Monday, April 30, 2018

Blast from the past...

Sigh, a single common market for 350 million Europeans, a good idea still.

Occam strikes again..

A couple of annoying hardware failures happened to me over the weekend. First of all I got a call from my wife to say that her car had broken down, it was completely dead and not responding to anything. I drove over to where she was and attempted to diagnose the problem, it was a bit baffling with no apparent reason for a complete electrical failure after a full morning of pottering around town just fine. 

I checked a few things, leads, battery, key-battery, hazard lights (which worked?) nothing seemed out of place but I did have an uneasy "feeling" that having changed the main battery in the last few weeks, that was probably something to do with it. Having failed to find anything obvious I did what all real-men abhor, I called the AA man. When he arrived, he took one look at it and said, "I bet Halfords fitted this battery didn't they?" He was right, the fitting was shoddy, a loose connection hidden under a plastic cover (my original gut feeling was correct) why I didn't just lift the plastic cover and discover this for myself was annoying.

Later that evening we decided to watch a film and I turned to my trusty Bose speaker to add a bit of bass and volume to the crappy TV speakers. It's a sleek unit that sits under the TV, it has no buttons only a remote, it was totally unresponsive. I immediately suspected the battery in the remote, the unit has had the same one for over 5 years. I tried all the usual tricks for rejuvenating a flagging battery but no luck, our film was watched with tinny sound. Next day I popped out and bought a new battery, plopped it in the unit, still no response! What could the problem be? Just for kicks I decided to check the mains lead into the unit itself, hidden away behind all the various gadget boxes, after much rummaging I found that it was hanging out of the socket... problem solved.

Moral of the story, always check the most obvious things first!

Electric dreams

Such a shame that Maplin is closing after 40 odd years of flogging us those little, hard to find, electronic gizmos that never seem to completely work properly. At least the staff there still retain a sense of humour about it all, here's an FAQ poster seen in one of their shops recently. The real question of course is "are there really still people out there using SCART plugs?".

Sunday, April 29, 2018

New Atheists

Sorry to disappoint but contrary to what many religious apologists would like us to think, there's nothing "new" about Atheism, it's been a totally rational and credible position for millennia. Although, as remains true in many countries to this day, it's often a choice that bears a heavy price. What is perhaps new is a bunch of people wanting to talk about their atheism (primarily online) and to challenge accepted behavioural and cultural norms that are rooted in supernatural belief systems. In my view, among the plurality of ideas about origins and purpose it remains, by far, the most logically consistent and demonstrably reasonable choice.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

On the spot..

A little story from America, shame I can never think of clever retorts like this until hours later..

Wednesday, April 25, 2018


I see that the row over the terminally ill baby Alfie Evans continues at a pace today.

The various positions seem to line up along religious lines (as is common in these kinds of cases) Many (virtue-signalling) Christians seem to be advocating continued medical intervention in the hope of some kind of "miracle" happening at some point in the future with seemingly little regard for the quality of life of the child himself, stress on the parents or the resources required to do that. On the other side we have the weight of expertise of the medical team treating him, the NHS, several UK judges, the High Court and numerous medical experts who have reviewed the case in detail, a classic "blind-faith" vs. "reason" battle.

Last week that well known medical expert (who still believes in possession by devils) The Pope, weighed in and has focused Catholics around the world onto the case. Now, from the USA we have the Ex-US Governor and Presidential candidate, "huckster Huckabee, tweeting that "the UK Government shouldn't make decisions that only God should make" and "Brits have decided some kids just aren't worth that much and are disposable" I don't think I've ever encountered such a hypocritical, ignorant scum-bag as Huckabee, here is someone prepared to use the terminal illness of a child to make a political point about subsidized health-care. He doesn't even understand the basic difference between a Government decision and a High-Court decision, what a moron! I can think of a few choice Anglo-Saxon phrases for that waste of skin and organs. Someone (Boris?) should tweet back, "if this boy was black, poor and American he'd already be dead", but then again, I'm sure most reasonable Americans are ashamed of such an arrogant and ignorant prick, a complete disgrace to his State and Government.

As if they don't have enough problems of children being killed unnecessarily in their own country, apparently there's a demonstration outside the UK embassy in Washington on Thursday lead by a Catholic priest. In addition to the school-shootings epidemic in the USA, you would have thought that Catholics should have learned by now that since many of their clergy systematically raped and abused thousands of children over decades whilst their leaders covered it up to save their pathetic scum-bag faces that their moral-authority in civilised society is around about zero these days, although thank you for your concern, I'm sure.

Sadly we seem to have a bunch of people hiding behind "faith" (believing things against all evidence) to score political points and insert their supposed "God" into the public square. All of this (supposed) "good-will" with no regard for the details of the case, the child, the expertise of the medical team or the resources being expended following a hopeless course of action. Scans show that the degradation of the child's brain tissue is "catastrophic" and further invasive treatments, let alone trying to fly him to a different country, would, by any measure be unkind and inhumane. The irony of the religious position on this is that none of them ask themselves the question "why did their God put this fatal disease into this little boy the first place?" That awkward thought, of course, will be a "mystery". The only mystery for me is how otherwise intelligent people can delude themselves so circuitously like this.

The strong emotions are understandable and perfectly natural, every decent parent on the planet feels it, I certainly do! In fact, we even have a word for it, it's a Human emotion called "empathy", it makes us think about what we'd all feel and do in similar, hopeless situations, like this. Curiously for these Christians though, their God seemingly knows nothing of this quality? Anyway, God or no God I find the stupidity and callousness of many on the religious-side in this dispute overwhelmingly nauseating.

Update: Best twitter thread on this issue between an American right-wing "Christian" and an English Barrister you can read it here..

Whad'ya gonna do about it?

New J&M today, illustrates the "cafeteria" nature of most religious people these days, they pick and choose which parts of their holy books to believe and follow according to local culture and custom. Of course, there are plenty of literalists too who take it all at face value, they are perhaps the bigger problem for civilised society these days, but I can't help thinking that those on the fringes can't help but feel emboldened by the rest. 


I've been continuing my health-kick from last year into this and have continued to make progress on reducing fat, increasing muscle-mass and generally improving my diet and ramping up the regular exercise I take. The results are encouraging, overall I've improved my BMI (body-mass-index) from around 28 in Jan 2017 down to roughly 19 since the end of last year. So far this year I've been less focused on weight and more focused on changing shape and constitution by exercising more and driving down my % body-fat (from over 30% to around 18% now) and increasing muscle-mass by doing regular weight training. Apparently muscle mass and therefore strength is something that diminishes as you age and is something that's advantageous to keep at healthy levels, I'm certainly aware of it more now than I was!

As much as these things are personal and difficult to approximate, I did take the test on the BBC web site today just to see what it reports (see results page above). It shows how my vital statistics compare to averages for men of my age, size and region of the country, pleasingly I'm well and truly in the "healthy" section. Amazingly only 21% of men my age are in that category, 79% being either overweight, obese or very obese, if accurate, that's quite an alarming statistic, it can only lead to more health problems for those people as they age and more strain on our already creaking NHS.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Hitler who?

Saw this little cartoon today, made me smile. Reminded me very much of the "Far Side" series by Gary Larson. Loved those cartoons.


The internet is notorious for people misunderstanding each other. It's easy to do, I often re-read things I wrote a while ago and think to myself, "that could be read a number of ways". There are a couple of things that I try to do to avoid this (not always successfully) for example, realise that people can't hear your "internal-voice" so something that you write in humour or as sarcasm can often be taken literally. If in doubt about interpretation get someone to read your words back to you, if they don't understand the full-context then often a literal recitation uncovers ambiguity.

I find that Twitter is the worst culprit for this, with such a small word limit it's often difficult to say what you mean, and shortening stuff often leads to less resolution and more misunderstanding. Of course, sometimes less resolution is what you're after and you deliberately want something to be read in many potential ways. When on shaky-ground keeping your options open is sometimes a good approach, particularly if you need to retrace your thought process and take a different tack half way through.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Keep it down..

We had our annual company day yesterday, it's basically a once a year meeting when we all get together and talk about stuff, what happened last year, what's going to happen next year etc., then we go do something fun. This year we all learned how to do "Brazilian street drumming" which, I must say, was really loud, but really good fun! 

After a quick drill from our instructor about keeping time and getting into a groove we all followed along with different instruments and created a kind of sunny "Samba" vibe with whistles, drums, shakers, bells and various things that you have to hit, shake or blow, all in deepest Berkshire! It's amazing what depth and breadth of music can be created by lots of people all doing something relatively simple but layering it all together to form a single piece. After the group work we split up into teams and had to come up with our own tune, they were all surprisingly good and it got the competitive juices flowing!

Sunny Fridays

Excellent half of Yu-Lu from Siren, drunk after work yesterday (Friday) whilst basking in the evening sun. Supped at their new Tap-yard which is right next door to the brewery. Incredibly fresh and flavorsome (made this week), this particular brew is a pale ale that has Earl Gray tea and lemon zest in it, utterly perfect for warm weather. At only 3.6% ABV we could have lingered and sunk a few of these, especially after a particularly busy week! But, I promised to get home and make a Friday night curry for the everyone, oh the sacrifice :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A mile in my shoes

I always find it strange how many religious people (even the really smart ones) are unable to see their own positions from the point of view of those that don't hold it. This phenomenon is exemplified when Christians debate Muslims or Buddhists debate Hindus over the minutia of what it says in their special books, what x said to y three thousand years ago or whether it's wrong that their particular prophet reportedly had sex with a child etc. 

From the point of view of an Atheist all these debates are essentially the same, i.e. based on no foundation in reality whatsoever, and therefore simply matters of opinion. It feels to us like a Thursday evening book-club debate that the participants are willing to kill each other over. You might say "so what, where's the harm", but, being no more than evolved primates, the philosophical differences between the myriad of faiths and none almost always end up harming someone or restricting the freedoms of the "other". We need only look at suicide bombers, abortion clinics, gulags and segregated school children to see how these differences impinge directly on the ways we live our (real) lives. It's a shame so many people find it so hard to separate the plurality of reality from their parochial imagination and desires.

L'enfer, c'est les autres

Post Brexit, we wonder who or what the UK media will blame British political and business cock-up's on... "someone else" is clearly the answer.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


Good work here. I love it when the classics are re-applied to current news..

Monday, April 16, 2018

Warning, drinking poison may damage your health..

Following recent revelations that drinking too much alcohol shortens your life this amusing letter appeared in the letters section of the paper, it made me smile on a sunny Spring morning. 

It shouldn't be surprising to people that consuming what is essentially a poisonous substance will do some harm to most people, especially if they do it over prolonged periods of time. What the study showed was that for people who stick to the recommended guidelines there should be no obvious effects on their health, but, the more you exceed these thresholds regularly the more likely it is that you'll suffer from one or more of the many illnesses correlated with alcohol consumption, like heart disease and cancer. This conclusion should be a "no shit Sherlock" kind of conclusion, but as is the way of mass-scientific studies, the results will, no doubt, be contended by vested interests and deluded people using the classic "my granny smoked until she was 90" defense.

Personally, I try to limit myself to the guidelines (or thereabouts) of around 14-16 units per week and therefore have alcohol infrequently, usually on Friday and/or Saturday evening, the rest of the week being dry; this seems to work for me. Many of my peer-group seem to drink a lot more than this, some would even claim to sink something alcoholic every night! I'm sure you get used to whatever pattern you follow, but for me, that kind of frequency would be harmful, especially over an extended period of time. I know I have addictive potential when it comes to booze (you can test this by measuring your blood-pressure before and after a couple of quickly downed drinks, if it's elevated then you need to watch out) so, although I get much pleasure from the whole wine-tasting gig and more lately craft-beers, I do need to take care.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Laugh at death

Has even more impact if you wear blocks on your shoes making you 9ft tall..

Peak Facebook?

I caught some of the video-testimony of Mark Zuckerberg to the US congress this week, he was talking about the recent privacy scandals around his social-media platform, Facebook. Much of it was uneventful and yet certain parts somewhat awkward. At some points he comes across as simply nervous, at other times he looks positively demonic, answering some seemingly simple questions in very obscure and tortured ways, often not answering at all. The fact that a relatively simple exploit could be used to harvest personal information from millions of people right under the noses of the administrators of this platform seems incredible, the suspicion of collusion seems unavoidable. I wonder if this will be the scandal that will force the hand of the board of this company and mark a change in it's dictatorial trajectory, it should certainly make people a little more wary of how and where they choose to fill in those personal profile boxes.

True Stories

I attended a black-tie party this weekend to celebrate a milestone birthday of a long-standing family friend. It was quite a formal do and pulled together many different strands of people, well over 100 came, the weather was glorious and we had a nice meal and party down by the Thames at Sonning. The particular person who's birthday it was happens to be very (Christian) religious and subsequently many of her closest friends are church-related friends, during the evening we all had several "let us pray" moments, not that that was any kind of problem, but did provide me with some excellent people-watching opportunities (I was one of the few who's eyes remained firmly open) 

Generally, I'd say that you'd probably classify this group as "posh", the car park was full of posh cars, the frocks and suits were posh and the accents edging toward the plummy end of the spectrum. Most of the stories being told about the birthday girl were about things like, boozy lunches in Harvey Nicks, skiing exploits in Val d'Isere or Meribel and exotic trips to far flung places. There were lot's of tales of drinking to excess, spending to excess and plenty of innuendo about inappropriate liaisons with inappropriate boys, snatched in the back of Triumph Spitfires. From a superficial reading of the crowd you'd have struggled to distinguish them from any flavour of Western, secular, wealthy, middle-aged people who have (mostly) lead privileged lives, benefiting greatly from resources provided by their similarly well endowed parents and families. The religion bit seemed to me to cut across it all in a rather orthogonal way, almost like they felt that the success and excess parts of their lives needed to be counter-balanced by an appropriate amount of deistic grovelling. Of course who knows how many of the people there actually believed it all, and how many just go along for the ride, I must say that the whole thing did have a kind of "Masons" vibe to it. These particular Christians were certainly a million miles away from the literalist end of the scale, more your "cafeteria" style perhaps, picking and choosing when and what to attribute to that part of their lives but otherwise doing sterling impressions of liberal capitalists and atheists. Maybe this religion/Christian thing is much more about simply being "in a club" than I'd perhaps realised.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Friday Smirk

Te he..

Apocalypse now, again...

Well folks it must be that time of year again, time for the apocalypse! According to people that adhere to "Bible-code theory" (whatever that is?) are predicting that 23rd April 2018 is the date that the world will end. My prediction is that their prediction is about as reliable and accurate as the Bible itself, i.e. in no way any representation of reality. Fortunately reality is where we actually live and not in some supernatural Disney-Land invented by prehistoric goat-herders and embellished by 4th century empire-builders.

One of these days though, one of these predictions is actually going to be true! There are so many with such frequency that its like predicting the lottery numbers, if you make enough guesses eventually probability will be in your favour. By that time though I suspect the Sun will have expanded to become a red-dwarf and there'll be an infinite number of Humans with an infinite number of religions and gods, fortunately, I'm pretty certain I won't be around to see it.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Patriarchy

It remains one of life's great mysteries why Women follow any of the main (male-dominated) religions, well, it was until Stockholm syndrome was discovered. In any case this new J&M points out the way in which we (in the West) seem to be falling into the trap of treating the immoral dogma of Islam differently from the immoral dogma of the other Abrahamic faiths, it's a mystery why people do this (no it isn't)...

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Specks rule

Some people realise this when they grow up, many don't manage it.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Everything but brown..

A (tongue in cheek) scientific analysis of Chakra colours...

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Maltiverse theory

Here's some lovely looking malted barley and flaked oats ready to go into my latest brew. This one is my own recipe but is loosely based on Zombie Dust by the 3 Floyds Brewing Co. It should be quite dark in colour and very hop-forward in flavour, I'm using just Citra hops which as the name suggests impart a very citrus fruit character to the beer. Should be ready in a month, let's hope we get some decent weather for me to perhaps make it the first "BBQ" pint of the year.

Saturday Smirk

Waiter, waiter, there's a hair in my chow mein...

Friday, April 06, 2018

I am the GRIM REAPER...

Bit morbid for a Friday, I know, but I thought it was good; expresses my thoughts on death (and life) very well.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Gender gaps in our understanding of statistics

Lot of stuff in the media at the moment about the "Gender pay gap", seems like every slimy politician going is positively leaping on the band-wagon to virtue-signal about it. The question I ask is simply, "where's the data?" Or more precisely, show me the multi-variate analysis that proves that the difference (which there clearly is) between the average pay for Men and Women doing the same job is due only to Gender. Sure, I accept that there will be some employers out there who are exploitative and yes, absolutely, there needs to be mechanisms in law to redress unfairness. But, this "blanket" approach seems all wrong to me and I fear will lead to unexpected consequences that will harm more than it will help. This kind of blanket-policy making where punitive legislation is made not for individuals but for an "identity" (for example Women, Men, Gay, Black, Jewish etc.) has a fraught history. Identity is not a great basis for any kind of legislation in my view, it smacks of quotas, committees, fixed-wages and discrimination based upon things that don't assist the viability of an enterprise, like individual competence.

I've been employing people in various companies in the Tech. sector now for going on 25 years, I must say, hand on heart, I've never perceived a single instance of this so called "Gender pay gap". In my experience people have been paid differently for the same role due to a number of factors, none of which include Gender. The factors I've seen would include things such as general and specific experience, previous salary, incentive to move, hours worked, ambitiousness, intelligence, competence, flexibility, personality and so on, the list is long and the process is a complex and varied one. Added to this, many of the factors are highly subjective. Of course, with the exception of perhaps the Civil Service and certain production-line type jobs, the complexity and changeability of the employment landscape is one of the reasons that it's practically impossible these days to compute which jobs are even "the same".

Now, is the Tech sector an anomaly? Possibly. Is my experience exceptional? Maybe, but there's no data (that I have seen) that even strongly-supports the claim the politicians are currently making. To claim that Women (on aggregate) get paid less than Men for the same role is to assume (among many other things) the following,

- Women (in general) actually want to do the same jobs as men (for example they dominate in Medicine, whereas Men dominate in Engineering)

- Women (in general) don't actually want to put the 100+ hours a week into a career and job in order to run a large complex organisation, sure some can and do, but in general it's men that step up to the plate for that because they have (in aggregate) personality traits and personal situations able to accommodate that.

- Women need to have children (most do) before they hit 35 (ideally, from a Biological point of view) and this unavoidable reality means that the all consuming top-jobs become less and less attractive to Women when children come on the scene.

- Women tend to be more agreeable in personality than men, this correlates negatively with negotiating success (there are many studies that show this) Clearly this can be adjusted with training, but in general you get what you can negotiate and not necessarily what you deserve. Clearly this is unfair, but only in the same way that good looking Women tend to attract more successful men is also unfair. No one complains about bias and selectivity when it comes to finding a suitable partner!

Clearly this whole subject is littered with emotion, strong-opinions and bias, there are obviously many exceptions to these generalizations. Talking about it often elicits the "smoking Granny" response, i.e. if you say "smoking is bad for you", some bright spark always pops up and says "but my Granny smoked and she lived until she was 99" etc. Many people struggle to understand the difference between the statistics of large populations and individual experience. Blanket laws applied to identities that are ill-defined and sit astride highly subjective "Human" processes, like employment, would seem to need pretty clear and unambiguous multi-variate analysis to back them up. 

I'm not convinced that this kind of identity-politics will achieve good outcomes, I can imagine an employment landscape where average and below-average Women (there will always be a tiny minority of high-performers) will become very unattractive propositions to employers. Not because they don't have useful skills but because their pay will be pegged (by law) to the highest male performers simply because of their Gender, regardless of competence or contribution. Of course there may well be situations where this is reversed, i.e. where below-average men receive artificially high wages simply because there are more competent women doing the same job, i.e. the men will actually hold the high-performing Women back! What is more likely however is that everyone will receive a median salary even the high-performers, and this will create serious problems for employers. As most business leaders will testify, not giving someone a pay-rise is an invaluable way of providing an incentive to that person to improve their skills or to move-on and not paying a high-performer what they're worth is a sure-fire way of ensuring they do.


New J&M today exploring the topic of sacrifice and specifically the question "if you claim to sacrifice your life for something but don't really die, what kind of sacrifice is that?" - the skeptic in me just has to ask.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018


Breaking news tonight that there's an active shooter at the YouTube headquarters in The Valley, let's hope he or she has been unsuccessful and no one is hurt, one thing is for sure though, there will be video. Such are the times we live in.