something they enjoy and have enough to keep them going throughout the day. 

As I've been doing a few batches I thought I'd record the life-cycle of a typical brew as a series of three photo's taken at zero hours, 6 hours and 7 days (when the main changes occur) In this first snap we see the fermenter full of fresh (un-fermented beer) at this point all the crud (proteins and fatty acids) are starting to settle out, you can see them as a cloudy haze of particles gradually sinking to the bottom of the container and separating from the sweet wort which is the beer coloured liquid at the top. At this point the yeast is mixed up with this mush and takes a few hours to really get into its stride.

This picture was taken after 6 hours, something rather odd has happened, all that fluffy crud has suddenly risen to the top of the vessel. The cause of this is that the yeast has now started working and is munching its way through the sugars in the wort. As it does this carbon dioxide gas is produced and the tiny little bubbles rise through the liquid and cause the whole lot to clump at the top, sometimes this is so violent that stuff starts leaking out, hence the tube you can see which directs the overflow into a suitable container should that happen. The beer stays like this for about 3 days as it passes through its most active fermentation phase.

Now we see the beer 7 days into the process, as you can see the fluffy crud that was being held up by carbon dioxide bubbles is now no more. The yeast has polished off most of the sugars in the wort (converting them to alcohol) and the whole thing is now properly beer! The remaining clumpy bits have sunk to the bottom again where they will gradually compress down. The beer is drinkable at this stage but isn't fizzy, to get a fizz into it you need to put it in some bottles with an air-tight cap along with a little extra sugar to get the remaining yeast to generate some more carbon dioxide to carbonate it. Sometimes to get the beer really clear I put the whole thing in the fridge for a couple of days at 3 degrees centigrade, this causes most things to come out of suspension and makes the final product crystal clear.

The batches I make are small, only a gallon at a time (8 pints) so I'll be doing half a dozen or so in enough time to allow them to condition properly in bottles before unleashing them on an unsuspecting public, let's hope they come out OK!

Sunday, May 29, 2016


Awesome ride; to space and back with a SpaceX rocket.

Friday, May 27, 2016


I really hate aggressive drivers like Andrew Nay.

Living in the crowded South East of England you unfortunately see a lot of this kind of thing, "Top Gear drivers" I call them, usually sad little people with no imaginations and even less intellect, whose adrenaline glands are too big and whose frontal lobes too small. They regard their fellow human beings with utter contempt and harbor ridiculous delusions of skill when it comes to driving ability and the social status that driving a particular assembly of bits of metal, plastic and glass infers.

This a-hole (Andrew Nay) paralyzed two innocent school girls, essentially ruining their lives, for what, we ask? Because he felt his precious "manhood" had been threatened by another innocent (Woman) driver who he was chasing and bullying at high speed when he swerved into the path of the victims. This pathetic waste of skin and organs should have rotted in jail for 20 years in my opinion (as opposed to the 2 or 3 that he actually got), sometimes our justice system simply isn't able to keep up with the stupidity of some of the people in our land.

Feeling old?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Laws inspired by myths

Great article in the Independent by Mark Steel, very funny and, like the best forms of humour, bitingly satirical as well.

It's about the tyrannical and archaic abortion laws in Northern Ireland and the recent prosecution of a young Woman for deciding to have an abortion that, in any other part of the UK, would be perfectly legal. In my view these laws are discriminatory, unfair and a disgrace to the legal system of the UK as a whole, a bizarre religiously inspired relic that would be best consigned to history. In my mind this is about a very basic human right, people should be free to control their own bodies, free from meddling male virgins who have no special insight or authority in these matters, save that they belong to a historically privileged organisation whose most recent claim to fame is that it has a big problem with child-rapists! But not to worry, they regularly hear voices in their heads and, on Sundays, have 2000 year old zombies for breakfast.. (exactly the kinds of people you want to take ethical advice from... not!)


1. Be open-minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence.
2. Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true.
3. The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world.
4. Every person has the right to control their body.
5. God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life.
6. Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognize that you must take responsibility for them.
7. Treat others as you would want them to treat you, and can reasonably expect them to want to be treated. Think about their perspective.
8. We have the responsibility to consider others, including future generations.
9. There is no one right way to live.
10. Leave the world a better place than you found it.

When you use consensus, reason and experience (as a human being living today) to work out what makes for a better society rather than superstition, sectarianism and ancient myths, you tend to end up with a more humane and relevant set of commandments than those on offer from the current set of leading theism's. The above list won a competition on CNN to find the best set of "non-commandments" for atheists and humanists. I can think of a few specific things I'd want to add to this list, as some of the items are rather subjective but broadly it's a decent list; certainly better than the commandments that can be found in the Bible, which, let's face it are largely about grovelling to that jealous, vengeful psychopath Yahweh rather than living a good life.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Passed over?

Ever lost a big deal or been rejected for a job opening; don't worry it happens to everyone, I once met a lady who works as a book publisher and "passed" on Harry Potter, she is still in therapy, but others go on to greatness, see above, even genius isn't always recognized at first.


I must have a "spiritual link" with the author of J&M, only yesterday I posted about the recent beliefs survey and here he/she is updating an old cartoon to reflect the results of that same survey, either that or it's just a coincidence...

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tyranny of the majority

The latest bit of population research is showing that for the first time ever Atheists outnumber Christians in the UK. A recent survey turned up the result that 48.5% of people asked identified as having "no religion" whereas only 43.8% identified as Christian. I always take these kinds of surveys with a little pinch of salt, it's difficult to be precise on these matters, many people have very different views of what it means to be religious or not but in any case the trend seems positive. We can probably safely assume that the influence of religion is diminishing in our society (which isn't necessarily the same as the numbers diminishing)

Interestingly, most "non-believing" people I know don't really care that much what religion others might follow (or not), the main issue they seem to have is when those private beliefs start to impact on the public square in the form of discrimination, privilege, warping education, misogyny and general interference in the democratic process. I hope that we can finally put a nail in the coffin of politicians (of all stripes) labelling this country as a "Christian country" and adopt a proper separation of church and state. IMO the official line these days should be that we used to be a Christian country, but we're not any more. Public figures need to get over it, and, rather than pandering to (ever diminishing) popular religions, start worrying about how they're going to win the secular/rational/atheist vote!

I wonder when the mass killing, anti-religious pogroms and consumption of babies will start?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Belief in diffraction

Nice little cartoon from the wonderful xkcd today; sometimes reality doesn't quite fit with our quaint, pet beliefs (hint: that's usually a big clue that our belief is a delusion; see previous post on BS)

Holy cow ....?

Human beings are such strange creatures. Almost every culture and sub-culture seems to need to invent weird and improbable ideas in an attempt to explain to themselves why they're not all billionaire play(boy/girl) super-models (or whatever they aspire to). Here we see the Hindu variety of this phenomenon in action, small children and babies are being physically hurled into cow shit. Of course this is not you're regular garden variety BS, this is "magic" dung that will bring "good luck" (didn't work for these kids, they just got thrown in a bunch of manure!) Of course I'm not singling out Hinduism for ridicule here, many cultures have similar customs and certainly all religions seem more or less founded on ridiculous ideas like this, aka, magic and superstition. By now we should all know what gives us mere mortals the best chance of a healthy and full life, it's education and the opportunity to use it of course, the exact opposite of believing in the power of BS.

Friday, May 20, 2016


The nature of evidence in some minds, captured perfectly by the latest J&M cartoon.

In the vocabulary of some, "Evidence" is one of those delightfully plastic words, like "know" and "truth". It's meaning can wax and wane depending on when it was said, who said it or even in just the particular sentence they're on. As someone much smarter than me once said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his livelihood depends on his not understanding it.”.

The eye of the beholder

Here's an interesting (modern) dilemma, the BBC are running a story around this photograph today under the headline "Is this picture disgusting or beautiful". To give it a bit of context what you can see in the image is a father and his son. It was taken by the boy's Mother at a time when the boy was very ill with a fever, the point of the shower was two-fold, firstly to reduce the fever but also because the boy had Salmonella poisoning and the flowing water enabled the vomit and diarrhoea to be washed away as soon as it appeared. The Mother wrote in her post alongside the image, "He was so patient and so loving and so strong with our tiny son in his lap... I stepped out and grabbed my camera and came back to snap a few images of it and, of course shared them".

Apparently there have been many negative reactions to the photograph; perhaps not unsurprisingly in today's hyper-sexualized world comments have focused on the nudity rather than the underlying story. I often wonder what my own children think as they are bombarded via radio and TV with stories about sexual predators and the horrendous crimes they perpetrate, on the one hand it's good that the problem is out in the open, forewarned is forearmed etc. but on the other I can't help feeling that they're getting a warped view of how society really is.

My answer to the question is, of course, that this is a beautiful picture! It's rare that we see such moments between Fathers and their children, more often than not we're the ones taking the pictures or aiming the garden hose as our toddlers squeal with delight and are out of shot. I don't know these people and almost certainly never will, but that's not the point, this picture connects me to them via shared experience (having nursed my own kids through fevers and illness) and it triggers a strong emotional reaction. If that isn't one of the main purposes of creating art in the first place then I don't know what is.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Proving the negative

Climate change may well be the most challenging thing that humanity has faced since the plagues of the middle ages. The map above is a guesstimate of water levels around the UK in the year 2100; let's hope this turns out to be wrong, but even if it's only 10% correct then we're still looking at a massive upheaval of people and resources in the face of rising sea levels and retreating shorelines.

The detractors of course will say things like "science can't prove it", which is a lot like the age old religious argument that rationalists like me get all the time, i.e. "you can't prove God doesn't exist". Both miss the point by a country mile, and the point is that nothing in the real world is "provable", science works with models and probabilities, both of which provide the best method we have for finding out what's true and what's real and for attempting to predict what might happen in the future. Climate models, like models of disease transmission and models of how formula one cars travel through the air give us hugely valuable insights into what happens in the real world given certain initial conditions; people that deny the findings of this essential research do so at their own peril, but unfortunately as this map shows, climate, unlike the EU, isn't something that can be opted out of.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Spill proofing your pint..

Continuing on a beer theme (slow news day) here's a little vid. that illustrates exactly how science should be used for the benefit of human-kind. Looks like a steadycam kind of device, very spooky, apparently it's all about locating the centre of mass of the pint outside of the pint itself but don't ask me how you could possibly do that with such an unlikely looking contraption!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Black is the new brown

So here is my blackberry and vanilla porter; a dark, rich beer full of malty goodness, almost a meal in its own right! Slightly sweet with a really heady nose of coffee and chocolate toffee then you get the dark fruits and vanilla on the finish, I like it; might make a few more of these!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


A recent J&M cartoon; in the warped vocabulary of the Abrahamic religions, "liberation" for Men usually means some form of oppression for Women.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


The problem many left-leaning liberals have with certain religions these days is the inability to apply a suitable level of scepticism and ethical scrutiny to them because they have been conditioned (since childhood) to unconditionally respect all things labelled "religion". If only those people (usually on the left, but often from the centre too) could bring themselves to apply the same standards of moral benchmarking to religious ideas as they do to extreme right-wing ideas, and reject them as quickly.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Gullible, worldwide

It's been a long day and I'm tired, I also have more work to do later tonight so I thought I'd blog about some low hanging fruit; religious cults. Apparently in Denmark there is a Christian cult that claims Autism is caused by demons; nothing too unusual there you might think but this crowd claim to be able to cure it! Their charismatic leader (aren't they always) pictured above, also claims to have cured cancer and homosexuality by "casting out" demons. You can check out their Website, it's the usual BS, a bunch of unfalsifiable claims and nonsensical biblical gobbledygook designed to impress the credulous.

I find it incredible that with the mountains of evidence on religious cults and their 100% record of ultimately revealing deviance or criminality, that people still fall for it in such numbers. As PT Barnum once (possibly) said, "there's a sucker born every minute", the fact there's is no evidence that he actually said it kind of makes the point. The people that run these kinds of cults are so obviously mentally ill, hucksters or sexual predators and yet it has become commonplace to simply shrug ones shoulders and laugh them off, unfortunately real (innocent) people are being fleeced and lives ruined because our society has been conditioned into unconditionally respecting anything that has the label "religion", in any other walk of life this kind of thing would never be permitted in civilised society (apart from banking of course, where the same levels of mysticism and fraud have almost been attained as religion).

All aboard ... ?

Now that London has an Islamic Mayor that religion seems to be hitting the news even more than usual. I see that the largest Muslim charity in Britain is trying to portray a "softer" side of Islam by posting signs on red buses proclaiming "glory to Allah". I'm not sure these people "get it", most people will I'm sure mix this up with "Allahu Akbar" (God is greater) which  is synonymous in the West with what happens just before you're about to get your limbs blown off; hardly a positive vibe. 

What would have impressed me more is if the sign read, "equality for Muslim Women" or perhaps "don't throw gay people off tall buildings" even "beheading innocent unbelievers is evil" , but then again we all know why that will never happen until Muslims themselves reform their archaic religion out of the bronze age and into the 21st century (not that any other religion has fully achieved this yet)..

Thursday, May 05, 2016

When God speaks..

Now that all the candidates "God" spoke to and instructed to run for president have been eliminated from running in the US election should we expect lightening bolts, floods, plagues et al? After all the USA is his own personal country, he's bound to take a special interest. When my local Conservative councillor knocked on my door canvassing the other day I asked him if God featured in his campaign, apparently Yahweh doesn't give a stuff about Wokingham district council elections.

If I were a believer I'd be worried at this shocking outcome, after all the big G is bound to be a bit upset, you know how vengeful he gets about such Human trivia; although thinking about it, maybe his punishment will be that Trump actually wins?

Tuesday, May 03, 2016


History of Europe...

religious wars
religious wars
religious wars
religious wars
religious wars
religious wars
arguments about bananas

To be honest I'm leaning towards the banana thing...

Inhumane humans

One of my favourite Catholic Archbishops, Vincent Nichols has been confirming his preference for dogma over humanity again by publicly backing bishops in Poland who are calling for a total ban on all abortion. Currently in Poland (a predominantly Catholic county) Women are permitted to have control over their own bodies in only a few special circumstances; they are graciously allowed an abortion in cases of rape or ill heath or when the foetus isn't developing properly. 

Church leaders (Catholic ones) aren't happy with this arrangement however, they don't want Women (of any faith) to have this much control, they would prefer to impose their own primitive (male dominated)  mythology over that society and ban all abortion completely. Let that sink in for a minute, this unconscionable parasite in a gold hat would prefer it that Women are forced to raise the child of a rapist or a severely disabled infant and live with that psychological anguish, burden and regret for their whole lives rather than simply do the right thing and determine the course of their own biology, as is easily (and safely) facilitated these days by modern medicine. 

I can only hope that the people of Poland, particularly it's Women-folk, see sense and kick the cynical proposal made by these callous old virgins in the proverbial vestibules. As has happened in most Western European countries (except Ireland), the influence of the Catholic church has dramatically diminished over time as the populations have become better educated and generally less credulous; perhaps as more Polish people start to realise how undemocratic and backward theocracy tends to be they will gradually pries open the suffocating grip of this sinister death cult and join the rest of Europe in the 21st century.

Money for old-rope

Homoeopathy in the news again, for the same reason that it's always in the news, i.e. we're spending around £5 million a year on it in the NHS and it doesn't work! After a total of 57 systematic reviews, containing the 176 individual studies, focused on 68 different health conditions, a recent scientific study by the Medical Research Council found there to be no evidence homoeopathy was any more effective than placebo for any condition. In other words a big fat ZERO, no effect, zilch, nada, nothing to see here, yet again. 

Of course, devotees of this infamous "alternative" to real medicine will completely ignore this new evidence. As we often see around (complex) topics like GM, Global Warming, fracking et al, it's difficult to use evidence to convince people of truths when they don't value evidence as a way of determining the truth, preferring instead to base their opinions on confirmation bias and "gut-feel". All we seem to get these days from the pro-lobby is tin-foil, conspiracy theory waffle about "big science" and anecdotal stories of "my nan was cured of herpes" or the best one, "you need to be more open minded".. It seems unavoidable to conclude that many people are so open-minded that their brain have fallen out, in any case no one is suggesting that anyone is prevented from taking whatever sugar pills/placebo/body piercings they like, they just need to pay for it themselves or prove it works! (surely if their pills and potions are as potent as they claim then how difficult could it be?)