Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Ridge recommendation

It feels like I haven't talked about one of my great hobbies (Wine) for ages so to remedy that here's a recommendation from my recent holiday in the USA. It's from one of my favorite producers in California called "Ridge". These guys produce wines ranging from hundreds of pounds per bottle down to what I would call mid-range prices i.e. between 10 and 20 pounds per bottle. This one would be around the £15-18 mark retail but probably around £30-40 in a restaurant (mark-ups are shocking these days!) It's made (primarily) from Zinfandel grapes, a varietal Ridge do exceptionally well, and is superb value for money. A real food wine, it's deep red-berry and plum fruit is balanced perfectly with ripe tannin and for me it punches well above it's weight. It will age well for 5-10 years too I reckon.

Probably quite hard to find in the UK, but if you ever see it snap it up!

Stepping backwards

I couldn't let this one pass without commenting on it. The new US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions (himself an evangelical Christian) announced on Monday the setting up of a "Religious Liberty Task Force" a group of people that are supposedly going to "make sure that Government employees know their duties to accommodate people of faith".

A more transparently partisan and clearly hypocritical idea you will struggle to find, it's clearly and simply a mechanism by which religious people (i.e. Christians) in the USA will be permitted to discriminate based on whatever religiously inspired objections to anything that they care to pull out of their arses. Much like the vain attempts of Trumps lawyer Rudy Giuliani to persuade people that committing a crime is not illegal, especially when it involves his boss colluding with Russia, this thinly veiled rouse is clearly a slippery slope aimed at re-establishing Christianity and, more worryingly, the more evangelical elements of it back into the US Government and legal institutions. It's a hypocritical ploy because it's clearly aimed at securing votes but also because, although it's positioned as a "Religious" task-force in his speech Sessions let slip that this was simply making good on campaign promises to "protect Christians".

I predict it won't be long before legal rights, won through fair and lengthy campaigning, are being denied to (Christian hated) minorities like LGBT people, particularly in the Bible belt, no more wedding cakes for gays!. Government institutions will only be able to stick their heads in the sand for fear of falling foul of the Christian Taliban that's seeming grasping ever more tightly to power over there. It leaves only organisations such as the ACLU and the (ever eroding) American legal system to fight for minority interests and a the simple idea that people should be treated equally whatever the do or don't believe with respect to the supernatural.

So much for the land of the free.

Emotional credulity

Been trying to explain to a bunch of sales people today why current "AI" technologies aren't "generic" and can't just be pointed at any question they can imagine, it was an uphill battle. 

Of course that's the way that these kinds of techniques are often presented in the advertising media and on dumbed-down TV shows. I also often find that people more driven by emotion are less able to recognise bullshit when they see it than those at the more rational end of the spectrum, my audience was mainly composed of people in the former camp. I can't say this is a uniformly applicable scientific conclusion but was certainly true of the people in the room today. I left them pondering why someone hasn't simply taken every lottery result from the past and used a "machine learning algorithm" to predict what the numbers will be next week, I could sense that many couldn't really understand why this wasn't possible. Tricky stuff this software/math/logic malarkey, but sometimes you have to remind people that it's not "magic".

Monday, July 30, 2018

Time travel

It seems amazing to me that I was born only 13 years after this picture was taken, it simply looks like a different world to me, a kind of fiction only existing in films. It shows Shaftesbury avenue from Piccadilly circus (London) and was taken some time in 1949.

Perhaps the reason for the dissonance is that change is difficult to perceive if it is slow and gradual, like the proverbial frog that doesn't jump from the pan of water if it is heated gently, i.e. we only notice things when presented with big jumps or all of the changes all at once. Sometimes I suspect that this means we don't pay anywhere near enough attention to or make the most of the small changes in our lives. The myriad micro-optimizations that aggregate to make our appearance, habits, surroundings and perhaps even attitudes almost unrecognizable to visitors from the past (via physical separation) or the future, via time travel through the proxy of a photograph like this one.

Funny thing time.

Monday Mirth

Illustrates the challenge explaining "missing values" to people who aren't up to speed with tri-state logic..

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Pretty in Pink

Another pleasant sunny (ish) evening spent at the Siren Tap-yard yesterday, we played some cards, had a good old family catch-up and I tried one of their new beers. "The Sky was Pink" is a collaboration with DEYA brewing company based down in Cheltenham and is a rather splendid pink/orange colour due to the Hibiscus flowers put into the boil. In addition, the beer has a ton of Citra, Mandarina Bavaria & Hallertau Blanc hops lending a really nice orange/tangerine kind of vibe. At 6.4% ABV it's certainly not a session beer and one 2/3-pint was all that was needed to hit the perfect spot after a busy week. Today, rain is the main feature of the day, the plants seem to be heaving a collective sigh of relief, even the grass looks green for a change.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Friday Smirk

Saw this little gag the other day, it brought a smile to my face..

Thursday, July 26, 2018


You've got to marvel at the honesty of Australian sign-writers..

Wednesday, July 25, 2018


Having had to travel on the London Underground in the last couple of days I'm beginning to understand how those medieval narrators went about telling stories that encapsulate Human experience.

Awkward facts

Excellent J&M today illustrating one of those awkward facts that inserts a logic-bomb into the delusional narrative of many religious apologists.

Modern times

Sums up how it feels to live in the "post-truth" era, where are hippies when you need them..

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Reminder from a Remainer II

Perhaps the people of the UK should start thinking more critically about that idealistic fantasy period in history to which the Brexiters wish so passionately to return to, rationing again anyone? 

Anyway, whilst we're thinking about that, I'm sure the above book can be found on Amazon and let's face it, we desperately need something to sort out our obesity problem. Ironically, this is the only potential future benefit of Brexit that I can think of, I've certainly never heard any others from anyone that actually voted for it.

Reminder from a Remainer I

So, looks like the people have spoken, looks like there are some serious doubts about all this..

Mid-Week Pun

Probably smirking at this a little more than I should be.

Generation gap

I find it amusing how us older folks seem to have to tweak our vocabulary when dealing with Millennial's. I was in a meeting earlier with a bunch of 20 somethings, when the subject of "systems of record" came up and why, for business, it's important to only keep one version of important information current at one time. I wanted to communicate the idea that centralising data into systems of record is (mainly) so that individuals don't need to spawn their own private copies of information which then become out of date and divergent from the original, i.e. one version of the truth.

As an analogy I talked about how, back in the day, I used to store my negatives in special protective plastic sheets, called "negative files" and that the benefit of this was that you didn't have to have piles of old photos cluttering up the place and potentially getting scratched and creased, you could print whatever size you needed from the negative in pristine form, on-demand. I looked across a field of blank faces for a second before I realised my mistake, none of them knew what a "negative" was... 

Predicting the future

You don't need any supernatural intervention in order to have a good go at predicting the future, you just need to be well read and have a good sense of social trends and the potential consequences of them. Here we have Carl Sagan back in the mid-90's illuminating his fears for the future of education and science and the impact that "dumbing-down" might have on his country, he wasn't far off.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Shock to the system

First day back at work after a couple of weeks off, always a shock to the old system...

Friday, July 20, 2018

Friday Smirk

There are many informal laws of internet discussion groups and blog chat, occasionally it's worth reminding ourselves of the main ones..

Godwin's Law: As any Internet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1

Poe's Law : Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humour, it is impossible to create a parody of fundamentalism that someone won't mistake for the real thing.

Rule 34 : If it exists, there is porn of it.

Skitt's Law : Any post correcting an error in another post will contain at least one error itself.

Scopie's Law : In any discussion involving science or medicine, citing AnswersInGenesis as a credible source loses the argument immediately

Danth's Law : If you have to insist that you've won an internet argument, you've probably lost badly.

Pommer's Law : A person's mind can be changed by reading information on the internet. The nature of this change will be from having no opinion to having a wrong opinion.

DeMyer's Law : Anyone who posts an argument on the internet which is largely quotations can be safely ignored, and is deemed to have lost the argument before it has begun.

Cohen's Law : Whoever resorts to the argument that ‘whoever resorts to the argument that... …has automatically lost the debate’ has automatically lost the debate.

The Exclamation Law : The more exclamation points used in a posting, the more likely it is a complete lie. This is also true for excessive capital letters.

I'm sure Trump will have created a few new ones by the time he's finished..

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Work-Life balance

My Son took his GCSE exams this Summer and is now awaiting the results which should arrive in a few weeks time. I remember the Summer of my O-Levels (the equivalent back-then) and like him from the end of June onward luxuriating in a long break from school, books and revision. I seem to remember it being warm, sunny and gloriously lazy but looking back at the records his July has trumped mine by a long way, the highest temperature back then being only 25 degrees and already this July we've had several days over 30! Global warming aside, perhaps the weather always seems better when you're young and haven't got much to do except hang-out with your mates, listen to music and enjoy the Summer; it's a rare personality indeed that actually enjoys exams. 

Throughout our lives I'm sure we all experience many moments when we feel that pressure of measurement and comparison, work-life is like that almost every day, but as I get older I do sense that I'm taking it less seriously and not attaching so much weight to it as I have done in the past. Life has a habit of continually illustrating it's fragility, whilst in New York visiting the 9/11 memorial last week I thought about this quite a lot, it was a stark reminder that it only takes some random bad-luck and an instant for our lives to be changed forever. Living for the moment is a very hard thing to do in our commercially driven and consumerist culture, but I'm starting to think that I should try harder.

Big Apple, for some R and R

Just got back from a little break in New York with the family, the UK seems to be pretty much the same although the grass is browner and I hear that there was some football match or other last week that we seem to have missed? Anyway, I haven't been to NYC (other than flying visits on business) for many years and was looking forward to having a good old mooch around to see what's changed. First up we went downtown to see the 9/11 memorial museum and the various monuments, very impressive they were too! I hadn't quite prepared myself for the emotional impact of seeing it all repaired and re-built, last time I saw this view it was still a smoldering heap of steel. bodies and concrete it was a moving experience. 

In the photo above is the new Cortlandt St. subway station with the re-imagined World Trade Center tower in the background, both beautiful new buildings. Then there were the monuments outlining the old twin towers. In the following composite you can see the fountains above (with the names of all the victims etched around them) and from below where the box-section steel foundations have been preserved as a centre-piece in the museum, they've done a really spectacular job.

Later in the week we all walked the "High-Line" which is a renovated 19th century elevated-railway line that's had a park planted along it and a boarded-walkway threaded in between the buildings. It's a fabulous 2 km walk on a sunny day, plenty to see and various watering holes to stop off at along the way. The re-generation going on at the end of the walk around the Hudson Yards is quite something, some interesting architecture and some very shiny new sky-scrapers to marvel at. I also spotted something that looked like an alien spaceship but which turns out to be a sculpture by British designer Thomas Heatherwick. It's essentially a set of interlocking staircases and escalators that go nowhere but provide a unique perspective on the city from every different point, a cynical New York barman described it to me later as the most expensive chunk of empty space on the planet, I guess art is what you make of it.

Later in the week we did some of the normal touristy things, we walked across the Brooklyn bridge and took a trip over to the statue of liberty and Ellis Island (both of which I'd never gotten around to visiting when I used to work in NYC back in the late 1990's) 

Anyone visiting NYC should take the time to walk the Brooklyn Bridge, on a good day it's fabulous, take the subway under the East river and walk back (if you're staying in Manhattan) the views are spectacular. I resisted the urge to take the usual picture of the statue of Liberty, instead I opted for a rather disrespectful shot up her skirt! Anyway, I thought it was more interesting than the usual postcard image you normally see, you can see the copper sheeting covering the iron-skeleton much more clearly.

Finally I couldn't go all that way and not try the local beer, in the picture below we have a glass of an IPA from Finback a brewery based over in Queens, utterly delicious even though it looks a bit murky.

Craft beer is everywhere in New York, in fact its hard to find a bar or pub that doesn't have something tasty and more importantly made nearby, hopefully this is indicative of the way things will go in the UK although we're perhaps a little slower to embrace change than your typical New Yorker.


Enthusiastically considering that you might be wrong when evidence suggests it is at the core of (good) scientific endeavor but unfortunately for the billions of people still under the yolk of religious indoctrination it's banished to the extremities of acceptable behaviour and viewed with disdain and loathing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Fear him

I love it when religious types try to cajole people into their way of thinking by simply threatening them with their "God" (or what he's going to do when we die etc.) It's much the same as threatening us with the wrath of Voldemort and should illicit a similar response, i.e. ridicule, as per the photo above. Thinking about it though, I'd probably be less skeptical about a giant radio-active lizard existing in the deep-ocean, at least I can test radio-activity, and, to be perfectly honest, judging from the copious death and destruction in the movies, more inclined to worship it if true!

Monday, July 09, 2018

Beautiful Message?

With a core philosophy like this it's no wonder they had to invent spires, hymns and stained-glass to keep people engaged..

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Sunday Surmon

A couple of Jehovah's Witnesses knocked on my door the other weekend, pushing their little leaflets (does anyone ever find them compelling?) Anyway, I don't mind having a doorstep chat occasionally but at that particular moment I was in the middle of doing some weights and was keen not to "cool-down" too much so I wanted to cut the conversation short. The first thing that popped out of my mouth as the leaflet edged toward me was, "no thanks, I'm a rampant Atheist". 

For a second it was smiles all round and then I realised what I'd said, and my predicament, there I was trussed up like some kind of sweaty gimp (tight back-support belt & gloves) claiming to be "rampant" - what I meant to say was "strident" but clearly the testosterone of a tough work-out got the better of me. Fortunately the Christians at the door saw the funny side and we shared a little giggle on a Saturday morning, probably not the best way to represent Atheism, but hey, at least they enjoyed the laugh.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Friday Smirk

The way most people you talk to view religion and philosophy these days, which is a shame since there's a lot in philosophy that's foundational to a rational and skeptical approach to asking questions about reality, religion on the other hand not so much. In my view philosophy should be cast-off from religion in schools and allowed to merge with critical thinking and ethics to evolve along it's own path. Combining these two subjects must be like trying to teach astrology and astronomy as if they are somehow related.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Best argument for atheism..

Scott Pruitt says in his resignation letter that it was "God's providence" that Trump became President and that Pruitt was in the cabinet serving Trump, if that's not a reason to defect to the Atheist side then I don't know what is! Thanks goodness that cheating, lying, delusional, big-oil butt-kissing, science denier has gone and it's a shame enough Americans can't seem to find a good enough reason to send Trump the same way, their ethics are so hard to tell-apart.


Some people view this as simply being disagreeable, others view it as philosophy for a meaningful life..

Wednesday, July 04, 2018


New J&M today, pointing out the daftness of having schools that are aligned to particular (intolerant) religious beliefs in a modern, pluralistic and secular society. Unfortunately, many religious people still think that tolerance and diversity means having the right to discriminate against people they don't agree with, solely on the basis of the way they personally choose to cherry-pick an ancient book of myths and stories. I often wonder how our species is ever going to make it beyond the nuclear-age, clearly a miracle is required.

Mid-week Mirth

One for the collection ...

Tuesday, July 03, 2018


The way our environment/planet/universe actually works when you understand a bit of science and think about it for a moment is mind-boggling. It's no wonder many people prefer childish simplifications and stories over reality.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Good vibe

I don't quite know what to make of the Summer so far, it's just unreasonably fantastic! Spent a couple of hours drinking and snacking with some colleagues on Friday evening after work around the Paddington Basin area. Then caught a train home and strolled the couple of miles from the station back to my house, it was warm, sunny and London was buzzing, such a good vibe when our weather is cooperative!