Sunday, December 17, 2017

Banana and clove

Spent a lovely weekend in London with friends; we did a ton of stuff, nice food and excellent refreshments. Everything ran like clockwork except the weather which was typically British (cold-drizzle) but we didn't let it dampen our spirits and for a few hours yesterday visited a bar called "Lowlander" which is essentially a little piece of Brussels transplanted to Covent Garden, they serve Belgian beer in proper glasses. It's wonderful. Here you can see one of my favourites, Orval a real spritz of a beer, fine bubbles (like Champagne) with typical banana and clove flavour really different from your usual London dishwater pints, and just the job on a miserable December afternoon! 

Clean as a whistle

Made some Pilsner back in October and it's been conditioning in a freezing cold cellar for about six weeks - when you do that it makes the finished product really smooth and really clear/clean, as you can see as clean as a whistle! Bottled it up today and should be ready for New Years Eve!

Friday, December 15, 2017


Christopher Hitchens died this day in 2011, fans of his oratory and writing (like me) will be marking the date I'm sure. The above quote is one of my favourites, a perfect counter-balance to the mealy-mouthed theists who bleat on about how religion does no harm and is a force for good in the world, pull the other one, it's got bells on it!

Friday Smirk

For me this has to be up there among the best Twitter smack-downs of all time, just perfect.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Product of the year

Damn, it's good!


For me this is an epic battle between two Tyrannosaurs in a swamp as the circular saw closes in...

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The value of lies

J&M on-topic as usual. This follows the recent House of Lords speech by the Arch-Bishop of Canterbury, a cynical abuse of religious privilege, in which he claimed (with no evidence) that children who attend non-religious schools lack "values" and that successive Governments have inserted a "weak, secular and functional narrative" in place of "historic Christian-based understanding". Perish the thought that we end up with a "functional" society, is he claiming that it would be better to have a dysfunctional one, perhaps run by a few men in frocks (like him)?

Many people have pointed out the obvious errors and omissions in his claims, Welby clearly has a cynical political agenda here, i.e. that of promoting more Church run schools for the purposes of indoctrinating children into his own preferred religious cult. Whatever we need in this multi-faith, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, interconnected world of ours today, it almost certainly isn't more Christianity from an organisation that's in terminal decline! It would be like trying to counter the de-industrialisation of our country by training more coal-miners. In the same way that societies tried Communism, Nazism and Totalitarianism in the 20th Century, we also tried religion and theocracy back in the middle-ages, they didn't work, and all ended in rivers of blood, it's time to move on.

The "elephant in the room" for many people here is the myth that there's such a thing as "Christian values". It's something that declining religions like his seem to love to promote and cling onto, for them, it must seem like a life-raft in a sea of increasing irrelevance. Unfortunately if you talk to most non-religious people these days, they (from evidence and experience) interpret "Christian values" to imply the high-profile negative Christian "issues" things like child molesting, misogyny, gay scandals, intransigence, science-denial, exploiting the poor, political manipulation, worldly power and unfair material wealth. On the other hand, the things that modern Christians tend to claim (as opposed to what their holy book actually says) as their "values" would be things like, charity, tolerance, peace, love, forgiveness and all of that. The problem for them is that these things are plainly accessible and desirable to all of us, the rest of their superstitious baggage seems contentious, unnecessary or simply unbelievable to most of us in the West. I suppose you could argue that at least non-believers have these desired values in common with Christians, but even then it's somewhat of a stretch to conclude that these values are particularly "Christian", I would go so far as to say they are "human" values, desirable because we are a highly-social mammal with alarmingly apocalyptic faculties for killing one another.

The evolution of our values is slow and gradual, sometimes acting across many generations, but, every now and again we experience a tipping point in our moral landscape. For example, realizing that there's no such thing as a "witch" or that Women are indeed equal to Men. There was a point in time when the majority agreed (at least here in the UK) that it's not OK to own other people as property or that homosexual people do in fact deserve equal treatment under the law, rather than being thrown in jail. Our values change, it's a demonstrable fact. In my view we should embrace that reality or else I fear our "values" will face the same fate that Welby's organisation seems unable to extricate itself from, i.e. a gradual slide into obscurity and division.

Driving home for...

Looks like Fred Flintstone is driving home for Christmas...

Non-spiritual Christmas

Not being religious and/or superstitious there's very little about the "spiritual/religious" aspects of Christmas that I subscribe to other than that feeling of fuzzy solidarity we get when a group of human beings have a common reference framework within which to act out certain rituals (like family meals etc.). I wouldn't really label that feeling as "spiritual" more like a neurochemical reaction that we all experience in our similar brains in similar ways (apart from psychopaths and some Tory MP's of course) You might think that this philosophical position in some way limits the ways in which atheists or non-religious people might extract enjoyment or meaning from holidays like Christmas or Easter etc. 

The best analogy I can think of is that of when someone loses one of their senses, like eye-sight then the tendency is for the other senses to become more acute, for example their hearing becomes better or their sense of touch increases in fidelity etc. For me this kind of adjustment is reflected in the way we celebrate less of the religious traditions and more of the modern/secular ones (apart from the silly consumerism ones), for example the food, wine, the films, the playing games, the outings and the family solidarity aspects of this holiday, viewing it through a secular lens if you will. Do I lose anything by looking at things this way, do religious people lose something by not? No, I don't think so, we simply find our kicks and enjoy our down-time in different ways, much the same way that we all have different tastes in food. 

Many people I know think of the humble Brussel Sprout in the same way as the cartoon above (Devils Haemorrhoids etc.) , me on the other hand, I've always loved the things!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Mission complete

I saw this Brexit cartoon today, couldn't resist.

Daily constitutional

Over the last couple of months I've been suffering from a bad back. It's a recurring theme that I've had since my late 30s in fact it runs in my family, lumbar disks that like to wander a little too much for comfort. To counteract the dreaded "LBP" I've been taking to the streets every lunchtime and going for a brisk stroll around the office park adjacent to where I work, the loop that I walk around is just under 3 miles and it takes me approximately 50-60 minutes.

The exercise does seem to help my back related woes (albeit temporarily) as well as do good things for my calorific output, although I don't particularly enjoy the scenery (it's an office park near Reading after all!) However, on the upside, I do feel invigorated when I get back to my desk, today especially, as it was bracing to say the least! Luckily today the Sun was out, so I thought I'd snap a picture for posterity. I see on the forecast that another Atlantic low is moving in and we'll probably not see it again for a couple of weeks!

Monday, December 11, 2017

(Godless) Monday mirth


Just heard/read a joke by Jewish academic Devorah Baum via David Badiel on Twitter...

"Jewish survivor dies, goes to heaven. To break the ice with God he tells a holocaust joke. God says that's not funny. The survivor says, oh well, I guess you had to be there..."

Robot Apocalypse

Working in the software business as I do and dabbling with a bit of "AI" now and again, friends often ask me how long it will be until their jobs disappear and the robot apocalypse kicks-off. I can confidently predict that we'll all be safe this side of Christmas at least, after that, who knows what all those new Alexa speakers will do.. probably gang up and bore us to death with around the clock Christmas songs until we all lose the will to live.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Last brew before chrimbo

Last brew before the holiday, a dark, rich, malty IPA style beer made exclusively with Simcoe hops, gonna be a banger!