Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Axis of evil

Particularly liked this recent xkcd cartoon, interesting to contemplate where I'd put "software engineer" on this axis, especially bearing in mind that all serious ballistic missile control systems are done with software these days (I'm looking at you North Korea!)

Monday, April 29, 2019

Reasonable trend

A recent (2018) Gallup poll in the USA found that around only 50% of people surveyed were members of a religious organisation like a church, synagogue or mosque. This is the lowest number ever recorded in the USA, down from recorded highs in the 1930's of  >80%, it's a number that's been steadily falling as the number of Americans having no religious affiliation has risen. This was around 10% in 2000 and now stands at around 19%, a significant rise. Total number of people surveyed was 2000 and the poll has a 3% margin of error, let's hope the trend continues and large numbers of people in that country at the extreme edges of evangelical and theocratic views worldwide are diluted by a more tolerant and reasonable majority.

Smile and wave...

As previously discussed here, the true "miracle" about miracles is that evolved primates in the 21st Century still believe that things they don't personally understand or just simply marvel at are labelled as "suspensions of natural laws" (usually at the behest of their favourite imaginary friend) and no one bats an eye? I'm always reminded of the penguins in the cartoon film, Madagascar when a religious person tries to convince me of a "miracle", just smile and wave boys, smile and wave..

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Primate motivations

Interesting video clip of a chimpanzee using social media (Instagram) - if real (I've no reason to suspect otherwise) it's not only remarkable and insightful but also a great tool for scientists to understand what interests and motivates these close relatives of ours. This particular chap seems to be seeking out videos containing chimps (fairly understandable) but also sneaks a quick peek at a bikini clad girl, obviously male then...

Perhaps they could try the same technique with Brexiters?

Friday, April 26, 2019

Friday Smirk

J&M on the money as usual, pointing out that no matter how much religious apologists harp on about the sanctity and immutability of "culture and tradition", sometimes, some cultures and traditions are just crap and need to be dumped at the earliest opportunity.

Coffee - Beer - Coffee

It's that time of the year again and my local (superstar) brewery Siren are brewing up 4 brand new coffee beers. Essentially coffee beer is beer with coffee flavour in it, this is done by steeping a bunch of ground coffee in the beer in something like a giant tea-bag. But, like most things to do with beer the number of variables is huge, for example what kind of beer do you start with, dark, light, sour, bitter? What kind of coffee do you put in, dark-roast, light-roast and what complementary flavours do you introduce with hops, citrus, fruit, pine, chocolate, salt-caramel etc. The four beers for this years "Project Barista" have just been announced today and include the following,

Double Double - 5.5% Double Dry-Hopped Coffee Pale Ale in collaboration with Pharmacie Coffee Roasters

Irish - 7.4% Wee Heavy with Barrel-Aged Coffee in collaboration with Quarter Horse Coffee

Ristretto Negroni - 6.7% Coffee Cocktail Ale in collaboration with Climpson & Sons

Bourbon Turkish - 11.5% Barrel-Aged Imperial Coffee Stout in collaboration with Redemption Roasters 

Sounds like a fascinating line-up; can't wait for the launch party on the 18th May, I have my tickets at the ready; need to get my coffee-head well and truly on!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Spring brew

Thought I'd do a little brew tomorrow; here are the grains ready to go into the mash. It's going to be a nutty brown West-Coast IPA, flavoured with Cascade and Simcoe hops. The Cascade will impart a fruity/citrus note and the Simcoe a more dank vibe; hopefully the addition of some flaked oats (for body) and darker Cara-Aroma (for flavour & colour) will make it a more interesting brew than your normal paler than pale pale ale.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Swan song by the beach

Took the family down to Mudeford in Dorset on Sunday for a picnic on the beach there. The weather was just spectacular and going by the amount of flesh on display, we could have easily been sitting by the Med or some other warm-climate location. Towards the end of the day I noticed a bunch (flock?) of swans swimming about in the sea, I thought this quite unusual, I've never seen swans in the sea before, I wonder what they were doing? Anyway, I grabbed a quick pic for posterity, let's hope we get a few more weekends like that over the course of the year, it'll be Christmas soon. 

Disapproval by degrees

I see that the University of Aberdeen has revoked the honorary degree awarded to the Sultan of Brunei back in 1995. Religious apologists can equivocate as much as they like, but, the bottom line is that his government (he is a dictator) has decided that punishing people for acting according to their nature, i.e. as homosexuals, by killing them is an appropriate and ethical thing to be doing in the 21st century. The rest of the civilised world disagrees, and the more that countries and organisations make a stand against this tin-pot Islamic bigot and other leaders who espouse this kind of theocratic/homophobic bullshit the better for Humanity as a whole in my view.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Bank Holiday Smirk

Getting slightly sick of hearing about how the rescuing of the superstructure and art-work of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris was somehow a "miracle". Lets be clear folks, a miracle is the suspension of the laws of nature (usually in the favor of the claimant) Nothing about that fire was miraculous, wood burned and stuff obeyed the laws of gravity and thermodynamics; fire-fighters did what fire-fighters usually do which is exhibit extraordinary bravery and put their lives on the line using technology developed from human ingenuity, but nothing supernatural, anywhere. Anyone claiming that their particular God or Saint or Spirit or whatever caused the saving of this building has to also explain why that same vapor allowed the fire to happen in the first place!

Crafty Weather

Spent a glorious afternoon in Reading on Saturday attending the "Craft Theory Festival", it's a craft beer and music festival held every year in the centre of town and kind of kicks-off the season for these kinds of events. Last year I got tickets but was unable to go at the last minute, I remember the weather was glorious and I was quite disappointed to miss it. This year we made it though, and luckily the weather was an exact mirror image of last year, a beautiful day and a thoroughly solid event, great brewers, great music, splendid food, nice people and local, couldn't ask for more really!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Yay Spring!

Went for a walk with no coat or sweater this morning... yay Spring!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Dubious tactics

I was in London today and passed by Marble Arch where there's a large protest going on about climate change, the intersection there is completely blocked and there are loads of police around. Fortunately the underground is unaffected (could be due to there being uniformed police on the platforms) and so my journey (I was on foot & tube) was unaffected, however, plenty of cars, vans and lorries were backing up down the Bayswater road.

As a nation and as people there is no doubt that we should be taking climate change much more seriously than we are, but I understand the difficulties when politicians and media outlets play it down, lie and spread falsehoods about the science because of their vested interests. Global politicians like Donald Trump and local (ex) ones like Nigel Lawson who have their noses in the trough of big-oil and hedge funds that benefit from fossil fuel production and various kinds of speculation. A climate of uncertainty exists around the "facts" of climate change and it shouldn't, the science is pretty clear-cut! Humans are causing all kinds of mayhem to our planet, from sea warming through to polar ice melting and plastic pollution; the data is clear, we can't continue down the path that we're on for too much longer before we start to see some really serious climate events happening, probably on a "Biblical scale" and it won't be pretty for anyone..

Slagging off politicians and leaders is one thing but as individuals too we should be trying to make a difference (i.e. bottom-up) I've done a couple of things so far, these include, cutting out red-meat consumption to once a week (max), stopped taking short unnecessary car journeys, cut out plastic carrier bags, purchase local produce (especially staples like bread, eggs and veg) whenever I can, recycle as much as possible, reduce food-waste and so on. I know all this is small fry in the big scheme of things but if all of us did it then a noticeable difference would accrue. Market forces are pretty good at implementing change, unfortunately changing habits at the scale of the population is very difficult without suitably strong and courageous leadership.

So, I can sympathize with the aims of this protest, I agree wholeheartedly with most of it's predictions and conclusions but I'm not sure that this kind of mass disruption is the best way to raise consciousness on the issue with the general public. What is clear, is that there's a lot of pissed-off people in London today, I have to question if that will that really help the cause? And, I'm pretty sure our politicians won't budge one inch on anything because of it (plus the timing, with Brexit etc., is lousy).

All of these things require a different political approach, I agree, but there needs to be more flesh on the bones of potential action and that needs to be very clearly communicated so that people understand what their in for. For example, I'd like to see much more aggressive tax regimes on pollutants, unsustainable industries and polluting companies, better education and less even-handedness in the media (at least the state-broadcaster) for climate-change deniers or at least a lot more ridicule of them. Also, more Government funding of the science around climate change and around potential remedial technologies that may help alleviate the worst impacts of it. There are two ways to look at this in my view, either you see it as a massive opportunity to mislead people, lie and exploit the inevitable chaos or you look at it as a massive opportunity to innovate and prosper from finding real solutions; the more lucrative we can arrange things to reward the latter rather than the former, the better. At the moment, the people making money are mostly in the first group and by ignoring it our leaders are driving the bus over the edge of a cliff, if it were only a few billionaires in the bus then I wouldn't much care, but unfortunately, even though some of us are sitting in the air-conditioned seats at the front, none of us can get off..

Monday, April 15, 2019

Great loss

My heart goes out to the people of Paris (love that city) and fans of beautiful (ancient) architecture everywhere, imagine how Londoners would feel if this were St. Paul's. So sad to watch such an international icon be consumed by fire, all that human capital invested over so many centuries, a great loss to the cultural and historical heritage of mankind.

NHS crazy..

Spotted this little notice at my local hospital the other day; I guess you shouldn't inflict your "illnesses" on those nice people in the NHS, much more considerate to go see them when you're feeling fine.. (WTF?)

Friday, April 12, 2019

Burger Brexit

Saw this, make me laugh, and then cry...

Friday Smirk

I can never understand why Women submit to any of the Abrahamic religions (or most religions for that matter) they all seem to have been created by men for men and fear Women almost as much as they fear homosexuality. I guess the reason is a traditional one to do with child-rearing, periods or inflicting pain, as most of these religious things turn out to be. Fortunately we've moved beyond base survival behaviors nowadays (in most places), although to look at some remaining religious dogmas you wouldn't believe it.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

pre-Friday Smirk

I see that Julian Assange finally got arrested today. I suspect this will be almost as decisive as Brexit in that many people feel that he is some kind of folk hero and many feel that he's just a criminal trouble-maker. I'm fairly ambivalent toward him, on the one hand some of that wiki-leaks stuff has been useful in resetting the ever accumulating power imbalance between state and citizen (always a good thing) but then again a more smug clever-clogs you would struggle to find! Looking at the images of his arrest though I'm surprised about one thing... I would have expected him to be the size of a house after eating nothing but Ferrero Rocher for seven years!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Super-dense donuts

Looking like a fiery donut this is the first ever picture of a black hole. The statistics for this gravitational monster are quite literally out of this world. It's bigger than 3 million Earths meaning that even at the fastest speed yet attained by any Human Being (Apollo 10 - 25,000 mph) it would take around 200 years to traverse it (if that were even possible!) It weighs over 6 billion times the mass of our own Sun and is so dense that it's gravitational force sucks in all around it, even light. Where all this stuff goes no one knows, but my bet is that it's the same place as all the cash that Brexit has cost the UK so far has gone, i.e. oblivion!

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Starry, starry night

Tried a new beer on Saturday evening from my local brewer Siren. Called "Thousand Things IPA" it was made with the good people from the Tate Britain Museum in London in order to celebrate the Van Gogh exhibition going on there over the Summer. The label features an abstract likeness of the painting "The starry night" by Van Gogh (see below)

The beer itself is a real fruit-bomb, lot's of American hops like Citra and Mosaic give it plenty of mango and peach notes and there's also a background of bitter pine from the use of Cypress wood in the production process, it's a real delight. It's available at all the Tate bars and restaurants over the Summer (or until it runs out - which I suspect might be quite quickly!)

Friday, April 05, 2019


Great cartoon in the New Yorker this week. It reminds me of all those opening sentences that you hear people saying that alert you to the fact that the next sentence is usually going to be prefaced by the word "but" followed by something unreasonable, unpleasant or untrue.

- "I'm not racist, but..."
- "I'm not religious, but..."
- "I like/love you, but..."
- "I've got nothing against Atheists/Catholics/Jedi/gingers, but..."
- "I know the Bible/Koran/Torah endorses slavery/misogyny/genocide, but..."

et al..


Interesting new transitional fossil has been discovered in Peru. It's an ancestor of the Whale family but features legs with hooves! A beautiful example of a transitional species that sits in between fully aquatic creatures (like Whales and Dolphins) and semi-aquatic creatures (like Hippos & Otters etc.) It has been known for a long time now that whales and hippos (which still have hooves) are connected via a relatively recent ancestor, although when I say "recent" we're still talking 50 million years ago, which in Human terms is beyond comprehension. Fascinating to contemplate that evolution has taken a population of small hoofed mammals to the blue whales of today, amazing what tiny mutations in DNA replication, natural selection and a few dozen million years can achieve.

Friday Smirk

Back on track this week with a timely Friday Smirk. The ever great Jesus and Mo pointing out how religious authorities throughout time have sought to impose their own home-baked "morality" on society from within their own theological (aka. parochial self-interest) bubbles. A perfectly circular system that makes ethical claims utterly divorced from reality, experience, rationality and evidence, like the play-ground bully, "it's right because I say it's right", and believe it or not (and many people do) that's more often than not, the best they've got!

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Bye bye Manhattan

Interesting article/angle on Global Warming on the BBC site yesterday. It's talking about how scientists have discovered mummified remains of plants in the frozen hinterland of Antarctica. These remains are from approximately 2.6 - 5.3 million years ago in an era called the Pliocene. The key thing about this time is that average temperatures were a  few degrees higher than they are today but the levels of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere were comparable, i.e. around 400 parts per million (we know this because of ice-core sampling). The scary thing is that sea levels were on average around 10-20 meters (yes METERS!) above where they are today. These facts beg the question, "so why aren't temperatures and sea levels that high today?" the answer is chilling. There is an obvious lag in the system. A good analogy is that when you set your oven at 200 centigrade, this temperature isn't reached instantaneously, it takes time to heat up. Similarly with Carbon Dioxide levels set at 400 it will take around 300-500 years (est.) for the temperature to crank upward; then the polar ice caps melt (i.e. permitting plants to grow in Antarctica) and sea levels follow.

Imagine sea levels 10 meters (32 feet) higher than they are today, imagine how all those coastal mega-cities will be impacted, London, Sydney, Mumbai.. Someone should write a song about it, perhaps call it something like "Bye bye Manhattan"?

Wednesday, April 03, 2019


Our planet is amazing, a fact that's hard to comprehend when you look at how us Humans treat it sometimes. Here is a little picture that I noticed on the inter-webs today that illustrates just how massive the core of the Earth is compared to volumes of air and water covering it; makes you realise how relatively "thin" these layers are which is a bit scary really since we seem to be dead-set to pollute the crap out of both.

Expelliarmus (Mid-Week Mirth)

Apparently this picture shows a Polish Catholic priest in the city of Koszalin burning books, including "Harry Potter" stories. The priest claimed that the stunt was to burn objects that allegedly carried "evil forces" (because that makes sense). If real I find it totally weird that the kids in the picture are wearing Wizard cloaks, or maybe they got torched later too (the cloaks, not the kids!) Who knows? All I know is that people in glass-houses shouldn't throw stones, especially people who belong to organisations that protect pedophile rapists, and, that as a general rule you shouldn't burn books. Any books. Ever. (unless you're really, really cold)

Another one for the black-list

I see that the petite dictator-state of Brunei has implemented some new (medieval) laws that follow the literal instruction from their (alleged) holy book. The changes to their penal code mean that homosexual people may now be stoned to death for simply following their biological nature. Now, it's not like I would have visited Brunei anytime soon, but, as per the various campaigns now running I will certainly boycott hotels and restaurants that have a connection with this country and it's hereditary leader. For me this means various hotels in London and also a hotel/restaurant locally, Coworth Park in Ascot that is owned by the Sultan of Brunei and somewhere I have visited before. I won't be back and will advise all the people I know who live around here to do the same.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Laughing Stock

Looks like the results of this live CNN poll aren't going well for the UK. It's a shame that the country has sunk so low. We seem to have a lame-duck leader, surrounded by a lame-duck party in a lame-duck Government that's in turn surrounded by a lame-duck opposition who are totally divided and conflicted by the result of a lame-duck referendum campaign funded by (fowl) hucksters with dubious foreign connections. This is not how democracy should be, this poll is correct we are, and should be, a laughing stock in the eye's of the world and it's difficult to see how this travesty can ever be reconciled in the minds of the millions of otherwise decent people who will suffer as a result of this self-mutilating stupidity.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Monday Mirth

Cracks definitely beginning to appear in Parliament tonight...

Overdue Friday Smirk

Out with friends on Friday evening, so forgot to post a cartoon/joke that caused me to smile during the week; anyway here's one I enjoyed, better late than never!