Tuesday, August 16, 2016

When in Rome


Doing some work on in New York at the moment so it's only polite to try the local brews. Had some Sixpoint (Brooklyn) "resin" which was one of the strongest and most hoppy beers I've ever had. Weighing in at 9%+ ABV it carried it quite well (not as well as Cloudwater DIPA), massive hop payload and in your face bitterness. It seemed a bit unbalanced at first but calmed down over time, served ice cold and most welcome as it's currently over 35 degrees and really humid here at the moment, although one small can was plenty.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Good ideas (not)


Here's a really good idea, let's stoke up some competitive religious tension in Syria, because let's face it, there aren't quite enough religiously inspired problems in that part of the world! 

A Swedish evangelical church based in Uppsala is planning to drop thousands of Bibles via drones into ISIS occupied towns. What could possibly go wrong we ask ourselves. In fact i'm sure this ultra-conservative (literalist) Christian cult has a lot in common (intellectually) with the ultra-conservative (literalist) Islamic cult occupying these towns and ruining the lives of the people there, they'd probably get on like a house on fire, if only they could find a house left standing and still on fire.

Pope declares bears defecate in the woods!


I'm sure Prof. Brian Cox is mightily relieved this morning, Pope Francis has declared that evolution and the big-bang theory are (probably) true, apparently God isn't a "magician with a wand" (I always wondered about the wand - "Expecto Patronus" etc.) 

I suppose this is an advance of kinds, previous Popes haven't been so accommodating toward reality, preferring instead to stick with "magic" and to ban, censor, even burn detractors to death. Anyway, the enlightened thinking only lasted a short while, Francis went on to say that "God" was entirely compatible with these theories and in fact required by them, I'd love to see his "workings" on that claim.

Honest communication


On my way into work today I heard some lady on radio 4 talking about how the Government needs to do more to stop more young people leaving the UK to go to Syria in order to join ISIS. I heard the phrase "more engagement with the Muslim community", a sound-bite very widely used in political and media circles but lacking in any clear definition, predictably, none was offered.

I thought about this for a while and concluded something quite different from the commentator. I would actually quite like it if all ISIS sympathisers left this country as soon as possible, the quicker the better. To use an old fashioned label, if these people plan, plot or act out in any way the goals of ISIS then they are traitors plain and simple. They betray the society that sustains them and threaten its broader well-being by embracing a set of values and ethics that are incompatible with the wishes of the vast majority of people here. Values like freedom of speech, gender equality, freedom of conscience, pluralism, freedom of religion, tolerance, secular law and so on. 

Of course there are some cases where young kids are groomed and indoctrinated (for the second time in their lives) by shady figures whose agenda is to "radicalise" them. Of course coming from the socio-religious background they invariably do, where the main theme of the group-think is "submission" to an invisible male sky God, it's hardly surprising that many are totally gullible and ripe for exploitation in this way. Any shred of sceptical thought has been expunged from them over many years of being pummelled with irrational superstitious nonsense, any sign of weakness of character or thought is right there in plain view, ready to be exploited to the full. 

However, having said all this, I still think there is something that our Government can do; it's a simple strategy called "telling the truth". Show these people what will really happen to them, counter the narrative of heroism and jihad coming from ISIS with some hard cold evidence, ideally from witness statements. Let these people know (in graphic detail) what awaits them in this primitive and barbaric cult. YouTube some witness testimony from Yazidi women, explain that their future will consist mainly of being repeatedly gang raped by rancid middle-aged men, immolation for non-compliance, total subjugation to a violently misogynistic patriarchy and eventual annihilation by Arab machine gun (against some dirt wall), or unexpectedly during the night by Kafir missile or Alawite barrel bomb.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Don't drink and dial


And to illustrate the point, here is a photo of a 16th century (1533) book (Horologiographia) by Sebastian M√ľnster all about dialling, or the art of making sun-dials. From the look of the instructions, dialling is harder than assembling IKEA furniture.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Special pass?


Take a look at this bloke, looks evil doesn't he, cold, heartless, eye's a bit too close together?

Of course if you know that he's a Catholic priest who's just been convicted of child sex crimes then it's easy to make these kinds of silly retrospective generalizations. Obviously we can't judge people's intentions by the way they look but equally we can't predict to what rancid antisocial depths they're prepared to descend by them belonging to any (supposedly morality giving) religion either. I look forward to the day when people don't automatically get a special pass just because they put the word priest, father, vicar, bishop or reverend in front of their names.

Monday, August 08, 2016

I'm in two minds..


Wonderful little assemblage of Donald Trump utterly contradicting himself on just about every serious issue there is; my goodness what an idiot. The vast majority of sensible people in America can't possibly vote this moron into the most important job in the world, can they?

Crashing out of the Olympics


Finally got 5 minutes to watch some of the Rio Olympics yesterday, the whole family installed itself on the sofa to watch the cycling, only to (almost immediately) see a horrific crash and some poor Dutch lady (who was leading at the time) plough into a sharp concrete curb head first and bounce like a dead cat. She was clearly unconscious but her condition wasn't reported on for several hours, it was hard not to think the worst. I read today that she suffered a few fractures and a concussion but should recover, very lucky. I can't help thinking that the road course, particularly the descent where she crashed was pretty dangerous, not because of the gradient (I'm sure there's much worse on the Alpine sections of the Tour de France) but because of the lack of anywhere safe (i.e. without sharp pointy things) to bail out if it all goes wrong. I'm sure there will be much discussion among the health and safety bigwigs about this over the coming days and weeks. As for watching other events, we found that we couldn't really get into anything (lots of channel hopping) and the kids eventually wandered off, it's strange that the London games had us all glued to the TV non-stop but for some reason this time the allure isn't anywhere near as strong.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Arrogant ignorance


Some Americans, particularly it seems those associated with the Republican party and especially Donald Trump are demonstrably ignorant. Here is Mike Pence making a complete hash of both science and history with a mangling of the English language on the side. Not only does he clearly not understand the first thing about what the theory of evolution claims or how science works, he also doesn't understand what the word "theory" actually means. His smug Christian mocking exposes a truly epic level of ignorance, he keeps repeating that "this is what we were taught at school and evolution is a theory not a fact", clearly the religious meddling was so bad at his school that he must have been force-fed the usual pack of straw-man BS that creationists peddle (which he's never bothered to fact-check since) or the man is as thick as pig poo or he's a lying huckster fishing for the religious vote, you decide.

More worryingly, for someone aspiring to the #2 job in the world, he also doesn't understand US history nor the backgrounds of the people who authored the declaration of independence. A pivotal document and an historic moment upon which many of the principals of the US constitution were layered. Unlike Mr Pence, many of the (key) founding fathers of the USA were very intelligent men and at most they were Deists born out of the Enlightenment going on around them, certainly not Bible literalists. If these men had been born after Darwin I have no doubt they would have embraced the scientific reality of his findings, especially Thomas Paine and Ethan Allen. Washington, Franklin, Adams and Monroe were also well documented skeptics at a time when society was utterly drenched in Christianity and it's various flavours and dogmas. These were also the people who understood the need for and codified the principal of separation of church and state (smart people) not ignorant literalists like Pence, who spend their political capital trying to insert private delusions into the public square by lying for Jesus.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Look into my eyes


Nice little cartoon. Lot's of people visit psychics, some for entertainment but many believe it's actually real. You have to ask yourself, if it is real then why aren't all psychics lottery winners? Deep down I think we all know the answer to that.

Sticking to the script


When you speak to religious people who claim evolution is false (and it's not a small minority of people that believe that) you hear the same sound-bites again and again, most of them utterly pervert the actual facts of evolution and are designed specifically by unscrupulous manipulators to present straw men that are easily dismissed. Quips like "if we came from monkeys why are there still monkeys" or "you never see a fish giving birth to an elephant" etc.

Clearly most of these people have never actually bothered to try to understand the evidence and science behind the facts of natural selection, and are simply parroting what they've been indoctrinated with by their parents, preachers or imams etc. It's especially sad to hear such propaganda coming from the mouths of children. If you think about it, they're having ignorance forced upon them and are being taught that dismissing the inconvenient evidence of reality is perfectly OK, or worse that it's a virtue. This kind of indoctrination illuminates a clear and direct path from kids believing that everything they don't understand or disagree with is the "work of the devil" through to climate-change denial all the way to flying planes into buildings. If you don't have the intellectual skills or will to fact check your beliefs against reality then you are always going to rely on someone else to tell you what is true; you are ripe for the picking.